West Cumbria

Campaign for Real Ale

Campaign for Real Ale


  • PRICEWATCH : Eyewatering Keswick drinks Monday 11 July 2022

    One of our website readers reported that he bought a pint of lager plus a large wine recently in the Pocket Bar on Lake Road, Keswick for a mere £19 Any advance on those sky high prices in West Cumbria ? Please send details to : ku.oc.liamtoh@ecirphguh

  • Twa Dogs, Penrith Road, KESWICK Monday 11 July 2022

    Twa Dogs Trade has picked up at the Twa Dogs since it was taken back in-house by Marstons. It’s a two room pub and the smaller room on the right was a veritable shrine to football when they took over, with flags and banners on walls and ceilings, but is now a traditional wood panelled room, which I consider to be a big improvement.

    The two house real ales are Wainwright at £3.85 and Jennings Cumberland at £3.60, plus a guest real ale. On Mondays beers are £2.80 after 5pm

    The Twa Dogs is open for breakfasts from 10-11.30am and meals are served from midday onwards.

    There are 4 letting rooms.

    The new management are making a real effort and are enthusiastic about selling cask ales.

  • Farmers Arms changes tenant yet again Sunday 3 July 2022

    Farmers Arms, Portinscale New tenants of the Farmers Arms in Portinscale, Mr Tom Noble & Miss Charlie Jones were already working there as bar staff when the last Marston’s tenant departed after a very short tenure and they valiantly stepped into the breach to keep the pub trading.

    Fortunately Tom who originated from Arnside is a chef by trade, a professional qualification which is very thin on the ground in the Keswick area.

    For many years the Farmers Arms was run successfully by Jim and Betty Bonner, but owner Marston’s/Jennings wanted to upgrade both the pub and the rent, so they reluctantly left. Marston’s directors ignored the wise old saying : if it ain’t broke don’t fix it.

    At the end of the day it’s an attractive small pub in a village which is quiet in the winter months. It also has limited car parking nearby. Publican tenants will only survive in there if they are on a low rent and if they are doing a good job running the business. A high rent is a poison chalice. Their other fixed overheads such as energy bills, wages and Business Rates are all sky high, not to mention having to pay top whack for drinks with being a tied house. It’s never been more difficult as it currently is in the pub trade.

    When Jim and Betty ran the Farmers Arms there was well kept Jennings real ale, basic home cooked pub grub and a warm welcome. There was no background Muzak or expensive live music and no television. It’s never been the same or as good since they left and it’s had numerous tenants.

    We wish Tom and Charlie all the best in their brave new venture.

  • CAMRA GOOD BEER GUIDE 1983 Friday 24 June 2022

    I took over my own pub in Tynemouth in 1983 and still own it, but that is incidental.

    Looking today at the 1983 edition of the CAMRA Good Beer Guide made interesting reading in relation to Cumbrian entries, as follows :

    It states in the Guide that Hartleys and Bass ales are widely available in south Cumbria, while Jennings, Marston and Scottish and Newcastle predominate in the north of the county. Other beers that can be found are from : Matthew Brown, Lorimer & Clark, Mitchells of Lancaster, Samuel Smith, Tetley, Theakston, Thwaites, Vaux, Westmorland, Whitbread, Wilsons, Yates & Jackson and there was one outlet in the county supplied by Greenall Whitley.

    So a totally different beer landscape in 1983.

    There were 2 Cockermouth entries in this Guide : the Swan which sold Jennings Bitter and the Tithe Barn Hotel which sold 3 Jennings beers, Mild, Bitter and Special Bitter (occasionally), so presumably this was a strong winter ale.

    In Keswick, the George hotel sold Theakstons Best Bitter and Younger's Scotch Bitter on handpump, so in those days it was not owned by Jennings/Marstons as it is currently. The Pack Horse Inn sold Jennings Mild and Bitter, but is now a Robinson's tied house and the Twa Dogs on Penrith Road also sold Mild and Bitter.

    Workington had two entries in the Guide : the Briery Hob in Stainburn, which sold Matthew Brown Mild, Bitter and John Peel Special and the Commercial on the Market Place, selling Jennings Bitter and Mild.

    The La'al Moota pub, Aspatria, now a private house, sold Westmorland Slater's Bitter and Jennings Bitter and the Guide suggests that visitors ask about their hedgehog ramp !

    The Oddfellows Arms in Caldbeck was in those days called the John Peel Inn and it sold McEwan's 80/- and Matthew Brown John Peel Special Bitter along with Bulmer's Cider on handpump.

