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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.

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Beneluxurious: North Bar’s Lowlands Bier Festival

March 26, 2012 5 comments

Why, Sir, you find no man, at all interested in beer, who is willing to leave Belgium. No, Sir, when a man is tired of Belgium, he is tired of beer; for there is in Belgium all that beer can afford.

— Not Quite Samuel Johnson

I loved our trip to Bruges last summer and got to drink some remarkable beers in lovely places, like t’ Brugs Beertje and Staminee De Garre. The one thing that I did notice, however, was that the amazing beer menus were almost exclusively Belgian. I had hoped that there might be some Dutch beers on offer as well, as I had become very excited about the range of innovative breweries in the Netherlands following my short visit to Amsterdam, and the fantastic In De Wildeman.

Fortunately, back in West Yorkshire, North Bar’s annual Belgian Beer Festival has expanded its remit and annexed Holland; the 2012 version, running from 22 March 2012 to 5 April 2012, is a Lowlands Bier Festival. Kate and I visited yesterday when North was quite empty, suffering slightly from the lack of a beer garden in the unexpected March sunshine. Along with a waffle, we enjoyed four really good beers: bottles of Watou Tripel and Struise/Mikkeller Elliott; and from keg De Molen Op & Top and Emelisse TIPA. So that’s really two Dutch Beers, one and a half Belgian beers and a rogue half a Dane.

I was really impressed with the beer list, which also includes delights from the likes of Boon, Cantillon, De Dolle, all the Trappists you can shake a crosier at, as well as a couple of beers from rarely-seen breweries like Brouwerij De Prael, which I’ve never seen outside Amsterdam. I’m going back and this time I’m having cheese. I recommend you do the same.

If you’re above the Low Countries, perhaps preferring your beers single-hopped, Aberdonian and canine, on 28 March 2012 from 6pm North are also hosting a BrewDog IPA Is Dead Launch Night, a sequel to last year’s. The new batch of four single-hopped IPAs are Galaxy, Motueka, Challenger and HBC.

Beer In Bruges: t’ Brugs Beertje and Pannepot Reserva 2008

August 14, 2011 1 comment

Other than De Garre, the one place all the guidebooks, beery and otherwise, say you have to visit is t’ Brugs Beertje (“the little Bruges bear”). We did so late on our first night and were fortunate to get a seat in the crowded little brown cafe, which looks exactly as you expect and want it to: nicotene stained walls covered in old beer adverts, assorted dark wood furniture.

It really is quite small, so it’s difficult to ignore your neighbours’ conversations (better sitting next to someone speaking Dutch or a language you don’t understand).  Clambering in and out you may find, like me, that the floorspace is two sizes smaller than your boots.  Owner Daisy Claeys, pictured looking welcoming and matronly in pretty much every one of the guidebooks, was behind the bar but we were served at our table by a very helpful younger barman.

The beer menu was amazingly comprehensive, and Around Bruges In 80 Beers states the selection to be around 250. Kate, who likes hoppy pale ales, went for a De Ranke XX Bitter from keg. It’s a nice, fresh, light, citrus-hoppy and uplifting kind of beer, with a slight breadiness to it.

I had a reasonably expensive beer to finish the night; one from a brewery that I hadn’t tried but had read good things about on Jose from Beer Nerds’ post about drinking the same beer in the same bar. Pannepot Reserva 2008 is a 10% oak-aged “Old Fisherman’s Ale” (or, as it’s described on American sites, a Quadrupel) from De Struise Brouwers, who are or were gypsy brewers.

 

The beer was all I wanted it to be: big and rich, with lots of dark malty flavours: raisins, chocolate and coffee. However despite the aging, the beer retained a freshness from a lot of hops that pleasantly lightened the experience. A really good beer, so many thanks to Jose for writing about it as I probably wouldn’t even have heard of it otherwise.

I would certainly echo everyone else’s recommendations of t’ Brugs Beertje, which is almost the platonic ideal of a brown cafe with a great beer list; like In De Wildeman in Amsterdam but more intimate and even more lived-in. I would very much have liked to go back for a second visit, but the opening hours didn’t allow for it.  Next time.

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