We Have Pub. Meanwood’s East of Arcadia

Residents of Meanwood rejoice. We have a pub. It’s nice. The staff are friendly and they sell good beer. Bloody good news indeed.

I’ve lived in Meanwood for around 14 months now, and while I love my street, my neighbours, the park, and having a rather swanky new Waitrose (complete with some awesome bottled beers – Worthington White Shield, Fullers Bengal Lancer? Yes please), there was always something missing.

A decent local.

If me and my wife fancied a pint, we’d take the long trek up to The Stables in Weetwood, or the uphill slog into Headingley for Arcadia. Beyond that, we were lost.

Soon, we’re going to be spoilt for choice. North Bar’s new bar (which I’m still convinced should be called North Ba’ North West [it won’t]) will be opening early in the new year, but already open in East of Arcadia.

I’ll be doing a full review of the pub over at Leeds Guide soon, and will post it up here too, but for now, I’ll give you a brief summary.

It’s owned by the excellent Market Town Taverns

 

MTT themselves may have underestimated just how much we wanted a good bar round these parts. The queues were huge, the punters thirsty and waiting times were quite long. It was a teething problem of sort, but a good one, really. I never knew there were so many people living nearby.

We’ll be back. Many, many times.

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Wedding, Beer, Pie and Raves

So, I realised I hadn’t written a blog in almost two months and that ‘I’m getting married’/’I’m in Siciliy’/’I just got married excuse’ was wearing thin. So here I am, writing a blog.

First off, the wedding was flipping ace. If you’re pals with me on Facebook, you can see loads of photos there. They’re well good.

Since this is still, theoretically, a beer blog I should mention the wedding beer.

For starters, I made a summery beer, flavoured with lemongrass. I worked out OK, but I think my methods for stopping bits of malt and lemongrass getting in the final brew were flawed and it was a little (well very) cloudy – less chunky than Orangina, but only just.

Everyone liked the taste though, which was good, because a few bottles were a little (well very) lively, and ended up sprayed over guest’s suits, shoes and shirts.

Ah well.

 

homebrew

Homebrew - photo by Mark Tattersall http://www.mark-tattersall.co.uk

 

My excellent neighbour Alan also made us a wedding celebration brew, which was far better than mine, and didn’t need drinking through a sieve. His was elderflower-flavoured, rather than lemongrass, so again was perfect for the summer – and thankfully the weather held out.

The very good folks at Roosters were kind enough to sell us a 72 pint keg for just £90. We took the Good Cheer Beer because of the low abv and the American C-hops they use to flavour it. Not as toe-curling as the hoppy beers I love, but we needed something palatable for less refined pallets, y’know.

And of course, we needed lots of ale because we had this to eat.

 

 

I’m not going to say anymore about the wedding, because if you don’t know me, it’d probably be well boring (it was ace though).

LIGHT NIGHT

I did this on Friday night:

(I’m the on in grey in the middle of the photo, my wife is next to me in black).

This is Light Night, a well fun do that happens once a year in Leeds. The council are kind enough to give cash to local artists and enthusiasts and send them off around the city doing arty/cultural/fun stuff. Loads of it was good, but this was my favourite bit. Two lovely people firstly had a kids party on a rug outside Leeds Art Gallery. We played pass the parcel to ‘Tie Me Kangaroo Down’ (sport), wore party hats and ate cake.

When that was over they said ‘stick around for 5 minutes and we’ll have a rave’.

They did. On the very same rug we were jumping around, conga-ing and waving glowsticks in the air to tunes of 2Unlimited and Prodigy. Marvellous.

More of the same next year please.

USA! USA! North Bar’s American Beer Festival

Hey look. I’m writing a blog about beer and beers. There’s a novelty.

North Bar’s American beer fest ended yesterday. I wouldn’t be a proper beer enthusiast, or part time beer blogger, without going, or passing comment. So I went yesterday. And it was good.

Why was it good? Well, firstly I went with good, interesting friends, and we talked and chatted about all sorts. That was nice. Secondly, the beer was good.

