Wednesday 25 August 2010

Now Drinking: Thornbridge Larkspur

I must be bloody mad.

The M62 motorway has a certain notoriety. It is a hideously busy stretch of trans-Pennine tarmac that carries the dubious honour of being the highest motorway in the UK. It is also featured in The KLF's "It's Grim Up North" - "Morecambe, Macclesfield, Lytham St. Annes, Clitheroe, Cleethorpes, the M62 - its grim up north", a list of everything that might be thought to be soul-sucking and lifeless in the north of England, set over a pounding industrial acid techno beat.

Had I planned my visit a bit better, I would have used public transport and taken a long afternoon over this visit to The Grove Inn in Huddersfield. The pub itself is nothing short of sensational, a beer geek's dream, featuring permanent hand pumps from the cream of the new wave of British brewing - Thornbridge, Marble, BrewDog, Dark Star, - alongside a smattering of classics - Timothy Taylor, Burton Bridge, Fullers. In fact, this pub demands a long and leisurely session. Why have I spent a torturous rush-hour driving here for a single pint?

I'll tell you why. I got severely twitchy that a certain beer would run out before I got to try it - there were only 35 casks made this year, and eight of them passed through the possession of Ian, landlord of The Grove. He very generously passed five of these on to Eddie at Gadds brewery - I can only assume he hadn't tried the beer before he agreed to that. The beer is Thornbridge Larkspur (5.2%abv), a pale gold single-hop beer based around the hop variety Citra.

I use the term beer loosely. I know that this is beer, because it came out of a brewery, and is made of water, pale malt, hops and yeast. But no beer has ever tasted like this. The first sniff and mouthful, and I'm transported back to my first ever visit to Leeds, in the early 1990s, and buying fresh samosas and Rubicon mango juice drink at Maumoniat's Asian supermarket on Brudenell Grove. That first ever taste of mango juice, perfumed and almost indecently musky, was a shock to the senses, but a discovery of a pleasure that has stayed with me. In fact, for a while, I cursed the empty years that I lived without Rubicon mango juice, and devoted my life to drinking as much of it as I could.

That's the beauty of great beer - it transports you to another place, or another time, while rooting you to the spot, forcing you to pay attention to what is happening on your palate. Thornbridge Larkspur is a riot of mango juice, passion fruit, musk, a hint of vanilla custard, tangerine, peach, a nameless floral perfume, and a snap of biscuity pale malt husk in the steadily building bitterness of the finish. It's there and then it's gone, intense, but fleeting, demanding you take another sip, when the whole hokey-cokey of exotica starts over again. And again. And again, until the glass is empty.

That's not a beer, that's a love potion.


  1. You are mental, the train from Leeds to Huddersfield is every half hour at that time, platform 13B usually. Is it worth be missing my stop and carrying on to Huddersfield tomorrow evening?

  2. We are all blushing with glee at your Larkspur Love here at Thornbridge!

    Thanks loads for your kind words,

    Definitely goes down as my beer of the year, biased or not!!!


  3. I feel i have to ditch the family to hunt down this beer now.

    I can't believe you drove

  4. Mark - yes, it was ridiculous, but born of necessity. And you know what they say about necessity - it's the mother of stupid decisions.

    Kelly - no, thank you all for brewing it in the first place.

    Chris - as I say, I got a severe case of the yips about missing it. And not only did I drive, limiting myself to a pint, but I was too stupid to take any carry-out containers with me. I was tempted to make them an offer for the last cask - it would have looked nice in the cellar at home.

  5. It's Sheffield Tap and Coach & Horses or bust for me on Saturday.

    There are plenty of beers out there that i will never try - but twitter is making me feel like a fool for not going the extra yard to try Larkspur.

  6. Yes you are mad, worst stretch of road in the UK at that time, surprised you didn't lose the will to live. Great review, am nipping up there now but doubt there will be any left. Ho hum :-)

  7. I see a clone recipe in the offing!

  8. The Grove Inn sounds like an amazing place. Wish we had real ale pubs like that here in Gothenburg (Sweden)

  9. A true beer pilgrimage - but one entirely worht it, it would seem! I'd say somethign like 'larkspur goes on the list' but to be honest, anything TB do goes 'on the list'. In fact, they don't go 'on the list', they get hurried past 'the list' and fast-tracked into the VIP area. Not many breweries do thati n my world, you know.

  10. Chris - good for you - it's sure to be a great day out filled with great beer. And as we know, it IS just beer.

    Lois - yeah, it was stupid, but worth it. Let me know if you have some, and what you think. I notice that they have tapped another cask, and the next Thronbridge beer is tbc. Is that a new brew, Kelly?

    Velky - I bet they would happily send you the spec.

    Jonte - I've only been there twice, but it's absurdly good. Have you seen their eyecatching website?

    Leigh - to be honest, it felt like a bit of a cheat. Although the journey was slow and torturous, there wasn't any sense of adventure associated with driving there and having just one pint. Let me know if you find any in Leeds - I'm there.

  11. That sounds bloody delicious!! Some of the best beers I've had this year have been hopped with Citra. I hope some of these have made it down south.

  12. Mark - well, speak to Mr. Gadd about that one....

  13. Sounds like you need a change of underwear you were so excited! :)

  14. Any idea what Eddie is doing with his casks?

    Sounds very similar to Saints and Sinners 3 Lions, just bigger. That beer tasted like Mango juice and peach iced tea meets beer.

  15. I'm thinking of the term 'beer nerds' - don't know why, it just popped into my head

  16. pdtnc - well, I wouldn't go that far, but I WAS excited.

    Mark - no idea what Eddie has planned, I'm afraid.

    Anon - well, this is a beer blog - what were you expecting?

  17. You are mad and so am I; I went to Peterborough beer festival in the mud and rain to drink this.


Sorry about the word verification - the blog was getting spammed to bits.