Recently, I was lucky enough to source some Fuggles and Challenger hops directly from Hukins farm down in Kent. The quality was just fantastic and we have made some brilliant beer with them, blending them into many of our recent cask brews that benefit from their gentle floral aroma. It got me thinking about our native brewing ingredients and to be honest, I don’t think they’re celebrated enough.
Take British malts for an example. Notoriously low in nitrogen and high in sugary extract, they’re revered around the brewing world for being the best quality you can buy. Varietals like Maris Otter and Golden Promise are the ‘Rolls Royce’ of malts, producing rich, malty worts with exceptional mouthfeel. Almost every American craft brewery worth its salt are using our malt and our Maltsters seem to spend most of their time in the USA now!
As yeast can be the most important aspect of a beer, producing not only CO2 and alcohol, but hundreds of flavour compounds, while removing many undesirable wort components, the choice of yeast in a beer is of the utmost importance. British yeasts are notoriously fruity and can provide an incredibly diverse array of flavours. It can be a brewer’s most valuable asset and we are certainly very proud of our British yeast strain we use for almost all our cask beers. There’s definitely something to be said for the way British yeasts emphasise the malt flavours that other strains cannot, paving the way for serious drinkability – a hallmark of great cask beer.
Seeing as the current beer market is awash with Citra/Mosaic US-style IPAs, I wanted to create a beer that uses only British ingredients that was slightly different. I took the concept of German Kellerbier, a timeless, classic style of unfiltered lager, which is as close to cask conditioned real ale as the Germans get, and put a British spin on it to create our new beer, which we named Heartland. Kellerbier is known as a fresh-tasting, highly drinkable style with flavours drawn from the yeast (as it would have been served direct from the tank) with a fine bitterness.
Heartland goes a step further, using the earthy, floral aromas of Fuggles and Challenger, our beautiful yeast and British malt to be a complete, true celebration of our local ingredients. Here at Thornbridge, we’re blessed with wonderfully soft water from the Peak District, giving us the perfect liquor for this beer and a blank slate for others. I aimed for perfect balance in the brew, where each individual component could be identified, but worked in harmony with the others, just as a great German Kellerbier can show. I like to think of Heartland, albeit slightly tongue-in-cheek, as the first example of an English ‘Cellar beer’.
The combination of flavours in Heartland combined with the body and mouthfeel make for an incredibly special, drinkable beer. It’s a beer with a wonderful amount of aroma and flavour and I think is seriously drinkable and I am looking forward to people trying it.