A Timmy Taylors Cocktail?

In semi-beery news, local PR firm (and generally lovely folks) SLB PR have launched a new cocktail competition for Yorkshire called Made in Yorkshire. You can read more about it here.

I’m rather a fan of a good cocktail (aren’t we all) and this competition sounds like a good one. The rules are pretty simple, they just state that the cocktail must include an ingredient from Yorkshire. That could be Pontefract liquorice, Wakefield rhubarb or, well, anything we make in this fine region of ours.

Most intriguing though is the suggestion that you could use a Yorkshire ale as base for your cocktail. I’d had a few beer-based cocktails before, and generally found them underwhelming. Local chaps Leeds Brewery launched a few on sale at their lovely Pin bar and I can’t say I took to them.

They made one cocktail for each of their three regular beers, the best being a chocolaty concoction based upon their tasty mild Midnight Bell. It was quite tasty, but sweet and served oh-so cold, and left me wishing I’d just opted for a pint of Bell instead.

But, we have loads of options in Yorkshire, Black Sheep, maybe Old Peculier might work, Rooster’s various flavoured beers might lend themselves well, and some of Fernandes’ lovely rich stouts could do the trick. But, is any cocktail going to improve on the flavours already present in beer?

A great cocktail can really make the most of the flavours of the spirit. Think of the daiquiri, martini or the old fashioned, still strongly reminiscent of their base spirit, but adding extra depth to drink. Is beer already too complex a drink – blessed with its own bitterness and sweetness – to work in a cocktail? Or are the flavours just too subtle in beer to stand up to the addition of fierce spirits.

Perhaps one of BrewDog’s more extreme/daft beers, with their massive abvs and huge hop flavours would be a good solution… But they’re not from Yorkshire, so they can bugger off!

Back to the start though, this Made in Yorkshire competition should be an interesting one, and is a great advert for some of the great produce, bars and bartenders we have round these parts. There’ll be more stuff on http://www.leedsguide.co.uk/food about it as it happens.

Does anyone out there have good experiences with beer cocktails? Or bad experiences? Or good recipes?

Baby Bar

Me (L) and Baby (R)

I’ll tell you one thing that’ll make you look at pubs and bars very differently, bringing a baby into them.

Now I can boast a wee nipper of my very own (very wee infact, he’s about the same size as my pint glass in the picture over there on the left) I’m not giving up on trips to the pub, or sampling new beers, or just enjoying the convivial atmosphere you go into a good bar.

In England it seems to be considered a bit odd to carry your baby with you to the pub, but pop into any bar in mainland Europe and no-one would turn their head at all.

Thankfully, some bars round these parts like to take a good European attitude about these things. Way back when my new local Alfred opened I contacted the owners (this was when my little one was still safely in the womb) and asked if they would be accepting babies. I was delighted to discover that they would be very welcoming indeed – even having a changing table (albeit in the ladies’ loos only).

Within the first week of having the little ‘un home, I was wrapping him up in our special baby sling (take a look at the photo) and popping out to Alfred for a quick pint. Obviously, you don’t want to be getting drunk while holding the baby, that’s both reckless and irresponsible, but I can see no harm in having a drink or two with baby attached.

On the other end of the scale to Alfred, I was surprised to learn that the neighbouring East of Arcadia would only allow kids in during the day, and only if you were eating. But they do let dogs in at all times. I’m not sure what that says about the relative noise and smells of dogs and babies.

Now, I know that for someone heading out for a quiet drink, the idea of a screaming baby at the next table is pretty horrific and, I can see the point. Bringing a little child with no self-control into an adult environment needs to be done with sensitivity to the other people you’re sharing a room with.

Our personal plan is to make sure the little ‘un is settled before leaving the house, fed, changed and happy. As long as you’re not out for more than a few hours, he’s not going to start kicking up a fuss. And, if he does, then you need to react to his needs quickly. If for some reason he won’t settle or quiet (which hasn’t happened yet) it’d be a case of quickly finishing up and heading home. Simple.

So what do you think? Is it ok to bring a baby into a bar? Comment and let me know.

Brew A Beer for Leeds with Leeds Brewery

Ok, so it was only hours ago that I apologised for being rubbish and not posting anything, but I’m posting something now.

