Now that we have finished the "book-work", here's ten more from wonderful West Yorks as we venture into lovely L**ds....
311. King's Head, Huddersfield
Throughout the noughties, I always found it strange how out of Huddersfield's two station pubs, this one seemed to be more popular with the GBG compilers than the Head of Steam which I used to love and have used for both football and Transpenine crawls. In fact, it wasn't until me, JW2 and Krzb came on our Transpenine day out on 13th Feb 2010 that I actually gave it a chance! We didn't 'get it' at all, washing hanging up to dry, dog bowls, clutter, disorganised staff, and strange spartan room with minimal decor, or even chairs and tables. We commented on the beer quality being great, but it was with some relief that we returned to the HoS where train delays meant we actually were happy to be stuck here for quite some time! And that was that until a 2015 trip on the way back from a midweek BRAPA where I decided it was still GBG listed and I should give it a chance, and this time the mental lightbulb clicked. It hadn't changed, but I soon realised the layout was unique and wonderful with great features which seemed to work even better on a quiet Tuesday evening. My Purple Moose anniversary beer went down a treat, and the young Asian barman was a friendly type, whilst the other locals all propped up the bar and smiled nervously from the corner of their mouths recognising one of their own. A pub criminally under used by me, so I'm telling you, make sure you give it a visit!
|A great ale in the much neglected (by me) King's Head|
Like all new pubs that come under my radar, I gave this a chance to "bed in" before my first visit despite some excitable murmurings from work people. To be fair, the name sounded pretentious and put me off, and a quick scan at the 'clipboard' menu on my first visit, alone on Wednesday 7th August, did nothing to dissuade me. Fondue fonts called things like "crowd of cheese" and "a favour of chocolate" seemed ridiculous. It is a Leeds brewery pub and it's a nice smart conversion of a chippie no less, but like most of their pubs, a teeny bit lacking in true pubbub. Anyway, I was waiting for girls to get ready for Emily's birthday meal at nearby Las Iguanas, so I drank a strong Green Devil IPA and something stouty, both over 6% and everyone claimed I was drunk at the meal! A month to the day, I brought Dad here and we had a very enjoyable Eggs Benedict breakfast and he was well impressed as we sampled a couple of Leeds ales too. Leeds Pale when well kept is a classic, don't let the critics dissuade you. Less than a month later, I was here again! This time with Mark Bennett from work but it was too busy and we had to stand on a Friday night. And finally, Emily's birthday drinks a year on in Aug 2014, Hipsters dominated the scene and despite really good staff and some nice food, we could barely hear each other over the din. Good but not my fave.
|Eggs Benedict (my fave breakfast), Crowd of Favours, 7/9/13.|
When I got my first GBG in Dec 2001, it made sense working in Leeds to start trying to visit those pubs on lunchtimes although being a 1999 guide, it was all a bit hit n miss to see which were still open/good/accessible. However, this pub wasn't then in the 2002 GBG which I probably got spring/summer of that same year. So it makes a bit more sense to me that my first memorable visit here was with John Watson II, probably more late 2003 on a dark night when he'd travelled over to join me for one of our 'Leeds new pub nights'. We were amazed by the huge room, high ceilings, amount of guest ales (still a novelty in these early days), and it was very spit n sawdust and very smokey - a proper rough working man's pub you might say. There was a band setting up, we were forced to move, and I think John lost an item of clothing in the ensuing melee which was surely pinched. I also remember a dodgy Black Sheep clock with two sheep humping each other. I then neglected it on the whole for nearly 10 years, though I visited once on my own and once with Dan Midwood and Mark Dobson on our LLAC (Leeds Lunchtime Ale Challenge) about 2007, I wasn't impressed and the beer range seemed to have deteriorated. However, it was more recently been taken over by former excellent landlord of Judges LodgingS and Royal Oak (in York), Andy "Judge" Yuill. He is quite a character and he's made this pub brilliant again, still a big emphasis on live music in that main bar, lots of memorabilia, and an acoustic guitar acting as toilet door! Ales are superb and great to see an old pub in the GBG for Leeds with all these modern ones dominating. I've been here a few times in last three years, most notably with Dad straight after our Crowd of Favours breakfast 7th Sept 2013. Andy was on great form having great banter (not that you're allowed to use that word anymore .... reclaim the word!) with all these grizzled ancient locals! Top pub if you like them 'real'.
