It’s a popular opinion among craft beer and real ale aficionados that “Cask is King”. Cask conditioned beer is seen as the purists choice, and it’s not hard to see why. The depth of flavour of a properly cellared cask ale is unique, and there is nothing quite like a perfectly conditioned pint of cask beer. Thornbridge has a long and storied history with cask ales, and though we love cans and keg, bottled conditioned and barrel aged, there will always be a place for cask in the Thornbridge roster.
The first beer we ever produced was a cask beer: Lord Marples is a classic bitter intended to be drunk in the most classic of ways, and is still a staple. On the subject of staples, our legendary IPA Jaipur started as cask, and although is now available every way under the sun, is still a cask beer through and through.
Real ale is a traditional style of beer, and Thornbridge loves being part of that proud tradition. One of our year round core ales, Brother Rabbit, is a classic golden ale. Aquila and Made North are both golden bitters, the latter made in the Manchester style. Ashford is a brown ale, named after the location of Thornbridge Hall and Hopton is an English pale ale, brewed with Kentish hops.
Talking of pale ales, Thornbridge is famous for them! Our cask pales are an incredible source of pride. Crackendale and Peverel are enduringly popular pales that use a single US hop to devastating effect, Citra for the former and Mosaic for the latter. Similarly, Kipling was the first UK beer to use New Zealand hop Nelson Sauvin, which is now a key ingredient of exciting pales nationwide. Two cask beers of ours that use this wonderful hop are New World pale Lumford and a very special pale called Otter’s Tears, brewed in memory of legendary beer writer Simon Johnson. We also have had two very sessionable and perennially popular pales on cask this year, hazy juicy pale Astryd and white gold pale ale Wild Swan, two beers people are constantly demanding.
Dark beer on cask is like black gold, and we have had some phenomenal dark beers this year. Year round core porters Market Porter and Cocoa Wonderland of course made a showing with their roasty, chocolatey goodness, and we saw some returning luxury with vanilla stout McConnels. Finally we had some big serious stouts for purists, like creamy stout Brock and the iconic Russian Imperial stout St. Petersburg.
Christmas was a magical time for cask this year, with not one, not two, but three cask exclusive Christmas beers made this year. Merrie was a spiced winter ale that was available exclusively from our Thornbridge & Co venues. Knack was a dark mild with flavours of nut and toffee like the Swedish Christmas treat that is its namesake. Tomte was a “juleøl”, a traditional Scandinavian Christmas beer made with orange peel, cloves and vanilla, named after the Christmas spirit of Scandinavian folklore.
Our cask beer range gave us some great opportunities to collaborate with some really exciting companies. Bundobust, famous for their Indian Street Food, having recently opened a brewery of their own, collaborated with us to make Impromptu Ladder Convention, a Hazy pale ale. Hop merchants supreme Yakima Chief sent us their best fresh frozen hops, which we used to brew two fresh hopped session pales, Mosaic and Azacca. We worked with top Merseyside brewery Neptune to make US Brown ale Beacon, which was wonderful. We also continued to make the official beer of BBC TV smash hit Peaky Blinders, with a traditional English IPA inspired by the era of the show. We’re looking forward to series 6 next year!
In celebration of International Women’s Day this year, we took part in International Women’s Collaboration Brew Day, and brewed the citrus pale ale Clementia. The brewers who led on this project, Alice Murphy and Rachel Green, were inspired by the theme of this year’s collaboration: compassion. Clementia is the Roman goddess of compassion, whose name is reminiscent of the orange varietal clementine, leading them to use Citra hops and orange peel in the brew which gave the beer delicious citrus aromas.
This year, sadly, the pub trade took a serious hit. Repeated lockdowns, virus outbreaks and a public that was understandably nervous about returning to normal. A number of wonderful pubs were forced to close, and many others had to radically change in order to stay afloat. This had a knock on effect on breweries too, for many of whom their primary source of trade was pubs. From January to May of 2021 pubs were closed under lockdown orders and that is why there are fewer cask beers here than we would normally produce. We are hopeful of the future though, and we hope that you will seek these and any future beers out, and support your local pubs.
As we said up top, Cask is King, so we are looking forward to flooding the cellars of the UK with more cask ale next year, so watch this space to find out about what's coming next.