I’ve been here before of course, lots of times, and mostly on a Friday.
For probably five years now, Further North has been my end-of-week venue of choice, as my mate Gareth and I pick over the embers of another five days at work and set the world to rights in time for the weekend. It’s a ritual played out in pubs and bars of all descriptions across the world and it just happens that we choose to observe it in Further North.
Yet on this occasion I’m here on Wednesday November 5, when most of the population is reconnecting with man’s primordial urge for heat and fire while faintly Remember-Remembering some ill-starred Roman Catholic plot to kill a Protestant King.
Of all the seasons, autumn is where we re-ignite these ancient rituals, the flames and fireworks of bonfire night revisits sectarian division; the wizards and witches of hallowe’en reach back yet further to a pagan past. Such a night, clear and moonlit, with a whiff of smoke on the frosty air, seems an apt backdrop to launch my very own beer on an unsuspecting world.
The name That Quiet Earth invokes the Gothic of Wuthering Heights and the pomp of Genesis, its dark, mysterious nature, its deep toffee taste, prodigious strength and soft, soporific finish ideal for the time of year. That Further North should lay on pork pie and parkin makes for a perfect night out.
Each year Brains Brewery in Cardiff invites a handful of beer writers to visit their craft brewplant to create a beer of their own. Having only a passing knowledge of the process I left the technical stuff to head brewer Bill Dobson, charging him simply with the task of creating a strong, dark, warming winter beer. My role merely involved measuring the quantities of hops, carrying them up from the cellars, cleaning out the mash tun, checking the original gravity, making the tea...
The result, though, is one I’m proud of and it was great to host the launch Further North, which was also named best bar in Chapel Allerton recently by the residents’ association.
Mind you, if you’re driving at anywhere near 30mph up Harrogate Road, you will almost certainly miss it. Throughout my youth, this was the poky little Rally and Speed Shop, an Aladdin’s cave of spare bulbs and spraypaints. If you ever needed a windscreen wiper assembly for a 1979 Austin Allegro, this was the place to come. North Bar took a great leap of faith by converting it into a bar, in a suburb already very adequately served by licensed premises. Though constrained by geometry, they wrought a remarkable conversion, making its lack of size a virtue – and creating with interesting photographs, a random selection of lampshades and some mis-matched furniture, a quirky little bolthole quite distinct from the more glitzy, youth-oriented bars of the suburb’s main circuit.
Stepping in from busy Harrogate Road, you enter beside a tiny L-shaped bar. The first handpump is invariably Kirkstall-brewed Prototype - that’s a good place to start.
The second handpump is given over to a guest beer and these change regularly – and that’s where my beer features. Naturally, the brewing world is a sociable one, so when a local home brewer happens to order a pint of That Quiet Earth, the barman sends him in my direction for a chat.
Not only does Chris Russell have kind things to say about my beer, he leaves me with a bottle of his own pumpkin brew Cut My Eyes Out, which he’s supposed to be taking to a bonfire party.
I try it later – it’s rich and dark, with suggestions of ginger, mango and – of course – pumpkin, hidden in a firm, bitter, brown ale base. Tweet Chris on @russbrewtique.
Wharfe Bank Brewery from Pool-in-Wharfedale is staging a city centre coup today, when they take over the bar at Mr Foley’s, the Headrow. Six beers, including their best-selling Tether Blond, and winter warming Treacle Toffee Stout will be on sale.
Name: Further North
Opening Hours: 5.30-11pm Mon-Tues, 5.30pm-midnight Wed-Thurs, 5pm-midnight Fri, noon-midnight Sat, noon-11pm Sun
Beers: Kirkstall Prototype (£2.90) plus one guest beer and a good choice of interesting lagers and craft beers including including North Boom, Schneider Weisse and an eclectic range of bottled beers
Wine: Good selection
Food: Sharing plates of bread, cheese, meat, pickles and chutneys
Children: Not suitable
Disabled: All on one level – but space is rather tight inside.
Beer Garden: None, but big front windows slide back for a feel of outdoor drinking
Telephone: 0113 2370962