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Bakewell from a Beer Perspective

My wife and I are currently spending our holidays in Bakewell, Derbyshire, England. Even though I usually primarily blog about homebrewing, I’d like to share a few quick notes about good beer here in Bakewell.

The first impression was that the pubs are dominated by Peak Ales, a microbrewery near Chatsworth house. Unfortunately, I find all of their beers rather unremarkable, the stereotypical “boring brown bitter”. Which is unfortunate, because Bakewell is home to another brewery, Thornbridge, which has produced some fantastic and exciting beer over the last 11 years. It was surprisingly hard to find any pub that has Thornbridge from cask. Impossible, in fact. What the locals told us, most of the Thornbridge pubs are in Sheffield, and the only local Thornbridge pub we found, the Horsepack Inn in Little Longstone, had really odd opening hours. Don’t expect to be able to get a pint there on Thursday at 4pm.

Manchester is only 2 hours away from Bakewell by bus, so if you have plenty of time, it’s worth visiting Cloudwater Brewery. They’ve recently created a large hype with their rather unusual one-off brews and fantastically juicy series of Double IPAs. You need to reserve a seat beforehand to be sure to get served on Saturdays when their tap room is open. We were lucky to reserve just for the weekend after they started releasing their v4/v5 DIPAs.

If you find the trip to Manchester too boring, a good time-waster is to count pubs and what breweries run them. It looks like Robinsons totally dominates around that area, but I managed to see a seemingly defunct-looking pub with an old Boddingtons sign just before Stockport.

Talking about the better beer in Bakewell itself, we enjoyed going to a particular pub, The Manners. It’s a Robinsons pub, their food was good, and the beer was well-kept. From cask, they had five different Robinsons ales (Trooper, Unicorn, Wizard, Bonjeuros, Dizzy Blonde), from keg, the usual lagers, Robinsons Smooth (nitro keg ale) and Robinsons Dark (keg mild). My personal favourite has been Bonjeuros, a dry, hoppy, citrusy, zesty golden ale, which was quite refreshing.

Our opportunity to drink more Thornbridge beer was Peakender beer festival. It’s Thornbridge’s very own festival, so of course, many of their core range beers were available, and a good selection of other breweries’s beers. What we didn’t know beforehand: the location was extremely muddy. It’s more of a 3-day camping&beer festival. But on the Sunday when we were there, the weather was rather sunny, and a rare opportunity to get a proper sunburn in England.

Another day, we also visited Thornbridge brewery itself. It was quite interesting to see the size of the operation, which was actually smaller than I had expected, given their vast core range, and the amount of beer they sell nationally and internationally. Unfortunately, they’re currently undergoing some extensions, and thus not all parts of the brewery can be visited. We had the chance to sample one of Thornbridge’s latest releases, Serpent: a Belgian-style Golden Ale, fermented with the lees from a local cider maker and barrel-aged in ex-Bourbon casks (Four Roses), was a collaboration with Brooklyn Brewery. A pretty good beer, with the qualities of a dry, fruity white wine. I also managed to get two bottles of their sour red ale oak-aged on cherries resp. raspberries, for which Thornbridge recently won gold and silver medal at the World Beer Cup. I have yet to try these, though.

Starting tomorrow, we’ll be in York for a week. I’ll write about it next week, and I’d be grateful if anybody has any good tips regarding beer there.

A List of Yeast Banks and Producers for Homebrewers

Nowadays, homebrewers can choose from lots of different yeast strains from various producers and yeast banks. As a reference, I’m putting together all those that I know of and that explicitly cater towards homebrewers. I’m not including commercial or scientific yeast banks because they often do not sell their yeast in homebrewing quantitites for homebrewing prices. Also, if you know of any other places or companies that produce yeast for homebrewers, please let me know in the comments, and I’ll add them to the list.

Liquid yeasts:

Dry yeasts:

Update 2015-11-25:
Another dry yeast supplier I found: Brauwerkstatt

Update 2015-12-25:
Escarpment Labs has recently started making their yeasts available to homebrewers in Canada.

Tasting the Hefeweizen brewed in August

I was quite busy recently, so I didn’t have time to give you an update on the Hefeweizen that I brewed in August.

Fermentation went fine, but took a bit longer than expected to finish up. I then bottled the beer with Speise, and let it referment in the bottle. It carbonated properly.

I first tried the beer about 3 weeks ago. It pours fine. The yeast has formed a relatively hard sediment that took a while to swirl up. When poured, the beer forms a relatively dense foam that falls down at a moderate speed. Colour-wise, it looks a bit darker than your average Hefeweizen, in fact quite close to several commercial products branded as “Urweisse”. Definitely looks pleasant.

In the nose, you get a whiff of acidity, with hints of a phenolic character. It certainly smells like a Hefeweizen. When tasting it, you again get an acidity that almost gets too much over time. It is spritzy, and that acidic component makes it refreshing. The greatest disappointment are the other flavours, though: there is barely any banana coming through, maybe a hint of pear, even though I specifically optimized the wort for ester production. The phenolic side of things is… different. Yes, there are phenols, but it’s not the typical clove character that is so uniqie for the beer style. Not chlorophenolic, though, but still odd.

All in all, I’m a bit disappointed. It is an alright beer, but some of the flavour is just off for the style. I blame the yeast. 😉 I had had quite a few beers, even commercial ones, brewed with WB-06, which exhibited similar issues (high grade of acidity, very few esters and phenols), but I was a bit naive in thinking that I could do better. I wouldn’t mind brewing the beer again, but not with the same yeast. Wyeast 3068 it is next time.