I was in Leeds yesterday to meet some former colleagues and had the opportunity to try some beer in four of Leeds premier free houses, the Scarborough, The Prince of Wales, The Duck and Drake and the Palace.
A fairly shambolic Mini Beer Festival was kicking off in this well known free house by the station. This involved going to the festival bar, being told it was token only, then going back to the packed ordinary bar and buying a token. Bollocks to that! The bar featured all the current beer list from the fairly new Leeds Brewery. I tried the Leeds Best, a 4.3% pale beer with good body and a decent hop finish. Midnight Bell (4.8%) was an earthy, imprecise beer with a strange malt taste. Not enjoyable. Giving up on Leeds Brewery for the time being, I tried Outlaw (Roosters) Dry Irish Stout at 4.7%. This does what it says on the tin, being bone dry and roasty, but where on earth were the hops? A disappointing beer. Finally, a pint of Salamander Mud Puppy was pale dry, hoppy and tasty, but kind of died in the glass, leaving me (and my mate Andy who was also drinking it) less than satisfied. I intended to call back later, but this was not to be.
The Prince of Wales
Just a few yards away, another Leeds Brewery Festival was promised here by a large banner outside. Inside only one Leeds beer was ready. You've guessed. Leeds Best! It was much better here though, with all previous attributes harmoniously delivering. Enjoyable and moreish. I forewent the Taylor's beers and went to:
The Duck and Drake
This is an old haunt of mine from my 10 years working in Leeds. It hasn't changed a bit. In this case that's not a compliment, as it is all looking very shabby indeed. You could film an episode of "Life on Mars" here without changing a thing. A huge selection of beers were on offer. Apart from Theakstons Bitter and OP, York Guzzler, Dent Aviator, Abbeydale Absolution, Rudgate Viking, Oldershaw Caskade, Landlord. Hambleton Goldfield, Goose Eye Barmpot and Hobgoblin were on offer. I tried halves of the Goose Eye and Hambleton. I liked neither. The Goose Eye which was new to me smelt of unwiped bum, tasted like plasticine and was just downright poor. I do know Goldfield though. This was a very poor sample with grape pip bitterness and a sharpness throughout. I left most of it. Time precluded trying any more though I could have had pie and peas for two quid!
Another old haunt and where I was meeting my friends. In contrast to the nearby Duck and Drake, this former Melbourne and Tetley House, is clean, shining and welcoming. I hit a bad patch on the beer though. Saltaire Blonde was hazy. I've yet to see it otherwise and was honeyed, sticky and hard going. Now Coach House aren't one of my favourite micros either and here I had a new one on me, Cheshire Gold 4.1%. This had the typical Coach House slight smokiness, good body, but malt, malt, malt, malt malt! No bloody hops! I passed on Rudgate Viking. I don't really care for Rudgate beers either and had a half of Saltaire Hazelnut Coffee Porter (4.6%). This was mid brown with a strong espresso nose, a sharp/sour hazelnut overlay and a harsh sharp finish. It was a deeply unpleasant beer. My friends tried it and their expressions of disgust told of their enjoyment. Roosters Yankee was thin, one dimensional and lessish if you know what I mean. In desperation I ordered a pint of Tetley Bitter. This was in great nick, with that typical sour /sweet / bitter palate that Tetley can have when on form. With the brewery being only 300 yards away it ought to be! It was a good beer and I had a few of them.
We finished up, not at the Scarborough as I'd hoped, but in the Prince of Wales where pints of Leeds Best restored my battered faith in micros somewhat, before I returned to the right side of the Pennies on a freezing cold wreck of a train. Cheers Northern Rail.
Maybe I chose poorly, but on the day at least, micros failed the test. What conclusions if any should I draw from this? One really I think. Micros like major players, need to consistently deliver. Sometimes they just don't!
Artyfacts from the Nyneties #5: Sainsbury’s Bière de Garde, 1991 - The image above comes from the Sainsbury’s supermarket in-house magazine for November 1991 and is a great reminder that interesting beer didn’t arrive in...
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