Been a while between blogs and all been busy here at the brewery! Stefano Cossi, our head brewer, is working day and night getting the new brewery sorted, with delivery and commissioning getting closer and closer. We’re all in the process of finalising, looking through the joys of the process descriptions, sourcing and ordering equipment for our laboratory and generally running around like ants around a popsicle on a hot summers day!
The toughest decision to date though has been the floor colour! May green is the final choice… didn’t even know that months of the year had colours!
What else has been happening? We had a great party here at Thornbridge a few weeks back and because it was for a birthday, I decided it was prime time to open my Thomas Hardy’s Ale, bottled all the way back on the 1st September 1979. So at almost 30 years old, there was never a better time. It would be fair to say that it was lacking slightly in carbonation, but the flavours were fantastic! Often, when I taste a beer, I’ll often smell the cap of the bottle and this one definitely didn’t disappoint. A massive hit of Marmite/Vegemite with a hint of blood… a type of just-rusting iron but nothing overpowering. Do they still make bottle caps that robust?
The ale itself was more port and sherry than beer. Once the waft of age dissipated (which took a few minutes), the unctuous, black liquid came into a world of its own! Really complex with lots of dried fruits. Mostly sweet prunes, syrupy figs and plump raisins with a bit of chocolate, some liquorice and a black cherry character. I detected a little vanilla in the swallow and a little of the marmite and metal that you could smell on the cap. It’s texture was all thick and gooey and so similar to the Pedro Ximenez I have chilling in my refrigerator. I’m going to have to try this at a warmer temperature to see if it’s as close to the ale as I think it will be. All in all, an interesting tasting experience and amazing to see what age can do to a beer. I wonder if the O’Hanlon’s bottles will be as interesting as the Eldridge Pope bottles in years to come. Just in case, a bought a box of the 2008 last year and will dutifully try these every year or so to make sure!
What else has been happening? We were visited recently by Kim Scheider, a brewer from Michigan in the US and her husband Karl Walser. Kim is the head brewer at North Peak Brewing (http://www.northpeak.net/default.html in Traverse City, Michigan and even hand-bottled a couple of her beers (that are usually only served in the brewpub) for us to taste. She also brought a couple of Dogfish Head’s 90 Minute IPAs for us to taste. A beer that I’m yet to try so looking forward to that.
We also had a bit of an epic tasting at the Coach last weekend with Phil Lowry (from Beermerchants). You can check out his blog action here. His good mate and fellow beer guru, Angelo Scarnera, blog ninja, Simon Johnson (www.reluctantscooper.co.uk) and Danish Ratebeerians, Jan and Charlotte also came along to taste a few beverages… Fellow Thornbridgers (Matt, Stefano and Dave Corbey) joined us and we got down to some serious supping. We managed to get through a bunch of Mikeller beers, some fantastic Port Brewing Co beverages (with Santa’s Little Helper being the highlight of the night), a selection of Pannepot beers, an interesting cherry lambic called Keralensis (a blend of beers from brewers Alvinne and Struise), a massive 10% Millenium edition Malheur (that would probably have been better in a trifle than as a drink) a few other assorted beverages and finally a good ol’ Thornbridge Bracia (and maybe an Orval or two) to finish the night. Because there were a load of us, am happy to say there were no sore heads in the morning!
We also had a great night out last week at Rowley’s restaurant in Baslow with their annual Thornbridge Beer and Food evening taking place. Chef’s Richard and Rupert along with Alastair put together a great night with some awesome food and some pretty good beer as well!
Upon getting there we enjoyed some wonderfully delicate pork scratching and a pint of Lord Marples, our 4.0% traditional bitter, and then once we sat down we were served the most delicious bread. The bread itself had being rested for 8 hours and used no actual bakers yeast. Instead it relied on the Champagne yeast from our Bracia to work away and the extremely subtle chestnut honey character could just be detected and worked so well with the sweet, lightly caramelised onion that had been rolled through it. The texture was great, all fluffy and moist. A great start!
What followed was a fantastic piece of theatre! Using a “smoke-gun”, Nelson Sauvin hops were smoked and the resultant smoke was collected in wine glasses and held in the glass with a beer coaster. The coasters were then removed and the smoke pillowed out, all burnt, resinous hoppiness. Wild Swan was then poured into the glass allowing a hint of smoke character to remain in the beer. It reminded me a lot of one of our other beers, Ember, which is a pale ale brewed with a portion of smoked malt. This beer was accompanied by a Nelson Sauvin Hop Smoked Halibut with Caramelised Onion and Pearl Barley Risotto. The risotto was cooked to perfection and the barley was soft in the mouth, yet still firm and chewy. The smoked halibut combined well with the light residual smoke character in the beer and the sweetness of the onions helped balanced the bitterness of the Wild Swan. It was grand!
The main course was an Osso Bucco of Derbyshire Pork. The best way for a layman like myself to describe this cut of meat, is that it’s the bit just before the shank. It was braised in our Kipling beer and honey and served with a pickled cabbage and small roast potatoes. The fascinating thing about the cabbage is that they had actually pickled it in one of our beers, Wild Swan. The beer had been left out to go sour (helped by the action of acetic and lactic acid bacteria and anything else that would have been present on the cabbage leaves) and the resultant sauerkraut-esque pickle was great. This dish was served with bottled Kipling. The sweetness of the braise tied in perfectly with the hint of caramel from the beer and the light, fruity bitterness helped wash away the pork fat and refresh the palate. Another great combo.
Finally came our dessert of a deconstructed Lemon Meringue (consisting of a slice of intensely sour-sweet lemon curd tart and some neat, little meringue rolls) topped with a fantastically bitter-sour Jaipur and Lime Sorbet. The Sorbet was a bit too much for some, but I thoroughly enjoyed the intense lime-pith bitterness and the hint of Jaipur hop bitterness. The drink of choice for this was a Jaipur Mojito, invented by the host, Alastair and a fantastic success. Who said you couldn’t do a beer cocktail!
So, as you can see, we have been a bit busy, but it’s definitely a good busy J