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Yorkshire Beer News Round-Up

nook-flyer1-520x738There’s been a lot going on around here of late; so I thought I’d break with tradition and round-up a few bits and pieces that may be of interest.

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.


Leodis Lager – 2012

…I was having a little chat with Sam Moss of Leeds Brewery at the weekend, and in passing he mentioned that Leodis Lager had switched production from the test/pilot kit at The Brewery Tap, to the main site in Hunslet. Being a fan of Leodis (and Lager in general), there was only one thing to do –taste the new version.

Now, I’ll get something out there straight away; in the past, I’ve found the quality of Leodis to vary massively gyle-on-gyle. Of course, when drinking it in The Brewery Tap, it’s coming straight from the tanks upstairs, and maybe this has resulted in a little variation. Always drinkable – and an excellent edition to Leeds’s roster – it hasn’t been the most reliable of pints.

2012 Leodis (Tried at The Midnight Bell) is massively improved. Much, much crisper, and a lot less sweet than previous incarnations, you can tell straight away that it’s a lighter lager; it’s super-pale, thumbtack-sharp and massively drinkable for a 4.6% beer. There’s a little creamy malt backbone, but the finish is clean and pleasantly citrus-edged. Perfect for the hotter weather that (surely!?!) must be on the way. That inherent malty sweetness that has maybe pushed Leodis away from ‘Lager’ in the past has now been banished, and the result is a real improvement.

Meanwhile, at The Brewery Tap, there’s two new variations on a theme going on. I only had time to taste the Wheat (4.7%), which had all the notes jumping out of the glass that you’d like to hear singing from a Wheat Beer; a little tinge of coriander seed, some Pithy citrus, and a Wild note that I still can’t quite describe after all these years – all wrapped up in a golden-orange package. There’s also a Dunkel version on offer, too.

Check them both out, anyway. I’m always intrigued to know what’s going on behind the scenes; recipes being tweaked, new hops being added, beers being messed around with. Sometimes for the worse; sometimes for the better. It just goes to show – the brewer’s job is never done.

(Adrian Tierney-Jones had an encounter with Leodis Dunkel/Dark Lager in 2010 – you can read about it here.)

Prawns, Chorizo, Beer

Leeds Kirkgate Market, Saturday Morning, 8am.

Even waking up in the dark on a weekend is vaguely exciting if I’m food shopping…Sad, I know, but what can I say – I’m a nerd. I have no idea what I’m going to buy, because that kind of defeats the object; the ‘weekend meal’ – the one I make the most effort with and have the most time for – is a seasonal, fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants affair.

We always end up in the Fish market. With the opportunity to buy glistening, red-gilled fish as fresh as this, I don’t want to miss out. I want my shellfish with mud still adorning the shell. Taking home and freezing is not an option. This time, huge Prawns catch my eye – green and pink-shelled, so much baby lobsters or mutant Crayfish. I’m not sure if they are local, but it’s no use – I’m locked in. Those suckers are coming home with me.

Prawns and Chorizo. Truly one of the reasons God created tastebuds; simplicity, flavour, sweet and vibrant, you never have enough. Just slice the prawns down the middle with a sharp knife, clean them up a little, and place under a red-hot grill for all of five minutes; when that sweet flesh is white, you’re ready.

While this is grilling, I’ve thrown one chopped up stick of Chris Wildman’s Yorkshire Chorizo (available at Paninoteca in the Market) into a dry pan. Once you’ve tried this, you’ll be forever a slave to it, turning your nose up at your usual brand. Slightly softer than you’re used to, it’s got a slightly more smoky,  Pimenton note going on that just sets it above everything else. Gently fry the chunks off – not burning – and then pour the whole lot over the prawns. The flavour is in that orange oil; that’s what Chorizo is all about.

The beer? Oakham’s Inferno (4%abv) – a beer I’ve been drinking a lot of recently. Pale, slightly wheaty and packed with subtle Grapefruit and Lemon notes, it’s slightly sherbety nature and dry finish is perfect for seafood; cutting through the fat in the meat and complimenting the sweetness of the Prawn. One is not enough, quite simply.

