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Feature

Thornbridge Bottles It

Added: Thursday, December 1st 2011

Thornbridge, the innovative craft brewery in the Derbyshire Peak District, has launched bottle-conditioned versions of three of its beers and is hopeful that one leading supermarket group may stock them. The beers are two interpretations of India Pale Ale: Jaipur IPA (5.9%) and Halcyon (7.7%) plus the Imperial Russian Stout Saint Petersburg (7.7%).

Kelly Ryan, one of Thornbridge's young brewers, is full of enthusiasm for the new Halcyon IPA. "Halcyon Green Hop Vintage 2009 was brewed using Maris Otter pale ale malt. We used Warrior and Hallertau Magnum hops for bittering, then Hallertau Brewers Gold, Spalter Select and Perle for aroma. This is our standard Halcyon recipe with around 60-65 units of bitterness [IBUs].

"We took a large amount of freshly-picked Herefordshire Target hops that we had couriered overnight to the brewery and placed them in conditioning tanks with the Halcyon for a month."

Kelly says this "hop juice" had a massive aroma - "oozing pineapple character and with a hint of pine sap and that characteristic orange marmalade that Target is known for. Because of the intensity of flavour, we were really keen on balancing the malt character with some big, bold hoppiness. We did a series of blind trials with varying proportions of the 'hop juice' with our standard Halcyon until we found a blend we were all happy with. This was then prepared for bottling and bottle re-fermented."

Jaipur aims for bitterness of 50 IBUs and is brewed with Maris Otter pale ale malt and Vienna malt, with Ahtanum. Centennial, Chinook, and Warrior hops. The Saint Petersburg is brewed with Maris Otter pale ale malt, torrefied wheat, dark crystal and chocolate malts, peated malt, roast barley and dark Muscovado sugar. The bittering hops are Galena and Perle and the aroma hops are Hallertau Magnum, Sorachi Ace and Vanguard. Bitterness is around 65 IBUs.

Kelly Ryan (On left of picture with Thornbridge owner Jim Harrison) was keen to set out some of the technical aspects of the beers. "You'll probably notice varying degrees of sediment in the bottles," he says. "Halcyon in particular has quite a bit, and we think this is a combination of polyphenols from the hops, the yeast we re-fermented with and potentially some yeast cells broken down during the centrifuge process.

"The process is evolving every time we bottle. Our latest Jaipur is slightly different than the Saint Petersburg and Halcyon, which is why there is less yeast present in Jaipur. We tried capping the fermentation early to allow some of the naturally-produced CO2 to become soluble in the beer. We then polish centrifuged it - less than 10,000 yeast cells per millilitre - and re-seeded it with a small amount of viable yeast to allow the fermentation to finish in the bottle at an acceptable level.

"For our next bottling, we'll probably try a slightly different approach, but every time we bottle we learn something new and the centrifuge is a fantastic tool for removing yeast, yet allowing us to retain flavour and aroma. It's great to not filter or pasteurise our beer yet still have a stable beer in bottle."

Tasting notes

Thornbridge, Halcyon Green Hop Vintage 2009(RP) Straw-coloured. Uses fresh green Target hops from Mr Capper's farm in Herefordshire. The beer has a superb aroma of spicy hop resins, a fresh tobacco smokiness, orange fruit and sappy malt. Tart orange fruit, bitter hops and juicy malt dominate the palate, with a long dry finish with citrus fruit, smoky notes and a final herbal, grassy character. 7.7% ABV, 50cl, 3.50, brewery website. Thornbridge, Jaipur IPA(RP) Pale gold with a massive peaches-and-cream malt aroma backed by grassy, floral hop resins and fresh wood sap. It's intensely bitter in the mouth - iron-like or iodine - with juicy malt and ripe grapefruit. The finish is bitter, hoppy and malty with a big citrus/grapefruit note. Complex and rewarding. 5.9% ABV, 50cl, 2.50, brewery website. Thornbridge, Saint Petersburg Imperial Russian Stout(RP) Enormous aroma of herbs, spices, fresh yeast, malted loaf, coffee and liquorice. Sweet grain and espresso coffee dominate the mouth with bitter and spicy hops, roasted grain and dark, burnt fruit. The finish is bittersweet, with peppery hops, roasted grain, liquorice and dark fruit. 7.7% ABV, 50cl, 3.00, brewery website.

The beers are available from independent wholesalers and online from mybrewerytap, realale.com and Beer Paradise. Thornbridge is talking to Waitrose about stocking the beers - the chain already sells filtered versions of Jaipur and Kipling.