We had been looking forward to our weekend away in Leeds for ages. Jane and I, along with our good friends, Steve and Dee,travelled to Yorkshire's biggest city on a Friday, staying at the Travelodge, in Vicar Lane, for 2 nights. I had been to the City a few times in the past, but, usually, the only pubs I would have visited would have been the ones nearest the Football Ground. Now, it was time for a good sniff around the many bars within the City centre. My original foray into the Real Ale outlets available led me to a list of over 50. Hmm. Beermonsters have their limits. Liver transplants were not an option we were looking at. After digging through the t'interweb, and asking my friends on Twitter and Google +, I managed to get a short list down to 20 pubs. Of these, during our three sessions across the weekend, we managed 17 of them, AND added 2 more! Not bad at all. Above all, though, we had a fantastic couple of days in a brilliant city, which caters for all, whether you are shopping, drinking or eating. We did all three. Our return is eagerly anticipated. I have tried to encapsulate our little trip around here in chronological order of our pub crawl, with a little intro of the boozers and taverns discovered, and the delicacies partaken within. I know some will think we missed out on the best, or not agree with my comments, but hey ho, such is the life of a beer blogger. So, if you are ready, here we go.
Friday Afternoon and Night.
The Templar Hotel 2 Templar Street.
|1st knockings in The|
Situated just off The Headrow, and opposite the Travelodge in Vicar Lane, this was a good starting point. The selection is pretty impressive, and there is the offer of 10% off for card carrying CAMRA members. This is an old style boozer, and among with the many hand-pumps, there was, probably, a similar number of screens dotted around the pub, all showing various sports, but there doesn't seem to be any conflicts between those dedicated to the 2-30 at Kempton and those with a thirst for good beer. Our choices in here were Empire Brewery “Moonraker Mild” at 3.8% , a sweet, nutty and quite chocolate flavoured example of this style, with quite a dry finish, and one I really enjoyed. Leeds “Pale Ale” was Steve's tipple, another a 3.8%, and a good session beer, with a light, but noticeably, hoppy taste, leading through to floral notes. We would all become quite familiar with this well balanced classic, with a medium bitterness in the finish. The ladies went for Moorhouse's “Blonde Witch”, a Golden Ale of 4.5%, with a fruity smoothness throughout. The finish is quite bitter and zesty, but tempered well with a hint of sweetness.
The Swan, Swan Street
Just tucked away off Briggate, this Leeds Brewery run pub is very modern in décor, and displays a good range of beers, available in 1/3 pint tasters. This is more Wine Bar, in looks, than traditional Public House, and, despite the variety on the bar, the quality of some of the beers were not so good, with one beer, the Leeds Pale, having to be returned. Steve and I went for the aforementioned tasters, with Leeds “Midnight Bell”, Marble “Earl Grey IPA” and Leeds “Pale Ale” being in his original line-up, whilst Sonnet 43's “American Pale Ale” and “Steam Beer” sat alongside a Marston's “Saphir Single Hop Amber Ale” on my tray. The half pints were both Leeds “Pale Ale”, but, unfortunately, these had to be changed, as was Steve's, for the same brewers “Yorkshire Gold”. The “Midnight Bell” a 4.8% Mild, was heavy on the dark malts, with a lovely chocolate notes through to the medium dry and bitter finish, the “Earl Grey” was very full of fruitiness, with orange and grapefruit mixing with tropical fruit and, of course, tea. Truly American in style. The “Yorkshire Gold” is quite light in taste, but with a good background of malt. The finish is citrus and very satisfying. The Sonnet “APA”, 5.4% had a vein of spiciness running through the apricot and biscuity body, with a hint of floral. A satisfying but not too punchy American Pale, whereas the slight fruit,toffee and citrus flavours and thin body of the “Steam Beer”, at 3.8%, although a reasonable session beer, just lacked that little extra. “Saphir' Single Hop”, with a caramel sweetness, spice and tangy hop hints, was quite enjoyable.
The Ship Hotel, Ship Yard, off Briggate.
