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Jennings Brewery, Cockermouth

Jennings Brothers Ltd, Castle Brewery, CA13 9NE.
Tel: 0845 1297185, Fax: 0845 1297186

Jennings Brewery was established as a family concern in 1828 in the village of Lorton, between Keswick and Cockermouth. The brewery was started by John Jennings Snr, son of William Jennings (a maltster).

Jennings brewed exclusively in Lorton until 1874, when the brewery moved to a site at the foot of Cockermouth Castle, at the confluence of the River Cocker and River Derwent. The Lorton brewery closed some five years later.

The new site was influenced by the availability of pure and plentiful water from the Castle well. The well has supplied the Castle with pure water since around the time of the Norman Conquest, and helps to give Jennings ales their distinctive flavour.

Cockermouth - Castle and Brewery
Jennings Brewery and Cockermouth Castle. Aerial photo by Simon Ledingham

Jennings Brewery brew a range of ales using Lakeland water drawn from the brewery's own well, malted Maris Otter barley from Norfolk and Goldings, Fuggles and Challenger hops from Kent, Herefordshire and Worcestershire.

In May 2005 Jennings Brewery was purchased by the national brewing chain, Wolverhampton & Dudley Breweries PLC. The purchase was opposed by the Campaign for Real Ale, which feared W&DB would close the Cockermouth brewery. These fears seem to have been unfounded, however, as in June 2005 W&DB announced it would invest £250,000 to expand fermenting and cask racking capacity in Cockermouth. Following the takeover by W&DB, the brewery's distribution centre in Workington was closed and its tied estate of 127 pubs absorbed by The Union Pub Company, a division of W&DB.

Jennings beers are available across the north of England and are increasingly seen in W&DB pubs in the midlands as well as being sold in free trade outlets throughout the country.

List of brewed ales :

All Year Round Ales :

  • Cumberland Ale (4.0% ABV) - Cumberland Ale has been brewed for over 100 years. The brewery's biggest selling ale.
  • Bitter (3.5% ABV) - The original beer from the Jennings brewery in Cockermouth and the brewery's biggest seller in west Cumbria.
  • Sneck Lifter (5.1% ABV) - Launched in 1990 as a winter beer and moved into all year round in 1995. "Sneck" is a northern word for door latch. A sneck lifter is a mans last sixpence, allowing him to lift the pub's door latch and purchase a pint, whereupon he hopes to make enough friends that they may offer to buy him further rounds.
  • Dark Mild (3.1% ABV) - Due to the decline of milds this is becoming a rare find.
  • Cocker Hoop (4.6% ABV) - Launched in 1995 as "September Ale". Cock-a-hoop is the old custom of removing the cork from a barrel and resting it on the hoop of the cask before drinking from that barrel. It was changed to Cocker Hoop as a reminder of the breweries location on the banks of the River Cocker.

Seasonal Ales:

  • Crag Rat (4.3% ABV Mar-Apr) - Launched in May 2001
  • Golden Host (4.3% ABV Mar-Apr)
  • Laal Cockle Warmer (6.5%% ABV) - Winter seasonal ale since 1995 when former winter ale, Sneck Lifter went to all year round. "La'al" is the Cumbrian word for little and, due to the strength of this ale, it may sometimes be drunk in half pints. Cockle Warmer was last brewed in December 2005 and is unlikely to be brewed again until 2008 at the earliest.
  • Tom Fool (4.0% ABV) - Thomas Skelton of Muncaster Castle in the Lake District was known for his pranks or "Tomfoolery". Part of his will reads: "And when Iím buryíd then my friends may drink, but each man pay for his self, ytís best I thinke!"
  • Fish King (4.3% ABV) - Launched in 2005 when it was brewed as a celebration of the Lake District Osprey Project.
  • Red Breast (4.5% ABV Oct-Jan)
  • For 2007, three additional seasonals are scheduled: Mountain Man, Honey Bole and World's Biggest Liar.

Smooth Ales:

  • Bitter Smooth (3.5% ABV) - Launched in 1996
  • Cumberland Cream (4.0% ABV)

A 1.5 hour Brewery Tour takes you round the Jennings Brewery, explaining such intriguing brewery expressions as Hop Back and Mash Tun. The tour is completed in the best way possible with the chance to sample some ale, the famous Jennings Bitter noted for its malty taste, Cocker Hoop, Cumberland Ale or the strong Sneck Lifter.

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