News, nuggets and longreads 24 August 2019: Greene King, Kveik, Wellington Boots

Here’s everything on beer and pubs from the past seven days that struck us as especially noteworthy, from Suffolk to Thailand.

The big news of the week – or is it? – is the takeover of Eng­lish region­al brew­ing behe­moth Greene King. Roger Protz, who has been writ­ing about brew­ery takeovers for half a cen­tu­ry, offers com­men­tary here:

In every respect, this is a far more wor­ry­ing sale [then Fuller’s to Asahi]. Asahi will con­tin­ue to make beer at the Fuller’s site in Chiswick, West Lon­don. It’s a com­pa­ny with a long his­to­ry of brew­ing. CK Asset on the oth­er hand has no expe­ri­ence of brew­ing and its main – if not sole – rea­son for buy­ing Greene King will be the own­er­ship of a mas­sive tied estate of 2,700 pubs, restau­rants and hotels. The Hong Kong com­pa­ny, which is reg­is­tered in the Cay­man Islands, is owned by Li Ka-Shing, one of the world’s rich­est men. He has a war chest of HK$60 bil­lion to buy up prop­er­ties and com­pa­nies through­out the world.

This did­n’t make quite the splash the Fuller’s sale did for var­i­ous rea­sons: it was­n’t a brew­ery-to-brew­ery sale, for one thing, so is hard­er to parse; and Greene King is far less fond­ly regard­ed by beer geeks than Fuller’s.

We’re anx­ious about it not because we espe­cial­ly love Greene King but because it’s poten­tial­ly yet anoth­er sup­port­ing post knocked out from under British beer and pub cul­ture. See here for more thoughts on that.


Mystery yeast.

Lars Mar­ius Garshol has been try­ing to get to grips with a mys­tery: is the yeast strain White Labs sell as Kveik real­ly Kveik? If not, what is it?

If this yeast was not the ances­tral Muri farm yeast, what was it doing in Bjarne Muri’s apart­ment? It very clear­ly is not a wild yeast, but a mix of two domes­ti­cat­ed yeasts. It does­n’t seem very plau­si­ble that the air in Oslo is full of those. On the oth­er hand it does­n’t seem at all plau­si­ble that this was the ances­tral Muri yeast… Two things seem clear: this is a domes­ti­cat­ed fer­men­ta­tion yeast, and it’s prob­a­bly not the ances­tral Muri yeast. The lat­ter sim­ply because it does­n’t seem well suit­ed for that par­tic­u­lar brew­ing envi­ron­ment.


A tea room.
Lyons Cor­ner House, 1942. SOURCE: HM Government/Wikimedia Com­mons.

Not about pubs, but adja­cent: Thomas Hard­ing has writ­ten an account of the his­to­ry of his fam­i­ly’s busi­ness, J. Lyons & Co, which is reviewed in the Guardian by Kathryn Hugh­es. We became fas­ci­nat­ed by Lyons while research­ing 20th Cen­tu­ry Pub, because of this kind of thing:

From the 1920s you could pop into a Lyons tea shop to be served by a “nip­py”, a light-foot­ed wait­ress got up like a par­lour­maid. If you were a work­ing girl of the newest and nicest vari­ety – a sec­re­tary, teacher or shop assis­tant – you could eat an express lunch on your own in a Lyons with­out risk­ing your respectabil­i­ty. If you were feel­ing par­tic­u­lar­ly smart, you could go up to “town” and stay in the art deco-ish Strand Palace or Regent’s Palace hotels, ver­nac­u­lar ver­sions of elite insti­tu­tions such as Claridge’s or The Savoy. In the evening you might ven­ture out to the “Troc”, or Tro­cadero, in your best togs, where you could enjoy a fan­cy din­ner and dance to a jazz band.


Wellies
SOURCE: Wiki­me­dia Com­mons.

Mark John­son has writ­ten an account of a week­end spent at Thorn­bridge Brew­ery’s Peak­ender fes­ti­val with a typ­i­cal dash of acid:

I just can’t under­stand any­body being dis­grun­tled about a lit­tle mud. We have worn our wellies on our last two vis­its to Peak­ender and not need­ed them. We wore them in 2019 because, guess what, it is still a fes­ti­val and this time we hap­pened to need them. Wad­ing through the show­ground site for two days was not an issue to us at all. Maybe it is because of where we live, I don’t know, but when I see peo­ple mut­ter­ing to them­selves about the state of the ground, whilst try­ing to make it to the toi­let wear­ing FLIP FLOPS… heav­en for­bid… I don’t know…


Buffy's Bitter.

