This week I went to an evening of rare Brooklyn Brewery beers organised by James Clay in advance of their pop-up bar opening on The Calls. The new venue isn’t ready yet, so the event was held in a beautiful open air location by the Leeds-Liverpool canal in Rodley, on an amazing sunny July evening.
It was one of those occasions that documenting might have got in the way of enjoying, so I won’t give you tasting notes for the various barrel-aged Brooklyn “ghost bottles” we tried or attempt to recount Garrett’s stories. He was in great form though: as charismatic, passionate and funny as ever, even leading a sing along with the bluegrass band. I did manage to get a few photos though, so here you go.
Full disclosure: the beer, cheese and entertainment for the event was provided by James Clay and Brooklyn. One of the owners of North Bar paid for my taxi home. Free scintillating conversation and tolerance of my inebriated ramblings was provided by members of the Leeds on- and off-sales community and other bloggers. Basically I’m a complete freeloader. Garrett Oliver’s hat appeared as itself.
See a selection of more artistic photos from the evening by Mike Watson here.
James Clay, importer of some of the best American, Belgian and German beers to the UK, have succeeded in an application for a licence to open a “pop up” Brooklyn Brewery bar in a warehouse on The Calls in central Leeds, despite police objections.
The bar will be in a currently empty warehouse at 20-24 The Calls, about 50 metres from BrewDog Leeds and 100 metres from The Stew & Oyster (Calls Landing). The licence application documents, which can be read here, show similar objections from the police as were made in the BrewDog licensing saga, to opening any new bar close to “an area which is an alcohol related crime hotspot, Call Lane” and the same “appreciation versus inebriation” arguments.
The Yorkshire Evening Post reports that representations were made to the sub-committee that the bar was to attract, “the well-behaved and “discerning” drinker, prepared to spend £7 or more on a pint of speciality beer“. A representative of the West Yorkshire Police stated that, “People with money still have the ability of causing trouble when inebriated.” Surely not.
The bar is stated to be temporary, although it is not clear for how long it is expected to operate. The licence is restricted to Wednesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays and Sundays. Interestingly, it was stated that the bar is “a temporary arts and cultural space used for the purpose of marketing“, that it is primarily an exercise in promoting the Brooklyn brand and may operate at a loss. However, at £7+ a pint I assume the loss won’t be made on the beer.
I’ll be interested to see how this pans out and whether the set-up will offer something different to the existing craft beer bars in Leeds. When I read about it, I initially thought of the regular Friday evening “happy hour” sessions held in the brewery in Williamsburg when we went there in 2010 (see photo), with picnic tables, plastic glasses, beer vouchers, pizzas delivered to the front door and ultraobscure beers. I assume that this new venture, “pop up” as it is, will seem a little more permanent, but who knows? Spit and sawdust can be pretty hip.
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.
I mentioned in my last post that Copenhagen occasionally comes across as a utopia for Guardian-readers, but I think one of the best examples of the achingly hip chic is a cafe bar we went to by accident: The Laundromat Cafe in Nørrebro.
After Nørrebro Bryghus, we intended to go to Ølbaren on Elmegade. However it was a busy Friday night and we didn’t feel like standing, so we went for a nightcap to a cool-looking cafe we’d seen across the road.
The Laundromat Cafe is also actually a laundromat, although the four or so washing machines in the back were dormant at 10.30pm. However there were still a few people sitting around eating some appetising-looking burgers and so on.
Apart from the concept, the decor makes the cafe a wet dream for readers of the glossy supplements. One detail in particular stood out: bookshelves with paperbacks arranged by colour.
It’s not exactly a beer destination, but I recall that the menu had around 10-12 different bottled beers. Kate had a reliable Brooklyn East India Pale Ale whilst I had a Jacobsen Saaz Blonde. As I will hopefully get round to explaining in more detail in a future post, Jacobsen is basically Carlsberg’s version of the recently-popular macro-owned-craft/speciality beer brewery operating from the old brewery site in Copenhagen, whilst most production has been moved elsewhere.
Saaz Blonde is a 7.1% top-fermented blonde ale made with pilsner malts and Czech Saaz hops. I found it a pleasant Belgianish blonde with an unexpected amount of yeast flavour (I had expected a strong pilsner) up front followed by a moderate grassy/floral bitterness. I had hoped for a cleaner, punchier hit of Saaz, but it was a pleasant beer to enjoy at the end of the night nonetheless.
I mentioned in my post regarding the Garrett Oliver lunch at Mr Foleys that there was a journalist from BBC Radio 4 present. The episode of The Food Programme that he recorded was broadcast today and will shortly be available on iPlayer here and also as a podcast from this page.
