Going full circle, Nik Cook returns to Thornbridge Brewery, the starting point of his seven year odyssey around the micro-breweries of Derbyshire.
I CAN’T believe that it has been seven years since I started exploring the micro-breweries of Derbyshire. I’ve travelled the county visiting breweries sited in industrial estates, old farm buildings, garages and even a haunted pub. I’ve learned so much about this thriving industry and had the pleasure of sampling some outstanding beers. My journey is far from over, with new breweries opening all the time, but I thought now was the perfect time to re-visit where it had all started for me – Thornbridge.
When I first called in seven years ago, Thornbridge had just made the massive move from what was definitely a micro-brewery at Thornbridge Hall to the far more macro and high-tech Riverside Brewery on the outskirts of Bakewell. Now, as I joined the brewery’s export and marketing executive James Buchanan, and Mark Thomas, corporate affairs manager for Tesco in the North, for a tour of the brewery, it was obvious that growth had continued and even accelerated. A new state-of-the-art bottling line was whirring away, the number of fermentation tanks had significantly increased and the payroll now numbers 50 employees. With a high tech computerised control room, it’s a million miles from a micro brewery so I was intrigued how would James classify the brewery now.
‘Craft brewery is how we’re often described and how we’d describe ourselves. We’re independent and produce the beers we want to across a wide range of styles. We’re not a dedicated real ale brewery or a lager brewery, we do a vast range. Above anything else we’re a brewery that produces consistently great beer.’
A recent major stepping point in Thornbridge’s growth has been securing distribution through Tesco. Mark Thomas, from the supermarket giant, explained how that has happened.
‘We deal with lots of different breweries of varying sizes and the concern when you launch a line is whether the product can be delivered. We might start a small brewery in just a few stores but we know with Thornbridge that the capacity is there to expand substantially in response to customer demand. We’re over the moon to be part of the Thornbridge success story.’
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