A few weeks’ ago, it was our great pleasure to host the Brewery of Saint Mars of the Desert to brew with us here at Thornbridge. For those of you who don’t know, Saint Mars of the Desert (or ‘SMOD’ to their fans) are husband and wife team Dann and Martha, who brew out of a little brewery in Attercliffe, Sheffield. Ever since they built the brewery, our brewing team have been big fans, so just a few months after they set up shop, in late 2018, we were delighted to brew a collaborative beer with them at their place. It was called ‘Pépin’ (French for ‘seed’), a hoppy little number brewed with a combination of Belgian yeasts. Pépin was essentially a tribute to their first brew they did, the legendary ‘Cito’, a little bitter ale with bags of character, much beloved of our Production Manager, Dominic.
Whilst we have brewed a few Belgian-style beers here at Thornbridge, we’ve never attempted a Belgian-style Quadrupel. These rich, intense, dark ales are strong in alcohol and are much revered by beer geeks all over the world. Many moons ago, Dann and Martha’s USA-based cuckoo brewery, Pretty Things Beer Project, had already mastered this style with their ‘Baby Tree’, as well as working with the monks at Spencer Brewery (the first Trappist brewery in the USA), so we felt it was a brilliant opportunity to give the style a go. We asked them to come up with their ideal ‘Quad’ recipe, which we then tweaked to work on the big brewhouse here at Riverside. We didn’t want any ‘twists’ or ‘modern takes’ with this beer – a traditional Belgian-style Quadrupel is already a wonderful thing and in the modern craft beer world, tradition all too often takes a back seat to a newly available fruit puree or fashionable hop.
Without giving too many secrets away, the malt and hop grist were kept simple, the water hardened to help reduce any potential roastiness and the yeast chosen was an ‘Abbey style’, freshly propagated in our yeast propagation vessels. With our ability to dial in every last brewing parameter and specification, and with Team SMOD on hand to advise, we knew we’d be able to get it right. It was a great learning experience for the brewing team, which is what all the best collaborations are all about. The resulting beer is invitingly dark, with a wonderfully fruity aroma from the yeast. Not too sweet or too heavy, flavours of nutty fruitcake, pears and plums dominate, with wisps of warming booze. The beer has been refermented in bottle with champagne yeast, so will evolve over time. We recommend you try one now and keep one for a special occasion.
We’ve named the beer ‘Secret World’, which is a reference to the magical taproom space which Martha and Dann have built in Sheffield. A trip to one of Belgium’s characterful beer cafés, such as the Poechenellekelder opposite the Manneken Pis in Brussels, or In De Welkom in Dworp, can feel like stepping into a secret world, with their unfamiliar, intoxicating brews and enchanting, unique atmospheres. We feel the same can be said of the spiritual home of the Brewery of Saint Mars of the Desert, hiding behind old industrial buildings in Attercliffe. On any given weekend, you’ll likely find at least a couple of Thornbridge’s staff on one of the tables, enjoying a few SMOD beers with friends.
We hope you enjoy this special beer as much as we enjoyed making it.
Secret World is available as a part of Thornbridge Beer Club’s June box. You can sign up to beer club here.