Thornbridge branded beers were first brewed in early 2005 after the establishment of a 10-barrel brewery in the grounds of Thornbridge Hall, having an output of some variable batches of Lord Marples (a former owner of Thornbridge Hall) and Jaipur IPA, both of which are definitely more standard at this time. The initial focus of the brewery was on a range of cask beers utilising traditional recipes, but with the fashion of a use of wide range of hops, malts and allowing the brewing team to put their own stamp on the output. After winning a succession of awards (over 350 national and international awards so far) a new, state of the art, brewery and bottling line was opened at a second site in Bakewell in September 2009 (handling up to 30 barrel capacity) to meet with the market and increase the range of beer.
* Thornbridge have published their own blog, which has this article on their thoughts of putting beers into cans: [http://thornbridge.wordpress.com/2014/09/17/to-can-or-not-to-can/]
Without further ado, it’s time to let the beer from Bakewell’s finest do the talking….
One of the Thornbridge brewery team pushed for this beer to be made, since Pilsners do take a long while to complete their brewing cycle, it is easy to see why some are reluctant to run with this style. However, the endeavour has provided a very clean Pils style golden lager that is remarkably refreshing and has a very slight hint of sweetness in the finish. Although the head retention is relatively short, this is a very drinkable and light tasting beer that proves that the UK brewing industry (well, Thornbridge at least!) can actually make decent lager when they put their minds to it. At 5%, this is a relatively easy drinking premium lager that does carry a bit of clout if you attempt it in a session.
A traditional English pale ale style beer, which uses, as the name would suggest Galaxy hops to provide much of the beer’s rich flavour set. Although Thornbridge do not brew the Galaxia on a regular basis, the Australian hops used give a rich mouthfeel to this pale ale with a slightly metallic (but not unpleasant) and dry finish to the flavour. The flavour is itself, as would be expected of new world hopping, of tropical fruits and verdancy, which were surprisingly difficult to pin down exactly beyond what I would describe as white stone fruit. This lies just beyond session strength at 5.2%, making it a bit dangerous to indulge heavily, as the colour, body and aromas would suggest it lies lower.
Chiron (named after a mythical Greek centaur) is an American style pale ale, with a golden hue and at 5% strength. Compared to many other American Pale Ales about these days, this is actually relatively pale with a good level of carbonation, cleanly hopped taste and a decent bit of length afterward. This was made by Thornbridge as a ‘go to’ beer for people in terms of something that is on the edge of sessionable, but has plenty of punchy crisp flavours and resinous body, without being too cloying. Very balanced, relatively easy to get hold of and made using a Californian yeast strain.
This smoked porter is pronounced ‘Bee-dekkas’ Well, which apparently comes from the old name for Bakewell, where the brewery is based. Some 5-10% of the malts used in this beer are German smoked malts, giving the beer its trademark peaty depth. Although the head retention was pretty short, the beer is rather complex in aroma and flavour, with a range of coffee and vegetative, leathery aromas and plenty of dry length in the flavour following dried fruit and a touch of chocolate. The difference in aroma and flavour is very marked. Pretty heavily bodied and at 5.3%, its not something to drink a lot of, but gears one up well for a winter’s evening. This would pair excellently with cured red meats and strong cheeses.
This is Thornbridge’s seminal beer as well as one of their first, and a pretty robust one at 5.9% abv. We were, on this occasion, treated to the duality of cask and keg, which proved a rather enlightening experience in tasting both simultaneously. Cask proved to carry far more in the aroma and have a much silkier mouth feel, but the flavours somehow were more balanced and mouth feel less cloying when given the carbonated keg beer. Those who have tried it will know it’s a citrussy refreshing and strongly hopped beer, but presenting it two ways served to show that it worked in both, with the preference depending entirely on your mood.
Peanut Butter Brown Ale
The final beer of the night was something a little different from the norm. I dread to think about what the fermenter vessels are like following a brew run of this beer, but not being the most pleasant things to clean following a normal brew of say, a pale ale, imagine cleaning out something awful with a load of peanut butter sludge on the top… Unpleasant (I am guessing!). This ale is actually a deep brown colour and incredibly rich in flavour - the aroma is heavily peanut with a touch of caramel; reminiscent of childhood peanut brittle. There is a touch of cereal in the flavour and plenty of body, the finish has a very thick and slightly sweet edge to it. Surprisingly, when paired with a peanut butter tart for dessert, it did dumb down some of the peanut flavour in the beer.
This was yet another entertaining and in parts, enlightening experience with James, with yet another sumptuous meal provided by the Clove Hitch (taking unusual cuts of meat and making excellent dishes to pair with beers is always a winner for me), along with a very pleasing peanut butter tart dessert to pair with the Peanut Butter Brown Ale.
As a side note for the Thornbridge Brewery, they have just released another beer in bottles, which is being stocked in some Waitrose branches around the UK. This beer is special in that the brew run is actually part of the first prize for the winning The Great British Home Brew Challenge 2014, Graham Nelson from Holmes Chapel. The Vienna IPA bet over 200 other entries to take the top spot and it should be available at 70 Waitrose outlets at around £2.50 for a 500ml bottle – I am yet to see if the Formby (nearest one in Liverpool) are stocking it.
More here on the Vienna IPA here:[ http://siba.co.uk/2014/08/the-great-british-home-brew-challenge-2014-winner-is-announced/]
Thornbridge Riverside Brewery, Buxton Road, Bakewell, Derbyshire DE45 1GS
Tel: 01629 815 999
Twenty Three Club / Clove Hitch
23 Hope Street, Liverpool, L1 9BQ
Twitter: https://twitter.com/TwentyThreeClub or https://twitter.com/theclovehitch
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com
Tel: 0151 709 6574