Saturday, January 18, 2014

An Old Gray Lady inspired session 1


An American newspaper gave Yorkshire's real ale scene an unexpected boost earlier this week.
The New York Times published its 52 Places to Go in 2014 list which pits Yorkshire at number 22.
What's remarkable about the entry is that the usual white rose icons like York Minster, Richard the Third and Fred Trueman don't get a look in - it's all about beer.
Their are plugs for Sheffield's The Fat Cat and Kelham Island Tavern; Leeds' The Victoria Hotel and Cross Keys; three pubs in York and blogger Leigh Linley's book Great Yorkshire Beer.
So thanks to 'The Old Gray Lady' of US journalism I was inspired to visit The Victoria Hotel and a couple of other Leeds bars.
Purity's Saddle Black 5.1% at The Vicroria in Leeds 
The Victoria, on Great George Street, lies behind Leeds Town Hall. It's a Nicholson's pub and a place I make a bee-line for whenever I get the off chance to drink in the city.
There were plenty of people in when I called on Thursdsay evening. A couple of beers were turned round, so I started unconventionally with a black IPA.
I ordered Purity's Saddle Black 5.1% for a number of reasons. Firstly, I'd enjoyed the Warwickshire outfit's beers while at the terrific Wellington Pub in Birmingham city centre last year.
Secondly, I saw the cycling logo on the pump clip, and I was only a stone's throw from where the 2014 Tour de France Grand Depart will be on July 5.
It was a nice drink if a strange one for me to start with. But then again black IPA's are supposed to be unconventional, so maybe it's perfectly acceptable kick-off beer?
A quick visit to the Purity website reveals the brewer's description of the beer.
It says: "Saddle Black (is) a full-flavoured hoppy black beer, dedicated to cyclists and available in cask from the end of November until March 2014. Saddle Black is brewed using smoked, chocolate and black malts and New World hops Chinook and Cascade. Together these create a well-rounded beer with aromas of citrus, chocolate and espresso."
Part way through my session, I was joined by two friends and citizens of Leeds. So we bagged one of The Vic's famous booths to begin our Leeds session in earnest.
The aforementioned turned round clips were flipped barside to reveal two handpulls of Lancaster Ales Blueberry Ale 4.3%. So we all went for that.
It was a pleasant pale beer, which sparked an inevitable conversation about Bradfield Belgian Blue and  also revealed that one of my friends is a big fan of Saltaire's Rasberry Blonde.
Next up we went for a native beer. Now Leeds Pale 3.8% is a beer I've fallen in and out of love with over the past few years. But the pint in The Vic was superb and has put this beer firmly back on my radar.
After something to eat, which I think is a fine feature of Nicholson's pubs, it was time for a move. But not before we had one last good look at The Victoria Hotel, with its fine decor and plush front room.
The blue plaque outside reveals the hotel was built in 1865 to help people attending the Assizes at Leeds Town Hall. Accommodation included spacious dining rooms, bars, private sitting rooms, a large meeting room, 28 bedrooms and a billiard room.
Now, I don't think it's a hotel anymore and I didn't see any signs of that game of yesteryear, billiards - but this Victorian beauty is still thriving.
Why not pay The Vic and other Leeds pubs a visit. 
Join us shortly for part two, which will feature a prolonged supping session watching Masters Snooker in The Templar Hotel and and a nightcap porter in Leeds' oldest pub, Whitelock's, Established 1715.

You can read the New York Times article about Yorkshire's pubs here: 



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