For the first face to face meeting of 2015 for Back Lane Breweries founders, it was decided that we would take a trip to the Lancaster Brewery based in; yeah you guessed it, Lancaster. Or to be more precise, on the outskirts of Lancaster just beyond the University of Cumbria site (a 10min taxi journey from the Train station if you fancy a visit). The purpose of the trip, ‘Research’ of course…
It was a particularly grey, cold and wet January day as we made the Journey down from Ulverston which made the thought of some good beer ever more appealing. The Lancaster Brewery itself is a modern facility which they moved into in 2011 after outgrowing the old site. The front of the building is adorned with 2 malt silos and to the left, a fenced off beer garden that would be a great place to spend a summers day. However given the January weather, we headed swiftly towards the brewhouse. The brewhouse is a nice open plan bar furnished with long tables and benches that you would expect to find in a German Bier Keller.
As we were 20mins earlier for our tour, we had a pint. We kicked things off with a pint of Blonde, one of their 4 core ales. This is a beer we’ve had many times before and a firm favourite of ours when frequenting the Mill in Ulverston (the Mill being owned by the Lancaster brewery). Coming in a 4%, this is a dangerously drinkable pale ale with slight citrus overtones and after going down so smoothly, we were more than ready for the tour.
The tour itself was very interesting and we were quite happy to know that the knowledge we have gained from our own brewing matched what the tour guide was explaining. There were a few interesting things mentioned that we currently don’t do so we will be looking to experiment with a few of these in the coming brews… The tour lasted about 30mins and brought us back to the brewhouse where we were keen to carry on our research.
Having opted for the blonde tour, we had 3 pints to come as well as pork pies, pickles and crisps and as we waited for our food we tried another of their core ales, Lancaster Red. The Red is another firm favourite in the Mill, nice and malty with a ruby finish. I would recommend this beer highly.
Sticking with the core ales we had half’s of their Amber and Black ales. The Amber as suggested by the name is amber in colour and marketed as a classic session beer. Whilst by no means a poor beer, this one is not one of our favourites and is certainly not in the same league as the Blonde and Red.
The Lancaster Black however was the surprise package of the night. Neither of us profess to be big stout lovers (our North-west England upbringing putting us firmly in the pale/amber ale corner of the market) however the Lancaster Black is fantastic. Whilst traditionally dark, the Black does not sit heavy and they have the balance of hops just right. I’ll be campaigning for this one to be on tap at the Mill on a regular basis!
Now all the core ales were sampled and the delicious food devoured it was time to move on to the seasonal ales for our last 3 half pints. We sampled Christmas spice, Rum & raisin and Blueberry ale. Christmas spice was Scott’s favourite of the 3, a darker ale again, lightly hopped with a subtle cinnamon aftertaste. Henry preferred the Blueberry ale, a pale ale where the blueberry flavour was surprisingly strong compared to other fruit flavoured beers we’ve had where the taste is much more in the blend of malt and hops. The Rum & Raison was palatable but neither of us would have ordered it given the choice it didn’t change our minds when it was finished.
With the paid for beer finished we ventured back into the city of Lancaster to meet a friend on his way back to Ulverston from work. The night up until this point has been quite constructive with plenty of great beers and good ideas generated for our own beer and brewery in the process and it continued upon this theme for a while as we sampled pints in Merchants, the Robert Gillow and the Tap house, Robert Gillow’s being quite the little gem just down the hill from the train station and well worth the visit with some good craft beers on tap.
After the 3rd pub the beer had started to take its toll and as we were en route to the Sun (also owned by Lancaster brewery) when we took a detour to Mint the cocktail bar. A giant Strawberry daiquiri was ordered and after it was drunk, ale didn’t seem like it would sit on the stomach so well. We ventured across the road to Yates where cheap pitchers were bought as we took in the last few mins of the Man Utd vs Cambridge FA cup game (well done Cambridge!) after the pitchers were downed we were on to Vodka Rev’s for an assortment of White Russians, Mojitos and Pornstar Martini’s. Not the classiest end to the night (or the manliest!) but a good day had by all. Once more, the hangovers were nowhere near as bad as expected!