Thornbridge Italia

Over the weekend, Italy gave me things to smile about.  Continue reading


beer of these isles…


Traveling so much and the beers that we keep at – I could quite easily have a finger pointed at me for no love to our local, or national brews.

Over the last couple of years things have really come along here at, I could never have believed that we’d be selling the rare American Craft beer, the number of Gueuze and just the number of great quality British brews that we’ve started bringing together.    Over the weekend that I wandered north to hang out with Simon (the Reluctant Scooper) and hunt for Burton IPA, we chewed the fat when it comes to various English Breweries that we love, and I use that word with it’s full meaning.

Simon’s insight into the midland/North scene is something incredible to hear, the number of breweries that are really trying to brew great, experiential brews, with impressive quality.  Spending time with Kelly and Stephano from Thornbridge and Mark Tranter of DarkStar, Justin of Moor Brewing, chatting with Dominic from Marble, Jeff from Lovibonds, Alan at Old Chimneys, Eddie from Gadds, they are as passionate at many of the breweries that I have travelled around afar, they are brewing exciting beers, they are having fun! and they are growing…   Even the new Steel City Brewing, Pete at the Brew Co for opening up to have this guys is such an incredible opportunity  (even that their new beers, 3 of them, are available at Oxford Beer Fest)

I have taken many beers from these breweries to beer events in foreign lands and people have gone nuts for them.  Ok, I am sure to many readers of this I am shouting at the converted, but, seriously it’s a great time for beer, both home and abroad.    I want to say congratulations, to all.

Showcasing the best of our British ales, Laurence one of the cylinders of the engine, who’s really getting into these beers… has put together a case for you all, and it’s an amazing deal – here –  those beers you receive two of, you’ve got one of them FREE!   yes, FREE!    Plus you get one of the very very cool Gadds of Ramsgate glasses.

Buy English Ales here

Hops on Radio 4 too!  See, beer is getting noise!   and the Telegraph this week!

Tardy and busy!

Sometimes I have to look around and just think that wow, haven’t things moved on!   looking back over the last few weeks, months and the life of this blog – wow.   I wish I could just dump my email inbox on to the blog, much of which I am sure that many other bloggers out there get and which I always read, often with my coffee around 11am. Especially some of the bigger UK brewers various PR companies… my comedy moments all to frequently!    I will be editing the Peter Darby interview this week and in my own slightly inept angle of English making the best of it.   Very interesing and something that I should revisit in time…

I also have a big email to reply to from my favourite local micro, which I must do!     I spent a really good friday night at the Planet Thanet BeerFest, with really good friends and great beers!  The down side was waking on Saturday realising I still had £20 of vouchers in my pocket, um, in the modern way, a kinda FAIL!    Saturday of the Bank holiday I went up to see Garrett at the Bull at Horton Kirby.  Interestingly Garrett does a lot of his communications through Facebook – here –  This was an awesome event, despite the weather; The Mussels were some of the best that I have had in years!  They even had bottles of very rare Belgians along with a great selection of draughts.    All in all Kent was a great place to be for beer last weekend!

SO, here we go!

1, The Coach and Horses, Dronfield.

Transformed pub wins Award recognition

After an extensive ballot of its 1050  members the Sheffield and District CAMRA branch, has declared its District  Pub of the Year for 2009 as The Coach & Horses, Sheffield Road,  Dronfield.

This is a remarkable turn around for a pub that  only just over 2 years ago was declared bankrupt and closed by the previous  owners. The pub was in a very poor state of repair. says Simon Webster,  Director of Thornbridge Brewery, who took over the running of the pub in  2007 and much hard work went into its refurbishment before we could reopen  it. The pub has since concentrated on quality beers from not only  Thornbridge (5 hand pumps dispense their beers, which often include one of  the brewery’s one-off experimental specials as well as the award winning  beers such as Jaipur IPA and Kipling) but also lagers and bottled beers from  across the globe.

Turning around a failed pub can take some  time reports Webster but a major step in the success of the pub he says was  the employment of Kiwi couple Catherine Mueller to manage the pub on a day  to day basis and she has been ably assisted by her partner Kelly Ryan – a  man with a unique insight into the Thornbridge beers as by day he is their  Head Brewer!  Catherine and Kelly have done a magnificent job in  making the pub a success and the CAMRA Award is recognition of this,”  continues Webster and he highlights “not only great beer but freshly cooked,  locally sourced food backed with excellent service as the key to the pub’s  incredible transformation.

The Coach and Horses  will now be entered into the East Midland’s County competition an early  round of the National Pub of the Year award. The pub has a celebration event  planned for Sunday May 24th and Monday May 25th when they will showcase a  number of beers from the Us leading micro brewers alongside a gourmet BBQ  and international live Blues Musicians call 01246 413269 for further information.

To further add to this I’m heading to see Kelly this weekend, with @Terry_Tibbs.     Have a listen to this excellent interview with Kelly on the awesome Brewing Networkhere

2, Struise

If you follow my far more regular waffle, um, microblog on Twitter, Struise beers have arrived at the depot.  They will be available in due course.

read this if you need more waffle

3,  more… but wait.

4, fun in October.

