Saturday, July 28, 2012

A ramble around Leeds

One of the places I rarely visit for beer is Leeds, finding it a little disappointing when matched against other cities like Sheffield and Manchester but yesterday, having a little spare time on my hands I thought I would take a look and see how things may have changed from my last visit.

Before I start, and before people start telling me where I missed, I concentrated my efforts around the Eastgate and Headrow areas, knowing there are plenty of places near the Railway Station that I did not have the time, nor the capacity to visit, nor did I visit any of the Wetherspoons of which Leeds has many, preferring to sample a variety of different pubs.

My crawl started near the bus station, (now you seen why I was there !) at the Palace. Just under the railway bridge near Kirkgate church, it is a pub I have regularly visited in the past,and although now part of the Nicholsons chain nothing seems to have really changed. Plenty of beer variety here to start with Tetleys and Bass, beers from Sharps, and a few interesting guests. I started with XT '8', a decent roast stout and Hopdaemon ' Green Daemon' a 5% light beer. Both in good nick and at £3 for the pair, not bad value.

I had heard good things about the 'Duck and Drake' on Kirkgate, so this was next on the list to visit. I used to always go here when in Leeds, but on previous visits I had been disappointed, both with the beer range and the pub itself. This time I had no such complaints. Over 12 beers on offer, all bar one from local(ish) breweries and the pub had been spruced up. It looked to be thriving with bands playing almost every night, but on my visit the clientele was mainly elderly shoppers escaping from the nearby market. Another 5% beer here, Great Heck ' Powerhouse', a golden IPA, was new to me and was again in excellent form and reasonably priced. 

A little more bus photography before my next stop at the North Bar, hidden just off the Headrow on New Briggate. This is a pub that has never really appealed to me, more of a cafe bar, long and thin. There are 4 handpulls here amongst the masses of bottles and fonts that dominate the bar. On my visit serving Kirkstall beers and a new offering from 'Black Jack'. An acceptable beer if a little overpriced. The pub still did not 'do it' for me though, so it was onwards and outwards across the road.

Again just off the Headrow but this time at the other side of the road in an alley next to the City Varieties was 'The White Swan'. I had never visited here before but others had told me it was a must visit place, and they were certainly right. It is a Leeds brewery pub and seems to have been subject to a  
massive makeover to make a light airy place that was fairly well packed with drinkers from all walks of life on my visit. The bar is dominated by Leeds beers as one would expect, but there were 4 guests and two of them came from from the new Collingham brewery. I tried both, and both were excellent. 'Artisans Choice' probably being the better of the two, with better hop and malt balance.

Time was ticking on now and I knew I still had more pubs to visit. Further down the Headrow, opposite the Town Hall is 'Mr Foleys'. Another must visit pub for the itinerant beer scratcher. This time though I was out of luck, plenty of beers but nothing new. I had just gone in the pub behind a large party who were making life difficult for the single barman so I decided to leave. A rariety for me.

A short walk away, on Great George Street near the Infirmary is the 'Victoria Family and Commercial'. An imposing red brick building and another pub in the Nicholson's chain. The interior is fairly dark and seating is mostly in small booths across from the bar. Previous visits have not been especially good for new beers so I was not hopeful. That will teach me ! A range of around 10 beers, again sensibly priced for Leeds (around £3 a pint) with offerings from far and wide, including 3 specials for the Nicholsons chain itself from 'Sambrooks', 'St Austell'  and 'Nethergate', the second  an excellent, hoppy pale session  the others slightly maltier. But again in good form. An unremarkable Roosters 'Welsummer' finished my day out.

In spite of my previous misgivings about Leeds, I was pleasantly surprised. Plenty of beer variety, plenty of different styles of pubs and not outrageously expensive. And I know I only scratched the surface here. With this in mind, it will not be long before I take another visit.                       

Thursday, July 26, 2012

A really useful app.

I know I am probably talking to the converted but I have recently come across a website that is almost as useful as 'A Swift One' so I thought the fairest thing would be to share my experiences with you, and see what you thought.

The site is called 'RateBeer' and has world wide coverage. It gives the reader chance to give the beer that he has drunk a score based on taste, colour and appearance, and then give a brief explanation of his scores. Of course this is very subjective, and a few of the beers I checked give them widely different scores. So I would take this part of the site with a pinch of salt.

