Glasses of fine ale, blue sky, warm sun, sitting in a cobbled courtyard outside a brewery … doesn’t get much better does it?
The Pearl of Dorset is a lovely little place, famed for fossils, scenery, seaside holidays and The French Lieutenants Woman. More importantly, it’s the home of The Lyme Regis Brewery, and I’d heard, now boasts Cellar 59, a bar showcasing local newcomers Gyle 59 brewery, making it a must visit destination for beer lovers in the area. So one sunny morning we set off on the Jurassic Coastliner X51 from Bridport, the drivers announcement of the price of a return ticket prompting a chorus of the Yorkshire war cry!
The Lyme Regis Brewery is located in Town Mill, which some may recognise, as prior to 2015 it was also the name of the brewery. It’s worth a visit just for the historic mill, and the pretty setting. Interestingly the mill has it’s own hydroelectric generator and you can walk along the goit from it’s juncture with the Lymm right to where it disappears into the turbine. You can also pay and go for a toby inside to see the original workings, which are still in operation and regularly used. The impressive thing for me is it’s all self sustaining, and they actually sell power back to the national grid. What price a self sustaining hydro electric brewery? I bet there is one … somewhere? As well as the brewery and mill there are a few crafty type shops, including a working pottery, and a tea room to keep partners and family happy while you have a pint.
The micro brewery has been going since 2010, brewing on a four barrel kit which is on full view to the public. In fact everything is on full view as the brewery, tap, and shop are almost sat on top of each other in the small building. They’re open every day from 10 till 5, except for January and February, for the sale of bottles, cider, and draught ales. The winter hibernation is probably a good thing as there is no inside seating, and the ale has to be enjoyed at one of several tables and benches in the yard outside. If I’m honest, although I’ve spent some pleasant afternoons sat outside in the summer, I don’t think I would fancy sitting outside with a pint once it starts to get parky.
They used to sell the ale in jugs and provide the glasses, it’s now dispensed in pints, halves or third taster flights. There’s five beers in regular production and when I visited there were two of these, and a seasonal special on the bar; Summer Breeze, Lyme Gold and Revenge. All the beers are drawn through a beer engine without a sparkler, they appeared to be traditionally fined ales, of the highest clarity, and in excellent form, prices were reasonable for the area.
Summer Breeze (I didn’t get the ABV, it tasted 3.6 – 3.8%) a, not particularly originally named, summer beer, was pale gold, dry and citrus hoppy. It felt just a bit thinner in the mouth than Lyme Gold (4.2%), one of the staple brews which I thought was much better; a fleeting honey sweetness at first, followed by smooth citrus notes and then a dryness at the end with almost sour hints.
I liked the Lyme Gold, but my out and out favourite was Revenge. Billed as a strong IPA (5.3%), it was firmly in the category of English IPA, although it is hopped with Cascade as well as Fuggles hops. Pale in appearance, hoppy and bitter with a nice crisp bite. I could have sat and drank this one until I fell off the bench! I reckon this ale would have suited traditionalists, as well as those with a more progressive taste looking for a ‘big C’ hop kick.
The other regulars are; Cobb, a 3.9% Bitter, Town Mill Best, a stronger (4.5%) Best Bitter and Black Venn, a very dark (5%) Porter. I’ve drank all of them in the past, the stand out for me being Black Venn, named after a local cliff renowned for being rich in fossils, and coincidentally an ammonite is the brewery logo.
No, I’m not hinting that these beers are relics. Okay it’s a traditional sounding range of beers, but they’re very good beers, well brewed, balanced, clean tasting, and several including noticeable additions of Cascade hops. Overall I reckon these are very good ales, brewed with just enough modernity to make a difference, without breaking the traditional mould.
Anyone looking for The Lyme Regis Brewery ales on the bar in a pub should concentrate on the Dorset area, as 80% of current distribution is within a 2o mile radius of the brewery. I’m informed, they have recently managed to get as far as Bristol, and I recall them being in one of the Weymouth Wetherspoon’s when the Olympic sailing was on. It’s worth pointing out that although a lot of supermarkets are selling huge quantities of bottled real ale, which aren’t real ales. You can buy from The Lyme Regis Brewery with confidence as all their bottled beers are bottle conditioned, something we seem to be seeing less of in mainstream outlets.
Verdict: Excellent traditional beers served in a delightful setting. Wrap up when there’s an ‘r’ in the month. Enough alternative attractions on site to keep non-drinkers happy for a good hour or so.