However, come Saturday and I had to pull myself together. Eddie, the eager, legal beagle was on the case. Seems the Manx Minx was busy planting a coolabahs forest in Douglas. So a trip out to Leeds materialised.
But first we broke our journey at Sowerby Bridge station to look at the Jubilee Refreshment Rooms. This is a new venture based in the long disused Victorian booking office. It’s only been open a week and is still a work in progress but it’s a very promising development. Basically it consists of one, smart, rectangular room with the bar at one end. Six real ales are available and with one of the owners a life member of Camra, they’re keen to support the micro brewers. We tried Durham Magus, which was sadly at the end of the barrel-they’d had a busy Fri night and hadn’t had chance to take stock. However, it was happily switched for Phoenix Midsummer Madness. Opening hours are 0730-2300 and breakfast is served till 12.
Arriving in Leeds, the obvious first stop was the Brewery Tap. Nicely refreshed with a pint of Leeds Pale, we moved onto the Victorian & Commercial. Being a Leeds virgin, Eddie had a sniff round this grand pub before we settled down with some Barnsley Gold. Next stop was the Town Hall Tavern. This is a tied Taylors pub and has the feel of a London boozer. Indeed, like many pubs in the big smoke, it relies mainly on weekday trade and was very quiet. It was the first pub in Leeds to earn a “Beautiful Beer” award, though, and the Taylors Golden Best was in good condition.
Further along The Headrow we called at Mr Foley’s Cask Ale House. Here we grabbed some tasty fish & chips and a pint of Elland Mr Apollo. This 4.3% has been brewed to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the moon landings and contains a heady mix of Cascade, Mount Hood, Simcoe, Brewers Gold and Pacific Gem Hops, plus the experimental Barley variety Flagon. This produces a wonderfully bitter beer which is very moreish. I paused to shake my head at the blackboard offer on the way out-a ploughman’s and a pint for £7. But it was one of those fake ploughman’s-it came with a pork pie. Repeat after me, cheese not pork.
On the way to North bar, we looked in at the once mighty Horse & Trumpet. This is a shadow of its former self, looking in need of a good clean-as did some of the clientele. North delivered the find of the day, if not the year. I’d read recently about the American beer festival at the White Horse in Parson’s Green and one beer in particular had caught my eye-“Johnny Cask” Dogfish Head 75 Minute IPA. A blend of their 60 and 90 minute IPAs, dry hopped with whole leaf Cascade and fermented with a dose of maple syrup. Well it seems North had also been having a Yankee Doodle Dandy fest and what awaited us on the bar but...
Considering the strength (7.5%) and the crawl we were on, we reluctantly broke our pint rule and settled on halves of this behemoth. But this was no half you could rush, anyway. Once you cut through the heavy hop barrier, you get a beer with both fruit and clear citrus notes-definitely a beer worth savouring. There was also Sierra Nevada Smoked Porter on offer.
Whilst at North we discovered that one of their sister bars wasn’t too far away, so we decided to detour and take a look. The Reliance is at the end of North St and can probably be best described as a gastrobar. Enticing cooking smells waft from the mezzanine kitchen area and they have a similar, if smaller, range of beers to North.
A bit of a yomp took us along Kirkgate, past the boarded up Duck & Drake, to the Palace. We enjoyed some al fresco Roosters whilst admiring the local wildlife. As the sun started its inevitable decline in the sky, we marched round to Pin where I tried the Leeds Pale once again, leaving Eddie going loco on the Leeds Best. The Grove was the quietest I’ve seen it, but the beer was in good form as usual. It was a race now to complete the crawl or facing being stranded in Leeds. Increasing our drinking pace in a heroic demonstration of mind over matter, we managed to squeeze in the Cross Keys and the Midnight Bell before catching the last train headed back towards red rose country. The amount of drunks in Manchester in the early hours of the morning is truly shocking, though.