Buxton began their journey in 2009 in a garage and have gone on to become one of the most recognisable brands on the scene, with a constantly changing repertoire and an evident penchant for the current barrel aging fashion for some styles of beer. Starting off on second-hand kit with little experience, cuckoo-brewing and then using other bits of equipment to cobble together enough to keep up with production (and annihilating an old Firkin pub kit in the process through 5-6 brews per week), the Buxton boys have plied their trade well and shown endeavour to come this far.
The first major expansion for Buxton came in 2013, and the second in February 2014 which was fairly well documented on Twitter, but for those who didn’t see a large number of pictures showing huge kit on the back of flat loader trucks, the kit was still very manual from the 2013 expansion, but production now stands at 3500 litre batch brews (up from the pre-2014 800 Litres). The attitude has always been and still seems to be, to fly by the seat of their pants with recipes and ideas for the beers, including pulling numerous all-nighters and not really bothering too much with test-brews.
Buxton’s popularity isn’t quite so burgeoning closer to its home in Derbyshire if Jeff and Dennis are on the money, though they have a steady stream of ale directed around the UK and a large export outlet in Italy and Spain, they do lament things closer to home where many pubs are tied up in Pubcos. For now, the focus remains on developing a barrel-aging programme (which they say is providing an interesting challenge, learning experience and is a naturally progressive step in brewing) and to stay as a smaller brewery to maintain a tight grip on the quality and range of the beers they produce. So what of those beers?
A very sessionable 2.8% beer, dispensed on this occasion from cask, Jacob’s Ladder is a creamy, malty and lightly aromatic golden ale. First made for the Buxton Fringe festival, this beer was renamed using the local Derbyshire landscape and features of the Peak District as inspiration around a year and half ago (at time of writing!) and benefits from the use of 4-5 different malts alongside the use of new world Motueka and Galaxy hops along with some dry-hopping in the cask to bring out some light fruit. The stand out note from drinking this low strength ale is the remarkable amount of body it carries for such a low abv.
Another golden to straw coloured cask ale, Moor Top stands at 3.6% and is very light, very dry and has a quite astringent finish whilst remaining quite balanced. A touch acidic and quite verdant in aromas, going from nettles with a slight metallic-malt tang in flavour, Moor Top is one of Buxton’s oldest recipes stemming from 2009. Competent, though is a little less satisfying than the Buxton Spa when dispensed in this way.
A golden to amber IPA which weighs in at 6.8%, the Axe Edge (again named after features of the Peak District) is very balanced and carries aromas of pine, warm woody notes and some tropical fruit which carry through into the flavour. Widely regarded as Buxton’s flagship beer, the recipe for Axe Edge has changed very slightly down the years of brewing it but it remains distinctly balanced and flavoursome.
A beer reminiscent of a stroll through en English herb-garden and at 6.3% has a slightly acrid and dark malty punch. The hop profile of this India Red Ale is heavy and makes use of significant amounts of centennial. The malt drives this beer and gives flavours of toffee, dark fruit and some soft and resinous mouthfeel moments. The finish is much fruitier than the initial taste, with some hints of liquorice and an overall bitter bite.
A 6.4% Black IPA that came about from a blend of Axe Edge and Black Rocks profiles, the bulk of this beer’s character comes from high hop content and balance of the roasted dark malts and have a very interesting mouth feel. The ‘Black and Tan’ nature of this beer, along with its colour is quite misleading, in a blindfolded test it would be easy to mistake this for a standard IPA in style. The use of US and New Zealand hops provides a lot of fruit and this beer is said to use more extensive varieties of hops than most of the other Buxton beers.
A superb sorbet of a beer, this competently delicious Berliner-weiss is a 4.9% hazy blonde number which is very polarising – either you dig sour beers, or you don’t and this is a citric monster with much cloudy lemonade character. The profile in flavour is very reminiscent of a cider and benefits from 3-4 days of souring and use of lactobacillus bacteria in the brew. Dry-hopping of the Far Skyline gives an extra layer of flavour and mouthfeel to this beer, the use of motueka (renowned for its lime flavouring capacity) brings out the best in the very dry, sour and cleansing nature of this Berliner-weisse.
A double black IPA and a heady one at 10.5% strength, Battle Horse carries a lot of toasty character but relies on hops to deliver the payload. A thick and resinous mouthfeel doesn’t run too close to being cloying on the palate. Flavours of coffee, dark and roasted fruit come through heavily along with a touch of pine and some white stone fruit and a bit of sweetness. Interesting and works superbly as a sipper.
The Living End
The Living End is a bourbon barrel aged imperial stout and a strong boy at 10.1%, marginally pipped by Battle Horse, but making up for it with the intense character from 8 different malts. After much practice, this is one of Buxton’s first salvos of barrel-aged ales. Vanilla and silky mouthfeel from the oak of the barrel comes as standard and the process is not yet finished. The brewery is still testing out a variety of barrels, including those from the Aardbeg distillery to give a peat driven iteration to their beers. Back on this version, wood, whisky, chocolate and liquorice all come through along with notes of ash and a soft but oily mouthfeel and an overtly bitter and whisky-alcoholic finish. Sip away in your smoking jacket with this one.
Once again, that is your lot for this MTB… but stay tuned for another one very soon! Hope you enjoyed the read as ever and until next time….
Staden Business Park, Staden Lane, Buxton, Derbyshire. SK17 9RZ
Tel: 01298 24420
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