An ongoing series documenting our search for the best beers available in Manchester.
If the fact that Thornbridge Brewery started their day’s work at half four in the morning is not proof enough of how committed they are to their craft, then the drinks they brought with them to Port Street Beer House’s latest Meet the Brewer event settled the issue decisively. Thornbridge used the evening as a showcase for new and exclusive brews, each of which suggested that their future will be particularly bright.
First drink Summer Ale is aptly named, being as it is a lighter-than-air lager-type effort that is suffused with fresh-picked sage and, more noticeably, ginger: the kind of drink that is perfect for wiling away the remaining hours of summer, in other words, and a perfect start to the night. It calls to mind Marble Brewery’s Ginger, and round these parts that is a massive compliment.
A striking-yet-pleasing fizz is the first thing you notice upon tasting Kipling, at which point it becomes clear that the brewery isn’t quite as hostile to the mainstream as some of their peers. The difference is, of course, that the big name brands deliver all fizz and no flavour, whilst Thornbridge’s brews have the right level of complexity about them. Kipling is a well-rounded, full-bodied beer that starts with an initial sweetness and finishes with a sharp bitterness, and like Summer Ale, is highly drinkable.
The third beer only serves to push our opinion even higher. The sweetest drink of the night, Seaforth is also something of a challenge, in the best possible way. Subtle notes of citrus, the slightest hint of toffee, an abundance of English hops, and an exceptional maltiness all compete for your attention, before eventually setting down and sitting wonderfully on the palate. Inspiring equal amounts of debate and enjoyment, for us Seaforth is the highlight of the evening.
Alchemy 8VI, a dry hop barley wine, is a fantastic way to bring the evening to a close, providing a deep, intense flavour with no small amount of kick that goes down an absolute treat. For the uninitiated, barley wines really do taste like a cross between beer and wine (which takes a little time to get used to!). In this case, once you’re acclimatised notes of toffee and caramel are to the fore, along with a distinctive woodiness and a pleasing dryness that rounds off each sip.
Once the drinks have been consumed, the delicious Bakewell tart has been polished off, and the money has run out, it is unfortunately time to leave. But we’ll be back, and if you weren’t lucky enough to be there, you should make every effort to visit Port Street whilst Thornbridge’s brews are still the main event. You won’t be disappointed.