Another good beer to enjoy with this beer would be Leeds’s Hellfire. A pale ale that tastes nowhere near it’s 5.2%abv, it’s crisp, clean, flinty and excellent chilled. Again, the dry finish makes it moreish, and if used on the table will disappear as quickly as the food itself.

Some great beers, and ones that  – along with the food – transports me, just for a little while, to sunnier, warmer climes.

A Few Notices…

Ok, a few interesting things to point out right now. First up, Leeds International Film Festival is getting close to kick-off; and it’s been made even better this year with a pop-up bar; courtesy of those top guys at North and Kirkstall Brewery. The bar will be at Leeds Town Hall from the 3rd-20th November. So, if you like your film – and like your beer – you’re in hog heaven. Staying with North and her sisters, I’d like to extend an official congratulations to The Cross Keys for gaining yet another mention in The Observer’s Food Monthly Awards this year – for ‘Best Sunday Lunch’. In Leeds, we all know The Cross Keys is one of the jewels in our crown; a great pub with fantastic staff and great food – so it’s a joy for this to be recognised nationally. Well done, guys.

TGS Favourites Ilkley Brewery are helping out Leeds Women’s Aid with a fundraiser in November. Held at Leeds Seventeen Restaurant and Suites, there will be food, comedy, and a beer-tasting session held with our friends from the brewery. If you want example of how breweries can connect with local causes to raise both awareness and community, then look no further than this event.

You’ll be able to get more info shortly on the LWA website here, and follow them on Twitter @LeedsWomensAid.

Finally, a couple of things from Leeds Brewery. Pin has had a refurbishment; which was welcome news for me as I always thought it had all the atmosphere of a school canteen – so drop by this weekend to check it out. The food is excellent at PIN, so have a leisurely lunch with your pint of Leeds Pale or Midnight Bell – I definately recommend it. Leeds Brewery have also launched their own app, so check out the App store for more info on that. The Midnight Bell are also having a ‘Midnight Feast’ on the 29th – so expect plenty of late-night Halloween treats from 18.30 to 02.00am! It’s all systems go at Leeds!

Leeds Brewery Gyle 479

Leeds Brewery have created a one-off beer for the seasonal period, Gyle 479. It’s an itteresting point in itself that Leeds have created a special like this; despite being incredibly popular in Leeds (thier popular, rapidly-expanding Pub portfolio serving as a case in point), they do normally keep things simple and straighahead – a strong core portfolio of beers with now-regular seasonals.
So, is this foray into experimentation any good?
In short, yes.
For some reason I assumed it would be a stout-esque beer, but it’s not; Venkatesh (Head Brewer) described it more as a ‘Vintage Ale’, and he’s spot on. The base beer was brewed in the summer, and then matured in Bruichladdich Whisky Casks until now.
Sitting in the brewery, all neatly in a row, the Casks certainly impose. Cask-ageing of beer is the perfect flavour profile for this time of year, and I’m at a loss to even begin to explain the variances of taste that every single cask can add to a uniform base beer. The beer itself pours a rich mahogany colour; when held to the light there’s a lovely plummy red hue shining through. There’s some estery fruity-yeastiness going on in the nose, alongside a subtle vanilla note that you’d expect from a cask-aged beer, and a slightly smoky, treacle-like sweetness underpinning the whole thing.
Gyle 479 is smooth; and very easy to drink. Rounded sweetness, full of cherry and sultana, turns slightly spicier as the sip finishes, and that finish is unexpectedly dry – which makes it surprisingly moreish.
Very seasonal, Gyle 479 is a lovely beer, and I’m happy to see Leeds experimenting a little more like this. Venkatesh certainly seems very proud of his creation – and so he should be. It would seem that Leeds don’t plan to let the casks sit idle, so I’ll be keeping an eye out in the future. If you’re thinking about cracking one open to eat with lunch over the yuletide period, I could’nt help but think that a nice slab of rare beef with horseradish would be a match made in heaven for it; in fact, the more I think about it, the more I think that that’s exactly what I’m going to do. It’s available from The Brewery, Beer-Ritz (Headingley), or Latitude Wines in Leeds.
Thanks again to Venkatesh, Sam and Michael to taking time out of their busy day to speak to me yesterday. Hopefully next time I come over it’ll be warmer out, and my feet won’t be frozen!
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