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Market Forces: Dock Street Market, Leeds

Back in the mists of time, when everyone was on the previous version of the iPhone and the world was on tenterhooks waiting for Russell Crowe and Ridley Scott’s version of Robin Hood, there was a deli-come-grocery on the cobbled Dock Street in Leeds called Simpson’s.  Simpson’s was quite expensive, but the young professionals of Brewery Wharf and Clarence Dock liked the fresh bread and the impressive selection of bottled ales, including Ilkley and Saltaire beers.

Simpsons closed, possibly due to competition from a cheap but souless Tesco Express that had recently opened, and there was due wailing and gnashing of teeth about the death of independent shops and quite a lot of discussions about whether it could be re-opened as a social enterprise.  Of course no-one really knew what a “social enterprise” was, but that nice polite Mr Cameron seemed to be in favour of them, and anyone who didn’t really like the word “social” was in favour of “enterprise” and vice versa, so it seemed like a reasonably admirable idea at the time without really gripping anyone.

Ultimately, in November 2010, Dock Street Market opened on the site of Simpson’s, run by “a group of independent local food traders“.  I think the line-up may have changed over time, but at the moment there seems to be a deli counter, a bakery and a bar.  The bar currently sells cakes and Prohibition-chic “teapot cocktails”, which Kate enjoyed.

The fact that I was most interested in the selection of beer will not come as a surprise, but the selection itself might.  As well as cask Black Sheep (it’s still Yorkshire after all, even if it is young, hip, waterfront Yorkshire) there was also Anchor Steam, BrewDog Punk IPA and Ilkley MJ Fortis on keg.  The bottle selection was even more impressive, including Brooklyn Lager, BrewDog 5am Saint, Chimay Red, Orval and Anchor Old Foghorn.

I had a Goose Island Matilda, an Orvalalike which was initially surprisingly bretty, but later pleasingly so, followed by a De Struise Pannepot 2010, a darkly delicious but drinkable 10% spiced Belgian strong ale which really needs that bit of cake to soak it up.

As well as the beer selection, I was impressed by the relaxed atmosphere of Dock Street Market, which leaves it somewhere between a cafe, a bar and a common room; seemingly a successful third place.  Its neighbours, the Leeds Brewery pub Pin and Mitchell and Butler’s Adelphi are another matter: Pin, whilst similarly having an impressive imported selection thanks to James Clay, can seem sadly quiet and has stripped down its food menu.  The Adelphi, whilst being one of Leeds’ best food pubs and having a great historic interior, has had quite an unimpressive cask selection the last two times I’ve been in.

Dock Street Market, for seeming to have come together at random and for its Cath Kidston-esque bunting and cake stands, has nonetheless ended up being perhaps the best place for a beer in the area.  They’re even planning a ticketed Anchor tap takeover/food and beer-matching dinner with Ben from James Clay on 6 June 2012, a US craft beer festival on 4 July 2012 and a BrewDog tap takeover on 1 August 2012, each of which is as good a reason as any to pay your first visit, if you haven’t already.

Winter Wonderland: Anchor v BrewDog v Corsendonk v Bush v Dupont v Flying Dog v Sierra Nevada

December 21, 2011 5 comments

Seasonal beers; and what season is more seasonal than the season we’re in right now, eh?  Even the food is all about the seasoning, and so are a lot of the beers: spicy and warming.  Not usually what I look for in a beer. However, ’tis the season.

Anchor Special Ale 2011 (5.5%)

Even though it’s not a preferred style, the annual edition of this beer is something I’ve come to look forward to like the new Beano Annual.  The empty bottle will join its brothers on my shelf.  It can be proud in the knowledge that it smelled of nutmeg and berries; tasted as deep and comforting as its dark brown colour, not too sweet or strong, but with a warming spicy bitterness.  This is a very good Christmas beer indeed.

BrewDog There Is No Santa (4.7%)

Ever the pseudo-contrarians when it comes to marketing, I wonder if BrewDog think there is no Santa just because they’ve been very naughty boys and never get any presents. The slightly Scrooge-like beer name doesn’t hide the fact that they’ve gone into the Christmas beer market with both paws this year, also releasing Christmas Porter, a spiced version of Alice Porter.  The aroma is very Christmassy: sweet and spicy, with noticeable cinnamon.  It’s similar in appearance to Anchor’s style, and inhabits the same ground as a warming spiced brown ale, with  a relatively moderate ABV for the time of year. A very nice beer in the end: Dog bless us, every one.

Bush de Noël (aka Scaldis de Noël) (12%)

Yikes.  The foil label doesn’t do subtlety or sophistication (Ghost Drinker compared it to the foil on cheap chocolate decorations) and 12% suggests real overindulgence.  It is the Christmas version of “The Strongest Belgian Beer” and has a big, very sweet marzipan, cakey aroma.  It’s thick on the tongue with some spiciness but a lot of burnt sugar indeed.  I decided that what the situation required was some cheese, and some Blacksticks Blue and spiced apple chutney allowed me to appreciate the bitterness on the finish, when the burnt sugar subsided.

