Review: Quirky Ales, Leeds

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ON AN industrial estate on the edge of Garforth, hidden away behind low-rise workshops and warehouses, something truly remarkable is taking place.

In this unpromising location and led by a former police commander, a new brewhouse and bar is drawing a regular following, both here, where the doors are open three days a week, and further afield, where the beers are finding their way into festivals and free houses.

It’s all the brainchild of Mike Quirk who began home brewing for friends and family some years ago, after handing in his warrant card and looking for something altogether less stressful to do with his time. And so it might have stayed but for the timely intervention of investors John Fergusson and Andrew Milner who have helped Mike take his business from the the quirky to the quite remarkable.

It was during his time helping to organise Barwick’s beer festival that John became aware of this new brewery on his doorstep. “Theirs were the first casks to sell out at the festival,” says John, who, after a career with brewing giants like SAB Miller, Anheuser Busch, knows a thing or two about the industry. “I always thought I’d like to be involved in a microbrewery and I was looking for somewhere to make an investment,” he says, joining me over a pint of the brewery’s softly-spoken grapefruity pale ale Maxima (4.1%).

Within a few months of the new partners getting on board, Mike had traded his home brew kit for some serious stainless steel and installed it at this unprepossessing warehouse, just outside the centre of Garforth. And after the doors opened on their pocket handkerchief taproom in August, word soon spread among locals thirsty for beers brewed in the village. The proximity of bus routes and the railway station helped bring in curious punters from beyond the LS25 postcodes.

There’s room for a handful of tables, while other drinkers stand or lean on the bar, or admire the impressive range of bottled beers on sale. I’m finding it hard to imagine how they accommodate live music, but they do, with a weekly programme of solo performers.

With output limited by the size of the fermenting vessels, Quirky brews three times a week, and the choice on draught can vary from day to day. As well as the Maxima, I get to taste the impressively substantial, rich red brown Classic (5.7%), packed with dark fruit and woodsmoke. Others include the gentle fruity Blonde (3.8%), the smoky malty Phoenix (5.3%) and a Pilsner (3.8%). The light and easy drinking Porter (3.5%) makes for an unusual alternative session beer.

Once a month Quirky’s Brewschool gives would-be brewers the opportunity to try their hand at creating a new beer. For £50 a head you can come up with a recipe, brew the beer, name it – and return a few weeks later for a tasting and to take away a few bottles. Stag or hen parties can serve the beer at the subsequent wedding.

And already the beer is making its presence felt beyond its Ash Lane home. The Fleece at Pudsey and the Gascoigne in Barwick regularly take Quirky casks, while beer festival crowds from across the region have been quick to warm to the name. “It goes to pubs where we know it’s going to be looked after properly,” says John.

So far, so good. “We are delighted and humbled,” he says. “It’s had such great support from the community that in a way we’re victims of our own success.” Currently open Friday-through-Sunday, a move to four-day opening in February, and plans to improve the area outside to provide a warm weather drinking space will help cope with rising demand. “We’ve grown very quickly,” says John. “There are plenty of challenges but we’ve achieved a lot so far.”

FACTFILE

Address: Ash Lane, Garforth

Host: Mike Quirk

Type: Lively new brewpub and bottle shop

Opening Hours: Noon-10pm Fri, 2-10pm Sat, 2-8pm Sun, plus Thursday opening starting soon

Beers: Changing choice of Quirky’s own beers (£3-pint) plus guest beers (£3.30) and good selection of bottles

Wines: Small selection

Food: Packaged snacks

Entertainment: Regular programme of live music, plus quiz on Thurs Feb 16

Disabled: Slightly cramped access and no special facilities

Children: No special facilities

Beer garden: Outdoor area being developed this year

Parking: Limited space

Telephone: 0113 286 2072

Website: quirkyales.com

Email: info@quirkyales.com

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