314. Friends of Ham, Leeds
23rd May 2013 and it was nice to find a compromise with my work friend Emily (who lets face it, finds places like Brigantes and Mr Foley's a bit too 'pubby') for somewhere to go where we could enjoy real ale, fruit beers and good food. In the early days, I kind of tolerated it as it depended on whether you could get a comfy seat downstairs as it's popularity grew amongst fake bookcase wallpaper and board games. On a work night out in Dec '13, I almost got thrown out for saving a seat for 4 for too long! By our early 2014 visit, it was heaving and we had to share a bench with a couple on a first date - awkward! So I was almost pleased when they announced they were closing for a few weeks to extend into the upstairs. Even though it is still busy, at least you feel you can breathe now. You've also got to be strategic. The staff are quirky and might try and give you table service so I make sure I run straight to the bar as their menus don't really reflect the real ales on! Food is simple, meat or cheese boards with bread and things like figs, chutney and oil, but they still try to make it foreign and exotic sounding. If I visited it as a one off in a different town on a BRAPA day, I'd be highly critical, but as I've learnt the ropes, I kind of love it. Beer always superb.
|Emrack seemingly drinking a candle - FoH, 22nd December 2014.|
To follow the usual trend, I heard about this pub immediately when it opened in 2010 but shelved it for a good year, probably until 6th Sept 2012 when main Leeds work drinking buddy Emily did an "OMG Si how have you never been here" moment and we went for a post-work Thursday night drink. I immediately loved the place, especially the upstairs with it's "whispering gallery", punk artwork, plus don't forget the amazing pie, mash and pint offer which Mark Dobson taught me about on 27/9/12 when he gave me what felt like a 'careers meeting' here! Even before this, I brought Jig here after our C is for Carnforth day on 15h Sept 2012, meant I'd visited it 3 times in 3 weeks! I also brought Rebecca here but it was a weird poker night so we were only allowed to sit downstairs near a door and be offered gambling chips we weren't really interested in. My fave times though have been with Dad, most notably on that 7th Sept 2013 and he was waxing even more lyrical than me about the place. One of my favourite things is the location, under the Dark Arches you are under Platform 17 and the walk to get there is like being in a Batman film, but with more Ossett beer. On Leeds Utd days avoid, I was once turned away, it is full of 'jokers' haha.
|Downstairs in Hop with Rebecca, 15th May 2014.|
Or "North Bar" as anyone normal calls it. I think I've got the date nailed on this one. I was very stingey back in 2003 and when the new GBG came out in Sept '02, I let John Watson II buy it and just kept going in to Waterstones on work lunchtimes and making notes - it wouldn't happen now! Anyway, as it isn't in the 2002 GBG, am hoping I'm right in saying 2003 is the first edition it appeared in. I was given an extended lunch on Christmas Eve 2002 in those stupid days where they didn't let us work through and leave early, so I made the most of it by coming here "on my own!" Confusing entrance just like the Guide said, 'blink and you'll miss it' (I did several times) but went into this modern long thin European bottles and keg bar with the odd handpull. The range of handpulls has improved over the years. It was cold as I sat in the only seat available, near the open front door, on Christmas Eve for heaven's sake! I've been here more than any other Leeds real ale venue since I started work in Leeds. Me and Piper come here for catch ups on Fridays about once a quarter. Highlights include a Romanian telling us to mind his drink cos he had bad diarrheoa (and then apologising when he realised me and Mark Dobson were eating). Also, I was once here on a really busy Friday night trying to get to the bar when suddenly there was a screech as girls had recognised Dan from Big Brother (he was bald, gay and from Hull), there was a parting of the waves and I exploited it to get served quicker than anyone else - top pubbing! It's a great place.
|A pint of Mutual Aid with Piper, Jan 15, hailstorm, in OUR window seat|
317. Palace, Leeds
Well, that was a great trip down memory lane. Forget BRAPA, who's up for a L**ds scum ale trail?
