On beer scenes

A craft beer bar.

We’re currently working on a big piece about the Leeds beer scene, hopefully to go live next weekend, which has got us thinking about the very idea of ‘scenes’.

To qual­i­fy as some­where with a ‘beer scene’ there are a few require­ments, we reck­on:

1. Mul­ti­ple inter­est­ing pubs, bars or beer exhi­bi­tion venues. One microp­ub, tap­room or bar does not a beer scene make. And they real­ly do need to be with­in walk­ing dis­tance of each oth­er – the basis of a crawl. There prob­a­bly has to be at least one leg­endary, must-vis­it venue.

2. Pun­dit­ry. If you’re vis­it­ing Bog­gle­ton, who do you ask for advice? Who’s writ­ten a local guide, whether as a book, web­site or blog post? Have Matt Cur­tis, Jon­ny Gar­rett or Tony Nay­lor been in town tak­ing notes?

3. Events. Bot­tle-shares, meet-the-brew­ers, tap takeovers and the like. We don’t par­tic­u­lar­ly like events but there’s no deny­ing that they bring scat­tered beer geeks togeth­er, cre­at­ing and sig­nalling the exis­tence of a com­mu­ni­ty.

4. Fes­ti­vals, plur­al. Not just the local CAMRA fes­ti­val, although those are impor­tant, but alter­na­tive events organ­ised out­side that infra­struc­ture. Espe­cial­ly if they’re focused on par­tic­u­lar nich­es – lager, sour beer, green hops, and so on. (Again, we rarely go our­selves, but…)

5. Faces. The peo­ple who make things hap­pen, are at all the events, who drink maybe a bit more than a civil­ian might and put their mon­ey where their mouths are. They’re also the source of low-lev­el soap opera (Thingum­abob’s fall­en out with Woss­name; So-and-so’s left Venue A to work at Venue B). And, of course,  they’re the ones to watch when it comes to the next gen­er­a­tion of bars, brew­eries and beer busi­ness.

6. Tourists. If beer geeks build their hol­i­days around your town, city or region, it’s prob­a­bly got a bona fide beer scene. In gen­er­al, it needs to be a city or larg­er town. Fal­mouth almost pulls it off, as did New­ton Abbot for a while, but there almost needs to be a sense that there’s just too much to get into a sin­gle long week­end.

What do you reck­on? Any­thing obvi­ous we’ve missed?

4 thoughts on “On beer scenes”

  1. In the late 80s I moved to Man­ches­ter and my par­ents retired to Brighton, where they struck up friend­ships with sev­er­al cou­ples in a sim­i­lar stage of their life, many of them gay. Quentin Crisp claimed to be “one of the state­ly homos of Eng­land”, and a lot of my Mum’s friends had that qual­i­ty to them – qui­et, dig­ni­fied, not camp in any obvi­ous way, but quite def­i­nite­ly not straight. Then there was my Mum’s friend John, who you could pass in the street a hun­dred times with­out ever think­ing he was gay, or ever think­ing any­thing about him at all (except “there’s a man in a suit”). He was gay, and so was his part­ner, and he was hap­py to live in a town where being gay was per­fect­ly nor­mal – Brighton was ahead of most places in that respect. But the gay scene held no inter­est for him what­so­ev­er; it could have van­ished overnight and his life would have been unaf­fect­ed.

    I feel a bit like John. I’m hap­py to live in a city with mul­ti­ple con­tem­po­rary brew­eries and more craft bars than I can name, because it means I’m always going to be able to find some­thing decent to drink. But, despite hav­ing lived here all this time, I don’t know who the local pun­dits are (unless they’re mates of mine in CAMRA) and I’ve absolute­ly no idea who would be con­sid­ered a local ‘face’ (unless they’re mates of mine in CAMRA, although that does­n’t seem very like­ly).

    Beer city good. Beer scene… not bad, exact­ly, but it leaves me cold.

    (Although if you were going to use this lan­guage about Man­ches­ter, I think you’d have to recog­nise Stock­port as a ‘scene’ in its own right.)

    1. Fun­ny you should refer to the ‘gay scene ’ of the past. I replied to the beer one on Twit­ter but also echo your sentiment,and was think­ing at the time about a low on the radar but very well estab­lished gay com­mu­ni­ty in Black­burn in past years .It was total­ly under the radar com­pared to Man­ches­ter & Brighton in a sim­i­lar fash­ion you describe & I allude to on Twit­ter regard­ing the cri­te­ria list­ed in the piece. Total­ly endorse what you say includ­ing Stock­port.

  2. I’m not long back from being a ‘beer tourist’ in Leeds and the north. I had to be in Sheffield and Sower­by Bridge on con­sec­u­tive Sat­ur­days so (as a Lon­don-based per­son) stayed up north all week – pri­mar­i­ly because I was excit­ed to take the oppor­tu­ni­ty to check out spe­cif­ic breweries/taprooms.

    First stop was Bux­ton (for Bux­ton’s tap­room) and Bakewell (for Thorn­bridge’s brew­ery). Thor­ough­ly enjoyed both and inevitably came away with a case of delights for home drink­ing in the future.

    With two nights in Leeds I was able to return to venues I know well (White­locks and Tapped Leeds) and explore new loca­tions (North Brew­ing and North­ern Monk). Huge­ly impressed with all. The lat­ter tap­rooms are pret­ty mod­ern, were busy (mid­week) and both had ‘street food’ style eat­ing options. Tapped’s piz­zas were good too.

    North­ern Monk had a quiz in full swing; clear­ly it’s about more than just ‘craft beer’ and there are echos of what a more tra­di­tion­al pub would have once offered…

    Fur­ther stops took in BrewYork’s tap­room – again busy (but not packed) in mid­week, food prov­ing pop­u­lar and a ‘meet the brew­er’ event with a Scan­di­na­vian brew­ery event open to all (with free sam­ples) – and Mag­ic Rock over in Hud­der­s­field. Here, the street food ven­dor had sold out by 20:30. Notice­able that the pre­dom­i­nant­ly young crowd stayed long into the night (before some maybe head­ed else­where) and that one staff mem­ber spent their entire shift re-stock­ing the fridge of cans for take­away pur­chas­es (yes, anoth­er case came my way).

    I was for­tu­nate to be able to ded­i­cate a week to being a beer tourist – but it showed how vibrant the ‘scene’ is in the north of Eng­land and there are ele­ments of some­thing for every­one.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.