Bottled Roosters: GCB, XS, 2XS & Oxymoronic Black IPA
Of the number of local craft breweries that regularly sell their beers in Leeds pubs, one of the most consistent is Roosters. They have a particular bent towards pale, nicely hoppy ales in the vein of (what I suppose is) their flagship beer, Yankee, which is getting on for 17 years old.
The cockerel logo on their pumpclips is, for me, a badge of quality. Although they appear to have been brewing some more experimental beers recently, I don’t think I’ve ever had a pint of any of their range that I didn’t like. I especially enjoy being able to enjoy their beers outside with friends at the Chapel Allerton Arts Festival every year.
Roosters GCB (3.7%)
However, Roosters beers don’t seem to have been sold in bottles until last year, when I picked up a bottle of their GCB (“Good Cheer Beer”). This beer is described as a “pale Yorkshire bitter – a happy marriage of upbeat fruitiness and moderate bitterness“. It had a slightly biscuity smell, quite a lot of carbonation, a relatively thin mouthfeel and a light lemony bitterness in the aftertaste. Like the cask version, I think it’s at the safer end of their pale ale spectrum and is probably good crossover beer which can be given to lager drinkers with relative impunity.
However, it was very exciting indeed to be able to pick up one 75cl bottle of each of three experimental beers Sam Franklin (son of founder Sean) made at the end of last year. There were only 30 bottles of each sold. Given that they have been reviewed by Zak, Leigh and Rob, it would appear that over 10% of the beers went to beer bloggers! Whilst I encourage you to read/watch their more expert reviews, this is what I thought of them:
Roosters XS American Pale Ale (5.5%)
The label describes this beer as an American-style IPA/pale ale with 60IBUs and, “hopped at an excessive rate, using Chinook, Citra, Crystal and Simcoe from the US and New Zealand’s Riwaka hops, all as late kettle additions.”
After a satisfying pop when the cap came off, the beer poured a pleasant orange colour with a slight cloudiness. It gave off a fantastic mango smell and had a rich, slightly oily mouthfeel. The punchy dry fruity bitterness in the aftertaste made my mouth water. This was a very lovely beer which I enjoyed with a curry from Mumtaz, which it suited perfectly.
Roosters 2XS India Pale Ale (7.1%)
“The big bad brother of XS – excessive in every way imaginable. Hopped using Nelson Sauvin, Cascade, Chinook, Citra, Crystal and Simcoe. It weighs in with a whopping 100+ IBUs and certainly isn’t a beer for the faint-hearted! Continuously hopped during the brewing process to create a smooth but powerful bitterness. We then dry-hopped the beer in the fermenter and conditioning tanks to give it a strong and aggressive hop aroma.”
Again pouring a slightly cloudy orange but perhaps a little darker, this gave off a rich piney mangoey aroma. The mouthfeel was thicker and the fruity, bitter taste deeper and more rounded but slightly less punchy and fruity as a result. Again this was a great beer, which went nicely with Cajun Chicken.
Roosters Oxymoronic Black IPA (6.5%)
“American-style India Black Ale – big, black and bitter, this American-style Black IPA is a shock to the senses. Your eyes say stout but your tastebuds scream IPA! A jet black appearance, with little roast flavour, is backed up with a serious bitter finish. Packed full of citrus hop aroma, brewed and dry-hopped with 100% Simcoe hops. The citrus content of this beer might even count as one of your five a day!”
It’s difficult to expand on the fairly comprehensive and unusually informative label text, but this black IPA had a very tart but not completely juicy passionfruit taste, resulting in a slightly champagney dryness. The dryness results in a shorter finish, as if the fruit becomes totally absorbed into the (very slight) roastedness.
The black IPAs I’ve had on cask (and all enjoyed) include Summer Wine’s Heretic; Thornbridge’s Raven and Saltaire’s Cascadian Black. In Peculier Pub on Bleecker Street I also got to try 21st Amendment’s Back in Black on keg. However this is the first time I’ve tried a bottled black IPA, and it worked very well.
All three of these beers were excellent, and the XS in particular is a beer I would be happy to buy on a monthly basis for the rest of my life if it was an option. There’s always a bit of a thrill in having something that’s so rare, but fortunately the hoppy nature of these beers meant it would ruin them to try and keep them for ages, which is always a risk with me.
Although I understand that Sam Franklin has flown away over the pond to Canada, I would welcome it if Roosters decided to reprise all three of these beers. I’m only sad that the good proles of Leeds might not be amongst the first to try Sam’s next brew. Blame Canada!