Closing The Book Of Joshua: Tetley’s Brewery 1822-2011
Tetley’s means a lot to Leeds, but probably less to me. I’ve never really been a huge fan of the beer, which always seemed to me to be a pleasant if unexciting traditional English pale ale principally identifiable by a strong sulphurous, almost chemical taste – a very snatchy Burton Snatch, given the beer is from Leeds. Nonetheless, it was always a good pint, in the absence of a more exciting option.
It is a terrible shame, of course, that the brewery is closing tomorrow, after 189 years and causing the loss of 170 jobs. The history of the place means a lot to natives of Leeds, but I never saw the dray horses, who were retired in 2006, delivering to pubs around the city. I wish I had. My wife-to-be lived in Clarence Dock, overlooking the brewery and keg store, throughout our courtship; the pleasant smells and less enjoyable early morning noise of industry served as a backdrop to it. The steam rising from the brewery in front of the red neon lights of the sign was a regular feature of walks back to hers on dark nights.
The Adelphi, a Victorian pub near the brewery, was described until recently in the Good Beer Guide as the unofficial Tetley’s brewery tap. I was in last year, shortly after they stopped serving Tetley’s in favour of Leeds Pale. A solitary man of advanced years came in and ordered a Tetley’s, only to be told that it was off, forever. He was visibly taken aback. It was probably his regular drink, and had been for years.
Personally, I don’t really like Leeds Pale and would take a pint of Tetley’s any day. The Adelphi seems to have disappeared from The Guide, which seems a bit of a shame, as it’s a decent Nicholson’s pub with a good atmosphere, that gets a lot of young trendy drinkers into a very lovely old building.
The last time I had a pint of Tetley’s was in the bar of the Queens Hotel in Leeds City Square, by the train station. The Queens is a massive art deco chunk of a thing, constructed in 1937 and which gives off the general appearance of an Eastern European totalitarian palace when lit up at night. It seemed appropriate to enjoy one Leeds institution inside another. The bar wasn’t perfect – a little bit too purple and tarted up – but fine nonetheless. The beer, whilst the try-hard glass also gave the impression of sucking in its stomach, was a good pint.
Tetley’s will almost certainly remain a good pint when it’s brewed exclusively in Wolverhampton: brewing is a science. It just won’t be from Leeds, and for many drinkers that means everything. The city itself will suffer, at least in the short term, from another disused site, to go with the empty spaces where the stalled skyscrapers were promised to be. Another hole in the heart of the city.