Thursday, March 29, 2007

The Wellington Inn

... I was determined to get out of the house – I didn’t care where; all I knew was it had to be the opposite of the city. I wanted a drive, sunshine, English country air and, most importantly, a pub at the end of it. The week at work had been draining and dull; I wanted to feel good again.

We’ve all been here. Some of us have our favourite places to go; I know I do. It was onto one of those places once that we passed The Wellington Inn, which sits proudly nestled in Darley, just near Harrogate. I made a mental note. It looked good, and the carpark was packed - an excellent sign.

So it was with fierce Yorkshire determination that we headed out, through a couple of snowstorms (I’m not making this up), to sample what The Wellington had to offer. For the record, we're glad we did.

This is the kind of place you dream of stumbling across. I'm talking ‘Old English’ pub-style here – the roaring fire that greets you is huge and angry, the beers on offer are well-kept favourites and the place is full, but not too full, of smiling, red-faced locals.

We took our seat near the aforementioned fire, and spent the next ten minutes reading the food-boards. It takes that long. Every taste is catered for; it’s a huge menu that serves both the general dining area and the restaurant toward the back of the pub. I plumped for a roast belly of pork on red cabbage and my partner for a simple sausage sandwhich with onion marmalade.

The pork, a burnished slab of juicy meat, was just enough to fill; tender, sweet and sticky, with a good amount of crackling. The red cabbage it lay upon only enhanced the dish with a sharper jamminess. Wonderful. The sausages were good also, real and with a good, porky taste that we all know can be so woefully absent from sausages these days.

All the meat and produce on the menu is sourced locally, and this was evident in the quality. Talk about ‘food miles’ all you want – the meat on my plate probably only travelled a matter of yards to the kitchen here!

This, my friends, was a real good Sunday lunch. A dessert of espresso-flavoured crème brulee rounded the meal off on a note that little bit higher than your usual Sunday-pub-lunch fare;
add to this the most helpful and genuinely happy staff that i have encountered and you have a real pearl in the Yorkshire countryside.

The Wellington Inn
Darley, Harrogate
North Yorkshire
Telephone: (01423) 780362

Monday, March 05, 2007

Question Time with Sean Franklin, Roosters Brewery

Rooster's Beers have been a firm favourite of mine for a long time. Now widely available at such pubs as The Maltings in York, The Old Bell in Harrogate and The Palace in Leeds, Rooster's in already a firm favourite in Yorkshire.
That's not suprising - Rooster's range is all wonderful - hoppy, smooth ales that are obviously produced with pride and a respect to the craft.
Sean Franklin, founder of Rooster's, took some time to answer a few questions.

The Good Stuff: Why did you set up Roosters? Has brewing been a passion all your life or was there a moment where you thought '...This is something i have to do'?

Sean: I used to be in the UK wine business. I started as a cellerhand in Wapping in the East End of London and after two years got up to head office to work in the sample room. Eventually I ended up as a Quality Controller. We did tasting and simple lab work under a great guy called Bill Warre. Went over to France a few times, worked at Louis Latour in Aloxe Corton for a few years then went to Bordeaux University to study Oenology and tasting. One of the profs was a guy called Emile Peyaud. World famous and a great taster. He changed the face of Bordeaux Wine quality in a generation.

I set up the brewery because I got back to the UK and started working as a cab driver (no QC jobs) One day went to the Turkey Inn at Goose Eye near Laycock, Keighley. Early Spring day, sun coming through the windows, flag floor, early doors. I had a pint of Goose Eye and decided I could do it. From then on it took 18 months to open Franklins Brewery. That was right at the very start of the new micros. The brewery was at the Gardeners Arms in Harrogate. After a couple of years I got tired of the high rent and sold to Tommy Thomas who runs it now (but does not brew)

Did you have to give up a 'day job' as such to do it? If so, how was that?
Sean: I drove the taxi and delivered the beer in the same vehicle until I bought a pick up. Quite soon I concentrated on the brewing and sold my Black Taxi plate.

What's your favourite Rooster's and non-Roosters beers/Breweries?
Sean: New Belgian in Fort Collins Colorado for the philosophy and management attitude. Sierra Nevada in Chico California for the dedication (second to none) to making the very best beer. There’s lots of heroes in the brewing business. I like the Crouch Vale beers and Harvestoun too. There’s lots of great beers out there. I like any beer that has complexity and intensity of aroma, balance of ‘primary tastes' and a long ‘finish’. There’s too many to mention.

Do you find much opposition from pubs/bars to stock artisan brews these days, or has the current 'foodie' climate made things any easier to get your wares stocked?
Sean: We only sell on draught so it’s pubs only we sell to. Things got a lot better since some of the tied houses began to take micro brews. Make no mistake that it is the major breweries and the pub group that control how much of the market is open to us. The halving of the duty rate for small brewers helped a lot financially.

Where do you drink?
Sean:Old Bell Tavern in Harrogate is one of my favourites. The Maltings in York is another.

Could you give any advice to any aspiring young brewers out there?
Sean:Just go for it.

What will 2007 hold for Rooster's & Outlaw?

Sean: More and more hop aroma and individuality in the beers. There's no news for the present other than the beers coming out next week, see -
We alsohave a bottler coming which should allow for the sale of some pretty original beers at the brewery door.