OPEN fires have been part of the essential make-up of the English public house for generations; fierce warmth, crackling wood and the gentle whiff of smoke lend to the soporific relaxing atmosphere of many a traditional inn.
At the Pour House, they took this a stage further, by setting the roof ablaze – embers from the wood-burning fire catching light in the chimney, forcing an emergency call and a small change of policy.
The open fire remains, though thankfully it’s now fuelled by safer ethanol.
The Pour House opened about three years ago, entering the same lucrative market already tapped by the Cross Keys, The Hop and the Midnight Bell.
Holbeck’s revival has brought fresh customers to this part of town; resurgent Granary Wharf thrives on their disposable income.
The Pour House – owned by the same company as the Atlas pub in East Parade and the Buca Di Pizza restaurant in Wellington Street – is hemmed in by flats and offices on one side and by the canal basin on the other.
Four handpumps are dead ahead as you walk in, emphasising straight away the company’s commitment to real ale.
Mary Jane from Ilkley is the regular bitter, while the others offer a rotating selection of guests, currently all from Yorkshire – Tether Blonde from Wharfe Bank, Elderflower Blonde from Saltaire and Stodfold Gold from Halifax.
A great choice of bottled beers plus a selection of quality lagers play well to its knowledgeable clientele.
Gin is also a big part of the mix here, the Gin Lane menu offering the cognoscenti some serious choice.
“You’d be amazed at the differences you can get in there,” says assistant manager Sean Raven, when faced with my scepticism. “Just like with whisky or with real ale, there’s a whole host of different flavours.”
Even so, Sean is a confirmed beer lover, and is responsible for ensuring the Pour House offers a varied selection.
He brings over a glass of the refreshing, dry, citric Elderflower Blonde for me to try; the elderflower is evident, but subtle rather than dominant.
“Things are going well here,” he tells me. “We get a lot of customers from the new residential blocks down here, as well as hotel guests and others who are just drawn to Granary Wharf. It’s such a destination these days.”
The Pour House is perfectly placed to take advantage. Housed in the old granary building, it looks out across the water, while a stone flagged beer garden to the side, dominated by the looming ironwork of an old dockside derrick, offers a special outdoor drinking space.
Inside is warm and intimate drinking, a vision in wood and stone, iron and steel.
The decor is drawn from the sombre end of the palette – burgundy, brown and deep blue-black.
An open staircase winds to a broad balcony area topped by exposed beams and rafters. Beside the door, a white baby grand is stacked high with board games.
But to sit beside the roaring flames with a lovely pint of English ale, watching the sunlight dapple the water, is a perfect way to spend a little part of any day.
So long as the roof doesn’t catch fire.
It’s four weeks until the Leeds Beer Festival – so get it in your diary. This year’s event, at the familiar venue of Pudsey Civic Hall, runs from March 12-14 and will feature more than 180 real ales, ciders and worldwide beers. Glasses will be lined at one third and two thirds only, there will be music and food available.
Type: Quality bar and restaurant
Opening hours: 11.30am-11pm Sun-Thurs and 11.30am-midnight Fri-Sat
Beers: Four real ales, Ilkley’s Mary Jane plus three guests (all £3.50-pint) also Heineken (£4), Moretti (£4.20), Estrella Damm (£4.50), Vedett (£4.50), London Stout (£4) and Symonds cider (£3.80)
Wines: Great choice from £5.50-glass and £12.95-bottle
Food: Wide-ranging choice of dishes served until 10pm daily
Entertainment: Quiz night Mon; board games.
Functions: Upstairs area is available for private hire
Children: Welcome, but no special facilities
Disabled: Straightfoward access, but some split-level areas inside
Beer garden: Large waterside drinking area
Parking: On-street and pay and display areas nearby
Telephone: 07816 481492