This summer, it was my privilege to attend the Firestone Walker beer festival for the second time to showcase our beers. It’s a great opportunity to meet up with the international brewers we rarely get chance to catch up with properly and get a real insight into what’s going on in the craft beer world at the moment.
Whilst I was there, I spent time with Matt Brynildson, Firestone’s head brewer and we agreed to do a collaboration in the coming year. I like to think that Thornbridge and Firestone have a very similar ethos when it comes to making beer: both breweries having a reputation for quality and consistency and always striving to make beers which raise the bar, plus I’m a huge fan of Firestone’s barrel-aged range such as Parabola and the Barrelworks series. So, something special aged in barrels seemed the natural direction to pursue.
As Matt is spending a lot of time in Europe at the moment, we decided to meet up in France and sniff some barrels for inspiration for the beer. We flew into Bordeaux and met with Alexandre Sakon, a barrel broker, who kindly showed us round some chateaux, cognac distilleries and the sights and sounds of Bordeaux and surrounding area. We also had a chance to see barrel construction at a cooperage, which was interesting to say the least.
Towards the end of day three in Bordeaux, we thought we had decided on the beer we wanted to brew and the particular cognac barrels we wanted to age it in. However, just before we were about to leave the barrel yard, a fresh delivery of gin barrels arrived. Typically, gin isn’t aged in barrels, so we thought it would be rude not to explore them while they were in front of us. Matt and I were both really impressed with the gin barrels and discussed the possibility of a strong saison being aged in those barrels, which potentially could make a superb beer!
Last Monday, the very same gin barrels arrived in our yard. We are just putting the final touches to the saison recipe and hoping to schedule in a brew day before Christmas.
Rob Lovatt, Head Brewer and Production Director