Modern brewing, it often seems, is about taking traditional styles and putting more hops in them. Barley Wine, Bavarian Helles, Bière de Garde: add some more hops. Not everyone is happy about this. "What's the point if you've lagered it for 10 weeks?" says Rob Lovatt, head brewer at Thornbridge. "I'd like to see more focus on malt and yeast."
That might seem an odd thing for a Thornbridge brewer to say, given that its reputation has been built on superb hop-driven ales . But Thornbridge, 10 this year, now produces a startling variety of different beers.
This open-mindedness has made Thornbridge a key player in the British brewing revolution. The focus now might be on London's craft-beer scene, but the Bakewell brewery was first. Along with Brewdog, they changed the way we think of beer.
They're still pushing the boundaries. When I visited earlier this month, I was shown into a large room filled with wooden barrels, some of which are ageing a collaboration with Brooklyn Brewery. They're Bourbon barrels, filled with a Belgian-style ale and Cider lees from Oliver's in Herefordshire. The beer will then be refermented with Champagne yeast.
More down-to-earth is Bayern, a Bavarian-style pils, and perhaps my favourite of the brewery's current range. Look out, too, for Kill Your Darlings, a Vienna lager, and Bamberg, a smoked bock that should be available soon. If Lovatt keeps turning out beers like these, hopheads everywhere might start to see his point.
Three to try
This herbal-bitter Bavarian pils is one of the best UK lagers being made right now. £23.80 for 12 x 50cl bottles, 5 per cent, thornbridgebrewery.com
Barrel-ageing is quite the thing: try this smooth dark ale for a subtle introduction. 8.5 per cent, £25.50 for 3x500ml bottles, thornbridgebrewery.com
A beefy version of Thornbridge's famous beer. Boasts passion fruit and melon tones. 10 per cent, £43.20 for 12 X 500ml bottles, thornbridgebrewery.comReuse content