American beer is, as any beer enthusiast will know, probably the most exciting kind of beer that there is. No, really. Get past all that crap mass-manufactured Budweiser crap and the Americans blow the socks off most of our beers. Their beers are just bigger, harder, faster, stronger, hoppier, mightier, weirder than ours. And that makes them exciting.

Most American double IPAs are designed to the point where, after one sip your taste buds are blasted and incapable of tasting anything but hop for at least three hours. Their stouts, porters and barley wines are big, strong, smokey and often around 10& abv. In short, their beers are interesting, experimental and often quite likely to surprise you.

Obviously I didn’t try anything like all the beers on sale at North Bar. If I did I’d be a) drunk and b) broke. See, American beers are generally a) quite strong and b) very expensive. They’re worth the abv and the £s though. And North Bar have been wise, The American stuff on tap was available in 1/3 pints. Perfect for a 9.6% £10 a pint beer. Let’s face it £3.30 is just about affordable, and if, you want to try something innovative, excititng and rare, well worth it.

So what did I have. Well, my I-am-socialising-so-therefore-won’t-make-tasting-notes-because-it-would-be-rude-anti-social-and-just-a-bit-weird rule meant I’m not entirely sure. I definitely have Sierra Nevada’s Big Foot barley wine. Just because I’ve never had it from keg before. Its very good on keg, smokey, not too sweet and treacley-thick. I also had a Hercules Double IPA, I’m not sure which brewery it’s from, but it was stunning IPA. Not strong enough to make your toes curl and face scrunch up, but balanced, beautifully drinkable and not tasting for a minute like it was over 10%.

I moved on to the fridges then. An Odell porter was surprisingly low in abv, and was a simple, no frills take on the style. Great, tasty and smokey, and not extreme at all, just balanced and tasty. Finally, I had Buckbean Orange Blossom Ale. Wow. It came in a can that made me look like an alcolohic tramp with special brew, but the flavour was stunning. The hops were prominent and dry, and the orange blossom gave it an amazing floral, citrus bitterness on top. A great way to finish the evening.

I’m afraid if you’re reading this now, you’ve missed North’s American beer festival, but it’s on at Further North RIGHT NOW. Go.

Digest #3: Saltaire, landlords, the formations of humanity & Leeds

I’ve begun to quite like this digest-style posts. Like a family newsletter, but just about me, and possibly less interesting. Saves me from stretching out  my writing to fill space. Although it does unfortunately mean I don’t really engage with much that I’m writing about – well, not seriously. Maybe I’ll do more of that one day.

Salt Aire

Saltaire from the Leeds-Liverpool Canal

Saltaire from the Leeds-Liverpool Canal

I went to Saltaire (check it out: www.saltairevillage.info) last weekend. It really is an amazing place, and it reminded me how lucky we are in Yorkshire when it comes to natural scenery and awesome historic, industrial architecture. I’ve recently finished reading the latest book from The Idler, called Back to the Land, in it, several essays stress the importance of being near nature, greenery and unspoiled spaces to our own happiness, and reports links between urbanisation and depression. It all sounds awfully credible too me, so we’re fortunate to have magnificent dales in Yorkshire like those surrounding Saltaire and well, just about everywhere in the county, really. Between them and our stunning local park, there’s enough greenery to keep me jolly.

The main thing Saltaire is famous for though is the magnificent Salts Mill (www.saltsmill.org.uk). This glorious mill was built by one Titus Salt, a kindly man and mill owner who built the village of Saltaire, the church, the shops, damn near everything (except a pub, he was a Quaker) for his workers, so as to keep them from poverty. How very lovely.

Nowadays, the Mill has a mixed life. Some of it is offices for boring old businesses, but much of it plays home to galleries exhibiting work by Bradford’s very own David Hockney – a great artist who has some very interesting things to say in the aforementioned book by The Idler, look at his impressive work here: www.hockneypictures.com – plus other artists, a great book shop, an art shop, and some smaller not-permanent exhibitions, often rooted in the history of Saltaire and The Mill. There’s a great antique shop too, where I nearly bought a watch and my wife-to-be bought some tins (I’m veering into dull family newsletter ground now).

