Boar Lane has long been one of our city’s major arteries.
Running parallel to the river, it fringed the southern side of the nascent medieval settlement, linking the moated manor house of Castyll Hall to the taverns and workshops of Briggate, always the beating heart of Leeds life.
It has seen the plague and a Civil War skirmish, been a desirable address to the 18th century gentry, and then laid out again by the city fathers as a centre for commerce as wool underpinned our Victorian prosperity.
Lovely old Trinity Church has been the one fixture during 300 years of constant change, watching over the fluctuating fortunes of this thoroughfare of trade for generations. In recent years Boar Lane has been tainted by the scourge of urban decay; those lovely old shops which remained, found themselves cheek-by-jowl with cheap stores and fast food joints. Drinkers could choose simply between a Yates’s and the cavernous Square on the Lane. Trouble sometimes flared and this was somewhere you would avoid like the plague on Friday nights.
The bold creation of the Trinity Quarter is just the latest chapter in this changing history and has brought a new focus to one of our city’s favourite pastimes – shopping. Thankfully it has also provided the space for the Tapped Brew Company, which brings 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.
So I’m sitting here sinking a London-style porter brewed in Knaresborough, beside the polished steel fermenters of a brewpub serving 13 cask ales and 14 keg beers. Ten years ago this would have been unthinkable, just five years ago, this would have been the Square on the Lane.
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.
The design makes a virtue of the ugly – a line of chunky steel pipes connecting brewery and bar cross a ceiling scarred by a maze of foil-clad aircon pipes. There’s a lovely hubbub of noise. A long central table offers a raised dining space. Leather-upholstered booths and squat square tables dominate the rest of the space between bar and brewhouse.
To the right is a long American cherry wood counter, above which beer choices are bulldog-clipped at ceiling level, so drinkers can browse carefully before making a choice, a bit like at a beer festival.
Even so, it would be easy to assume that this doesn’t serve any beer at all. There are no handpumps on the bar, no shiny lager fonts. Instead, all 27 beers are dispensed US-style, from taps set into the copper-fronted stillage behind the bar. To be honest, it’s a mistake I made the first time I walked into the Euston Tap. Here though, you would also have to overlook the open brewhouse and the 1500-litre serving tanks to one end of the bar, which store the fresh beer brewed in the Czech-built fermenters across the room. The brewhouse beer is augmented by a dizzying range from small brewers from across the UK and further afield.
My choices are largely random ones. My eyes soon alight on the word Londinium, and that makes for a fine starting point. This lovely dark, strong smoky porter was a winner at the Yorkshire Beer Awards in the summer and is final proof – if any more were needed – that Rooster’s Brewery is going from strength to strength following its change of ownership.
I watch as a chef slides a huge garlic and rosemary pizza bread from the giant steel oven, before it is sliced into squares and offered around to all-comers like canapes at a posh reception. Some give it a try; others decline, perhaps suspicious of this un-Boar-Lane-like behaviour.
I take my beer to one of the booths where I can scribble my scratchy little notes, before wandering back to the bar for a second beer, this time the Amber Ale from Cornwall’s Harour Brewery, to my mind darker than amber but with an attractive brassy, bronzey shimmer and a gentle, malty, softly bitter character. It slides down.
The Trinity Quarter is hardly my idea of heaven, but it does at least represent a fresh upswing in Boar Lane’s changing history. And just as I would never pretend that a night-time culture dominated by cheap Carlsberg and doner kebabs represents the end of civilization as we know it, nor will I hoodwink you with the notion that the wonderful choice and beautifully benign atmosphere of Tapped represents mankind’s ultimate salvation. But – holy moley – it’s a step in the right direction.
Name: Tapped Brew Co
Manager: Ben Tysoe
Type: Modern alehouse and brewpub
Opening hours: 11am-midnight Mon-Thurs; 11am-1am Fri-Sat; 11am-11pm Sun
Beers: Ever-changing range of beers from £2.80-pint for cask and £3.50-pint for keg
Wine: Good choice from £2.79 glass and £16.20 bottle
Food: Pizzas served 11am-3pm and 5-9.30pm
Entertainment: Background music
Children: Not particularly suitable
Disabled: Ramp access and disabled toilets Beer Garden: None
Parking: City-centre car parking available nearby