well its taken a while but I finally made it back to Leeds, this time with dear friend Christingpher in tow. The plan was to start at Friends of Ham, therefore impressing my companion early on, and take him to a mix of ultra traditional and rather more achingly modern bars within tolerable walking distance.
Initially, having read about Clare at Feast and Glory venturing out to some of the suburbs to sample the pubs there, I thought about doing the same, but, truth be told, there's too much to see and too many good pubs not to be missed in and around the centre.
Starting in the Sheffield Tap, we sat in the new room with a half of Oakham Citra for Christingpher and a rather unwise pint of Oakham Green Devil IPA for me. Not unwise because it wasn't nice - it was absolutely excellent. But I only had 20 minutes to drink it, and hadn't sobered up fully from the night before. A case of getting straight back on the horse I suppose....
Once in Leeds Friends Of Ham was our first stop, where Christingpher toyed with the idea of having a Brodies London Sour, but went for a half of the Ilkley Chocolate Chipotle Porter, which was a spicy but tasty dark beer that nicely hit the spot. I tried the Kernel Table Beer and quickly decided against having a half - essentially a cold fizzy blob of hops, about as subtle as a brick. Much better was the Wild Beer Co Stalker, Scotch ale, which was a 7% deep red if not black ultra smooth drinking strong beer that cut through the food flavours brilliantly.
Talking of which, we had a combo of 3 meats and 3 cheeses. I chose the Carne Salata Malenca, a cured and lightly smoked pink coloured beef, the Salchichon De Vic, cured leg and pancetta salami, and the incredible Lardo. Christingpher chose the unpasteurised Brie de Meaux, the hard golden Mayfield Farmhouse and the Garlic Leaf wrapped Cornish Yarg. This was the real star of the cheeses, especially since you can eat the rind, such as it is, being garlic leaf. This also came with insanely orange chilli jam, chutney and oatmeal biscuits. As always it was superb. Christingpher loved the designs of the menus and beer mats and the nice touches of furnishings and assorted tableware; I just kept mmming and oohing about the meat.
We moved onto Whitelocks next as I had a cunning plan - going at around 15.00 it would be quieter than later on. Of course, I was wrong. It was heaving, so we sat outside, and supped very good halves of Wilson Potter Making Progress. Christingpher was especially impressed by the antiquity of the pub and its amazing copper bar tops.
On to the Ship off Briggate next but a paucity of interesting ale versus our long list of venues meant we didn't stop for a beer. We did however at the White Swan, next to the City Varieties. A large modern Leeds Brewery pub it was busy and offering about 9 real ales, including 3 guests. From these we chose the impeccable Marble Dobber. Kept in tip top condition this was one of the best beers of the day.
Next we headed to North Bar. Nice to see it in daylight (and to appreciate the brilliant sign) Christingpher switched to coffee and I had a painfully disappointing beer. Having heard plenty of buzz about Hand Drawn Monkey and Quantum breweries, I couldn't resist buying a half of their 6.0% collaboration beer - perhaps I should have asked for a taste first. An unpleasant, poorly balanced ascorbic bitter ale with a slightly metallic harshness. We didn't have time to choose another, and this was treally hard to drink. Must choose more carefully next time!
The Templar is a pub I haven't been to since about 1998. Its a fantastic long, tiled pub, previously being staunchly Tetley only but now branching out into guest beers. I had a pint and Christingpher a half of the Two Roses Chinook, which was very refreshing and crucially, a well balanced beer.
We got sat down at the far end and got chatting to a local about the now closed City of Mabgate pub, and also found out that our later destination, the Duck and Drake on Kirkgate, used to be called the Broughms, after a type of carriage (he insisted it was spelled like that - so presumably not Broughams?). There had been news of the Templar being closed, which would be a terrific shame. Hopefully the draw of guest ales and quality of the interior can sustain it.
We walked a cross the back next to the Town Hall and popped in the Victoria and Commercial for halves of Black Cat mild for Christingpher and half of a Ridgeside Blonde beer for me. It was totally heaving, which is a pleasing and equally frustrating feature of Leeds hostelries, and alas this made it difficult to appreciate the fine interior details. A fruitless search for the bar "Nation of Shopkeepers" followed (we think its now a bar named after a bookshop, but aren't sure) before we made the long walk down to Kirkgate.
Via a much needed snaffle from the German sausage stall we arrived at the Duck and Drake to find a great range of beers. We both had halves of the Liverpool Organic Jade and I also had a brilliant half of porter from a brewery I can't recall - which is a shame since it was really very good. One of the things I like about the DnD is that its unpretentious, a little rough round the edges, and seems to attract a varied crowd. Much less facial hair and knitwear than North, but also featuring some truly austere outside loos!
Further down Kirkgate we made our first visit to the Palace. A large Nicholsons pub selling a decent range of beers, we both had halves of Petersfield Porter from Nethergate, along with a half of California, a delightfully dark reddish ale from Bristol Beer factory. Both beers were in good condition.
The Adelphi was its usual vision of splendour when we arrived and there was quite a scrum at the bar to order. Christingpher finally caved in and tried the Kirkstall Three Swords, a beer that we had seen on in many pubs that day, and which he described as "alright", and me a tasty half of Revolutions Atomic Blonde.
A wander along main tributaries followed, down to what is described as Holbeck Urban Village, and the Grove. Well worth the walk, this is a traditional boozer incongruously situated amidst grim modern buildings on a dead end street off Water Lane. Probably the joint best pub of the night, I had a pint of Wharfebank Aramis, which had their signature flavour, and Christingpher a half of Old Moor Porter from Acorn, before I also had a half of the Black Cat Mild. This traditional multi roomed pub was full of great features and nooks and crannies and was as unspoilt as The Adelphi and Whitelocks, but in a more restrained and functional way. A must revisit pub.
Our penultimate stop off was at the Midnight Bell a few minutes walk away. We had a half and a pint of the excellent Geeves Smokey Joe Stout, another astonishingly tasty dark beer from this brewery, which we supped whilst keeping an eye on the time. I only ever went to the Midnight Bell once before and it didn't seem anything like I remembered! Mind you that was after a crawl of Huddersfield so maybe that explains he fuzzy uncertainty.
We finished back at Friends of Ham, this time with me on the Ikley Chocolate Chipotle Porter and a third of the Redchurch IPA, and Christingpher on a half of the porter as well. A fitting place to end our lengthy stumble around Leeds, and another great advert for going back again.