Sunday, June 15, 2008

Leeds Brewery's Midnight Bell

A little out of my jurisdiction maybe but since I enjoy the output from this one year old brewery enormously, I just needed to visit it's first pub in person.

The rear of The Midnight Bell complete with attractive outdoor drinking area
A city the size of Leeds needs a respected independent craft brewery since the demise of Tetleys as a serious cask ale producer, and importantly one that is immediately identifiable with it's home town.
The marketing by this new producer over the past twelve months has been nothing short of blitzkrieg - indeed it's virtually impossible to go in any freehouse in West Yorkshire without seeing evidence that a guest beer from Leeds has beaten you to it. From pump-clip to website, this has the look of a very slick organisation indeed - one of which any city would justifiably be proud. Of course the ale's got to be top notch too, so when the parochial drinkers of Huddersfield (who seldom utter the 'L' word in polite conversation) are seen dispatching a barrel of Pale or Midnight Bell in a single session, you know you're on to a winner!

Three regular Leeds brews plus a seasonal special & two guests feature on the bar
However it's all very well getting your stuff in other people's establishments - to really make your mark as a serious player in these real ale renaissance times, nothing short of your own pub will do. Look at the way local brewers Copper Dragon and Ossett have gone from strength to strength by not only creating a popular product but having the faith to go on and produce the perfect environment in which to enjoy it.

A further three handpumps dispensing the permanent Leeds range greet customers entering from Water Lane

The city of Leeds is still undergoing a huge regeneration, nowhere more than at Holbeck where a new urban village is taking shape. Just a few minutes walk from the massively improved railway station, this cleverly designed complex is set to become the most attractive part of the city (so my sources say!) and although essentially comprising blocks of high-end apartments, offices and even an award winning skyscraper(!), it manages to avoid being that soulless urban landscape so popular with architects thirty years ago. I'm not a city person by any stretch of the imagination but after six years(!!) without a proper visit to Yorkshire's largest, I was astonished at how quickly my claustrophobic fears vanished.

Stairs lead up to the pub's dining area. Note the brewery's leaf-shape logo design on the walls and the bar.

The Midnight Bell itself manages to blend old and modern features rather well and as a consequence should have a wide ranging appeal. A more traditional interior can still be found at the perfectly preserved Grove just a short walk away, and between the two of them provide a good contrast in generational popular pub styles. The currently available range of Leeds Brewery beer was on the bar at the Bell including their very latest seasonal offering, Yorker. At 4.0% this refreshing ale is described as a straw-coloured summer beer comprising lightly roasted barleys and a careful blend of English and Slovenian hops that are bound to bowl you over. Well I must admit the whole experience rather bowled me over and with news that the brewery's second pub is due to open in the city later this summer, I feel a return to metropolis could well be on the cards sooner rather than later! (map)

A couple of views of The Midnight Bell's neighbourhood - Bridgewater Place (top) and the rapidly developing Granary Wharf.


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Anonymous said...

About time Leeds had a decent pub..the whole city seems to be lagging behind the likes of Sheffield and Manchester in the good beer stakes..(sorry forgot about the York pub on the Headrow)..will make it on my list of places to visit in the near future..if I can drag myself away from the myriad beer festivals in the next month or so..Tim

a swift one... said...

Indeed. With so many of the city's once great watering holes failing to cut it these days, the real ale scene was on the verge of becoming as embarassing as the football team. I hope these lads get the support they deserve and let's wish them good luck in what they're trying to achieve.

maeib said...

Looks like a nice modern pub. I've been impressed on the whole with Leeds' beers, and wish them well.

YCC - Dubbel said...

It looks like someone's newbuild house. Very light and airy but not what you would necessarily expect from an ale pub. Would certainly give it a go though if and when I next visit the area. Nice write-up btw.

a swift one... said...

Thanks ycc-d. It's not my idea of a comfy local either but given where it is and that they need to be seen as part of the new emergent Leeds rather than a throwback, I think they've got it right. Can't fault the quality of the served ale either so well worth seeking out if you're up this way.

Leigh said...

Hey ! I've an idea - you should combine your next trip with a visit to Elland Rd, watch a real team! Sorry mate, couldn't resist...well, I havent dropped in yet but it certainly looks the opposite of what i expected...which was a more traditional pub...interesting indeed! good to hear the beer was on form and they deserve a good watering hole. nice post!

a swift one... said...

Thanks Leigh - hope you had a good break. Will be at Elland Road in November don't you worry but in the meantime I'm looking forward to the next LB pub and more fantastic beer from your most enviable brewery. Cheers!

Anonymous said...

Hi, I'm trying half of your Midnight Bell at Bar t'at in Ilkley. A well rounded ale which hopefully will not have any undue rebelions. I am, unfortunately wheat intollerant, but see nowt on your website to caution me about this brew.

Would your brewery consider doing a gluten and wheat free ale? I normally drink GFA from Nick Stafford's Hambleton Ales.

Thanks again for a goodly brew.