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Well, with Great Yorkshire Bottled Beer all packaged up and sent to the publishers, I ventured out of my cave this week – and with a brand-spanking new bar to visit, too: Bundobust.
I’d been intrigued about this bar after hearing the concept – still at embryonic stage then – given to me by Marko Husak during this interview. It seems so long ago now, but upon walking through the doors to this fine establishment, I realised that although it may have taken Marko and his team a little longer than expected to execute their audacious idea, the wait was worth it.
Why? Well, it’s simply unlike anything that’s currently trading. Much like Friends of Ham before it, the concept seems so simple, yet no-one had really picked up the baton and ran with it before. This is not a restaurant; it’s a bar, serving great beer with great food.
The food is the ace in the pack here. You can trust the creative team behind The Sparrow to ensure that the beer is ‘on point’ without any doubt; shiny keg fonts and two full fridges showcase Yorkshire heavyweights (Saltaire, Kirkstall, Magic Rock),with US and Euro imports providing backing vocals to give plenty of stylistic choice to accompany your food. At the time of my visit, you could have opted for a smoked porter, Vienna lager, pale ale, weissbeer, fruit beer, IPA and pilsner at any one time – if you were so inclined, of course. Beer and food matching isn’t pushed here; it’s just a matter of course, casually dangled in front of you rather than pushed under your nose.
Courtesy of Prashad (the Drighlington-based, award-winning family restaurant), the menu is short, tidy and incisive, ranging in price between £3 – £6, depending on your hunger levels. Think of it as South Indian tapas (I’m loathe to use the term Street Food, given that you’re not on the street) and you’re in the right ballpark – but what food it is. Small, manageable pots of deliciousness that have you wondering what you’re going to try next before you’ve finished the one you’re enjoying. When you’re a committed carnivore – the son and grandson of a butcher – vegetarian menus can provide little comfort, but there’s nothing to fear here. Flavour, texture and variety flood the senses, and if you’ve been canny about your beers, you’ve got a unique and vibrant meal on your hands.
…and that’s perhaps a good word to use here. Vibrant. The whole bar is vibrant, with chatter and murmurs of approval, laughter and hustle from the kitchen; the staff attentive and friendly. Our dainty stack of Bhaji – held together with a sweet and sour chutney – redefined Bhaji in my book: dense yet light, the perfect blend of cauliflower, potato and spice, quite unlike the deep-friend, gram-flour heavy cannonballs usually served up. Alongside a crisply floral Coriander Pilsner (the house beer, such is its popularity), that little pot defined the menu; tasty, easy, keenly priced.
Mikeller’s bright, light US Pale disappeared in pints (and so it should, given its 2.4% abv) yet provided the perfect backdrop to a frivolous pot of popcorn and crushed poppadum doused in garlic and coriander oil. Finger – lickin’ good. Bhel Puri was the definition of moreish; cold yet strangely warming given the afterglow of heat that followed each mouthful – a pot of cold, snappy rice and vermicelli noodle, sweet chutney and chili spice. Camden Pale doused the heat here, and provided a little sweetness to balance the sour heat.
Decor-wise, you’re looking at a long room with a bar at the end, including an open kitchen and a pleasant alley outside to sit in the sun. Sure, there’s some long expanses of wall that could perhaps do with some art on them, but its early days yet. You order at the bar – food and beer – and this could cause delays on busier times. But these are minor quibbles, and ones that I’m sure the team will sort out as they find their feet. Bundobust is a welcome and well-executed breath of fresh air to Leeds’ dining scene, and they’ve scored another patron in me on the strength of a single visit. If you’ve not been, I recommend you go now before the mainstream press pick up the chatter and descend to ‘discover’ it, as I am sure they will.
The thing is, you could go here to solely to drink, such is the bar. But I know that when I go back – and I won’t leave it as long this time – I’m going to find it hard to resist ordering a little portion of Bhaji to go with my cold one. And therein lies the beauty of Bundobust.
Hemsworth brewer Hamelsworde are holding their own beer festival in late July at Hemsworth Community centre. With an overall aim to promote the use of British hops, the list of breweries taking part is excellent – a Yorkshire-centric list including Geeves, White Rose, Revolutions, Imperial, Bad Seed, Atom, Wharfe Bank, Five Towns and Great Heck amongst others. It’s certainly worth checking out – I’ve been impressed with what I’ve tried from Hamelsworde recently. Colin Brown ale is a robust, raisin-led strong brown ale with rounded sweetness and a nutty finish – and if you’re in the mood for something lighter I can recommend the range of new-world hopped beers they are currently exploring – fresh, zingy pale ales.
