Bar review: Northern Monk Refectory, Holbeck

Northern Monk Refectory.  Pictures: Jonathan Gawthorpe
Northern Monk Refectory. Pictures: Jonathan Gawthorpe
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Unless you live and work in this neck of the woods, or you are something of a craft beer geek, the chances are this first floor tap room will have slipped your notice.

The rise of the craft beer and real ale scenes have added to the diversity of places to actually imbibe a pint. More and more breweries, buoyed by their successes, have opened up their premises as a drinking venue in their own right.

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And such is the model at Northern Monk in Holbeck Urban Village where its converted, old flax store home has a tap room of its own above the brewery.

These bars make for a great showcase of the brewery’s range of beers. Here in Northern Monk, you are greeted by a low-lit room that smacks of industrial reclamation cool. A black paved stone floor gives rise to exposed brick and white-washed walls to a ceiling crisscrossed by pipes. Sleek grey lampshades hang nimbly over mostly long tables and benches which are set out canteen or bierkeller style, with smaller tables against the walls on the perimeter.

A coat rail in the middle of the room reminds me of the likes found in my old primary school cloakroom.

Easy-listening modern vocals sound out over the speakers at a gentle level. In one corner there is a glass wall which acts as a partition to brewing equipment displayed beyond and where some of the brewery’s merchandise is hung on hangers - t-shirts and tops.

Above the glass and the four-step journey of the brewing process is simply told with illustrations from hot liquor tank to fermentation vessel.

A large, deep bar area awaits along the far wall where what look like letters cut from magazines spell out the beers on tap on a blackboard.

The variety is exciting. There are 16 taps pocking the wall behind the bar, each labelled. As far as I can make out all but four seem to be Northern Monk brews and I go for a pint of the True North pale ale, served in a dimpled beer glass and costing just £2.80.

There is also a fridge stocked full of canned and bottled beer but with so much on tap, these don’t come into my equation on this visit.

Taking a seat in this hip-converted warehouse, I find menus on the table which detail food options - sandwiches £5 and pies £8.50 - and also see the bottled and canned beers, as well as wines and ciders, are comprehensively listed. Among the beers on here are smoked, wheat and fruit style beers.

There are also an array of bar snacks to accompany that thirst-quenching round, such as biltong and nuts.

On discovering the Refectory it feels like a real find, so whisper it quietly, if craft beer is your thing, then pop in and give it a try.

Rating: 4/5.

Sarah Sordy of Mars Petcare in Birstall

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