Monday, 27 August 2012
Bottled beer mystery - Franklins Conqueror
I recently heard Wee Keefy say on a number of occasions about a beer he was buying regularly from an off license chain on Crookes, Sheffield. Having been bought a worthy selection of their offerings for my Birthday, including ones from Great Orme, Box Steam and Hopdaemon, I wasn't surprised to hear about an unusual brew, but was surprised to hear it was from a closed brewery in Harrogate. Time to investigate....
Franklins, as any fule kno, was a brewery that was based on Bilton Lane Harrogate. Bilton Lane is also the location of excellent National Inventory of Unspoilt Pub Interiors example the Gardeners Arms, although it may now be on Part 2. It never sold their beers, and indeed, it seemed, nowhere did. Franklins was that frustrating beast the unobtainable beer, a beer that purported to be on but never was, and eventually simply stopped existing.
Routing around earlier I found a 2008 GBG and noted it's omission from there. I then tried finding an older copy (I have lots, somewhere) and found it still listed in the 2000 edition. This informs me it was started in 1980 and now run by Leeds CAMRA member Tommy Thomas, presumably someone retired from the great Harry Enfield Arsenal side that included Charles "Charlie" Charles. But I digress....
Somewhere between 1999 when the guide was compiled and 2007 it closed down, and has now resurfaced in Bexhill in East Sussex. As you do. The kit, according to Quaffale website, has been purchased by Whites of Bexhill who are now apparently running the revived Franklins name alongside their own business. Whites, as you may recall used to be mainly a brewing supplies firm who brewed beer intermittently on the side. Around the time of the millennium me and WF drove down to the South coast to pick up beer from Whites for Sheffield beer festival (and a cask for the Hillsborough Hotel, but don't tell anyone....) and it really was a haphazard small scale operation. So what, I wondered, was the beer like now?
Well firstly, I never got to try the illusive Franklins! It was alleged to be a regular at the George and Dragon in Melmerby North Yorkshire, but a trip out there heralded only Theakstons Black Bull, and it was also reputed to be at the only ever Leeds beer festival I attended, which it invariably wasn't. So all I know is that their bitter was highly regarded according to successive editions of the GBG. Here's what the "revived" Franklins was like :
Beer : Conqueror, 5.1%
Colour : dark russet brown, decent whitish head.
Pour - decent carbonation initially but goes flat quickly and the head disappears
Aroma : Hmmm....very little. Some sweet malt, barely discernible caramel?
Taste : without the above background this may be my shortest bottled beer review ever! Because it tastes of very little. There is sweet malt, and a very lightl burnt toffee/roast malt taste, and a predominant flavour that I found to be akin to hobnobs, but more bitter.
There was very little in the way of hops, and sometimes with bigger mouthfuls the beer tasted of burnt sugar, but all the facets of sweetness and malt fought against each other to remain equally unremarkable and undemanding on the palate. A really average beer, by comparison, nowhere near as good as the excellent White 1066 ale I tried at the Double H (it lasted less than 40 minutes).
So, not really much to be excited about, a malty brown beer by numbers, and seemingly one entirely divorced from the excellent output of Whites, and what was alleged to have been the qualities of Franklins beers.
Which brings me to my final point - is it really revived ?
I would lead you to the brewery website but it links to some redirect bot which now means I simply return to Google every time I click on their link - you should be able to see their Facebook page at the following which says basically the same. The blurb states"were back" which seems a little odd since Quaffale suggests it stopped brewing in 2000 (Quaffale gen) - so are those involved the same people who brewed at Harrogate?
Also the contact details are for someone at Brewmad.com - they list Whites and Potton as their friends, but the website (here, but I wouldn't bother, its mainly spoof and there's no real info or even contact details) for that company doesn't mention Franklins!
A final snippet was found on Brighton CAMRA's website CAMRABrighton) :
"EDGE BREWING Co. (and Franklins) Pebsham Farm Industrial Estate, Pebsham Lane, Bexhill, East Sussex TN40 2RZ. tel. 01424 73 1066. www.edgebrewing.co.uk www.franklinsbrewery.co.uk They say 'We have changed our name from White's to Edge Brewing Co. We now also have a sister company called Franklins. It is a separate brewery but is run at the same site as Edge. The beer produced by both breweries is selling extremely well and we are currently brewing seven days a week. For this reason we have scaled down our range of beers and are now producing two core beers for Edge Brewing and three for Franklins Brewery'. The Edge ones are Brighton Rocks 4% (pale colour) and a weaker IPA 3.6% Franklins PDF to download "
All in all, its a bit of an unseemly puzzle, and on the evidence of conqueror its not particularly exciting beer either. The bottle label tellingly does not mention the address of the brewery only a website which, even assuming it worked and doesn't redirect you to Google, should give you an insight into the kind of operation Franklins is. That said, I'm tempted to follow them on social media to see what the crack is.
I hope to post next from a far away place, but for now, I am finishing packing and wearing shorts in anticipation of some sunshine. And its chuffing freezing.