A Tale of Two Cities: Drinking in Leeds & Sheffield

A pictureless, detail-scant blog (I made no notes while drinking, I feel odd doing that in bars, with friends – it’d just be rude) from me to sum up my drinking experiences fron the last few days – in Leeds and Sheffield (hence the witty name of the blog).

We begin on Thursday night, in Leeds. A friend comes up to visit and we have an invite to the first birthday of Veuve Bar de Champagne in Chapel Allerton, Leeds. On our way to the bus, we pass North Bar and just can’t resist popping in (it being the favourite bar of me and my girlfriend).

It’s Christmas time, which means North Bar are doing their advent calendar beer. So, for each day of Christmas the first person into the bar gets a free beer from the calendar. Then for the rest of the day that bottle is available for cheap. I’m lucky, for when I go in the beer of the day is Goose Island Matilda – an American craft beer brewed with a heavy nod to Belgium.

It rich, dark gold in colour dry and very easy drinking for a 7% beer with slight wild, spicy notes that recall that king of beers that is Orval.

We went on from there to Chapel Allerton and Veuve, where we enjoyed a free glass of prosecco and more than our fair share of canapes (we’d had no dinner, see) but left when we saw that no more sparkle was going to be offered.

Luckily, just up the road is North Bar’s tiny sister bar Further North (cleverly named because is pretty much exactly in line with North Bar, but further north, see). What to order was a no-brainer when I spied that they had Marble Brewery‘s Ginger on tap. It’s light in colour and, surprisingly very gingery to taste. But, unlike a lot of ginger beers, Marble’s offering doesn’t allow the sweet spice to overwhelm their beer. While it’s very definitely there, the bitterness and alcoholic kick still packs a punch in the background. I finished my night with a half of Roosters Outlaw Stout that I don’t remember a great deal about, it was nice though.

Friday night was Sheffield (after a half of Elland‘s powerfully hoppy Nettle Trasher at The Reliance [which has some link to North and Further North]) and firstly Richard Hawley live at The Crucible. It was good, slow, sonorous and powerful – with some good Northern wit from the one-time Pulp man. But this ain’t a music blog, so I will move on.

I was up in Sheffield with my brother, a friend of his and my brother’s girlfriend (who lives in Sheffield). Post-gig it was decided that we’d go to Champs. It sold, I was told, real ale at amazing prices (with several Kelham Island brews for as little as £1) but it was a sports bar and a regular pre-club bar. Sounds odd, I thought, and I was right.

Champs does not look like a place that should be selling great real ales. Its walls are full of sporting memorabilia, the clientele are mainly enjoying lagers and spirits and the staff seem positively pissed off that they have to spare you (they’re much more interested in creatively stacking shot glasses in interesting patterns). When we finally get served, I get excited by spotting Thornbridge‘s Jaipur on tap, and persuade two of my companions to join me in a pint. I’m shocked as our bartender yanks it out of the pumps with no grace or care at all and passes it up far too cold.

It didn’t stop the beer tasting great though, powerfully hoppy but with an underlying honey-d sweetness, and very suppable, despite being 5.9%. Where it weaker, I would have had another half, but I stopped myself and went for a pale ale from Thornbridge whose name escapes me, it was light, a little sweet and with a nice hoppy finish, mind. Then midnight came along and we were swiftly kicked out with little grace. Suffice to say that, if it weren’t for its great beer selection, I wouldn’t darken Champs’ door again. If I do go back it will be during the day when, so I’m told, it’s much quieter and the staff are nicer.

So then, Saturday. The day starts well with a trip to Elland Road for Leeds v Huddersfield. We draw 2-2, but it’s a good game, even if Town are dirty buggers. This bears no relevance to anything else in this blog.

That evening, my girlfriend and I decide to head out to Cross Keys (thus making it four out of four of the North Bar-associated drinking holes in three days) for a slap up dinner. It’s a great pub, all roaring fires, exposed brickwork, beams and brilliant service. The food, traditional English grub done to an astonishingly high standard, was superb, as always. I had a great smoked haddock fish cake with a poached egg and tartar sauce followed by duck breast with chesnut stuffing. I washed that all done with a couple of pint of Saltaire‘s Winter Ale a slightly toffee-flavoured dark winter ale, a real warmer for this time of year. My girlfriend enjoyed a couple of bottle s of the splendid Flemish red Duchesse de Bourgogne – it comes with a sour kick at first, then a sweet, strawberry-esque finish.

In related news, I decided to use the NHS iPhone app for tracking your drink intake. Suffice to say that if I want to stay averaging 4 units per day (the recommended amount for me) I’m going to have to have a relatively sober week.

Find out about North, Further North, Cross Keys and The Reliance here. I’m sure you can find out about Champs somewhere if you want, but I don’t really recommend it.

Advertisements

Two Nights’ Drinking: Pilsner Urquell, Moonshine & Reliance’s Best Bitter

Moonshine

Moonshine, because I didn't take any photos

Thursday night was always going to be a good one. The combination of a trip to try some food at Calls Landing stew and oyster bar (great cheeses and stew, plus, unexpectedly, two real ales: Theakston Best and Copper Dragon on tap), then a rum tasting at Boutique (I may have been an hour late, but one can hardly complain about free daiquiri, rum punch and rum and ginger), then a trip to Leeds Brewery’s nicest bar, Pin can never been a bad night, really.

Events at Pin picked up though when we realised that they were giving punters free half pints of Pilsner Urquell – all you had to do was hand then all your contact info and you were away.

Having little concern for personal privacy and data protection, I merrily signed away on my work email, address and phone number in return for a free drink and was pleasantly surprised.

It’s not a life changing beer, by no means. But the skunky, sweetness on the nose (it smelt a lot like the scent the nearby Tetley brewery unleashes once a month – or maybe that smell was prevalent in the bar) was a highlight, and it was very drinkable indeed. Golden with a decent creamy head, it gives off a citrusy flavour and a nice hoppy bitterness with the citrus spice well balanced with the creamy smoothness. A nice session beer, and well worth signing away your privacy form if not handing over cash.

Back to tonight, and a trip to my post-work local The Reliance (handily situated next door to my office). Barnsley’s Acorn brewery have been brewing a Reliance Best Bitter for the pub for a while now and though it means they only ever have one guest at a time these days, it’s a very reliable house special.

A dark nut-brown ale, the hops and malt are well balanced. The flavours would please both a fan of dark, stronger beers (despite being less than 4%) while not putting off those looking for an easier-drinking session beer. In short, a great post-work pint.

More interesting in Abbeydale Brewery’s Moonshine – the other offering at The Reliance. An intriguing pale ale with strong floral notes on the nose and a citrus hit on the palate (predominately grapefruit). It’s dead popular in its homeland Sheffield and you can see why. It’s interesting without being downright odd, and would win over fans of blander pale ales. As for me, I’ve been supping this for a few years now, thanks to a Sheffield-living brother, and it’s won me over to Abbeydale’s product. It’s a quality (and local) brewery.

So, what better way to finish than a forced conclusion of hooray for Leeds’ bars!

Find out more about Pin and The Reliance