REVIEW: Franklins Brewery Bottled Range + Q&A

I never used to like hoppy beers. My naive palate found the bitterness to be just too much, too unpleasant, like a slap around the face. Thankfully that’s changed and single hopped beers have played a part over the years in helping me to appreciate the more hopped up brews on the beer spectrum. Citra IPA by Franklins is one of those beers, of which I have vivid memories of discovering not only a new brewery at the time, but the enjoyment of drinking a beer with a fuller hop profile than I was used to. It was a few years ago now, sat in the sun-drenched Prince Albert pub on Trafalgar Road in Brighton and that glass of cask Citra was a pint-sized revelation. Franklins then, because of that one beer, have always been a brewery I’ve been fond of, the beers are almost always on cask somewhere in Brighton and are often found at local beer festivals, so when I heard that the brewery were to start bottling, it was a move that I couldn’t overlook.

Mama knows best is another Franklins beer that I’m already fond of, recently enjoying a half from cask in Hove at The Watchmakers Arms. The bottled version is just as good, if not better, pouring a dark, rich mahogany-tinged amber with a frothy, creamy head. The aroma carries a sweet, creamy note reminiscent of orange cream-cheese frosting atop a carrot cake. Mellow pine with orange are the initial characteristics over the palate, giving way to an earthiness and bitterness. As this beer warms the aroma adopts mango, candied pineapple and burnt sugar. This is a robust, rich and perfectly balanced beer, an essential best bitter brimming with full, flavourful characteristics whilst skillfully balancing more nuanced notes and never seeming lackluster or uninteresting as some beers in this style can become. It almost seems as though a Best Bitter is a must-have in the Sussex brewer’s portfolio, and this example is a must-drink for the beer fan.

Citra IPA, the single hopped beer of my nostalgia trip, pours a dark amber and emits a sugary, toffee-cookie malt aroma with a medley of fruits and pine underneath. It’s full bodied and robust over the palate but there is an initial burnt caramel hurdle which is bolder than I remember. Leap that though and be greeted by sticky lime, silky mango, classic citrus and a bitter finish. It may not be as vibrantly zesty as I remember the cask version, but the recollection of the time spent drinking that beer, my first Franklins brew, was a sweet trip indeed from this IPA which leans heavily on English stylings.

Old Smokey is a new beer to me, a smoked porter with red hues at its edges. It throws off aromas of chocolate biscuits and a muscovado-esque sweetness and is delightfully smokey and smooth over the palate as you’d expect. Chocolate biscuits appear again on taste, joined by warming, prickly chipotle chili which grows in boldness and lasts into the finish, diminishing the smoke. Whilst that chilli works as an initial genteel finishing touch it soon walks hand in hand as a co star with the lead act; smoke and eventually becomes the star of the show. I’d like to see it (the chipotle) given more credit in the beer description, the added chilli makes this more than just your average Smoked Porter and elevates the beer into something quite brilliant.

Intrigued to find out more about the brewery behind these beers and my brief trip down memory lane, I got in-touch with the team, Andrew was kind enough to take the time to answer a few questions:

How long have Franklin’s been brewing and what inspired the start-up?

In our current guise, Franklins Brewing Co has been running since 2012. We were started up by Steve Medniuk who had served his brewing apprenticeship under Dark Star. Steve’s initial inspiration to quit a long career in hospitality and go to brew school was to open a commercial brew pub and also produce a 4% English Lager that would become a household name and actually taste good!  Although we have initially taken a different path, these are both still very much a realistic long term goal. 

Is there a plan to bottle more beers and are there plans to match the bottle labels with the cask clips?

No. We are currently re-branding away from the current cask clip images, however, the bottles are ready and the new brand isn’t quite there yet so we decided to “white label” the bottles. This ties in nicely with our love of music at the brewery. Our next bottling run will definitely include a couple of different offerings.

What’s inspiring you at the moment?

All manner of things really! There are so many great beers out there. We are definitely inspired by the vision of breweries such as Camden, Crate and Howling Hops (amongst many others) who have taken brew pubs on to a massive commercial level and are producing some really interesting beers.

There was talk last year of a joint venture with Hastings Brew Co. How’s that coming along? Any collaboration beers in the pipeline?!

We are currently in the process of moving sites as we have outgrown our current base and we need to upgrade the kit to allow us to make more beer and also different products (keg, canning etc). The idea is that Hastings Brewery, currently on a break from production, will also brew from our new site. It won’t be a joint venture, more a pooling of resources, This is still on the cards for when our new premises is up and running. No collaboration currently planned but we are always up for suggestions!

What can we look forward to from the Franklin’s team over the summer?

As well as the move of premises we have several new products lined up. Our first keg product, Rhapsody – a 4.7% English Craft Pilsner – has just been released and we expect to follow it up with an as yet unnamed Grapefruit Pale which will be available in both keg and cask as well as a 4% hop forward pale ale in keg which will be launched in conjunction with a local Brighton film project! On top of this we have a few a top secret ideas which we hope to bring to the market by the end of the summer and they aren’t all entirely beer related! Watch this space!

To find out more visit

Many thanks to Franklins for the samples and to Andrew for responding to my Q&A. 

Although these beers were free to me, I don’t believe that has affected my opinion of them. 

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Author of Look At Brew - a beer blog dedicated to the celebration and promotion of the modern beer scene.