Thornbridge Brewery was founded in 2005 by Jim Harrison, owner of the recently restored Thornbridge Hall, a spectacular stately home in the Peak District. It turns out that Jim’s not short of a bob or two, but that hasn’t stopped everyone from marvelling at Thornbridge’s incredible rise from humble beginnings in a carpenter’s shed on the grounds of the estate.
The newer state of the art brewery (they now operate from two sites, the first still being at Thornbridge Hall) at Crompton Mill, near Bakewell, is on the site of Richard Arkwright's former cotton factory. Arkwright was the chap that worked out how to harness water power, creating the modern cotton industry with his spinning frame in the late 18th century, and in the process became one of the founders of the industrial revolution. Thornbridge Brewery has taken on that mantle, becoming one of the major driving forces of the modern craft brewing movement.
This lot take their brewing seriously. Armed with food science and microbiology degrees, the newer brewery is full of the latest hi-spec equipment, along with in-house research and development facilities. Head Brewer Rob Lovatt oversees proceedings and speaks more about quality control than any brewer we’ve ever met.
As one of the most innovative breweries in the UK, they are pushing the boundaries of flavour and styles. Most breweries use a handful of different malt and hop varieties in their beer. Thornbridge uses 20 varieties of malt and around 60 varieties of hops.
Their strapline is 'Innovation, Passion and Knowledge'. This is no hollow promotional hyperbole dreamt up by a marketing agency. It’s just how they go about their day-to-day business and have over 350 national and international awards to prove it.
In 2019 Thornbridge won CAMRA’s champion bottled beer of Britain for this week’s beer, the beautifully decadent Saint Petersburg.
Based on a traditional imperial Russian stout, the aptly named Saint Petersburg is warming, full-bodied, slightly smoky and packed full of chocolate malt flavours. Lower in ABV than many of the imperial monsters you find on the market today, Thornbridge have put their own spin on a style most breweries worth their salt have tried to master. The result is something really quite special.