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Three Pale Ales from Thornbridge

The still-young Thornbridge Brewery (opened 2005) enjoys an enviable reputation for quality and innovation. The brewery is currently situated in the lovely little town of Bakewell in Derbyshire, but the original site at Thornbridge Hall is still operating for beer development. The beers have won something like 200 awards between them, so when I saw a little cluster of Thornbridge pale ales in a supermarket recently, I had to get them.

Thornbridge Pale Ales small

These three beers are all described (albeit slightly differently) as ‘pale ales’, and as I have an issue (well documented in these pages) with breweries that produce a range of beers virtually indistinguishable from each other, I thought this would be something of an acid test for Thornbridge beers.

As ever, I will review in order of ascending ABV.

Thornbridge Wild Swan 2 small

Thornbridge Wild Swan at just 3.5% is described on the bottle as a ‘White Gold Pale Ale’. It pours a very pale yellow in colour, almost straw-like. The head is thin and short-lived. It has a bright, clean, hoppy aroma, which immediately invites you in. The taste is quite startling; a huge, fresh, hoppy mouthful with a pleasing twist of lemony citrus. This is amazingly full-flavoured for a 3.5% beer. Buckets full of aroma, flavour and bittering hops. Superb. There is much that some breweries could learn from this.

Thornbridge Kipling small

Moving way up the alcohol scale, we next arrive at Thornbridge Kipling, a 5.2% beer described as a ‘South Pacific Pale Ale’. This beer is made with Nelson Sauvin hops from New Zealand – hence the name. Nelson Sauvin is one of the very best of the new generation of hop varieties that we are seeing at the moment. The aroma of this beer is hoppy, but quite mildly so, quite unlike Wild Swan. Beautiful tropical fruit flavours dominate – a trademark of the Nelson Sauvin hop. The finish is excellent, nicely bitter with some muted pithy citrus running underneath. Wonderfully refreshing.

Thornbridge Jaipur small

My final bottle was Thornbridge Jaipur, a multi award-winning IPA. Weighing in at 5.9%, this one packs a nice alcoholic wallop. The beer pours a pale orange in colour. The smell is again hoppy. The initial taste is misleading. It tastes quite mild and the flavours all seem somewhat muted. It doesn’t last; buckets of bitter hops follow and the bitterness grows for a long time, ending up dry and earthy. Citrus pith is present throughout. This is one of those beers that also tastes excellent on the burp.

With these three pale ales, on the surface seeming fairly similar, Thornbridge has provided a masterclass in brewing technique. The beers are, indeed, all pale ales, and yet they are each wildly different from the others. Thank you, Thornbridge, for such an enjoyable taste experience.

http://www.thornbridgebrewery.co.uk/

For rants about brewers producing samey beers, see Four Bottled Beers from Wold Top, Teme Valley This & That and Four Bottled Ales from Fyne Ales

Words and images are my copyright, please respect that. All you have to do is ask. Thank you.

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Posted by on 11 December, 2012 in Beer Styles, Bottled Beer, Breweries

 

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A Pub Crawl Round Sheffield – Part 4

When we left off last time, I was crawling back to my hotel for our second night in Sheffield. The following morning, we started off, not too early, with breakfast at the Benjamin Huntsman, a city centre Wetherspoons. From there we made our way, in a genteel manner, to the Sheffield Tap, one of Sheffield’s best known pubs.

The Sheffield Tap

Only recently restored, this building was originally the refreshment room on Sheffield Midland Station’s platform 1b. It had been disgracefully neglected by British Rail and was in a state of partial collapse when renovations began in 2008. Today it is a beacon of hope, demonstrating just what can be done with determination and hard work. In a word, the place is beautiful. In the bar room (right onto the station platform) is a superb long wooden bar topped with a very impressive array of taps.

Sheffield Tap bar

There are plenty of Thornbridge beers available at the tap, and I started with Thornbridge Frank as Apollo, a 4.6% bitter. Frank as Apollo was the winner of the Thornbridge Great British Home Brew Challenge, and was brewed by Paul Carruthers. It’s a nice brew, bitter and hoppy, refreshing and easily drinkable. Hops are very evident at the finish and are quite sharp.

I followed up with another Thornbridge brew, Black Harry, a 3.9% mild. Malt is the major taste sensation in this beer, though not strongly so. Not unpleasant.