The plight of Leeds’ Tetley Brewery is something I’ve covered before here, and unfortunately Greg Mulholland MP’s strong words and protests unsurprisingly did nothing to stop Tetley’s closing their Leeds brewery and shifting production of Leeds’ famous (but pretty unspectacular) Tetley’s beer to outside of Leeds. Boo.

Being the press-savvy sorts that they are though, Leeds Brewery are brewing a special beer to commemorate the closure of the Tetley Brewery.

This ain’t any old beer though, oh no. It’s to be a ‘crowd sourced’ beer with the good folks of Leeds encouraged to go to www.goodbyetetleys.co.uk and register themselves before being able to have a say on the beer’s name, design and taste.

As a bonus, the more people who register, the cheaper the beer will be when it first goes on sale at a special beer festival in June to celebrate the beer’s launch. Smart, huh?

Even better (for me) is that the taste will be partly decided by a special celebrity tasting panel INCLUDING (probably) YOURS TRULY which is very exciting indeed (for me).

I’ve written loads more on this on the Leeds Guide website just here.

Meanwood Pubs, an update for 2011

Sorry again for the paucity of updates on Reet Good. Christmas and that have kept me hectically happy in visiting friends and family, actually spending time at home relaxing. Plus, I’ve been reading endless books on evolution (it seems that I’m hungry, nay starving, for knowledge) and watching ‘The West Wing’, a brilliant but cruel mistress which eats up all your time with its expertly told tales of life inside the White House.

‘The West Wing’ is over now though, so it’s back to more reading, and a refreshed attempt at regular blogging for 2011.

So, blathering over with, time for some Meanwood pub updates, which seem to be attracting a huge amount of interest. We’re clearly a heavy drinking bunch in this lovely north Leeds suburb.

First up, I promised a link to my Leeds Guide review of East of Arcadia and never delivered. Look, though, it’s here now. Right here: http://www.leedsguide.co.uk/review/bar-review/east-of-arcadia/17526

Secondly, we have the new North Bar, to be opened just a few doors down from East of Arcadia. It shall be called Alfred (as a smart Hitchcock-ian nod to North By North West, what with the bar being North West of North Bar). It shall be open in about a fortnight, and it shall be pink.

It looks like this

Well, a bit like this. I assume there’ll be less scaffolding, and an actual bar and stuff when it opens. You can get updates on their Facebook here, and their Twitter here, and at http://www.northbar.com/meanwood.php

I’m awfully excited. I’ve hopefully got my own hook for a tankard there and everything.

 

While we’re on pubs, I also recently visited Leeds Brewery‘s great latest acquisition, The Garden Gate. Another Leeds Guide review can be found here. I can sum it up like this: it’s a proper lovely, old pub, and it sells Leeds Brewery’s decent four regular beers, but you should visit whether you like beer or not, because it’s properly stunning.

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.

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.

Meanwood Pub Updates

I have learnt some stuff about my soon-to-be new locals.

1) Market Town Tavern’s offering is being worked on right now, will be called East of Arcadia (hmm, not sure about that, I assume it’s a pun on East of Eden), and will be a bar and restaurant. Cool.

2) North Bar’s new bar will be opening at 8am most days (though will not serve booze until 11am – take heed Wetherspoons early morning boozing fans). It should (in my opinion) by called North Ba’ North West. I’ve suggested said name to one of the owners, whether he’ll go for it, I know not (I guess: no). I assume it will do breakfasts and good coffee and stuff. Which would be awesome.

Slightly off topic, I discovered The Stables pub at Weetwood Hall on Thursday night, I’d never been before (for some reason) but joined some neighbours for a birthday drink and was impressed. Comfy, laid back and serving an exceptional pint of Copper Dragon’s Golden Pippin (their IPA weren’t half bad neither!). Plus they show the football (boy, was I glad to see that return on Saturday. Shame Leeds lost though) and have a massive courtyard. We were shown a great route back home via ginnels that takes a mere 15 minutes. Whether I can remember it or not next time is another matter.

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.

The Prize For The Most Interesting Thing On The Internet This Week Goes To…

This blog here, a critical cultural report on Leeds courtesy of awesome blog Culture Vulture:
http://theculturevulture.co.uk/blog/?p=7098