Pub of the month, December 2016 – The Crafty Baa, Windermere

December is usually a good month for pub visits. A few Christmas parties are usualy in the offing, the odd impromptu gathering with friends perhaps, and a few trips out after Christmas too.

This month’s round up starts at The Otter in Kegworth, which is my team’s traditional Xmas dinner venue. Every year I take my team out for Xmas lunch, a small token of appreciation for another year of hard work. I think it’s now 5 out of 7 years that we’ve been here. We tried a couple of other places, and they were nowhere near as good. If it ain’t broke, don’t try to fix it, as The Fresh Prince wisely advised us.

Instead of a photo of some dinner, here’s a view instead, because it was a glorious December day:-

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It’s still a Vintage Inn and not much has changed in the last 12 months. They still have an excellent online booking system which makes sorting out your reservation a doddle. Once inside, there’s pretty much the usual selection of ales. I did want the Purity IPA but it was off so it was Sharp’s Atlantic again, a good pale ale that is much better coming from a pump than a bottle. The full three courses were consumed, baked mushrooms in garlic and cheese sauce, slow cooked short rib of beef (not even spoiled by a sneaky sprout in the spiced vegetable fritter) and a lovely chocolate orange torte.

To Cumbria next. After a morning of walking, we descended into Little Langdale for lunch at The Three Shires Inn. It seems like everyone else had that idea, as we managed to grab the last free table inside (most of the outside tables were also full). A lovely pint of Loweswater Gold was soon being consumed, and it wasn’t too long before Mrs MOFAD was chomping on a tuna savoury sandwich whilst I had sausage ciabatta with chutney, which was very tasty, with a bit of salad on the side, and a bowl of chips to share.

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Staying in Cumbria, and travelling back 24 hours, we find ourselves in Tweedies, one of our favourite Lakes pubs. We usually manage to visit it on one of our winter walks. Because they have great beers and do great food. And you can opt for the beer bat/paddle/thingy where you get three different beers all served in 1/3 pint glasses.

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Good food as usual, a posh fish finger sandwich for me, and Mrs MOFAD opted for the rarebit (total cheese fest!) with a nice chutney on the side. It was warming and delicious, and went well with her beer choice of Sleeping Lemons which cuts through the richness of the cheese. It’s even more lemony than it sounds.

Back home next, for three trips to my favourite local pub, The Needle & Pin.

On the first day of December,
My local pub gave to me,
A great event with Thornbridge brewery…

We sampled five Thornbridge brews, as well as a deconstruction of Serpent, a Belgian style golden ale, brewed with cider lees (the leftover bits from fermenting cider, yeasts, skins and whatever’s left), and then aged in Four Roses bourbon barrels. For two years.

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We were back again just eight days later, and “The twelve days of Thornbridge” was still in full flow, which gave us the chance to try Rattlesnake, a dangerously easy to drink 6.5% west coast IPA, and Lucaria, an ice cream porter brewed with lactose for a smooth finish.

As if that wasn’t enough, just two weeks later, a very special trip was necessitated, as the N&P had procured one of only 12 casks of Christmas Cake Imperial Stout, brewed by Cloudwater Brew Co in collaboration with ToØl of Denmark. The cakey Imperial Stout was infused with fresh ground spices and dried fruits to create something fruity, and rich, with lingering warming spices.

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Christmas cake in a glass, boozy dried fruits and gentle winter spices. Well worth the brief cycle to get there and try it. Nearly everyone who walked through the door during the couple of hours that we were there wanted to have some, the exception being a couple of people who had other things to do, such as driving home or operating heavy machinery.

We decided to stay for something a little lighter, Binghams Vanilla Stout, voted CAMRA’s Supreme Champion Beer of Britain earlier this year.

It was a gentle vanilla stout, very tasty, but it certainly won’t be my champion beer this year.

We return to Cumbria for our winner, and just like last year, December’s winner was visited on New Year’s Eve.

The Crafty Baa opened in Windermere in August 2016, filling a much needed gap in the town’s “drink in” beer provision. The “drink at home” customer is well served by Booths, just up the hill from here.

It was hastily lined up as today’s lunch stop. We grabbed a table and then stood for a number of minutes scratching our heads and looking up and down the board of almost 100 things to drink. It took a while, the delightful agony of choice.

In the end I kept it local with Fell Brewery’s Robust Porter, full of roasty and smoky flavours with a hint of chocolate. Very nice indeed.

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We were here for food too, and they keep it simple and tasty with various bar snack options (pork pies, scotch eggs, olives, breads, nachos etc.) as well as a cheese board (slate), a meat board (slate) or a combination of the two.

We had the combo sharing platter, with three cheeses, plus a whole baked camembert, four different meats, sun dried tomatoes, olives, chutneys, grapes, and several different breads.

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It was even tastier than it looks. Lovely meats, interesting cheeses and the gooey camembert was unctious, warming and delightful. And if that wasn’t enough (in all honesty it probably was) we also had a bowl of nachos, with sour cream, salsa and guacamole. Because nachos.

The Crafty Baa has all of the ingredients needed to be pub of the month. An awesome line up of beer (which is always changing). Simple, delicious food. Funky 1970s soul on the sound system. A crackling real fire. Lovely friendly staff and a great atmosphere. We could have stayed there all afternoon, but we had to drive back to Ambleside, so reluctantly left.

A worthy winner of the final pub of the month for 2016. Stay tuned for pub of the year…

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