Where I have found the site useful is that I does give lists of breweries, lists of beers they produce and lists of pubs. It is obviously not definitive, and not every brewery, nor every beer or pub is included but it does contain a large number and helps out when you 'tick' a beer but due to some unforeseen circumstance you cannot read your writing !

Searching on a county brings a list if towns and then searching deeper brings a list of pubs within that town with brief details and the odd review. There are scores for each pub but again these are subjective   and do not accurately reflect the needs of the individual drinker in my opinion. But notwithstanding that it is a useful tool for finding pubs in a new area.

Not only that - the site come with a downloadable app. So that  you can carry all this information about with you wherever you may be, and check out pubs and beer whilst on the go. Now that is something I have found a really useful piece of kit to have. 

Give it a go, see what you think...    

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

More festivals this weekend

For those dedicated hardy souls amongst us this weekend brings three more local beer festivals, and hopefully will bring the weather so that they can be enjoyed to their maximum.

4pm Friday sees the start of 'Thurstyfest 4' at the Rose & Crown at Thurstonland, continuing from noon Saturday and Sunday. 64 hand pulled beers are on offer, plus 6 ciders. There will be 8 bands playing throughout the event and a hog roast and barbeque. Entry is £2.50 for a programme and glass, or you can pay £30 for a ticket that pays for your beer for the whole day (or £75 if you fancy doing all three days)

Noon on Saturday heralds the start of the Hall Bower beer festival. 30 plus beers, (18 at any one time) with live music and a barbeque. Going on till 11pm and the same on Sunday. A sneak preview of the beer list shows plenty of interesting stuff to keep us going for the duration. If you have not been before the club is sited at 53 Hall Bower at Newsome, under Castle Hill. (for those with sat navs - HD4 6RR).

Saturday also sees the 'Bobtown Beer Bash', at the New Inn at Roberttown. Another festival that has a growing reputation and having seen the list of breweries on offer I can understand why, some really interesting stuff coming up there too, many breweries rare to our area.

So just get out there and enjoy.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Award time for the Rat Brewery

In a short time, one of our local breweries that has got itself an excellent reputation is the 'Rat Brewery'. I had its first beer 'Lab Rat' in mid September last year and since then they have been consistently producing excellent beer, with their efforts turning up at festivals and bars throughout the country.

'White Rat' is one of their regular beers, often gracing the bar in the Rat & Ratchet. A light, quaffing beer with a pleasant hop combination, it is very moreish, definitely a favourite in the pub. And it seems elsewhere as well.

In the last fortnight the brewery has been awarded 'Beer of the Festival' at two Camra beer festivals. Both Liverpool and Dewsbury branches voted  for it and shows how far that the brewery has come in a very short time. Credit must be given to Paul and his team for their efforts, and lets hope these are the first awards of many.     

Sunday, July 15, 2012

It's Capital Brewing

One of the areas of the country that seemed to be a bit short on breweries is London, or at least it was. It seems that 2012 has been the year of the London brewery, with new breweries appearing monthly. 

In the old days, or what seemed the old days at least, all the visitor to the capital expected in terms of real ale, (brewed within Greater London) was a diet of Fullers and Youngs. Each had their own tied houses and each produced their own range of beers, which although good was not exceptional, and in my opinion not worth the trip down there to hunt out. Then Youngs became part of Wells and Young and London brewing seemed to be a thing of the past.

In the last few years though, London has started to gain a foothold in independent brewing and produced some excellent beers. I have previously raved about the beers produced by Brodies in Leyton, starting up in 2008 and in 4 years providing a bench mark that other brewers should aim to achieve. Meantime also have their own niche market, being on the go for over 10 years, and likewise Kernal, with their range that is predominantly keg or bottled beers, who commenced in 2009.

The last couple of years have seen a massive rise in new breweries though. I initially came across Redemption and Sambrook, producing decent beers but seem to be a little too staid and traditional for my tastes. East London and Botanist then came to my attention and produced some fine beers, just a little hard to track down. This is unfortunately a problem for us northerners, where to sample the beer from these new brewers.

Beer festivals do provide an answer, although not perfect it does give us chance to get some of the range. Just this week the Star festival has provided examples from London Fields and London Brewing, both decent breweries with 'Hops & Mops' from the latter being an excellent beer and having the prized accolade of being the first beer to run off. Recently on the bar we have been able to to try By The Horns 'Bobby on The Wheat', their take on a wheat beer.