Paul Bai­ley (no rela­tion) has some inter­est­ing notes on the demise of Buffy’s Brew­ery (one we’d nev­er heard of) and the prob­lem with ‘badge brew­ing’:

The clo­sure was blamed on there being too many brew­eries in Nor­folk, and with over 40 of them all com­pet­ing for a slice of a dimin­ish­ing mar­ket, some­thing had to give. Like many indus­try observers, I was more than a lit­tle sur­prised to learn that Buffy’s had gone to the wall, but Roger Abra­hams, who found­ed the brew­ery, along with Julia Savory, claimed that the micro-brew­ing sec­tor was close to sat­u­ra­tion point, and that com­pe­ti­tion between brew­ers “had become very aggres­sive.”


We don’t know any­thing what­so­ev­er about brew­ing in Thai­land but it turns out to be a com­plex busi­ness, accord­ing to this arti­cle from the Bangkok Post:

No one but the ultra rich are allowed to brew beer for sale in Thai­land. The law is as unjust and out­ra­geous as that. And no law­mak­er has suf­fered the bit­ter taste of inequal­i­ty in the brew­ing indus­try quite like Future For­ward Par­ty MP Taopiphop Limjit­trako­rn, who in Jan­u­ary 2017 was arrest­ed for brew­ing and sell­ing his own craft beer… On Wednes­day, Mr Taopiphop, 30, took Deputy Finance Min­is­ter San­ti Prompat to task over his min­istry’s reg­u­la­tion that stops brew­ing start-ups from exploit­ing the grow­ing thirst for new flavours.


Final­ly, much to the amuse­ment of British com­men­ta­tors, Amer­i­can pop super­star Tay­lor Swift has been writ­ing about Lon­don, includ­ing a pass­ing men­tion for pubs:

 

There are more links from Stan Hierony­mus on Mon­day most weeks and from Alan McLeod on Thurs­day.

Pub life: Do you like yer prog?

On a stool at the bar on his own, arranging his beer money in stacks on the runner, the Old Rocker stares at nothing in particular.

The land­lord appears to emp­ty the glass-wash­ing macine and the Rock­er perks up.

Do you like yer prog, then?”

Sor­ry?”

Are you into yer prog?”

He points at the landlord’s T‑shirt. The land­lord looks down. King Crim­son.

Oh, right. Well, no, not par­tic­u­lar­ly.”

The Floyd, obvi­ous­ly.”

Pink Floyd? No. Not par­tic­u­lar­ly. Not after Syd Bar­rett left.”

Gotcha – more of a psych guy.”

Well… No, not real­ly.”

Punk?”

Well…” The land­lord waves a hand, refus­ing to com­mit.

The Old Rock­er shifts in his seat, blink­ing blankly.

So you’re not into prog much at all?”

I like Krautrock.”

The Old Rock­er thinks he’s done it – he’s found an in.

Oh, yeah, man – great stuff! That dri­ving motorik beat. Did you read the MOJO arti­cle a cou­ple of months back–”

Well, no, I don’t real­ly have time to read mag­a­zines. I work thir­teen days out of four­teen, and most evenings. The only music I hear is what’s on in here. And that’s on a loop.”

Dur­ing the silence that hangs after his out­pour­ing, he escapes to the oth­er bar.

The Old Rock­er set­tles down, mov­ing his coins around, eyes fixed on a mem­o­ry of ELP in ‘77.

Crediting others with sincerity

Why is it so hard for people to believe that other people really enjoy drinking the beers they say they enjoy drinking?

We saw anoth­er small out­break of sec­ond-guess­ing last week when Matt Cur­tis wrote in glow­ing terms about Har­vey’s Sus­sex Best – a beer we also hap­pen to love.

To para­phrase, the sug­ges­tion we saw float through the time­line was that Matt and oth­ers don’t real­ly believe Sus­sex Best is bet­ter than, say, Greene King IPA – it’s just that it’s trendy, or at least on the approved list of Beers You’re Allowed to Like.

The same think­ing some­times seems to be behind the dis­missal of ‘craft murk’ – that is, hazy IPAs and the like – and sour beer, lager, or any oth­er style you care to think of.

Here’s what we think the thought process looks like:

  1. I don’t like this beer.
  2. I find it impos­si­ble to imag­ine any­one else lik­ing this beer.
  3. Peo­ple who say they like this beer must be delud­ed, or lying.

The assump­tion that every­body else’s opin­ions are either (a) part of a herd response to hype or (b) delib­er­ate con­trar­i­an­ism… Well, it gets a bit wear­ing, to be hon­est.

After all, taste is a del­i­cate mech­a­nism. Even in this team, Jess is bare­ly sen­si­tive to light-strike or skunk­ing, while Ray is; Ray isn’t espe­cial­ly attuned to diacetyl, but Jess is.

We can’t speak defin­i­tive­ly for any­one else, of course, but we know this: when we say we’ve enjoyed drink­ing some­thing, it’s because we enjoyed drink­ing it; when we say we don’t, it’s because we don’t.

