Tuesday 1 April 2014

Tom Fool

We take our name, Hardknott, from the infamous pass that travels between Eskdale and upper Dunnerdale. There is a Roman Fort on the pass and reputedly a Roman Road which was used to navigate the pass nearly 2,000 years ago. We started our brewery at The Woolpack Inn back in 2005, which is only a short distance from the pass, in the valley of Eskdale.

The river Esk travels down the valley, past the bottom of the pass, and very close to the pub, and then winds its way down to the sea followed, allegedly, by the route of the Roman Road1. Close to the sea the river passes by a castle up on a hill. It's called Muncaster Castle. The Roman road is likely to have passed by the Castle too.

Castra is a Latin name meaning military camp. Chester, for instance, derives it's name from this Latin word. This is strong indication that the site of Muncaster Castle has been inhabited in one form or another since Roman times. There is a family who live there who go by the name of Pennington. They have been there since 1208. Well, not the people who are there now, that's ridiculous, but some ancestors of theirs many generations ago.

What isn't well known is that there is archaeological evidence of ancient Roman hop-yards at Muncaster. The Romans, fed up of being unable to grow decent grapes in the British climate, turned their hands to hop growing, developing cultivars quite advanced. It is said that they managed a variety so packed full of resinous fruity flavours that the ancient craft brewers would fight for their share of the yearly crop. Further evidence of Roman craft brewing came to light when a Latin stone carving was found discussing the various merits of alternative dispense methods.  "SPUMANS FRIGIDUS CERVISIAM, EST OPUS EST DIABOLI"

Sadly, at the fall of the Roman Empire we lost hop growing skills, along with the skills to make aqueducts, central heating systems and organise really good orgies. It was not until many years later we re-discovered the skills of growing hops. I'm still waiting to attend a really good orgy.

But I digress, although I'm sure Tom Fool would have liked my wanderings. Tom, aka Tom Skelton, is reputed to be a joking scallywag who sat under a tree outside the Castle and directed passersby into routes across the river Esk that were less than ideal. His ghost still haunts the castle, and many a poor soul has had a misfortunate mishap after forgetting to toast the poltergeist.

Anyway, whatever the truth or otherwise of the history of Tom, and other stories from The Castle, what I can promise is that we made a beer exclusively for The Pennington's, the nice people who live there. Peter quite likes beer you see, and we can easily make a few bottles with their label on, it's easy. The beer is called Tom Fool2

I was at The Castle today for some publicity shots. Oh, and to drink beer with Peter Frost-Pennington and Tom's ghost.

The picture on the left of Tom is an original Collingwood of The Fort at Hardknott as it might have appeared in Roman Times.

The beer is also available on cask in the Pennington's hostelries in Ravenglass from tomorrow.


1Actually, there is much debate about the route that the Roman road took in Eskdale. Very few positive verifications have been made as to its location.

2Before any of you point out that another Cumbrian Brewery makes Tom Fool, they don't any more. And The Pennington's own the trade mark too, so there.


Cooking Lager said...

Quality tankard action there, love it.

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