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The Grand Old Twissup Of York

February 27, 2011 2 comments

In the Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy, Ford Prefect buys four packets of peanuts from a pub just before the world is destroyed, as you need the salt and protein after going through a matter transference beam.  However Kate and I realised that a day’s drinking in York with beer bloggers and brewers from as far apart as Kent and Glasgow would require a Wetherspoons breakfast in Leeds station at the very least.

We met Dean, Leigh, Adam, Martin and Rob on the platform and headed to York, where Dean led us to the York Brewery.  Whilst we were waiting Dean cracked open his new homebrew, a superb, fruity black IPA called Devil In Disguise (following the Elvis theme after the previous “All Shook Up”).  After everyone else showed up we enjoyed some cheap drinks in the York Brewery bar, where the dark, coffee, chocolate Centurion’s Ghost and light, hoppy seasonal beer First Light seemed to go down best, and everyone started chatting.

We were treated to an entertaining and informative free tour before heading back for further discounted drinks at the bar.  After a short while we moved on to the Market Town Taverns bar Brigantes on Micklegate. A lot of people seemed to enjoy Hambletown Nightmare whilst I went for Baboon by The Brass Monkey Brewery in Sowerby Bridge.  It was a slightly peculiar pale but oddly smoky beer.

We then moved on to Pivni, the diminutive but proud father of the Sheffield and Euston Taps and, I’m informed, expectant parent of The York Tap!  A great selection included BrewDog on cask (Riptide, 5am Saint, Trashy Blonde, Edge) and 5am Saint in Keg, Camden Pale Ale and Bernard beers.

I quite liked Camden Pale Ale although it did taste somewhere between an IPA and a light pilsner.  Bernard Special Ox was a sweet, relatively high ABV pilsner.  5am Saint was great on keg, although I didn’t try the cask version and Hardknott Dave pointed out that it had a slight taste of silverskin pickled onions.  I wasn’t too excited by the cask Riptide, although it was fine.

What was interesting though was when Dave, Ann and, er, Sooty from Hardknott treated us to a sneak preview taste of two variations on Aether Blaec, one in Balvenie casks and another in those of another whisky whose name now eludes me.  They were both really nice.

After staying in  Pivni for a while, we decamped to various places for food (Kate, Dean and I got much-needed but tooth-shattering pork and crackling baps from a hogroast shop) and then came together with some others in The White Swan, a big Nicholson’s pub on Goodramgate.  I had two slightly disappointing beers: Kelham Island Pale Rider and Thornbridge Jaipur, which for some reason was far less interesting than usual.

We went on to The House Of The Trembling Madness above The Bottle on Stonegate.  It’s a favourite of mine: a hidden hunting lodge-themed bar with a good selection of imported bottled beers and meat and cheese platters secreted above an excellent off-licence.  I had an O’Dell 5 Barrel Pale Ale before we decided that it would be sensible to draw a line under the day whilst all was well and we could face the train back to Leeds with a brave face.  At this point people were headed in the direction of the Rook and Gaskill, which is a great pub, but one that we might have found diffcult to leave.

The House Of The Trembling Madness does have a clever setup where you walk out, slightly inebriated, through a shop full of great beers and of course I ended up buying three big Stone bottles: Arrogant Bastard; Cali-Belgique and Sublimely Self-Righteous Ale.  And this is on top of the bottle of Driscoll’s End that Dominic himself had very kindly given me earlier in the day after I told him how much I enjoyed it on cask.

Once again it was a great day  and it was lovely to meet loads of people whose blogs I read and a few whose beers I drink, and everyone was really nice and welcoming.  Thanks very much to Andy and Mark for organising it and to everyone else for being so friendly: see you on the next one!

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Alfred Bar, Meanwood: What’s It All About, Alfie?

January 30, 2011 2 comments

I’m a big fan of the expanding North Bar mini-empire, which now stretches to the original in Leeds city centre; Further North in Chapel Allerton; and the Cross Keys in Holbeck (which is more gastro but does so brilliantly).  Oh, and an ice cream van full of beer.  I’m informed that The Reliance is no longer under the same ownership, but it remains great for booze, food and service nevertheless.

On Saturday at 5pm they opened their new pub in Meanwood, Alfred, and I popped in for a pint at the end of a long walk.  Opposite Waitrose and the new Market Town Tavern, East Of Arcadia, these seem symbolic of the gentrification of Meanwood. 

On Alfred’s twitter feed they’ve been keeping us up to date with the renovation of what used to be Tropical Nosh.  It’s all paid off in spades, and the pub looks great.  If you’ve been to Further North you’ll be familiar with the multiplicity of unmatched lampshades hanging from the roof, the welcoming glass frontage and classy understated sign.

It’s bigger than Further North, but not massively so; I counted about 30-40 seats whereas I reckon Further North has about 20-25.  The bar area has room for a whole three staff, a coffee machine and a decent amount of fridge space.  Needless to say the bottled beer selection is good; a wide but sensible range with enough to excite most tastes without attempting to rival the huge range of the original North Bar.

Three handpumps were christened with Elland 1872 Porter, Marble Ginger and Roosters Wild Mule (who seemed to have dropped the “Outlaw” brand).  I went for the excellent 1872 Porter (6.5%) and Kate had the Wild Mule, a nice hoppy pale ale which is effectively the house beer in North.

They also had Brooklyn Lager on keg, but rather than reciting the whole range, I took a photo of the menu, which you should hopefully just about be able to read if you click on it.  You’ll see that the prices tend towards the upper end of average, with the cask beers all £3.10 a pint.  There’s also what seems like a decent range of wines, if you’re interested in that sort of thing.

Like North, Alfred is going to have a small range of food, stretching to cheese and bread; meat and bread; and possibly pies.  This suits the small space and the cafe vibe, and if you want a big plate of sausages and mash, East of Arcadia is only a few seconds down the road.

A special mention should go to the loos.  Unlike Further North, there are seperate gents’ and ladies’ bogs, with quirky wallpaper.  The ladies’ has saucy 1950s pin-up art (so I’m informed) whereas the gents’ has some great 1970s-style boy’s bedroom football wallpaper, with footballers to represent Scottish, English and Northern Irish (but not Welsh) international players.  However, their poses, down to the web-slinging hand gestures, seem to have been traced from Spider-Man comics.  Perhaps George Best was once bitten by an alcoholic spider. 

I was only there for one pint (and a free bun!) on the first day, but Alfred seems to be a great little cafe bar, with excellent beers, friendly staff and a lovely interior and exterior.  It was worth the license application difficulties and the hard work, and Meanwood suddenly seems like an option for a nice evening out.

For more info on Alfred Bar check out their website, Facebook page and Reet Good Leeds.

Alfred Bar, 6 Stonegate Road, Meanwood, Leeds LS6 4HY

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