introducing vicious circle
‘Vicious Circle’ began life back in late 2018, during discussions between myself and Mark Tranter, founder of Burning Sky Brewery down in East Sussex. Mark is a good friend of us all here at Thornbridge and we have collaborated several times in the past, notably with the Coalition Old Ale in 2009 and Puja Jasmine IPA, which I think we first brewed together in 2012. We decided to brew a proper West Coast IPA laden with American hops and, whilst he was with us, also brew a beer to be matured in barrels. ‘Flora’, the West Coast IPA was released in early 2019, but Vicious Circle, the barrel-aged project, is only just seeing the light of day now.
We initially brewed a golden ale with just pale ale malt and wheat, fermented with a neutral yeast strain and added no hops at all. After primary fermentation, the beer was racked into white wine barrels from Burgundy and we added a blend of Brettanomyces and Lactobacillus. Here, the beer slept the long sleep of the righteous while the wild bugs did their thing and some wonderfully tart, funky flavours developed.
Our initial idea was to add some fruit to the barrels and ferment out the sugars from the fruit, but we found that the base beer had developed a unique character all of its own, which the addition of fruit could possibly mask. Thus we decided to blend the barrels together (siphoning off 1000 litres for use elsewhere…) and package into demi-champagne bottles. For bottle conditioning, we used champagne yeast to add a lifting effervescence to the beer and we’re pretty happy with the result – a golden ale like no other. There’s a delightful tartness up front, followed by aromas of peach and melon and the finish is dry and elegant. It just goes to show that adding fruit is not always the answer!
Dominic Driscoll, Production Manager