Category Archives: drinking in Leeds

>The Garden Gate, Hunslet, Leeds

When Leeds Brewery announced they were rescuing The Garden Gate in Hunslet from dereliction, a cheer went up across the Leeds beer community. It seemed like a match made in heaven, and one that was warmly welcomed at the time – but, a few months on, has it worked?

After spending an entirely pleasant lunch there, my answer would be a resounding yes. I’ll be honest – I’d never been here before. I’d been aware of the building’s importance in Leeds folklore as one of the original Tetley Heritage houses -built in 1903 and grade-two listed – and seen many a picture of its outstanding tiled facade, but it had remained just that bit too far out of town for me to venture toward. I won’t make that mistake again.

The building is jaw-droppingly beautiful, and my pictures don’t do it justice. There’s a warmth to the building that invites you to venture inside – and that is partly down to its new owners, who have kitted the bar out with Leeds’s solid, ever-dependable beer range, and wisely kept every feature about the pub intact, creating an incredibly welcoming atmosphere. Not that they’ve had much choice – the mosaic floor, the tilled bar, the acid-etched glass partitions; before, you would go in just to gawp at the tilework – now there’s a quality of beer to be had, too. It’s a deceptively large pub, and has one bar serving two rooms. Leeds Pale, Midnight Bell, and Best were on (and all in excellent condition, I might add), along with one guest Leeds beer per month and a couple of guests – Tetley’s Dark Mild and, on this occasion, Lancaster Blonde.

As I sat with my beer and chatted with the new hosts, Adam and Ciara, the one thing that struck me was the reverence for the building. Yes, they are young; but they are more that aware of the history of the pub, and the task they have on their hands. Currently working all hours, the two (and their entrancing dog, Diesel) are committed to making this work. Previous pub companies have treated the GG with a fraction of the respect it deserves, and Leeds, along with Adam and Ciara, seem determined to make sure that isn’t that case again. Given the situation, I don’t think Leeds could have given the task to a more suitable couple.
This attitude epitomises how I feel about Leeds Brewery.

Through buying up a varied selection of pubs and bars across Leeds, they’ve catered for all tastes and become firm fixtures in Leeds’s drinking circuit. The Midnight Bell may be full of modern, clean lines, but it’s still an old-fashioned ale-house at heart. Pin may tout cocktails and music as its USP, but it bears well-used pumps for Pale and Midnight Bell. And as for the Brewery Tap – well, it does have the cities’ only on-site lagering facility (when it’s up and running), and is always a good bet for a decent pint before that train home. Despite producing solid, dependable beer, Leeds have been quietly buying up an eclectic range of premises in which to enjoy them in – and for that, they should be praised.

What you have here is one of the most unique drinking experiences in Leeds. A building that has to be seen to be fully appreciated. Sure, it’s all of four bus stops outside Leeds, but it’s no excuse at all – visit the Garden Gate for a beer, and you’ll have drunk in a rich part of Leeds’s beer heritage. Catch it while you can – the BBC are filming here later in the year, and there’s a tour of the building next month for Yorkshire Heritage. This is one of Leeds’s most important pubs, and there’s no reason for you to ignore it now.

To give you a snapshot of what might happen when you do ignore buildings like this, here’s a shot of the once-proud Sun Inn on Kirkstall Road – a sister pub to the Garden Gate, if you will. It hasn’t served cask ale for a while, and now the pubco in charge of it has seen fit to let some bloke sell furniture out of it. A sad end to a building of genuine importance. I don’t claim to be a saint – I haven’t set foot in the place in years – but the pub companies have got to give us a reason to go in the first place. Leeds have done that and more with The Garden Gate – maybe The Sun Inn is ripe for a rescue?

I got to The Garden Gate on the No 12 Bus, caught outside the Corn Exchange. Once in Hunslet (about ten minute’s journey), get off at Morrison’s, and go across the small courtyard to the right of the shopping centrereach the pub – it is hidden away somewhat. There’s a good source of information about The Garden Gate, The Sun Inn, and a number of local Heritage pubs here. Visit the pub’s website for further details of promotions, opening hours etc.


>Non-Seasonal Seasonal Beers


….It’s always fun to stock up the cellar prior to Christmas (I start using this excuse from about October onwards), but it’s always much more of a pleasure to start cracking them open and simply enjoying yuletide drinking. Personally, I think most ‘Christmas’ beers are overrated, often rebadged (if you’re in a pub) or simply ‘house’ darker beers with a few spices thrown in as an afterthought. The only British Christmas ale that I genuinely like is Bateman’s Rosey Nosey, which brings a wonderful toffeeness to the table everytime. So I stay clear in general and reach for some old friends. And, before we get started, my tip to accompany Christmas pudding is….Schnieder Aventinus – everytime.

Robinson’s Old Tom (8.5% abv), for me, is a bit of a Christmas tradition, and seems way more seasonal than 90% of the rubbish out there. Tons of red, jammy fruits, a slight hint of smoke and a warming alcohol touch as it slips down. Wonderful, especially with a few shards of dark chocolate.

