Pub Review: The Otley Run, Otley Road, Leeds

SO HERE we are, right. Beyonce, Eminem, Damon Albarn and me. Oh yeah, sorry, I'm Gene Simmons, lead singer of Kiss – and those three other guys in make-up are the rest of my band.

My son Ben turned 18 just before Christmas and has determined that he will mark the occasion by attempting the Otley Run. Which is one serious pub crawl, just in case anyone is labouring under the misapprehension that the Otley Run is some kind of athletic event.

Confusingly, it begins well outside Otley, at Woodies on the Otley Road at Headingley – and ends still further away, at the Dry Dock in Leeds city centre.

Tradition dictates that the event is completed in fancy dress, which explains my ridiculous get-up and why Ben is doing his best Buddy Holly impression. Craig David, Cheryl Cole and Wham! join us too, plus a real-life England football star, but that's a little way off yet, because we're all still in Woodies, laughing at each other's costumes and downing the first of a ridiculous number of drinks.

Woodies is a great real ale and sport pub, and as a business takes all the benefits of the pub crawl's brisk, thirsty trade and few of the messy consequences faced by some of those further along the route. For while they're here, the Otley Runners are sober, they drink up fast – there are 13 more pubs to visit after all – leaving the Woodies regulars to enjoy their pub in peace.

It's in Woodies that Ben enjoys that splendid rite of passage, buying his old man a pint, lovely St Edmund bitter from Greene King too. Yet there is little time for it to be savoured and we're soon in the Three Horseshoes for a ridiculously quick half before the short walk to the New Inn. As designated timekeeper I've factored in a little extra time here for a pint of Greene King IPA and a game of pool in the room at the back. All is well.

The route march to the Headingley Taps is the second longest on the Otley Run and takes us directly past the front door of Arcadia, the one licensed premises on this route which has banned fancy dress. It's a shame for me, because – in common with all the Market Town Taverns pubs – they do a wonderful range of continental beers. I guess that most of the fancy dress pub crawlers don't actually mind whether they're on Timmerman's or Tequila or Tetley Smooth, but it would be great if they could benefit from some of the choice offered by Arcadia. It's not even as if they would be drunk and causing trouble by this point, surely.

Having said that there is a little unpleasantness in the Headingley Taps, though none of it caused by the pub crawlers. Even before we're inside, a bunch of beered-up lads are giving some other Otley Runners a little verbal abuse; inside, the atmosphere's edgy, ready to kick off.

This really doesn't feel like the sort of place where you want to be made up like some American glam rocker, so we neck a rapid half of something or other and head across the road to Arc instead.

And though the beer here is less impressive, Arc proves far better than I remembered it, and a welcome haven after the bear-pit atmosphere of the Taps. So I give us an extra five minutes so that a stream of assorted rock stars can each take a comfort break, before we hit the fleshpots of Headingley Central.

Then we're upstairs in the busy Box, where balls are clattering angrily around the pool tables and there's a small frenzy of activity around a diminutive figure at the bar. It turns out it's Spurs and England footballer Aaron Lennon, back for a drink with friends in his home town, and kind enough to have his picture taken with Ben, though he does look a little alarmed that Ace Frehley out of Kiss is operating the camera.

George Michael reckons he's spotted someone from Hollyoaks too, or possibly "a star off Waterloo Road", as though this were not some contradiction in terms, so we drink up and beat a hasty retreat.

Things are becoming a little hazy now. I'm going into the Skyrack, I'm coming out of the Skyrack. Presumably in between times someone has bought me a drink, I've thrown it down my neck, I've exchanged witty banter with Cheryl and Beyonce, discussed the itchiness of facepaints with fellow members of Kiss (each of us painstakingly decorated by my daughter Hannah, by the way), been to the gents, commented loudly on the quality of the beer – because this is how most of the evening has been progressing – but I can't remember a thing about it.

Somehow, in the short hop back across the Otley Road I regain sufficient of my critical faculties in time to give one of my fellow Kiss bandmates a tour of the Original Oak's brilliant collection of sporting gubbins, which includes rugby league photographs, a signed Leeds United shirt, cricketing memorabilia and a splendid portrait of the young William Bremner, no stranger to pubs himself, even in his playing days.

And from here it's a long haul, a route march to Hyde Park Corner, a journey which some of the lightweights among our crew choose to take by bus. They arrive in time to see Buddy Holly making a tactical dash to the gents, clearing in dramatic fashion some room in his system for yet more booze. Given the amount and variety of drinks people have been buying the birthday boy so far, I'm actually surprised he's lasted this long.

He recovers his composure with an orange juice in the cavernous, soulless Library where we seem to be the only customers.

In the wonderfully down-at-heel, rough-and-ready Pack Horse we manage to find a small room for ourselves. We've got to the stage where you probably wouldn't want to be in a room with us anyway. Damon is looking bleary-eyed, Kiss has been reduced to a threesome, Eminem has fallen asleep on Craig David's shoulder.

I rouse them for the 30-second walk to the Eldon, eager to boast of my friendship with one of the barmaids, who did amazing personal table service for me to avoid me having to leave my centre-screen spot during on of England's World Cup matches. Sadly, she's not working tonight so we have to queue up with the rest of the clowns.

And then it's down the road to the Fenton, comfortably my favourite pub on the Otley Run, where I settle for a last half of the lovely English Pale Ale which has become a regular on the bar here, these last few months.

It's nearly midnight, and the tired group fractures. Those hardy souls who venture on to the Dry Dock find it closed up for the night; Buddy Holly and Wham! are intent on clubland; Damon seems to think Yates's might still be open.

But I'm not 18 any more, and I know when I'm done. So me and Ace head off in search of fast food and coffee, and in due course, a taxi, sleep, and hangovers the size of Derbyshire.

Never again? Well, maybe one day.


Twitter: @jenkolovesbeer

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