"A recent report from CAMRA shows keg ale growth has been driven by the cask market, and I was pleased to find several custodians of both styles in Leeds."
I do enjoy an outing! So, as often as I am able to, I utilise the excuse of "research" to visit another city to see what the scene is.
It's a great opportunity to see beyond our four walls. It's too easy to get caught up in your own little bubble and miss out on what's going on elsewhere.
In this latest mission, I hopped on a train to Leeds, accompanied by one of my bar managers (and ale enthusiast) Billy Marshall, to see what we could discover.
First up we called into "Tapped" near the railway station. My intrigue was aroused when I discovered their brew pub in the corner to accompany a vast array of beers from further afield. It's not a new thing, brewing your own in house beer, as this was once typical of the majority of ale houses in the land (there was a Brewers Guild in London in 1342!)
On tap at Tapped was a double axe IPA from Buxton that caught our attention. My responsible companion led me away. It was midday and the ABV was 13.6 per cent. He's a wise man that Billy, but we would be back!
No trip to Leeds would be complete without hunting out Whitelocks. This central shopping district pub has quenched the workers, shoppers and travellers thirst without fault since 1715. A black IPA was to be our tipple, but turned out to be no more than a weakly hopped stout, this fault wasn't that of the hostelry, but of a desperate trend-following brewer.
The decor remains mostly unchanged and goes as testimony to those who've inherited history and hastily ripped out the soul of community pubs.
To continue the traditional pub trek, our next watering hole was to be the Duck & Drake on Kirkgate. We were warmly welcomed by Andy, a hospitable trait I am pleased is improving nationally, and chose to "test" the Roosters Yankee Pale Ale from Knaresborough in North Yorkshire.
This crisp and refreshing ale was amusingly served in a pint bearing a "Re-Order Line" just an inch or so from the base of the glass. We weren't able to indulge in the re-order (although I could have stayed all week!) as my companion was acutely aware we had a return train and a 13.6 per cent IPA to catch.
Craft ale, of the kegged kind, is becoming more readily available. A recent report from CAMRA shows keg ale growth has been driven by the cask market, and I was pleased to find several custodians of both styles in Leeds. North Bar on New Briggate offered a great range of both, including Stringers and Hawkshead from our part of the world, as did "The Pit" on Merrion Street, offering a fusion of cocktails, ales and ping pong.
Bunderbust on Mill Hill near the station is another fine example of fusion, blending an award winning restaurant and craft beer bar into a new home in Leeds. Had we not a train to catch and a 13.6 per cent previously promised IPA to indulge in we would have stayed for dinner. We opted for a coriander Pilsner that only increased the temptation to stay.
I'm pleased to announce we made both the train and the 13.6 per cent IPA in time and have since had quite a few of the brews we encountered as guests in our bars.
It's a tough job.