Thornbridge Brewery Tour | Mashtun and Meow: Sheffield Beer Blog

Friday, 27 February 2015

Thornbridge Brewery Tour

Just outside the lovely Derbyshire village of Bakewell, hidden in a small industrial estate lying behind a timber mill, is the forward thinking and ever-growing 'craft' brewery Thornbridge. Since humble beginnings ten years ago, the brewery has become continually more prolific and their reputation for great quality beers has spread worldwide.

We're pretty spoiled by living in Sheffield, in that no matter which part of town you're in you can almost always find a Thornbridge beer. Their range of pubs really does have something for everyone - summed up nicely by twobeergeeks - and their brews are consistently top notch. Despite the brewery being a mere 15 miles from our doorstep, we'd never been to have a look around, so decided to put this to rights and headed off on a Wednesday afternoon.


First impressions... Huge. Slick. Contemporary. We were taken aback a little at just how much of an industrial operation this is, having only been to classic, traditional breweries before. We were greeted by our tour guide and technical whizz Richard and half a pint of Bohemia (4.8%), a refreshing dry-hopped Czech style pilsner.

After a quick Thornbridge history lesson, and a freshly bottled Kipling (where the newness of the beer allowed the Nelson Sauvin hops to shine to their full potential) it was on to the tour, now sporting some rather fetching hi-viz vests.


The continuing transformation of the brewery due to the demand that outstrips their current production means that the brewery building itself is almost overflowing with gleaming steel. We began in the malt room toward the back of the building, where some of the speciality malts are stored (the majority of their most commonly used Maris Otter malt is now stored in silos due to the sheer volume required). The malt room smelt delicious, but we were all ready to head up to have a closer look at the super shiny brewing equipment itself.


Heavyweight dark ale Bracia was being brewed as we were shown round, a little unusually as this is one of the brews that until recently has only been produced at the Thornbridge Hall site. After a little peep in the hopback we were shown into arguably the heart of the brewery - the control room! Every process is overseen by computer controls, ensuring consistency. There's also a lab which is full of high-tech gadgetry and enables a tight watch to be kept on quality control. The air was literally buzzing and we felt a bit like we'd fallen into Willy Wonka's factory.

We followed the brewing process through, wandering by the 18 100hl fermenters and conditioners to the bottling line. More technological wizardry here too, with a centrifuge to clarify the beer and a nifty bottling machine.

Finally, we headed back outside and into a separate warehouse - the Ageing Room. Floor to ceiling barrels contained an array of exciting projects, some to be revealed during their tenth anniversary year throughout 2015.


Thirsty work, this tour lark. Back in the shop we polished off some of the delicious Cocoa Wonderland, a 6.8% chocolate porter made in collaboration with the fantastic Sheffield chocolate shop of the same name. It's rich, full-flavoured, and delivers just the right amount of cocoa naughtiness - a deserving winner of last year's Steel City Beer Festival.

We left with arms full of the hotly-anticipated Jaipur X, firmly believing the Thornbridge motto - Innovation, Passion, Knowledge. It's clear that despite their growing stature, this is a brewery which is still prepared to take risks, implement new ideas, and bloody enjoy what they produce.

Cheers,

L&J

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