    In Whitehaven, the Jubilee pub on Low Road was listed in the 1983 Guide and was described as a local with an infectious friendly atmosphere, selling Jennings Bitter on handpump. The Royal Standard on West Strand also sold Jennings Bitter and was described as a friendly dockside pub which was popular with seamen.

    The Guide states that in 1983 Jennings had 96 tied houses in the estate, 94 of which sold real ale. Hartleys Brewery in Ulverston was a subsidiary of Robinsons and all 55 tied houses sold real ale. Hartleys beer was also available in many Whitbread tied houses in Cumbria.

    There was a local guide highlighted in the GBG, Real Ale in Cumbria, priced at £1, available by sending a cheque and a large SAE with a 28 1/4p (!) stamp to Margaret Simpson in Milnthorpe. This was the 10th edition of the CAMRA Good Beer Guide with a cover price of £4.50 ! The first edition appeared in 1974.

    Footnote : I am informed that the Jubilee became a restaurant and is now (sadly for beer drinkers and dogs for that matter) a pets' crematorium.

  • Cumbria Pub of the Year Wednesday 8 June 2022

    The Cumbria Pub of the Year for 2022 is the Punch Bowl at Great Broughton. This was announced to the assembled throng at the recent presentation of the branch POTY certificate. Congratulations to the Punch Bowl who will now be entered into the West Pennines region competition. Winner will be announced mid August.

  • GEORGE HOTEL, Keswick update Saturday 4 June 2022

    The George Hotel, Keswick Beer quality very good last night in the George under new Marstons Pub Company management.

    Cumberland Ale £3.60, Wainwright £3.90, plus a Hobgoblin beer.

    Under the previous tenancy, 6 real ales were on handpump, but this was too many to ensure fresh beer across the board.

    A shame that some old pictures have been removed from the walls, but as the Marstons Pub Company terminated the long-term tenant’s lease and as he owned the fixtures and fittings, this comes as no surprise.

    Seating beautifully reupholstered, so surprising that Marston’s new management turned a blind eye to a couple with their large dog on a bench seat last night when I was drinking there.

    But no food on sale yet and rooms advertised as bed only. Wetherspoons for breakfast ? Consequently the George is much quieter and less profitable than it was, as it was food-driven along with big wine sales to diners.

    No doubt they will manage to recruit kitchen staff eventually.

  • 2 pubs plus brewery and distillery for sale Tuesday 31 May 2022

    Agent Christie & Co is marketing the sale of a complex in Nether Wasdale incorporating the Strands Hotel, the Screes Inn along with a brewery and distillery. Asking price £1,700,000 for the lot.

    Mark and Lesley Corr bought the Strands Inn in 2006 and a few months later set up the Strands Microbrewery. There are currently two full time brewers, Daniel Barwise and Dan Horsfield.

    The couple also acquired the nearby Screes Inn, where their ales are also sold.


    The George Hotel, Keswick The Marstons Pub Company has reopened the George Hotel as a managed house, although at time of writing there is a sign stating that they are currently not doing any food.

    It is reported that a former chef at the George who worked for Howard the tenant, whose lease was cruelly terminated by the MPC, is now at the Royal Yew in the village of Dean, which is owned by Howard. He is cooking his famous Cow Pie at the Royal Yew, which was popular at the George, although it took a cavalier customer to finish one ! I struggled to eat a half portion.


    One of our members who lives locally, reports that the Ruddings is unlikely to reopen this year. This needs to be verified, as at a glance the hotel looks to be shaping up nicely.

    Building work as been progressing for ages. The number of bedrooms has been increased and there has been excavation work to the rear of the hotel. No doubt all will be revealed in due course.

    There is an acute shortage of hospitality workers and also tradesmen in the Lake District, so not the best of times to expand a hotel, although it was in need of serious upgrading.

    Gone are the days when many hotel workers came from EU countries, prior to Brexit.


    Pheasant Hotel, Dubwath, Bassenthwaite

    When the Inn Collection Group bought the Pheasant from Lord Inglewood (Richard Vane) about 2 years ago, the price of a pint of real ale was £3.60. It now starts at £4.50.

    They have had 3 price hikes across the board in the past 12 months, but cask ales were spared the latest increase last week.

    Having said that, the hotel is much busier than it used to be, with the number of bedrooms increased, but there is no longer a large residents' lounge, just a very small one plus the small original public bar. Maybe residents are expected to relax in their bedrooms or at the dining tables, although in decent weather there are plenty of seats outside.