And we try to assume the same of oth­ers.

Of course there are times when you might ques­tion the motives of a review­er – do they have a com­mer­cial rela­tion­ship with the brew­ery? Are they paid to under­take PR on its behalf? Did it send them a lav­ish ham­per of free­bies?

We do also think that some beers are bet­ter than oth­ers, where ‘bet­ter’ means ‘more like­ly to appeal to peo­ple in a giv­en group’, whether that’s beer geeks, main­stream drinkers, tra­di­tion­al­ists or whichev­er.

But we’ve no rea­son to doubt that Tan­dle­man gained real plea­sure for his pints of Mor­land Orig­i­nal, or that Al found some­thing to appre­ci­ate in Ten­nen­t’s Lager, or that Brad has nev­er had a beer from The Ker­nel that was “any­thing short of out­stand­ing”.

News, nuggets and longreads 17 August 2019: Harvey’s, Guinness, Star Wars

Here’s all the reading about beer and pubs that struck us as bookmarkworthy in the past week, from Star Wars to Sussex Best.

First, a bit of inter­est­ing news that we missed ear­li­er in the month: Tow­er Ham­lets Coun­cil has added 37 his­toric pubs to its local preser­va­tion list, giv­ing them pro­tec­tion against devel­op­ment and demo­li­tion. Local list­ing is a way of safe­guard­ing build­ings that aren’t for­mal­ly list­ed by His­toric Eng­land but are of impor­tance with­in indi­vid­ual regions or com­mu­ni­ties. They’re par­tic­u­lar­ly handy for pubs which aren’t often espe­cial­ly notable in terms of their archi­tec­ture, espe­cial­ly after mul­ti­ple com­pre­hen­sive refurbs, but which are cul­tur­al­ly and social­ly impor­tant.


Anoth­er bit of news, from The Brew­ers Jour­nal, via @longm8: Bow­ness Bay Brew­ing has acquired two oth­er local brew­eries. This is some­thing we’ve been expect­ing to see more of for a while, as part of the Great Cycle. If you hear of local exam­ples, do let us know.


Plastic footballs.

Kirsty Walk­er wants to cut down on her booze con­sump­tion a lit­tle which is why she’s come up with the goal count chal­lenge 2019:

Sim­ply put, on a match day in the 2019–20 sea­son, I will only be drink­ing one alco­holic drink for every goal my team scores… I go out on Sun­day, Tues­day, and Fri­day nights, and Man­ches­ter United’s first match of the sea­son is on Sun­day. Of we score no goals, I shall not drink. If we score three goals, I’ll have my usu­al three pints. If we score eight goals against Chelsea, in the first game of the season…well I’m off work on Mon­day so let fate decide.


Non alcoholic beer: 0,0

Relat­ed: for Drinks Retail­ing News, vet­er­an com­men­ta­tor Phil Mel­lows has been look­ing into the (non) drink­ing habits of young peo­ple:

Remem­ber Binge Britain? Only a few short years ago we were real­ly wor­ried about young peo­ple drink­ing too much, falling over and show­ing their pants. And now, sud­den­ly, we’re wor­ry­ing they’re not drink­ing enough. What are they up to? Judg­ing by the top-line sta­tis­tics, the move away from alco­hol among the young has been dra­mat­ic, dri­ving the decline in UK con­sump­tion over the past 15 years. A study of 10,000 16 to 24-year-olds last year found that 29% of them didn’t drink at all, up from 18% in just 10 years. Bur­row beneath the sur­face, though, and a more com­plex pic­ture begins to emerge.


Oga's Cantina
SOURCE: Dis­ney­land web­site.

Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge is a new attrac­tion at Dis­ney­land in Cal­i­for­nia which offers an immer­sive expe­ri­ence in the world of George Lucas’s space opera film series. Lisa Grimm, a ded­i­cat­ed Star Wars fan, has been and answers the ques­tion we all want answered: what’s the pub like?

Yes, it was crowd­ed, even with the required reser­va­tions, but the atmos­phere in Oga’s Can­ti­na is pure Star Wars, which, for me, is pure bliss, with the added bonus chuck­le that those who wring their hands over KIDS IN BREWPUBS will find them stand­ing at the bar here; they may not serve droids, but there are great non-alco­holic options for younger set, or, equal­ly, those not look­ing to get bombed at 10 am, if that hap­pens to be your appoint­ed time.


Fuggles hops at Harvey's.
SOURCE: Pel­li­cle.

