Quick bleg: where’s good in Leeds?
To put it another way: where’s excellent-to-unmissable, in the centre of Leeds, more or less in between the University of Leeds and the railway station? Pubs, mainly. I hear there is a particularly good offie in the town, but it’s a couple of miles too far out of the centre for me to fit it in this time out.
Suggestions in comments please!
Update: well, I’m back. I made it to Mr Foley’s (Red Willow Endless & Smokeless, Thornbridge Pollards) and, more briefly, North Bar (Kirkstall Aquitaine), where I spotted Zak at the bar and said hello. Unfortunately it wasn’t Zak. Oh well.
Mr Foley’s is a big town-centre pub with very comfortable seating and a lot of different areas; the only thing letting it down is the huge number of TV screens beaming Sky Sports in all directions. (It would be nice to have some acknowledgment that not everyone wants to watch rugby with their pint. And Wales lost.) The Smokeless (a smoked porter) was fab, one of those beers where the added flavour really blends with the underlying character of the beer. As for Endless, I commented the other day at Tandleman’s that Red Willow are stronger on sweeter and darker beers, and that what they really need to bring out is a really pale, hoppy beer. Well, Endless is that beer, but I’m afraid it confirms my impression that RW aren’t quite there yet; it’s a fine beer with a big hop attack, but there is just a touch of that characteristic Red Willow sweet heaviness in mid-mouth, which lets it down a bit. As for Pollards – a “coffee milk stout” – I didn’t really like it at all; far too sweet and very little beer character, more like a cold Irish coffee than a stout.
Later I headed out to North Bar, humming fragments of Armenian as I went. It’s a short walk from Mr Foley’s but a very different area – it looks as if the rents are lower, put it that way. The bar itself is a very different proposition: a long narrow room running back from the street, with a bar down one side and tables and chairs along the opposite wall. Four handpumps and a forest of keg fonts, all of which I overlooked in favour of the cask Aquitaine – an 8% old ale aged in wine casks. (I was tempted by the Magic Rock Curious, but I could only stop for a half so I wanted something a bit stronger.) It was only after I’d got my beer that I took a proper look at the beers on keg, which were quite remarkable – Odell’s, Flying Dog, Nøgne Ø, BrewDog, Thornbridge, Magic Rock… I really should have gone for some of that there craft keg, if only to continue my investigation of whether any of it is ever any good. (Results so far: not sure.) The BrewDog, incidentally, was something called “Everything in its right place” – a response to Simon? As for the Aquitaine, much as I love old ales, I don’t know if ageing in wine casks is a good idea; the beer was both sweeter and sharper than I expected, as well as having a kind of ‘meaty’ red wine quality. It was an odd combination which would take a bit of getting used to.
So that was Leeds. Then I came home and had yet another Red Willow (Heartless dark chocolate stout, another example of how to do beer-with-additives properly) and a Buxton (Bitter, a full-flavoured amber bitter but with that distinctive Buxton help-there’s-a-hop-teabag-on-my-tongue front-of-mouth attack). Good beer day.