Saltaire is also on the Leeds-Liverpool canal. Which is great, and seems to pass through loads of interesting places. Bargers must have good taste.

Since this is still, nominally at least, a beer blog as well as me rambling about stuff, it should be pointed out that Saltaire has a brewery, and pubs these days (the most amusigly named, and apparently best, pub is called Fannies [titter]). The brewery is wittily called Saltaire Brewery (www.saltairebrewery.co.uk) and makes some great beers. I had a half of their blonde while in Saltaire and it was a great, light, session ale, with plenty of bitter hoppiness. They make some odder, and more exciting beers too, including a Hazlenut Coffee Porter and a Double Chocolate Stout. Check ’em out.

Navigation Tavern, Mirfield

Navigation Tavern, Mirfield

Navigation Tavern, Mirfield

Shock horror, I’m actually blogging right now about a pub. That’s not happened for a bit. It was my stag do a week or so ago. It was jolly good fun, me and some chums doing the Transpennine Real Ale Trail (I’ve mentioned this before here & here). One of the highlights though has to be arriving at the Navigation Tavern in Mirfield, some 10 or 11 hours in to the trial, having already booked rooms to stay there for the night. As we were pre-warned there was a Motown disco in full swing, we were not, however, warned about the landlord there, Kevin.

The greeting was, perhaps, not as warm as we’d hoped for: “we’ve given your rooms away now lads, you’re not much use to me at this time!” was the opening gambit. We were apologetic, and Kevin seemed to warm to us while we were there (except when one of us sprawled out on the chairs – he was not amused by that). The pub is a proper old community pub, everyone there seems to know each other, it does a range of great ales, and Kevin is clearly the man that the pub revolves around. He was either funny, or terrifying, and we couldn’t quite work out which. We had a good time though, and the rooms cost £30.50 with breakfast, which, plastic eggs aside, was stupendous, and served with the same mix of humour and threatening behaviour as our rooms had been the night before, especially when he found out that my father-in-law to be was a vegetarian – what a look of shock and disgust. It was a proper Yorkshire pub experience.

Away from Mirfield, the other truly awesome pub was the Station Buffet Bar in Staylbridge (www.buffetbar.org). This station side bar looked like it hadn’t had cosmetic work done since the 70s, and the menu hadn’t changed its prices since that decade either. £2.50 for pie, pies and black beans? Yes please. A truly quaint little pub the kind of which you just wouldn’t expect to exist any more.

Stalybridge buffet bar

Stalybridge buffet bar

The Formations of Humanity
Yep, the title did promise that I’d get round to talking about this, and I have look. It’s a subject that surely can’t fail to fascinate. How did we come about to be the dominate creature on the planet? To function in ways that no other creature does, to think in ways that no other creature does. Why do we appreciate and create art and music, and build tools, and yet nothing else does. Obviously I don’t have the answer, but it’s something I keep thinking and wandering about, and I’m keen to learn more about. I’m reading Alice Roberts’ The Incredible Human Journey (read what the Guardian said about it here) in the hope it might teach me something. I’m all ears if anyone has any better sources of info..

Leeds
There’s been loads of interesting debate going on about my home city recently, most notably just here: http://theculturevulture.co.uk/blog/?p=7098. Seems a lot of people are a
little unimpressed by what Leeds offers culturally and how the city present’s itself to the outside world.

And Finally…
If I could get a month or so off work, I’d
bloody love to go WWOOFing, learn some skills in farming and go back to nature for a bit. How very middle class of me.

Tom’s Occasional Blogging Digest

Sorry guys. I’ve been rubbish at blogging stuff. I make excuses every time, so I’m not going to make any this time. I am going to a small blog post now, complete with sub-headings, pictures, links, and words.

I hope you like it.

Meanwood Developments
Regular readers here will know I live in Meanwood and I love it. Perhaps a little too much. It’s well good. No students, lots of park space and trees, loads of proper Northern folk, and loads of amazing neighbours. And now, we’re only getting a bloody Waitrose. The building works have been annoying, but when I can get 15 different varieties of olives, hummus and sunblushed tomatoes, it’ll be worth it.

