We've a new Morrison's supermarket in Tunbridge Wells. Well it's not exactly new, it's a re-opened store; the original having been closed by the company just a few years after they acquired it as part of their takeover of Safeways.
I was looking forward to an outlet stocking a different selection of beers, but when I popped in last weekend I found what was on sale a trifle disappointing. I did however, pick up a couple of beers from Blackburn based brewers Thwaites. I don't often get the chance to drink the company's beers, as apart from a few of the better known ones, such as Wainwright, Lancaster Bomber and Old Dan, one doesn't often see them on sale in this part of the country.
The two bottles I bought were unfamiliar to me; Indus IPA 4.6% and Tavern Porter 4.7%. The former
is a well-hopped, amber-coloured beer named after a former trading ship. The profile notes on the bottle read. "When Daniel Thwaites was embarking on his brewing career, the INDUS would have been voyaging to the East Indies – trading Lancashire cotton for exotic Eastern delights. Our INDUS Pale Ale celebrates ales of that period with a refreshing brew enriched with abundant hops for flavour that stays fresh and crisp to the finish."
The latter is described as a "Traditional porter, with a slightly sour taste. Full roasted flavours with a hint of smoky liquorice."
Whilst neither beer was over exciting they were still eminently drinkable, and of the two I preferred the Porter which, incidentally, was bottle-conditioned. I do have a slight soft spot for Thwaites, as when I was at Salford University, during the mid 1970's, Thwaites beers were served in the Students' Union bar. They were brewery-conditioned, rather than cask, but they were still a vast improvement on the Scottish and Newcastle slop that had been on sale when I first arrived on campus. The company had quite a few pubs to the north of Manchester, particularly in and around Bury, and in my final year a Salford I quite frequently drank in some of these, especially as I had a couple of friends living in the area. At the time, Thwaites brewed two milds alongside their bitter, and whilst I've never been a huge fan of mild ale, I recall that the darker of these two milds was particularly good.
Thwaites were one of the first breweries I visited. Their modern brewery in the centre of Blackburn had only been operating for 8 years at the time of our visit during the mid 1970's. Whilst modern in construction, it was still a traditional tower brewery, but apart from that I don't remember much about it. There was no sampling room as such; instead we had been taken to a nearby pub by our guide in order to sample the beers, and this was before the tour!
Given the above, I was all the more interested then to read that Thwaites are planning to build a new brewery, on a green-field site, and move out of their current home (Presumably to realise the value of what must be a prime site right in the centre of Blackburn). This represents a major investment for the company, and confirms their commitment to remain in brewing. They state that the new brewery will be "state of the art", and plan to incorporate a visitor centre as part of the development. According to their website, they are still looking for a suitable site at the moment, so brewing will obviously continue in Blackburn for the time being. When the new plant does finally open I hope to pay it a visit so I can compare the new with the old and, of course, renew my acquaintance with some of Thwaites's draught beers.