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.                       

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