Pubpaper 799 – Leeds Beer Haunts

Posted: 10th March 2015 by santobugtio in Pub Paper, Writing

Last week, I had the pleasure of a day visiting various drinking establishments around Leeds instead of sitting at my desk for the day.  I’ve not been over in the city drinking for a while, so was pleased to see it is still keeping up its real ale and craft beer credentials.  A couple of the venues I’d visited before, whilst one was new to me and found totally by accident whilst rain dodging.  The latter was Whitelocks, located in a long narrow alleyway off Briggate.

A long narrow room stretching the length of Turks Head Yard, it has been in business since 1715.  The bar is best described is traditional with a nod to the modern, with the acres of varnished wood you come to expect along with alcoves seating the drinkers, but with the spit and sawdust removed.   The old stained glass windows and original Whitelocks branded tables, warmed by the open fire makes you feel at home, and in better weather the substantial amount of outdoor seating would make an excellent place to spend an afternoon.

The beer ranges from mainstream ales, to good draft cider and a wide range of local ales and craft beer.   We got there well before lunch on a Monday morning to a mainly empty bar, but once I was on my second pint, a very nice Milk Stout, the first being the excellent 7.4% Great Heck Yakima IPA, the place was filling up nicely with a mix of old and young both drinking and dining.  The food menu is traditional going towards gastropub and looked very nice judging on other peoples plates.  With more time, I’d happily have had a few more beers there as there was plenty more I’d have happily tried, as good a comment as you can make about a pub when it achieves its raison d’etre.

I have to mention Friends of Ham near the railway station also, a well established bar by Leeds standards now, it’s main problem was its popularity and the small top bar limiting capacity.  That is no longer an issue as since my last visit they have expanded the top level bar out to triple the size, it also means they have a lot more bar space, and yes, that means more good beers.  With 10 keg taps and 4 draught pumps, the range is more than enough to keep me happy.    The staff are attentive and happy to talk you through the draught range.  With the downstairs area of the same size, I’m guessing there are many more happy punters now.

I’ve always been impressed with their beer range with a nice mix of styles and strength.  Sadly this was my last stop before catching the train, so only had time for one pint, but the Atom IPA (5.6%) I did have was spot on and the range of boxed ciders was decent.  The bar is airy and open, with modern stripped wood dominating the bar, very much like many other drinking establishments in our big cities.  This is the opposite of Whitelocks, but no lesser a pub for it.  It’s sad to admit I’ve not had the chance of eating there yet as the range of continental meats and cheeses tempting, it is a definite stop if you like your charcuterie.

My mid afternoon stop was at Brewdog behind the Corn Exchange.  I do like my Brewdog beers, and equally like the service at the bar.  Like the other two pubs, the staff are happy to talk you through the beers on the bar.  In this case it was to help me find a beer I hadn’t had before, settling on a guest german wheat beer.  I’ve been here two or three times now, and although small doesn’t seem cramped.   The bar, stripped back walls, metal features, concrete et all is a good match for the ethos of the brewery of the same name.  It feels welcoming like the others as well, something which keeps me coming back.   Sadly I was a day too early for their new beer “Restorative Beverage for Invalids and Convalescents”, an 8.7% beast of a beer, but I’ll return soon to try and catch that or its brethren.    They have purchased another site just on the edge of Leeds city centre, and plan to open a second bar there, the idea being according to the bar manager to run them both in parallel for at least a year before turning the current site into a Bottledog shop…..something which is very welcome from this drinker.

I’m barely scratching the surface when it comes the real ale and craft beer houses in the city and also like Brewery Tap and North Bar from previous visits and thats why having a great local beer scene in Calderdale and easy access to cities like Leeds, Manchester and Sheffield makes this a fantastic place to live as a beer fan.