Friday, February 12, 2010

Thornbridge in NZ

On Thursday I attended a tasting put on by Colin Mallon the landlord of the Malthouse and Kelly Ryan the Kiwi brewer at Thornbridge. Kelly was back in NZ for a wedding and was kind enough to pack a few bottles of some very special beers in his suit case so that we could try them. The beers were outstanding and it is no surprise that Thornbridge are currently seen as one of the rising stars of English brewing. Unlike some of the American imports we are getting at the moment and some of the local craft beers that are around at the moment the majority of the Thornbridge beers had a fantastic feel for balance. Even when they are pushing boundaries and brewing “extreme” they manage to craft beautifully balanced drinkable and supremely enjoyable beers.
The only thing left now is for us to find a way of getting these beers imported into New Zealand. As a country we drink a lot of Family Brewer brewed brown bitter. That's all well and good and I enjoy a lot of them myself but I would happily see a few of them fall off the import lists if we could replace them with a beer or two from Thornbridge.
Before Kelly leaves he will be brewing a Stout with Luke Nicolas which will mark the second Epic Thornbridge collaboration. I suspect we will get to drink something fabulous.

As a bit of a reversal of the name of my blog Kelly will be taking a bottle of Merchant of the Devil back to the UK with him to share with ex New Zealand resident, former SOBA Homebrew Champion and current Thornbridge brewer James Kemp.

We tasted:

Pours a lovely light gold. Aroma features complex blend grapefruit, floral notes, and biscuity malt. In the mouth the beer is seriously well balanced with wonderful citrussy hops layered on some fantastic rich pale malt and a solid bitter finish.

A big Munich malt character dominates the nose with some hints of grassy floral hop. In the mouth the beer is malt accented with a big caramel malt character and some drying green hop character.

A beer that traces its ancestry back to New Zealand in more ways than one. Aroma features a huge vibrant citrus hop character with some rich dark chocolate and espresso notes sitting in behind. In the mouth the beer is rich and chocolaty with a big pronounced resinous orange character and a big and strangely pleasing musty orange note (Sorachi hops I’m told) and a long dry Jaffa finish.

I haven’t been able to stop thinking about this beer since I tried it. Undoubtedly the best honey beer I have ever had. A massive rich full complex aroma of dark chocolate, espresso, spicy deep heat, resinous rose petal notes, warm nutty chestnut, a touch of Christmas spice and toffee malt. In the mouth the beer rich with the perfect balance of chocolate roast malt, nutty flavours, chestnut but also hazelnut and almond, floral esters and a rich solid malt backbone. I wish I had a couple of cases of this in the cellar!

Alliance Madiera
A wonderful seriously complex blend of oaky vanilla, smooth rich caramel, vinous fortified notes and warm fruity esters rejoice in the aroma. In the mouth the beer is rich but incredibly smooth for the strength, oak, vanilla, a tangy fortified wine note and a smooth long finish.

Alliance PX
Rich caramel malt, a hint of spicy bubblegum, warm fruit, and a slight hot note feature in the aroma. In the mouth sweet malt, fortified fruit flavours and a long warm finish all feature. Less oaky than the Madeira cask version and note as well balanced. Still a fantastic beer and a privilege to have tried it.

St Petersburg Speyside
A big bright whiskey dominated aroma with metallic hints, some light fruit and a touch of roast grain. In the mouth the whiskey dominates with some nice fruity esters. All in all a very interesting beer but lacking in malt character. Ageing has had its way.

St Petersburg Highland
A prominent whiskey aroma with some lovely dark fruits, figs, and a hint of prune. In the mouth the beer has a rum like note with some raisin notes and a rounded warming finish. Like the other barrel aged St Petersburgs' this one has just fallen away with the whiskey winning.

St Petersburg Islay
Really off the hook. Massive phenolic iodine Islay malt aroma. Very little else is apparent, with perhaps the slightest memory of roasted dark chocolate just before a warm whiskey dominated finish. Really interesting beer to taste but really the barrel is far mightier than the brewer after the years in the bottle.


JK said...

I've been yearning to try merchant of the devil for a long time! happy days :0)

Leigh said...

Nice - those guys are top, top guys. I looove thie Kipling Pacific Pale. Wonderful.