Leeds International Beer Festival: Build It and They Will Come

Loaded Kitchen and Northern Monks

Loaded Kitchen and Northern Monks

Around the start of 2010, Dean Pugh and I (soon to be running the show at BrewDog Shepherd’s Bush) were having a lunchtime chat in Mr Foley’s Cask Ale house. We were musing on Beer Festivals, and what seemed to be missing from the ones we were used to attending. Decent food was high on the agenda, as was a little keg beer, too. Bottles, perhaps, but not just bottle-conditioned ones. Beers that were different to the ones we normally saw – and the ones we can get all the time. A nice, different setting – one that speaks of the place where you are. Also, and this was a big one – in the middle of Leeds. You know, so that everyone can come – not just those prepared to jump on the train.

This isn’t anti-CAMRA, by the way – not at all. But it’s heartening to see that, a few years down the line, Leeds has the beer festival that it’s (and by that I mean me) been asking for. Last years’ LIBF was green shoots; promising, well executed, different – but with room for improvement. This year, it’s safe to say that improvements have been made – and what’s more, I don’t think it’s even finished yet. Because Darren Potter, Kirkstall Brewery and the myriad band of organisers have certainly set the bar high, and will have to attain it all again next year.

What struck me the most was the sheer effort (and money) put into the bars and ‘pop-ups’ (shoot me now for using that phrase). They looked brilliant; The Kernel’s rough-hewn wood an extension of the branding, Friends of Ham’s teepee, resplendent with bar, fire, folk band and Jamon, Bundobust’s Bollywood blast of colour and aroma. Rooster’s, Ilkley, Magic Rock and Northern Monk cosied up with Timothy Taylor’s and Ossett, Kirkstall, Hardknott & Thornbridge. Italian Beer. American Beer. London Beer. Maggie Cubbler was offering truffles to compliment Northern Monk’s Strannik Imperial Stout, and Beer-Ritz had gone on the road again to remind the people of Leeds that we do have a world-class bottle shop in the city.

IMG_0794

Kitch of Friends of Ham, pleased with the Fire.

So what was good? This isn’t really a post about the beer per se, but I only drank one beer not to my taste all night. Rooster’s 20th Anniversary IPA was a masterclass in balance between Malt and Hops, and Weird Beard’s Amarillo Belgian IPA pulled off the same trick at the same time as injecting it with a streak of Banana, Cinnamon  and Rose. Hardknott’s Lux Borealis and Kernel’s Sour both cleansed, refreshed and revitalised jaded palates.

We (I was joined by a crack team of Hopzine Rob, Chris King and Nick Mitchell) strolled, sampled, laughed, ate, sampled, ate some more and laughed some more. We caught up with the brewers, the twitter folk who you don’t see much of in person, and generally treated the whole affair like the best pub in Leeds ,for three nights only. It was a triumph not only for beer, but for the Yorkshire businesses that put so much effort into bringing their best out on show.

Talk turned to Indy Man Beer Con; perhaps inevitably. Manchester’s excellent beer fest casts a long shadow – one that stretches across the Pennines, for sure. I think Leeds has always looked up to Manchester in a big-brother sort of way, whilst developing a typically Yorkshire spirit of Underdog/Evil Twin at the same time; so it’s timely that Leeds has got the beer festival many think it needs – nay, deserves –  at last. Onwards and Upwards: next stop – Indy Man Beer Con. 

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About leighgoodstuff

Blog: https://goodfoodgoodbeer.wordpress.com/ I'm Leigh Linley; born and bred in Leeds, and writing about it since 2005. TGS exists solely to highlight the great beers that are out there; brewed with passion by Craft Brewers around the World. I also edit the 'Tavern Tales' section of Culture Vulture, which looks at Pubs and Pub Life rather than the beer in the glass. If you'd like to submit a piece for Tavern Tales, or contact me about any Freelance writing you think I would be suited to, then don't hesitate to contact me via email here.

Posted on 07/09/2013, in Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

  1. John Clarke

    It sounds excellent Leigh and I shall make sure I’m along next year. Having said that I think IMBC will still kiick it’s ass. But then, I would, wouldn’t I? ( to sort of paraphrase Mandy Rice Davies).

    • Trust you to be contrary, John! But yes, as I implied at the end, I think IMBC is the blueprint, the high-water mark for a festival like this. Leeds’s gain, if you ask me!

  2. Maggie from Loaded Kitchen

    Just catching up on my blog-reading–thanks for the shout-out! It was good to see you 🙂 Have fun at IMBC, alas I can’t make it. Looking forward to your write-up for that one!

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