THERE is a whole new look to this famous old alehouse midway between the ring road at Weetwood and the major fleshpots of Headingley.
The insertion of the word “craft” into its name heralds a whole new commitment to the wonderful world of beer.
For students, Woodies is perhaps best known as the starting point of the famous Otley Run, a daunting “rite of passage” pub crawl which ends in the city centre. It has been here for generations – many will remember the old Woodman before it was reinvented as Woodies Alehouse some time in the eighties.
It was not long after this that I became a regular – this was the favoured post-match watering hole for the Yorkshire Evening Post football team, whose Glen Road home was but a hearty goalkick away.
Woodies has had a few small changes of direction in recent years, not least when it was bought by Greene King and the bar was unexpectedly repopulated with beers from their stable – Ruddles, Hardy and Hanson’s, Morland and more. Its only permanent fixture during all this time has been licensee Allan Ware, who has been in charge here for more than a decade now.
The latest change is more than incremental. Rebranded as a Craft Alehouse its bar is now home to a line of 12 handpulls, three times as many as there were before. Leeds Pale, Ilkley’s Joshua Jane, Timothy Taylor Landlord – and more – were all offering a substantial alternative to the GK products when I rolled in on Sunday afternoon. Slates around the wall are chalked up with the current roster of beers and strengths; those customers who are undecided can try a wooden paddle slotted with three different selections in third-pint glasses.
Behind the bar, fridges are stocked with the kind of eclectic selection to make those aficionados and beer-tickers who frequent the excellent Beer Ritz store round the corner really sit up and take notice.
Further offerings like Brewdog’s Punk IPA and Blue Moon from Colorado grasp the craft keg zeitgeist, though the prices here will not do much to please those whose assessment of any licensed premises is based solely on this measure.
I plumped for a fairly straightforward choice, the simple, easy-going, golden, dry and refreshing Elland Best – which may not have strength, the body or the sheer force of personality of the brewery’s 1872 Porter (see Beer of the Week) – but proved an amiable companion as I kept half an eye on the football while taking my notes.
The new look is all about rough-planed wood and red brick. I shudder to think how many healthy pines were sacrificed to create the acres of bar front, wall panelling, ceilings and floors. Only the floorboards are given a glossy finish, the rest is bare, as though it has been thrown together like a log cabin.
I love the beers, obviously, but frankly I’m not sure about the design. This look of “faux spartan” with the big old beer barrel and the little wall lanterns, together give the feel of some Disneyland imitation of a frontier outpost, or a new-build youth hostel in the Lake District, making out that it has been there forever. Curiously, a display of book covers by the locally-born Arthur Ransome lends further to this outdoors theme, though some attractive tiling in the doorway and in the gents toilets adds a little of the avant garde.
But it’s the phenomenal range of beers which will make this place stand out. And as well as being an obvious new mecca for drinkers, Woodies Craft Alehouse remains a lively sports venue, with numerous TV screens offering an easy view of the action, wherever you find yourself sitting.
A while ago, I was wondering about an ideal place for a beer-loving football fan to watch the World Cup this summer. With Woodies’ combination of fabulous ale, TV screens and great atmosphere – I can’t think of anywhere better.
Name: Woodies Ale House
Host: Allan Ware
Type: Real ale and sports venue
Opening hours: 11am- 11pm Sun-Weds, 11am- 11.30pm Thurs, 11am-midnight Fri-Sat
Beers: Four regular real ales: Greene King IPA (£2.74), Leeds Pale (£3.04), Mary Jane (£3.04) and Timothy Taylor Landlord (£3.49) plus eight other handpulls, and a wide range of bottled beers and craft kegs. Also: Carlsberg (£2.75), Stella Artois (£3.39), San Miguel (£3.49), Peroni (£4.04), Guinness (£3.34)
Wine: Great choice from £2.55-glass or £7.99-bottle
Food: Quality pub meals such as fish and chips (£5.99), ploughman’s (£4.99), pie and peas (£2.99), beef sandwich (£4.49)
Children: Welcomed but no special facilities
Entertainment: Quiz Thurs and Sun, multi-screen Sky Sports TV, games machine
Disabled: Straightforward access
Beer Garden: Outdoor tables to the side with smoking area
Parking: On street spaces nearby
Telephone: 0113 278 4393