Wharfe Bank Brewery is pushing boundaries

Wharfe Bank Brewery founder Martin Kellaway.
Wharfe Bank Brewery founder Martin Kellaway.
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Brewing beer has long been associated with the countryside and the boom in micro-breweries and hand-crafted beers being produced in Yorkshire has brought about a plethora of new entrants in the past decade.

Wharfe Bank Brewery, based in Pool in Wharfedale was set up five years ago by former professional cricketer Martin Kellaway. Having trained with Bass Breweries Martin worked in sales and marketing for Fuller, Smith & Turner in London and Caledonian Brewery in Edinburgh before turning his attention to creating his own beers.

“I’m not a brewer but I’ve worked in all areas of product development. I worked with some great flagship beers such as Fullers London Pride and Deuchars IPA but there’s something really special about coming up with your own and brewing consistently good quality.

“When I moved up here from Southampton in 1999 I became really interested in brewers such as Timothy Taylor and Black Sheep. What is amazing is just how much the industry has changed in the past 15 years. Tetleys is now brewed in Wolverhampton and a number of established brewers have gone but the number of micro-breweries, craft breweries or small regional companies has grown phenomenally.”

Martin uses malt from Yorkshire-based maltsters Thomas Fawcett in Castleford and Muntons at Bridlington, which means malting barley grown by Yorkshire farmers is used in his beers, as well as supplies from a maltster in Norfolk.

The balance between hops and malt in beer has changed markedly, he said: “The older and far longer established brewers would probably call it unbalanced now but malty beers are no longer in vogue.

“We use hops from all around the world including US hops varieties such as Centenniel, Amarillo, Cascade and Comet that we stumbled upon last year. There’s also a UK version of Cascade and we’re about to use Sorachi Ace that has a distinctive floral nose.”

Some long established beers have been overtaken or have been reinvented with different flavours, he said, with brewers now looking to push the boundaries.

“Our first beer in May 2010 was Cam Fell Flame, named after where the River Wharfe starts. It’s a 4.4 per cent ruby-coloured ale with a traditional good malt characteristic. Initially I felt that the beers we produced had to be safe and traditional so that I could guarantee sales and a turnover that would assist in the borrowings I had undertaken.”

Five years on and the Brewery’s stable of beers has expanded to 24 this year, driven by a team of six staff which includes brewer Tyler Kiley who has managed several bars in Leeds.

“We will still have more traditional beers that stand up well against the likes of Black Sheep and Timothy Taylor, but we’re now better placed to provide the kind of different beers that the market also enjoys,” Martin said.

“While everyone still has their favourite they are likely to continue returning to, the consumer is now happy to take a chance on trying out new beers. The one thing I don’t really want people to say about our beers is that they’re just okay. It’s also no longer just about the hops, malt, water and yeast. There’s a lot more that you can add for other beers. We produce a rhubarb beer called Red Goddess and all of our rhubarb is sourced from the growers in the Rhubarb Triangle.”

Among Wharfe Bank Brewery’s beers this year are Tether Blond (3.8 per cent), Ro Sham Bo, which means ‘rock, paper, scissors’ in the US (4.2); Black Hawk (4.5); a premium Yorkshire IPA (5.1); and a best bitter by the name of Washburn. Martin also has high hopes for a new 4.8 strength pale ale Magellan using hops from New Zealand.

Martin used to play cricket in South Africa and Australia. He was signed for Hampshire and Somerset and went on to play for the Yorkshire Cricket Board XI. He was a wicketkeeper/batsman but now plies his trade as a batsman for North Leeds in the Airedale & Wharfedale League.

“The lads here came up with a beer for me called Old Stumper! Coming to Pool in Wharfedale to start this business was a great move.”

Martin and his business partner Ben Riley have also done their bit for the local community in Pool in Wharfedale. They have been responsible for keeping open the Half Moon pub.

“We have been able to help out by taking on the tenancy of the pub, owned by Enterprise Inns. I do all the negotiations and Fred Bell and his wife Heather run it as their own business. It’s a lovely pub that the locals really support and it also offers us a brewery tap to showcase our beers.

“It’s very difficult for pubs at the moment but we would consider similar arrangements elsewhere. We also have another pub, the Rook & Gaskill in York.”