All the details for the Hamelsworde Festival are here.
Now enjoying it’s third year, Leeds Independent Beer Festival is a must-attend for beer-hunters in the north. Before that hits in September, however, the gang behind it are holding a ‘Carnaval’ to celebrate the Grand Depart on the 28th and 29th of June. Although more of a food and drink festival than the beer festival proper, the European beers on offer in particular look excellent. North and Magic Rock will also be hosting a permanent bar under the town hall – The Magic Spanner – which opens on the 27th June.
Finally, the 27th also sees the opening of The Hop Saltaire, Ossett’s latest pub acquisition. Formerly The Tramshed, this cavernous pub will no doubt benefit from Ossett’s guiding hand, as most do! So if you’re up in Saltaire, do pop in. It’s not the only pub Ossett are opening this month, either – The Fox in York has enjoyed a refurbishment and also opens this week.
….Just a quick post to highlight a couple of blogs I’ve been watching and listening to this week whilst writing. First up, Sarah Warman’s YouTube channel shows the green shoots of a talent for talking about beer in front of a camera. Sarah works for BrewDog by day, but her own videos are a breath of fresh air in the ‘lone person talking to a camera drinking beer’ format that most video reviews use. However, the ace up her sleeve is the handful of videos that she’s created for the Jamie Oliver-sponsored Drinks Tube Channel.
Benefiting from the channel’s slicker editing tighter production and pacing, these videos are exactly what I want to see from a ‘beer’ section on a mainstream TV channel; an engaging, unpatronising presenter, a good length, pitched at (and the is the most important bit, people) a level somewhere between ‘novice’ and ‘curious’, and featuring beers that are obtainable without being the norm. If there’s any producers out there looking for a new ‘talking head’ for the screen, Sarah’s your girl.
Second is Jeff Pickthall’s long-term podcast project Beerlines. Weighing in at a good half hour-long, it’s much more along the Radio 4-type of programme (which is the intention), and in many ways it’s the other side to the same coin as Sarah’s videos; packed with detail, colour and background, engaging and reverent to the subject. Although it’s only one episode in, Jeff deserves a pat on the back (or a pint, perhaps!) for bringing this all together. The hosts (who, in this episode are Jeff, Des De Moor and John Duffy) certainly read with aplomb and have picked interesting subjects to kick things off. One to watch. Or listen, perhaps.
Wharfedale Brewery – the smart microbrewery sitting at the back of The Flying Duck, Ilkley – have continued their commitment to boost their local pub community by launching The Dales Way, a pub guide to pubs in the surrounding Wharfedale area. The guide has been produced with the Pride of The Dales bus service in mind – something that the team behind the brewery are keen on.
‘Whilst encouraging more people to visit the pubs and use the bus company with added frequency, the ale trail is intended to be enjoyed at a leisurely pace which should allow people plenty of time to visit the many wonderful shops, café’s and restaurants as well.’ says Jonathan Shepherd, Wharfedale’s Managing director.
I know that, since setting up last year, one of the goals of Wharfedale Brewery has been to support the businesses around it, which isn’t something you hear much on today’s ‘mission statements.’ The iconic ‘Dales Pub’ – all stone flags, welcoming open fireplaces and impeccably-kept cask ale isn’t a myth either – but they are open all the time. They aren’t theme parks – and they need patronage all year round.
Looking down the list, I’m mentally ticking off the pubs which are personal favourites; The Red Lion at Burnsall, complete with the gentle curl of the Wharfe just outside the front door, a popular stop off for us when taking the dog out for the day. The Craven Arms at Appletreewick – where I recently enjoyed a pint of Dark Horse’s Hetton Pale that can only be described as transcendent. The Fountaine Inn at Linton, The Buck Inn at Buckden. The Blue Bell Inn, Kettlewell. All perfect stop-offs this summer if you venture into the Dales.
You can also complete the ‘crawl’ in full, picking up stamps as you go to recieve a t-shirt at the end, if you wanted to tackle all of them. It’s a lovely idea; if you find your self enjoying a pint in the Flying Duck this summer, pick up a map and go see one of the others, too.
First up, Woodie’s in Headingley has transformed – via a very swift refurbishment – into a self-styled ‘Craft Beer House’. Owned by Greene King, Woodie’s is one of Headingley’s old-school and now sits alongside Arcadia in offering Real Ale and, well, craft beer. I haven’t visited yet, but Ghost Drinker has.
