THERE is no longer any excuse for anyone to have never visited Leeds’s most beautifully preserved public house.
Whitelocks is a Victorian drinking palace of polished brass and copper, gleaming mirrors, sculpted tiles and delicious atmosphere. Back in the day, when its dark alleyway perhaps seemed forbidding, when its high copper-topped bar was dominated by traditional ales and its clientele were mostly noisy forty-plus customers crammed into a claustrophobic drinking space, you might have had an excuse.
Maybe you were put off by the way the staff seemed to loom over you from behind that high bar. You might even have heard that Whitelock’s commitment to great beer had taken something of a nosedive, as it genuinely has from time to time over the past 30 years.
So perhaps in those times you might have had a reason to feel intimidated, or put off from visiting. It was mostly misguided, but a reason all the same.
Yet the opening a few years ago of the light and airy Turks Head bar along the alleyway blew each of these bogus excuses away, creating a stylish space with comfortable breathing room between its tables – and lurching itself right up-to-date by offering an on-trend selection of quality craft ales. The change of emphasis was driven by owner Ed Mason, who had been a customer here during his time as a student at Leeds University, before he became the driving force behind Five Points, one of London’s most renowned new brewers.
And if you still haven’t found the time to take a walk along the atmospheric Turk’s Head Yard, the pub’s fourth annual beer festival this weekend will surely give you the perfect chance to redress that failing in your cultural development.
Between today and Sunday will be home to all manner of rare and interesting beers which celebrate the best of Britain’s new wave of modern and progressive breweries. For a bar which once majored on Youngers No.3, it’s quite a change!
The festival features very special cask beers and incredibly rare brews from the likes of Cloudwater, Deyav and Odyssey, alongside over 30 other innovative breweries such as Verdant, Little Earth Project, Vibrant Forest, Zapato and Anthology.
Well-known local brewers like Wilde Child, Ridgeside and Northern Monk will be making their considerable presence felt – and festival-goers can enjoy drinking out of Whitelock’s special commemorative glasses . Alongside the beer, there will be a special list of festival gins to sample, as well as DJs playing in Turk’s Head Yard on Friday and Saturday night. Italian American street food heroes Capish are also returning for a second year to serve a special menu for the occasion over the weekend at the top of long Whitelocks yard.
Here, in its strange geometry can be glimpsed divisions created more than 800 years ago. In 1207, the local landowner sold 30 burgage plots of land either side of the main street. Each was long and narrow, just under 50 feet wide, and became workshops, homes, market gardens and taverns. Despite myriad changes in the eight centuries since, that measurement precisely describes modern Briggate’s shopping arcades.
Whitelocks’ 25-foot half burgage plot will this weekend be given over to a true celebration of the very best of modern brewing.
Turk’s Head Yard, Leeds, LS1 6HB
Opening Hours: Today 5-11pm, Fri-Sat 11am-1am, Sun 11am-11pm
Beers: During the weekend there will be more than 60 festival beers on draught – with a rotation of 28 different beers on tap at one time.
Admission: £5 for festival beer glass, a programme - and your first half pint
Wines: Good choice available
Food: Street food from Capish, in addition to pub’s usual food menu
Disabled: The pub is on one level, but access is rather tricky
Children: Not especially suitable
Entertainment: DJs on Friday and Saturday evening
Beer garden: Long yard to the side of the pub
Parking: City centre car parks nearby
Telephone: 0113 2453950 and 0113 2423368