Buxton Brewery, Axe Edge
Our visit to Buxton Brewery got off to an awkward start when we got slightly lost on an innocuous industrial estate just outside the namesake town on the edge of the Peak District. Thankfully our embarrassment was rescued by Denis Johnstone, brewery and sales manager and all round nice guy. It turned out that we were knocking on the back door of the old brewery location (now a storeroom). An easy mistake to make.
As we walked to meet Denis at the new location (all of about 500m away) there was the usual weather-related chit chat that comes with being in the Peaks (it had snowed the day before apparently). Denis’s gentle Scottish accent and modest demeanour belies the fact he knows a thing or three about beer. A graduate of the well regarded Heriot-Watt masters programme in brewing and distilling and former brewery assistant to boot he’s a good person to spend an hour or so in the company of.
The brewery was founded in 2009 by Geoff Quinn. What with their award winning beers, adventurous collaborative brews, the slightly controversial Yellow Belly and clear commercial success (you can even buy Moor Top in Marks & Spencer), it’s hard to imagine the current UK craft beer scene without Buxton.
Geoff is a keen climber and there’s a palpable outdoorsy feel to the brewery. The casual use of well worn outdoor clothing by the staff suggests there’s more to working there than just the beer. The names for the beers also reflect the connection to the surrounding National Park which dominate the landscape around the brewery. These include Jacob’s Ladder where 10p from every pint sold went to support the Buxton Mountain Rescue Team. As someone who once relied on the volunteer mountain rescue services (long story) I would gladly drink a lot of this beer for such a good cause.
The current head brewer, Colin Stronge (below) is often attributed to much of Buxton’s more recent success. Colin joined Buxton in 2013 having previously been the head brewer at Black Isle Brewery. Before that he had worked for Marble Brewery in Manchester whilst he was a student there. Speak to any of the most talented brewers on the planet and they are likely to name Colin as the best of the best. He is also a top, top bloke. It is worth pointing out that he was already a big fan of Buxton before he started as their head brewer, even listing this week’s beer as one of his desert island beers back in 2012.
Speaking of which. This week’s beer is a powerhouse of an India Pale Ale at 6.8% abv. Named after the moorland southwest of Buxton this beer is their take on the modern IPA. Pouring a lovely amber with a nice creamy head and with a boozy tropical fruit kick this beer deserves a bit of respect. It’s unfiltered, unpasteurised and live. So pour carefully and try to leave any yeastie bits in the bottle. I am hoping that this heatwave continues so maybe chill the beer for up to an hour before you open it.
When our little tour of Buxton Brewery was over I got the feeling that we’d seen a glimpse into the future of craft beer in the UK. And it looked pretty bright.