Call Lane in Leeds is one of the City’s most well-known nightlife hot spots. And, whilst you might assume this means loud music and cheap mass-produced drinks, you don’t have to try too hard to find some great bars, serving great beers. A few weeks ago, with my Leeds CAMRA friends in tow, we visited four of Call Lane’s craft beer bars. This is the Call Lane Crawl for the beer lover!
Right in the middle of things on Call Lane you’ll find Cuckoo. Cuckoo is the former Black Swan which was known for selling great craft beer and a food focus on Pizza.
With Cuckoo, a fair bit has changed. It’s easily spotted with it’s bright coloured sign above the door and even more colourful inside. ‘Cuckoo’ sits proudly behind the bar, in huge rainbow letters.
I must admit, on a midweek early evening the venue is fairly quiet. But, you can tell it’s geared up for large numbers later at night – in keeping with Call Lane’s reputation. Large areas of standing space in the centre near the bar, with smaller surrounding areas fitted with benches and tables.
On the bar, you’ll find only keg taps now, with the two hand pulled ales that were there in it’s time as the Black Swan, removed. But, there’s still plenty of choice, including their own branded house lager, Tiny Rebel’s ‘FUBAR’ and Beavertown’s ‘Gamma Ray’.
I opted for a favourite US brewery of mine, Lagunitas, enjoying half of their ‘12th of Never Ale’. After ordering, I was offered some free pizza with my drink. After investigating a bit more, this seems to be a standard offer whenever you buy a drink here, if it’s before 9pm.
You don’t have to walk far from Cuckoo to arrive at Roland’s. Roland’s is one of the first craft beer bar places I visited on Call Lane a few years ago.
The décor here is less vibrant than its neighbour, but it offers a cosier feel instead. Roland’s is smaller, but is decorated classically, with a book shelf near the bar, and a fire place with comfortable seating also nearby. There’s a standing and high stool area opposite the bar too. Upstairs you’ll find the toilets and the ‘Command Centre’, I didn’t venture in, but it sounds exciting!
On the bar, you’ll find three cask hand-pulled beers and a range of keg beers too. The cask beers on the evening were traditional Northern favourites – Ilkley’s ‘Mary Jane’, Theakston’s ‘Best’ and Rooster’s ‘Yankee’.
I opted to try some of the keg beers, though. First up was the house badged ‘Roland’s Rat’, a traditional English IPA with light citrus and a focus on malt flavours. Next, was a heavier US IPA, in the form of Lagunitas’ IPA. One of my favourite beers!
Northern Guitars, as the name suggests, is a music store on Call Lane, focused on selling guitars. Recently, though, they’ve changed model and have created a lovely craft beer bar in the downstairs area, with the guitar shop upstairs.
As you can imagine, a music theme is heavily used in this bar. With guitar necks for door handles, guitars mounted on the wall, and pictures of musicians all around. There’s also a lot of exposed brick and areas of structural interest where you can still see outlines of doorways that originally linked the building to its neighbours.
The bar here is located at the back of the ground floor area, which is a decent size and with plenty of seating. On the bar are 2 cask hand pulled beers and 6 keg taps, supported by a good range of cans and bottles on the fridge.
I actually visited this place last on the crawl, so as it was my last couple of the evening, I raided the fridges for some funky stuff. First up was ‘Priscilla’ by Oskar Blues brewery in the US. A wheat beer, this was pale straw and had a big herbal aroma. The taste was fruitier, with orange and sweet berries coming through.
Next up was a beast of a beer, Brooklyn Brewery’s ‘Black Chocolate Stout’. A 10% chocolate imperial stout, and an epic beer to finish on.
The final bar I wanted to write about was the first I went into on the evening. Whilst I really enjoyed the other bars, I wanted to save Slocken to write about last.
Slocken is very new to the Leeds beer scene and has been set up by the owners of Wapentake, another of Leeds’ gems. And, what you expect to get in Wapentake I’m delighted to say has come to Slocken too. A warm, friendly welcome as you enter, and a sense that this is run by people who love doing what they’re doing.
There’s plenty to look at here. As you enter, immediately on the left is a wall decorated with skateboards that have been covered in beer labels. Then all around the walls have beer and music memorabilia; posters advertising BB King events, The Beatles, all amongst various beer posters and paraphernalia. There’s even a giant disco ball perched above the door between the ground and first floors.
You’ll find a mixture of seating downstairs, from high stools, to lower tables, to more comfortable lounge type seating. Upstairs, is a more intimate seating area, ideal for meetings or social group gatherings.
Ok, enough about what the venue looks like what about the beer? Wapentake has a reputation for great beer choice and quality, so, unsurprisingly, this is a key feature at Slocken too.
4 cask hand pulls greet you immediately as you walk in, complimented by 10 keg taps too. I only had time for one beer before having to move on to the other venues, but it was tasting great. Kirkstall’s ‘Black Rose’ on cask, with wonderful aromas and flavours of dark fruit, cherries and cake. An incredibly smooth and well-kept beer.
Another great aspect of Slocken is that they have a huge focus on local. Local breweries, local spirits, local ingredients for food. #Shoplocal and #Locale are proudly written across the beer menu chalk board. Of the local breweries I spotted on the bar, were Kirkstall, Sunbeam, Rat, North and Magic Rock. It’s great to see local breweries championed in this way, and makes you appreciate just how many great breweries we have in Leeds and the wider Yorkshire area.
The food here is focused on pizza. However, not just traditional pizzas. For example, pop-in on a Sunday, and you can grab yourself a Sunday Roast pizza! There’s lots of choice, whether you prefer vegetarian, vegan or meat-based food. And, the ones I saw people eating looked very appetising!
Before I sign off, I guess I ought to tell you what Slocken means! Aptly, it means to quench your thirst, to drink quickly. It’s Yorkshire dialect with Norse roots – Norwegian ‘Slokke’ which means to quench, Swedish ‘Sluka’ which means to swallow, and Icelandic ‘Slokkva’ which means to extinguish. I have no doubt I’ll be extinguishing a few more beers here in the future
Go Try Call Lane
So, there we go. Four great bars to try all within a few minutes’ walk down Call Lane. It’s great to see places in one of Leeds’ nightlife hotspots adopting a craftier approach to what they are offering customers. More of this please!If 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.