Something is very wrong. I’m in Clitheroe in the County of Lancashire. As a proud, born and bred, Yorkshire lad I’m a little ashamed to find myself in this position, but my best friend Tom moved out here in 2016 and I haven’t bothered to visit him until now. I guess I’ll just have to put up with it.
The county isn’t the only thing that is wrong with this place. The weather makes no sense, Lancashire is t’other side of the Pennines so, if I remember my school geography lessons correctly, it’s supposed to rain over here, yet the weather is bloody lovely. Heck, this place is nearly as pretty as God’s Own County! Nearly. I’m watching the sun begin to set on Pendle Hill, I can see it through the window.
We’re sitting in Tom’s cottage, several beers in, wondering what to do for the rest of night. “Could try t’Mill?” he suggests.
“The Mill?” I reply quizzically.
“Aye, t’Mill. Opened about a year ago”
The taxi takes us into Clitheroe and pulls up outside ‘Holmes Mill’, I sit waiting, a little dumbfounded, as Tom negotiates with the driver as to what he thinks is a reasonable fee for the journey he’s just given us (apparently that’s a common thing to do around these parts). Having agreed that a fiver seemed more than fair, we get out of the car and head towards the entrance.
The building is a former textile mill that has been transformed into a hotel, leisure and food complex. We pass a shop selling bottles of Bowland Brewed beer, what looks to be a superb gelateria, and eventually ending up at ‘Bowland Beer Hall’. It’s spectacular.
An oval bar stretching as far as the eye can see takes centre stage, with an entire army of uniformed bartenders lined up waiting to take our order. The bar is officially known as ‘what could be Britain’s longest bar’. The reason of this is that the title of ‘Britain’s Longest Bar’ is currently held by the Horseshoe Bar in Glasgow, coming in at 104Ft and three inches, Bowland’s is 105Ft and eight inches, but unfortunately they are still waiting for the guys and gals at Guinness to come along with their measuring tape and make it official.
The selection of beer is also pretty impressive. There are 42 hand pull pumps providing a minimum of 24 cask ales on tap at any one time! There is of course the full range from the Bowland Brewery, plus a wide range of regional beers including offerings from Lancaster Brewery, York Brewery (things are looking up), Dark Horse Brewery, as well as fridges full of beers in bottles and cans of beers from all parts of the country, continent, and rest of the world.
If you feel the shear amount of choice here may overwhelm you, you might want to purchase the ‘Circumnavigation Ticket’. Available for pints, halves or thirds, this enables drinkers to experiment with something new and different each round.
Having had a fair few drinks at Tom’s place already, we order the first thing that takes our fancy, a pint of Pheasant Plucker for me, a Hen Harrier for him (a penny of which, from each pint sold, goes to the RSPB’s work to protect the bird of prey by the same name). Now fully stocked up on booze, we decide it’s probably a good idea to get some food down our necks.
The décor is in keeping with both the industrial feel of an old mill (they’ve left some of the old equipment in their original positions), the rural/agricultural community that surrounds Clitheroe (our table is made from an up turned tractor wheel with a glass table top), and to the rear of the hall is a huge glass wall, the other side of which, the huge Bowland Brewery beer tanks can be seen.
The menu at the Beer Hall has been specially designed to complement the ales with some dishes being described as the ‘perfect accompaniment’ to particular beers on offer. As a result, the selection of food is as varied as the selection of beer, ranging from ‘traditional pub-grub’ such as pies and fish cakes, to more adventures ‘beer food’ like chilli dogs and jerk chicken.
All the food is ‘home-made’ in-house. Tom’s chicken, leek, and ham hock pie, with chips, mushy peas, and Brewhouse gravy looks delicious. I opt for the Beer Hall Burger; 5oz course ground, hand pressed Bowland beef burger, cheese, streaky bacon & coleslaw, on a brioche bun, hot and tasty, the fries hot and salty. It’s very good.
Rather unfortunately we’re both too full to manage dessert, so wisely choose to order another round at the bar instead. Our bill for the food, including one pint each, comes in at around thirty pounds, I won’t tell you how much we’ve spent at the bar!
We’ve both thoroughly enjoyed our time here. The surroundings and atmosphere are a genuine spectacle to behold. Though, in the interest of objectivity, I have to ask myself, would we have enjoyed the food as much in a more mundane setting? The truth is, I’m honestly not sure, but if you ever find yourself on the wrong side of the Pennines, looking for somewhere truly unique to eat and drink, then I definitely recommend giving the Bowland Brewery Beer Hall. As I sit here, finishing off my last glass of red, I can’t help but think, MAYBE Lancashire isn’t so bad after all.
Bowland Brewery Beer Hall
Tel: 01200 401035