Speaking of refurbishment, Cooper’s (Market Town Taverns’ Guiseley outpost) has also increased its Cask Ale offering and added even more keg lines. Whether the new look gets rolled out across all of its pubs remains to be seen, but given MTT’s hit rate and expertise at creating well-stocked, attractive alehouses, I’d wager it’ll be a success.
Sticking with bars and pubs, Leeds heavyweights North Bar won ‘Best Drinks Selection’ in last week’s Publican Awards. Richly deserved too – as the blurb states, Matt, Kath, Jim and the team work incredibly hard to keep North delivering hit after hit. If you’re in Leeds and want to toast them, they are currently holding their annual Lowlands event. Not that you need much excuse to drink in North.
Leeds Brewery also beat off competition to bag the ‘Best Microbrewing Pub Company’ award at the same event. Leeds’ pub estate is a true success story; the recent opening of The Duke Of York marking the brewery’s first foray outside of Leeds. I’d imagine it won’t be their last. Well done all.
The Nook Brewhouse in Holmfirth are hosting a suitably Tour De France themed Spring Beer Festival, kicking off on the 10th April. Pictured is their stunning poster, which was too nice not to post up here. You can check out details of their new monthly specials – including a collaboration Breakfast Stout with Grumpy Mule Coffee. Also, there’s a new independent Beer Festival on the scene – Wakefield’s Festival of Beer. It takes place in May, and keep an eye here for more details as they appear.
Speaking of monthly specials, Ilkley have created a eye-catching yearly Mayan calendar to help you figure out what’s coming next.
…And finally, Great Heck Brewery will be hosting a meet the Brewer event at Northallerton’s Tithe Bar. Denzil Vallance, Great Heck’s self-styled overlord, tweeted last week that the brewery will be expanding in 2014, which is testament to the popularity of his beers, both bottled and on cask.
Years ago, when I was meekly attending beer festivals with a notebook in hand, dragging my wife along with me (I didn’t really know anyone in ‘Beer’ then), most of the beers I chose were chosen purely because of the pumpclip, or the scant tasting notes offered by the festival guides. I had no real awareness of what I wanted, what was ‘good’, or even what the liquid inside those barrels, jacketed and reclining on stillage, would offer.
I resorted to something I might still do to some extent today; if there’s a link to something that appealed to me, I’d pick it. Something football-based, perhaps. Horror films. A brewery that I knew was near me. Something with a dog on the label (rich pickings in the world of real ale, I’ll tell you). Or, like this week’s beer, one named after a goldfish. Well, kind of.
Years ago, when we first started ‘courting’ (I do like that term. It’s warm, fuzzy. Nice.), Louise and I bought some goldfish. Nothing too high-maintenance, we thought. One – mine – was a bold, boisterous white guy called Morrissey. Louise’s was a more graceful, demure golden variant called, oddly, Captain Oates. Despite her naming it after a character’s horse in The OC – a show she liked at the time – it wasn’t until later that we found out that Lawrence Oates, a Londoner who famously met his end on the Ross Ice Shelf in Antarctica , served in the West Yorkshire Battalion; so there was an unintentional link there.
It was the pumpclip – named after my goldfish, it would seem – that made me choose Captain Oates Mild (4.5%abv), brewed by Susan and Keith Simpson at The Brown Cow Brewery near Selby. It was delicious; one of those beers that really, really stays with you. It’s a multiple award-winner, and I have to say I’ve passed it up on previous beer festival trips since then. It was ‘ticked’, done, tasted. It was good. It was recommended.
So a recent shopping basket of beers from Yorkshire Ales brought a bottle of it into my palm again. All those memories of that festival, the link with the pet, Louise excitedly spotting the name and imploring me to try the beer, came flooding back. The beer didn’t disappoint; topped with a creamy, tan head, the near-black ruby beer carries a nose of bitter chocolate, mild coffee and digestive biscuit notes. The body is smooth, comforting and throws a little nut character into the mix; almonds, to be specific. Sweet, then smooth, then subtly drying in the finish. A moreish, creamy dark mild with an award list as long as your arm, it was immensely satisfying to return to a beer after all those years and find it better than your memory serves. Often it’s not the case, when it comes to beer.
