It’s always nice to actually read up on a brewery whose beers you’ve been drinking for a while but basically know nothing about other than that you enjoy said beers.
Thornbridge is one such brewery for me. I’ve always been a fan of the Jaipur IPA and always thought that the brewery was steeped in history like so many other British breweries but, in truth, they’ve only been established since 2005. In craft beer years this arguably makes the brewery quite old (craft beer years are a bit like cat years I think) but, in the context of historical brewing, it has the brewery still in diapers.
The age of the brewery does perhaps explain the big style and the leaning towards hops other than those found in the UK, but I don’t think the notion of a modern style had really crossed my mind on the many occasions that I've tasted the stuff.
Is this the power of suggestion and branding at play; the cans look more traditional than modern after all, or is it down to the fact that the IPA category is now such a hot mess of styles and hard to define?
A quick consultation of the Beer Judge Certification Program style guidelines would have you leaning to the latter.
The English IPA is there, but tucked under Pale Commonwealth Beers (?) and a visit to the IPA section will tell you that this “category is for modern American IPAs and their derivatives”. There's even a note on the distinction between IPAs and Indian Pale Ales, just to confuse things further. The IPA category has no less than eight subcategories but still you have to visit Strong American Ales to find the Double IPA, which our Imperial beer is calling itself (by proxy). It is a rabbit hole of no return and if you really want to technically define this beer you’d find yourself drinking it with the mad hatter himself.
Bah… let’s open the damn thing!
It’s a lighter shade of amber, pale one might say, like a true commonwealth Indian Pale Ale… but there’s a hint of haze that gives things an East Coast twist. The nose is big, citrus fruit-driven but with some dank pine notes, not unlike an IPA or one of its derivatives (lol). Plenty of big malt and hop flavours on the palate but, as befitting its appearance, it's a pale imitation of a west coast IPA (for example). Regardless… It's a lovely drop!
So there you go, it’s basically a big IPA (whether or not this is an acronym for an old world style or a code word for a new craft style)… and which we already knew and was probably why we picked up the can in the first place.
Trust your instincts, ignorance is bliss and beers that start with imperial are just bigger… It's quite simple really.
Buy Thornbridge Halcyon Imperial IPA here.