Dear Reader: Family success for Harrogate brewery + Jay Rayner was right!

A bigger and even better future - Roosters' brewery's Ian and Oli Fozard in their new home in Harrogate.
A bigger and even better future - Roosters' brewery's Ian and Oli Fozard in their new home in Harrogate.

A personal column by the Harrogate Advertiser's Graham Chalmers

It didn’t look much; just an expanse of concrete and roof plus a lone digger.

But what the unfinished site on Hornbeam Park in Harrogate represented was the future.

Last Wednesday I was lucky enough to be taken on a personal tour of what will soon become the all-singing, all-dancing new home of one of the Harrogate district’s most successful independent beer producers, Roosters.

Harrogate district housing 'undermines' great crested newts

Shortly to boast a brand new brew kit and tap room, the end result will be culmination of more than 20 years of hard work and high standards by a single family.

My guide for the tour was Ian Fozard himself, the local beer industry legend who quietly transformed the world of beer in Harrogate in the late 1990s with the Old Bell Tavern, Market Town Taverns and Roosters brewery.

Nowadays, Roosters is run largely by his likable and knowledgable sons Tom and Oli who have prospered at their existing home of corrugated iron in Knaresborough.

The timing of the move into a bigger, better set-up could not be better in some ways.

As the recent sale of London-based independent brewers Fuller to the Japanese shows, the big boys are starting to muscle into the craft beer market.

As someone who suffered the bland years of the 1980s when beer was monopolised by corporate business, I take these things seriously.

What made it so bad wasn’t just the way the beer tasted in those days.

It was the lack of choice, the paucity of imagination, the absence of innovation.

Thankfully, true independents like Roosters have stepped into that void.

As someone who once asked musician Graham Gouldman if he would apologise for Dreadlock Holiday, I don’t suppose I deserved any better treatment.

The fact that this distinguished songwriter of 10CC hits like Wall Street Shuffle and I’m Not In Love actually said “sorry” to me down the phone just made it worse.

So, when leading food critic Jay Rayner, emailed me personally the other week to dispute a story I’d published on the Harrogate Advertiser’s website, I couldn’t complain.

What peeved the presenter of BBC Radio 4’s Kitchen Cabinet and critic for The Guardian and The Observer was my reference to a review he’d written of a Harrogate restaurant which I’d described as “glowing.”

“Even the chef’s mother wouldn’t describe it as “glowing”,” Jay informed me. Ouch.

In truth, I suppose the esteemed critic’s write-up was really more of a “this was good/that wasn’t so good” kind of thing.

In my defence, the Harrogate restaurant in question, Restaurant 92, had just closed down and I didn’t want to add extra offence.

At any rate, after a few brief exchanges of keyboard hostilities the minor spat ended peacefully.

Jay’s final words to me were “if anything new and noteworthy pops up on your patch, do let me know.”