I can vividly remember walking around Leeds probably in early 2002 using my GBG to try and direct me to this pub. Problem is, I didn't realise Kirkgate stretched right to the city boundary where there's a church and a stone to mark it. How much I persevered, I'm not sure but I definitely came here with John Watson II on the same night as our Duck & Drake visit. We'll say Oct 2003 again but I suspect it may have been sooner. Whatever, I know JW2 was very impressed and for a while it was his top pub in Leeds. However, throughout the noughties, it had a reputation for having really slow staff, the GBG even commented on it and when me and Mark Dobson came on a LLAC (Leeds Lunchtime Ale Challenge) day in 2007 (a good 20 min stride from the bank!) we were kept waiting for so long, we were late back even drinking a pint in quick time. Another memorable time was starting, I think, a sister Lu birthday do here after an Italian meal where we learnt about the ghost of a grey lady, who was actually a man dressed up as he went on stage playing the part in days cos women weren't allowed! It's now a Nicholson's pub so the beer range doesn't seem as exciting as it was, but pub is unchanged otherwise, staff improved, and last time here in Oct 2014 I got told off by an old crone for drawing a curtain to make it dark! Oh well,
318. Reliance, Leeds
When I read about the then 'Reliance Reading Rooms' (as it was then uncooly known) opening and appearing in the GBG, I was excited and surprised as it's location was very close to the back of Brunswick Point, where I was working at the time. I had a couple of flimsy challenges on the go around then, one was "Beat the Christmas Shoppers" (BCS) where every working day in December 2004(?), I vowed to go to a different pub so I didn't get crushed by the idiot masses. It didn't last for health reasons! Another was "A Happy New Year of drinking" (Jan 2006?) where I tried to have one drink every day of the year (it didn't last due to health reasons). I think my first visit to Reliance was one of these two, probably Dec' 04 (if it had indeed opened and appeared in the 2005 GBG, more research may be needed as all their webpages don't tell me). It's a lunchtime place to me, I liked walking into the sunny North Bar-esque place (I wasn't used to "real ale bars" in those days) and a few neanderthal versions of hipsters stared at me, but they had a few good ales on the bar and friendly young barmaids, plus a tricky looking food ordering area to the left. The huge glass windows and the main road meant for quite a novel drinking experience, a bit like drinking on a ring road I reported to work people when I got back. I brought JW2 here for one of our later "Leeds ale nights" and I was most recently here in 2012 when the Nancy-gang invited me to lunch at the nearby Greedy Pig, and once, we came for a nice drink here instead (well, I was the only one who got ale and posh chips!).
319. Scarbrough Hotel, Leeds
Another early and oft visited Leeds pub, I surely had no problem finding this on my 'lunchtime meanderings' and am gonna stick my neck out on this one and say summer 2002. It certainly is a pub which makes me think of sunny evenings. "Ho ho ho, not the Scarbrough Taps, why would you wanna go there!" screeched my Premium work colleagues when I referred to it as one of Leeds finest real ale pubs. But it really was. It had a real golden age where it was regularly heaving, I remember feeling it was a bit of an institution and almost like I wasn't worthy. Plus I could never get to the bar to see the vast range of ales on. It was a prime pre-gig meeting place for me and friends circa 2004-07 where we'd have a ham n pineapple melt before watching someone like Flogging Molly at the Cockpit. Once we saw lead singer Dave King and the nice lady one (who he somehow later married) having food and drinks here like us. Did they get together over a Roosters Yankee and Ham n Pineapple Melt? In June 2007, I had a mad month of being ID'd everywhere I went having not been before or since for years! Being ID'd here was the final straw and I stormed out. This place has lost it's magic in recent years, now a Nicholson's and with modern trendier bars selling the kind of revolutionary ales that this used to, it has fallen behind and before a 2012 gig, I came here on my own about 8pm and the place was almost deserted, I even got an armchair, And no melts on the menu!
320. Stick or Twist, Leeds
Actually, sorry North Bar, I think this is my most visited pub in Leeds! Located between both my old and new work buildings, it is the start of every work night out and these days, we sometimes don't leave, not that I go on many now that BRAPA controls my life (oh dear!) and the building of the Leeds Arena has made it as busy as Scarbrough Hotel used to be, on gig nights. But where did it all begin? Well, in the very early ale days (Nov-Dec 2001), the GBG pub around work was called The Londoner and I had two decent visits before a drugs raid we all watched from the window, and it was razed to the ground and is now student accomodation! But I'm sure my first work Christmas do - Dec 22nd 2001(?) started here - I got ridiculously drunk that night, lost my wallet, forgot what city I was in. However, it had a reputation for being shite then and I got a lot of "stick" for being a real ale drinker as people (who now drink ale!) told me "it all tastes the same". Well it does when you don't clean your lines. It stayed questionable up to about the smoking ban (though the raised left area was always non smoking) and then remarkably, ale improved circa July '07. I did keep telling people, but it wasn't til it got in the GBG that it started getting the credit it deserved. And a fully deserved regular entrant now, you don't Leeds many other 'Spoons getting in so am quite lucky really. The people are still quite scroaty, but you can't have everything.
|21/3/14 - after work drinks, giving Sal Hop an Untappd demo in the Stick.|
Well, that was a great trip down memory lane. Forget BRAPA, who's up for a L**ds scum ale trail?
I've still got 5 more White Shite pubs to review, and then we'll move into broader West Yorkshire again, we'll see how it goes.