Beer Ritz: A Loss For Beer And A Loss For Leeds
My post yesterday about geekiness discussed in passing the importance of specialist shops to spark and inform an interest in a particular geek “scene”, be it beer or comics or otherwise.
In July last year OK Comics, the best comic shop in Leeds, was threatened with closure due to reduced foot traffic as works were going on in the arcade in which it sits. Jared from OK went to the internet and asked for help.
In a remarkable show of support, its customers and the comic community stepped up to the plate, coming into the shop or making purchases online, spreading the word through Twitter, with even celebrity comics fan/writer Jonathan Ross getting behind the campaign. And lo, OK Comics was saved and remains a little independent haven of geek pleasure in the heart of Leeds.
However, today I learned that my other favourite shop in Leeds has closed its doors, suddenly and apparently for good. Beer Ritz is (or was) the best beer shop I’ve ever been to, without exception. Its passionate, knowledgeable staff and management were happy to help people to understand its fantastic range of beers from all around the world.
We didn’t know that Beer Ritz was under threat and didn’t have a chance to help save it, if indeed that was possible. I obviously don’t know yet why it closed, but it had seemed to me to be in good health, and deservedly so.
It’s great having online beer sellers like My Brewery Tap and Beer Merchants, but to my mind they mainly provide a great service to the initiated.
When you’re first becoming interested in beer, you want somewhere to explore the shelves, read the bottles, see what’s available. You can chat to a member of staff, buy a couple of their recommendations (rather than a case), then come back next week for more. Beer geeks aren’t born, they’re made by places like Beer Ritz and people like Zak, Ghost Drinker and Cheeeseboiger.
That’s what Beer Ritz did for me. The first time I went to Beer Ritz I’d read and heard about a beer called Jaipur but had never been able to find it anywhere. On a quiet Saturday, I decided to look for a better off licence in the telephone directory, saw Beer Ritz and drove to Headingley. Since then I’ve been back countless times, each time spending more money than I really should due to excitement about the selection.
I started reading beer blogs after finding Zak’s brilliant one, then eventually decided to start writing my own, for what it’s worth. It’s not a coincidence that there are so many beer bloggers and tweeters in and around Leeds. Pretty much every beer I’ve posted about here I bought from the shop.
The closure of Beer Ritz is obviously a terrible thing for the passionate staff, who deserve better, and I wish them all the best for the future. It’s bad for small breweries, who find a loyal customer base through their sales. It’s also a blow for the customers, for independent shops and for Leeds.
However, it’s also a loss for those beer geeks who will never be, who will never see that packed but carefully organised back room with hundreds of bottles from the UK, Europe, America and elsewhere and go: “Wow, I wonder what all these are like?”
UPDATE: FORTUNATELY BEER RITZ HAS SUBSEQUENTLY REOPENED! HOORAY!