“ Address: Jennings Brewery / Castle Brewery / Cockermouth CA13 9NE / Cumbria „
Having tried and failed to take the Jennings Brewery tour last year due to the devastation caused by the floods we returned to Cockermouth last month so I could finally take the tour around my favourite Brewery. I've been enjoying Jennings beer for around 6 years and I was very keen to see how my favourite tipple was brewed in the heart of the Lakes. With that in mind we headed for Cockermouth to take up the guided tour.
The Brewery is easy enough to find in the centre of Cockermouth in the Castle Brewery on the imaginatively named Brewery Lane. There is a limited amount of parking outside the Brewery, however there is a number of public car parks within a couple of minutes walk. Since the floods the brewery has undergone a major refit following the damage caused and the new look shop, tea rooms and bar make for a welcome entrance.
Whilst the Brewer has been established in its current location in Cockermouth since 1874, it started off along the valley in Lorton. The original brew was made using Lakeland well water in Lorton and since the move the Jennings family have continued to pump the water from the well in Lorton to the Brewery's new location in Cockermouth.
Ownership of the Brewery had stayed with the Jennings family from its foundation till 2005 when they were taken over by the much larger Marston Brewery in Burton Upon Trent. Since then the availability of Jennings beers, particularly in the South of England has increased dramatically. The floods in Cockermouth did serious damage to the brewery, but Marston's were committed to getting it back up and running and continuing the tradition of using the Lakeland well water and in April last year the Brewery reopened it's doors and began brewing again following a temporary switch to Burton.
Rather than pre book the tour, which is an option, we instead decided to arrive on the day, guessing that there wouldn't be a huge demand for a guided tour on a Wednesday. Well perhaps more importantly that it wouldn't be sold out before we got there. The cost of the tour is £6.50 for adults and children over 12 can also take the tour for £3.25.
The cost includes a 45 minute guided tour of the working facility and then into the bar where 3 half pints of one of the 6 beers on tap are available for you to sample. In addition the lady giving our tour also let each of us have a try at pulling a pint. The cost is very reasonable and although 50p more than the tour we took at the Badger Brewery in September it was a lot more concise, making it a bit shorter, however slightly more engaging.
The timings of the tour all depend on the time of year. In June when we visited as well as May, September and October the tour runs twice every day from Monday to Saturday at 11am and 2pm. We opted for the 11am and found that with the 45 minute tour and the sampling afterwards it was a good time of the day to go, not too early but still left enough of the day to do something else. From November through to February the tour runs once a day during the week at 2pm and twice on a Saturday. Then into the mid summer months, July and August, it runs twice a day, 7 days a week.
When we took the tour at Badger in September we found that the guide was a little long winded and perhaps took too long over the tour, however that certainly wasn't the case here. Firstly our guide gave us a brief history of the brewery, where the water comes in and where the Brewery's roots began. This was followed by a walk around the working Brewery.
Having only been on one such tour in the past, this one felt far more interactive than the one in Dorset. For instance our guide let us sample the malts used in the brewing process and opened up a couple of batches of ale that were currently brewing. It made the whole experience far more interesting to see the different stages actually occurring before your eyes. I felt that the Badger tour gave more of an insight into the theory behind the brewing process, whilst the Jennings tour showed you more of the process.
Our guide was very clear and by keeping the tour to only 45 minutes meant that she didn't lose the group. Of course the site at Jennings is considerably smaller that the one at the Badger brewery, however her presentation and interaction with the group certainly made her the more interesting guide of the two guides we have been on tours with.
I really felt that our guide was well researched on the product and this added to the quality of the tour as she knew the answers to every question thrown at her and in turn this made for a very interesting tour of the facility. Even though the end result is a similar kind of beer it was very interesting to see the different methods used by the different Breweries. Like the Badger Brewery tour I really felt that for £6.50 the tour is excellent value for money, especially once you have sampled the 3 half pints at the end.
Bar & Shop
The bar area also features a small tea room that is open to the public from 10 am to 3.30pm everyday. The food smelt nice and the price list was very reasonable, however our onward plans for the day meant that we were intending on having something to eat elsewhere, however next time we visit it will be very tempting to have something to eat here.
After my previous visit I had been impressed with the new look shop and it certainly was well stocked. Obviously there is the expected stock of the Breweries beers, however there are also a number of other branded products from t-shirts and socks to bar towels and chutneys. We bought 3 crates of 8 beers as presents, which only cost £10and as a bottle of each generally retails for £1.50 in the supermarkets it turns out to be excellent value.
Having taken and enjoyed both the Jennings and Badger Brewery tour, I have to say that this one is my favourite. It's location in central Cockermouth means that it's ideal as a side to visiting the town. The guide made the tour interesting and engaging, holding our interest throughout. The price is incredibly reasonable and the quality of the tour certainly reflects that. Obviously it's an attraction for adults rather than Children, but it is a slightly different morning out and an insight into a process that I found both fascinating and on a personal level interesting to see where my favourite drinks come from.