24 August 2016

The last crawls

Sadly, when we arrived in from Huddersfield, Zak had better things to be doing than showing me around the pubs of Leeds and left me with just a slew of recommendations. I began with a detour to a run-down industrial quarter where Northern Monk Brewing Company is forming the nucleation point of revitalisation by placing its Refectory right in the middle. The brewery is on the ground floor of the refurbished building with the bar above it. A roomy beer garden is out front and punters were making the most of that when I arrived. I had the main bar almost to myself.

With the entirety of Leeds to cover in a single evening, I just had the one: New World, an IPA from their core range. It's 6.2% ABV and unsurprisingly chewy but with a light and juicy middle section and lots of fun fruit flavours. There was a definite haze which manifested as a yeasty burr in the taste which did spoil my enjoyment a little: cleaned up this would be a corker.

Back to the town centre and a couple of pints in Tapped Leeds, a sister brewpub to the one in Sheffield station that I mentioned on Monday. They don't seem to be any better at brewing here, unfortunately. Mojo is a pale gold bitter at 3.6% ABV with an unpleasantly weird sackcloth and nettles flavour. The slightly darker, slightly stronger Rodeo had a similar mustiness but is saved by a sweet biscuit flavour rendering it drinkable but only just. Neither beer tasted especially fresh which, when drinking at source, is pretty much unforgivable. Tapped does have nice pizzas, though. I'm sure the guest beers go great with that.

Around the corner is Friends of Ham, a pigmeat-themed restauranty pub. I sat at the bar and ordered the house beer, Pig's Ear. It's another big and heavy one, 6.7% ABV and designed for food, I guess, which is fair enough. I got a feel of bock lager from it: that sort of chewiness, plus a raspberry and redcurrant flavour in the middle and a touch of lactic sharpness on the finish. Definitely not one for session drinking.

I thought I was stepping away from the craft when I went to Whitelock's, Leeds's oldest pub, situated down an alley off the main drag, but they had a beer from Roosters, collaborating with Odell, on the bar, so I had a go of that. It's called The Accomplice and is 5.7% ABV. Marmalade coloured, it has a spicy marmalade citrus bite which fades to become a sweet fruit-chew candy flavour. Although I was in the mood for something lighter, this hit the spot nicely, though is probably better suited to a quiet afternoon in the Victorian splendour of Whitelock's rather than a slightly raucous Saturday night.

I got what I was looking for a little further on at North Bar, the pub which put Leeds on the modern beer map and staks a claim at being Britain's first "craft beer" bar. It runs a brewery elsewhere in Leeds which is where they produce the pale ale Sputnik. This offers an array of hoppy delights including lip-smacking piney resins and luscious pineapple and mango. It absolutely screams freshness, and manages all these fireworks at a very sessionable 5% ABV. I'm glad I got to it last as I'd have been tempted to stay on it all night if I'd found it sooner.

But it was bedtime for me, if not for Leeds, which was still partying at 6am judging from the sounds outside my hotel window. I was up and out early for the final city of the trip, arriving in Manchester on Sunday afternoon just as the pubs opened.

Along the concourse running up to Manchester Piccadilly station is The Piccadilly Tap, an odd sort of arrangement, with the stand-up bar space in an otherwise e