Another week, another meet the brewer night at the Port Street Beer House in Manchester. They’re becoming a regular occurrence now and have often featured upcoming or more obscure breweries. Not last night, though, as we were in the presence of genuine British brewing royalty.

Thornbridge have developed a reputation for quality and innovation, and are well-known to those who are interested in beery matters. Realising this, the equally well-known brewer, Dominic, didn’t waste much time in senseless preamble, but led us straight into the beer tastings.
First up was the 5.1% Summer Ale. Brewed with ginger (from Waitrose) and sage. An interesting mix, but although the sage offset any excesses of ginger, subtle ginger is still ginger. So, mixed opinions here, dependent on whether you like ginger in your beer.
The second beer was Kipling. On keg. This might be considered good, if not for the fact that it’s an inferior copy of another product. That being cask-conditioned Kipling, of course. The keg version lacks the depth of flavour of the latter, and words such as “monotone” were banded about to describe its singular hop nature.
But things were about to get worse. Seaforth is their 5.9% English IPA. The idea being that, after the success of Jaipur, they would brew something similar, but with only English ingredients. A nice idea that turns out to be less than its parts. Jaipur is easy-drinking and refreshing. Seaforth isn’t; it tastes its strength and has an unflattering crystal malt tang to it.
As it happens, the mighty John Clarke, Generalissimo of Stockport Camra, was at hand, and it turned out we had similar views on cask/keg IPA. Namely that brewers, such as Thornbridge, were getting it wrong by kegging the likes of Jaipur and Kipling. The process would actually be better suited to Seaforth and its ilk. Great minds, eh?
I was getting a little worried now as we seemed to be on a slight downward spiral. What would be next? The dreaded Lord Marples? Luckily, I had no need to fear. The finale was worth the wait. Alchemy XVI is the latest in their line of experimental beers. We heard tales of Swiss brewers and two years maturation to bring this beer to fruition.

But it’s the dry-hopping that really captures you when you try it. A dry-hopped, 9.4% barley wine that is both complex and very rewarding. And don’t forget the shedload of hops that puckers the lips. Best beer of the evening. Pure genius.
*There was to have been another beer on display: Geminus, an 8.5% Double IPA. But, owing to technical difficulties, this wasn’t part of the official tasting. However, for those who waited, there was a chance to sample this afterwards. It would be unfair to judge it under these circumstances, but it seemed to have certain Lambic qualities.


Tandleman said…
Not an unqualified success by the sound of it then?
Neil said…
I enjoyed the ginger & sage beer,but as you say, I am a ginger beer fan. Otherwise, I felt it was a mixed bag beer wise.
Sue said…
What? No mention of the spectacular tart? And the perils of serving wasabi peas with beer?
Tandleman said…
Well I happen to know Tyson likes a spectacular tart, so tell us more.
Tyson said…

You pays your money and takes your chances. It was never likely that they would just showcase their gold standard beers.


Possibly because I never sampled either of those delights.
Phil said…
"certain lambic qualities" - euphemism of the week!

(But some of us like Lord Marples.)
Paul Edwards said…
Disappointing in many ways, but worth it to have a chat with the brewer and sample that tremendous barley wine. That made the evening for me rather than some of the earlier lacklustre beers. You missed a treat with the Bakewell tart btw.
Daniel Beresford said…
I thought it was a brilliant night, with Seaforth being my beer of the evening. Dominic spent 20 minutes sat with me and my friends at the end, all of us homebrewers, giving advice and encouragement. His knowledge of yeast and brewing in general is ridiculous.

And the 'Geminus' you tried was a homebrew version Dominic did with the Saison Dupont yeast, which we all thought was amazing!
Barry said…
So if the Kipling craft keg isn't that good, does that make it simply plain old keg? And how are we supposed to distinguish between the two?
Chris said…
Seaforth isn't that bad, although it's definitely in the second rank of Thornbridge beer, but suffers from comparison with Jaipur etc.

And you may be right in saying it would suit keg better as the crystal malt taste isn't appreciated by everyone.
Tyson said…

Dominic is always worth listening and talking to. But Seaforth has divided opinions, to say the least. As for Geminus, as you say, it was a "homebrew"; hence my comment about not judging it. It may be, though, that it appeals to the homebrewer, more than the casual drinker:)


It's good you felt able to share your problem with us all. Don't despair, there is help out there.
John Clarke said…
I have to say that I thought the Geminus with the Dupont yeast was excellent - can't wait to try it again.

Barry - indeed. It's horses for coursec I think. This may sound a touch cynical but as far as I can see the dividing lne is currently:

craft keg - "underlying beer is 'good' (ie one I like) and it's made by a brewery I like"

non-craft keg - "underlying beer is 'not good' (ie one I don't like) and it's made by a brewery I don't like"

'Brewery' in this context also has to mean 'micro' of course

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