Another big beer that feels seasonal is Ringwood’s Old Thumper (5.6%abv). I’m a fan of most of Ringwood’s output but OT is a big, big beer with a deep red colour, with a lot of biscuit in the body, but a sort of spice on the aftertaste that I can’t quite place. I do love the stuff, though.

Finally, JW Lees’ Brewer’s Dark (3.5%abv)marries those roasted malt flavours that you crave this time of year, along with a nice, bready, yeasty note, but with a much more restrained abv. It is a little thin, but I think it’s got enough about it flavour-wise to get away with it.

But you can’t drink heavy beers all the time – when at a friends house to get some boxing day footy in, he’d bought some of Marks’ ‘Belgian Lager’, so we got stuck into those. Brewed by Haacht, I was fearing the worst, but it came through OK – a pleasant surprise, actually. Clean, spritzy, and with a very pleasing, ever-so-slight hint of Brett on the nose, this lager was actually way more palatable than the one we put alongside it – an (entirely pointless) new ‘blonde’ version of a well known lager which shall remain nameless at this point. I’d probably try this again, actually – but not until the summer.

>Lunch at Sandinista


One of the downfalls of being someone who writes about beer and food in their spare time is that sometimes it’s hard to switch off. It’s hard to simply ‘have a pint’ sometimes – you may think that you’re relaxed and chatting to your mates, but in reality that pint in your hand is being sniffed, examined and the details are being stored in that vault inside your head so that the next time you log onto Blogger you can tell the world what that beer was like, so that other can follow you and create a shared experience via the wonder of the internet.

It creeps up on you in other ways, too. Simply planning somewhere for lunch – especially if it’s somewhere you don’t know – becomes less of an off-the-cuff thing and more of a military operation. There’s news places to go to, your mind implores. Research tells you this place does this beer on tap, or this places’ noodle soup or home-baked bread is out of this world. And forget ‘The Perfect Hand-cut Chip’. You forget that food and drink blogging is subjective, and all of a sudden you can find yourself in a strange place, ordering strange food for the sake of it and not really having fun. In fact, it all seems a little like work. Switching off, I am recently re-discovering, is fun.

On Friday we decided to do a little Christmas shopping. It was a fine, bright but cold winter’s day in Leeds, and we did well to avoid the dreaded ‘Christmas Market’, fast becoming a temporary Sodom for Loiners. Laden with goodies, and feeling very satisfied with ourselves at a stress-free morning, we popped in to Sandinsta for lunch.

I can’t even count the amount of times I’ve been here – it’s a standard – that’s why I don’t write about it. Sandinista’s warm atmosphere, spot-on staff and familiarity was the equivalent of taking of my shoes and putting my feet up in front of a roaring fire. Sierra Nevada Pale Ale on tap. Yes please. A quick peruse of the menu flashed up the words ‘Pork Belly Bocadillo’ and I read no more. One of those for me, thanks.

A group of guys came in, ordered identikit Amstels and settled in for some Friday afternoon half-day working beers, all laughs and in-jokes. A regular followed, sitting at the bar and drinking coffee, lazily making conversation with the barman whilst leafing through The Times. Bob Dylan and Cream lilting over the chatter.

The food arrived with a smile, and it was heavenly. Succulent Pork Belly, crispy at the edges and topped with a sweet apple chutney, pressed into a crisp, chewy Ciabatta. Dutch Patatas – cubes of crispy potato smothered in melted cheese and spring onion on the side. Sierra’s legendary Pale Ale giving just the right bite and bitterness to the jammy meat, and all was well. All was very well – the perfect lunch, right there, without even trying. On a whim. Hell, spontaneous even.

I didn’t intend to post about this (hence the hastily taken picture), but Friday’s lunch made me remember all that is good about food and drink. Place, people, and relaxation; just what happens when you let your guard down.

>Saturday Afternoon In Horsforth


…And we begin at an entirely pleasant little beer festival, set up to raise funds for the local church, which is having works done to secure the most eco-friendly future it can have. Given that I live about ten minutes away from Horsforth, it would have been rude not to drop in. Of the few beers sunk, a couple stood out. Firstly, Springhead’s Puritan Porter was great – quite smooth, all roast coffee flavours and at 4% abv, dangerously drinkable. The Storyteller’s Brewery, out of Terrington (near York), provided a copper-coloured, toffee-flavoured beer called Genesis which was very well-balanced; and 3 Rivers Pligrim’s Progress offered a light, floral pale that yearned for slightly warmer weather. Good show, and I hope the beer festival becomes a regular occurance.

It would have been rude not to drop into the Town Street Tavern – the only place worth drinking in in Horsforth these days. Being a Market Town Tavern, you know what to expect, but it really is a little oasis amongst the overpriced and oversubscribed bars – quiet, brewriana plastered everywhere and a good range of beers – Leeds’ Pale hit the spot with a somewhat more grapefruity hop bite than usual (change of recipe, lads?) and Taylor’s Best on also – not something you see outside of Keighley often these days, with Landlord being so popular.
Overall, a good afternoon’s drinking. And Leeds United won too – what about that, eh?
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