A spotlight on one of the best beer cities the north of England has to offer. With so many great bars, restaurants, and breweries to choose from we have selected five of our favourites. It is safe to say we love Leeds and think that it needs the attention it deserves as one of the most exciting and dynamic craft beer cities.
Northern Monk: The Old Flax Store, Marshall St, Saw Mill St, Leeds, LS11 9YJ
What is so exciting about Northern Monk? Well, firstly, their beer. Their core range features some real treats such as the New World IPA which is a 6.2% IPA.It combines US, British and Australian hops to give those big grapefruit, pine and resinous flavours and aromas. The hop quantities used are inspired by the original IPA recipes. From the light to the dark, their Northern Star Mocha Porter is incredible; dark chocolate, coffee, hazelnut flavours make this a perfect full bodied dark beer. And their beers go so much further than their core range. The last time I was visiting their focaccia gose was on draught and way too tempting to pass up. It was the perfect balance of saltiness and herby aromatics, coming from the rosemary, that one was never going to be enough.
To top it all off the guys running the show are so passionate about what they are doing and happy to share and explain the beers on offer. The guys sat down with us and chatted through the different beers on offer and showed us some of their incredible one-offs. We got to try one from their Seven Deadly Sins range: Lust, a strawberry, rose petal and hibiscus saison. If there was ever a beer that tasted of lust then this was definitely it!
And if their beer wasn’t reason enough to love these guys they must have one of the best brewery taprooms. Situated in a the Old Flax Store, they have designed the place so it is a real experience when you visit. With the bar directly above the brewery, you get a real sense of the beers before you have even tried them.
Bundobust: 6 Mill Hill, Leeds, LS1 5DQ
Where Indian street food meets craft beer! In many ways it is a beer bar that serves Indian street food, as their beer selection is akin to some of the best beer bars around. They have the likes of Thornbridge, Mikkeller, Northern Monk, Kirkstall, Magic Rock (the list goes on) all on tap – their new house beer is Bombay Dazzler. An Indian spiced Witbeer by Northern Monk. Perfect to pair with their incredibly tasty curry offerings.
And the food will blow your mind. Forget heavy, oily British curry offerings – Bundobust serve up the freshest, lightest and tastiest South Indian influenced sharing platters. With little pots of vegetarian delights their combinations of colour, texture and flavour are incredible. The mini massala dosa (rice pancakes dry fried and stuffed with potatoes and onions, with lentil soup and coconut chutney on the side) are particularly moreish.
North Bar: 24 New Briggate, Leeds, LS1 6NU
Making the big claim as the first craft beer bar in Britain, this bar lives up to its strong reputation. The selection of rare and hard to find beer is impressive to say the least. Opened in 1997, North Bar soon dropped its regular beers, such as Kronenbourg and Guinness, in favour of beers inspired by Duvel, Chimay and Anchor. It is the location where the first ever Brooklyn Lager, Sierra Nevada and Erdinger were poured in the UK. This history of quality is paramount to the care that goes into their beer and drinks selection. It is no wonder that this bar is famous, and it certainly deserves the good name it’s built for itself.
The decor is simple and stylish, which lets the beers on keg, cask and in the fridges be the real star. It would be impossible to list all of the beer on offer but they range from beers brewed just down the road, to a huge selection of Lowland beers, to the unexpected and rare. This is the place to go if you are looking to expand your beer horizons.
Friends of Ham: 4-8 New Station St, Leeds LS1 5DL
There are now countless places serving up their version of craft beer and charcuterie, and in many cases it can be a disappointment as people try to jump on this recent trend without getting it quite right. At Friends of Ham this is most definitely NOT the case! Their mix of incredibly sourced meats and cheeses paired with an awesome selection of draught and bottled beer makes them the top players when it comes to this somewhat overdone pairing. The Nduja and avocado on toast is simple yet delicious. Their array of sharing boards serve up something for everyone so whoever is sourcing their produce really knows their stuff; they have a deliciously creamy blue spanish monte enebro, spicy oily chorizo, and it might just be because it is made in my little home village on the south-west coast of Ireland but it was amazing to see Gubbeen cheese on the menu. As I said, their buyer knows where to go to get the best quality produce.
And that’s before you even get to the beers with regular offerings from Beavertown, Magic Rock, Kernel, Weird Beard, Fallen, Wild Beer Co., Wylam and a wide ranging array of bottled beers.
Black Swan: 37 Call Lane, Leeds, LS1 7BT
Set over two floors, the Black Swan caters for both the day and night. This spacious and comfy bar is perfect for a pint, a bite to eat, a coffee or a sit down evening meal. It really does cater to everyone’s taste.
On the ground floor they serve up one of their two food concepts, their sourdough stone baked pizzas. Simple food done at its best, with their Yorkshire blue cheese and basil pizza seeming to be a particular favourite. Meanwhile upstairs they serve up fine British cuisine witha Yorkshire twist. Their Sunday roast menu looks particularly delicious, couple this with the pub’s cosy and relaxed atmosphere, and it sounds like our ideal way to spend a Sunday.
With a great selection of beer on both keg and cask at the bar there is the perfect beer to match any of their food on offer and they even offer up a little help with a suggested beer pairing for each of their pizzas.