As a self-confessed fan of ‘Thornbridge’ ales, it occurred to me recently that I haven’t related to The Brewclub, the tale of how the brewery came to be.
This is the story as I understand it, but I will be happy to be corrected if any Brewclub reader knows better.
Thornbridge Hall, just outside Bakewell in the Peak District national park, had been a stately home since the 12th century, originally the home of the Longsdon family, in 1790 it was bought by a Manchester linen merchant – John Morewood. He had made his fortune selling fabric from Manchester (the centre of the British weaving industry and the home of the industrial revolution) in St Petersburg, Russia. The house was rebuilt in its current style in 1859 and further embellishments added over the years.
The house was sold to nearby Sheffield City Council in 1945 and it became a teacher training college. Back in the early 1980’s I remember using the hall’s facilities for training courses that I ran for my then employer.
In 1997 Sheffield City Council sold the house and the new owners set about restoring it. In 2002 the present owners – entrepreneurs Jim and Emma Harrison – re-launched the house as an ‘events venue’ – hosting weddings and so on.
An integral part of any tourist ‘venue’ is the inevitable ‘Gift Shop’ and the Harrisons approached respected Sheffield Brewers ‘Kelham Island’ to brew a beer to sell to visitors. Kelham Island observed that Marston Moor
Nottingham’s ‘Hardy Hanson’ brewery was being decommissioned and Thornbridge could start their own brewery using their old kit.
The brewery was set up in a converted joiner’s and stonemason’s workshop within the Hall’s grounds and Martin Dickie – who went on to found ‘Brewdog’ – engaged as Brewmaster.
The first Thornbridge brews appeared in early 2005.
The popularity of the brews was such that in 2009 a new purpose built brewery was built in the nearby village of Bakewell; while the original brewery is retained as ‘Thornbridge Hall Brewery’ – brewing one-off and experimental brews.
The reason for the history lesson is that I’m currently enjoying a glass of Thornbridge’s ‘St. Petersburg Imperial Russian Stout’ – and, of course, as we’ve just seen, Thornbridge Hall has an historic connection with St. Petersburg through John Morewood back in the 18th Century.
And you might recall from my recent review of the resurrected ‘Courage Imperial Russian Stout‘ how the St. Petersburg link all started.
So, as always, what’s the beer like?
There’s not too much nose to speak of, toasty bread maybe, with just a hint of coffee. You wouldn’t want this for breakfast though, it’s full flavoured with rich coffee and chocolate highlights, with a deep threat of alcohol lurking in the background.
There are also hints of bitter chocolate, anise, peat, dark fruit, plums maybe? and molasses, rounded off with a long, slightly smoky finish; every sip reveals something different and delightful.
And at 7.4% ABV this is very much a sipping stout, less scary than it’s Courage inspiration, but it comes in a considerably larger bottle!
The mouth-feel is good, slightly resinous, not too heavy.
This is a mighty, mighty beer. Thornbridge have done it again.
Update: I had always understood that Thornbridge’s orginal brewing kit to have been sourced from Nottingham’s Hardy Hanson brewery, I recently learned the truth about the Marston Moor brewery from Martyn Cornell, author of the excellent Zythophile blog.
I am happy to stand corrected.