Corsendonk Christmas Ale (8.5%)

No more classy in its get-up is the similarly Belgian Corsendonk.  This one smells like a sweet spicy dark Belgian beer, and has a lot of sweetness, although a much lighter variety.  Again this benefited from raiding the fridge for cheese and a very pleasant bit of Reblochon helped me to appreciate it much more.  It was still very, very fizzy though.

Brasserie Dupont – Avec Les Bons Vœux De La Brasserie Dupont (9.5%)

Less a Christmas ale than a Christmas present (formerly exclusively for Dupont’s best clients), this is a very special beer.  It’s a nice light saison (come Tripel, maybe?) with a perfectly balanced hoppy character (a little grassiness) which drinks about half its weight. Admittedly this has become of my favourite styles of beer this year, but this is an instant favourite, and a new Christmas tradition if I have my way.

Flying Dog K-9 Cruiser (7.4%)

This Winter Ale is portrayed less as a Christmas ale than some sort of tribute to pet dogs who aren’t allowed to go snowboarding with you but are still up on the slopes with you in spirit.  Or something.  Poor Ralph Steadman. A slightly boozy nose and chestnut colour, then a malty beer which wasn’t too sweet or heavy, with a pleasant and relatively restrained spiciness on the swallow. Quite enjoyable, but not exactly The Beano Annual.  The Topper Annual, maybe.

Sierra Nevada Celebration 2010 (6.8%)

Ah now, this is last year’s Celebration, with an October 2011 best before date.  So, whilst it’s not the lovely fresh hopped winter IPA it once was, there is the ghost of Hopmas past lingering on the swallow, after the light caramel sweetness.  A little bit of dryness on the finish too, building on the longer swallows to a dry, slighty woody, piney taste.  A slightly withered, but still celebratory Christmas tree.

So these disparate winter and Christmas seasonals, of various styles, contained some real crackers and not a single turkey; and there are certainly no leftovers  Most of them are available were I bought them (the superb Beer Ritz), and I’d encourage you to visit your own local independent beer shop this Christmas.

Leodis Weekend

December 13, 2010 2 comments

Phew, it’s been a challenging weekend for my liver.  On Friday I went to The Grove in Holbeck for the leaving drinks of my friends Tom and Holly, who were regulars there but are now moving to Masham.  Fortunately I understand that it’s not hard to get a beer in Masham, so I’m looking forward to visiting.

I started with Moorhouses’ Premier Bitter, but wasn’t entirely convinced so moved on to Elland El Divino, a “blonde premium bitter” which was excellent.  Good beer, food and chat in a great pub.

Saturday night found me out on Lower Briggate and Call Lane, the latter swarming with underdressed posers.  However the Smokestack was reasonably good fun and surprisingly had bottles of Anchor Steam and Liberty Ale in the fridge.  Then on to Call Lane Social, a relatively new bar opposite Oporto which had decent music and both Brooklyn Lager and Anchor Porter in the fridge, but was crammed to the rafters.

Two nights that had ended in the purchase of kebabs should sensibly have been followed by a quiet Sunday in front of the Antiques Roadshow (or indeed Last Of The Summer Wine).  However Dean from Mr Foleys had invited Kate and me out for a few drinks with James and Andy from Summer Wine Brewery.

With just a bacon sandwich to recover with, I had Crown Brewery HPA; Summer Wine Blizzard and Heretic Black IPA; and Revolutions The Original 45 Porter in Mr Foleys.  Dean’s clearly been buying in a lot of great beers recently and has nefarious plans for lots more.

Summer Wine’s Heretic is a fantastic example of the black IPA style, with only a very slight roastiness at the start and a pleasant wallop of bitterness.  Great as it is, James said that they’re going to tweak the recipe for the next brew. 

The Original 45 Porter is Revolutions’ first commercial beer, and it’s a very promising start.  I’ve had a lot of porters in recent weeks and this is one of the best.  Worth keeping an eye out for.

On to the Victoria, where nine pumps were rapidly dwindling to three.  I had a North Peak Vicious American Wheat IPA, which seems to be in every single M&B pub in Leeds just now (Palace; Adelphi, Scarbrough).  It was an unusually hoppy wheat beer – not as big and punchy as Schneider Weisse Tap 5 but at the same time less thick and sweet, seeming less than 6%.  It was very good but due to the limited choice we moved on to North Bar.

North had O’Dell IPA on keg, which James and Andy informed me uses Citra hops.  I’ve liked this beer for a long time and it’s great on keg.  Another example of knowing something’s great but not knowing why.  Andy came back from the bar with a bottle of De Dolle Stille Nacht, which was 12% and incredibly bubblegummy.

After a Leodis Lager in The Brewery Tap and a final Timothy Taylor’s Landlord in the Scarbrough Taps (both had slightly disappointing selections), we headed home.  It was very kind of Dean to invite us along and it was great to chat with him, Andy and James about beer and pubs.  I have a lot to learn about brewing but once again they were really friendly and their passion for exciting beer is infectious.  Thanks lads!

After all that, I should be ready for the Christmas party season…

(For much fuller and more informed notes on some of the beers above, see Leigh’s latest post on The Good Stuff, in which he tries Heretic, the 45 Porter and Vicious.)

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