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Brewers in Arms
11:32am Saturday 9th June 2012 in Pints of View
GAVIN AITCHISON checks out York’s newest brewery
YOU really wouldn’t think it was a brewery; certainly not from the outside anyway.
It looks like an old stable perhaps, which it quite probably once was. Maybe a potting shed or a tool store in more recent times. But it sure doesn’t look like a brewery. It is only a small building, no bigger than a bog-standard garage, with a vast covering of ivy on one wall and two large, black, swing doors at one end. There’s nothing to indicate any beery relevance whatsoever, and certainly no signage. But a brewery it now is, and an exciting one at that.
It is here, just a few yards behind the Deramore Arms in Heslington, that the latest chapter has just opened in York’s increasingly enjoyable beer story.
Four Thorns Brewery is the new occupant of this innocuous outbuilding, although I hesitate to call it a new brewery outright. The name and the venue are certainly new, as are most of the people involved, but the recipes and the star of the show have appeared on Yorkshire’s beer scene before, not a million miles from here.
Rob Franklin, the brewer at Four Thorns, previously held the same position at the Storyteller Brewery up at Terrington near Malton, in the grounds of the Bay Horse pub. But when the pub closed at the start of the year, his business went too.
Terrington’s loss has now become Heslington’s gain. Rob has moved his one-barrel kit to the Deramore and begun producing his beers once again – making it less a new brewery and more a reincarnated one, if you like.
Either way, Rob is the sole brewer in a four-man business partnership, which is where the Four Thorns name comes from. The other ‘thorns’ are Fraser Neasham and the pub’s owners Pete Atkinson and Ed Mason.
There are two beers for now, both of which made their debut last Saturday at the opening of the Deramore’s four-day Jubilee party, on an improvised bar at the entrance to the brewery shed itself.
Fools Gold (lacking an apostrophe for now) is a refreshing, pale ale, with a lovely light golden colour, a crisp flavour and an ABV of 4 per cent. Hops and Glory (4.4 per cent ABV) is a stronger, fruitier, slightly-darker and more full-bodied beer, which was pouring cloudier than intended last Saturday but which tasted excellent nonetheless. It has delicious yellow-fruit flavours: grapefruit, mango and such like – loosely similar to Thornbridge Jaipur but with a bit less clout – and it’s the kind of beer I could happily drink for hours on a summer’s day.
Rob is still working on both recipes, fine-tuning them to take account of any differences in water between Heslington and Terrington, but the first brew of each was impressive and any changes are unlikely to be drastic.
l FOUR Thorns is not the only new brewery opening in York.
The Junction Brewhouse in Leeman Road, which has been out of action since last autumn, has been taken over by David Kerr from the North East, and is reopening as The Urban Brewhouse.
David, who has previously been a lab analyst at Camerons Brewery in Hartlepool and an assistant brewer at Mordue in North Shields, says he jumped at the chance to run his own operation.
He is currently working on three beers: a New Zealand Pale Ale, an American-style IPA, and a smoked porter. All three should be available within about a fortnight, so watch this space in the coming weeks.
The opening of Urban Brewhouse and Four Thorns means the number of operational breweries in York has now risen from one to five in less than a year.
When York Brewery in Toft Green opened in 1996, it was the city’s first for four decades, but it has been joined by Treboom in Shipton-by-Beningbrough last December; The Hop Studio in Elvington last month; and now Four Thorns and the Urban Brewhouse. Yorkshire Heart Brewery, at Nun Monkton, lies just outside the city boundary.