Local beer grows

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THE beautiful late-Victorian Adelphi, right on the edge of the Tetley brewery complex, was the starting point for an open-top bus ride around some of Leeds’s most famous pubs on Friday.

The event not only marked the demise of the famous old brewery but also emphasised the confidence of Leeds Brewery whose beers have gained such a hold on the hearts and minds of Leeds folk over these past four years.

It rained, which isn’t ideal conditions for open-air transport, but, after introductory drinks in the Adelphi’s upstairs function room, we decided to hit the road anyway. Joined by ‘minister for beer’ Greg Mulholland MP, another chap dressed as the iconic Tetley huntsman, and a host of others, we followed a snaking route which took in the Palace, the Scarbrough Taps, the Prince of Wales, the sprawling Tetley complex and Leeds Brewery’s more modest Holbeck premises, before winding up at their flagship pub, the Midnight Bell in Water Lane.

Here a marquee had been erected out back, and a long temporary bar was topped with handpulls dispensing an appropriate range of beers – Tetley Bitter, Tetley Mild, Tetley’s new Summertime Madness, a host of Leeds Brewery products and some extra guests such as Ansell’s and Burton Ale.

There were free pie and peas too, the Leeds Brewery bosses cruelly choosing to feed my acknowledged addiction to this splendid Yorkshire delicacy.

The demise of the Tetley brewery is desperately sad, for the city which has lost its most famous brand, the workers who have lost jobs and the hardened Tetley bittermen who must now decide whether to stay loyal to a product which will be brewed in Wolverhampton, or switch to something else instead.

Thankfully, they now have quite a few rival Leeds brewers to choose from, including the well-established Leeds Brewery and newer rivals Wharfebank in Pool, Ridgeside in Meanwood, the Fox and Newt in Burley and Kirkstall Brewery in, er, Kirkstall. The departure of a company which was once Britain’s biggest brewer leaves the market wide open, and broad enough for all of these others to succeed.

We spent Sunday evening in Wetherby – the first portion of it in the splendid Swan and Talbot in North Street, the second in the great little Indian restaurant Spice 4U next door. Beer and curry – is there a better weekend treat anywhere?

The pub dates back to the 16th century and was once an important coaching inn for travellers using the Great North Road. That route has long-since shifted east of the town and been given the much less romantic sounding assignation of the A1M, but the pub has stayed true to the same values of hospitality which would have been so welcomed by weary coach passengers all those years ago.

There’s something faintly 1950s to the feel of the main bar, with its wooden panelling, low ceiling, polished wood and brass, though the huge fireplace on the left hand wall, now decorated in dried flowers and polished brasses, is more indicative of the pub’s genuine antiquity.

Handpulls dispensing John Smith’s, Theakston’s Best and Fuller’s London Pride are dead ahead as you cross the threshold – and I found the Fuller’s on absolutely cracking form.

The pub’s rather unusual name combines that of local landowners the Swann family who lived at Askham Manor in nearby Askham Richard and that of a talbot hound – an extinct type of hunting dog whose closest modern day descendant is the beagle.

When we called in diners were tucking into choices from the pub’s Sunday evening fixed priced menu. As well as traditional roasts, there’s hearty portions of steak pie, gammon, toad in the hole and fish and chips – with two courses for £9.95 and three for £11.95. Those who are having dessert make their choices from one of those glass-walled rotating fridges that were the last word in restaurant sophistication at around the same time as sweet trolleys were being sent to the scrapheap.

As it happened, we weren’t dining here, as we had a date next door at the excellent Spice 4U, which combines a very contemporary feel, with great service and a menu that offers both familiar Indian dishes with some interesting alternatives. Their fish and spinach wraps, followed by a spicy swamp of king prawn bhuna was a great way to end the evening, anyhow.

Lovers of rum should head for Mojo on Thursday June 30, when the Merrion Street bar is kicking off the Leeds Loves Food weekend with a special tasting session.

Run in conjunction with Leeds specialist wine merchant Latitude, Mojo will be introducing customers to a selection of different El Dorado rums from the multi-award-winning Demerara Distillers of Guyana, South America.

Rum expert Stefanie Holt will talk guests through the range, the brand and its production – and there will be the chance to try the rums and some of Mojo’s own rum punch creations.

The event is from 7-10pm and tickets priced at £5 each; are available from Latitude Wine or Mojo.

Beer of the week

Roaring Meg

When Springhead Brewery opened in Sutton-on-Trent in 1990 it won a place in the Guinness Book of Records as the smallest in England. A cache of successful recipes and a string of prizes soon meant it soon had to lose that particular accolade, and – a couple of moves later – it is now one of the larger and best-known micro-breweries in Nottinghamshire.

Named after a giant cannon used by the Roundheads in the Civil War, Roaring Meg is their best-known beer, sold on draught at pubs across the brewery’s midlands heartland and available by the bottle at Morrisons and elsewhere.

If you spot any on the shelves in your local supermarket or off-licence, it’s certainly worth checking out, if only for its really long dry aftertaste which leaves you literally thirsty for more.

It’s pale gold of colour, and has a soft, slightly sweet aroma, before it bursts with richness, malt and honey across the palate. A certain amount of tartness slowly develops, yet nothing quite prepares you for the long dry and bitter aftertaste, the net effect of which is to ensure that you refill your glass and soon move onto a second bottle.

Some may say this is no bad thing.

Roaring Meg was the runner up in the strong bitters category at Camra’s Great British Beer Festival in 1995. And 16 years on, it’s still doing the business.

EASTERN PROMISE: The rooftop terrace at the Kori bar, Victoria Gate.

Bar review; Kori, Victoria Gate, Leeds