Kendal joins the Lake District micro-brewery movement with The Brew House at Burgundy's

PUBLISHED: 15:14 02 September 2011 | UPDATED: 19:55 20 February 2013

Mike Pennington, who has opened Kendal’s new brewery

Mike Pennington, who has opened Kendal’s new brewery

The Lake District is Britain's micro-brewery capital and now Kendal has hopped on the bandwagon, writes Mike Glover

Beer brewing has returned to the Auld Grey town of Kendal for the first time in 35 years. A town centre micro-brewery has been built in the bowels of a new extension to a popular watering hole called Burgundys.

The latest development reinforces Lakelands claim to be one of the micro-brewing centres of Britain.

The Brew House at Burgundys is a new venture by entrepreneur Mike Pennington who has owned and run the Lowther Street wine bar for 25 years.

Originally, the wine bar opened at a time when it provided something new to a town which had more than its fair share of traditional pubs. Licences for new bars were unheard of but a 1,000-name petition helped Mike overcome objections and it opened with 120 wines for sale, including 40 types of Burgundy.

But by the early 1990s the emphasis was switching to the real ale revival. Mike got together with professional taster Derek Kingswell and the local newspaper, The Westmorland Gazette, to launch a micro-brewery festival, which has grown every year.

By 1994 the establishment was included in the Good Beer Guide, with an ethos of offering good drinks right across the board, from obscure spirits there are 14 types of Sambuca on offer to foreign beers.

Now Mike is fulfilling a long-standing ambition to add a micro-brewery to the mix. Because we have been involved in real ale since 1992, brewing it is a natural progression. We would like to have done it some years ago, but just didnt have the space and we didnt want to go off site.

When the buildings behind and next to us came on the market, it was just too good an opportunity to miss. The micro-brewery will be on show behind a glass petition in the new Brew House area.

Customers will be able to see the beer being brewed and then drink it. We want them to be involved, to give us feedback and make suggestions which we can act on. The more we can forge a link between what we can see and produce locally and what we eat and drink, the better, he added.

The new extension is aiming for an atmosphere based on the American craft beer movement, with quirky and specialist drinks for the young professional market. Decor is more like a coffee lounge than a traditional bar, with zoned areas for sofas and comfy chairs with different themes.

One area is taking its inspiration from the German-born modern artist Kurt Schwitters, who spent his final lifeyears in Ambleside and died in Kendal in 1948. Prints of his work, which inspired a series of events throughout the north west this spring, will be displayed in the new alehouse.

But Mike is aware that it is the quality of the beers that will make or break the new venture. Here he has scored a real coup, again with the help of Derek Kingswell.

Derek managed to track down and secure the recipes for the last beers brewed in Kendal by Whitwell and Mark, which closed in the 1970s, and whose buildings make up the famous Brewery Arts Centre in the town. Those recipes form the basis of the Brew House at Burgundys heritage range.

In addition, Peter Goldsborough, a former brewer with Burnleys award-winning Moorhouse Brewery, will be helping to create new range of beers, to be named after Kurt Schwitters and his works.

Mike is also organising Meet the Brewer weekends where other brewers will come in and brew their own beers. Prospect Brewery from Wigan and Hardknott Brewery from Millom are two of the earliest collaborators in this innovative concept.

Mike is scathing about claims that pubs have had their day, despite the rash of closures. We dont have intrusive music or televisions or other electronic distractions. And we dont have bouncers on the doors.

You can watch television or listen to music at home. These are places for people to socialise and have a chat. The drinking is the means to an end, not an end in itself, he added

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