Continuity in the world of brewing

Rooster's Yankee

As we are in the middle of writing about and researching the career of Sean Franklin, founder of Yorkshire brewery Rooster’s, we were pleased to come across the beer that made his name, Yankee (4.3%), in a bar in London.

Just as Butcombe Bitter is a dogged survivor from the first flush of the nineteen-seventies ‘real ale craze’, Yankee is arguably the quintessential nineteen-nineties British ‘craft beer’, featuring American Cascade hops in a starring role. In 2001, Michael Jackson described it as follows:

[Yankee] is hopped entirely with Cascades… [and] brewed exclusively from pale malts, with soft flavours, so that the assertive hop can dominate. His use of the hop always emphasises aroma first, then flavour, rather than simple bitterness… In the Cascade hop, Franklin finds the robust citrus of the Muscat grape and the lychee character of the Gewürztraminer.

Franklin entered semi-retirement in 2011, handing over the reins of his brewery to Oliver and Tom Fozard. They face an interesting challenge: unlike Butcombe, which was born old, Rooster’s reputation rests on innovation and experimentation. Does continuing a twenty-year-old brand mean brewing twenty-year-old recipes (playing ‘the greatest hits’ and ‘golden oldies’), or continuing to push boundaries in the spirit of Mr Franklin? The answer is probably ‘a bit of both’. Tricky.

It’s hard to say whether the Yankee we drank last week tastes quite as it would have done fifteen years ago, but it certainly left us with a suspicion that the Cascade character which once seemed revolutionary — downright un-beer-like — has become rather respectable in its old age. Our pints were very enjoyable, but, like that other breakthrough brew Summer Lightning, this is a beer which struggles these days to stand out amidst a sea of louder, brasher imitators.

7 thoughts on “Continuity in the world of brewing”

  1. sadly not. having drunk Seans beer right from the beginning as Franklins brewery then roosters and very recently having had a few post-Sean rooster beers, to my tastebuds the beers now taste flabby, bland and just not hoppy enough.

    that superb aroma and taste of hops is now almost all gone and, having been there from the beginning and knowing how good they have been in the past, I think it’s a massive shame.

    thing is though nowadays there are plenty of other brewers making that same pale and hoppy ,style that we can simply go elsewhere. Back in the 90s that wasn’t the case.

  2. It’s certainly nothing like the Yankee of old. But then, Sean had been hands off for quite awhile before the change of ownership. The beers suffered under Sam Franklin IMHO and gained a reputation for inconsistancy.

    Whilst agreeing with Gazza that Yankee isn’t the same, I have to say that Roosters beers generally have improved under the new owners.

  3. Personally I think Roosters are making some fantastic beer at the moment – one need only try the Imperial Black Math, which was a liquorice stout at 7.8% and was one of those beers I wish I’d made. Their sessionable stuff is also singing at the moment. The last pint of Yankee I had went down a treat.

  4. Thanks, all. As we’ve only had Rooster’s beers very infrequently, and certainly not before 2007, it’s hard for us to get a sense of their ups-and-downs. We certainly enjoyed our pints of Yankee, though, and I can’t help but suspect that, even if they haven’t changed at all, they’d still seem a bit less exciting now than they did in 1997. Veterans are always telling us that beers we like aren’t what they used to be, and we have to take it with a pinch of salt.

  5. Hi guys – Rooster’s are probably ‘the most influential’ brewery in my world, purely for the difference that Sean made to beer when he was developing the Roosters ethos. Despite the massive respect for him, I still don’t think he gets enough credit.
    In answer to your ‘a bit of both’ question you’re right. I’ve interviewed Tom and Ol at length for my book and keeping the ‘spirit of Franklin’ alive is very high on their agenda. For the record, I think they’ve been pitch-perfect with the rebirth of Rooster’s so far.
    I had the pleasure, just before his retirement, of spending an afternoon with Sean at the brewery, having some food and a tasting of loads of beer that he guided. I can honestly say that I learnt more from that afternoon than any other tasting/judging session I’ve ever attended. Sean was a brewing force of nature despite being incredibly shy and understated as a man. Let me know if I can be of any help to your research – my email is on the blog.

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