Based in the heart of the beautiful peak district Thornbridge have been creating a reputation for brewing stellar beers with their most likely beer to be recognised being the flagship Jaipur, their multi award winning IPA. The origins of this now bastion of British craft beer started from humble beginnings at their Thornbridge Hall site.
In 2005 Jim Harrison and Simon Webster but their heads together and created a 10 bbl brewery at Thornbridge Hall, but with no brewing experience themselves they started a search for some brewers that could make their vision a reality. To take on this task they hired two fresh faced graduates straight out of university to head up the operation and start brewing beer that was true to their philosophy. Jim and Simon wanted new brewers with plenty of fresh ideas who wanted to innovate, were bursting with passion and who wanted to develop their knowledge and really put their stamp on what they were brewing. Their initial focus was on a range of cask beers that were based on traditional recipes but with a modern twist through the use of new age hops and different malts.
This philosophy was put on display to the public when Jaipur was created in 2005 using American hops to give the big hoppy flavour with hints of honey at the end. This beer was a resounding success with it taking the gold medals for Beer of the festival and strong ales categories at the prestigious Sheffield CAMRA event and further medals at the Midlands SIBA event with gold for the strong ales and bronze for the overall champion categories and a silver medal for beer of the festival at the Dudley CAMRA beer festival. This acclaim and exposure put Thornbridge on the map and since Jaipur was introduced to the market it has now won in excess of 100 awards! To commemorate their tenth anniversary of brewing Jaipur, Thornbridge brewed an imperial version called Jaipur X a 10% ABV amped up version of their flagship beer.
Since those early days where they were brewing on the very manual 10 bbl kit they have now opened a new more autonomous 30 bbl brewery at their Riverside site. This is a highly impressive facility, but before new brewers can experience this feat of engineering they must earn their stripes at the more involved Thornbridge Hall brewery. This is to ensure they gain an appreciation for the ingredients they are using and how the brewing process works. One thing that really caught my eye at their Riverside brewery was the presence of a quality control laboratory. It is not often that you see these being present in breweries in the UK, but Thornbridge have decided to invest in performing some in house testing of some of the vital components of their ingredients to ensure the products are the highest quality for customers. This is a much more regular practice in the US than it is in the UK, but it is something that more breweries are starting to consider investing in.
With innovation being one of the pillars of their philosophy they are regularly creating new beers for people to enjoy. This is sometimes through collaborations such as the Bakewell Tart sour beer collaboration with Wild Beer Co. and the soon to be released Barrel room series collaboration with Hertogenbosch from the Netherlands consisting of the 'Love Amongst The Ruins' and 'Days of Creation'. These are sour beers using a Belgian yeast strain to brew a beer that is then aged in Burgundy barrels with fruit with the addition of different cultures of Brettanomyces, Pediococcus, and Lactobacillus which will add funk and sourness to the beers. As a sour head I can't wait to get my hands on some of these. In addition to these collaborations and others for example, Brouwerij't IJ American Wheat Ale and Cocoa Wonderland they also run a homebrew competition with the winners beers being put into production for a period of time. Past winners include the Vienna IPA from 2014 and 'Rhubarbe De Saison' a saison with rhubarb flavour from 2015.
Thornbridge have a great understanding of what the beer drinking public want as they love beer just as much, if not more than we do. This is why they are so invested in producing such a variety of styles from IPA, Beadeca's Well Smoked Porter, Lord Marples Classic Bitter, Versa Weisse Beer, Pica Pica Oatmeal Stout and Bamberg Smoked Bock. This means that whatever style you enjoy they are likely to have an offering for you and these can be found in any of their seven pubs in Sheffield as well as your local bottle shops and if you are in s-Hertogenbosch you will be able to walk into their first pub venture outside of the UK and enjoy a pint of your favourite Thornbridge beer.
Thornbridge are a brewery I came across at the start of my craft beer journey and have been a firm favourite since. The passion for what they do leaps out of the glass at you and I have yet to come across a beer which I haven't enjoyed from them. After visiting the brewery I spent the weekend in the peaks walking around the Hope Valley and Castleton and after a long day walking a cool pint of Jaipur was something very special indeed.