A GIANT box of beers from New England will be bringing a fresh twist to the Leeds International Beer Festival, which opens in the Town Hall this evening.
America’s brewing scene has expanded beyond all recognition in the past two decades. There is barely a single town worthy of the name which doesn’t have its own brewery; many of them are producing truly exceptional and innovative beers.
A host of brewers in Maine in the north-eastern corner of the US, have clubbed together to promote the Maine Beer Box – a custom-built, 40-foot, refrigerated shipping container which will be landing in Leeds this week specially for the event. The Beer Box, which boasts 78 beer taps and a self-contained draught system commissioned by the Maine Brewers’ Guild, is capable of delivering beer anywhere by land or sea, ensuring that beer from the state’s thriving craft scene can be transported anywhere in perfect condition. The Maine Beer Box was first used last year at a brewing event in Reyjavik and its visit to Leeds is its first to the UK. Its inside is packed with kegs from quality, small-time beer producers who might otherwise never have the chance to tout their wares in Europe and the taps welded into its sides allows this vast range of ales to be dispensed directly.
As part of the deal, the crate will be shipped home across the Atlantic at the end of the festival, chock-full of great beers from the brewers who are filling the Town Hall, of which there are plenty.
For me, Leeds International Beer Festival has become the summer’s last hurrah, a wonderful cosmopolitan celebration of food and drink from right across the world, staged beneath the barrel vaulted ceiling of Cuthbert Brodrick’s spectacular civic space. After this year’s record-breaking June and July it will really feel like a ‘Goodbye Sunshine’ party for all the people.
Some of Yorkshire’s best craft brewers are among the 50-something represented at the festival – the likes of Brew York, Northern Monk and North Brewing from Leeds and Huddersfield’s Magic Rock – alongside those from further afield: Derbyshire’s Thornbridge, Tiny Rebel from Cardiff and London’s Five Points. Some of the region’s longer-established big hitters like Roosters of Knaresborough and Kirkstall will be there again, seeming ever-presents since this event first began seven years ago.
And of course there’s a huge international flavour to the festival with Amundsen, De Molen, Porterhouse and Veltins flying the flag for Norway, Holland, Ireland and Germany respectively.
A host of street-food producers will be offering punters plenty of different options for soaking up that alcoholic onslaught. Among them is the fabulous Bundobust, whose blend of curry and beer has proved such a winning combination at their restaurant in Mill Hill.
And there is a full programme of live music in the main hall, the marquee outside and in the crypt below street level, between them lending something of the rock festival feel to this wonderful event. It truly is an assault on all of the senses.
Leeds International Beer Festival seems to grow in popularity every year – and some sessions do sell out, so you’re advised to buy your tickets in advance – see Factfile above for details.
n And if all this isn’t enough for you, it will soon be time for the county’s biggest beer festival. Held at the city’s Knavesmire racecourse, York Beer Festival will feature more than 500 beers – more than half of which are brewed in the county. This vast event opens on Wednesday September 19 and runs until the Sunday, with different admission prices each day. For full details visit: www.yorkbeerfestival.org.uk
Location: Leeds Town Hall
Opening Hours: 5-11pm Thurs, noon-5pm and 6-11pm Fri-Sat, noon-5pm Sun
Admission: Prices vary from £9 to £11 depending on the session. For the truly dedicated, a £100 festival ticket includes a pass to all sessions, a commemorative glass and £30 in beer tokens.
Beers: Amazing selection of beers from the UK and overseas. Beers from £1 a pint, halves available
Food: Top quality festival food from acclaimed bars and restaurants
Entertainment: Live music all day on the main stage, in the marquee outside and in the Town Hall crypt
Disabled: Disabled access/toilets
Children: Welcome on Sunday
Tel: 0113 376 0318