Category Archives: beer in leeds

Signs of a Healthy Beer Culture: Leeds

453px-Leeds_civic_hallI read Boak and Bailey’s blog post this morning with some enthusiasm. Why? Because it’s succinct, not too-navel-gazy, kind of fun, and puts the idea of definable beer culture in a box. Which I like, actually; It’s something to hold onto. Anyway, in the way that the best blogging does, it’s been niggling at me since, and I’ve yet resisted temptation to apply it to my stomping ground, Leeds. That is, until Bailey asked me directly how Leeds would fare in the comments.

So, here are my thoughts. Feel free to agree, disagree, or generally call bullshit…

1. There is a drinking establishment within walking distance of where you live where you like to spend time, and which serves decent beer.

– Yes, plenty. Bear in mind this is where I live – not you – but in general, I can’t answer this without much more certainty than Leeds has a decent amount of pubs and hopefully there’s one where you can at least have a pint of beer in decent condition and a good chinwag with your mates or watch the footy. For me (I live in Bramley), it’s The Rodley Barge, The Abbey Inn, and – from about three weeks ago – The Bridge Inn.

2. If you are skint, there is an acceptable drinking establishment within walking distance which sells decent beer at ‘bargain’ prices.

– See above, to be fair; although there’s a strata of pubs that I don’t –  and wouldn’t – frequent.

3. If you fancy something special, there is a pub or bar within reach on public transport  which sells imports and ‘craft beer’.

– Well, perhaps we’ve been spoiled with North Bar’s existence for the last few years.  Add the likes of Friends of Ham and BrewDog Leeds to the mix and you’re set if you want to jump into the next price point up. Oddly, I also have the advantage of being able to spend the same travelling time going to Bradford and dropping in at The Sparrow – although I don’t do that as much as Leeds. The reality is many pubs – in the centre, perhaps – may have a pedestrian bar but will have a few Belgians and Americans lurking in the fridges.

4. The nearest town/city centre has a range of pubs serving different demographics, and offering between them a range of locally-produced beers alongside national brands.

– I can’t even really go into too much detail here without bumping up wordcount; but yes. Leeds has it all from a pub point of view; perhaps most importantly pricing/demographic range. Craft Beer, Sports Bars, Gastropubs and Pubs of all levels of beer choice, pricing and clientele; from Whitelocks and The Adelphi to out clutch of Wetherspoons to the likes of The Angel Inn (Smiths) and one Brewpub in The Fox & Newt.

5. There is a well-established family/regional brewery.

– Leeds doesn’t have one per se since the demise of Tetley’s; but of course we have the likes of Samuel Smith’s, Timothy Taylor, Theakstons, Black Sheep & Copper Dragon being popular in the city. Interestingly, it may not be too long (perhaps in the next five years), that the output of the likes of Ilkley, Ossett, Saltaire and Leeds could push into this category, such is the popularity and exposure Leeds has to those brewery’s beers.

6. There are several breweries founded since 1975.

– Well, again see above – not Leeds per se, but plenty from ‘the region’ (being the middle part of Yorkshire).  Rodham’s (Otley) enjoy popularity amongst a crowd who perhaps remember the beers being more widely available than they are now.

7. There is at least one brewery founded since 2005.

– Well, there’s three main ones for Leeds: Leeds, Ridgeside and Kirkstall. If you go further afield into the surrounding areas you can pull in Ilkley, Wharfebank and Salamander in Bradford. But again, that’s kind of cheating. There’s smaller outfits like Sunbeam Ales and Bobage.

leedspaleale8. There is a regional speciality — a beer people ‘must drink’ when they visit.

Now this is the one that really got me thinking – and spurred a little debate on the original blog. It’s a surprisingly difficult question to answer. The main issue for me is that Leeds has no specialty since Tetley’s disappeared elsewhere to be brewed; it was, at its peak, a beer that would only taste right here. Those days are probably gone.

I would stick my neck out and say that Taylor’s Landlord has usurped many ‘standard’ pumps across the city as the ‘local, dependable, popular’ beer. However, two modern choices come to mind; Leeds Pale, which has an incredible footprint in terms of both popularity and availablilty, and Kirkstall’s Black Band Porter – probably available less, but incredibly popular when it’s on. But the term ‘must drink’ is the part that brings subjectivity into it; that depends on the visitor. The reality is that Kirkstall and Leeds are insanely popular in Leeds; and that’s reflected in their beers. I’d recommend both to visitors, of course. Perhaps that’s the kernel of the question.

