Review: North Bar, Leeds

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I might be wrong but the suspended ceiling of wooden slats that run the full length of this favourite city bar are a new addition.

This distinctly Scandinavian touch softens the edges of North’s rather utilitarian design, adding a certain intimacy to a bar where great beer and knowledgeable service were always more important than fripperies such as the decor.

The time when North Bar was an upstart newcomer on the scene is long gone. Rather, it’s now something of a veteran institution in a city whose pub scene has undergone seismic change.

If anything, North was the catalyst for developing this once-neglected part of town as a haven of bar culture, shifting the centre of gravity of the city’s nightlife to the north end of Briggate.

The success of newer bars like the Social, the Belgrave, the Brotherhood – and the soon-to-open Brewdog bar at Crispin Lofts – owes much to early adopters like North, Sandinista and Mojo.

It is the range of beers which has made this place such a favourite on the circuit. The UK’s first draught Erdinger, Sierra Nevada and Brooklyn Lager were all poured at North. Inspired by Belgians Chimay and Duvel, and American Anchor Brewery, directors John Gyngell and Christian Townsley were determined to continually give their customers something new, unfamiliar and interesting.

The selection, both on the bar and in the amply-stocked double-fronted fridges behind, is refreshed on a regular basis, though you can generally expect to find lagers from Germany, Italy and the Low Countries, plenty of bottled beers from around the globe, draught Krieks and Framboises.

The formula proved sufficiently successful to now be rolled out to bars in Meanwood, Holbeck, Chapel Allerton, Otley and Oakwood.

And the latest development has seen North establish a brewery of their own.

It’s a natural progression. For some time now, Kirkstall Brewery has provided their entry level pale ale Prototype as the group’s session beer. Staff from the bars have visited Kirkstall to see the brewing process up close. And now Prototype has become one of the first beers produced by North Brewing Co.

Initially they will be ‘cuckoo brewers’, essentially using spare capacity at other breweries to create their own beers, before establishing their own city centre premises.

The plans are to produce their own ‘bread and butter’ ales ­– such as Prototype ­– as well paying homage to some of their brewing heroes.

It is the latest to join a vibrant brewing scene. In a city once dominated by the monolithic Tetley’s, there are now three sizeable brewers – Leeds, Kirkstall and Ridgeside – and a host of micros each fighting for drinkers’ attention.

The tiny Burley Street Brewhouse chiefly supplies the Fox and Newt and its sister pub the Pack Horse in Woodhouse, while the Northern Monk Brewery in Holbeck now has a ready-made outlet with a fine bar and restaurant upstairs.

The Brewery Tap in New Station Street and Black Swan in Call Lane are others which have established their own on-site brewing, while tiny Sunbeam Brewery is based in a garage in East Leeds.

Another newcomer is Golden Owl, who like North are using other brewers’ kit, and I’m expecting big things from the Whippet Brewery in South Leeds, when its beers finally hit the market later this year.

In terms of sheer choice, Leeds drinkers really never have had it so good.

NORTH BAR

Type: Unpretentious modern alehouse

Address: 24 New Briggate, Northern Quarter, Leeds

Opening times: 11am-1am Mon-Tues, 11am-2am Wed-Sat, noon-midnight Sun

Beers: Great choice of real ales and interesting world beers starting with Prototype (£2.90). Current draught selections include beers from Magic Rock, Dark Star, Rooster’s, Liefman’s as well as a host of bottled beers. Lagers include Erdinger, Veltins, Schneider Weisse. Sharing bottles available too (from £13) for sociable connoisseurs

Wine: Good selection

Food: Simple bar food

Entertainment: Occasional themed events - such as Tequila Tuesdays

Children: Not particularly suitable

Beer Garden: None

Parking: Multi-storey and pay and display areas nearby

Telephone: 0113 242 4540

Email: info@northbar.com

Website: www.northbar.com

Twitter @northbardrinks

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