Nearly 200 years of brewing tradition was lost after Tetley’s production harrowingly ended in Leeds in 2011.
While some hardened devotees loyal to the huntsman may have vowed never to sup another Leeds beer, Tetley’s sad demise in the city opened up the market to a drayman’s cartload of smaller craft breweries determined to satiate a thirsty pub crowd with inquisitive tastes.
Of course, some of these were around long before Tetley’s opened up the playing field, but the majority have thrived as the popularity of craft ales, quenchable beers and fruity innovation has exploded.
The outlying areas around Leeds can boast the Ilkley Brewery, Ossett Brewery, Wharfebank Brewery and Collingham Ales, amongst others. Yet in the Leeds city boundary alone you can still choose a range of offerings from this hop-heavy and highly-quaffable selection:
Established in 2007 by two uni friends, the Leeds Brewery has mass market appeal and solid branding for a reliable and consistent range of beers which use only UK-sourced malted barley and Yorkshire yeast.
The permanent cask range of Leeds Pale, Leeds Best, Yorkshire Gold and Midnight Bell – plus their lager offering Leodis – can be found as guest beers all over the city, but most prominently in the brewery’s seven pubs (including the new Lamb and Flag on Church Row, which opens July 4).
The lines between brewery and microbrewery can often merge, but very much of the smaller variety is this little gem based in the cellar of the Fox & Newt pub on, you guessed it, Burley Street.
Established in 2010 the brewery has a good range of ales from Mild to Blonde – with a ruby beer, pale session beer and traditional Yorkshire bitter thrown in – which are well stocked in the pub and its sister venture, The Packhorse on Woodhouse Lane.
Taking a slightly leftfield ‘throw it all together’ kind of approach to brewing is the innovative Northern Monk organisation, who after a nomadic existence opened their brewery and ‘Refectory’ off Water Lane in Holbeck in 2014.
Northern Monk take a wholesome stance on trying to change drinking culture and have collaborated with other local brewers, businesses and charitable organisations on several projects.
The Refectory is a café, bar and bottle shop and allows you to watch part of the brewing process, as nine beers, ranging from a classic pale ale and session IPAs to punchy stouts with coffee and chocolate ‘character', veer for attention with fruity porters.
The original Kirkstall Brewery closed in 1983 after 150 years of production, and those premises are now student halls of residence on the banks of the Leeds/Liverpool canal. But in the building’s shadow a small microbrewery was opened in 2011, and the new Kirkstall Brewery’s core range features names and pump clips that pay homage to the areas’ Abbey and monastic past.
Offerings include three hoppy pale beers: Kirkstall Pale, Three Swords and Dissolution IPA, plus a rich, dark beer called Blackband Porter. The brewery’s most prominent success is the faithful and characteristic restoration of the nearby Bridge Inn pub, now the Kirkstall Bridge.
Such has been the success of this bold venture – it has won CAMRA’s Leeds pub of the year two years running – that the brewery are opening a second pub later this year along Kirkstall Road, which will form part of a new expanded brewery, upping weekly production to over 100,000 pints a week.
Based in a Meanwood industrial estate since 2010, Ridgeside has a small but expanding range of beers including the new Phoenix pale ale. This brewery is a stalwart of the many Leeds beer festivals but also has a small pub presence in the Junction at Castleford, the Myrtle Tavern and East of Arcadia in Meanwood, and the legendary ale utopias of The Grove and Whitelocks in Leeds.
Once claimed to be the smallest brewery in Leeds, Nigel Poustie’s Sunbeam Ales was named after the street location of the back-to-back terrace where his small empire was formed in 2008.
Nigel’s kitchen – honest - produces eight casks weekly including good-bodied IPAs and special ales such as a Honey and Lavender brew which people approach hesitantly, but is somehow flavoursome and refreshing. Sunbeam utilises Headingley’s Beer Ritz as a regular outlet for its rustic but simple and tasty casks and bottles.
1997 saw the North Bar open on New Briggate, heralding the craft ale revolution we are all now almost drowning in. As a natural extension to its growing range of bars throughout Leeds – there are currently six – the company has now started brewing its own beers and recently showcased two of its initial fruits at the Leeds Feast festival.
The next twelve months are looking very exciting as the North brand seeks to open new premises in Leeds incorporating a brewery, bar and live music venue, and utilise its extensive knowledge and face-to-face engagement to develop home-grown beers.
Another Meanwood-based microbrewery is Golden Owl, who claim to combine British brewing tradition with the American craft beer explosion. A small range of very drinkable and fruity pale ales and a ‘Curveball Pirate Porter’ can be found stocked on occasions at Outlaws Yacht Club, North Bar, Calls Landing, Tall Boys Beer Market and Northern Monk.
Are there any others on the list we might have missed? Let us now. Until then, explore some more great pubs in Leeds.