9. There is an independent off licence (‘bottle shop’).

Beer Ritz. Nuff ‘said really.

10. There is a shop selling home brewing supplies.

– Er, technically yes; there’s Abbey Homebrew on Kirkstall Road. When it opens, or who it sells to, is an entirely different question…

11. There is at least one beer festival in the region.

– Take your pick. Occasionally it feels like there’s one every weekend within a bus ride!

So…those deliberately vague terms kind of skewed my thinking – in a good way. I wanted to write about Leeds, but realised when I started that so much of what makes Leeds Beer Culture ™ great is that it’s a mix of everything. This sounds obvious – and you can draw parallels with Leeds’ multicultural makeup in possibly everything else we do, such as food, art and fashion – but it’s easy to take it for granted. Leeds seems to want for…well, not much, to be honest, in Beer terms. The suburbs will fare less well, of course; but perhaps that’s another plus point for Leeds; it’s small enough to get to the town centre relatively quickly.

I’ve spent whole days drinking in Leeds and can remain, if I want to, drinking entirely ‘Yorkshire’, ‘Northern’ or ‘Other’, in whatever setting I want; that’s the beauty of my home city. That’s my Beer Culture; I’m incredibly lucky, and perhaps a little spoiled, to have it.

Drinkers of Leeds, let me know what you think. This blog was written and posted up quickly on purpose, as to allow not much time for research or thinking, because that’s how questions like this should truly be answered. 

>Copper Dragon Conqueror

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I’d been hearing incredibly positive whispers about Copper Dragon’snew beer for a few weeks now, so when it popped up on the bar at Veritas, I had to get my hands on some.

Conqueror (3.6%), on the surface, looks like your bog-standard pale ale; tight white head and soft amber colour, vaguely medieval pump clip*. But when you lift it to your lips, you realise it’s a whole lot more. Mango, Lychee and even a hint of Strawberry float up your nose, and on the taste, Conqueror reveals itself to be a wonderfully balanced, supremely quaffable Pale Ale, with a seriously clean finish. There’s so much flavour for such a low abv, and the it’s simply a top-notch beer.
We all know that Oliver Fozard will soon be (if not already) ensconced in his new role at Rooster’s; his parting gift to Copper Dragon turns out to be their finest yet. I’m one person hoping Conqueror hangs around untouched and untCheck Spellingweaked; and I’m sure after you drink it, you will too. It’s on at Veritas now.
*And yes, I know it’s William the Conqueror. But you get my point.

>Sausage and Bean Stew with Pelforth Brune

>Christ, where did that sun go? Yorkshire’s been battered by winds, rain and the air has turned almost Autumnal; fresh, crisp and decidedly chilly. Pavlovian, almost, thoughts turn to heartier fare than I should really be eating at this time of the year.

To whip up a quick Sausage & Bean Stew, begin by sweating down a large onion in some Olive oil and a knob of butter to avoid burning. Add to that some lardons or chopped, smoked Bacon. When the bacon has cooked a little, add a touch more oil and some Sausagemeat. I recommend popping two types out of their skins; a rough-textured, herby one – such as Lincolnshire, and then a spicy one; any Tuscan, Merguez or Chilli sausages will do. Split out into little balls, and cook them until they brown. Finally, add some chopped Mushrooms.
When the Sausage is cooked, add a couple of tins of Chopped Tomatoes, 2 tins of Butter Beans (or indeed any beans you like) and stir well. Add 5 large cloves of minced or pressed Garlic, a squeeze of tomato puree, salt, black pepper, and some chopped Sage. Simmer until the sauce has thickened to your liking and serve with some suitably Rustic bread.
To drink, we put away a couple of bottles of Pelforth Brune (6.5%abv). Pelforth were founded in 1914 in France, but now resides comfortably in Heineken’s stable, alongside the likes of Affligem and Zagorka. Get past the impossibly-cute 25cl bottle and the even-more-impossibly cute Pelican label, and you’ve got a sweet Belgian Brown ale, with Vanilla, Oak and Roast coffee on the nose. It’s a smooth, very sweet beer, with the same hints of oak in the taste but with a slightly drying, black-cherry note at the end of the sip. It’s not massively refined by any means, but a pleasant enough beer and more than a match for the robust flavours of the stew. There’s a Blonde in the range too, but I found that incredibly thin and bland; not The Good Stuff at all!

