Some Beer Thoughts

New Beers (2) (5)

Waving goodbye to our latest tanker heading to the the USA laden with Jaipur, Halcyon and Medici (our new India Brown Ale), I started thinking about how the American Craft Breweries have influenced the British brewing scene over the last 10 years or so. During my formative years at Meantime Brewery I visited the US numerous times and was blown away by the craft beer scene there. However, some of my favourite beers have come from closer to home and from some of the most distinguished breweries of Europe. Over the last 6 months we have had the chance to brew some of those styles of beer with our European series of beers brewed at The Hall brewery. This series of beers was exclusively in keg format for obvious reasons! Myself and the brewteam were really keen to try our hand at brewing these styles, some of which I’d brewed before, but others that were new to me.

 Brewing keg beers on a relatively simple system certainly presented us with some challenges that would have to be overcome if we were to make a success of the project, and I took it as a personal challenge to make a success of the series. What was key to them was to be as true to the style as possible and approach it with a ‘Best in Class’ mentality. To be honest, looking at the project at the beginning, it seemed a bit like trying to cook a gourmet meal on a camping stove!

 The first issue we had is the infusion mash system itself – being unable to temperature step the mash and not being able to ‘mash out’ (raising the mash temperature to prevent any further saccharification). It was difficult to gauge accurately our desired final attenuations. We needed to select styles that suited themselves to this system; heavily hopped beers such as IPAs are a no-go, because invariably unreacted polyphenols pass through into the final product. Although the beer may seem reasonably bright on packaging, within a month or so, a heavy hop haze would be present in the beer as we had no way of filtering the beer, instead relying on natural sedimentation to achieve the clarity and final yeast count that we wanted. The fermentation vessels at the Hall also presented a challenge as we had to carbonate the beer using the carbon dioxide solely produced during fermentations with no opportunity to ‘trim’. Luckily, we’ve become well practised at this

 The beer styles we decided to brew included a Belgian Blonde, Weizenbock, Berliner Weisse, Biere de Garde and a Saison. All these beers required the selection of a specific yeast, so we obtained these from both White Labs in San Diego and some from our brewing friends in Europe, propagating them at our Riverside brewery laboratory. Yeast selection, pitching rate and fermentation temperature were central to the success of these beers, so these were factors that we obsessed about to ensure the correct flavour profile and balance that would make them enjoyable

 Overall, we were very happy with the results, getting the attenuation limits that we wanted (so important for balance) and we felt we had got them all true to style – where a native drinker would think the brew came from their  homeland. As you know we have already brewed and bottled the Weizen Doppelbock, now called Otto,  at Riverside and in the coming months we hope to brew and bottle the Biere de Garde too as we were so pleased with it .   In 2014 we have decided to embark on another keg project at the Hall, however the next series will be known as the ‘left field’ project . I’ll tell you all about that when I get back from the World Beer Cup in the States

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A Busy Start to the Year


Myself and the team have been really busy so far in 2014 and worked really hard to get three more of our existing beers into bottle and also squeezed in the brewing and bottling of a brand new beer very close to mine and also my brew team’s hearts!

I heard a great quote recently that said “tradition is about handing on the flame not looking back into the ashes” – I like to think this reflects the way we make beer here at Thornbridge. A good example of this is with our Double Scotch - yes a traditional beer style – Scotch Ale – but one that can be produced today in an exciting way that reflects the past but isn’t hindered by it. So with the Thornbridge take on this I have produced a beer that is a true expression of maltiness, full bodied, with a smooth alcoholic warmth and a deliciously moreish residual caramel sweetness. Hops need to play a balancing act rather than being at the forefront, and so this is what I aimed for. To add complexity, I chose to have a percentage of the beer barrel aged in Auchentoshan whisky barrels.  But the key for me was to get just the right level of whisky and wood character expressed in harmony  –  this is a beer after all not a spirit and the complex balance of aromas  and tastes, whilst a challenge, I like to think has been achieved in a perfect blend. I hope you enjoy it as much as the team and I had fun brewing it.

To start with Colorado Red, a beer we first brewed with Doug Odell from Odell Brewing Company, is back by popular demand and for the first time in bottle. A Red ale at 5.9% abv and just the right amount of bitterness to balance the malt sweetness. The reason we think this beer works so well is the complex blend of juicy British malts with a combination of several English hop varieties. I defy anyone to tell me that British hops are not as good as American hops when used in the correct way. I feel that this is the definitive English Hopped Red ale produced in this country.

We also felt Sequoia, our American Amber would work really well in bottle format and we managed to squeeze it into the bottling schedule. This beer uses hops from Australia, England and America to get the right hop flavours of citrus and pine and tastes really fresh and lively with the additional level of carbonation.

Our third new bottled beer is Beadeca’s Well (the orginal name for Bakewell), a recipe one of our young brewers, Ben Wood developed with a guiding hand! This beer is a satisfying blend of roasted malts like Chocolate and Brown, with just the right hint of smoke from Bamberg Beechwood smoked malt. The flavour intensity of smoked malt is highly variable and experience of use is required to get the right level of smokiness; we feel in Beadeca’s Well we have this just right.

Last year at the Hall Brewery we decided to brew a Weizenbock as part of our European series. My team and I absolutely loved it and we decided to brew an entire batch for bottle at the Riverside brewery. Classic in formulation and using a Bavarian strain of yeast, we employed all of the secrets of the Bavarians to maximise the flavour compounds which epitomise this very special style. It’s a real celebratory beer and also best drunk as fresh as possible. The beer named  Otto is now available in bottle – let us know what you think.

I’d also like to let you know we have another batch of Bayern, our German Pilsener currently at 4°C where it’ll stay for the next few weeks. We were delighted with the reception of this beer and have decided to also get this beer into bottle as soon as it has finished maturation.

We look forward to letting you know more about our future brews including a very special collaboration with our friend Garrett Oliver of Brooklyn Brewery which is currently only known as ‘Operation Serpent’. All I can tell you at this point is I have a 150 ex-Bourbon casks currently swelling in our new purpose built barrel store…

I’m off to judge at the Beer World Cup in Colorado a couple of weeks, we’re hoping for a couple of medals and to get some inspiration from our friends in the States.



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