The Thornbridge Union

The Thornbridge Union

When Carlsberg Marston's announced, at the start of this year, that they were retiring their historic Burton union system, we were as sad as everyone else. So when we found out there was an outside chance Thornbridge were going to be able to obtain a small section of a Burton union, thanks to our old friend Garrett Oliver and the CMBC team, we grabbed the opportunity with both hands.  It’s now May and to actually have them on site, ready to use, is a dream come true for myself and the rest of the brewing team. Clearly, this is a fantastic opportunity for Thornbridge to take a piece of brewing history and be able to continue producing beers on one of these sets, rather than the entire process being consigned to the history books and drinkers never being able to sample beer produced in this unique way.


It took numerous visits from the brewing team in the early part of the year to determine if the unions were actually going to be workable for us. Firstly, we needed to make sure we had the space for the union set, which we created by moving the bottling line from the smaller brewhouse area, at the back of the taproom. Crucially, we had to get our heads around how the process worked, so we knew we could not just fill the barrels and ferment beer in the union set, but also be able to clean it all properly.  As one of the reasons the system is being decommissioned in Burton is just how labour-intense the process is, we thankfully saw that, although it will be hard work looking after it, as it is just part of the original set, it looks doable!  I must say that the team at CMBC, their engineers and particularly Mark Newton, their Cooper, have been incredibly helpful and are as enthusiastic as we are. We fully intend to help protect the historic legacy of the union system and also see how it can help us innovate and develop our beers in the future.


In terms of our initial thoughts for the union system, we are still in the planning phase, which itself is exciting, but there will certainly be some special cask beers being produced on them shortly and ideally, I would like to brew a fully bottle-conditioned traditional IPA, crammed with the finest British whole cone hops.


Written by Rob Lovatt, Head Brewer/ Production Director


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