First published in BEER October 2006 as part of a page marking the publication of the latest Good Bottled Beer Guide. For more beers featured on this page, see previous post.
Jaipur was also featured in BEER August 2008 as part of a piece about beers for summer outdoor drinking and in the Beer Sellers piece on Westholme Store.
Note: Kelly Ryan, who earned his brewing reputation at Thornbridge brewer before returning to his native New Zealand to work at Epic, tells me he was encouraged to apply for the Thornbridge job partly by reading this piece.
ABV: 5.9 and 7.7 per cent
Origin: Ashford-in-the-Water, Derbyshire, England
Over the past month I’ve been privileged to sample more beers from breweries featured for the first time in the new edition of the Good Bottled Beer Guide, discussed last issue. And among those making a big impression are a brace of modern interpretations of classic styles from a country house brewery in the Peak District national park.
Thornbridge Hall is a stately home just outside Bakewell with a history dating back to the 12th century. Still privately owned, it’s now a venue for events as well as a family home.
A brewery opened on site in 2004 and already boasts a string of awards from CAMRA and SIBA for its cask beers. Real Ale in a Bottle first appeared in 2005 with forays into two historic styles, India Pale Ale (IPA) and Imperial Russian Stout.
Both styles originate in late 18th century London, but their development was shaped by the export trade. Virtually extinct in their home country by the late 20th century, their recent revival has been driven at least as much by international as by domestic interest.
Given this international pedigree, it’s appropriate that a Scot and an Italian, Martin Dickie and Stefano Cossi, are the brewers behind the Thornbridge versions.
Jaipur IPA is named after the famous pink stucco city in Rajasthan, northern India, and brewed with pure Maris Otter pale malt for an authentic rich golden colour.
There’s a further international flourish in the use of American Chinook and Cascade hops. The generous hopping of IPA was originally to help preserve it during its long sea voyage, but it was this feature that endeared the style to hop-loving US craft beer fans, with the result that strong, well-hopped IPA is now much more common on the other side of the Atlantic.
“Can be enjoyed cloudy”, says the label – a good job since my sample proved impossible to pour clear. The beer emerges hazy and golden, topped with a rocky white head, yielding a strong resiny and chaffy aroma, with notes of dried apricots, sulphur and spiced orange.
The palate starts with rich, sweetish malt but nettly hop resins bite almost immediately, spicy but not yet bitter and rich with blackcurrant and apricot nectar flavours.
A burry swallow leads to a dry finish with more fruit traces, then a complex, puckering peppery bitterness becoming very pronounced and sustained. Although a touch too low in gravity for the style, this tasty beer is likely to mature in the bottle for a year or so: indeed the label boasts a space for a “best after” date, not filled in on my sample.
Also borrowing its name from one of the world’s more architecturally impressive cities is Saint Petersburg Imperial Russian Stout, in another once near-extinct style now undergoing a revival of interest.
The name Saint Petersburg isn’t just an arbitrary Russian reference: a former owner of the Hall made his dosh selling Manchester textiles through the eponymous Baltic port. As with the IPA, the Derbyshire version is on the low gravity side for a style that can easily chalk up 10 per cent ABV or more, but it’s still packed with flavour.
Brewed from pale and chocolate malts, roasted barley and Galena and Bramling Cross hops, the beer emerges a shade of ruby so dark it’s almost black, with a rich, thick fawn-coloured head.
The roasty, creamy aroma has blackcurrant and leather notes but an attractive and surprisingly light freshness, leading to more roast and blackcurrant with strawberry and pear drop esters on the palate, along with cola, gravy, chocolate and a whiff of smoke.
The big dry finish boasts more dark malt and roast with emerging spicy hops and a complex fruity, liquoricey development, with enough alcohol to add a warming note.
The beer has already earned itself a well-deserved star in the Good Bottled Beer Guide and I’d rate it alongside interpretations from Harveys and Meantime as the leading British-brewed examples of this threatened style.
Read about more beers featured in the 2006 Good Bottled Beer Guide in the next post.
Read more about these beers at ratebeer.com: