Following my post on Alfred Bar yesterday, I don’t want to spend too much time praising the North Bar group, but Jings, Crivvens an’ Help ma Boab, this is exciting:
According to the message sent to North Bar’s Facebook group:
There will be, in the near future, a very special unique occasion at North, Brewdog are launching their brand new range of Single Hopped IPAs. We will have ALL FOUR IPAs on for one night only, as well as lots of other Brewdoggy goodness […] sign up to our mailing list for more news here: http://bit.ly/epQp8Z
Read more about the “IPA Is Dead” project on the Brewdog Blog:
IPA is dead showcases 4 killer hops varieties from 4 different continents. The result is 4 radically different single hop IPAs. Each IPA contains the same malt backbone and is brewed to be 75 IBU and is enthusiastically kettle hopped and dry hopped with Citra, Bramling Cross, Nelson Sauvin or Sorachi Ace.
Leeds Brewdog fans should also be excited that Mr Foley’s has recently installed a permanent Brewdog tap, with two changing keg Brewdog beers on at any one time as well as a load of bottles in the fridge. The 5AM Saint was especially good from keg. According to their It’s Your Round page the ones currently on are Punk IPA and Zeitgeist.
UPDATED: The date of the IPA Is Dead launch has been confimed as Wednesday 16 February. I should be there, with any luck.
I’m a big fan of the expanding North Bar mini-empire, which now stretches to the original in Leeds city centre; Further North in Chapel Allerton; and the Cross Keys in Holbeck (which is more gastro but does so brilliantly). Oh, and an ice cream van full of beer. I’m informed that The Reliance is no longer under the same ownership, but it remains great for booze, food and service nevertheless.
On Saturday at 5pm they opened their new pub in Meanwood, Alfred, and I popped in for a pint at the end of a long walk. Opposite Waitrose and the new Market Town Tavern, East Of Arcadia, these seem symbolic of the gentrification of Meanwood.
On Alfred’s twitter feed they’ve been keeping us up to date with the renovation of what used to be Tropical Nosh. It’s all paid off in spades, and the pub looks great. If you’ve been to Further North you’ll be familiar with the multiplicity of unmatched lampshades hanging from the roof, the welcoming glass frontage and classy understated sign.
It’s bigger than Further North, but not massively so; I counted about 30-40 seats whereas I reckon Further North has about 20-25. The bar area has room for a whole three staff, a coffee machine and a decent amount of fridge space. Needless to say the bottled beer selection is good; a wide but sensible range with enough to excite most tastes without attempting to rival the huge range of the original North Bar.
Three handpumps were christened with Elland 1872 Porter, Marble Ginger and Roosters Wild Mule (who seemed to have dropped the “Outlaw” brand). I went for the excellent 1872 Porter (6.5%) and Kate had the Wild Mule, a nice hoppy pale ale which is effectively the house beer in North.
They also had Brooklyn Lager on keg, but rather than reciting the whole range, I took a photo of the menu, which you should hopefully just about be able to read if you click on it. You’ll see that the prices tend towards the upper end of average, with the cask beers all £3.10 a pint. There’s also what seems like a decent range of wines, if you’re interested in that sort of thing.
Like North, Alfred is going to have a small range of food, stretching to cheese and bread; meat and bread; and possibly pies. This suits the small space and the cafe vibe, and if you want a big plate of sausages and mash, East of Arcadia is only a few seconds down the road.
A special mention should go to the loos. Unlike Further North, there are seperate gents’ and ladies’ bogs, with quirky wallpaper. The ladies’ has saucy 1950s pin-up art (so I’m informed) whereas the gents’ has some great 1970s-style boy’s bedroom football wallpaper, with footballers to represent Scottish, English and Northern Irish (but not Welsh) international players. However, their poses, down to the web-slinging hand gestures, seem to have been traced from Spider-Man comics. Perhaps George Best was once bitten by an alcoholic spider.
I was only there for one pint (and a free bun!) on the first day, but Alfred seems to be a great little cafe bar, with excellent beers, friendly staff and a lovely interior and exterior. It was worth the license application difficulties and the hard work, and Meanwood suddenly seems like an option for a nice evening out.
Alfred Bar, 6 Stonegate Road, Meanwood, Leeds LS6 4HY
Working reasonably long hours, I often find it difficult to get to the shops on a weekday, and as a result end up spending slightly over the odds in the Marks & Spencer Simply Food in Leeds station. Whilst M&S is typically quite expensive, it does have a reliable range of beers commissioned from decent breweries, including Cropton’s M&S Yorkshire Bitter and a Meantime M&S London Porter.
When I noticed that they had three different IPAs from three different breweries, I thought it was worth comparing them:
Marstons M&S Staffordshire IPA (5.5%)
This beer is sold as a hoppy traditional Burton IPA. It has very little nose with perhaps a slight biscuity smell. It has a refreshing flavour with a slightly acidic, broadly fruity hoppiness coming through into the aftertaste. It’s quite a light-tasting beer for 5.5%, but has a nice mouthfeel.
Initially not a particularly interesting beer, it grew on me as I got towards the bottom of the glass and the bitterness started to build up. Probably good for a session, if you can cope with a few at this strength.
St Austell M&S Cornish IPA (5%)
A slightly weaker beer, this immediately smells much more interesting, with a fresh, piney, grapefruity smell that carries through into a wonderful wash of bitterness. Unlike the Staffordshire IPA this beer is bottle conditioned, resulting in smaller, more delicate bubbles that perfectly compliment the balanced but powerful American hop taste.
St Austell’s Proper Job – a lovely, unusually oily IPA made with Williamette, Cascade and Chinook hops – became one of my favourite cask beers when I was on holiday in Cormwall last summer. Without a bottle of Proper Job to compare the Cornish IPA to, this nonetheless seems like a very similar recipe, although it is 0.5% stronger*. A very nice beer indeed and one that I often pick up when I buy my dinner in Marks.
Adnam’s M&S Southwold Winter IPA (6.7%)
I was pleasantly surprised to see such a strong IPA in M&S, and suspect that a number of well-to-do wives may inadvertently find their husbands in a slightly more louche mood at the end of the evening. This beer has a slightly boozy smell, a viscous mouthfeel and wheaty maltiness that leaves you at risk of missing the hops, which are apparently Boadicea, Columbus and Styrgian Goldings. An interesting beer, but not quite as enjoyable as the St Austell one.
These are all good beers and it’s a credit to M&S that they bring these beers to the middle class, but you do have to consider the price. £2.19, £2.39 and £2.39 respectively is a fair amount to pay for a 500ml bottles to take away. Nonetheless I remain happy to part with my cash for the Cornish IPA in particular, which is the most expensive and the weakest at the same time.
Yesterday I had the good fortune of going to the National Winter Ales festival in Manchester. I was especially lucky to get trade tickets and also to go with a few brewers and bar folk. After getting the train over from Leeds I met up with James and Andy from Summer Wine Brewery and Dean from Mr Foleys in the Marble Arch on the Rochdale Road. A great pub connected to a wonderful brewery, yesterday the beers included the spectacularly hoppy Utility Special IPA and the great Driscoll’s End, Dominic’s goodbye beer to the Marble brewery, before he heads across the Pennines to sunny Thornbridge.
It was good to meet members of the beer literati who we hadn’t met before, including Rob from Hopzine, Matt from Hawkshead (who had been judging) and Brian from The Grove, Huddersfield (along with a whole posse of Grovers). Even as a newcomer, it was a really nice, friendly, festive atmosphere, before we even got to the venue. Unable to resist, I bought myself two big Marble bottles before we left: a Utility Special and a Stouter Port Stout.
At the venue, which is a perfect size for the purposes, we were also introduced to more titans of the beer world from darkest Cumbria, the legendary Jeff Pickthall and the semi-mythical Hardknott Dave. Jeff was kind enough to give me a bottle of Croglin Vampire to review. We also bumped into Matt, Jim and some of the other staff from North Bar, as well as Matt’s wife Alice, now immortalised as the namesake of Brewdog’s Alice Porter, brewed with Matt’s input. We were even able to witness the elusive Tandleman working diligently at the festival, apparently unconcerned by the lack of Northern Methods Of Dispense despite the Mancunian setting.
Of course the beers were good too. Although the general view is that most of them were a bit on the fresh side, it being the first day and all, everyone who tried it seemed to be very impressed with James and Andy’s Diablo, a great IPA with dominant Citra flavours (although it also contains Centennial). Thornbridge’s Hark was a very nice beer, and was a little more interesting than Merrie, which was by contrast merely good. It was good to enjoy Hawkshead Brodie’s Prime on cask and Thornbridge St Petersburg was also very good. I liked the Fuller’s Brewer’s Reserve too. I enjoyed festival champion Entire Stout by Hop Back, although it wasn’t necessarily the most interesting beer I tried. I’m sure the other beers I tried will come back to me over the next few days.
Of course after all that it was very clearly time to get a taxi back to Piccadilly for the long, challenging train home to Leeds and the struggle to recover adequately for work the next morning. Nevertheless the day was very enjoyable and well worth the hangover. Thanks to Tandleman and the rest of the organisers, but as I say, I was especially happy to meet so many friendly members of the international brotherhood of beer, who were far more welcoming to a mere prole than they had any reason to be. I’m looking forward to Twissup, by which time I should almost have recovered. Cheers!
I’m off to the National Winter Ales Festival this morning, so just a quick note to say thanks to Grace from Strangford Lough Brewing Company for sending me through these three beers for review.
After Christmas I grumbled in a fairly mean-spirited way about a bottle of their St Patrick’s Best which I’d bought out of date and I thought tasted a bit dodgy. Although this was entirely my fault and that of the shop, Grace got in touch to offer to send me a few more beers for review.
I’m looking forward to trying these but in the meantime I just thought a thank-you was in order. It’s nice to see they’re keeping an eye on what people online think of their beer and they’d be both generous and confident enough in the standard of their beers to give me another shot.
Of the number of local craft breweries that regularly sell their beers in Leeds pubs, one of the most consistent is Roosters. They have a particular bent towards pale, nicely hoppy ales in the vein of (what I suppose is) their flagship beer, Yankee, which is getting on for 17 years old.
The cockerel logo on their pumpclips is, for me, a badge of quality. Although they appear to have been brewing some more experimental beers recently, I don’t think I’ve ever had a pint of any of their range that I didn’t like. I especially enjoy being able to enjoy their beers outside with friends at the Chapel Allerton Arts Festival every year.
Roosters GCB (3.7%)
However, Roosters beers don’t seem to have been sold in bottles until last year, when I picked up a bottle of their GCB (“Good Cheer Beer”). This beer is described as a “pale Yorkshire bitter – a happy marriage of upbeat fruitiness and moderate bitterness“. It had a slightly biscuity smell, quite a lot of carbonation, a relatively thin mouthfeel and a light lemony bitterness in the aftertaste. Like the cask version, I think it’s at the safer end of their pale ale spectrum and is probably good crossover beer which can be given to lager drinkers with relative impunity.
However, it was very exciting indeed to be able to pick up one 75cl bottle of each of three experimental beers Sam Franklin (son of founder Sean) made at the end of last year. There were only 30 bottles of each sold. Given that they have been reviewed by Zak, Leigh and Rob, it would appear that over 10% of the beers went to beer bloggers! Whilst I encourage you to read/watch their more expert reviews, this is what I thought of them:
Roosters XS American Pale Ale (5.5%)
The label describes this beer as an American-style IPA/pale ale with 60IBUs and, “hopped at an excessive rate, using Chinook, Citra, Crystal and Simcoe from the US and New Zealand’s Riwaka hops, all as late kettle additions.”
After a satisfying pop when the cap came off, the beer poured a pleasant orange colour with a slight cloudiness. It gave off a fantastic mango smell and had a rich, slightly oily mouthfeel. The punchy dry fruity bitterness in the aftertaste made my mouth water. This was a very lovely beer which I enjoyed with a curry from Mumtaz, which it suited perfectly.
Roosters 2XS India Pale Ale (7.1%)
“The big bad brother of XS – excessive in every way imaginable. Hopped using Nelson Sauvin, Cascade, Chinook, Citra, Crystal and Simcoe. It weighs in with a whopping 100+ IBUs and certainly isn’t a beer for the faint-hearted! Continuously hopped during the brewing process to create a smooth but powerful bitterness. We then dry-hopped the beer in the fermenter and conditioning tanks to give it a strong and aggressive hop aroma.”
Again pouring a slightly cloudy orange but perhaps a little darker, this gave off a rich piney mangoey aroma. The mouthfeel was thicker and the fruity, bitter taste deeper and more rounded but slightly less punchy and fruity as a result. Again this was a great beer, which went nicely with Cajun Chicken.
Roosters Oxymoronic Black IPA (6.5%)
“American-style India Black Ale – big, black and bitter, this American-style Black IPA is a shock to the senses. Your eyes say stout but your tastebuds scream IPA! A jet black appearance, with little roast flavour, is backed up with a serious bitter finish. Packed full of citrus hop aroma, brewed and dry-hopped with 100% Simcoe hops. The citrus content of this beer might even count as one of your five a day!”
It’s difficult to expand on the fairly comprehensive and unusually informative label text, but this black IPA had a very tart but not completely juicy passionfruit taste, resulting in a slightly champagney dryness. The dryness results in a shorter finish, as if the fruit becomes totally absorbed into the (very slight) roastedness.
The black IPAs I’ve had on cask (and all enjoyed) include Summer Wine’s Heretic; Thornbridge’s Raven and Saltaire’s Cascadian Black. In Peculier Pub on Bleecker Street I also got to try 21st Amendment’s Back in Black on keg. However this is the first time I’ve tried a bottled black IPA, and it worked very well.
All three of these beers were excellent, and the XS in particular is a beer I would be happy to buy on a monthly basis for the rest of my life if it was an option. There’s always a bit of a thrill in having something that’s so rare, but fortunately the hoppy nature of these beers meant it would ruin them to try and keep them for ages, which is always a risk with me.
Although I understand that Sam Franklin has flown away over the pond to Canada, I would welcome it if Roosters decided to reprise all three of these beers. I’m only sad that the good proles of Leeds might not be amongst the first to try Sam’s next brew. Blame Canada!
There’s a new German Bierkeller which has opened on Park Row in Leeds, in the cellar of the building that also houses Shooter’s Sports Bar and the new “Park Row Bar & Brasserie”.
I haven’t ventured in yet, but I will in the near future. It offers an Oompah band on Fridays and Saturdays, serves their beers on tap in steins (if you fancy it) and would seem to promise the rowdy fun of the big beer tent at the German Christmas market in Millennium Square in Leeds, but all year round. Whilst it’s not selling itself as a great place for a quiet, contemplative drink, much like the Christmas market I think it’ll probably lend itself well to an evening out with a large group of friends; birthday parties etc.
I enjoy the atmosphere of the Christmas market (see picture above), but the beer selection isn’t that extensive. Kate pointed out that the Bierkeller’s website claims that they have “the largest German beer selection in the North” and expressed some doubt at this. I decided this was worth investigating.
This is the Bierkeller’s list of beers from the website:
1. Paulaner Munchen Lager
2. Paulaner Hefe-Weisebier
3. Paulaner Dunkel Lager
6. Haus Bier
X. Timmermans Peche
X. Timmermans Kriek
X. Timmermans Frambois
7. Fruh Kolsch
8. Erdinger Schneeweisse
10. Schlosser Alt
11. St Georgebrau
That’s quite a good selection, with some fruit beers (“Schooner of strong imported US craft keg for the gentleman; half of fruit beer in a branded stem glass for the lady” is destined to be the catchphrase for Al Murray’s successors). However all the fruit beers (Timmermans and Rosarda) are Belgian, so that leaves 11 German beers. A decent turnout – 11 Germans are generally considered a pretty formidable opposition – but surely at least one bar in Northern England can boast a larger selection?
I thought North Bar would be a likely competitor in Leeds. Bearing in mind that their online beer list doesn’t include the regularly changing guest beers, their extensive permanent selection contains the following Germans:
2. Fruh Kolsch
3. Erdinger Urweisse
4. Guest German Wheat Beer
5. Schlenkerla Rauchbier
X. Fruh Kolsch
8. Schlenkerla Rauchbier
9. Schneider Aventinus
10. Schneider Weisse
11. Weihenstephanan Kristall
That’s 12, but I’m afraid one of the Fruhs has to be disqualified as it turns up both on tap and in the bottle and the guest is, um, a guest. So Bierkeller probably holds out as unbeaten, at least for the best permanent selection of German beers in Leeds. Although someone may correct me on that; Mr Foleys has a fairly extensive selection of imported beers in the fridges these days.
Of course North also has a fantastic selection of US, Belgian and other great beers so it probably wouldn’t be interested in this particular scrap anyway. However the next challenger is a heavyweight in all categories: The Grove in Huddersfield [insert big fight entrance music here].
The Grove’s astonishingly extensive beer and cider menu is here. Amongst those 9 remarkable pages of small print you’ll find the following Germans:
1. Erdinger Urweisse
2. Früh Kölsch
4. Schlösser Das Alt
5. Aecht Schlenkerla Eiche (Oak Smoke) Doppelbock
6. Erdinger Pikantus Dunkler Weizen-Bok
7. Neuzeller Bockbier
8. Schmucker Rose Bock
9. Schneider Aventinus Weizen Eisbock
10. Ayinger Celebrator Doppelbock
11. Erdinger Pikantus Dunkler Weizen-Bok
12. St Georgen Brau Kellerbier
13. Kuppers Kolsch
14. Schlenkerla Rauchbier Märzen
15. Neuzeller Kirsch Beer (Cherry)
17. Aecht Schlenkerla Eiche (Oak Smoke) Doppelbock
18. Schlenkerla Rauchbier Märzen
19. Schlenkerla Rauchbier Weizen
20. Erdinger Acoholfrei
21. Erdinger Pikantus Dunkler Weizen-Bok
22. Erdinger Weiss Dunkel
23. Maisel Weissbier Dunkel
24. Maisel Weissbier Hell
25. Paulaner Hefe-Weisbier
26. Schneider Aventinus
So there you go. The Bierkeller doesn’t have the best selection of German beer in the North, nor indeed in West Yorkshire.
To be fair I think any challenger in the North generally would have a hard time beating The Grove for selection in any category of beer. But then again, Bierkeller has more on tap; I don’t think I could cope with more than 11 steins of beer in one sitting; and I bet The Grove doesn’t have a house Oompah band.