Hanlons Brewery, Hill Farm, Half Moon Village, Devon EX5 5AE
Talk to any ale fan in the Exeter & Devon area and you won’t find many that would not class Yellow Hammer as one of their favourite ales. For as long as I can remember this beautifully light and golden ale has been a staple in various pubs around Exeter. It is produced by Hanlons Brewery who are based out at Half Moon Village in between Cowley and Newton St Cyres on the A377. Sounds far away? It is less than two miles from the centre of Exeter, nestled in the rolling hills that surround the city.
Some long-term hardened ale fans might remember a few years ago, Hanlons used to be based out at Whimple. After some financial difficulties the company went in to administration but partners Dan Taylor and Jim Bungard swooped to the rescue and bought the ale-ing (sorry) company, relocated it to a purpose built brewery building and the rest is history. Dan and Jim’s families invested heavily in the business, as a result the company is has a distinctive family run feel to it.
Not too long ago, Hanlon’s opened their doors to the general public on a Friday night serving top quality food and of course their own beautiful ale from draught. Living less than a mile away, I was ashamed to say that I hadn’t been to visit sooner but was over the Half-Moon (as they’re located in Half Moon Village?…I’ll get my coat) to be invited over to see what has made this hidden gem so successful.
The whole building is wood clad, a distinctive design hidden behind the hedgerow from the A377 which it sits close to. A whole selection of buses pass here, and there is one every hour generally, and with ample parking it is easy for the designated driver to rock up and find somewhere to park.
During the week their in-house bar hosts corporate and private events. But on a Friday night, the menus come out, the reserved signs are placed on the table and diners come down to eat a menu incorporating Hanlons products created by Chef Tim Ware (Jack In The Green, Digger’s Rest).
The room itself is decorated with lots of Hanlons marketing and photographs including the most amazing illustrated diagram that adorns the wall which was created by a local illustrator. The place mats on the tables replicate this artwork, and there are colouring crayons on each table for big and little kids to colour in (excuse the fuzzy photo!)
As we arrived, we commenced proceedings with a half of Firefly Bitter; a member of the Hanlon family that I don’t often see in the pubs I visit.
The menu changes each week, follow Hanlon’s Facebook page to see what each week holds in store and keep up to date with brewery tours and other exciting events.
We decided to share our starter. A delicious baked Camembert served in fresh Yellow Hammer bread with a side of Stormstay Chutney (£9). There is something so delectable about fresh bread and melted cheese, and this dish punched straight to the heart of what makes this comfort food a firm favourite in restaurants across the country.
Our main course was a choice, but I had to go for the Sticky Pork Tenderloin with Thai Slaw cooked in Yellow Hammer (£10) as well as Tori. The fusion worked fantastically, the Yellow Hammer addition shows that this ale is very versatile, not just to drink but to cook with too.
This is fine dining quality for fantastic value but keeping it very much in tune with Hanlon’s tune. Using ales and beers that Hanlons produces is a great showcase for the other ways that their products can be incorporated into cooking.
The meal was topped off with some locally produced dairy ice-cream, a very simple yet satisfying end to really good meal.
After the meal, we were lucky enough to be taken down to the brewery floor by Dan Taylor to have a brief tour of the facilities. Yellow Hammer is a beautiful traditional ale that has a special place in the hearts of ale drinkers across the county and to finally visit its birthplace was a definite culinary highlight.
Hanlons has invested in new equipment to help improve consistency and make things more efficient, the shiny vats holding a vast amount of liquid that would eventually be served across pubs and supermarkets.
I love the ethos of this local company and I am a definite fan of their products. I want to write what I thought of their food in terms that would make readers of this blog cringe or squirm uncomfortably whilst I use words like ‘lush’ and ‘om nom’. But as with any review, you need to try it for yourself.