“WE wanted it to have a name that was distinctively Yorkshire,” says Sam Parker at the launch of his new Whippet Brewery this week.
“There is already a Flat Cap Brewery down south and we thought about Elland Road Brewery – because that’s near where we’ll be based – but we didn’t think that would go down too well in Bradford.”
So Whippet it is, namechecking not just a Yorkshire canine icon, but also the old elliptical greyhound stadium which once stood just across from the football ground.
Already Sam and his team have struck up a relationship with the Retired Greyhound Trust, and funds at the launch are going to support the work of the charity in West Yorkshire.
The event is being held in the ‘top bar’ at Whitelocks, and as I’m sitting here grazing my way lazily through the Whippet range, it strikes me that it must be nearly 20 years since I’ve been in this part of the famous old pub.
Although used on busy days and for private parties, it mostly stands closed, which is a shame.
Its flagged floors, leather banquettes, etched mirrors, floral tiles and stained glass together make this every bit as divine as the Victorian main bar, further along the airless passageway of Turk’s Head Yard.
Sam’s passion has always been for beer, rather than for dogs. He gave up his job as a call centre manager for The Halifax seven years ago to become a full-time beer writer, penning articles for a number of magazines, and helping to promote Wetherspoon’s, among other things.
He’s a long-time member of the Leeds CAMRA branch, and is leading the on-going fight to save the great old Templar pub in Vicar Lane, whose future has been cruelly thrown into doubt by the vast Eastgate development. They call it progress, you know.
It was only a matter of time before Sam turned his hand to brewing, and after briefly flirting with taking up the reins at Ridgeside Brewery in Meanwood, following the death of our mutual friend, head brewer Simon Bolderson, Sam chose instead to strike out on his own.
His current range of beers have been created at the Burley Street Brewery, which supplies both the Fox and Newt pub upstairs and the Pack Horse in Woodhouse.
But production will soon be moving to Whippet’s own premises in Brown Place, a two minute walk from the Gelderd End, where a 60-seat brewery tap will be a great place to enjoy a pre-match pint.
“We are a traditional brewery but with a customer-focussed output,” says Sam. “We’re just trying to put our own spin on some traditional beers”
It’s a policy which some other small brewers would do well to consider. Unlike those newcomers which seem intent on loading up their recipes with sackloads of hops to generate heroic levels of bitterness – and to give themselves a point of distinction in the market place – the Whippet beers are straight up Yorkshire ales, utterly worthy of the honest, hard-working dog’s name. Each of the beers has a canine theme.
If you need your beers to radiate infusions of elderflower, be as cloying thick as a chocolate orange or as cheek-suckingly citric as an ice-cold grapefruit, drink elsewhere, there’s plenty of them about. But not here.
And Sam remains bullish when I ask whether Leeds really has room for another brewery: “Definitely. We aren’t really competitors; we’re all friends together.”
Name: Whippet Brewery
Address: Unit 9, Brown Place, Leeds.
Standard Bitter: House Dogge (3.7%) is an easy-drinking bright copper session ale with gentle bitterness and dry finish.
Pale Ale: English Whippet (4.8%) is a golden ale with more obvious bitterness than the session ale, yet still with the solid malty backdrop of a Yorkshire ale.
Stout: Little Curre (5.2%) is a rich and complex jet black ale – see beer of the week
India Pale Ale: Snap Dog (5.7%) is a rich and full bodied ale which features a brace of New Zealand hops, yet the citric nature is not so pronounced as in some American IPAs.
Telephone: 07928 101783