For Pel­li­cleMatt Cur­tis has writ­ten a great exam­ple of one of our favourite types of arti­cle: an in-depth look at a sin­gle notable beer. In this case, it’s Har­vey’s Sus­sex Best – a beer that’s quirki­er than its name and appear­ance might sug­gest, as Matt explains:

[Harvey’s Best] rep­re­sents the quin­tes­sence of the beau­ty of tra­di­tion­al Eng­lish beers,” Yvan de Baets, co-founder of laud­ed Bel­gian brew­ery Brasserie de la Senne tells me in a recent email. “It imparts a per­fect bal­ance between malt and del­i­cate hops, a sub­tle fruiti­ness, a great body and a fan­tas­tic, unique yeast char­ac­ter, due to the mag­ic of open fer­men­ta­tion and the fact that they haven’t prop­a­gat­ed [yeast] in decades.”

(We’d like some­one to pub­lish an anthol­o­gy of essays like this – twelve beers that shook the world, or what­ev­er.)


Guinness Extra Cold

And, in fact, from Bring on the Beer, here’s the basis of anoth­er pos­si­ble entry – a love let­ter to Guin­ness:

But for me, despite Anheuser Busch’s mar­ket­ing, there is only one true king of beers. One that I will always rank high­er than even the finest, bestest, most tasti­est beer of the lot. And I am well aware that by rever­ing this drink, I am putting myself at odds with a lot of the val­ues I claim to espouse; yet at the same time plac­ing this drink on a pedestal is entire­ly in sync with my belief that qual­i­ty, sub­jec­tiv­i­ty and indi­vid­u­al­i­ty rules.


Final­ly, this Tweet was bounced our way by @IanGReeve who, quite under­stand­ably, wants to know more…

That’s it for this week. If you want more read­ing, check out Stan Hierony­mus’s Mon­day links round-up, and Alan McLeod’s from Thurs­day.

In their own words: the development of the Leeds beer scene

A while ago some­one on Twit­ter said they’d like to read a his­to­ry of the Leeds beer scene. We want­ed to read one, too, but didn’t feel it was our place to write it. Then we recalled the suc­cess of a cou­ple of pieces we’d writ­ten ‘in their own words’ and decid­ed that at least we could facil­i­tate.

What fol­lows is based on emails and inter­views, some dat­ing as far back as 2013 (John Gyn­gell and Chris­t­ian Towns­ley), oth­ers from the past month or so, with light edit­ing for sense and clar­i­ty.

We’ve also used a quote from Richard Coldwell’s blog because we get the impres­sion he wouldn’t want the mere fact that he sad­ly died in July stop him con­tribut­ing on a sub­ject about which he was so pas­sion­ate.

Ian Gar­rett Drinker and CAMRA activist
I first drank in Leeds in the ear­ly 1970s, when I was a stu­dent in Brad­ford and vis­it­ed the city to go to gigs at the Uni­ver­si­ty. The only pubs that beer lovers talked about were The Vic­to­ria Fam­i­ly and Com­mer­cial Hotel, and The White­locks. Leeds was awash with Tet­ley pubs and I remem­ber when doing a PGCE in Leeds the won­der­ful aro­mas waft­ing over the city cen­tre as they mashed in. I guess the ‘beer scene’ in Leeds had a few fal­ter­ing starts. There was the CAMRA owned pub The Eagle which always seemed to be strug­gling when­ev­er I ven­tured there. Then, in the 1980s, The Fox & Newt brew­pub opened and, of course, The Felon & Firkin where Dave Sanders first plied his trade.

Bar­rie Pep­per Beer writer and vet­er­an CAMRA activist
Leeds had a beer explo­sion came around the turn of the cen­tu­ry. I think Ian Fozard – now the Chair­man of SIBA – had quite a bit to do with it. The amaz­ing suc­cess of his Mar­ket Town Tav­erns com­pa­ny, which he start­ed in the mid-1990s with the Long Boat in Skip­ton, like Top­sy, just grew and grew. His pol­i­cy was to sell a good selec­tion of cask beer in pleas­ant sur­round­ings to accom­pa­ny good food. There were also con­ti­nen­tal beers and a fine wine list. The estate grew to ten pubs – all in York­shire, five in Leeds – and by the issue of the 2008 Good Beer Guide, every one of the ten pubs was in it. There were some oth­er fac­tors of course. Tetley’s opened a few brew pubs and was devel­op­ing its Feast group and some Fes­ti­val pubs which had guest beers on their bars. Oth­er brew­eries fol­lowed suit. A cou­ple of small brew­eries locat­ed at pubs opened with prize-win­ning ales. The city’s drinkers had an impres­sive choice.

Having fun behind the bar.
Chris­t­ian Towns­ley (left) and John Gyn­gell at North Bar c.1997.

Zak Avery Beer writer and retail­er
John Gyn­gell and Chris­t­ian Towns­ley from North Bar were pio­neers, doing the beer thing before craft beer exist­ed.

