Burning Sky Beer, Arise
1995. Brighton. Mark Tranter is an art student earning a bit of extra cash as a chef. After clocking off he would head to the now famous Evening Star pub and swap beer for food, taking them samples of what he’d made earlier that day. He wouldn’t stop asking questions about the beer, stealing hints and tips that would help him with his homebrew. He soon got offered a job brewing in the basement. That basement would become Dark Star Brewery which in turn would become one of the leading lights of the modern UK craft beer movement.
Ask anyone in the know and they’ll tell you Mark was integral to Dark Star’s success. He even became one of four partners in the business. But as the brewery scaled, he became restless, missing the experimentation that a small outfit allows and becoming disenchanted with the business side of things. In 2013 he jumped ship, selling his shares in Dark Star and using every single penny from the proceeds to realise his long-held dream that was Burning Sky.
After travelling the world to meet and pick the brains of his brewing heroes, he set about converting a listed barn, in the quiet East Sussex village of Firle, into a fully operational brewery which was officially launched in October 2014.
From the very outset, it was clear that this time Mark was going to build a brewery on his terms. The location, for starters, is spectacular. A million miles (or at least it feels like that) from the ubiquitous industrial estate setting, long walks in the surrounding countryside inspire many of Mark’s beers.
His approach to brewing would make an accountant wince. Stainless steel tanks sit alongside four specially commissioned 2,500 litre oak fermenting barrels, or foudres, for Burning Sky’s ageing and blending programme. These are for beers that could take 2 or 3 beers before being ready to flog… or their experimental nature could mean they end up being poured down the drain.
And so on to the beers that (praise the lord) don’t get poured down the drain. Saison à la Provision, a classic, strong Belgian and slightly tart Saison is one of the best examples of the style we’ve ever drunk… here or in Belgium. There are a whole bunch of other seasonal saisons worth checking out too. Then there are the pale ales. Oh boy. Plateau at 3.5% belies its strength with gob fulls of fruity hops and Aurora is punchier but equally good. Our pick of those pales is this week’s beer. Arise is straw gold in colour, a balanced malt bill gives a great mouthfeel and a finish that keeps on giving. It has a restrained bitterness followed by massive peach, pine & resinous hop flavours to keep you satisfied. A session IPA that's perfect for the end of the day (or the start).
Mark is now joined by music teacher turned assistant brewer Tom Dobson, along with Paula Partridge who looks after sales and admin. A small but mighty talented team.
“We’re not tempted by shortcuts, we are far more interested in tradition and the slow-working yeasts that bring complexities and depths of flavour to the beers. It is not envisaged that the full extent of Burning Sky will be apparent for another 2 or 3 years when these slow beers are ready and we can fully embark on our blending schedule”... so in other words, we haven’t even seen what Burning Sky are capable of just yet.
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