>Kirkstall Land Award

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….Just a quick note to let you all know that Kirkstall Brewery’s Black Band Porterwas crowned ‘Beer of The Festival’ at the Skipton Beer Festival last weekend. Rightly so; it’s a fantastic beer, well balanced and massively tasty. Well done.

I’m sure this will be a regular occurrence for Dave Sanders and his crew, and a sign of things to come for such a new brewery to win an accolade so soon after their inception. You can get Kirkstall’s beers at Mr Foley’s and North if in Leeds. Let me know if I’ve missed any other outlets out.

>Thwaites Indus IPA

> Thwaites continue on their journey with new beers and styles with Indus IPA(4.6%abv). Named after a ship that very well may have journeyed eastwards whilst Daniel Thwaites was alive, Indus may not satisfy fans of US-Style Hop-Bomb IPA’s, but there’s plenty to recommend.

Brassy Amber in colour, it’s a vibrant, well-conditioned bottle. The nose, as you’d expect, is Citrus-led but with Orange or Tangerine being the dominant note. That softness continues into the sip; a well-rounded toffee sweetness that is stopped from being slightly too sweet by another bitter Orange/Lemon sharpness hit at the end; a full, sweet finish rather than drying.
Thwaites’ beers are usually well-made and solid; Indus IPA is another beer that hits that mark, and is definitely worth a look.
Apologies for the stock picture. Strangely – and it’s something I have never done before – I deleted the original picture before use. Must be getting old.

>Black Sheep Imperial Russian Stout

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I finally managed to get in gear and taste Black Sheep’s Imperial Russian Stout, which has been (and probably still is – just) on at Veritason Great George Street. At 8.5% abv, it’s not quite on the massive ‘Imperial’ side of things, nor is it your average bar-top stout, but I must say I enjoyed it.

On the nose there’s hints of cherry and smoke, along with a decent ‘oakiness’. That smoke dies somewhat on the taste, but the oak and fruit remains, with with fruit coming more to fore; raisin, almond, and digestive biscuits all battling it out before that drying coffee and black chocolate note comes in at the end to wrap things up.
The alcohol is up front – it does taste 8.5% – but that’s only a minor detraction for me. I enjoyed the beer; and as with their Porter , I’m really pleased to see Black Sheep branching out. I hope we see more of this sort of thing from them. Oh, and by the way – the pump clip rocks. Nice artwork, Black Sheep, thumbs up from me!
I wasn’t the only one to enjoy the beer – here’s Ghostie’s take on proceedings. Oh, and by the way – if you choose to eat at Veritas, I can recommend the Duck Liver Pate. It’s Awesome.

Turkey & Brie Turnovers with Gadds’ No 3

These little beauties are a little twist on the classic Turkey and Brie sandwich, and take no time at all to make if you’ve got some pre-made or frozen puff pastry. They’re also a great way to use up leftovers. First, Heat your oven to 200c. Roll your pastry out onto a floured surface, into whatever shape you like – triangles or circles will work best.

Then,take your leftover Roast Turkey or cooked, sliced Turkey, and lay in the middle of the pastry. On top of that lay some thick slices of Brie, and then finish that with some slices of either cooked, cold, bacon, or smoked cooked ham.Fold over the pastry to make your pasty shape, then crimp the edges and egg-wash. Bake until golden, and serve with such treats as Chilli Jam, Spicy Chutney or Sweet Onion Relish.
As for a cheeky beer to wash this down with, Gadds’ No 3 hits the mark. This classic Pale Ale (5%abv) is brilliant-gold in colour, there’s that familiar English-hopped green-earthiness going on on the nose and finish which doesn’t overpower the smoky/sweet food; the beer is bright enough just to cleanse the palate but has a decent enough malt backbone to remain satisfying. Gadds’ beers are generally excellent, and I find No 3 to be a really versatile, simple, beer that goes with a number of dishes. Do check them out if you haven’t done so already.

>One To Watch: RedWillow Brewery

>OK; full disclosure time. I met Toby McKenzie (Head Honcho at RedWillow) last year, when the brewery was in its infancy, and subsequently ended up helping him out with various tasting notes for his (then large and very much experimental) batch of beers. It’s the first time I’d done anything like that and was a fun project to do.