    The non-brewing Marstons Pub Company’s boardroom decision to oust several loyal pub and hotel tenants in the Keswick area appears not to be going to plan, assuming that increased profitability of these former Jennings Brewery outlets under company management was their greedy objective.

    At time of writing, the George Hotel is closed. The George Hotel, Keswick Oddfellows in the Market Place, formerly a large busy food-driven outlet is currently not serving meals. Ditto the Twa Dogs pub on Penrith Road, Keswick. The Royal Oak at nearby Braithwaite is also currently shut.

    If Marstons’ directors had done their homework they would probably have left their tenants in place, as they were paying high rents, buying Carlsberg Marstons drinks and trading with loyal long-term staff. Needless to say, when Marstons did the dirty on their tenants, some of their staff refused to work for this pub company.

    Fact of the matter is that potential hospitality staff looking for work in the town are as rare as hens’ teeth.

    For a start, reasonably priced residential accommodation in the town is non-existent, so nowhere for incoming staff to live.

    More than 50% of the houses in Keswick have, sadly, been converted by their wealthy investor owners into self-catering holiday lets, which now number an astonishing 800+ in this small market town.

    My guess is that Marstons may be forced into doing an embarrassing U-turn and try to lease off the pubs they have cruelly invaded and attempted to run under management.

    Watch this space !


    The enterprising Keswick Brewery is selling a specially brewed Ukrainian style stout today and all profit is going to a charity to help this beleaguered country The beer called RESIST is on draught and in bottles and weighs in at a heady 8.5% abv, so this is definitely not a session drink. It will be on sale for a few days until it runs out.

    The Keswick Brewery is a superb operation and their ales are brewed to high professional standards

  • TWA DOGS, KESWICK UPDATE Saturday 9 April 2022

    Twa Dogs A lot of building work has been going on at this pub since Marstons turned it into a managed house and trade there seems to have picked up. They are renewing the kitchen area, so currently not serving food. Am told beer is down to £2.70 on a Monday night and that the new management is making a real effort.

    The Twa Dogs was rebuilt maybe 50 years ago. The original old pub was right next to the road, which at the time was the main road between Penrith and Cockermouth, before the Keswick by-pass was constructed.

    Just up the road from the Twa Dogs is a Travers Perkins depot on the site of what used to be a brewery. There is still an electrical transformer near to the road with the word BREWERY on it.

    There used to be a sweet shop opposite the Twa Dogs run by a Mr. Wilkinson, who’s now famous Wilk cartoons fetch good money at auction. When kids bought sweets in his shop he would often draw a lightening cartoon on the paper bag !

  • CAMRA GOOD BEER GUIDE 2023 Tuesday 5 April 2022

    The West Cumbria Branch of CAMRA has voted and decided on entries in the branch territory for the 2023 edition of the Good Beer Guide.

    However, this information will not be released until the official launch date of the Guide in the autumn of 2022.

    There is no charge made to pub owners for entry in the Good Beer Guide and pubs are surveyed by volunteer members of CAMRA branches nationwide.

    The sole criterion for entry in the Good Beer Guide is as the name suggests based on the consistent high quality of the beer dispensed.

    The final decision on Guide entries is made at branch meetings when possible entries are put to a democratic vote.

    If a pub has just changed hands it is not eligible for the Guide until the licensee has been trading for a year.


    Major building works are still underway at The Middle Ruddings Hotel in Braithwaite

    It was rumoured that it would be re-opening in about May, but it would appear to be behind schedule at time of writing.

    This hotel was run by Andy and Liz McMaster for 15 years, until their lease expired about 18 months ago, when it was taken over by the owners, who also own several other local hotels, including the Coledale Inn.

    Beer was good and inexpensive under the McMasters who hailed from Kent, as was their cuisine.

    The Ruddings appeared in the CAMRA Good Beer Guide every year since Andy and Liz took the reins. They will be a very difficult act to follow, as they were superb mine hosts.


    Price of a pint of 4.3% Keswick beer now up from £4.50 to £4.95

    Do they want local trade ??


    Embleton Spa For every pint of Loweswater Gold currently sold at the Embleton Spa, the hotel is donating £1 to a Ukraine charity

    At £3.70 a pint their Loweswater Gold is currently 80p cheaper than the nearby Pheasant Hotel anyway and they keep a cracking pint in this small privately run hotel and spa

    Their outside drinking area has great views of the fells and is a sun trap

    A very friendly establishment

  • GEORGE HOTEL KESWICK Monday 28 March 2022

    The George Hotel, Keswick The George is the oldest hotel and bar in Keswick, dating back to the time of the English Civil War.

