Right. Here’s my last write-up from my recent visit to England. Really must get back the matter at hand – ie Italian stuff, notably Italian beers. And baking. More baking to follow.
I had this ale in the old-fashioned English seaside town of Bude at The Castle restaurant. The Castle isn’t actually a castle – it’s the former house of a local chap who went by the stupendous Dickensian name of Goldsworthy Gurney. Brits can be so dull with their naming conventions these days. I don’t know anyone called Goldsworthy. I don’t even know anyone with a pet called Goldsworthy. Fy, for shame.
Gurney was a remarkable figure – one of those enterprising, inquiring inventors and engineers who helped shape Victorian Britain. Not only did he build himself a bunker-like miniature castle on the dunes where the River Neet (aka the River Strat) empties into the Atlantic, alongside the mouth of the canal (itself another great bit of Victorian engineering), he even invented one of the first horseless carriages. This was basically a somewhat volatile steam engine bolted onto a traditional coach. He also invented an efficient heating stove, which is still in use today in a few locations. His most successful accomplishment was a gas injection lighting system that was used in the House of Commons for 60 years.
We went to the Castle on a typical north Cornwall summer’s day, dashing indoors in heavy rain, and passing a Gurney Stove (sadly out of commission). The Castle restaurant is one the area’s best eateries, though I was disappointed the waiter couldn’t actually give me the provenance of the fish on the menu. Still, at least they had a couple of decent bottled beers. I had Legend from Dartmoor Brewery.
Dartmoor Brewery’s blurb says “Situated in the very heart of Dartmoor National Park at 1400 feet [427m in new money] above sea level we are the highest brewery in England and we believe the best!” Modest. The brewery focuses on three types of beer from a purpose-built brewery opened in 2005 with a capacity of “300 brewer’s barrels (1200 nine gallon casks) per week.”
Honestly, the UK might have managed a bit more metrication than, say, the US of A, but the brewing industry still adores old-fashionedy weights and measures. As much of the world is (very sensibly, logically and practically) metricated, and much international brewing talks in hectolitres (hl; 1hl = 100 litres), I’m going to try and always include an hl measure.
So 300 UK barrels is about 49,000l, or 492hl.
So a little bigger than the previous brewery I was talking about, Holsworthy Ales, but then Dartmoor Brewery is a bit longer established, having been opened in 1994.
Their three products are: Jail Ale, “a full bodied mid-brown beer with a well rounded flavour and a sweet Moorish aftertaste” (Do Moors drink beer? Surely they mean moreish? Or is it a pun on Dartomoor? [thanks for pointing that out Fran]); Dartmoor IPA, “a highly drinkable amber coloured beer. It has a deliciously smooth thirst quenching taste and subtle hop aroma”; and the Legend, “a classic cask conditioned beer smooth full flavoured and balanced with a delicious crispy malt fruit finish.”
Mine was bottle conditioned, though it was indeed smooth and balanced, a kind of easy-going bitter, with some fruitiness and some biscuity, fresh-baked-fresh malt. It was an amenable beer to wash down my fish and wedges (the menu lies – it says chips, but they are wedges; always a disappointment when you want chips) but, I dunno, considering it’s made with Dartmoor water, Devon malts and English hops I really wanted to like it more. It was pleasant but just a bit… generic. Maybe I’ve been drinking too many nice, easy balanced golden ales and mellow bitters of late. Time for a trip to Ma Che Siete Venuti a Fà? for some challenging Kriek or suchlike methinks.
Still, eating it in Goldsworthy’s old withdrawing room (or whatever), replete with the same wallpaper we used to have in our old house in London, with the rain lashing the windows and the Atlantic surf churning a few hundred metres away, it was part of a dining experience that was, overall, very satisfying.
The Castle Restaurant, The Castle, The Wharf, Bude, Cornwall EX23 8LG
thecastlerestaurantbude.co.uk | firstname.lastname@example.org |+44 (0)1288 350543
Dartmoor Brewery Ltd, Station Road, Princetown, Devon PL20 6QX
dartmoorbrewery.co.uk |email@example.com |+44 (0) 1822 890789