Saturday 24 February 2024

24/02/24 - The Good Beer Guide Pubs of Kendal

 Tap Rooms, Craft Bars and Traditionals Aplenty....

A first flying visit to Kendal. It won't be the last. Larger than Ambleside and Keswick, we only scratched the surface of a busy pub and restaurant scene that was teeming with independents. 

An AI Introduction;

Kendal, Cumbria, is an historic town nestled amidst the stunning scenery of the Lake District National Park. Its roots stretch back to Roman times, with archaeological evidence suggesting a fort and settlement existed there. However, Kendal truly flourished in the medieval period, becoming a center for the wool trade and earning the nickname "The Queen of the Greens." This moniker stemmed from the vast stretches of green fields used for grazing sheep, vital to the town's wool production.

Today, Kendal retains its charming historic center, boasting Georgian architecture and a vibrant market dating back to the 12th century. While a popular base for exploring the surrounding lakes and mountains, Kendal also offers a surprisingly diverse pub and bar scene, catering to diverse tastes and creating a unique social atmosphere.

Two guides available to me - an ancient CAMRA Pub Crawls book or the current Good Beer Guide, with four entries. On this occasion, we go modern. With company, I forget to take photos after the first couple of places.    

The Factory Tap made for a fine start. To summarise, it was a a two pint stop, with my drinking colleagues failing to appreciate how much work we need to do. Or they may not invite me next time, if I continue to drag them away from a place that they enjoy and feel comfortable.

The Factory Tap, Kendal
Hey, good looking

I'd point you at the first result for their website in a google search - although it looks suspiciously insecure, offering "Feminine Korean Brides", rather than detailing the Fyne Jarl that we made an instant bee-line for, after discounting the other five cask offerings.

Alas, the first pint was on the turn and a bit of a cloudy mess. My colleagues stuck with it and were rewarded with a changed barrel and a crystal clear pint of loveliness.

Our table was in high demand and our vacated space was soon jumped into by the Isle Man Football Fans who we meet again later, in much higher numbers. 

The Factory Tap, Kendal
Peace, before the "Ravens" descend

As with all good pub crawls, we instantly go off piste. The Handsome Snuff Bar requiring investigation from the name alone.

Handsome Snuff Bar, Kendal
What makes a Snuff Bar?

The Tap Room for the previously unheard of Handsome Brewery (c2016). A fine Georgian Town House over a couple of floors.  Of course, the Bitter is named "Stranger".

Back to the GBG Ticks and an apparently tiny craft bottle shop, Indie Craft Beer.  A typical Cumbrian use of nomenclature, doing exactly what is says on the tin. We snuggled next to what we assume was the house dog's spot - a gorgeous cocker spaniel bitch - who made sure we knew the Window seat was where she sleeps.  Further investigation could have revealed an extra two rooms.

A beery oasis inside, with all the options from all the countries. The team split into two camps - those that went for schooners of Pressure Drop's Year of the Crab NEIPA and those who don't remember the final port of call as they were on Delirium Tremens.

A shop conversion - no photos, so use your imagination.

Food required next and if you are new to a town, you have to visit the oldest pub. Ye Olde Fleece. Grade II Listed and from 1654. You'd have thought that 370 years of operation would have taught them a thing or two about customer service but we were left waiting for an unreasonable amount of time for menus, then drinks (Black Sheep) and then orders to be taken. Warned that the pies were freshly prepared, we feared the worst but were soon on our way after coaxing the chips from a pan, the gravy from another pan and the pie from a third pan. I'd say it was one for "We want plates" but we had a plate. Just a lot of other receptacles balanced on top. Think of the washing up.

Ye Olde Fleece, Kendal
Kendal's Oldest Pub

Veteran's of communal pub crawls will know that "eating is cheating" and this is the point you can lose moral unless some takes a firm hand. Yes, we are going for the longest walk of the night. Yes, I know you have completed 2500ft of ascent in the mountains and your legs hurt. Yes, I know you are full of pie.

The New Union will be worth it, I insist.

Although, a rather austere frontage - seen here from Tripadvisor and even more unappealing at night - makes me wonder whether I am ever going to live this down.

Union in the Daylight

It's utterly mental - and I will try and do it justice.

The bar is four deep - but that's not my problem. It's someone else's round.  

There's barely standing room anywhere. The Isle of Man football supporters have taken their 6-1 drubbing at the hands of Kendal better than expected. They have a drum. The drummer strikes a rhythm and songs about "Ravens" to the tune of "We are Sailing" spark up.

As if they need further encouragement, a rather excellent funk/soul band spark up, which sets the fans dancing in their numbers. You haven't lived until you have seen the club mascot - a man in a football kit with an oversized Ravens head dance to an Average White Band cover. My words are not doing it justice, so here he is in his natural environment.

Bird has got the moves

To be fair, this level of entertainment was just what we needed for avoiding post pie slumber. However, the busy-ness meant we couldn't fully appreciate the excellent range of beer they had on. The smallest of gaps through the bar led me to order a much piss taking 3%  Kernal Table Beer, whilst my colleagues learned relatively quickly that Zot should not be drunk in pints, even if the ceremonial glassware exists.

One tick to go and I'm probably the only one of us who remembers the Fell Bar. One of three tap rooms for the Fell Brewery.  I think their Tinderbox IPA might be my current favourite pint, having had a couple in Keswick's Wainwright Pub after walking Cat Bells. It will certainly be my next "home order".

The bar is an immaculate town house over at least three stories, although the third was in darkness.

An environment to decompress and collectively agree that a dancing raven was not an hallucination.

On the hunt for breakfast the following morning, we discover all the pubs we could have won. A very handsome looking 'spoons fashioned from the former council buildings. A pub next door to that with a massive chimney.  All 11 pubs detailed in my other guide book.

Kendal will truly be our "Gateway to the Lakes". 

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