A Bloody Waitrose!

A Bloody Waitrose!

But wait, it gets better. Now, anyone who’s read my now very occasional beer blogging will notice me banging on about North Bar regularly. It’s my favourite bar in Leeds, and that’s a fact. AND THEY’RE BUILDING A NORTH BAR IN MEANWOOD!!!!! I’m excited about this. You can probably tell.

The Benefits of Being a Beer Blogger
Sometimes people are daft enough to give you free beer. Amazing. One such mad company is Daas beer. I wrote about their Daas White and Daas Blond and then they sent me their new, dark, bronze coloured Daas Ambre, a 6.5% marmaladey delight, with loads of spice and cinnamon to boot. It’s well good, and it’s organic and soil association certified, so you can drink guilt free. Hurrah!

¡Viva Espana!
I went on holiday  recently to Spain. I love Spain. We stayed in a small mountain village in southern Spain . The views are beautiful, the atmosphere is relaxed and the Spanish just know how to live. What’s not to love? Tapas, good weather, a laidback attitude perfect.

Currently Reading
While abroad, I picked up the reading bug big time, and it’s still with me. I’ve got so much books piled up to read (I went to Meanwood Community Shop and bought 10 books for £8.25, bargain!) that I needed to find some way to track it. So I started using GoodReads.com, it’s pretty smart really. Have a look here.

Probably the best thing I’ve read recently is Born To Run by Christopher McDougall. I’m not much of a runner, and I really don’t like stuff that tries to be self-consciously inspirational (I’m not sure you can deliberately set out be inspirational or motivational, surely it just happens by accident? I hate motivational speakers too, more on that later), but this book, about extreme long distance running, a South American tribe who are awesome at it, and the damage padded trainers do to your feet is excellent. I’ve taken up running, and I’m doing it using shitty flat trainers. Go me.

Bettakultcha
This thing is great. A dead simple premise, 20 presentations occcur at Temple Works in Leeds, the presentation have to be 5 minutes long, and be based around 20 power point slides. Beyond that, that are new rules (well there are few about not using it for self-promotion). I’ve been to two now and seen some great stuff – Web Comics, Sex With Robots (yep, really), Leeds Hack Space, Test Space Leeds, an anti-enviromental rant – and some bad stuff (the last Bettakultcha had the worst and least motivational motivational speaker I’ve ever seen. I hate motivational speaking, and this idea of bettering yourself, achieving goals and climbing the ladder. People should be more happy with what they’ve got, and anyone just chucking quotes at me and trying to make me want to achieve and be all I can be can fuck off, frankly – rant over). The fact that I can get through the motivational speakers and still recommend this event should speak volumes about it’s quality. It’s just good fun. Go. http://bettakultcha.blogspot.com/

STAGGING!!!

A train

A train

It’s my stag do this weekend. I’m doing the Transpennine Real Ale Trail. Which I’ve written about before here. I did a small test run with my dad last weekend and he drank me under the table. Which is impressive. Wish me luck!

I’m done now. Bye!

Homebrew Batch #2

46 Bottles of Beer on The Floor, 46 Bottles of Beer

46 Bottles of Beer on The Floor, 46 Bottles of Beer

I’ve recently been getting very excited about the idea of self-sufficiency. You know, growing your own, making your own, finding ways to make the chain from ground to mouth as short as possible. It’s been exciting, and my next post (which will probably be posted within an hour of this one, can you wait?!) will delve into that in more detail.

One great way to cut costs and make your own is to make homebrew. Beer is quite expensive (I’ve been known to pay up to £7 for a good bottle of beer, not a lot by beer geek standards, but a fortune by most people’s), and I drink a fair bit of it (I’ve not got a problem, but probably have a bottle at least one in every three nights).

Now, my only problem with my first batch of homebrew was that it wasn’t all that great. It was ok, but it cost about 50p a pint and, boy, could you tell!

