Category Archives: WharfeBank Brewery
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.
It’s that time of year when hop merchants up and down our fair Isle are pulling those bines in, and breweries are getting to work on green and fresh-hopped beers for us all to enjoy. Seasonality is one of the unique things about Real Ale, and it’s times like this that breweries really prove this.
Of local interest, Ilkley have one in the pipeline (another collaboration with Melissa Cole, brewed yesterday as far as I can tell), but Wharfebank are letting you get behind the scenes at Harewood House, where they are getting their fresh hops from. They’ll be brewing Harewood Gold with them, and on the 22nd September you’ll be able to tour the Garden where the hops are grown, guided by head gardener Trevor Nicholson.
A tour of the brewery and meal follows and – of course – a beer tasting. You can get the full story here.
If there’s any other Yorkshire brewers doing Fresh Hop beers this month, drop me an email and let me know.
Ok, here’s my roundup of what floated my boat in 2010. Personally, I’ve had a pretty cool year. I got married, which was great fun and I can recommend to anyone thinking of popping the question, and I also decided to come out from behind the laptop and meet some of you. I’m glad I did; what a cracking bunch of chaps and chapesses you all turned out to be. You know who you are. Thanks for some great beers and banter.
Ok, here we go –
Overall Beer of the Year – a bottled one this year – BDB/DFH’s’s My Antonia. 2010 was the year I finally got to taste some Italian Craft Beers, and this was one hell of a jumping-off point. Aroma spilling out of the glass, thick with herbals and citrus, this Imperial Pilsner left some mark on my consciousness. Still, and I suspect will be for some time, my favourite BDB beer – albeit a collaboration.
Beers of The Year – Brewdog Edge/5Am Saint. I’ll whisper it; I’d fallen out of love a little with Brewdog in 2010. Too much high-abv, freeze-distilled antics for me; just personal taste. Then just when I’d wrote them off – BANG – Edge appears, being quite possibly tastiest pint for it’s abv I’d had. Masses of red fruit, plummy, malty, refreshing – but all with an abv of 3.8%. Then, my lazy ass picks up 5AM Saint, which must be one of the best aromas I’ve experienced for quite some time – strawberry and lychee all the way, sitting on top a very respectable, sweet Amber ale. Welcome back, BrewDog – I’ve missed ya.
SummerWine Brewery – Project 6 IPA Series. If there’s one think I love in anything – be it writing, comics, music or indeed beer – it’s one-off’s. Exciting little diversions from core ranges, beers to actively seek out and savour. SWB’s P6 IPA’s have been pretty much the beer of my summer; waiting until the next one comes out, and trying hard to pick out the combo of hops in this particular edition. Simply excellent, fragrant, British IPA’s with a sense of adventure. I’d say check them out – but they’ve gone now; and therein lies my point.
Other memorable pints –
Highland’s Orkney Blast – Strong Pale Ale par excellence – woody, earthy but sweet and aggressive English-hopped Strong Pale Ale.
Abbeydale Last Rites – A late entry, Last Rites slipped under the radar a little with its release this month. Super-easy drinking for its 11% abv, this richly golden Barleywine was smoother than Swiss Tony and satisfyingly rich, all without being cloying. Can we have some bottles of this, Abbeydale?
Wharfebank’s CamFell Flame – It’s not all about strong beers, and WB’s Camfell Flame is rightly the most lauded of their range. No-nonsense, it’s a rich, malty, warming pint with a lovely cinder-toffee profile.
Baladin Open – Wow. The stand-out beer of my honeymoon in Italy, and even the better for the fact that my bottle was given to me as a gift from a beer-loving barman in Garda. Again, aroma is what sets Open apart, loaded with Strawberry, Pineapple and Lychee.
Williams Bros Joker IPA – Williams continue to innovate and pleasantly surprise with a clean, refreshing, super-balanced IPA; restrained in hopping and yet all the better for it.
Marble Dobber – A great beer with that grapefruit led nose that I’ve come to expect from Pale Marble beers. This is one more about context; it was the first beer of the day on the Twissup and over it I finally met the likes of Baron Orm, the Hardknotts, Rakebar Glyn, Andy Mogg etc etc…
Ola Dubh 30 – on Cask at The Angel, Manchester, was not only one of the most pleasant surprises of the day (Twissup) but perfectly fit the mood of collaboration; a beer to be savoured and even shared – mouth-coatingly rich, loaded with chocolate and a whisper of whiskey heating everything up. Wow.
Thornbridge 2009 Halcyon. Green. Fresh. Refreshing. Moreish. Wonderful. Thanks, Stefano and the lads.
Crown Brooklyn Heights – IT constantly amazes me how much milage the Pale Ale style has, especially when this strong, sweet and floral Pale Ale hit my lips. Wonderfully hoppy, well-brewed, Pale Ale. Simple as that.
..And as ever with lists, there were so many more – but these are my ones, these are the pumpclips I want to see in my 2010 pub. Speaking of pubs, my pub of the year goes to The Grove in Huddersfield this year. I’d never actually been until 2010 and I rue that fact dearly. Pleasant, informative barstaff, great beer (and lots of it) all in a nice space. The Grove is one of the few pubs I would get on a train specifically for, so Thanks, Brian. Those that know me know I spend a lot of time hanging out with Dean in Foley’s – so I don’t want to over-egg the point for fear of being acused of nepotism – but Dean and crew at Foley’s deserve my thanks for really improving their beer range. In the past few months drinkers in Leeds have been spoiled with offerings from Summer Wine, Crown, Hardknott and Dark Star to name a few, as well as championing newer faces such as Revolutions. So I guess, a ‘Much Improved’ sort of award!
Finally, I just want to mention a couple of blogs. HopZine I love; clean, clever design and – more importantly – ratings I trust. That’s the key. Rob and Matt know their beer and bring the more esoteric beers to my attention, so for that, HopZine go as my blog of the year. They are both bloody nice blokes, too, which helps! I’d also like to throw some kudos out to Beer.Birra.Beer. Mark’s style appeals to me, it’s knowledgeable and, more importantly, balanced. Again, another blogger I trust. Keep up the good work, Lads.