The Wild Boar, situated on the picturesque Crook Road between Kendal and Bowness-on-Windermere, has become increasingly well-known for its smokehouse and microbrewery, the products of which are visible across its extensive restaurant menu. What better opportunity to find out more about it all, than to visit the hotel’s second Festival of Smoke?
The festival, which was held last weekend, took place on a beautiful sunny day. I started out with a visit to The Brewhouse, which is the inn’s very own microbrewery. This intriguing little room is on show to all who visit the hotel, and can be seen through a large stylish glass door at the end of the traditional bar area.
Here, I met Tim Bloomer, who runs his own microbrewery, the nearby Fell Brewery, and whose expertise has been brought in to ensure the smooth running of production at The Wild Boar.
Apparently, The Brewhouse is a ‘two-and-a-half brewer’s barrel plant’ (bit of a mouthful that), which in all produces enough beer to fill 10 casks. Each cask contains 70 pints, so 700 pints are produced in each batch. This is truly brewing on a small scale, where every batch has its own unique character. Much of the product is consumed on site, with some also being bottled for sale.
The Wild Boar currently produces three brews, the Mad Pig Ale (described as ‘a classic session ale’), Hogs “54” (a pale ale), and the unique Smoked Porter (‘a rich, dark ale’), which is made using malted barley smoked on the premises at the smokehouse. For real ale enthusiasts, there is a more thorough tasting description for each on the microbrewery’s own web page. I’m personally not a beer drinker, so don’t have a broad experience against which to compare, however you may remember me saying how much I took to the taste of the Smoked Porter when I bought a bottle at the Kendal Festival of Food!
On to the outside area, and there were lots of other things to see, including talks by The Lakes Distillery, producers of local gin and vodka, and The One Whisky, and bushcraft by Woodmatters. There was also clay pigeon shooting, and the chance to meet Rhona, the delightful Highland Pony from neighbouring Mitchelland Farm.
Also of particular interest were the various large and small logs on show, which had been pre-cut and set alight to slowly burn away, making the ideal self-contained base for a spot of outdoor cooking.
Later in the afternoon, I watched a demonstration in food smoking which was given by Jo Hampson of Smoky Jo’s. This small local business is based in the fells above Shap, and provides courses on how to smoke your own food – apparently the skills you learn will cause you to be the source of envy long after your next dinner party! The owners, George and Jo, have even written a book, Smoking Food at Home with Smoky Jo, which Jo describes as a practical, no-nonsense guide to smoking techniques.
Jo demonstrated how to both hot smoke and cold smoke foods, using two very different methods. In order to hot smoke some delicious looking salmon, she placed a handful of beech dust in the bottom of a stovetop smoker, before placing the salmon inside. Before smoking, she recommends brining the salmon with salt. This draws moisture out of the food, which starts the drying process and ensures bacteria cannot multiply. Equally as important, salt attracts the smoke into the food, and unsalted salmon would not have nearly the intensity of flavour. To cold smoke, she uses a cardboard box with a special slow-burning tray that contains the smoking dust, and which is placed in the base. Jo has used all sorts of items as a smoker, including her trusty filing cabinet, and she will smoke just about anything that is edible!
Although based at Shap, Smoky Jo’s also run courses at The Wild Boar. Jo told us that The Wild Boar’s smoking experiences are a little bit different, because instead of participants taking away a goody bag of smoked treats at the end of the day, the smoked produce is handed over to the hotel’s chefs so that they can work their culinary magic. They then produce what she describes as the most amazing banquet for you to return to in the restaurant later that evening, after you’ve had time to refresh.
For more details about The Wild Boar, including its restaurant menus for lunch and dinner, or to attend one of its smoking courses, visit the hotel website. To find out about Jo and Georgina’s smoking book and the other courses they run, visit Smoky Jo’s online.