Pub review: The Woolpack Inn, Eskdale
I'm on my way to Oop North, and decided to take a rather round-about route via the Lake District. This was partly because driving over Wrynose and Hardknott passes is Fun, and partly Just Because.
After coming over those passes, I arrived at the Woolpack Inn, and the western end of Hardknott pass, in the late afternoon, gagging for a pint, and after ascertaining that there was a room available for the night I went to the bar. Now, one of the reasons that I stopped at the Woolpack instead of carrying on into the village of Boot was that the Woolpack has its own brewery - the Hardknott Brewery - advertised in big black letters on the pub and easily visible from the road. Surprisingly, they only had two of their own beers on tap, although there's one more in bottles. Of the two I tried, the Mild was somewhat disappointing, but the "Wooly Fusion" I tried next was really very special indeed. It's a light hoppy bitter with a bit of ginger in it - very nice indeed to drink outside in the sun. Unfortunately it's not available in bottles. If it had been, I'd have got a crate of the stuff to take home with me.
The bar has ten hand pumps, all of which were selling beers I'd not seen elsewhere, from local breweries, and those others that I tried were all very good. In particular the "Stout Ollie" from the Ulverston Brewery is excellent. While there are three lager taps, they're all tolerably decent lagers - none of the usual Fosters/Carling swill here. The soft drinks are also somewhat unusual - Fentimans lemonade, for example, instead of the usual carbonated sugar-water, and there's Dandelion and Burdock.
There's also a fairly extensive whisky menu. None of the bottlings are particularly unusual - although it's good to see a non-Scottish malt on the list (Connemara, from Ireland) and the only recently available Ben Riach - but there are a lot of them. 29 of them.
And finally the food. The menu was short and sweet, concentrating on local produce served in imaginative ways. For example, as a starter I had smoked trout with a herby sorbet. Yes, sorbet. It was very nice, and I shall try to replicate it when I get home. For dessert I had a Thing which had a biscuit base, with a generous helping of a local mild blue cheese on top, all coated in dark chocolate. That's another that I shall try to replicate, and will also see if I can figure out a way of serving it with the cheese hot. I knew I'd find a way of using a soldering iron in the kitchen! You may notice that I don't have much to say about the main course - it was competently done and well-presented, but not as special as the others. That's not to say that it was bad, merely that it was only good compared with the very good starter and dessert.
Can you tell that I liked it? I commend this pub to you!