THIS weekend sees one of the best beer festivals on the local scene.
Originally held at St Aidan’s Church, this annual fundraising bash has now relocated to North Leeds Cricket Club, just off Old Park Road on the south western fringes of Roundhay Park.
The festival was the brainchild of CAMRA stalwart Sam Parker, and though he now devotes his time to running the Whippet Brewery in south Leeds, he’s still heavily involved and four of his beers are crossing the city to take their place on the bar.
This year’s event has a “Round Britain” theme, and features an impressive list of 40 ales from as far afield as Hunter’s Brewery in Devon, Gower in Swansea and Orkney Brewery in, er, Orkney. There’s plenty of local breweries represented too, like Castleford’s Revolution, Mexborough’s Imperial and Pontefract’s James and Kirkman.
And for drinkers who have never made the trek out to their tiny little brewery tap in Garforth, the festival offers the chance to acquaint themselves with newcomers Quirky, whose dark fragrant Classic (4.4%) has some echoes of Old Peculier – and is certainly worth a try.
* I may have also found a new favourite place to watch TV football. The big broadcasters charge an arm and a leg to show the sports channels, and that’s why pubs often have to place this right at the heart of their business in order to make a return. By placing a host of screens around their bars and giving everyone a view of the action, venues like Shooters or the Brotherhood can rely on drawing in a good crowd – and turning a profit against the investment they make to Sky and BT.
Few smaller pubs, particularly those in the city centre, can afford to do this, so it was a huge surprise to learn that the lovely little Wapentake Bar in Kirkgate has got a screen upstairs and welcomes football fans of all varieties.
My hardy bunch of Leeds-based Oxford United supporters met up there this week, and though the result didn’t go our way, the fact we could watch the game in comfort while taking advantage of their £2-a-pint Tuesdays, made it a certainty that we’ll be back next time the yellows are on TV. November, most likely.
And by the way, a Wapentake is an ancient Yorkshire word for a sub-division of the county, and not some on-trend hipster Japanese drinking culture. So if any of your fellow drinkers pronounce it to rhyme with Teriyaki or Teppanyaki or the rice wine Sake, feel free to ridicule them mercilessly. As I did.
* Everyone seems to be opening a brewery these days, but it’s not long ago that as big a city as York didn’t have a single one. In his elegantly-titled book P**s Up in a Brewery, Tony Thomson recalls his own determination that brewing should return to the Minster city after a 40-year hiatus.
His book records every step along the way to building a successful business – from the birth of an idea to the search for funding; from hauling a second-hand brewkit across the Pennines to the improbable task of finding premises within the city walls; from tackling the stern resistance of York landlords – to the moment when the new kid on the block captured coveted industry awards.
The brewery’s own tap room is hosting the launch on Saturday; copies are available priced £13.99 from good local bookshops.
North Leeds Cricket Club, Old Park Road, Roundhay
Opening Hours: Two days only – 6-11pm Friday, noon-11pm Saturday
Admission: £10 - including festival glass, programme and three beer tokens. (£5 for non-drinkers)
Beers: Eclectic range of 40 cask ales from England, Scotland and Wales plus six ciders
Food: Good choice of hearty festival dining
Disabled: Disabled access via rear entrance
Charity: Proceeds to be distributed to Rotary Club charities
Parking: Small car park and some on-street parking
Entertainment: Live music every session