IF YOU were looking for a pub to represent the way the city’s drinking culture has been revolutionised over the past couple of decades, you probably wouldn’t have to look much further than the Pour House.
Years ago, when I began writing about pubs, this is one of the very last parts of town you would come to in search of a pint. Aside from a visit to the evergreen Grove, beer lovers had little to tempt them to venture over onto this side of the Dark Arches. The dirty and dangerous canalside was a place you might only visit with ill-intent.
Its regeneration is absolute. Where once was disuse and dereliction, is now red brick and stone, concrete and glass, the topography of the wharves and inlets rediscovered as waterside drinking and dining spaces, its rusting iron machinery blacked up into heritage antiquities. Hotels, restaurants, offices and homes have breathed fresh life into a suburb whose forges and foundries once tapped out the heartbeat of the industrial revolution.
The opening of a new southside entrance to the railway station underlines Holbeck as a destination and a place that is open for business.
The Pour House, set in an old granary building, sits on the south side of the canal basin, its long suntrap beer garden, dominated by the looming ironwork of an old dockside derrick, giving drinkers an attractive view across the water to a resurgent Granary Wharf.
It opened about four years ago, entering the same lucrative market which had already been tapped by the Cross Keys, The Hop and the Midnight Bell.
The bar is dead ahead as you walk in, in front of a slightly sunken drinking space beside the water. An open staircase winds to a broad balcony area topped by exposed beams and rafters. A row of handpumps emphasises straight away the company’s commitment to real ale. A great choice of bottled beers plus a selection of quality lagers play well to the pub’s knowledgeable clientele.
And though Yorkshire cask ales often dominate here, when I called in last week, the emphasis was very much on ales from the excellent Meantime Brewery in Greenwich. When it was established in a lock up garage near Charlton Athletic’s ground in 2000, this was among the early wave of microbreweries, bringing new and imaginative beers to a London market which had long been dominated by the twin giants of Fuller’s and Young’s.
Though now a major player itself, and owned by Japanese giants Asahi, Meantime’s thirst for innovation remains unquenched, and an event at the Pour House saw them launch both a limited edition beer Time To Time – see beer of the week, right – and a beer-inspired neon installation by Yorkshire artist Julia Bickerstaff.
One of Meantime’s points of difference is that it takes six weeks to brew a beer.
So they challenged Julia to spend the same amount of time designing and creating a one-of-a-kind neon art piece which will take pride of place at Meantime’s ‘Make Time For It’ bar, which will be unveiled in London in October.
Her design blends coloured neon with the trademark slender curves of Meantime’s bottles.
Craftsmen from around the country have also taken the six-week challenge to produce furniture, glassware,wallpaper and signage for the bar.
Leeds International Beer Festival starts three weeks today – so get it in your diary! This year’s event, at the familiar venue of Leeds Town Hall, runs from September 8-11 and will feature a dizzying choice of beers from around Britain and further afield, as well as quality street food and live music. For details and tickets go to www.leedsbeer.com
The Pour House
Canal Wharf, Leeds
Type: Quality bar and restaurant
Opening hours: 11.30am-11.30pm Sun-Thurs and 11.30am-12.30am Fri-Sat
Beers: Changing choice of real ales from Wharfebank, Leeds, Kirkstall and Thwaites breweries from around £3.60-pint, plus Amstel (£4), Heineken (£4.20), Moretti (£4.20), Sagres (£4.20), Guinness (£4), Symonds (£3.80).
Wines: Good selection from £5.50-glass and £12.95 daily
Food: Wide-ranging choice of dishes served until 10pm daily
Entertainment: Quiz night Mon; board games.
Functions: Upstairs area is available for private hire
Children: Welcome, but no special facilities
Disabled: Straightfoward access, but some split-level areas inside
Beer garden: Large waterside drinking area
Parking: On-street and pay and display areas nearby
Telephone: 07816 481492