|The White Cross, Lancaster. Photo courtesy of CAMRA|
Every year the White Cross pub, one of two canalside pubs in central Lancaster, holds a "Beer & Pie Festival". I've missed the last two, having given priority to being out-and-about on Starcross, but this year's event fell easily into the "things I am going to do now that I don't have a boat to run" category.
The White Cross sells a range of beers all of the time, with twelve handpumps and a wide choice of ale styles mostly from local breweries. But for the Festival they also set up a number of casks on the bar top and sell extra beers straight from the barrel. As I commented on a recent post of Halfie's this is by far the best way to sell beer and just about the only way to get anything like the full pint you invariably pay for!
The pub also sells what they call "tasting trays" - three 1/3rd of a pint glasses of different beers for the price of a pint. Hilary and her Uncle Stuart availed themselves of this facility to sample beers from Three Bs, Old School, Hardknott, Keswick, Cairngorm, Moorhouse's, Exe Valley, Hop Studio, Coach House and Hawkshead Breweries. I, however, don't seem to be able to drink any beer in quantities of less than a pint (in the UK anyway), so settled for the attractions of gravity-dispense ("straight from the cask") and enjoyed Old School's "Caretaker" and Keswick's "Thirst Blossom". Barbara, who had the misfortune to be driving and who is not a beer drinker anyway, asked for my advice as to which beer would be best to make up a half of shandy. There was only one answer: "the cheapest". Sorry, Barbara! The beer menu promised a wide range of styles and flavours with beers tasting of honey, ginger, raspberry, rye, citrus, chocolate, vanilla and even bananas. Fortunately they also had some beer-flavoured beers for stick-in-the-muds like me!
But what of the pies?, you ask. Well, there was "Steak and Ale" (Real Ale, naturally); Game, Pancetta and Port; Devil's Chicken and Chorizo; Cumberland Sausage, Apple and Black Pudding; Morrocan Lamb and Apricot; Shellfish and Smoked Salmon and Wild Mushroom and Chestnut.
But if some of these sound a pit on the posh side, just to remind you you were still in the North they were served with chips and mushy peas!
The White Cross has a sister pub, "Merchants 1688" in the town which also participates in the Festival with a further 18 ales and seven different pies to sample. What a shame it only lasts one weekend!