Wharfebank : What Happened Next
As you all know, I spent a large part of 2012 spending time in the pockets of brewers around Yorkshire whilst writing Great Yorkshire Beer. One of the things I learned early on – in stark relief – is that things change incredibly quickly in this business. It seemed that almost as soon as copy was filed, changes were happening; rebrands, changes of personnel, new premises being sought. So, with that in mind, I’m going to catch up with the brewers involved for a series of short updates over the summer.
A couple of weeks ago I was invited over to The Fleece in Otley to celebrate Wharfebank’s 500th brew. It’s been somewhat of a steep progression for Martin Kellaway and his crew recently; Wharfebank are now a bustling, thriving modern brewery with a couple of local pubs, a small core of staff and beers in cask, keg and bottle. For the 500th brew, they’ve teamed up with Ken Fisher (the man behind Grateful Deaf Beer) and…well, I’ll let Martin explain:
‘I wanted our 500th brew to be special but also a lot different from what our other 499 brews had been. Tony Jenkins (Business Support and all-round go-getter at WB) has met Ken on many occasions whilst working together at the GBBF and we quickly agreed that some of Ken’s wonderful style of beers could form the basis of our celebratory beer. Combining Ken’s style with that of Jayne Hewitt, our very own Master Brewer, we together created ‘D’ -our 6.6% 500th brew. It’s got 6 distinctive hops with a IBU of 65 – it certainly is special.’
So, something a little different for Wharfebank’s fervent army of followers across the region. That’s not the only change; Wharfebank’s new brewer is actually taking on his first commercial job. Steve Crump is an award-winning homebrewer, who is being welcomed into the fold to bring fresh ideas to Wharfebank. Without going into too much detail about what lies ahead, Martin is as excited about the appointment as Steve is.
‘Steve is a brilliant home brewer, and he joins our team to create new beers that push our range even further, whilst building on the successes we already have.’ beams Martin. What I like about Wharfebank is that, despite their solid reputation for no-nonsense beers, Martin and the team keep a close eye on what’s going on and want to be part of progression – in their own way – with no risk of trying to be something they aren’t. For example, building a partnership with The Harewood Estate to use their fresh hops each year. ‘One or two of our experiments haven’t worked, but it’s the benefit of brewing on our small scale that enables us to try new ideas. We are ahead of where we planned to be but we can always do better, and every day we strive to improve.’ adds Martin.
Wharfebank’s bottled range (purely an idea when interviewed for GYB) is now available, and I can personally recommend the IPA and SPA in particular. Not only that, but Wharfebank’s experimental foray into the Spanish market has been incredibly well-recieved, and remains an opportunity for export success.
We spent the evening in The Fleece, which is a fantastic pub (with one of the best beer gardens around) on the riverbank in Otley. The team there really do get the food right – the menu was incredibly well-paired with the beer on offer. Acquiring The Fleece -and The Half Moon in Pool – has always been high on Martin’s agenda, and I asked him how the two were performing. ‘The pubs have all traded well, despite the poor spring weather.’ he says.
‘The Fleece has gone from strength to strength with the new management team of Oliver Renton and chef Simon Miller. Oliver runs front of house and Simon was recently a quarter finalist on BBC Masterchef The Professionals.’
‘The Half Moon in Pool-in-Wharfedale has traded well, with great support from our local community. Fred and Heather are our managers and are a doing a fine job. We’ve introduced simple, locally sourced and freshly prepared pub food, along with our refurbishment of 5 letting bedrooms. We are also building the cask sales so that the introduction of guest ales should become a permanent feature very soon’. The Half Moon is a cosy village pub, and one worth stopping at if passing through Pool.
Most recently, Wharfebank joined forces with Castle Rock to take the reins at The Rook and Gaskill in York. It’s a different proposition from the other two, as Martin explains. ‘The Rook is run by Steve Bradley, who also runs the thriving Fulford Arms. Since opening in late 2012, we’ve has created a beer range on cask and keg that is proving really popular. The recent introduction of The Yorkshire Lager – from the Great Yorkshire Brewery – has also been very well received to compliment Freedom Pilsner, Titanic Stout and the 10 ales we have on. There’s always 2 beers from WharfeBank and 2 from Castle Rock the bar, always a LocAle from the York region plus many fantastic rotating guests. Food has slowly been introduced – which is a unique offering of Caribbean! Music and events are also driving trade, so yes, overall a very positive outlook.’
SO, overall, a productive and positive year for Wharfebank, with some real focus and attention on the places that you can enjoy their beer in as well as the quality of the beer itself. Behind the bar, they’ve also launched a Master Cellar Club, which provides a strong link between brewery and publican, providing training, special beers and general support. This idea is one that I think sums up Wharfebank very well – a small regional brewery thinking like a larger one, especially when it comes to that area we all love between brewery and consumer – The Pub.
Posted on 13/05/2013, in WharfeBank Brewery, What Happened Next : GYB and tagged Beer in Yorkshire, Great Yorkshire Beer, Otley Pubs, The Fleece Inn, The Half Moon in Pool, The Rook and Gaskill. Bookmark the permalink. 5 Comments.