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North Bar - revel in Ale!
Other Pubs / Bars in Leeds (Leeds)
Member Name: The Daz
Other Pubs / Bars in Leeds (Leeds)
Advantages: Amazing range of ales, relaxed atmosphere.
Disadvantages: I'd not heard of it until last year!
It was 4pm, and I was in Leeds, shopping. Well - actually I was opining the loss of yet another Saturday afternoon to the grasping tills of consumer materialism.
Whilst standing outside yet another department store, holding a selection of bags in both arms, and sighing in exasperation as my better half caught sight of yet another item of clothing (similar to all the ones in the bags I carried), and announced that we simply had to spend a few minutes in there 'just to have a look', I made an executive decision. Not one to be taken lightly of course, but nevertheless, the build up of tension and the erosion of my spirit had reached critical levels, and the ensuing thought came in a silent plea.
Beer. I need Beer.
Looking up Briggate from the corner of the Headrow I spied a sign. 'North Bar'. Having assayed the lack of banners proclaiming 'Drinkers Delight' and other such markers of a 'local' pub, I walked up to the door, not 30 yards from my previous hovering zone outside Primani. (I find calling Primark this helps to make me feel I'm fashionable yet cheap - definite signs of middle age).
Pressing my nose to the glass and rubbing the frost from the windows (It does snow up North in November), I saw a narrow bar and a small seating area - a converted terrace-cum-pub. The décor looked modern but not trendy, the staff weren't wearing the uniforms of the Chain Pub, and then I saw it - a non-standard glass in the hand of a chunky sweatered toting patron. Aha!
I should explain at this juncture - having been to Belgium, lived in Germany, and also a frequent attendee at CAMRA festivals - I am a bit of an ale connoisseur (self-professed of course). Not freezing cold gassy fare like Chavbrew (Carling) or Wifebeater (Stella), but proper ales brewed with the drinker in mind, and not the bank balance.
The glass in question was one of the countless Belgian Glasses that accompany a specific beer - designed by the brewer to enhance the serving and taste, but also just to look different. Any pub with at least one of these ales would be surely worthy of my patronage. The sight thereafter of a table being served what looked suspiciously like enormous pies drowned in gravy, merely reinforced the notion that it was my right, nay my duty!, to sally forth and keep the good bar afloat against the hordes of Chain Pub.
Obviously, tact was required. I repaired to my hovering zone to await the return of my better half.
Some (considerable) time later......
Having been given a 1 hour pass and custody of all the shopping bags, I entered the North Bar and found an empty table. On the wall beside me was a massive wooden board, with lists of all the beers served, in neat 4 inch fonts. After salivating at some of the names - plenty known to me, but many more new and exciting - I plucked quite aptly for the standard house ale - Yankee's Rooster. A delicious pint that I had already tasted before in its native Knaresborough.
Settling down in my chair, Cricket section of the Guardian (even in November!) spread out before me, I relaxed my shoulders and let the gentle hum of the background music - inoffensively mild rock of an unknown provenance - wash away my strains and bag carrying induced aches.
The pub has roughly a dozen tables and benches, seating maybe 50, with standing room at the bar, and at various points. A smallish bar lurks halfway down its length, with gleaming and wildly different pump signs enticing in their outlandish design and font. An unashamed Drinker's Pub, North Bar offers little in the way of extraneous facilities or trendy offerings: no Fruit Machines here, nor will you find any WKD or other vile alcopop-kin.
I considered the proud and glorious wall mounted list further, whilst quietly revelling in the sophisticated yet relaxed air of the surroundings. Nothing brewed on license, and all imported direct from brewery of origin. Over a 100 usually on offer, and split helpfully into the following sections on the board: (a few of each included)
Beers on Tap: Dortmunder Union, Jupiler, Lindeboom.
Bottle Beers: La Chouffe, Chimay (Red, Blue and White!), Orval, Quintine Blonde.
England: Sam Smith's Oatmeal Stout, Harvest Ale 2001.
Germany: Fruh Kolsch, Schofferhoffer.
Holland: La Trappe Dubbel & Tripel.
Mexico: Dos Equis Obscura, Bohemia.
USA: Anhor Liberty Ale, Goose Island IPA.
Rest of World: Tusker (Kenya), Quilmes (Argentina), Lion Stout (Sri Lanka).
Other drinks - they generally stock dozens of spirits of an exotic and different nature, aiming, as with the beer to steer away from the stock brands. All spirits are served in the continental 35ml amounts, a change from some pubs that sneak 25ml into a glass before drowning it in coke.
Food: decidedly home style and in keeping with the attitude of the bar. Pie is the main item - indeed the only hot item available - made locally, but what a choice of fillings: Angus Steak, Spinach & Feta, Beetroot with Horseradish and Wensleydale, Balsamic Beef & Potato with Caramelised Onions.
Ok - they sound a bit poncy - but they appear steaming hot and plated up with mushy peas from the cellar, and they certainly had my tastebuds tingling (Except for the peas....bleurgh).
Other things of note: I took it upon myself to read the noticeboard, whilst waiting for my second ale to be magicked into my hand. Every 6 weeks, a different Artist has their work displayed on one wall of the bar. It appears to be mostly graphic design, comic drawings and other such lowbrow fare - which is fine. If I wanted to see a copy of a Monet or a Raphael, I'd ponce around an Art Gallery muttering about the subtlety of the implied shading and the quality of the light.
Festivals: Beer ones I mean. Oktoberfest, Belgium Beer, Summer Ale - these and more take place at North Bar annually - a chance for them to rotate the beer menu towards the festival of the time, and encourage merriment and a wider appreciation of regional and international ales.
Music: bands sometimes play the bar too - although the allocated area is room enough only for two chaps on stools and a small amp - so I'd imagine there are happenings of Acousto-Rock and crimes against Folk mostly.
After the alarm in my head went off to signify the end of my allotted free time, and I felt the burning imprint of the Thumb appear on my forehead - I found myself outside the bar, reflecting on an enjoyable time while away, and the serendipitous happenstance of such a quality establishment located right on the edge of the desperately trendy and needlessly busy central shopping area of Leeds.
Having decided to return once more, some other time for another sample of fine ales - this time spreading the gospel by bringing a few of my fellow learned ale devotees, I entered back into the business of my waning Saturday afternoon, glad at least of a thoroughly enjoyable respite.
I should add a final note, in case of research. North is actually part of a chain of 4. The others: Further North (Chapel Allerton), The Reliance (North St, 5 mins walk from North Bar), and The Cross Keys (near the Railway Station). Given, however, their total lack of homogeneity, I feel safe in not referring to them as a Chain in the usual sense (Wetherspoons and their ilk).
Summary: Great place to while a few hours away in good company.