All posts by Mike Hampshire

A Dog on Deck

Despite my obvious interest in the beer industry, I only have limited experience working behind a bar. So far, I’ve poured pints at CAMRA beer festivals, my own Festival of Brewers and some other special events hosted by local breweries. So, when an opportunity to become a ‘Dog on Deck’ came up with Brewdog, I thought it was a good chance to really see the behind the scenes working of a busy City Centre bar.

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A Samuel Smith’s Session

In Leeds, the number of Samuel Smith pubs rivals that of JD Wetherspoon pubs in the area. However, whilst it feels like you are constantly stumbling across Wetherspoon pubs, the Samuel Smith ones aren’t so obvious. I’ve recently spent time visiting Samuel Smith pubs in and around Leeds City Centre and I wanted to share my thoughts on these unique places.

Four Pints of Taddy and a Packet of Crisps

Located down an alley just off the main shopping high street of Briggate in Leeds, is The Angel Inn. One of five pubs in alleys like this, the Angel and it’s neighbours act as a wonderful respite from the busy shopping environment just yards away.

As a younger drinker, the Angel Inn was the first ever Samuel Smith pub I visited. In fact, back in those days, I didn’t realise it was part of a wider chain of pubs belonging to a brewery.

Back then, the thing that got you hooked was price. A theme that many Samuel Smith pub regulars will know all too well. But, do you remember the first time you ever bought a Samuel Smith beer in one of their pubs?

The Alley from Briggate to The Angel

“I’ll have four pints of Taddy Lager and a packet of crisps please.” Tentatively handing over the money and not really knowing what to expect back. The look on people’s faces (as no doubt so was mine back then) is one of astonishment, as change from a fiver is returned! Ok, I exaggerate a little, but the prices of beer in Samuel Smith’s pub is something that pleasantly surprises many first-timers.

Like other Samuel Smith pubs, The Angel Inn offers a travel back in time. Its back-alley location is almost romantic. Approaching from Briggate, it’s a tight alley that quickly dulls the noise of the shopping hustle and bustle behind you. Lit by Victorian lamps (granted with modern bulbs!), it’s not long before you’re greeted by a large bay window and a good view of what is going on inside the pub.

A swift 90 degree right and then left, you’re at the main entrance. So enclosed is the space, it makes the previous alley seem gargantuan. Skip the entrance and straight ahead of you is an outdoor seating area. Picnic tables on pavement, surrounded by towering red brick buildings. There’s no greenery here, but the amount of seating dwarfs almost all its neighbours in the other alleys.

The main entrance to The Angel Inn

Beer from Wooden Cask

Inside the pub, a tiled floor and lots of wooden beams and furniture. Characteristic of some other Samuel Smith’s pubs I’ve been in, but not all.

On the bar, as you would fully expect, is a wide range of Samuel Smith’s drinks. If you’re reading this and have never been to a Samuel Smith’s pub before, then don’t expect to see any products you’d see elsewhere in other bars. It’s another reason why these pubs can afford to be so cheap.

The Angel Inn also has something unique on the bar. Most Samuel Smith pubs in Leeds centre only offer their beers available on keg draught or bottle. Here, you will find their Old Brewery Bitter on cask hand pull. A very rare treat, which is enhanced by the fact that the cask the beer is stored in, is wooden. This is a beer for people to truly enjoy traditional drinking.

The bar area is small with limited seating, but across the entrance hallway is a much more comfortable lounge area. There’s also seating upstairs.

Old Brewery Bitter on Cask Handpull

With cheap prices, naturally when it comes to Samuel Smith’s, questions may be asked about the clientele. It’s interesting that in my experience, I’ve always found everyone to be friendly – staff and customers. I don’t think I’ve ever witnessed any trouble, and I never expect to see any either.

Marching On Together

Talking of clientele is a nice link to my next pub, The Duncan. I realise now, I have wasted too many a year avoiding the Duncan. Listening to rumours and word of mouth on reputation, it has, until recently, been a no-go pub for me.

However, last year, with a friend, I decided to go where I’d never been before. We didn’t quite feel like holding hands as we crossed the pub threshold, but I did feel like a prize idiot when I got in there.

The Duncan

The Duncan may not be shiny and new, may look a little tired around the edges, but it has a wealth of character and is a superb, cosy Samuel Smith pub.

You’ll find this one on Duncan Street, just a few minutes’ walk from the Angel Inn, in fact. It doesn’t have fancy signs, or A boards cluttering up the street with drinks offers. Just a home-produced version of the Samuel Smith logo in one of the windows and simple signage above the entrance way.