John Gyn­gell Co-founder of North Bar
Peo­ple thought we were mak­ing a mis­take open­ing a bar on Brig­gate. This was kebab alley. I remem­ber dri­ving past here with my Mum and show­ing her the site and she just said: “What the hell are you doing?”

Chris­t­ian Towns­ley Co-founder of North Bar
I was 22 when we opened on 26 June 1997; John was a bit old­er. It was real­ly qui­et for the first six months, or some­thing like that. At first, the beer was­n’t any­thing spe­cial, large­ly because of the brew­ery loan from John Smith’s. Back then, that was real­ly the only way to finance some­thing like this, if you did­n’t have a rich mum­my and dad­dy.

John Gyn­gell
I can’t remem­ber if we approached James Clay or they approached us, but that’s how we start­ed get­ting more inter­est­ing beer. We’ve always had a great rela­tion­ship with them, and we became more-or-less their brew­ery tap. Brook­lyn, Goose Island, that kind of thing.

Chris­t­ian Towns­ley
Erdinger Weiss­bier was an ear­ly one. We were the first place in the UK to sell it and I guess we’re a bit proud of that. In bot­tles, we had the Chi­mays, Duv­el and Anchor Lib­er­ty, when they were pret­ty hard to find. We’d been drink­ing Lib­er­ty at the Atlantic and at Mash. That was a real land­mark beer – prob­a­bly where, for me, some­thing clicked.

North Bar

Matt Gorec­ki Own­er of Zap­a­to brew­ery, indus­try ‘face’
The first Bel­gian beer I had was a Hoe­gaar­den in some ter­ri­ble pub down low­er Brig­gate and I almost smashed a tooth on the huge glass. The same night I was intro­duced to North Bar by a friend and mar­velled at the freely flow­ing pints of Erdinger. When I start­ed work­ing at The Cross Keys [part of the North chain] I was edu­cat­ed by Mr Chris­t­ian Towns­ley in the beau­ty and sub­tle­ty of some of the import­ed US, Bel­gian and Ger­man beers that were avail­able at the time from James Clay. Leeds at that point had a few stand-out venues but inter­est­ing cask ale was only real­ly just start­ing to take hold. My first ever beer pur­chase as man­ag­er was casks of Mar­ble Gin­ger – the first time over the Pen­nines!

Ian Gar­rett
Spe­cial men­tion must go to the orig­i­nal Beer­Ritz which was a whole­sale-retail ware­house where it was pos­si­ble to pick up some great Bel­gian beers by the bot­tle or case.

Zak Avery
After uni­ver­si­ty, I was work­ing on a PhD with the Open Uni­ver­si­ty and also writ­ing music. I was liv­ing in Head­in­g­ley just round the cor­ner from Beer­Ritz and one day in 2000 they put up a sign adver­tis­ing for a part time shop assis­tant. Eigh­teen months in, I was man­ag­ing the shop and a cou­ple of years after that had launched thebeerboy.co.uk to host beer tast­ings as cor­po­rate events. The shop went from strength to strength – best inde­pen­dent beer retail­er 2003 – and I start­ed writ­ing beer-relat­ed web­site con­tent. In my mind, it was before blog­ging was real­ly a thing, but I might be wrong about that. From 2008, I start­ed doing video beer reviews – I’ve been blamed for the whole phe­nom­e­non by var­i­ous peo­ple – and get cho­sen as Beer Writer of the Year by The British Guild of Beer Writ­ers. 2009 saw the blog Are You Tast­ing The Pith? launch and in 2011 my busi­ness part­ner and I bought out Beer Par­adise and Beer­Ritz.

Neil Walk­er Blog­ger, lat­er employed by CAMRA and now SIBA
Dean at Mr Foley’s was the guy that dragged Mr Foley’s into the 21st cen­tu­ry, got good keg beers on the bar and mod­ernised what they were all about. It was always a good ale bar but 2011 was when it start­ed to get real­ly inter­est­ing.

Dean Pugh Head of Euro­pean bar oper­a­tions for Brew­Dog
I moved to Leeds for uni­ver­si­ty in 2003 and was work­ing part time at Wether­spoons. I had a shift man­ag­er there who taught me every­thing about cask ales and cel­lar man­age­ment. I moved into man­age­ment and dif­fer­ent Wether­spoon loca­tions in Leeds, always tak­ing on the respon­si­bil­i­ty of the cel­lar and organ­is­ing real ale fes­ti­vals. I had a friend who was run­ning the tap room at York Brew­ery and they were pur­chas­ing a bar on the Head­row called Dr Okells. I joined as gen­er­al man­ag­er and the bar was rebrand­ed as Mr Foley’s, open­ing in 2007. My ini­tial aim when open­ing Foley’s was to become the best cask ale pub in the city, and we were named Leeds CAMRA pub of the year in 2008. Around the same time I joined Foley’s in 2007 I was also dis­cov­er­ing Amer­i­can craft beer, most­ly through vis­its to North Bar. I remem­ber Brook­lyn Choco­late Stout being one of the first beers that real­ly grabbed my atten­tion and showed me a dif­fer­ent side to beer. I brought this back to Foley’s, begin­ning with an extend­ed bot­tle list, but soon con­vinced my boss­es to hand over that draft lines too.

