If you had heard the words ‘hop forward’ even just a few years ago, you might have interpreted that as some sort of instruction to physically move your body but when it comes to the world of craft brewing, this particular turn of phrase is used to describe the kind of beers which have, in more recent times, taken the market by storm.
One of the outriders of that particular assault on the some-might-say embedded world of beer drinkers, with its fortress mentality, is Holbeck’s very own Northern Monk Brew Co, based in The Old Flax Store on Marshall Street, in the heart of the area south of the river which spearheaded the Industrial Revolution and which today is undergoing a revival. - that is not lost on Northern Monk. Indeed, they are part of it.
While they may be celebrated for thinking outside the box when it comes to concocting thought-provoking brews, they’re also more than a little creative in other areas too. Hence our recent article on their regular ‘kitchen takeovers’.
But then there are other things, which knock you for six. Beer yoga, anyone? And yes, that was an actual event in 2017 and regular yoga classes still take place there. They also commissioned the (sadly soon to be demolished) Globe Road Matthew Murrary mural and generally immerse themselves in the creative juices of which locals seem to have an abundant supply. To wit, part of their range includes numerous ‘patron’ beers, inspired by local artists, performers, writers and even athletes. But enough about their origins and mindset, I’m here to taste their beer, starting with the 2.8 per cent Striding Edge Light IPA, which ordinarily I would eschew for something a little stronger but I am reassured it’s worth a try. And so it proves, because while this may be one of the weakest craft ales I’ve tasted in a while, it feels much stronger, the hops are front and centre: zesty, pineappley and uplifting.
Contrasting Striding Edge’s reserved outlook is the 6.8 per cent Skelatory, which has a strong nose and pours golden sandy colour into the glass, with a mountain of froth on top. The taste is complex, bringing orange peel, sour grapes with a soft bitter finish that somehow manages to disguise its alcoholic potency.
Moving on, there was also Faith, from their core range, followed by Adnams Porter. Faith is one of their best sellers and at 5.4 per cent is just about sessionable, pouring a hazy gold into the glass with an icing-sugar white head. The first thing that hits you is the aroma, which conjures up memories of sitting in the garden in summer. On the palate, there’s cut-grass and a bitter-sweet lemony tang. The porter (6%) is completely different again: black as night with coppery head and tones of coffee, liquorice and chocolate and a background smokiness. Northern Monk Brew Co is one of the city’s treasures.
Not only that, they put their money where their mouth is, specifically by collaborating with local people and causees, creating an ever evolving range of craft ales to promote and cross-polinate with other businesses.
Northern Monk rightly has a reputation as one of the country’s most innovative brewers.