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.