Batch number two is currently undergoing secondary fermentation in the bottle, and thus will not be drinkable for another four weeks (dang!) but I’ve got high hopes.

See, the folk at Abbey Home Brew (a great homebrew shop on Kirkstall Road Leeds, near the big Morrisons) have a new kit called Design-A-Brew that’s designed as the middle ground between a full mash brew (expensive and an arse) and kit brewing (easy, cheap, not that nice).

It’s very clever. You buy two cans of malted barley (in a range of colours and bitterness) and then you buy extras, like different malts, hops, yeasts and flavourings. Most of which come in a tea-bag style holding-thingy, so they impart their flavour with filling your beer full of crap (homebrew comes with enough sediment already).

I’m making a nice spring ale with lemon grass and cascade hops. It smells nice already. And, as a nice bonus, these 46 bottles will mainly be drunk at my wedding in September (alongside a cask or two from Roosters in Knaresborough – stiff competition indeed). I hope the guests like it!

Keep On Runnin’: The Otley Run, 17 pubs in 13 hours can it be done? No.

Okay, I’m not in some stupid meathead university club that requires all members to do some form of initiation involving humiliating acts or forced drinking – you know, the normal idiots who try to cram in a month’s worth of drinking into one day. I am, however, friends with a chap called Sturdy.  He’s getting married soon, and, to celebrate, his stag do involved a trawl through the Otley Run.

Folks living in Leeds will know all about the Otley Run. It’s a pub crawl from Headingley (the most studenty bit of Leeds) to Leeds city centre, and it’s infamous for annoying students in fancy dress stumbling in to the road and generally making a nuisance of themselves.

I’ve lived in Leeds for eight years now, and I’ve never done the Otley Run, because I’m sane. Neither have Sturdy, or Rob, his best man, or, indeed, any of the stag-doers. It seemed we were in good company.

Don’t fret. I’m not going to take you on a blow-by-blow, pub-by-pub account of where we went and what we drank. That would be boring, and anyway, by pub nine my memory is, well, hazy.

What is remarkable, though, is how many of these, quite frankly, shit pubs served up quality booze. Yep, I drank far more pints of Tetley and John Smith smooth flow that I would have liked, but I reckon a good 6 or 7 of the pubs I visited had a decent drop of hand-pulled ale. As I said, I don’t remember the whole evening, but I definitely got in pints of Black Sheep, Leeds Pale, Tetley’s and something Morris themed in one of the early drinking holes.  Which is nice.

A real beer lover would probably remark on the fact that some of these ales weren’t well kept, but, pft, I’d had three pints by 1pm, what did I care?

One final admission, I didn’t make it through all 17 pubs, I got to the Eldon (pub 12) and 11pm (that’s 12 hours in, we started at 11am), having had 12 pints, loads of water, a really bloody bad burger from Hyde Park Corner pub (don’t go there if you can avoid it, it’s really shit), and a Gregg’s pastie. Which was nice.

The highlight was Arcadia, which really is an awfully nice drinking den. Full of quality ales and a relaxed atmosphere, it’s not officially part of the Otley run, as they ban large groups of students and fancy dress. We, though, were well behaved and our matching T-shirts were mainly kept below jumpers. Also quite impressive are The Three Horseshoes in Far Headingley, and Woodies (again in Far Headingley). I don’t actually remember being in The Packhorse, but I’m sure it was great. It always is.

Lowlights were the aforementioned burger at the Hyde Park, and indeed, the entirity of that enormous pub. Plus, all the trendy, student-centric drinkeries in the centre of Headingley. The Box (all big sports screens, shit music and idiots), Headingley Taps (lovely building, unpleasant clientele), The Skyrack (just generally horrible and too full of students). We missed out The Arc (we visited the similarly-named Arcadia instead) and that was a good move, because that place is nasty too.

So, what did I learn? Firstly, 12 pints is my absolute limit, secondly, Sturdy has some very pleasant friends, thirdly, most pubs in Headingley are worth avoiding, which makes Arcadia even more of a gem. Fourth, real ale is more generally available than you’d think.