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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.

Beer For Birds: The Sparrow Bier Cafe, North Parade, Bradford

May 19, 2011 7 comments

Bradford, for me, is an unknown quantity, an undiscovered country.  Despite living in Leeds for 7 years I’ve only been to the centre of Bradford a handful of times.  I know it has some good curry houses, a Media Museum and an IMAX cinema, however I’ve never felt the need to go to Bradford for a drink, in the way that I might get the train to Huddersfield specifically to visit the Grove.

However there’s now a very good reason to visit Bradford: The Sparrow Bier Cafe.  Started by Les Hall and Mark Husak, it officially opens tomorrow, but a little bird invited a few of us for a preview last night.

The bar is on North Parade, close to Forster Square station but also walkable from Bradford Interchange (map).  From the outside it looks minimal and sophisticated, with an elegant dark green frontage and a dapper little sparrow logo (called “Hercule”).  It’s actually a bit bigger inside than it looks, with a second seating area in the basement.

The ground floor was yet to be completely finished, with the floors still needing to be laid.  However you can see that it’s a classy looking place, with the kind of calm colour scheme and unifying design that the Port Street Beer House in Manchester has, and promising a selection of art similar to North Bar in Leeds.  There’s a good selection of music (I remember Love and Nick Drake) which adds to the atmosphere but doesn’t impede conversation.

The selection of beer is very good, including a wide range of American, Belgian, German and other bottles, some of which are regulars and others guests.  It’s also very cheap for what you get.  For example, a bottle of Brooklyn Black Chocolate Stout is £4.15 and Silly Saison is £2.20.  By way of comparison, they would cost at least £3.50 and £5.85 in equivalent cafe bars in Leeds.  The train fare was starting to look like an investment.

There are six keg lines and four handpulls.  The kegs included two Meantime beers and three Bernard beers, including the really nice, bitterly noble hoppy Unfiltered.  The cask on this occasion included Thornbridge Jaipur, Ikley Stout Mary, Dark Star Original and Saltaire South Island Pale.  Again these were all very reasonably priced and you can look forward to seeing some exciting new UK craft beers on keg and cask in the future.

 

Beyond the excellent and reasonable beer menu there’s also a good selection of food: sandwiches, pork pies and olives amongst others.  It’s probably sensible to have something to eat because you’ll find yourself not wanting to leave until you’ve tried quite a lot of beers, some of which will probably be of considerable strength.

It was good to spend a few hours drinking and chatting with Rob from Hopzine, Fletch from RealAleReviews, Neil from Eating Isn’t CheatingKeith Wildman from Sabotage Times, Martin Bell and Ian Garrett.  As is evident from Rob and Neil’s posts, we were all pretty taken with the place and didn’t have a bad word to say about it.

I wish Mark and Les all the best with The Sparrow.  You can see that they’ve put a lot of effort, thought and love into the place and it deserves to succeed.  You owe yourself a visit.

Pub Walks: Leeds-Liverpool Canal, Leeds to Saltaire

March 2, 2011 3 comments

Feeling quite unfit and not a little stressed, it was good to take a couple of days off last week and go for some long walks. One of the benefits of living in Yorkshire being able to walk long distances relatively easily along canals, where there tends to be interesting scenery, history, wildlife and, of course, pubs!  It’s all very well climbing Ben bloody Nevis, but is there a pub up there for a self-congratulatory pint?  If so, it’s not in the Good Beer Guide.

On Tuesday morning I set off on a grey morning from my house in Moortown intending to walk the 14 or so miles to Saltaire.  I walked through Meanwood and Headingley to join the Leeds-Liverpool canal near Kirkstall Abbey, a few miles from its start.  A couple of miles further on I met the first pub, The Abbey Inn at Newlay.  Unfortunately the Abbey wasn’t open yet so I went on.  I do like the Abbey: it’s a good honest pub with anaglypta on the wall, good local beers and enormous portions of food.

A little while further along the canal I came to Rodley, where I decided to stop for my first drink.  Rodley has two GBG pubs opposite each other: The Rodley Barge and The Owl.  I decided upon the Barge due to its proximity to the canal, and had a nice half of something pale and sessionable called Ale Gate by the Oldershaw Brewery in Grantham along with a packet of Brannigans.

Having stopped only for about ten minutes or so, I pressed on along the canal for the remaining eight miles to Saltaire.  I passed the Saltaire Brewery, which would seem to me to be strictly based in Shipley rather than Saltaire itself, before leaving the canalside at Salts Mill.

I thought I’d give The Boathouse a try, close as it is to the canal.  I immediately felt a bit out of place in the shiny wine bar surroundings in my boots and mud-flecked jeans.  However there was a reasonable beer selection (albeit more quantity than variation, really: Black Sheep; Golden Sheep; Tether Blonde; Saltaire Blonde; Old Peculier) so I ordered a half of Saltaire Blonde.  It had a slightly lemony soapy smell and an alright mouthfeel but not enough taste.

I walked up Victoria Road, past Victoria Hall (venue for last weekend’s Bradford Beer Festival) and around the corner to Fanny’s Ale House.  Attempting to give the impression of being much older than it actually is (the pub only opened in 1997, although the building is of course older), Fanny’s is nonetheless a nice-looking, welcoming pub with open fires and similar.

It had a fairly wide selection of beers on, including a couple of Timothy Taylors beers and Rooster’s Yankee.  However, adopting what is increasingly a ticker’s attitude to new beers, I ordered a Salamander Dr Awkward.  This was supposed to be pale and hoppy.  There was a general lack of aroma that carried through to a disappointingly weak watery taste.

Bored by pale session beers with no oomph, I then went for the terribly-named Fernandes Double Decker Pecker at 6.5%.  This smelled bitter, citrussy, hoppy and light.  It tasted unapologetically bitter in a dull, slightly gritty and caustic way, with little or no sweetness or other tastes to balance it out.  I thought it was interesting but I didn’t like it that much, on the first attempt anyway.

Regardless of the two beers I tried (as noted, there were good beers on which I knew I liked), Fanny’s is a great pub with a good selection and well worth a visit if you’re in Saltaire.  It was even worth walking 14 miles for.

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