“WE NEED a buffer,” says the barman who has been given the task of polishing the chrome front of the stillage behind the bar at Tapped.
It’s quite a job. given that this huge mirror holds in place 14 taps from which beers of all description are poured. High above, clipboards display the latest selection, with several coming directly from the brewhouse on the other side of the room.
There, an eye-catching row of conical fermenters are seeing the latest on-site brews through the last stages of the process. Sacks of malt are stacked behind the shiny copper mash tuns where legendary Yorkshire brewer Dave Sanders is busy going through his daily routines.
Pipes cross the ceiling, carrying the beer from the brewkit to their 1,500-litre serving tanks beside the bar, their simple utility incorporated into a design which has seen the building stripped back to its basics with a vast network of wiring, pipework and air conditioning ducts laid bare.
A double set of glass doors offers an effective baffle from the world outside, shutting out the noise and bustle, and opening onto a simple, single-storey bar whose left edge is dominated by the dramatic polished steel of the brewhouse; the right edge by the bar.
Now well established in this space beneath the Trinity Centre, Tapped has brought to Leeds the same passion for great beer which has both refreshed and educated drinkers at Sheffield Tap, the Euston Tap and Pivni in York in roughly equal measure.
Dave has been here for just four weeks, but is a veteran of the local brewing scene, after first cutting his teeth at the old Feast and Firkin brewpub on Woodhouse Lane more than 20 years ago. Stints at Elland, Kirkstall, Saltaire and Copper Dragon breweries followed, before a call from Tapped boss Jamie Hawksworth renewed an old acquaintance. “Jamie was one of my customers back in the Firkin days,” says Dave, who has now been given charge of the brewhouses at Tapped’s brewpubs in Leeds and Sheffield.
Yet despite his experience, Dave admits that he’s on something of a learning curve here. “It’s a completely different system, I’m still getting my head around it.” The Tapped brewkit is a decoction brewery, a stepped brewing system commonly used for making lager in Germany and the Czech Republic, but rare in the UK. “It’s not something I had ever done before,” says Dave. “But so far, so good.”
His job will involve maintaining some of the great beers which have made Tapped such a popular destination, while introducing some new ones. So he’s been getting to grips with brewing a wheat beer – another personal first – and trying to develop some new ideas, both here at the keg brewery and at the cask ale plant in Sheffield.
I start with the latter option, the cloudy amber Rodeo (4%) from Sheffield and follow this with the more assertive, full-flavoured and characterful Hop Harvest Lager (6.2%) which is brewed with fresh green hops which are pitched into the brew on the same day that they were picked on an East Yorkshire farm. “It’s unfiltered, unpasteurised, and to all intents and purposes it’s a real ale – but there are still plenty of CAMRA diehards who wouldn’t drink it.”
Perhaps unwittingly, Dave has returned to a theme which has been exercising brewers, bartenders and beer-tickers for the past decade and more – what exactly is “craft ale”? It is a term which has defied all sensible attempts at definition, though I quite like Dave’s analogy: “It’s a bit like jazz. It’s hard to explain what it is and what it isn’t, but when you hear it, you know it’s jazz.”
Tapped Beer Co
Address: Boar Lane, Leeds
Type: Modern alehouse and brewpub
Opening hours: 11am-11pm Sun-Wed, 11am-midnight Thurs, 11am-1am Fri-Sat
Beers: Ever-changing range of cask and keg beers from around £3.20-pint plus an excellent choice of bottled beers from around the world
Wine: Good choice from £2.70-glass and £14-bottle
Food: Great choice of pizzas of various sizes and toppings served noon-10pm daily
Entertainment: Background music, TV
Children: Not particularly suitable
Disabled: Ramp access and disabled toilets
Beer Garden: None
Parking: City-centre car parking available nearby
Telephone: 0113 2441953