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.

Dry hopping experiments

Our empty polypins, looking almost as rough as we did after the party
Our empty polypins, looking almost as rough as we did after the party

We’ve been experimenting with serving our homebrew from polypins for a while now. After some initial confusion, we’ve nailed the process and can now turn out pretty convincing “cask conditioned” beer at our parties.

At this weekend’s bash, we were able to go one step further and offer two variations on the same beer — one straight, and one with extra hops in the cask.

The result was remarkable, with the beers scarcely resembling each other. It helped that we added a good few handfuls of unsubtle cascade hops, which always have a pretty intense effect on the aroma and flavour of a beer.

Do any commercial breweries flog almost the same beer under two names using a neat trick along these lines, we wonder?

Polypins are easy once you know to (a) leave them be, even when they’re swelling up in a disturbing fashion; (b) put them somewhere cold for a bit so the gas gets absorbed into the beer and (c) tilt them so you don’t have to tip them at the end to get the last of the beer out. Thanks to everyone who gave us advice on this in the past few months.