Neil Walk­er
Mr Foley’s felt like the com­mon room for the Leeds beer scene. Its ample space and rel­a­tive cheap­ness made it ide­al for events and beer-gath­er­ings – bot­tle-shares, beer launch­es and so on. We even had a beer din­ner there with Gar­rett Oliv­er [of Brook­lyn Brew­ery] pour­ing Ghost bot­tles of wine-lees aged sai­son paired with buf­fa­lo chick­en wings and pulled pork pre­pared by Tyler Kiley.

Dean Pugh
I think towards the end of my time at Foley’s we had around six to eight rotat­ing taps for craft beer, two Brew­Dog taps, ten cask ales, bag-in-a-box real cider and prob­a­bly up to a hun­dred bot­tled and canned beers.

Neil Walk­er
One of the ear­ly, key moments for me was IPA­Day in 2011. It felt like an impor­tant moment – every­one seemed to be there and every­one remem­bers it. As well as the inter­na­tion­al beer list there were some great offer­ings from British brew­ers and I remem­ber Zak Avery and Dave from Hard­knott mak­ing impas­sioned and semi-incom­pre­hen­si­ble speech­es on the style. My first mem­o­ry of feel­ing like I was in a beer scene was the Brew­dog IPA is Dead launch at North Bar. There were just so many blog­gers there and at that time it felt a lit­tle bit com­pet­i­tive, albeit in a friend­ly way, and I remem­ber writ­ing up my tast­ing notes at about 6 am the next morn­ing to make sure I was first to press.

Zak Avery
I was shit broke in 2010, real­ly strug­gling to make ends meet, man­ag­ing the shop, try­ing to go free­lance, a new par­ent. I was sell­ing things to meet mort­gage pay­ments. I wrote a real­ly well-paid adver­to­r­i­al for Guin­ness. It was­n’t all totes craft amaze­balls, you know?

Tetley's sign on a pub.

Mike Hamp­shire For­mer local CAMRA chair, own­er of Mike’s Tap Room
The sin­gle key turn­ing point in Leeds beer has been the clo­sure of Tetley’s Brew­ery in 2011. As sad and dif­fi­cult as it was, it effec­tive­ly hit the reset but­ton on the Leeds beer scene. The US craft rev­o­lu­tion was well under­way and lots of micro-brew­eries start­ed pop­ping up, see­ing the huge gap in the Leeds mar­ket for tra­di­tion­al ales and US-influ­enced mod­ern styles.

Ian Gar­rett
In its hey­day, Tetley’s was one of the biggest brew­eries in the UK, Tetley’s Bit­ter was the best sell­ing beer in the UK, Leeds drinkers knew what to expect from a good pint of Tetley’s, and they drank it by the gal­lon.

Leigh Lin­ley Retired blog­ger, author of Great York­shire Beer
The buzz around the first Leeds Inter­na­tion­al Beer Fes­ti­val in 2012 was fan­tas­tic. A real inde­pen­dent beer fes­ti­val in Leeds, a shift toward keg being not only accept­ed but expect­ed.

Maria Estibal­iz Organ­is­er of the Leeds Inter­na­tion­al Beer Fes­ti­val
We want­ed to cre­ate a fes­ti­val that cel­e­brat­ed and embraced the inde­pen­dent craft scene in the UK as exist­ing beer events weren’t real­ly recog­nis­ing the amaz­ing things that were going on in the indus­try and a lot of new, great brew­eries were being over­looked. We also want­ed to cre­ate some­thing that was a lot more acces­si­ble and inclu­sive for younger audi­ences, par­tic­u­lar­ly women in this age group, as the indus­try and fes­ti­vals at the time were incred­i­bly male dom­i­nat­ed. We also want­ed the brew­ers them­selves to attend the fes­ti­val, meet audi­ences and talk about their beer – and at the same time we encour­aged audi­ences not be afraid to ask the brew­ers ques­tions.

Leigh Lin­ley
I recall sit­ting behind my desk at work eaves­drop­ping on a group of col­leagues who had no pri­or inter­est in beer who had got tick­ets for the Fes­ti­val excit­ing­ly detail­ing what beers they were going to try. That felt dif­fer­ent, for sure.