Whilst there are a couple of slight slip-ups and the odd oversimplification for those who are paying attention, it’s a wide-ranging and interesting programme, including contributions from Pete Brown, James Clay, Neil from Eating Isn’t Cheating, Rob from Hopzine and breweries such as Bristol Beer Factory and Camden Town in the UK and Harpoon and CBC in the US. It’s certainly one of the most up-to-date and least clichéd mainstream programmes I’ve heard about beer and a good recognition of the US craft influence on UK breweries.
As you may have already read on David, Leigh and Ghostie’s blogs, I was amongst a fortunate few West Yorkshire bloggers invited to lunch with Brooklyn Brewery Brewmaster Garrett Oliver at Mr Foley’s this week. Given that Garrett is basically the patron saint of beer and food matching, it must have been a pretty daunting experience for chef Tyler Kiley to put together a menu for him.
However, Tyler knocked the ball out of the park, with a very tasty and substantial meal to go with the beer. Here’s a quick summary of what we had:
Brooklyn Blast, an 8% IPA made with both American and English hop varieties (including Goldings, Target, Challenger) and usually draft-only, was served bottle conditioned from a “ghost bottle” and paired with some chicken wings with a fruity but robustly spicy sauce.
Brooklyn Mary’s Maple Porter is a 6.9% Porter made with an enormous amount of maple syrup. It was a perfect match for Tyler’s labour-of-love pulled pork sandwich, home-made sauce, coleslaw and thrice-fried chips.
For dessert we enjoyed a truly decadent Brooklyn Black Chocolate Stout float, which you can read about on Leigh’s blog. The only thing that’s better than a delicious 10.6% Imperial stout is a delicious 10.6% Imperial stout with a scoop of ice cream in it.
The Companion was a 10% wheat wine brewed in collaboration with Garrett’s collaborators on The Oxford Companion To Beer, Horst Dornbusch and Thomas Kraus-Weyermann, to celebrate the launch of the book. It was a really interesting beer, as strong as a barley wine but kept light and refreshing by the wheat.
Finally we enjoyed a very special beer: “Cuvée De La Crochet Rouge Rose“. This experimental beer isn’t for sale at all; as Garrett said, “If you’ve had this beer you’ve almost certainly met me“.
What it is, if I can recall correctly, is Brooklyn’s strong Belgian pale ale Local 1 aged in a bourbon barrel with Pinot Noir and Chardonnay lees (yeast and other deposits from the process of winemaking). The “Crochet Rouge” bit is because the lees was from Red Hook Winery in Brooklyn, and the “Rose” part is because a slight pink hue has been added to the beer by the Pinot Noir lees.
What results is a truly remarkable beer: at first very slightly sharp and acidic like a gueuze, with some pink champagne character and a little Brett whilst remaining very light and drinkable.
So some wonderful food and beer, but what I’ll take away from the day is what an inspirational ambassador for craft beer Garrett is. He spoke assuredly and compellingly about the possibilities of beer, the importance of drinkability and balance and, despite the “big beers” we tasted, his belief that sessionability is an important and growing movement in American beer. He talked about the influence English and Yorkshire cask ales had on him before he started home-brewing and noted that Americans still struggle to get cask ales to the customer in good condition.
It was also really interesting to speak to Brooklyn General Manager Eric Ottaway (who had flown in from Helsinki that morning), particularly about the business side of craft brewing. Brooklyn has always contract-brewed a large proportion of their beer at FX Matt Brewing Company in upstate New York, and indeed started out in 1987 solely with contract brewing. It’s worth considering that if a UK craft brewery is going to meet the increased interest and demand from supermarkets, pub chains and foreign buyers, they will have to adopt these models, but at the same time maintain the consistency and quality that made their name in the first place.
Part of the lunch was recorded for BBC Radio 4’s Food Programme, and speaking to the media is par for the course for Garrett. I think it’s a shame that we don’t really have an equivalent to Garrett (or even Sam Calagione) to be the public face of British beer to the mainstream media: not just a beer writer or CAMRA spokesman, but actually an inspirational brewer with an inclusive, positive and thoughtful attitude who has the personality and authority to shape people’s opinions of beer and make them really think about it, in the same way that a celebrity chef can do for food.
Thanks very much to Dean, Tyler and all at Foleys; to Garrett, Eric and James Clay; and also to the usual suspects for keeping the party going into the evening to the Brooklyn/Nøgne Ø meet the brewer(s) at North Bar.