Wednesday, 11 February 2009

Thornbridge Brewery at The Bull

I officially love Thornbridge Brewery and their beers (read about it here), so when I heard that a pub not too far away was putting on a showcase event of their beers I was delighted. I read about it here on the Ale Affinity blog and arranged to meet Dubbel and Jimbo at the pub. They are great guys; it’s cool to meet other young beer lovers.

The pub was The Bull in Horton Kirby, Kent (check out their website here, or their Facebook group here). It’s a fantastic little corner pub with a bar lined with a selection of cask beers impeccably kept by Garrett the landlord (a proper beer lover!). There’s always Dark Star stuff on as well as ales from all over the country and a fridge with some beauties in too. It’s pretty much your ideal local.

For the Thornbridge showcase they had seven beers served off gravity. What a sight. Available was: White Swan, Lord Marples, Ashford, Kipling, Jaipur, Handel and St. Petersburg. That’s a party right there.

I started on the Ashford and worked my way upwards. Ashford is a glorious brown ale with a great malty base and a big hoppy finish – it’s surprisingly complex for a 4.2%-er. Kipling was next. I had opened a bottle of this the night before and loved it for its gorgeous fruitiness and all the tropical flavours from the Nelson Sauvin hop. From the cask it was one fine beer, judged by almost everyone as the second-best of the night. Jaipur followed and this is a near-magical IPA with a buttery-caramel-honey base and loads of tropical hops banging at the end (I also really love – maybe even prefer – the bottled version).

Handel came next, their Belgian-style ale, and I adore this beer. I wanted more and more of it (I still do! And check out Reluctant Scooper’s blog as he just cooked a great dish with the beer). Handel is so light and gluggable but so full of earthy, sweet, spicy flavours. Amazing. And it was exactly at this point that the complimentary buffet opened. Are there any finer words than ‘complimentary buffet’ at a beer festival (other than ‘free beer’)? A few blocks of cheese came out and being on a massive cheese-and-beer kick I helped myself. A strong-blue-and-Handel combo blew me away: that was pairing heaven.

Onwards, finishing at the crowning glory that is St. Petersburg. An immensely brilliant imperial stout that superlatives cannot do justice. At 7.7% it’s rich, thick, creamy and full of roasted grain and dark chocolate but it’s still a beer you can drink a pint of.

And then I had to leave for the train. I said earlier that Kipling came number two for most, well number one was of course St. Petersburg. Personally, I thought Handel was right up there alongside the St. Pete. Thornbridge rock. I’m going up to visit next month and I can’t wait. Oh, and Kelly, the Brewery Manager, has just started a blog here.


  1. I don'ty think I have come across and Thornbridge beers in London. I am pretty keen to track down the IPA though. Can anypone point me in the right direction?

  2. Utobeer has it. They also stock Kipling and maybe Bracia which is a stunning dark beer. I'm not sure if they have St. Petersburg there, I haven't bought it from them.

    The Rake might have it off tap occasionally. I don't know where else - I'd like to though!

  3. Tim,

    The Thornbridge boys said Jaipur is now available in Waitrose stores, although I'm yet to confirm this myself.

    Nice write up Mark. That beer and cheese pairing was spectacular! Roll on Dark Star 5th-8th March.

  4. I know Thornbridge is in the supermarkets near to the brewery but haven't seen it down south. I was in a small waitrose last week and they didn't have it, maybe a bigger one would stock it?

    I'll be there for the Dark Star Brad, just let me know when you're going and hopefully I'll see you there.

  5. It might have to be the Saturday next time as Garrett is trying to arrange a Meet the Brewer session of his own. I'll keep you posted on developments.

  6. I'm deeply biased, but I think the bottled versions of Jaipur and Kipling are flabby compared to the cask. Hopefully this will change when Thornbridge are able to bottle-condition these beers.

    Having said that, Jaipur and Kipling - and, whisper it, Bracia - can be ordered online at

    Cooking with Handel was indeed a blast - mustardy bread will be in it next time.

    If anyone darn sarf wants minicasks of Thornbridge, I'll glady courier them down for a small fee ;)

  7. Cheers for the tip off.. I might be ordering beer online again soon. And a minicasks sounds like an offer I can't refuse!! I'll see what I pick up from my visit next month (and how much I can carry back on the train) and I'll be in touch!

    I think it's the sweeter malt character that I liked so much in the bottle. The hops are much better from the cask and the beer has a better texture. It'll be interesting to see if/how bottle conditioned changes the beer?

  8. I'll check the new Waitrose at Westfields, White City as it will be on the way home tonight.
    I have a feeling that I might be able to get it from the White horse on Parsons Green too.