Even more fun, however, was seeing the brewery take shape and grow, see those first beers get refined and then finally brewed up and sent out. Seeing as though RedWillow’s beers are now trickling over the Pennines into Yorkshire and beyond, I felt that now was the time to drum up some more support. Ageless Double IPA (7.2abv) is now gracing the bar at Mr Foley’s, and I understand The Grove have some, too. I needn’t have worried about the end product not being as good as those test brews; it’s even better. Thick, lasting head, a lovely burnished-golden colour and a thick mouthfeel that gives way to a blast of Citrus that lies somewhere between Mango and Pineapple; and the finish is long and thirst-quenching. Way more drinkable than the 7.2%abv would suggest, it’s a wonderful beer and I strongly suggest you go try it now. Because ultimately, the more people we get to drink it, the better it sells, and the better it sells, the more we will get. Simple.
The blog is called The Good Stuff. No matter in what capacity I’ve helped out, this is not a case of nepotism and that’s why I came clean at the start – Ageless DIPA is a wonderful beer, and knowing the kinds of people who read this blog, I’m sure you’ll agree. It would be a crime for me to shy away from ever featuring Toby’s work here; especially given the hard work Toby and his family have put in, all in the name of great beer.
If you’ve not done so already, check out RedWillow’s blog. It’s one of those rare beasts; updated regularly, honest, and interesting.

>Durham Something Blue

> Ok, it’s a little early for a ‘Royal Wedding’ beer review, but given that I’m going to be in Liverpool on a stag do all weekend, I may indeed miss the chance. Although I’m not interested at all in ‘Royal Wedding Specials’, Durham’s caught the eye for a number of reasons.

Firstly; a 10%abv Barley Wine is not your average re-badged, pun-titled offering. Neither does it have an awful label (I’m looking at you, Castle Rock). In fact, you wouldn’t even know it’s a ‘Royal Wedding Beer’ unless you bought it and read the tiny note on the label. So – What’s it like? Well, if I had to boil it down to one word it’s this: Powerful. Hopped entirely with Fuggles – which is interesting enough – this is an absolute bruiser. Dark Amber in colour, there’s a massive alcohol nose, some faint citrus, and a little spice; more akin to a Christmas cake cinnamon/clove sort of vibe than serious heat. On the sip, it’s tongue-coating and sweet; rounded enough but quite heavy. There’s more of that cakiness, but the finish has a strong undercurrent of Orange and Tangerine. Finally, that alcohol smacks you in the mouth at the end.
It’s not a bad beer at all; but it’s big, big, big and one for sipping, for sure. However, I take my hat off to Durham for not cashing in using all the typical hooks, and brewing a beer that would sit alongside their core range to celebrate the nuptuals.

>More Bang For Your Buxton: Buxton Brewery Pt2

> Ok, ok, enough with the puns. Time to crack on with more Buxton appreciation. Axe Edge (6.8%abv) is now an award winner – it picked up ‘Best Strong Ale’ in this years Bradford Beer Festival, which goes some in way in boosting the image of tastes of us Northern Folk. To be honest, it would only have been a matter of time before it did scoop a plaudit, simply because it’s a great beer. The hop profile tells you all you need to know; it’s like a great big tropical fruit juice party in the top of the glass courtesy of loads of Amarillo, Citra and Nelson Sauvin. Lychee, Mango, Strawberry, Grapefruit and sweet Orange dominate the nose, and yet despite it’s heft in terms of abv, the sip is deceptively light, with only a slight warming alchohol note coming through late on. It’s well balanced and fruity, refreshing and substantial; a great beer simply. The bottle I tried contained some really fresh beer too – the best aroma on a beer I’ve tried since these.

Axe Edge’s little brother, Moor Top (3.6%abv) is a corker too. Again, the boundaries of ‘Pale Ale’ lead you to believe you’ve tried them all, but along comes another one that just knocks you over and makes you appreciate simple, yet tasty beers. Straw pale in colour, the nose is pure Grapefruit, as you’d expect for a Chinook-hopped beer. The body is smooth and light, although it finishes crisp and with a surprisingly high, late, Grapefruit/Lemon bitterness. As with the other pales, Moor Top is a long, long beer and I could happily drink about 6 of them in the sun. Gimme More.

This is my first set of Buxton Ales, and they’ve really been a pleasure to drink. As a person, I like the juxtapostition of complex flavours, but carried out well so that each element stands out; Buxton certainly tick that box. Easy drinking, light beers with complex noses are the way to go with Pale Ale, and Axe Edge and Moor Top will probably go on to do great things. Buxton’s latest Beer, Black Rocks, is garnering interest too (as you can see from the comments in Part 1 below), and the lads are brewing at full capacity, which is always good to see. Keep an eye out.
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