August's Beer Of The Month - Rooster’s Craft Beer Perfection
Oliver, Tom and Ian Fozard
And now we come to a multi-award-winning trendsetter, one of the really big names in the history of craft beer, not just locally but nationally. The Rooster crowed at the break of dawn, a quarter of a century or so before anybody with a garage, a bucket and a starter kit thought they might become a brewmaster.
Sean Franklin was one of the prime movers, originally establishing Franklin’s Brewery in 1980 and Rooster’s Brewing Co. in 1993. Tom Fozard, Rooster’s commercial manager, begins our interview by paying homage to a great innovator.
‘Sean, a quiet, shy man, is an unsung hero who laid the trail by pioneering the use of USA hops in the UK. Our best-selling flagship pale ale, Yankee, is still the one he first brewed nearly thirty years ago.’
Sean Franklin was, of course, one of the men who changed the way we look at beer, not only enriching our taste but expanding our appetite to try different styles, notably new world pale ales, offering flavours (and aromas) not previously experienced in this country. ‘His approach derived from his study of wine-making,’ Tom reminds us, ‘and his realisation that because of the similarity between grapes and hops it should be possible to craft beer with a whole range of different exciting profiles to accompany different foods.’
When Sean retired in 2011 Rooster’s was bought by Tom’s father, Ian, who is now Finance Director. He had just sold his chain of pubs, Market Town Taverns, and was looking for a new venture. It became a family affair with Tom’s twin brother, Oliver, who had trained with Daleside, becoming head brewer. Both sons are passionate about brewing.
Building on Sean’s legacy, particularly his pioneering of pale malts, Rooster’s has been a major success story and last year completed the transfer from Grimbald Park near Knaresborough to Hornbeam Park, in Harrogate, just round the corner from the station of the same name. They now employ 19 people in an £850,000 state-of-the-art brewery, designed by Oliver, with a wonderfully expansive on-site taproom.
The Taproom bar
The new 20,000-square-feet facility, three times the size of the previous premises, is capable of producing 5,000-litre brews of their core range, which in addition to Yankee includes Baby-Faced Assassin (very popular in Italy!) and intriguingly Scrambler, a watermelon pale ale, and Jubilee, a cucumber pale ale. They also have a smaller 1,600-litre brewing plant that they are calling raffishly their ‘Outlaw Project’, reserved for seasonal specials and new limited-edition beers.
Tom points out that their marketing strategy is based around the understanding that ‘being out of town we don’t attract passing trade: we are a destination that people come to by taxi or train. We get lots of local people because our nearest competitor is two miles away and we are for them a community hub.’
One of the bright features that certainly packs people in is no doubt inspired by Sean’s ideas that craft beers go so well with a whole range of foods. Every weekend they bring in street food traders, hand-picked from all over the north of England, to take charge of the kitchen and provide colourful and exotic cuisine that caters to the taste of their broad range of customers.
Nothing if not go-ahead and progressive, Tom believes them to have been the first brewery outside of London to have had its own canning plant when they installed it in 2014. Their own fleet of vans deliver throughout Yorkshire and the North East and they ship to most other parts of the country and supply most of the big name supermarkets. They have permanent residencies in some wonderful pubs not least that great place for real ale, The Maltings, in York - where Tom chose recently to toast Leeds United’s promotion.
Yankee (4.3 ABV), a golden pale ale, has a taste you won’t forget easily. Once acquainted with it your tastebuds will beseech you for more. The American Cascade hops are to the fore in aroma and subtly manifest themselves in taste, among the citrus and pine notes and sophisticated layers of fruity malts and butterscotch sweetness. It’s a beer that slips down effortlessly, affably and 'moreishly'. Light and airy and now thirty or so years old, it may well be the beer of the future when the generation of brown-bitter drinkers have moved to another place.
Yankee is the Yorkshire Times' Beer of the Month of August.