Spotting a Magic Rock brew, Dark Arts, I couldn’t resist. Magic Rock is currently making waves in the beer world, and the opportunity to try one of their beers cannot be missed. Dark Arts is described as a ‘surreal stout’ and weighs in at a respectable 6.0%. The taste is very dark, bitter and malty. There’s also a touch of smoke deep down in the flavour. The finish adds a pleasant dash of coffee. There’s a good hop character throughout. Very good.

Another Thornbridge beer on the bar was Versa, a 5.0% keg wheat beer. Now I’ve mentioned before that I’m not overfond of this style, but I do keep trying. What can I say about Versa? It’s wheat beery. There is, however, a distinct sherbet taste in there too. Well, I tried.

Finally, I spotted a Redwillow brew (one of my top new breweries). Faithless XI is a 7.4% Strong Ale, dark red in colour. There are bags full of flavour in here. The smell is very fruity and this carries on into the taste along with vanilla and toffee and plenty of bitter hops. A massive mouthful of complex flavours.

The Harlequin in its industrial context

We considered that we had dawdled long enough in the Sheffield Tap (it’s easy to do), so we set off again, this time to The Harlequin, quite a hike from the Tap. The Harlequin is a lovely, comfortable Victorian street corner pub with up to 14 real ales on the bar at a time. It also serves very good food and we settled in here for our lunch. The Brew Company, a nearby brewer, provides a monthly special exclusively for the Harlequin.

The bar in the Harlequin

I had three beers here, with mixed results. Firstly, I went for an Ascot Penguin Porter, 4.5% and quite black. The taste is dark with a good deal of bitterness – malty bitterness, not hoppy. There’s also a hint of smoke. Lady Alebagger tasted chocolate biscuits in the flavour, but I couldn’t find them.

Secondly, I plumped for a Black Iris Great Eastern Transatlantic Porter. 4.6% and quite black, I reckon it was made from Atlantic water. Salty, salty, salty! Eew!

Finally, I had to try one of the Brew Company’s brews – Atomic, a 4% golden ale. An attractive bright yellow colour with a distinctly orange smell, the taste is pithy and hoppy. Cleaned my mouth out nicely. Refreshing and bitter.

Kelham Island Brewery

Lunch finished, we strode purposefully out into the cold Sheffield air, crossing the stinky River Don and on towards the area of Sheffield called Kelham Island. We couldn’t resist stopping in at the Kelham Island Brewery Shop, where I bought a nifty Fat Cat tee-shirt. Handy, as that was our next destination.

The Fat Cat

The Fat Cat opened as a real ale pub in 1981 and really kick started the real ale scene in Sheffield. 11 real ale pumps were on the bar at the time of our visit. The main bar area is small and somewhat cramped, but there is another, spacier room next door. Our itinerary didn’t leave us much time here, so I just had two beers.

The Fat Cat bar

My first was the excellent Newsome Trial Porter, 4.9% and very black. Very smooth, dark roasted malt flavour with hints of bitterish smoke towards the end. A fine porter.

My second choice disappointed. From the Kelham Island brewery, which we passed on our walk here, I had their Best, a 3.8% bitter. Frankly, it’s not terribly nice, but I don’t condemn a beer on a single tasting. I’ll have to try it again some time.

Kelham Island Tavern

Our next choice of pub was obvious, twice CAMRA champion pub of Britain, the Kelham Island Tavern was just a stone’s throw away. The Kelham Island Tavern sits in a rather sterile area of town, little around it and facing a large car park. Inside, it is pleasant, with tiled floors and a carved wooden bar, on which were eight handpumps, though not all in use when I was there. At the back is a small but attractive beer garden, where we sat to drink our beer. It’s sheltered, and despite it being only the 3rd March, it was warm enough to sit out, with coats on. There was only time for two here, but it seems I chose well. Derby Penny’s Porter is a very dark red, 4.7% porter which is smooth and sweet and extremely drinkable.

Kelham Island Tavern bar

Castle Rock Urban Fox is a seasonal ruby ale at 4.5%. It is smooth and has a lovely caramel taste. It’s quite sweetish.

The afternoon was drawing to a close, so we left the Kelham Island Tavern behind as we continued our exploration of the pubs of Sheffield. Thanks for sticking with me, more to follow…

To continue with the pub crawl, click here.

Words and images are my copyright, please respect that. All you have to do is ask. Thank you.

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Posted by on 8 June, 2012 in Cask Ale, Pubs, Scooping

 

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