It’s alive…

Who the hell am I?

My name is Kelly and I’m the Brewery Manager at Thornbridge Brewery. It doesn’t mean I get a company car with low mileage. It doesn’t mean I wear a suit to work. It doesn’t mean I get a company expense card.

It means I’m a brewer, a cask-washer, a leaf-sweeper, a spent-grains digger and a copper cleaner. I’m a scientist, a counter of yeast cells, a piece of living, breathing sensory evaluation equipment. Sound cheesy? Probably, but this is something that I’m pretty passionate about. I will get annoyed if you start talking about beer like you know a lot and then have nothing to back it up. Most importantly, I want to brew and I want to help people understand how beer is crafted. To realise that the creation of a pint or a bottle of beer is as intricate and well thought out as the finest wine, the oldest, smoothest whiskey or the most decadent, fruity Port.

I’ll let you know what’s happening at the brewery, what our thoughts as brewers are, what beers we’re drinking, what crazy, twisted concepts we want to bring alive as beers for you to enjoy and probably a bit of stuff on the wonder that is beer and food!

So, here it all begins… a foray into the world of blogging, whether it be methodical, random or just the plain old ramblings of a brewer.

The best place to start is right now!

I look out the window at a good 7 or 8 inches of snow and wonder why I didn’t try to make it to the brewery today… Hope like hell that we don’t get any more snow tonight! The flipside is that it’s given me time to write an article for the brewery website ( and start up a Thornbridge Brewers Facebook group so we can let the facebookers get into the know as well. I’ve just put a bit of Tool on in the background, my favourite band and am tasting a small snifter of Halcyon, our Imperial Pale Ale.

This is good stuff! One of the joys of living above the brewery tap (The Coach and Horses in Dronfield) is that I get to write basic tasting notes for each beer that is on handpull…just something for the customers to read and get a bit of an understanding about the flavours and aromas they’re likely to find in their pint. This version of Halcyon is bloody brilliant. We’ve had a bit of a play with this brew over the last couple of years. Every time we brew it we almost throw the recipe out the window!

This time we’ve decided to slightly up the amount of bitterness… we went for around 80 IBUs in the past, but we thought a little more bitterness would help to round out the malt sweetness that is so prevalent in this brew… We upped the recipe to give almost 90 IBU… this was the equivalent of around 16 kg of hops used in 8 bbl (a British barrel is  163.66 litres), in other words, a bloody lot of hops! We weren’t quite happy with just a small amount, so added another 4 kg in to the conditioning tank for dry-hopping and the results are quite astounding!

Rich, golden and oozing with malty goodness… this is Jaipur on steroids. Fruit dominates the nose, but it’s not a citrus onslaught. For me, it’s berries and even a little bit of grape juice. And you can’t forget the undeniable whiff of rich alcohol… the type you know will be awesome on a snowy day such as this. There’s also a little bit of mineral in there… maybe a hint of saltiness? All I know is that it was enough to make me salivate like crazy in anticipation of the first mouthful.

I think we’ve got this one on the right track… it’s heading towards the perfection we’re on the eternal quest for. The malty, cereal, caramel characters that the massive amount of Maris Otter malt provides, acts as an awesome vehicle for this mixture of hops. Again, I get berries and grapes with a light sweetness. All of a sudden a little sneaky Hunter S. Thompson on acid gremlin of bitterness appears. Out of nowhere, the citrus appears, rips a few epithelial cells from the roof of your mouth and base of your tongue, lingers for a bit, then slowly fades into that happy place. You know the one… that place where you know you need to have another sip just to get all of that fruit and sweetness and balanced bitterness and warmth. In fact, I was so absorbed by the flavours that I didn’t even realise the hefty 7.7% alcohol by volume. It’s there alright, yet it’s not a punch-in-the-face alcohol… more of a great aunty-pinch-on-the-cheek if you get my drift. I took a picture because it was so pretty.

Crap photo, great beer!

Crap photo, great beer!

Am all out of blue cheese, though the Cropwell Bishop Stilton I tasted with the Goose Island IPA I had last night would have been about bang-on for this beer as well. It wasn’t too intense or creamy, yet still had all of those great, funky blue characteristics that were matched by the Goose Island’s wonderful hop characters. Instead, I have some Old Squire Special Reserve Vintage Cheddar from Wales. This actually works. The fats coat your mouth and mask the bitterness somewhat but allow a whole lot of fruity hop to pop out, along with an interesting, almost fresh-sawn cedar character. It also allows the alcohol to come through a bit… I guess the bitterness was hiding it all along! The cheese itself has some acidity and sweaty characters, but  light, vibrant citric flavours as well… these work perfect with the Halcyon.

Thus ends the inaugural entry, I’m off for another little taster!



5 thoughts on “It’s alive…

  1. Oi, you can stop this prosaic perfection right now Ryan, or I’ll be out of a job – remember the deal here, you brew, I drink & drivel about it!!

    Just kidding hon, lovely entry to kick off the blog with, on problem is that it’s 9am and I’m now looking at the Halcyon on my desk with a covetous eye now – that’s not healthy!

  2. Hey Kelly, great to see you blogging now!

    I loved Halcyon on draft at the Rake – it’s a stunning beer. You’re tasting notes make me want another pint of it right now! And pairing big IPAs with strong cheese is one of my favourite food and beer pairings at the mo, it rocks.

    I also had Handel with a strong blue cheese last night and it was awesome.

  3. I tried Halcyon for the first time at the weekend, and OMG it is the hoppiest thing I have ever tasted! Jaipur on steroids indeed. Good job Kelly! BTW, was the Extra Hopped Ashford I had at the Uni Arms deliberately brewed that way? We couldn’t tell if it was intended, or if it was a cock-up rebranded as a special 😉 Either way it was tasty! Hoppy beers were never my thing, but the more I drink them the more I’m beginning to appreciate them. Can’t beat a good pint of Handel tho – that stuff is awesome 🙂

    • Thanks loads! The Ashford Extra Hop was a surprising discovery when experimenting with Nelson Sauvin. Kind of crazy, but I find it pretty addictive! The Handel went down suprisingly well, we were happy with everybody’s responses! Keep researching!!

  4. I thought the Ashford Extra Hop was a cock-up where someone put in too much hops 🙂

    That was too bitter for me, but Halcyon is properly amazing – impressive considering IPA definitely isn’t my favourite style. My favourite so far is definitely Bracia – a true god among beers.

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