I paired it with Mrs Simpson’s Vanilla Porter. Subtitled ‘Thriller in Vanilla‘ , this 5.1% abv Porter is as satisfying as the previous beer, if not more so. Black again but with an almost purplish hue when held to the light, the aroma bursts with cream, some oakiness, rummy truffle-led notes and more of that signature chocolate digestive-biscuit personality that the Captain Oates had. It’s a heady mix, and one that prepares you for a muddled taste but it never happens – the taste is light and graceful – a fruity, rich porter with black fruit notes and just a swirl of cream at the end to live up to its flamboyant billing.
Brown Cow are one of those breweries that don’t make a fuss and brew a small range of beers incredibly well; practices honed after years of getting the recipe ‘just right’. It’s also great to link up with a beer from the past again and find it in rude health. I hope they continue, and I hope our paths will cross again – sooner, this time.
Pool-in-Wharfedale’s own Wharfe Bank Brewery have started 2014 with a rebrand and new identity to match their expanding business. Reflecting thier geographical location – and a subtle name change – the brewery hopes that the new look will serve them well as they progress from the brewery that begun in the basement brewery at The Fox and Newt Brewpub, to one that’s known both nationally and internationally.
From the press release, MD and founder Martin Kellaway credits new brewer Steve Crump with bringing the best out in the WB Range, as well as bringing new ideas to the table. ” (Steve) was appointed Head Brewer in 2013, and was instrumental in the enhancement and evolvement of the beer range and key to developing the exciting new series of rotating beers using unusual ingredients and modern and diverse brewing techniques. Steve will bring inspirational flavours to the local and international market with limited edition beers.”
“Steve is already bringing his flair and talent to the fore. I am proud that Steve can deliver the new brewery vision and make it a reality with the passion he brings to the brew house.”
In October 2013 Wharfe Bank showcased its new and impressive range of beers at the world’s leading food fair, Anuga, in Germany. Taking a modern taste of Yorkshire to an international market place, the brewery trialled Yorkshire XPA -now named within its permanent range of keg beers as Crystal Rain (a 4.3% pilsner -style beer) – and the complete bottled range. In competition with more than 460 drink exhibitors, 139 of which were from the UK, Wharfe Bank secured a raft of international sales enquiries from 12 different countries and this success has supported a new sales strategy to expand Wharfe Bank’s export business across Europe, Asia and America.
Martin concludes, ” Our success so far can be attributed to a genuine passion for beer, and the new dedicated team have the talents to bring about a new Wharfe Bank for 2014 and beyond.”
I’m not being flippant when I say that I don’t really know much about modern Welsh Beer. Aside from the classics – the story of Wrexham Lager, the big boys (boyos?) of Brains and the more well-known (and loved, I might add) names of Purple Moose, Waen and Otley, the first ‘new beer’ I’d had from Wales of late was the power-chord blast of Tiny Rebel Brew Co, a thoroughly modern gang who, in my opinion, still place great value on balance of flavour, despite rocking all the right notes in terms of branding and placement.
I’d been hearing things about The Celt Experience for a while – good things – but only managed to get my hands on their wares late last year when they popped up in Booths. From the striking black-and-metallic labels to the considered, tastefully brewed beers within ,the whole package shouts mystery, whilst projecting the rural, almost gothic feel that the brewery’s advertising suggests. Overall, The Celt Experience brew in three sub-ranges; Core (where these beers come from), the esoteric Shapeshifter series and Ogham; beers of a stronger, more contemplative feel. Having tasted these base beers, I hold high hopes for the rest of the range.
Golden (4.5% abv) is up first; a graceful poem to doing all the little things right. Burnished gold, the aroma comes alive with Citrus jelly undercut by fresh, herbal grassiness. The body of the beer – vital for a golden ale – has a good weight to it, rich with grain and cereal before more orange and lemon washes through to clean things up. The bitterness is robust and long-lasting, making this a pale ale with a voice – a pale ale that will please seasoned hop-heads.
Bronze (4.2% abv) lives up to its name – Copper hued and lively, with a nose like freshly-baked flapjack, all oats and honey. Before the sweetness has a chance to settle on your tongue, more of that aforementioned bitterness arrives, turning the entire pint on it’s head. Thick, creamy and bitter? Rich and refreshing? You bet. Misplaced or not, Bronze reminded me of the best Kentish ales; robust and almost stinging in hop attack. Wonderful stuff; and nice to drink something with a considered British – style hop profile, too.
