The event is organised by the city’s branch of the Campaign for Real Ale in response to the claims of various other cities to be the UK’s ale capital. A recent survey in Sheffield found 385 different beers available in its pubs – ahead of rivals such as Nottingham (334) and York (281).
So tonight it will be Leeds CAMRA’s mission to visit every single pub serving ale in the city centre and record exactly what’s on the bars. Small teams will be surveying all Leeds city centre licensed premises and volunteers are required for this arduous task. All recruits should meet upstairs in the Brewery Tap from 7pm when the grand plan will be unveiled, and a free pint is available for everyone returning with data at the end of the survey.
The last time they carried out such a survey, Leeds CAMRA found 180 different ales being served in 69 licensed premises within a single square mile. The number of pubs and bars has certainly increased since then, and my guess is that the range of beers has been similarly extended. Of course, the final figure will depend on definition – and whether only traditional real ales will qualify, or whether the flourishing of craft beer will, on this occasion, be acknowledged by the Campaign’s handpull diehards.
The Brewery Tap is a good place to start, as it will certainly allow them to tick off some of the city brewery’s well-known brands – crisp, refreshing Leeds Pale; firm and sessionable Leeds Best; dark and leathery Midnight Bell.
Yet I can’t help wonder if this, of all the seven former Leeds Brewery pubs, is most vulnerable to change now that the chain has been sold to north eastern giants Camerons, giving them major stake in a city where until recently they had just a single Head of Steam bar. The sale marks the abrupt end to a period of gradual expansion by Leeds Brewery, during which they have created new venues such as the Brewery Tap and Crowd of Favours in the city centre, revived old ones such as the Eagle and Child in York, and brought back from dereliction the former parish church verger’s house to create the beautiful new Lamb and Flag, just beyond the ancient graveyard. Instead, the company will concentrate on brewing, the expansion into neighbouring premises doubling capacity to meet growing demand.
For Cameron’s the move gives them a serious foothold in Leeds, as well as two venues in York. Boss Chris Soley said: “We are delighted to have acquired such a prestigious group of pubs to our growing managed estate. Leeds Brewery have established a group of truly fantastic pubs, very different from our current managed group, but with the same high retail standards and service.”
Both sides insist it will be “business as usual” across the estate – and all jobs have been maintained. Indeed, drinkers may not notice any immediate difference, with Leeds Brewery’s range of cask, keg and bottled beers still featuring prominently in the venues.
Which means that if you take CAMRA’s invitation to visit the Tap for your free pint tonight, you’ll find little changed on the bar. Locally-sourced food is on offer during every session except Sunday evenings, with the menus changing regularly. Current selections include the rump steak with salad (£9), chicken and chorizo burger (£11) and a steak and Midnight Bell ale pie (£12). Sandwiches start at £6, wraps at £7 and sharing plates at £12.
But you do wonder if a pub so named can remain quite the way it is, when its ties to the brewery have been completely severed...
The Brewery Tap
New Station Street, Leeds
Type: Modern city centre alehouse
Opening Hours: Noon-11pm Mon-Thur, 11am-midning Fr-Sat, noon-10.30pm Sun
Beers: Great choice from the Leeds Brewery range
Wine: Decent wine list
Food: Good choice of locally-sourced food available from noon-10pm Mon-Sat and noon-7pm Sun. Menus change regularly.
Entertainment: Occasional special events, such as tap takeovers by regional brewers
Disabled: Full disabled access
Children: No special facilities
Beer garden: None
Parking: City centre car parks nearby.
Telephone: 0113 2434 414
Email: [email protected]