We were fortunate enough to be involved in a beer tasting at one of our excellent new local micro-breweries a couple of weeks ago. Over two evenings we sampled the full range of regular beers produced by Thornbridge Hall Brewery. This gave us a chance to fully appreciate the flavours of the beers. We had tried them before, but in the two locations I think we got to sample them at pretty much their best. I have reviewed some of the others before so I decided it was time to introduce you to Kipling.
Thornbridge Hall Brewery is based in an outbuilding in the grounds of a small stately home in Ashford in the Water, Derbyshire. They began brewing in October 2004 in their small brewery known as The Baby Brewery – the brewery has worked closely with award winning brewery Sheffield brewery Kelham Island and started up as the offspring to the larger and older business. Thornbridge have since become award winners and have “grown up”! They try to use interesting, locally sourced ingredients in their beers and have produced a range of popular and successful beers. The beers have already become firm favourites with drinkers at beer festivals and in pubs.
Look out for their beers at pubs nationwide. I am lucky because I live near to quite a few regular outlets and also get the chance to go and taste the beers at their source in the brewery bar. Among their regular and occasional brews you may find Brock (a lower gravity stout at 4.1% ABV), Jaipur IPA (a strong golden ale at 5.9% ABV) and St. Petersburg Imperial Stout (dark and strong at 7.7% ABV). Their core range of upwards of six beers is complimented by specials and seasonal selections – for example their Christmas beer is a 4.8% winter warmer called Hark.
*A Bit of Background*
According to the people I spoke to at the brewery there is a really good reason that they decided to name the beer Kipling. They like to try and keep some sort of connection between the Hall, the people there, the local area and the beers they brew. The story has been passed on that, when the Hall was a college, one of the buildings had a window in it that had originally come form Rudyard Kipling’s house. The building was commonly known as The Kipling Hut. Eventually this structure became the Headmaster’s office, but it was eventually demolished in the 1980s. People who visit the Hall who knew it from the college days still refer to the area where the brewery now stands as the Kipling area. When they were looking for a name for their new beer they decided to use this little local story as the basis.
Kipling has also started to win awards too – for example it was voted Beer of the Festival at Sheffield Beer Festival in September of this year.
Kipling weighs in at 5.2% ABV and is marketed as a Pacific Pale Ale. As far as I can tell this refers to a Pale beer brewed in the American rather than the British style; using hops from the Pacific Northwest of the USA. American versions of the Pale Ale style of beer tend to be hoppier and cleaner than the British versions, which are usually more balanced and malty.
*Look, Aroma & Texture*
Kipling is a clear, pale golden coloured beer with a medium sized slightly off-white head, which lasts reasonable well and laces the side of the glass nicely. Aroma is pretty fruity initially, with much of the scent coming from the head rather than the body of the beer. The fruits I could identify were grapefruit, passion fruit and a hint of kiwi fruit; this is due to the citrus hops that are used. As the head dies away slightly so does some of the aroma – what is left is more subtle but still noticeably fruity. Texture is light and fresh with a good amount of carbonation – I found it to be medium bodied and slightly syrupy.
*Tange’s Taste Test*
Kipling is a well crafted beer that using hops to produce a variety of complex fruit flavours. The predominant flavour is grapefruit, balanced by a soft biscuity malt. It gets increasingly bitter as you drink, leading to a crisp and dry finish. Aftertaste is quite long lasting and is dry and bitter with a hint of malt.
~~~WHAT I THOUGHT.
A lot of people don’t like Kipling because of the strong grapefruit flavour. I really like it and find the fruitiness really refreshing, but could see that anyone who doesn’t like grapefruit wouldn’t appreciate it as much. A few people have also mentioned that they find the flavour a little overpowering. I can see what they mean, but I don’t find it overpowering at all – I would say though that it isn’t a beer to have with food because of the distinctness of the taste. It is a very strongly flavoured beer that should be drunk alone to fully appreciate it.
That said, the taste does subside quicker than you would expect, so you can move on to other drinks after! A word of warning however – it really tastes a lot lighter than 5.2%, so remember that before going for the fourth pint!
I would also say that Kipling would maybe appeal to those who normally don’t go for a Real Ale. It is a clean tasting, refreshing beer with a light colour and good carbonation. This makes it a good choice for those who don’t like the darker, maltier beers on the market. There’s lots of flavour too, for the drinker who appreciates a well crafted beer – how you can get something so fruity without adding any fruit is a real testament to the art of the brewer!
My last pint of Kipling was free (an excellent price!), but I have tasted it before and since that occasion and have paid around the 2.30 to 2.40 a pint mark for the privilege. This is quite a standard price these days for a beer of this strength, so I didn’t object to paying that amount. It is an excellent beer after all and it is certainly one I will drink again and again. I would also recommend that you seek out Kipling at Beer Festivals and also ask your local landlord if he can get hold of it for you.
Grapefruit isn’t just for Breakfast!
Thornbridge Country House Brewery
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