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Guest Column

American and English craft breweries scale new peaks of beery delight

Added: Monday, February 18th 2013


On the face of it, Derbyshire’s Peak District has little in common with Chico, California, least of all in midwinter when snow coats the rolling sub-Pennine hills and yet it’s still shirt-sleeve order on the West Coast.

But they have at least one significant point of contact – quality beer. Thornbridge Brewery has only been around since 2005, Sierra Nevada rather longer, but their mutual admiration was obvious when the two breweries got together for a collaborative brew in Derbyshire. The joint ale was quickly christened Twin Peaks, referencing the simple beauty of the countryside surrounding the English brewer’s stately base at Thornbridge Hall and the vertiginous beauty of the Sierra Nevada mountains.

Set up by two home-brewers in 1980, the US brewery was very much in the vanguard of America’s craft beer revolution. Sierra Nevada Pale Ale has always been their flagship product and Jerry Garcia was an early adopter. Its expansion was exponential; the beer is now available right across the States and pretty widely in the UK too, though it’s a not-inexpensive indulgence.

I’ve long been a fan of Thornbridge. Unlike one or two of the newer brewers who have come into the market in recent years, they have never been slavish followers of the herd. Instead they have cut their own groove, creating an interesting range of bottled, keg and cask ales.

Jaipur is a case in point. This lovely fruity, citric, hoppy ale has redefined India Pale Ale, expanding the parameters of the genre and setting a high bar for others to beat. It has won so many awards and sparked so much debate that one wonders if there have even been questions in the House.

While you might find their beers as guest beers and at freehouses and festivals, their growing estate of pubs around Sheffield has provided a proper showcase for all their range, even if the locals rather struggle to pronounce the name of their best-known product. “A pint of Jay-per,” is a familiar order in these parts.

The partnership with Sierra Nevada is merely an extension of their constant search for innovation and adventure. And though Twin Peaks wasn’t available during a recent trip I made to meet the brewers from both companies at Thornbridge’s Beauchief Hotel (pronounced “Beechif” by the way) I did at least get the chance to make first acquaintance with another of their beers – Kipling.

Styled a South Pacific Pale Ale, Kipling packs in bags of wonderful tropical fruit to a slightly cloudy beer, which at 5.2 per cent ABV is a little less potent than Jaipur. There’s a real blast of mango in the aroma, with suggestions of passionfruit, peaches and pineapple to a complex taste which develops some lovely bitterness as it slides easily down.

Someone may have already beaten me to it, but I’d quite like to think that I’m the first to say that Kipling is “exceedingly good pale ale.”

Twin Peaks