Finally – and trust me, I didn’t want this tasting to end – comes Bleddyn 1075 (5.6% abv). The brewers describe it as an IPA; but I personally felt that it had more akin to true strong Pale Ales, such as Three Tun’s Cleric’s Cure or Hop Studio’s Vindhya, such was the balance of malt and hop. Semantics, perhaps – the bottom line is that Bleddyn is a fantastically balanced beer that’s not to be messed with. Amber in colour ,there’s nutty, creamily-rich biscuit again that gets hammered into oblivion by waves of Grapefruit-led bitterness, high and dry, then finishing sweet again, leaving a trace of alcohol warmth behind.
As you can probably tell, I really, really enjoyed this trio – and it’s a shame it’s taken me so long to put them up here. The Celt Experience’s beers are starting to appear on bars in Lancashire and Yorkshire, so don’t miss a chance to catch them. After all, the more we drink, the more they’ll have to make and send over, right?
Do pop over to the website; it’s one of the better ones out there and has some lovely, moody photos of the gorgeous landscape from whence these brews were….well, brewed.
At the end of last year, Jules Gray – one of the duo behind Sheffield’s new Beer shop, Hop Hideout, asked me if I’d pop down and ‘do something’ in conjunction with them. I’ve hosted tastings before, matching beer with food and such, but only done one discussion-led event before. I enjoyed it a lot, so agreed.
But what to talk about? Well, I blog. I’ve been blogging a long time and, in that time, blogging certainly has changed. I’ve got views – which I might not always deem appropriate to discuss on The Good Stuff; but views nonetheless, as those who have spent any amount of time drinking with me will know. The blog has been fairly successful; I’ve been nominated for awards, and landed a book off the back of it (amongst other things, of course). I’ve helped organise blogging events, done the odd bit of paid, freelance work – and The Good Stuff has been mentioned in a fair amount of press over the years. Let’s not forget either that Jules herself is a pretty accomplished blogger, who has taken a huge leap and set up a business.
So, Better Beer Blogging it is – 28th February. Come down to Sheffield, pull up a chair and we’ll have a chat. If you’re thinking about starting a beer blog – perfect. If you’ve been blogging a while but feel a little stuck in a rut – perfect. If you’re just being nosy – perfect. You’re all welcome.
Tickets are on sale at the shop (which covers the cost of the event, rather than my pocket!), and the event will be held next door at The Electric Candlelight Cafe. Of course, there will be plenty of beer for you to pick up at Hop Hideout. If you have any questions, contact the guys at HH.
See you there!
Just a quick one this, as this ‘Bookazine’ (not sure if I like that word yet…) is out now and seems to be selling fast – so I just wanted to get some thoughts down whilst you have the chance to buy it.
I’ll be honest: I like Chris Hall and Craig Heap. Their blogs are excellent, and I’ve shared more than a few pints with them both. Both The Good Stuff and Great Yorkshire Beer are name-checked in the ‘further reading’ section at the back of the magazine, too. But I hope, dear reader, that you are reading this blog because you trust and put some faith in what I say – which is that Craft Beer: 365 Best Beers in The World is an incredibly entertaining read.
Yep, I like it. Which is a relief because if it would have been poor, I’d have had some explaining to do. Luckily, the duo have created a great primer on the Craft Beer scene that will appeal not only to the people who are just dipping a toe into the murky world of beer, but people with more than a passing interest, such as myself.
Two things stand out for me: firstly, the beers are arranged by season – which is not only tick-friendly (the magazine then becomes handy all year round) but also makes so much sense that you wonder why it’s not more common. Secondly, the balance of the selection is perfect – this isn’t a book for the fickle beer hipster. Bohemia Regent Prezident rubs shoulders with Hardknott Cool Fusion, Cairngorm’s Trade Winds dances opposite Magic Rock’s Clown Juice, St Peter’s Mild buys a pint for Wild’s Scarlet Fever. That’s how it should be; all are connected and all join the dots in the world of beer that we choose to spend so much time in.
The reviews are bright and breezy without coming across like your dad at a disco, and the personalities of both Chris and Craig are evident in every review. There’s a little food, recommend retailers, some light, potted history and some fun little Top 5’s – such as beers to show off with. All the boxes are ticked.
The beer world isn’t without books borne of partnerships; Tom Sandham & Ben McFarland, Ray Bailey and Jessica Boak, Stephen Beaumont & Tim Webb. The fact that Chris and Craig have taken this chance and produced a fine, modern and – most importantly – accessible – distillation of Craft Beer for such a specific market is really something to admire. Perhaps another partnership is born.
Craft Beer is out now and is published by Future Publishing.