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.