Saturday, December 3, 2011

CT Column 12/10/2011: Beers from the Peak

NEW Zealand brewers have played a part in two of the most exciting and innovative English breweries to emerge in the past five years.
First Kelly Ryan helped build the Thornbridge Brewery in Derbyshire up to become one of the most innovative and high profile breweries in the UK. Kelly was then joined at Thornbridge by long time New Zealand resident James Kemp. James is a classic ‘ping pong pom’ having been born in the UK and then raised in New Zealand before returning to England in his 20’s where he had the enviable job of Quality Control at Fullers Brewery in London. He then returned to NZ where he became the Champion Homebrewer of NZ at the S.O.B.A National Homebrew Competition. He moved back again to the UK where he joined Kelly at Thornbridge, although now he is working as head brewer at a small Peak District brewery called Buxton. Since James’ arrival Buxton has earned itself a reputation as a brewery to watch with many English bloggers and commentators expecting big things.
Last month my partner Sarah returned to her native Sussex in the south of England to visit friends and family and brought home several of the Buxton beers that James had packaged specially for me.
Buxton is part of a new wave of English brewers who are increasingly looking to America, and New Zealand for inspiration, brewing hop accented beers with big new world hop characters, restrained malt characters and clean neutral yeast profiles. James skilfully uses primarily NZ, continental and English hops to create big unique hop characters that grab you by the nose as soon as you open the bottle. Interestingly James does not use a lot of American hops despite the obvious American influence on his beers.
My picks from the range would be the hoppy golden ale SPA, the robust India Pale Ale Wild Boar and the rich rounded Imperial Stout Tsar.
SPA combines a zesty clean exotic tropical hop aroma with a lean supporting malt body and a zesty fruity finish. Wild Boar presents with a big tropical fruit bowl aroma, some lightly nutty malt notes and a firm bitter finish. Finally Tsar is a dangerously drinkable Imperial Stout with a complex aroma of chocolate, espresso, berry fruit and caramel , a restrained balanced palate and a long smooth finish.
A range of Buxton beers are available in NZ but James warns that they have travelled down the globe in less than ideal conditions and are not likely to be the best representation of his work. The best way to experience them would be in a Peak District pubs. Keep it in mind next time you are up that way!

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