With two weeks of excitement building inside me, Sunday morning finally arrived and I was off to New Mills to see the guys at Torrside Brewing to watch them in action making their latest beer. Chris warned me it would be pretty cold at the brewery so I wrapped up in a thick parka and headed to my own brewery (…garage) I wasn’t sure whether it was like homebrewing, drinking along with the brewday, or whether drinking on the job was frowned upon. I syphoned off a few of my latest beers anyway, chucked in a couple of cans for the train and then headed off. Cracking open a can on the 0856 from Piccadilly was tempting but I refrained.
Pulling into New Mills Newtown Station and stepping out onto the chilly platform I thought it was a lovely place for a brewery. Looking down the street you could see the traditional stonework houses and mills, Swizzels Matlow and not a railway arch in sight. Trundling down the hill and into New Mills Marina it got even better. A large industrial unit to the right; a former boat house now occupied by Torrside Brewing, and to the left; rows of canal boats where the marina residents are moored up. Living on a boat would be exciting enough; your own brewery tap is something else.
I met Chris, Peter and Nick just over a year ago when I started attending Manchester Homebrew Club at The Beermoth so it was great to see them branching out into commercial brewing. With all three still in full time employment and brewing at the weekends it seemed less like commercial brewing and more like large scale homebrew on a shiny 10BBL kit. Torrside Brewing have undertaken a handful of re-brews of their popular beers but haven’t settled on a core range of beers yet; more comfortable with experimenting in order to make creative beers in an area where most of their customers are after a 4% pale ale. Which they do very well I might add; but it seems even their more obscure beers sell just as well with both local pubs and places in Manchester like The Font and Port Street Beer House regularly needing to reorder more to meet demand.
Today’s brew was a low ABV pale ale with the addition of using oats and rye malt in the mash. The mash temperature was kept on the high side in order to maintain a certain amount of body in the finished product and recirculated for a while to clear the wort as much as possible. For the boil a small amount of Columbus was added for the bitterness then handfuls of Chinook and Ella added late to give this beer a huge citrusy aroma.
As the afternoon drew in, Connor Murphy (Beer Battered / Manchester Beer Week) turned up to discuss plans for Manchester Beer week on 10th June – 19th June 2016 so to aid the discussions we started doing a some “quality assurance” on some Torrside Brewing. First off we had their latest pale ales; West of the Sun, a New Zealand hopped 4.5% pale and Yellow Peak, an American hopped 4.2% pale ale. Both had a similar incredibly light and crisp body allowing the hops to nicely balance the bitterness on your tongue and the aroma billowing out of the glass. These beers were great but I was waiting for something a little bigger; something monstrous…
I remember when I first spoke to the guys at Manchester Homebrew they were discussing some parti-gyle brews and I had no idea what they were talking about being new to homebrewing. In basic terms it is the process of separating the first running of the wort when sparging. These first runnings are rich in sugar so have a high original gravity, in turn producing a high ABV beer and the second runnings producing a small beer with a more sessionable ABV. This is a traditional style of brewing less common in commercial brewing but Torrside Brewing have used it in order to produce their recent special edition releases.
Torrside’s Monster series boast five beers around 10% including a Nelson Sauvin Double IPA, two Barley Wines, an Imperial Stout, and my favourite, the Rauchwine. I’d had Peter’s rauchwine previously at the homebrew group and ran out of superlatives to describe how much I liked it, so to find the first runnings of Franconia, Torrside’s smoked beer, were ran off separately to produce a rauchwine you can imagine I was pretty excited to try it again. I expected a cloying, sweet beer with massive amounts of smoke coming off it, fighting to find some kind of middle ground. What I actually got was a crisp, dark body with a delicate smokey flavour. If you didn’t see the label you would be shocked to find this beer in 9.5%
Once today’s brew had been safely transferred to the fermentation vessel and the yeast pitched we set off to Buxton to visit the Buxton Tap House for some food; almost 12 months to the day to my last visit. On the short train journey we shared a bottle of Torrside’s Centennial; a 5.4% porter where the lemony hops cut through the roastiness of the dark malts making it potentially one of the most refreshing porters I’ve had. Buxton Tap House had a couple of their ice cream influenced Omnipollo collaborations on. A delicious end to a great day was had; first the Cloudberry IPA where bitter hops and lactose sweetness collided and finally the Chocolate Brown Ale; a rich chocolately ale finished off with a soft vanilla ice cream float. A gimmick if anything but pretty tasty!