The one thing that will stand out immediately to any visitor, is the vast range of Leeds United pictures and memorabilia. From pictures of Leeds heroes like Billy Bremner and Tony Yeboah, to a nod to Kevin Speight and Christopher Loftus, fans who lost their lives whilst away supporting their team.

Some of the Duncan’s Leeds United memorabilia

Yes, the Duncan is a Leeds United fans’ pub and the atmosphere can get a bit energetic on a match day. But, it doesn’t feel hostile or aggressive (having been in their more than once with a Liverpool and Manchester United fans, they clearly feel safe!).

The beers are, once again, full Samuel Smith fayre. All keg and bottles. If you find yourself in need of additional entertainment, The Duncan even has a pool table.

The Golden Eagle

The final pub I’ve recently spent some time in is further out of the City Centre. Heading into the Sheepscar area of the city (very close to North Brewing Co.) is The Eagle Tavern.

Recently refurbished The Eagle Tavern offers the Samuel Smith experience in a modern, fresher environment, but without loss of character.

Coming through the main entrance, the first thing you’ll spot is an incredible gold coloured statue of an eagle. What a welcome! To the right is the bar area, with a lounge, pool and dining rooms nearby. That’s right, dining.

It’s not a common sight to see a Samuel Smith pub with a food menu, but the Eagle Tavern does. Part of the reason for this, is that the Eagle is one of a few Samuel Smith venues to also provide hotel accommodation. As you’d expect, rooms are priced at a competitive rate. I haven’t stayed, but photos of the rooms suggest overnight stays would be in a comfortable and clean room.

Greeted by Gold at The Eagle Tavern

As the Eagle Tavern is located out of the city centre, it’s better placed to have regulars you can get to know. The warm greeting and friendly chat are something you’d expect having been a regular for years. However, on visit number one, I felt like I’d been drinking here since I was 18.

In comfortable, cosy surroundings, with great people and beer, without the hustle and bustle of City Centre life, the Eagle Tavern is a magnificent place to lose hours (possibly even days if their opening hours permitted!).

There are other Samuel Smith pubs in the Leeds area that I’m yet to try or haven’t had a full enough experience to write about them just yet. However, the three I’ve written about here are individual, characteristic, friendly, comfortable places. I would recommend anyone to give them a go.

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My Lithuania Beer Adventure Part VII – Craft and Draft Brewpub

The afternoon of day two of my brewery trip around Lithuania was wearing on. So, it was time to move on to my third and final brewery of the day, and of my visit. The final destination was Craft and Draft Brewpub in Vilnius.

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My Lithuania Beer Adventure Part VI – Kuro Aparatūra

After visiting the wonderful Sakiškių Alus on the outskirts of Vilnius, Tomas and I headed back towards the centre to visit our second brewery. One of two breweries in Vilnius centre, our next stop was Kuro Aparatūra.

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My Lithuania Beer Adventure Part V – Sakiškių Alus

After a long day one, visiting four breweries in Kaunas, the next day took me to a further three breweries. This time, though, Tomas and I headed to Lithuania’s capital city, Vilnius. Our first stop was Sakiškių Alus on the outskirts of the city, in a beautiful location.

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West Coast Rock Brewery

Whilst the craft beer boom has matured in some major Northern towns and cities, it has been a little slower on the up take in others. On a recent trip to Blackpool, I visited West Coast Rock Brewery. Here, they are developing their craft, and bringing Blackpool drinkers along with them on the journey.

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My Lithuania Beer Adventure Part IV – Kauno Alus

As day one drew to a close on my Lithuanian beer adventure, Tomas, Big M and I visited our fourth and final brewery. Having been to Apynys, Avilys and Genys, our last stop of the day was one of Lithuania’s oldest running breweries – Kauno Alus.

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Anthology Brewing Company

Another day, another new brewery in Leeds! Anthology Brewing Company becomes the latest new brewery on the scene, as Leeds continues to demonstrate it’s a hot bed for craft brewers and craft drinkers. Recently, I had the opportunity to visit the new brewery and catch up with Owner and Head Brewer, Liam Kane.

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My Lithuania Beer Adventure Part III – Genys

Earlier this year, I began a series of articles about my trip to Lithuania and, specifically, a tour of some of its wonderful and varied breweries. Day one of my trip saw me start out in Kaunas, first at Apynysand then Avilys. My third stop of the day would take me to a fascinating brewery that would not look out of place if it were part of the UK craft brewing scene – Genys Brewing Co. 

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Festival of Brewers – The Life of an Organiser

In late June 2018, Festival of Brewers made its debut in Leeds. This was the first festival I’d ever led the organisation of. Having had some time to reflect on the experience, I thought I’d share with you what it’s like to be a beer event organiser!

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