5, Bloggers

We frequently get approached for “free beer” as part of recompense for a promise of traffic and links etc.   We like to send beer to those who are putting the effort in, writing regularly, getting out there, getting to events and generally writing about beer from all aspects in a positive and enlightened fashion, about great beer!   We’ve been picked up by a bunch of bloggers who we all regularly read,  like the Reluctant Scooper, (who we hope will come back with flying colours, ), Knut Albert, and Mark Dredge at Pencil and Spoon.   We’ve also been highlighted by Blog-o-Beer which was very cool, very honest reviews too!

So, all in all a very busy period I just hope I can keep up!

Speak soon and Enjoy Beer!

Whisky Cask Aged beer

pic by Jesse

pic by Jesse - Drakes Imperial Stout

The fashion, taste, interest call it what you will has been progressing this way for some time now.

Started really by Todd Ashman of the Flossmoor brewery, in Flossmoor, Illinois, now of 50/50 brewery in Truckee, California – on a professional basis, having observed homebrewers fermenting their beers in bourbon barrels – a subject that I recently bridged with him when I was in his company.   His early adoption of this technique blazed a trail for a unique style of beer, centred around the region between Detroit and Chicago – noted brewers such as Kuhnenn, Three Floyds, and Bells are keen proponents of this technique.     Sometimes you will see the beer barrel aged for a limited release project – or in somecases blended back into beer to accent everyday releases.   This technique is also starting to emerge in the beer mecca that is Belgium – the Struise brouwers have taken their very impressive Black Albert, and aged it in a Four Roses Bourbon barrel- called Cuvee Delphine – a quick look at beer rating sites like  Ratebeer and their top 50 will give you an insight into just how influencial this has been on many breweries.

Breweries in the UK have been slowly adopting, where as the midwest in the US has the proximity to a source of very expensive barrels – the UK brewer has had to turn to Scotland for similar materials.    Typically the beers tend to be big dark, imperial stouts, those with enough body and strength to carry the concentrated flavour notes rather than swamping them.   To mind one of the early adopters were the now highly regarded Thornbridge Brewery,  others have brought barrel aged beers out – Lovibonds of Henley and Gadds or Ramsgate, and I am sure you’ll have heard of the Paradox beers from BrewDog.    There is a close sense of origin between the Thornbridge Brewery and BrewDog – one of the brewers of Brewdog is once of Thornbridge.

So, here we have a brewery well versed in brewing a good imperial stout, and then they have sourced three different cask flavours – Mortlach, Macallan, and Caol Ila.    The Speyside, Highland and Islay notes will shine through the intense blackness of their beers – a perfect beer for the beer and whisky lover.

This is not a barrel fermentation as the Burton Union system suggests, or what Firestone Walker have adopted  – this is “simply” ageing a beer in a cask from a distillery – capitalising on the residual oak, char, and spirit bound flavours.    Considering that a used bourbon cask can weigh something in the region of 30lb heavier when fresh from the distillery, there are clear indicators just how much the barrels can influence the beer!   When travelling – some brewers aged their beers for 50 days, right through to 300+  some stored ambient, some stored cool to cold.   Some had developed a nose for particular notes that said to the brewer “‘I’m ready”  – this is still a new art form, and some are doing it very well, some come out as tarry alcoholic messes.

This is a great deal of investment for many breweries, making said beer, finding shipping and purchasing said cask – then to top it off – not being able to sell a beer for nearly a year!   I thank you, dear brewer for taking this chance!

I have had the pleasure of sampling some of the greatest (highly sought after) barrel aged imperial stouts, listed on Ratebeer, and I as much as I am not a big whisky lover – I really enjoyed the Highland.    Some might say that the idea of going through this process is a waste of good beer, or good whisky – and these are for the “beergeeks” out there – certainly not, they are a fantastic after dinner drink, contemplative and decadent with it.

They will also age very well.

Thornbridge St.Petersburg Highland, Islay, and Speyside cask aged will be available on – along with anything else I can get my hands on.

Thornbridge Halcyon

Writing this something on the fly, I had a couple of bottles of Thornbridge Halcyon last night, an excellent 7.7% American Hopped Pale Ale. Whether you read this blog for fun, just to keep in touch, or to find out what has on offer – I might suggest do not miss out on this excellent hoppy brew.  I must admit I feel a shade silly writing – “You have to try this…”  but, along with the Bracia, also from this brewery – this is cracking beer!

good hop!

good hop!

This style of beer is few and far between, when produced by an English brewery – and one of growing note – and at £3.80 a bottle a steal!

Better written notes than I can – from the Reluctant Scooperhere I was with a pint of Halcyon. This had been crammed full of extra hops and certainly had a full floral nose complete with itchy hayfevery nosefeel. Sustained alcohol all the way down, tempered by clean citrics. The second pint was finer, the third pint sublime. I was expecting this to be rampant hoppiness and was kindly surprised to find it more than drinkable. If Jaipur is athletic, Halcyon is muscular – and revels in flexing its way down your throat.

click here

Ratebeer Scores

you can read more here at Kelly Ryan’s own blog – The Thornbridge Brewers Blog – of a slightly different Halcyon.