CoffeeBeer >> Pint Pleasures >> Previous Beer Columns >> 2 Carlisle Pubs

Previous Pint Pleasures - October 31, 2009

guinness eileen

The Blue Bell, 6 The Square, Dalston, Carlisle, Cumbria

guinness eileen

The Woodrow Wilson, 48 Botchergate, Carlisle, Cumbria

Not long ago we gave a friend a ride up to Carlisle in Cumbria. On the way we took a seemingly endless detour along a tiny deserted country road until we reached Rose Castle. The official palace of the Bishops of Carlisle, Rose Castle was once home to our friend Olly when her father was the Bishop. Because people like Olly's family reside in the castle it's not open to the public; but it was fun viewing it from the outside, seeing the pele tower which dates from 1340 as well as the window into what had been Olly's bedroom. As Olly dates from the late 20th century, she would have missed two earlier visitors to the castle, the poets William Wordsworth and Samuel Coleridge.

Seeing all that history naturally worked up a thirst, so Olly led us down another tiny seemingly endless road into the village of Dalston. Located next to the River Caldew, Dalston also has a connection with the Bishops of Carlisle, and two of them are buried in the village churchyard. Although Dalston was originally associated with cotton and flax mills, a Nestlé factory currently dominates the area.

The village is served by two pubs, one of which is the Grade II listed Blue Bell. The pub was very quiet on this Thursday afternoon, so we had a chance to chat with the landlord who assured us the pub did very good business, especially in regard to the food.

We ordered our pints and took them outside to the beer garden, which is very plain but furnished with a huge canopy and heaters. My pint of Cumberland Ale (4% ABV, Jennings Bros., Cockermouth, Cumbria) was lovely. It was quite cold, but in the summertime one doesn't mind their cask ale served cellar-cold. And it was perfectly kept and sparklingly wonderful. It tasted like lakes and cloudy skies above, fresh air and peace -- although our peace was a bit shattered by a nearby generator blasting away. I couldn't help emitting a constant string of "Mmmm-ch-ch-ch-yummm"s as I sipped my pint, with its deep bitter hops and a story to tell. Yes, and...and the bunny rabbits quickly hopped home and...yes, and...and the climax [DELETED -- sorry, this is a family-rated column]. Olly's pint of Foster's was very good as well.

We headed north out of Dalston on the B5299, reaching Carlisle at rush hour. England's most northerly city, Carlisle boasts a long list of interesting statistics. For instance, it's the largest English city in land area but the smallest in population, and it features the highest and lowest points in any city, from sea level up to 2,041 feet in elevation. It was home to the first pillar box on mainland Britain, and the first delivery of newspapers by air in Britain took place in Carlisle. It is where the first cardboard railway ticket was invented and used. And for the interest of those who regularly travel Britain's motorways, the ever present Eddie Stobart road transport company originated in Carlisle.

Carlisle is known for other things as well, such as the beautiful 12th century Carlisle Cathedral and nearby Carlisle Castle, where Mary Queen of Scots lived at one point. And Carlisle also has the unfortunate distinction of being the glassing capital of the UK.

After we checked into the Ibis Hotel in Botchergate and headed out in search of a pint, we learned yet another bit of trivia about Carlisle. The mother of Woodrow Wilson, 28th President of the United States, was born in Carlisle, and Wilson visited the city in 1918 as part of his "Pilgrimage of the Heart". The only reason we learned about this is because we decided to forego our usual preference for anything other than a JD Wetherspoons pub, suddenly finding ourselves at the Woodrow Wilson. Like all Wetherspoons pubs, the building was once something other than a pub. In the case of the Woodrow Wilson it used to be part of the Carlisle South End Co-Op Society. Built in 1904 and quarried from local stone, it featured various departments arranged around a central arcade. Today the pub features a large beer garden out back where we sat for a short time with our pints. My pint of Lakeland Gold (4.4% ABV, Hawkshead Brewery, Staveley, Cumbria), was absolutely gorgeous and wonderfully HOPPPPPY like I like it. "Hippety hop-hop, JC's on her way!" Brilliant! The words that immediately come to mind are "Whhoooo-hippety-hippety-hippety HOP-HOP-HOP!" It reminds me of a Pacific Northwest IPA for extreme hopheads. With a bit of research I discovered it's brewed with a modern English hop, First Gold, and also American Cascade hops, so that explains the instant appeal to a Seattlebrit like myself. Andrew had the Whitwell & Marks Kendal Pale Ale (4.4% ABV, Derwent Brewery, Wigton, Cumbria) which, aside from having a mouthful of a name, was quite smooth and light and nothing terribly special. Andrew enjoyed it, but he had just spent the entire day behind the wheel of a car, so he was probably just happy to be out of the car for the night with a pint in front of him to wash away the miles.

Olly, of course, had another pint of lager, but we can't all be cask ale fans, can we? Hmm, is that really too much to ask?