However a quick check on Quaffale showed me several breweries I have never encountered, let alone sampled, and some I have never even heard of. No doubt some of readers of this post (Tim the younger I mean you !) can point us towards places where we can find the newer breweries, and try out their products, and will no doubts fill out the glaring gaps in my knowledge of the capital's brewing. Or maybe some local licencee can find a way of sourcing some of the beers for us to try on home soil. One can only hope, and save me the train fare to the capital . (more beer money!)  

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Mallinsons finally get their new premises

It has finally been announced that Mallinsons have achieved their wish and obtained some new premises to give them more space and brewing capacity. Their new brewery will be set up in the near future in Lockwood Road in the property formerly occupied by Autoglass.

Brewing will continue at their Plover Road brewery until it is up and running and they are sure that the beer quality is as good, or even better, in Lockwood. We will keep you posted with developments and wish Tara and Elaine all the best in this new venture.

11th Star Summer Festival

Last night at 5pm the doors opened on the eagerly awaited Star Beer Festival. The usual punters were queued outside gearing themselves up for the inevitable rush into the marquee to see which beers Sam had found to tempt them with this time. They were not disappointed. Sam had even managed to charm the weather so they did not get wet whilst waiting.

I will not bore you with the mechanics of the festival, it is the same format as before, with 46 beers on handpull in the marquee but this time there are a few ciders as well. 

The only problem was how to approach the beers. Was it a case of taking the new breweries first or going for those you knew you would like ? Or just sticking a pin in the programme and hoping for the best ? I actually went for a combination of the three. (not at the same time though !).

The obvious place to start was with the Mallinsons 'Pique-Nique', 4.1% and light and hoppy, just the thing to set me up for the rest of the evening. Next to take my fancy was Old School Brewery 'Hopscotch'. A new brewery to me and a very decent beer with lots of taste for a 3.7% beer. This was eclipsed by another new brewery though. London Brewing 'Hops & Mops' was a little stronger and managed to pack lots of hop flavour into the beer. Their other beer 'Beer Street' was a 4% more traditional style bitter. On the London theme, I thought I would try another new brewery and tried 'Love Not War' from London Fields. This was a 4.5% red ale, and did not hit the spot with me, although others seemed more than impressed by it. I suppose it would not do for us all to be the same !

There were still plenty of beers to try though. Roosters 'North Bar Brew No1' was a pleasant beer, with a nice hop balance; Yorkshire Brewing 'Tyger, Tyger', although having one of the largest pump clips with a nice tiger picture, seemed a little lacking for my taste; Elland 'Citra-Nel-\Bullet' was what it said, and very good too;and to finish off another Mallinsons. This time the 5% 'Mr Tumnus' which again did not skimp on the hops and was an ideal way to finish off my first session. 

I did not have a beer that I did not enjoy and did not stray from the lighter beers (although the Llangorse beer which the programme notes said was dark and chocolately turned out to be a medium coloured bitter !) . All that is left is to get myself together and try some more beers tonight. Its a hard job but someone has to do it . 

(cue for Will's super Star picture) 

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Star Inn Beer Festival

The Summer Beer Festival at The Star Inn, Folly Hall begins tomorrow (11th July) at 5pm and continues at the same time Thursday, then from noon on Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

As usual the majority of the beers will be out in the marquee, which is thankfully a mere ten yards from the pub's back door,  making exposure to the inevitable monsoon an acceptable risk!    


Saturday, July 07, 2012

This Weekend at Hand Drawn Monkey

Not to be confused with the Monkeyfest, Hand Drawn Monkey on Wood Street is also having a bit of a special weekend. It has an on licence again to sell beer between 10am and midnight on Saturday and midday and 11pm on Sunday.

On the cask ale front there is Mallinsons 'Brewers Gold' until it runs off and then 'Citra' will follow; there is Elland '1872 Porter' and then Milltown 'Crystal Lake'. On the keg fonts are Summer Wine 'Rouge Hop' and 'Teleporter' and a new keg of Bitches Brewing 'Graduate IPA' (Brian's Beer!).

The bottled beer range has been augmented by beers from Left Hand, Floris, and Brewdog.

So if you have not been down and checked it out this seems a good weekend to see what Rob and his team have to offer.  

Tuesday, July 03, 2012

Monkeyfest 6 - The List

This weekend it's time, once more, to go ape down Armitage Bridge.

The fearsome list of beers can be accessed here.

Despite the awful weather Festa confirms Monkeyfest 6 will take place as arranged