Last weekend, I welcomed the arrival of Sheffield Beer Week, by visiting Indie Beer Feast. Hosted in the very special Abbeydale Picture House building, this debut event offered a unique environment to enjoy good beer, good food and good company. So, how did it do?
My first visit to London of 2018 took me to Brick Lane, more specifically The Old Truman Brewery. Here, they were proudly hosting Craft Beer Rising. Although now an established event on the London (and UK) beer scene, this was my debut at CBR. Here’s what I thought of my experience!
Celebrating 20 years, North Bar has been, and still is, one of Leeds’ pioneering craft beer bars. Surviving two decades of continuous change in the beer world, North Bar has come through it all. In keeping with its reputation, throughout February, North has been celebrating beers from across the Atlantic, the USA. I found myself in North Bar in late February, as they welcomed Half Acre Beer Company from Chicago.
It was in July last year that North Bar turned 20. I’ve seen so many pubs and bars come and go, but North is part of a unique group that’s seemingly been a constant part of Leeds’ bar scene.
Founded by Christian Townsley and John Gyngell in 1997, North Bar set out its stall as a pioneer in the beer scene. As the story goes, one of the first, exotic beers they brought to Leeds drinkers was Kronenbourg 1664. Many may likely turn their noses at that now, especially in an era where we are spoilt for choice and style. But in the late 90’s, it was a special rarity.
Fast forward 20 years and the bars’ approach to beer hasn’t changed. The North group is much bigger now, with six additional bars and a rapidly growing brewery too. You can read more about another of the North family of bars, the Cross Keys, here. So, whilst Christian and John are empire building, North Bar has been left under some terrific stewardship, in the hands of Cal Lister.
Cal has been in charge of North Bar for the last 2 years, and has built on the successful foundations that were laid all those years ago. You will regularly find the exotic and rare, aged alongside new. Never standing still, North Bar’s beer selection will challenge any palate. And, to help you choose from the vast range of draft and packaged products, the helpful and knowledgeable staff are on hand.
North Bar is an amazing place and, to quote something that was said during a Leeds CAMRA Pub of the Month presentation last year, North Bar isn’t just a pioneer and leader in Leeds, but for the UK as a whole too. A bold statement, but one I fully support.
US Beer Month
February has seen a month-long celebration of US beers in North Bar. They’re old hats at this one, having focused on US brewers in previous years. But, as I said earlier, North Bar never stand still, they always want to move forward, make big bigger, make good better. So, unsurprisingly, this year is bigger and arguably better than ever before.
It’s interesting to see the evolution and popularity of US beers in the UK. It’s almost now become the expected to see US beers on our bars as the norm. What I find telling though, is that each time I’ve spoken with a representative from US breweries recently, they’ve all said the same thing. They all love classic English Bitter. In some cases, even prefer it! Will we see a shift in what is coming to our shores in years to come? Possibly, but it’s going to be some time before the UK gets bored of insane hop bombs or imperial barrel-aged beauties.
Amongst the breweries being celebrated throughout February are Half Acre. Half Acre are a new name for me but an established name in the Chicago brewing scene. Although the most famous Chicago export is Goose Island, in a city of over 9 million people, there’s room for plenty of other breweries.
With two brewing premises to their name as well, Half Acre aren’t small themselves. They are half the age of North Bar, but have grown quickly in that time. And, thanks to Cave Direct, Half Acre have hit our bars for the first time.
There were four of their beers on draft in North Bar, and here’s what I thought:
The lowest ABV of the range, this is a XPA or Extra Pale Ale. A clear golden beer with aromas of sweet citrus and grass. On the taste was sweet citrus again, smooth and, I thought I could detect mosaic hops on this one – a guaranteed winner with me! Light in body and refreshing, I’d love to try this one on a summer’s day.