Another pub, sited just off the main street by an alleyway. A great Olde Worlde atmosphere oozes through this pub, from the nautical based wooded décor, through to the cosiness of the outside drinking area. The beer selection is, I was told, usually around half a dozen, and Cask Marque accredited. The clientele is an easy mix of locals, shoppers and beer hunters, and there is a genuine friendliness in the air. In here we all chose the Leeds Brewery “Pale Ale”, to get over the disappointment of the previous tavern. It was excellently dispensed and tasted fresh, light and extremely satisfying, as it should. This is a pub worth looking out for.
The New Conservatory, Albion Place
The bar here is in the cellar, or should I say Basement, but when you are in here, it is no dark dingy and airless place. The decorations are Art Deco, and quite pleasing on the eye. Not a vast beer selection, but the beer we sampled was very well kept. Another pub worth digging out, with the street furniture and facade giving the looks more akin to a cafe. Our beer selection was the 4.3% Leeds “Best Bitter”, a Yorkshire Bitter to savour, with rich a malt taste perfectly balancing the hoppiness, and leading to a refreshing bitterness. There ain't many better.
The Pack Horse, Pack Horse Lane, Briggate.
|A good selection in the Pack Horse|
This pub vies for the title of Leeds' Oldest, and is very popular, with a number of local ales on tap, and real cider too. It is the sort of place to happily take a breather from retail therapy, or to use as a man crèche if the shops are too much of a distraction. The selection in here is also good, and we counted 7 cask Ales and Orchard pig Cider on the crowded bar. There is quite a bit of room inside, as well as an outside/smokers area in the adjoining alleyway. In here, our order was a pint each of Purity Brewing's “ Pure Ubu”, a Premium Amber Ale of 4.5%, and Castlesford's Revolutions Brewery's “Clash London Porter”, also 4.5%, along with halves of Copper Dragon's “Golden Pippin”, for T'other 'Arf and the 4.2% Golden Ale, Purity “Mad Goose” for Dee. Steve's “Pure Ubu” was full on with maltiness and fruits, sweet, but dry in the finish. A beer that is deceptively smooth. My “Clash London Porter” had a wonderful aroma of coffee, bread and a touch of chocolate, which carried on into the taste of this medium bodied Ale. It is well balanced and has a vein of bitter sweetness throughout. A good beer of this style. After what we believe was a touch of “slight of hand” magic, or just downright cheek by T'other 'Arf, it appears that the other two drinks got swapped on their arrival at our table ! The “Mad Goose” was a refreshing, zesty Golden Ale, with smooth and dry finish. The “Golden Pippin”, with it's sweeter fruitiness and slight bitter finish, also carried noticeable floral hints. All in all, 4 excellently brewed beers.
Whitelocks , Turks Head Yard, Briggate.
Another goldmine of an Alehouse. We arrived to find a beer festival taking place. Their were more beers than you could shake a stick at, and plenty of punters tasting the wares. Unfortunately, we waited far too long for service, and, on enquiring when it would be our turn, received a very short and rudely delivered retort from one of the bar staff. Another member of staff eventually served us, with politeness, but first impressions ? Not what we expected. This was a real shame from, what otherwise was, a superb boozer. The beers chosen were Ridgeside “Black Night”, another good solid Porter, of 5%, which had a more fruity taste than some, with rich liquorice and chocolate notes giving way to burnt caramel, but bitter dry finish, and Timothy Taylor “Landlord”, 4.3%, which tasted, well, just like “Landlord” should do. Slight fruit gives way to a real nice hoppiness, and citrus notes delicately cut through, making it a really good, and award winning beer. We had hoped to sample Kirkstall “Pale Ale”, but it had gone off, which was a pity.
The Griffin, Boar Lane.
This was not on my original list of pubs to visit, but one look inside persuaded us otherwise. This street corner pub, part of the Taylor Walker estate, has a strange, but interesting, layout, and can become rather crowded. The designers have gone for part traditional, part tube-station and a touch of canteen, but, somehow, it works ! With two permanent and, up to, 4 guest beers, this is quite a good show on the pumps. The beers we chose in here were the “Taylor Walker 1730 Special Pale Ale”, brewed for the company by Westerham Brewery, and “Chinook Blonde”, 4.2%, from Keighley Goose Eye Brewery. “Chinook” is a very light tasting Ale, with hints of malt, citrus and slight grassy tones, but the finish is a big dry and bitter punch. It is a good Summer beer, and the finish, very refreshing. The 4% “1730” had a rather fruity hint to the main malt body, which slowly leads you a medium dry and zesty finish. Both beers were well worth our diversion from “The List”
The Atlas King Street.
