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Loweswater Brewery

Kirkstile Inn,


No longer brewing:
In May, 2009 the kit was been removed and sold to the Mardale Inn at Bampton. Everything is now brewed at the Cumbrian Legendary Ales Brewery in Hawkshead which Roger bought in March 2009. Assistant brewer Hayley Barton moved on to become head brewer there. See entry for CLA for further details.

All Loweswater beers are now brewed at the Hawkshead (Old Hall) premises together with many of the original CLA beers. Regulars from the Kirkstile days are:
Loweswater Gold 4.3%
Grasmoor Dark Ale 4.3% 1041 Best Bitter
Melbreak 3.7% 1035.5 Bitter
Loweswater Pale Ale 3.6 %

Below follows some info from articles in the West Cumbria branch newsletter, What Ales, mostly written by Ros Berry, with some random updates

Brewing at the Kirkstile Inn, Loweswater

In 2003, Roger Humphreys and Matt Webster of the Kirkstile Inn, Loweswater revived an old tradition; they have documentary evidence that brewing took place at Kirkstile some 200 years ago, probably in the old Dairy building.

The brewery, located in an old outbuilding attached to the Inn, used plant from Queens Head at Tirril, and could produce 2.5 barrel batches (90 gallons) a week, brewing once a week. The equipment had become surplus to requirements when Tirril brewery was transferred to Brougham Castle, needing more space. It comprised grist case, mash tun, hot liquor tank, copper fermenting vessel, hopback and conditioning tank. They also took delivery of twenty new 9-gallon casks from France.

The Kirkstile sold its first regular brew, fittingly named Melbreak Bitter after the mountain overlooking the Kirkstile Inn, and it is a tasty refreshing bitter with an abv of 3.6%, making it an excellent session bitter, especially in the prevailing hot weather! The first brew was a 4.4% abv light ale called 'Matt's first brew' which was on sale on 4 - 7 July, in which time 3 eighteen-gallon barrels sold out. Matt and licensee Roger Humphreys thought it a little dry and strong, but with plenty of flavour. The second attempt brought the abv down to 3.9% without compromising the flavour, whilst the third brew achieved just what they were looking for!

What Ales, December 2004

It is just over a year since the brewery in the Kirkstile Inn, Loweswater produced its first beer. After taking over the inn only 4 years ago, Roger and Helen Humphreys learnt that there had once been a brewery there, the last brewer probably being John Bank. Roger thought he would revive the tradition, and the chance came when Chris Tomlinson of the Queen’s Head in Tirril moved his pub micro brewery into larger premises at Brougham Hall. Roger bought the 2.5 barrel brewplant and installed it into a room which had been the pub office. The next task was to learn about brewing and fortunately barman Matt Webster was interested in learning.

Matt, originally from the North East, used to work in the photographic industry. Roger and Matt both went along to Brewlab in Sunderland to study brewing theory and practice on a two day course. The brew plant took a little longer than expected to set up and the first brew did not appear until July 2003. Matt and Roger decided to concentrate on one recipe at a time, and the first one was called MB1 (Matt’s Brew 1) until they were happy they had got it right. It was then christened Melbreak after the fell that dominates Loweswater. It’s a refreshing hoppy beer, using Progress and Challenger hops with crystal and pale malts, easy to drink at 3.7%.

For the next recipe Matt decided to go for something completely different – a dark ruby-red tasty beer called Grasmoor (4.3%) which has the addition of chocolate malt and a raisin taste. There is a myth that modern drinkers don’t like dark beers but the success of Grasmoor has proved this wrong.

The next beer was first brewed for the Cumbria Food and Drink Festival in May 2004. Roger and Matt decided to try a new version of the recipe for Whitehaven Beer Festival, which was guest-brewed as Haven Pride (4.2%) by members of CAMRA and Whitehaven RLFC. and was a complete sell-out! Late hopping with Styrian Goldings gave the beer an extra aroma, and the result was so successful that it became the third beer in the Loweswater list. It turned out to be Kirkstile Gold, and was so popular they couldn't keep up with demand!
Nor find space for all the awards it was winning!
So they changed the name to Loweswater Gold 4.3%

Matt’s beers are proving so popular he is often having to brew twice a week to keep up with demand, and already the capacity of the brewplant has been increased with the addition of a second fermenter bought from Yates Brewery. It’s hard work, with a day’s brewing starting early in the morning and often not finishing until late at night. In between brewing days he still works on the bar. He has recently attended a more intensive Brewlab course to learn about yeast management. Yeast is harvested from each fermentation, checked under the microscope and kept for the next brew. It’s obvious that in brewing Matt has found his vocation; his enthusiasm for all aspects of the work is obvious.

Almost all of the brewery’s output is sold in the pub itself; 40,000 pints of Loweswater beer have been served this year. Roger says that many visitors to the Kirkstile are intrigued to try a beer that has been brewed on the premises. Melbreak accounts for about half of the beer sold in the pub. However the brewery’s success has not meant that the choice of guest beers has reduced – there are always 2 or 3 other beers on sale from other Cumbrian breweries, always Coniston and Yates.

The only nearby pub to get Loweswater beers has been Matt’s local, the Punchbowl in Great Broughton. Loweswater has managed to supply all the Cumbrian beer festivals since the brewery started. Melbreak was the first beer to sell out at last year’s Westmorland beer festival and the variation on it, Haven Pride, brewed with CAMRA's and Whitehaven RLFC's help, to celebrate the rugby teams great season, was voted beer of the festival at Whitehaven this year, with Grasmoor coming third. Local CAMRA members are delighted at the brewery’s achievements; we are sure Matt and Roger’s commitment will ensure continued success in the future.

It is a source of sadness to Matt and Roger, both CAMRA members, that their beers, whilst served on their bar at the Kirkstile, cannot be identified as LocAles, because the brewery is a little outside the range allowed by the branch, by road, although quite close as the crow flies!