Daisy Cutter (5.2%)
Dialling up the ABV slightly and into the India Pale Ale style. Golden in colour again, this was very similar to Tuna, perhaps a little more bitter and without the mosaic hop notes. Although slightly more bitter than Tuna, it was easy on the palate and enjoyable.
I almost missed out on this whilst the staff patiently waited for a free keg line, but it appeared on the bar before I left, hooray! Slightly lighter in colour to the previous two, again this was hop forward, presenting some lovely citrus flavours. Although firmly moving away from the session ABVs, this was again a really easy drinker.
Well, that escalated quickly! And, this is what I would call a dangerous beer. Hops and ABV amped up, I picked up pine and grass aroma and citrus flavours again. Here, the bitterness was also more pronounced and lingered on in the aftertaste. The beer was smooth and left a nice warming feeling. Why do I call it dangerous? A 10% beer should not be as easy to drink as this one!
Quality, Taste and Moving Forwards
Four very hop forward, golden beers. A style that is common for US brewers, but one which they do so well. These beers showcased not only what Half Acre are all about, but North Bar too. Quality, taste and always moving forward. It’ll be exciting to see how North Bar top their US beer month next year, and to see more of Half Acre’s beers in the UK too.
If you’re reading this as the post goes live, its likely some of these beers may still be available in North Bar. They’re well worth checking out! – MikeIf you enjoy reading our content, please consider sharing with your friends using the sharing buttons at the bottom of each post. Also, you can subscribe to receive notifications about new blog posts via email. Simply enter your email address into the 'Subscribe to Mike's Tap Room' box at the top left of this page.
When you have a metropolitan area as large as Leeds’, it means there’s plenty of places to enjoy great beer. Joining my friends from Leeds CAMRA, I recently took a trip around Guiseley. It’s not an area of Leeds I’m overly familiar with, so it was a great opportunity to visit some new pubs and taste some new beer.
Ok, so maybe my article last week wasn’t my last Tryanuary related blog post. I promise this one is though! Earlier in January, I was kindly invited by Nomadic Beers to a beer festival hosted by GRUB Manchester. It was their inaugural beer festival and, as it turned out, an opportunity for me to also visit some of the Piccadilly Beer Mile venues.
It’s almost the end of what has been a wonderful Tryanuary 2018. I’ve been to new places, drank new beer, and met new people. I think my Tryanuary has been a success! There was one more Tryanuary trip I wanted to write about before we close the month out. Recently, I took advantage of a brief visit to Birmingham, to see how the beer scene here is evolving. On my trip, I had time to check out three great places that suggest the scene is as vibrant here as anywhere else. Here’s The Wolf, The Indian Brewery Company and The Gunmakers Arms.
Recently, I was invited to a ‘Winter Beer Launch’ event held at Head of Steam Leeds, and hosted by Camerons Brewery. Camerons have made some changes recently, most notably the appointment of a new head brewer, Chris Deakin. Whilst there, I had opportunity to not only meet Chris, but try some of the new beers that are starting to come out of production.
Ever been to the Brudenell Social Club in Hyde Park, Leeds? Ask someone in Leeds and they’ll likely immediately tell you that it’s one of Leeds’ premier gig venues. Which it is! But recently, it’s undergone a bit of a transformation. Now, it is also a haven for amazing beer.
So, here we are in the middle of Tryanuary 2018. I’m pleased to say, after a fairly slow start (I thought a few days off the beer after a beer a day in December, was probably a good idea) I’ve now embraced the campaign and I’m looking forward to some special events I’ve got to come. In this week’s post, I wanted to write about two fantastic bars, new to me, that I went to as part of the Bradford and Leeds Tryanuary pub crawl.
After a December of indulgence, January sees a trend of people opting to go dry. In 2018, it has been estimated 6 million Brits will ditch the booze as part of Dry January. To help support our beer industry throughout January, Tryanuary was created four years ago. The campaign looks to encourage people to visit pubs and drink beer, whilst raising money for charity.