Sunday, 24 May 2015

A Night on the Tiles

Which is actually a bit of a poor title as it wasn't anything like that, I was honoured to have some excellent company to try out some of the nicer and out of the way bars and public houses in the centre of Leeds, thus avoiding the Hen Nights with large phalluses (phallii?) wandering the main areas of the city, as well as starting the night with excellent curry. And then there was the following morning where there were pancakes - it's been about nine years since I had pancakes at any point of the day, let alone cooked for me at breakfast with lemon and sugar on hand.

I digress, this is a beer blog after all, and I'm guessing that people aren't that fussed about what I ate so much as they come to read about the ales imbibed. Ales were imbibed, conquering heroes were spoken to (no, really, both gentlemen that made up my company have conquered areas of the workplace and deservedly so) and good craic, as I believe they say in Ireland, was had. And how could I forget the morning conversation in the kitchen that followed the night out - brilliant as always!

Ahem, yes, onto the ales. Would you like to know more?

As is almost traditional for a night out in Leeds now we started the evening with some home brew, Bubba's IPA to be exact. This was a strong hoppy number with plenty of fruit and flowery tones to the aroma and not much in the way of fizz, though a most impressive head made its presence felt at first. In that sense it almost looked like a Belgian beer with plenty of champagne character, but the hops were very much in evidence to say different. Pacific hops played a significant role here, possible amarillo and citra style, and there was a pleasant supporting malt that did as it should and largely stayed out of the way. Good golden colour to this, almost coppery, and went very well indeed with the curry of the evening. I think it worked best with the selection of tandoori meats, personally, but it went well with pretty much everything. It did not wow in the same way as Bubba's APA (link) did the last time I was up in Leeds, but it was certainly a worthy successor to that home brew. Alas, this time, I had none of my own to return the favour. However, given the strength (7.2% ABV ish) and also the strength (in terms of quality) of this ale, that was perhaps for the best!

We missed the bus by seconds, for which I can only blame myself and the need to fish in the car for some change, and so got a cab in. Have to say that the speed of the cab was impressive, being outside within five minutes of being called. We hit the town and walked in across the main square and into the Brewdog pub, another Leeds tradition, to find the third member of our band already having his first ale. We quickly joined him, and I sampled some Arrogant Bastard at 7.4% ABV. It was a decent colour, a decent ale, but the noise was high and the conversation hard in that environment. Also, after the recent Libertine Dark Ale shenanigans (here) it wasn't the same. No real character in this one, as an IPA it did the job it was supposed to do but it didn't really measure up to the Bubba's and it didn't set the world alight either. There wasn't anything more exciting on tap either and so our happy band elected to try somewhere else.

Off we went to a bar down a side street whose name I have forgotten already. Nice little place with some outside walls taken in and a decent selection at the bar. I stabbed for Pressure Drop, a nice stout at 6.5% ABV, and was pleased to see something strong and dark again. It made a good change from the hop-heavy IPAs and thus a useful pause between them and the later brews of the evening. Cool, calm and heavy, with little in the way of fizz and a reassuring countenance to it. Cherry sharpness on the tongue, biscuity malt on the nose, and a good smooth mouthfeel. Never too full but avoided the thinness that I have been disappointed to find in too many stouts lately. This was perhaps my choice for the night and very much out of step with the theme of IPAs and heavy hops, but it was dark and brooding. It belongs to another night, a night without people and a night where one reviews things in a more serious and sad manner. Enjoyable, and I would have it again, but out of place here.

We moved on again to a lovely bar by the name of Northern Monk, which also happens to be a brewery, and I was very impressed with what they have carved out of the industrial detritus of this area of Leeds. A big selection on offer with plenty of fun ales to choose from. My first was Rhubarb and Rosemary, an IPA at 7.4% ABV, that promised to live up to its name. Sure enough, my guide for the evening rapidly declared that there was indeed a bit of both. I'm not sure myself, there was a definite fruity smell to it that may have been the rosemary, though I think I was getting more sweet-pea if I'm honest, and the taste was also fruity and sharp, but if it were rhubarb then it had been sweetened. I always preferred rhubarb straight from the plant and peeled and then eaten when I was a small person, so this didn't set the world alight for me. That said, it was a good ale and easily the equal of the Arrogant Bastard at the top of the evening.

Second up was Chennai, another IPA at 5.4% ABV, with a very fresh nose, cleansing and very like a straight bitter. On tasting there was a definite hop hit that took over the crest of a light and frothy malt with a mouthfeel that brought lager to mind rather than the thick ale of Pressure Drop or the sort of deep and powerful Red IPA (link here). It was full and smooth, with a minimum of fuss from the carbonation and a smoothness that came from being pulled at the bar, as one would expect, but without the creaminess that I find usually accompanies such an ale from the tap. And that was very much to the credit of both the ale and the bar staff. Decent enough, and refreshing, very much a summer ale that the wind and the rawness of the evening did a little to undo. The overall impression from this ale, and I'll confess that I was getting light-headed by this point, was fruitiness.

In fact, it fulfilled the almost expected fruit-beer element that I have going on. It looked very much like a raspberry ale even though it was about as far as one could get from it.

The final ale from this neck of the woods was 822 IPA, which also handily gives away the style as well as explaining why the stout was so out of place, at 8.7% ABV. Strong, hop-filled, and heady from the get-go this one. Big and powerful hops on the nose with definite shades of citra and cascade bringing up the malt and a hint of yeast somewhere in amongst the summer headache of pollen. Little head and little fizz but plenty of lightness to this one, in both colour and in taste. Quenching ale, that remains fresh and fruity right down to the after-taste and the sort of ale that would do very well at a barbeque, being able to combat the smoky dryness of such a venue as well as ensure that one felt well served in terms of thirst. I liked it, but it was rather strong and next time I think I'd go happily for a third of this.

Don't get me wrong, a half was very welcome, just a little foolish I feel given the strength of the ales so far! In many ways, this was like a wheat beer, being cloudy and full-bodied, but it remained light and airy overall.

Then we relocated to the final bar of the night and there I ordered a Leeds Imperial from the Leeds Brewery, who I must say have done a fantastic job for me after I slated their bottled variant way back when (link). At 4.5% ABV this was a welcome break from the strength of the evening (and in part why I had one) but it did not adversely affect it in terms of taste. Good deep red colour with full hops on the nose, as the night seemed to do as a theme, before passing neatly into something akin to a decent bitter. It put me in mind of Up and Under (here) from Shepherd Neame with the red colouring of the Late Red (here) by the same. Still, very much held its own under the onslaught of IPAs from the evening and was a nice way to finish the evening off. Smooth mouthfeel, decent aftertaste and light enough that it didn't end things on a poor note. Mind you, between you, me and the gatepost, I was very much in the throes of being deep in cups by this point so I'll confess that I have little memory of it beyond my notes - though my notes definitively state that I would have it again.

Not as much time spent with the family of my good host this time, which was a shame, but I had to get back as the Boy had been moidering about me not being home and deserved to see me at least for a little while after my weekend away. Hopefully I can convince both my host's family and my other companion to come visit my end of the country and show them some of the nice hostelries here. In the meantime, I think my favourite of the night was the stout, Pressure Drop, but, as it was so out of place amongst the IPAs, I suspect the real winner has to be Bubba's IPA.

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