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.
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.
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.
Last reminder for a couple of independent beer fests that are coming up. Leeds International Beer Fest will feature music, food and beer from the likes of Hardknott, Quantum, Ilkley, Kernel, Hawkshead and Buxton amongst others and bars from such Leeds luminaries as North, Castro and Friends of Ham. It starts this weekend, and there are tickets available – as well as the need for more volunteers.
Manchester’s IndyMan Beer Convention takes place a few weeks after, at the start of October, in the opulent surroundings of The Victoria Baths. If you’ve never had a beer in a disused swimming pool before (You haven’t? Why not?) then now’s your chance. With a great range of cask and kegged beer from the likes of Brodies, Steel City, Tynebank, Gadds and food from Manchester’s finest independent food purveyors, this is another one for the calendar. Again, volunteers are still needed, so get in touch via the website if you want to help out.
It’s not all Northern though – Dark Star are holding their HopFest at the end of September. A celebration of the humble hop, it’s a three-day event of food, music and – of course – beer, culminating in the launch of their Green Hop IPA. Check out the website for full info, but with talks by leading hop merchant Charles Faram, cycle rides, hogroasts and Brewery Tours, it looks like a cracker – and one that makes me wish I lived closer!