Bring your own chairs, was the special instruction for customers attending the first birthday party at Quirky.
The bar is tiny and the room next door is packed with the brewing kit, but the broad yard outside makes for a sizeable beer garden.
A second bar has been set up in the brewery to showcase some of brewer Mike Quirk’s latest creations; trailers are selling spicy falafel wraps and funky gin cocktails; solo guitarist Chris Taylor is entertaining the crowd with a range of rock and pop classics.
The warm bank holiday weather is an unexpected addition to the mix and helps draw quite a crowd to this industrial estate on the north side of Garforth. We’ve brought chairs, but there is barely any space for them, so we stand and enjoy the sunshine and the beers.
Mike seems faintly affronted by my suggestion that his bar is an unlikely success. “At lot of what I do is influenced by the craft ale scene in America,” he tells me. “Some friends of mine went to a bar on an industrial estate in Oregon and it was packed. I always had a feeling that I could make it work here, but you can’t just dream, you have to be pragmatic to actually turn that into reality.”
And after a slow start when it first opened, the bar now draws a regular crowd on its four nights of trading every week. Mike admits that he initially struggled to create the essence of a good bar in a fairly characterless industrial unit. But it didn’t take much to soften the look: racks of shelves now display his bottled beers, wooden pallets repurposed as a mural show a quirky approach to decor, there’s a scattering of furniture – yet this remains a functional space, quite unlike the traditional carpeted and upholstered public house.
“Micropubs like this are replacing the old pubs as the place where people come and meet up with friends,” says Mike – and Quirky certainly offers something very different to Garforth’s existing licensed premises, places like the lively Miners and Lord Gascoigne, the community-oriented Podger and Crusader, or the foody Miller and Carter. A Wetherspoon opened recently in Main Street, but it doesn’t feel as though it’s competing for the same trade as Mike.
“We give people a reason to come here,” he says, and for many customers that reason is his beer, pure and simple. His recipes mostly blend English malt with American hops to create an interesting range – a selection of which are always available on the short, wooden-fronted bar which dominates one end of the drinking space. They include the tropical fruit influenced Quirky Blonde (3.8%), the well-balanced darker Bitter (4%), and the rich, firm Classic (5.7%).
Outside opening hours, Quirky is a brewery pure and simple. A year on from opening, Mike is making significant headway in the local on-trade, with his beers having frequent guest slots at pubs around the county. The Fleece and Manor Inn at Pudsey, Robin Hood at Altofts and the Old Post Office at Brompton near Scarborough are places where you’re pretty much guaranteed to find one of them – each a testament to this tiny brewery’s winning formula.
“If someone says you me ‘you can’t do that’ it makes me determined to prove them wrong,” says Mike.
“Sometimes now I stand behind the bar with a wry smile, just to see people having a great time and enjoying my beers.”
Ash Lane, Garforth
Host: Mike Quirk
Type: Out-of-town micropub and bottle shop
Opening Hours: 5-10pm Thurs, noon-10pm Fri, 1-10pm Sat, 1-10pm Sun.
Beers: Changing choice of Quirky’s own beers (£3-pint) on draught plus guest beers from other microbreweries (up to £3.40) and a good selection of bottles
Wines: Small selection
Food: Packaged snacks only
Entertainment: Regular programme of live music
Disabled: Slightly cramped access and no special facilities
Children: No special facilities
Beer garden: Outdoor area to the front
Parking: On-street parking along Ash Lane
Telephone: 0113 286 2072