Guide to a pub crawl around Holbeck and Granary Wharf in Leeds including The Grove and Water Lane Boathouse
I CAN only apologise to the group of four talented musicians who were entertaining a happy crowd in The Grove on Saturday.
That our party of eight walked out after three songs was absolutely no reflection upon their talents, nor the quality of the music, but simply that this came at the end of a thoroughly enjoyable pub crawl around the fleshpots of Holbeck and Granary Wharf – and by the time their act began in earnest, we were ready to drop.
Our afternoon begins in The Hop, that lively real ale paradise set into the Victorian arches of Leeds Station. To walk here, through the dark to Granary Wharf, where a week’s worth of constant rain was thundering through the subterranean tunnels, is to marvel at the civil engineering skills of an age where placing a railway station directly above a bend in the river doubtless seemed an eminently sensible thing to do.
The Hop was a first Leeds outpost for Ossett Brewery, whose handpulls retain prominence on a long bar which they share with some interesting keg alternatives and a host of guest ales.
After an opening salvo of the sessionable Yorkshire Blonde, I’m drawn to the Cappuccino Stout from the excellent Titanic Brewery in Stoke. Rich and full bodied, with hints of cream and vanilla, this lovely dark coffee ale punches a deal stronger than its 4.5 per cent strength would suggest.
The Ossett theme continues at our next venue, Craft Asylum #1, which is set into the ground floor of the eye-catching Candle House. Here a curve of red brick echoes the look and feel of the Hop and floor-to-ceiling windows look out across the waterfront. Formerly the Candle Bar, this is now also part of the Ossett empire, and a city centre outlet for their Salt Beer Factory in Saltaire.
The brewery’s own beers again dominate, though the sizeable legend “The purpose of beer is to create pleasure” on one wall is disappointingly banal.
We cross the cobbled bridge to reach Water Lane Boathouse, another which has had different guises, but retained true to its mission of serving interesting beer and decent food in a lively venue, whose canalside garden really comes into its own in the summertime.
It’s five minutes from here to the Midnight Bell, where Leeds Brewery beers remain prominent, despite the sale of the group to Cameron’s a few years back. By now it was time to take some ballast on board and – having taken the precaution of booking a table – the eight of us are shown to a long table for dinner.
Despite the pub being packed with Saturday night revellers, we are well looked-after, hearty steaks and pies being swiftly delivered to soak up some of the alcoholic onslaught.
A crisp pint of the reliably good Leeds Pale is a perfect foil for my bacon and cheese burger, as I knew it would be.
There are murmurings in the group about spending the rest of the evening here, but I insist on leading my troops to a final foray at The Grove, a pub which has been there since time immemorial yet is still unfamiliar to one or two in our party.
This lovely little timepiece is a remarkable story of survival, clinging to life amid change all around.
The tight-knit terraced streets which The Grove once served have been replaced by offices and car parks, and it stands in the shadow of the looming Bridgewater Place. Yet a faithful crowd keeps it alive.
As we arrive, a happy thrum of conversation throbs through its little side rooms, nooks and crannies, while a band of middle-aged gents tune up in the long music room, where an old piano and monochrome images of rock and folk legends help to create the kind of genuine atmosphere you might find in a bar on Ireland’s west coast.
Our evening ends here. We’d have loved to see the last of the band’s set – but frankly, we were hammered.
Five bars on our Holbeck pub crawl
Granary Wharf, Neville Street, LS1 4BR
0113 243 9854
Craft Asylum #1
Candle House, Granary Wharf, LS1 4GJ
0113 244 6655
Water Lane Boathouse
Canal Wharf, LS11 5PS
0113 487 1813
101 Water Lane, LS11 5QN
0113 244 5044
Stone Row, LS11 5PL
0113 244 2085