Saturday 22 March 2014

Hardknott OnTrack

It's just over 10 years since we first got into the beer trade when we bought a pub. It's just over 4 years since we sold the pub to concentrate on growing Hardknott Brewery. There are many things I don't miss about running a pub, and some I do miss. We learnt a lot in our 6 years there, made lots of new friends. It would be a bit of a shame that some of the things we learnt and the ideas we have had are not used again for our own outlet. In any case, the one thing I really miss from the days of having a pub is the chance to drink my own beer, when I want, and have exactly the beers on the bar I like.

So it is with some pleasure, and an equal amount of trepidation, that we have agreed to take on a small space on Millom station. Formally a café, and before that an Indian Takeaway and even earlier, I'm told, some sort of restaurant. Well now we're going to make it into a beer bar, all being well.

We have been holding off announcing it for fear that it might not happen. However, as we have had to announce it publicly for various legal reasons it is now in the public domain. So, we might as well let the world know our plans.

We are not sure when it'll open. We're sort of hoping we'll have it up and running for Easter, but that might be a bit of a push from the premises licence point of view. We've also got to get change of use planning permission. In the mean time a coat of paint, new lighting, bar and cellar fit out, signage, furniture, bottle coolers, glasses, choosing things like wine and spirits selection1.  Lots to do and very likely not enough time to do it all in.

What I can promise is a bar that is done our way. It'll take all the things I like from all the places I've visited and cherry-pick the best. I'm looking forward to it, I think.

I'm hoping this won't be the only Hardknott bar, but we do have to learn to walk before we can run.

Wish us luck!

You can find out up-to-the-minute news by following @HardknottOnTrak

1Yes, I know, it's going to be a beer bar, but apparently there are still people out there that don't like beer. Tsk. Although to be fair, I don't mind a bit of rancid grape juice myself, when no one's looking. And I'm not afraid to admit to an occasional nip of single malt.

Wednesday 19 March 2014


No, that isn't the shout that came just before the Titanic hit the iceberg. It's the name we've given to our latest experimental beer. It's an eisbock.

I've wanted to have a go at freezing a beer for a while. Really, to make it worth doing, it's best to start with a fairly strong beer. Having now tried it, I would further endorse this starting point.

Rhetoric III, our green tea and Szechuan pepper infused beer was 12.4% and interesting enough. I racked some off into firkins and got an old unused chest freezer and bunged the firks inside that. After several days we ran off what hadn't frozen and then refroze that.

The then double-freeze concentrated beer was re-carbonated and bottled for your delight. There are only just over 100 bottles. If you buy it all I'll have a go at making a bigger batch, and perhaps next time we'll try for a higher ABV. It's not that we're looking to break any records you understand, just learn how to make really good eisbock.

This one came out at 20.4%, but more importantly it's very interesting trying out the differences between the base beer and the concentrated version. You can buy it here if you'd like to try it.

It's an interesting process incidentally. Quite a lot harder than I expected. For a start, it is not really very easy to measure the ABV of what comes off and so judging when to stop is rather tricky. We'd love to have a means of checking ABV at each stage of the process, but sending multiple samples off to the lab is somewhat expensive. When we did send the finished product off for testing the lab reported some difficulties in getting an answer.