Peak District Beers and Breweries
...raising a glass to locally-brewed ales
The so-called noughties have been notable for several things – Apple and its endless stream of gadgets taking over the world, political change across the Atlantic followed by a less palatable change here in the UK, and the depressing and relentless rise of cheaply-made reality TV.
Obama aside, more pleasing than any of the above has been the new-found appreciation for locally-brewed real ales – which in turn has seen an explosion of micro-breweries.
As Good Beer Guide editor Roger Protz puts it, “Micro-breweries are now like mushrooms. They suddenly appear at dawn in the oddest of places.”
Alongside the organic food revival, real ale continues to thrive, with the momentum showing no sign of abating – indeed it is now the fastest-growing drink in Britain today.
And as the bandwagon rumbles on and on, real ale appears to be shedding its musty image at last. No longer the preserve of the bearded pub bore who boasts his own tankard, you’re just as likely to find hand-pulled real ales available in hipster bars in our towns and cities as you are the country inns. It’s been a remarkable turnaround.
And, happily, the boom hasn’t bypassed the Peak District. The number of micro-breweries in the area has risen into double figures, and each of them produce their own delicious and meticulously-prepared beer.
The jewel in the Peak’s ale crown would have to be Thornbridge Brewery, a multi-award winning venture based in Bakewell. Originally brewed on the grounds of Thornbridge Hall itself in 2005, they found considerable and immediate success – winning the first ever beer festival they entered.
Now positively drowning in accolades with over 200 awards to their name, Thornbridge are brewers of genuine repute and brewed over two million pints in 2010.
Established in 2006, Amber Ales is named after the Amber Valley in Derbyshire in which it is located. Described by The Independent as ‘one of the most exciting micro-breweries in the country’, Amber Ales produce award-winning, modern real ales that are full of flavour but follow traditional methods of production. Brewed from their tiny five barrel plant, they specialise in full-flavoured traditionally-styled ale with a modern twist.
Brampton Brewery rose like a phoenix from the flames in the winter of 2007, after an absence of over 50 years. The revived brewery is only a stone’s throw from the original site on Chatsworth Road in Chesterfield, although first time around they were substantially bigger with 130 barrels compared to the eight of today. Golden Bud is arguably the flagship beer, and very nice it is too.
A micro-brewery in the truest sense of the name is the tiny Wirksworth Brewery, a 2.5 barrel affair which emerged in 2007. The owner left behind his career as a plumber to open Wirksworth Brewery and forge himself a reputation as a purveyor of quality real ales. Cruckbeam is the trademark pint, and they also created Three Lions, a 4.5% ale brewed to celebrate the 2010 World Cup.
Peak Ales were one of the forerunners in the area, opening in 2005. This thriving micro-brewery was launched by the Duke of Devonshire, and just 12 months after its birth was awarded ‘Beer of the Year’ by the Derby Evening Telegraph. Their newest brew is a light summer ale called Pen-ALE-ty, perfect for supping during the football bonanza in South Africa.
In 2006 a pair of ale lovers decided to quit their jobs to pursue their dream, and they made it a reality the following January when Ashover Brewery’s first brew came to fruition. Success quickly followed with their Butts Pale Ale winning Beer of the Festival at CAMRA’s Chesterfield event. 12 months later they followed that up by winning the same prize with a different tipple, this time Rainbows End.
Buxton Brewery was established in 2009 and has already begun picking up awards. Head brewer James Kemp counts Thornbridge among his previous employers and these fine credentials are borne out in the ales produced here.
Their Double Hopped Downfall won the Chesterfield Market Beer Festival (CAMRA) gold medal, while Axe Edge - a classic 6.8% classic IPA - won Best Strong Beer at the Bradford Beer Festival.
Even newer than Buxton Brewery is the Raw Brewing Company. Based in Staveley, a few miles outside Chesterfield, the brewery moved from their original premises in Wigan in April 2010, brewing their first ale - Grey Ghost IPA - just a month later.
The 'Raw' moniker is a nod towards the brewery's policy of only using 'raw' and natural ingredients to produce the finest real ales.
Each of these micro-breweries, with the exception of Raw, hold tours by prior arrangement – offering a chance to get your nostrils around those delicious hops, whet the appetite and maybe even sink a few when you’ve finished.
So let’s raise a glass to our microbreweries – a triumph for good taste, enterprising and skilled individuals...and, most importantly, lovely local ale.
Last Updated: 15 Jun 2015