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.
Last week Kate and I did The Dales Way, in reverse and slightly foreshortened, when we walked from Kendal to Ilkley. We were extremely lucky with the weather and it was a truly beautiful walk over 5 days of 12-16 miles a day. I was looking forward to enjoying a few beers along along the way, and at the end of a long day we certainly felt that we’d earned a drink. In my next few posts, I intend to cover the pubs along the way, for those who are doing the walk or are just in the area.
Before starting out on our walk we stayed in Kendal for a couple of days. The Dales Way doesn’t actually run through the centre of Kendal, but does pass through the nearby villages of Staveley and Burneside and a lot of trekkers will stay in the area on their final night before tackling the last section of the full Dales Way, in the usual direction to Bowness.
Kendal town centre is pretty good for beer generally, and you can usually find some Cumbrian beers from Coniston, Jennings and Hawkshead breweries. Burgundy’s in Kendal (sometimes referred to as “The Wine Bar”) is a fairly regular visit for me when we visit Kate’s parents. It has a few (four?) handpumps with a range of local beers. It’s a decent size, spread over three levels, and a rooftop smoking area/beer garden and is usually fairly busy.
However when we visited last week the pub had expanded even further into a new area on the lower ground floor. The new bit includes a brewkit behind glass, as in The Brewery Tap in Leeds, and it will be interesting to see what their own beers are like. We were lucky enough to visit in a week where they had set up a temporary bar downstairs for a Cumbrian Beer Festival, expanding the range to around 20 beers.
We tried quite a few of the beers, including Stringer’s Yellow Lorry, Dent Brewery Baas & Stripes (an American-style pale ale with a typically painful name) and Ulverston Laughing Gravy. On a warm spring day, we were in the mood for golden hoppy beers and there were two very good beers in that category in Hardknott Continuum and Hawskhead Citrillo. The last two beers were from the two most interesting breweries in Cumbria that I’ve had a lot of exposure to; although I should mention that I’ve only tried a couple of Stringer’s beers, although I did have a Stringer’s IPA from MyBreweryTap recently and it was excellent.
The Hawkshead Citrillo did stand out as the best beer of the day. Presumably made with Citra and Amarillo, it’s a big, bitter, fruity pale ale in all the right ways, on a par with Thornbridge Jaipur and Marble Dobber, and coming across like the tough big brother of Hawkshead Windermere Pale, which also uses Citra and is almost certainly the best 3.5% beer in the country at the moment.
Burgundy’s won’t always have such a wide range, but it usually has a good one and if there’s nothing on the pumps to interest you, there is a well-stocked beer fridge with probably the best selection of imported bottles in the town centre, including a selection of Belgian beers and even Goose Island IPA.
Other good beer bars in Kendal include The Vats Bar in The Brewery Arts Centre (near the youth hostel) and The Rifleman’s Arms on Greenside, near a lot of the B&Bs. It would be foolish to pass through Staveley without visiting the superb Hawkshead Brewery Beer Hall (but check opening times in advance) or as an alternative The Eagle & Child.
Kate’s parents live in Kendal, so quite often we end up spending the weekend in the Lakes, enjoying a walk during the day then going out for a drink in the evening. The two places that we end up in most often are The Brewery Arts Centre (disappointingly no longer a brewery; just a very good arts centre) and Burgundy’s.
The Vats Bar at The Brewery Arts Centre is relatively expensive, but does usually have a few ales from around the Lakes on, notably their excellent house beer Ale N Arty from Hawkshead. Burgundy’s similarly has a range of around four local cask ales at a time, often including Coniston beers, as well as a good bottle fridge with Orval, Trappistes Rochefort and even the odd bottle of Goose Island IPA.
The Rifleman’s Arms is a less obvious choice. It’s on a nice green, after what on the first climb appears to be a horrendously steep walk up the hill from the main street, appropriately called Beast Banks. Postman Pat was conceived in the imagination of children’s author John Cunliffe when he was living on Greenside, a few houses up from The Rifleman’s Arms and the former Beast Banks sub-post office.
The Rifleman’s is a pub which has reportedly gone through a few shakey moments in recent years but now seems to be on the path back to good health. On a Friday night it seems busy with locals playing dominoes, darts and also in the side room, pool. Posters advertise a weekly knitting circle and the new landlady/manageress seems to be involved in a number of events on the green and keeping the pub involved in the local community.
They have beer from the SIBA list and when we were in two weeks ago that included Ossett Spellbound and Moorhouses Pendle Witches Brew, alongside the Tetleys and Abbot Ale which seem to be the standards. Spellbound in particular was a nice pale ale to enjoy by the gas fire on a wet windy night, whilst the dominoes clattered in the background. However it was served in incorrectly branded glasses. Hardknott Dave would not approve.
Perhaps symbolic of the decline and resurgence of The Rifleman’s is the literature on offer. On a sideboard by the toilets (pictured) is a complete collection of Good Beer Guides for the years 1995-2003. This might be indicative of when the management lost interest. But now they have up-to-date copies of CAMRA’s “Beer” magazine and the local CAMRA newsletter, “Lakes & Ale”.
There’s just one thing though, which is a bit jarring when you go to relieve yourself in the (clean but typically freezing) toilets after a few: the urinal has lumps of coal in it. Coal. Moreover, I am informed that exactly the same lumps have been there for years. Coal apparently gets rid of odours and I assume that’s what they’re for. But I’ve never seen this anywhere else. Have you?
The Rifleman’s Arms, 4-6 Greenside, Kendal, Cumbria LA9 4LD