This pub is a 5 minute amble away from the main drinking area, but worth the trip. It has a good range of World Craft beers, Wines and Spirits, along with a selection of local Cask beers. The feel is slightly wine bar, as is the look, but, it is certainly not pretentious. We found it a very comfortable and friendly bar, and the staff are very knowledgeable and courteous. We chose two Atlas beers in here,brewed by Halifax Brewers Stod Fold and Saltaire. These were, respectively, “Gold” 3.8%, a straw coloured light coloured Ale which is very smooth to drink, with zesty hints and medium bitterness, and “Blonde” 4.8%. This was a touch drier, but equally nice, with a more noted and rounded maltiness. “Barnsley Bitter”, from the Stancil brewery, 3.8% of lovely malt sweetness making it have a creamy feel in the mouth. The bitterness is good and well balanced, a great session beer, and Ilkley “Summer” were also sampled. “Summer” is a Golden Ale of 4%, which is full of fruit flavours. Mango,Pineapple and orange were detected by us, with hints of vanilla too. A touch complex, but, nonetheless, very quaffable indeed.
Mr Foley's Cask Ale House. The Headrow
|A great line-up of York Brewery beers.|
The first York Brewery owned house outside of York, with an excellent selection of the brewery's beers on show, along with several guest ales. It is named after the founder of Pearl Assurance, Patrick James Foley, who started his business on this site, in 1864. The building itself, has a magnificent facade, which gave me visions of the start of Monty Python's “The Meaning of Life”, as the Crimson Permanent Assurance Co building, Edwardian in style, and turned, magically, into a sailing ship, slips anchor, and heads off , after it's oppressed staff rebel against their new owners, and set sail to London city, to wage war against the Very Big Corporation of America........This was my ninth pint I would be necking !! The pub does offer 1/3 pint tasters, but we waded in with our 2, plus 2 halves all the same. Steve, and the two half pinters chose York “Terrier”, the 4.2% Premium Golden Ale, which was refreshing, clean and quite sharp tasting, with a good bitterness, and fruit and citrus tones cutting through. I opted for York “Otherside IPA”. This was a very fruity Ale, with tropical fruit on the nose and taste. This leads to a quite bitter and dry finish, accompanied by wonderful pine hints. Not a lot of sweetness in this 5.4% brew, but very nice, all the same.
As we left here, food seemed top of the agenda for my companions. “I'm having a Subway, Don't try and stop me” stated Steve. Through supressed laughter, his T'other 'arf, Dee, said “What ever, have what you want”. “No, I'm having a Sub, don't try and talk me out of it” So, it was agreed. Steve was having a Subway meal. Dee, eventually, decided on McDonald's, to which my T'other Arf took a liking to. “What you having ?” was the main question to me by our little group. “Me ?” I responded, “Another pint. I'm off to find another pub !”. So, bravely, I ventured forth, with no provisions, just a crumpled beer map in hand, to find the last pub on tonight's list.
The Veritas Ale & Wine Bar Great George Street.
The name says it all, really. On the outside, this looks more like a shopfront than a drinking house. Inside, four seperate areas, interlinked, greet you. It is a nice, relaxing place, with a reasonable beer selection, friendly staff and comfortable ambience. The beer I chose was Two Roses “Heron Porter”, a Barnsley brewed beer. At 4.2%, and having a lovely chocolate aroma, reflected in the taste, along with burnt caramel, I found it a very smooth beer, and very satisfying. I could have had another in the peaceful surroundings of this tavern, but I was summoned to regroup, back at The Templar, and, who am I to argue.
Although my memories of my last pint, back at the start of our crawl, may be sketchy, I am assured I enjoyed it,whatever was thrust into my sweaty paw, along with the kebab which followed. So came an end to our first night in this great drinking paradise ( I am reliably informed that Steve ventureds out of the hotel a little later that evening for another Subway !) What of tomorrow? Read on.