by Roger Clapham.
If you mentioned Thornbridge to any relatively committed beer geek, you’ll likely get a fairly enthusiastic response. Possibly an over-the-top, eyes-glazing-over, otherworldly response that may or may not involve a degree of drooling – it’s fair to say they are held in fairly high regard. They’re another of the relatively new brewers on the craft beer scene, although distinctly more successful than others, having only been brewing since 2005. Now operating from two sites in Bakewell, Derbyshire, their approach to brewing good beer has been the reason for their success – one in which the appliance of science (thank you Zanussi) and having the best quality ingredients they can lay their hands on are paramount. Beer is not just seen as a simple product made of water, yeast, hops and malt with these lads – their brewers come armed with food science and microbiology degrees, the brewery is kitted out with the latest hi-spec German equipment, and no details are ignored – for example mineral salts are added to the water used to get the best out of it depending on what kind of beer is being brewed. And that’s not to mention the huge range of flavours they’re extracting from their hops – the BBC’s official booze fans Oz Clarke and James May even paid them a visit to talk hops with them a couple of years ago.
Hops are the key element in their Kipling beer – a South Pacific Pale Ale, apparently, presumably named after the Nelson Sauvin strain of hops used in the brew that come from New Zealand (Thornbridge claim to have been the first UK brewer to use these hops). They give the beer a surprising flavour, with a keen initial aroma of tropical fruit (or even Opal Fruits). Kipling is a golden beer, quite strong at 5.2%, with a dryness and a rather noticeable grapefruit flavour (again from those hops), so it won’t be to everyone’s tastes. That said, there is some sweetness but the dry finish it has is one of its strongest qualities, arguably leaving you ready to have more quite quickly.
Jaipur, their India Pale Ale, is a truly fantastic beer though, and one that I can genuinely pick no fault with. I’m not alone there either – it’s won that many awards since it was launched in 2005 that I suspect even the brewers themselves have lost count. Loosely, it’s an American style IPA (if you want the old school British version go to Meantime), pale yellow coloured, with a big hit of hoppy flavour. With this one, sweet citrus flavours are to the fore, with a bitter finish mixed in with the strong hoppy taste. It’s 5.9% but you won’t know that until you’re about three or four pints in and start to wobble slightly, like a tethered boat in a light breeze. Not one for school nights though, the refreshment doesn’t quite last through to the following morning.
You can get both of these beers at Waitrose branches now at just over two quid a pop, and you’ll often see them on draught at Nicholsons pubs and anywhere else that stocks a decent range. Look out for them, and any of the other Thornbridge offerings, most of them are well worth trying. Cheers…