Leeds town hall

Zak Avery
The first LIBF, held in the city cen­tre at the glo­ri­ous town hall, marked a point where the scene start­ed to prop­er­ly cross over into the main­stream.

Leigh Lin­ley
Leeds host­ed the Euro­pean Beer Blog­gers Con­fer­ence in 2012 – an event that prob­a­bly passed a lot of non-blog­gers by but the impor­tance of hav­ing that many jour­nal­ists, blog­gers, writ­ers and retail­ers in the city can’t be over­stat­ed. I think a lot of influ­en­tial writ­ers went away rethink­ing what Leeds was about. We did the city proud.

Friends of Ham

Gareth Pettman Blog­ger
Friends of Ham open­ing in 2012 was the game chang­er for me – one of those ideas that a lot of us had dreams of, but not the abil­i­ty to exe­cute. Tyler Kiley took over as head beer buy­er there and under the Kitch­ings it was unbe­liev­ably rammed almost every night of the week.

Leigh Lin­ley
Here was a bar that embraced beer cul­ture but offered some­thing total­ly dif­fer­ent. It was a tiny, well-put-togeth­er bar with good beer but also more than that. It bridged the gap between beer and food (although it real­ly was­n’t beer­centric – it sold plen­ty of wine and sher­ry, too) in a way that real­ly shook up the bar scene. And it did it in a rat­ty part of Leeds that’s thriv­ing now, due to key­stone busi­ness­es like FoH.

Richard Brown­hill Lit­tle Leeds Beer House, Brown­hill & Co
Claire and [Antho­ny ‘Kitch’ Kitch­ing] real­ly raised the bar in terms of qual­i­ty in Leeds when they opened. It coin­cid­ed with my move to Leeds and their focus on ser­vice and the orig­i­nal­i­ty of their con­cept was a real scene-set­ter at the time.

Zak Avery
Even though Friends of Ham has been through ‘finan­cial restruc­tur­ing’ which left a bad taste in a lot of mouths (metaphor­i­cal­ly rather than lit­er­al­ly, of course) I don’t think their impor­tance can be over­stat­ed in chang­ing the Leeds beer scene. It was qual­i­ta­tive­ly dif­fer­ent from any­thing that had gone before, and set the blue­print for much that fol­lowed

Richard Brown­hill
It was a real shame what hap­pened with Friends Of Ham. I think their strug­gles just show the fragili­ty of small inde­pen­dent busi­ness­es, regard­less of rep­u­ta­tion or stand­ing in the indus­try. It’s an ever crowd­ed mar­ket out there and it’s very easy for offer­ings to become dilut­ed. It’s great that they man­aged to strike a deal to stay oper­at­ing, and it’s start­ing to get back to it’s best – they have some great new peo­ple in there who have a real pas­sion for the prod­uct.

Gareth Pettman
I arrived quite late to the scene itself and with­out friends who shared my bur­geon­ing inter­est in beer, it wasn’t until Simon Girt, AKA ‘Leeds Beer Wolf’, organ­ised a Twissup in 2014 that I actu­al­ly made an effort to get to know peo­ple in Leeds and beyond. So for me, per­son­al­ly, the peri­od between 2014–2016 was when the scene was at its peak, with reg­u­lar bot­tle­shares, most­ly organ­ised by Rob Der­byshire, AKA Hopzine, and held at Lit­tle Leeds Beer House or North­ern Monk. The open­ing of North­ern Monk was the next big leap for­ward in itself – with­out a sig­nif­i­cant num­ber of brew­eries in Leeds this was prob­a­bly the kick up the arse that oth­ers need­ed.

Rus­sell Bis­set North­ern Monk Brew Co.
I start­ed North­ern Monk in a parent’s cel­lar in 2013, launch­ing at The Spar­row in Brad­ford the sum­mer of that year. Orig­i­nal­ly oper­at­ing as a cuck­oo brew­ery, we built our own brew­ery in a list­ed mill just out­side the cen­tre of Leeds, which launched in Octo­ber 2014.

Matt Gorec­ki
North­ern Monk are absolute­ly up there and their rate of growth and mas­tery of the mar­ket has been aston­ish­ing. Their beers have helped put the UK on the map across the rest of the world and espe­cial­ly in the US. Kirkstall’s cask offer­ing and extreme­ly sol­id expand­ing range of beers has been qui­et­ly win­ning hearts all over the place. Kirk­stall have also breathed life into two pubs that had gone to the dogs and man­aged the impor­ta­tion of so many of the gate­way brands and excit­ing US beers – the entire scene owes a lot to Steve Holt and Dave Sanders. There are also scene lead­ers and crossover suc­cess­es like Bun­do­bust, Lit­tle Leeds Beer­house and the team behind White­locks – Ed Mason of Five Points and Ash Kol­lakows­ki – who’ve put this ven­er­a­ble pub back at the heart of the scene.