    This former Jennings-owned hotel, is now one of about 1,500 owned by the recently formed Marston’s Pub Company, which is evicting the current loyal tenant.

    It is closing on Good Friday and as far as I can gather, all staff apart from the manager have found alternative employment.

    Unless they haven’t done their homework, why would the board of this pub company want to take over a labour-intensive hotel in a town where there is a dire shortage of hospitality workers ? But big companies sometimes move in strange and what to some of us appear to be irrational ways.

    It’s a lovely old hotel but with no on-site parking. Any car park it had was sold years ago. And with 800+ holiday houses in Keswick, car parking is possibly going to reach crisis point later this year.

    This all adds up to this pub company making a strange and cruel decision to commandeer this hotel and turn it into a managed house.

    I predict that the Marston’s Pub Company will sell out before long.

  • GREYSTOKE PUB - BIG BEER PRICE HIKE Friday 18 March 2022

    The Boot & Shoe in Greystoke, a pub which has never made it into the CAMRA Good Beer Guide, has just put an eye-watering 80p on a pint of real ale and £1 on Stella and Guinness.

    Their real ales are now £4.80 a pint. Same price as in the Pocket Bar on Lake Road, Keswick, but this bar has live free music most nights.

  • PHEASANT HOTEL : NO PRICES ON TILLS Friday 18 March 2022

    The Inn Collection Group, an American-owned hotel company, has spent millions upgrading this old coaching inn but has not seen fit to install cash registers with screens where customers can see prices being rung in.

    Bizarrely, the cash register in the restaurant bar has a screen which clearly shows the products being purchased but no prices, whilst the till in the public bar has no screen visible to customers.

    A most unsatisfactory state of affairs, especially so as their drinks are expensive.

  • Black Tom Camerton - plan for reopening Wednesday 16 March 2022

    The Village that wants its pub back and the Man who will make their wish come true

    When he was younger local lad Danny Horsley would regularly drink in the Black Tom pub in Camerton (West Cumbria) he also served behind the bar and played pool there. The pub was popular with both locals and customers who attracted by its reputation for excellent beer and pub food would come from all over West Cumbria.

    Alas the severe floods of Autumn 2009 dramatically cut trade, bridges went down, and it became difficult to get to the Pub. The pub closed in early 2010 (it has been empty ever since) and the owner who lived in the Midlands, filed for bankruptcy and applied for change of use into a house. The stage was set for yet another village pub to disappear for good. Several Cumbrian winters passed and the building began to deteriorate with burst pipes flooding the building and causing serious structural damage. The cost of converting it into a habitable house became prohibitive. Danny bought it when it came on the market in 2013 still registered as a pub.

    Since then renovating it has been Danny's labour of love. The whole building needed gutting which has led to some surprising discoveries including bricked up doorways and the main room became a foot wider. Some lovely oak beams above the windows saw the light of day again whilst the oak roof beams have also been uncovered and will be put back. Coins, some dating from the 1820s, have been found behind one of the fireplaces, possibly put there for good luck

    The building itself dates from 1820. In those days, and up until very recently, it would have been a parlour pub - that is one with no bar and no hand pumps. The landlady would take your order, go to the beer barrel, and fill your glass.

    The railway landed in Camerton in 1847 which gave the pub its original name of The Railway Inn. When the Railway closed in 1966 it became the Derwent Arms and then the Black Tom Inn in the late 80s.

    It was named the Black Tom after an effigy in the local church dated from 1510 of Sir Thomas Curwen, the local lord of the manor. who was nicknamed Black Tom,

    Danny's aim is to reopen it in 2023. He now owns the freehold and therefore is not tied to a major brewery. He has been working with the “Tractor Shed “a local independent Brewery and intends it to be a drink only pub with no plans for food at present. He has the enthusiastic support of the locals. He intends it to be a community resource and his determination has shown that it may be possible to reverse the national trend and revitalise a closed village pub. Oh, and like all good old pubs, it has a Ghost! People have reported feeling a presence and dogs can be uneasy. However, my personal favourite is the Wikipedia entry which states “Legend has it that a blue pig was seen one night by someone leaving the pub“- possibly a case of too much good cheer!!

    Len Wainwright