Rooster’s Taproom, Harrogate review: Low on hype, high on quality

Jerusalem artichoke dessert; a Berliner Weisse flavoured with chilli and ginger; red deer fritters paired with a polenta and orange peel pale ale – my evening visit to Rooster’s offers a host of eye-opening, palate-baffling taste experiences.

By Simon Jenkins
Sunday, 8th March 2020, 11:45 am
Updated Thursday, 12th March 2020, 11:54 am

Expanding the brewing operation to cavernous new premises on a Harrogate business park does make perfect sense.

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When they took over the brewery nearly 10 years ago, the Fozard family picked up where legendary founder Sean Franklin left off – creating interesting, American-influenced ales, low on hype and high on quality. Sales steadily grew to a point where their rather ramshackle premises near Knaresborough could no longer cope.

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Oliver, Tom and Ian Fozard at Rooster's Taproom in Harrogate. Picture: Mark Newton Photography

This much I get. But it always seemed something of a stretch to dedicate a chunk of the building to a gaping taproom essentially on an industrial park, hemmed in by the railway line and with no apparent catchment area.

Commercial director Tom immediately sets me right: “There’s a footbridge right behind the brewery which connects us to a housing estate the other side of the railway line. We always thought we would get people in from around the business park, but we’ve got proper regulars who live nearby.”

Tonight the room is packed with guests for the relaunch of the Outlaw brand. This was always Rooster’s guerrilla wing, allowing brewer Oliver to stretch the envelope with some experimental recipes, alongside his mainstream ales like Yankee and Baby Faced Assassin.

In recent times, he has concentrated attention on those big sellers, but this special event, where the beers were each imaginatively paired with local produce, marked Outlaw’s return. The vast new brewhouse includes a shiny new experimental kit for these smaller-volume ales.

The sharp zest of orange dominates the first pairing. As a tangy condiment it sits well with the fulsome earthy tastes of red deer fritter; as an ingredient it adds brightness to fruity pale ale Monkey Tennis (4.5%) – which also has a hefty dose of polenta thrown in the brew.

Go Backer (3.6%) is a sessionable Vermont IPA; the hogget sausage roll is packed with Hebridean lamb farmed on the Harewood estate. This intriguing transatlantic crossing works well, the citric nature of the beer softening the rich hogget.

There is a white wine sharpness to Berliner Weisse Slow and Low – at 3.1% the weakest beer of the evening – and its surprising tartness, and unexpected chilli and ginger kick, give gentle encouragement to the subtle flavours of Ceviche Sole.

There’s a massive grapefruit character to the firm and full-bodied 7.8% Loud Noises, a double IPA with the robustness to stand up to free range chicken, sweetcorn, sage and leek.

The luxurious 7.4% stout Scoundrel is inspired by another famous Harrogate product – Betty’s Fat Rascal. Nuts, fruits and spices are tossed into the brew, creating a beer which smothers the palate in a comfortable winter eiderdown of warmth – and forms an irresistible partnership with a chocolate and caramelised pastry cake to which Jerusalem artichoke lends new left-field depth.

These pairings aren’t available every day – but a visit offers drinkers up to 16 different Rooster’s and Outlaw ales, alongside food from a changing roster of street traders. Well worth crossing that footbridge for, I reckon.

Rooster’s Taproom factfile

Address: Unit H5, Hornbeam Park, Harrogate, HG2 8QT

Type: Brewery tap

Opening times: Wed-Thurs, 4pm-10pm; Fri-Sat, noon-10pm; Sun, noon-6pm. Closed Mon-Tues.

Beers: Ever-changing choice of up to eight cask and eight keg ales from across the Rooster’s and Outlaw ranges

Wine: Small selection

Food: Changing street food traders take over the kitchen from noon on Fri, Sat and Sun

Children: Welcomed until 7pm, but no special facilities

Disabled: Wheelchair access available

Beer Garden: None

Parking: On-street parking available on the trading estate

Telephone: 01423 865959