Beer at Bundobust.

Richard Brown­hill
Leeds Beer Week was start­ed by myself, Matt Gorec­ki and James Ock­elford from Refold Design in 2016 – both to com­ple­ment the very pop­u­lar Leeds Inter­na­tion­al Beer Fes­ti­val but also to have a week where the many venues of Leeds were all under one umbrel­la and in the spot­light. I had found as both as man­ag­er of Tapped Leeds in 2014 and at the fledg­ling Lit­tle Leeds Beer­house in 2015 that although LIBF brought many peo­ple to the fes­ti­val at the town hall, the impact was quite insu­lar. The first cou­ple of years were tough but we’ve now expand­ed the team to include more than ten peo­ple and it is 100% inde­pen­dent­ly fund­ed. We have so many amaz­ing venues in Leeds who spon­sor the week finan­cial­ly every year, and James pro­duces world class design for our year­ly guide which pro­motes all venues, big or small. I am par­tic­u­lar­ly proud that we have built a mod­el which is not for prof­it – we are paid a lit­tle for our time each year, and we pay our com­mit­ted team, but every oth­er pen­ny from spon­sor­ship, adver­tis­ing and mer­chan­dise goes back into the fes­ti­val to help it grow each year. Which is a good job as Matt’s bunting fetish knows no bounds.

Ian Gar­rett
Today’s scene, for me, is over­crowd­ed as all the new bars try to entice the same hand­ful of peo­ple. I tend to stick to a hand­ful where I know there’s either excel­lent cask, well-kept, or a decent choice. Too many have eight vari­eties of IPA but that seems a com­mon prac­tice. It still looks like a healthy beer scene and new bars still appear, Brown­hill & Co being a recent addi­tion try­ing to do some­thing a lit­tle dif­fer­ent.

Richard Brown­hill
Brown­hill & Co is a blue­print for every­thing Bry­ony and I love about the drink­ing expe­ri­ence and is focused on pro­vid­ing relaxed, sim­ple table ser­vice in a chilled envi­ron­ment. Ten taps of qual­i­ty, no filler, and bal­anced with all sorts of styles – a rotat­ing lager line and rotat­ing cask beers. Many years of vis­it­ing Bel­gium had us won­der­ing why the UK is aller­gic to table ser­vice in pubs and bars. I per­son­al­ly can’t think of any­thing bet­ter than not mov­ing all day while a nice, friend­ly, knowl­edge­able per­son brings me lots of beer. We’re delight­ed to have been select­ed to host this year’s Can­til­lon Zwanze Day.

Leigh Lin­ley
Leeds is still Leeds – there’s still a pub for all tastes with­in walk­ing dis­tance and the major­i­ty of the clas­sic places are still there, doing well. There’s even more choice and it’s hard to not encounter ‘craft’ in most places now, like in any major city. At the risk of sound­ing like an old man, it’s get­ting increas­ing­ly expen­sive to drink in the city cen­tre, but the scene itself is thriv­ing – beer is main­stream, there’s no need to guide peo­ple any­more. There’s a new gen­er­a­tion of drinkers dis­cov­er­ing beer and enjoy­ing some incred­i­ble venues that we’d have been over the moon to have enjoyed back in the ear­ly 2000s.

Richard Cold­well Blog­ger
There’s no doubt in my mind that Leeds is one of the pre­mier beer cities in the UK and that includes mak­ing the stuff as well as con­sum­ing it. We just need to shout out and make our mark. I often think Leeds is a bit slow to catch on to self pro­mo­tion. (2016.)

Matt Gorec­ki
There’s always some­thing going on and a num­ber of qual­i­ty brew­eries are com­ing through, push­ing things for­ward. Venues are high­er qual­i­ty and you’re start­ing to see some real­ly good qual­i­ty and curat­ed selec­tions rather than just a list of ques­tion­able hype beers that taste rough­ly sim­i­lar. Leeds is at its peak right now.


Pho­to cred­its: All ours except the one based on ‘Leeds Town Hall at Night’ by Enchu­fla Con Clave via Wiki­me­dia Com­mons and the pic­ture of John Gyn­gell and Chris­t­ian Towns­ley which they kind­ly sup­plied to us in 2013.


We’re very grate­ful to every­one who found time to respond to our ques­tions so ful­ly and frankly, but espe­cial­ly Zak Avery and Leigh Lin­ley. This post was sup­port­ed by Patre­on sub­scribers like Will Jor­dan and Peter Sid­well. Please con­sid­er sign­ing up, or just buy us a one-off pint via Ko-Fi. Alter­na­tive­ly, you can give us a boost by buy­ing one of our books, or just by shar­ing some­thing we’ve writ­ten on social media. Cheers! Ray & Jess.