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. One of Ireland’s 1990s micro­brew­eries also made a beer called Yan­kee. It was a pale adjunct lager, because that’s what Amer­i­can beer is, right?

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

  5. 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.

  6. 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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