1 Day, 5 Breweries: Manchester Brewery Expo.

On Saturday 23rd May me and Leanne made our way across the Pennines to Manchester Brewery Expo.

The premise was quite simple; over the 23rd and 24th May, eight breweries in the centre of Manchester would all open up for the public allowing them to come in, look around, go on tours and taste their beers. On the Saturday we went it was the five breweries nearest to Piccadilly Station; Track, Cloudwater, Alphabet, Privateer and Squawk.

We arrived at Cloudwater’s Barrel Store at 12pm to check in. Included in our £10 ticket price was a special MCR Brewery Expo pint glass, a leaflet with a map and most importantly, the drinks tokens for each brewery. We had planned ahead and first on our itinerary, just a few doors down the railway arches from the Barrel Store, was Track Brewing Co.


Track A

We were surprised walking into Track as it was bigger than expected – a full railway arch with a bar down the side, brewing kit at the front and seating a plenty. At the bar we cashed in our first token of the day (we were really surprised to receive a full PINT! – great value for the original ticket price). I chose Zaka (keg), this was a 4.8% European pale ale, almost like a lager. It was super clean, lemony and piney. Leanne opted for Ozark (cask) a more traditional pale at 4.4% very session-able but with a really great flavour – orange notes with a slight bitterness. These two beers were great and at this point we knew the day was going to be a good one….

Zaka Track

On the Thursday before the Expo we had booked ourselves on a couple of the talks & tours via Eventbrite. Track was our first talk of the day with head brewer/owner; Sam. Plenty of people had turned up but with it being early in the day, anyone could join and we didn’t really need to book ahead. Sam talked us through how he came to set up the brewery inspired by his travels across South America by bike where he found amazing little micro breweries and pubs in almost every town. After coming back to the UK and working in various breweries he wanted to set one up in the centre of Manchester. We’re glad he did.


Cloudwater pan

Cloudwater are doing something that no other brewery are doing. They don’t have a core range, but instead brew their beers in relation to the season and what fresh ingredients are available. Having tried a couple of their bottles before (Bergamot Hopfen Weisse & Spring 2015 IPA) we were excited to see what they had to offer and again had pre-booked on the talk & tank tasting.

The brewery itself was much bigger than Track and was the only one of the day not located under a railway arch. Instead, Cloudwater was hidden away in an industrial estate and could have easily been mistaken for a very dull office building. It was far from dull on the inside. The place seemed really big and it was obvious that they were set-up to do this kind of thing on a regular basis (and they do – check out their website).

Cloudwater glasses

Before the tank tasting we made sure we got ourselves a drink. Leanne picked the Camden Versus Cloudwater Marzen 6.6%, a collaboration beer between the two breweries. It was copper in colour and had a slight caramel taste. Leanne liked this but it wasn’t to my taste. I wanted something light and refreshing so picked the Farmhouse Radler at 4.1% – a nice light lemony beer.

Cloudwater bottles

After our drinks we checked in for the tour. The pre-booked tickets were needed here and there were no walk in spaces available. Co-founder Paul talked us through the kit and the way the brewery runs before inviting us to join a tank tasting. Here we got to try 10 different unfinished beers from the tank (including a glass of wort – yak). Paul explained that the guys run through the process every single day so they can asses the progress of each beer. We were sampling some of the Summer 2015 range and in our opinion the Farmhouse IPA is the one to watch. When a beer isn’t fully ready but tastes that good  – you know it’s going to turn out great. We also tried a Rhubarb beer which was headed for some extra time in large wooden barrels. Paul and the team didn’t think it tasted as rhubarb as it should – its nice to see how they changed the plan when it didn’t meet expectations. You don’t often appreciate the work behind a beer when you’re drinking in the pub.

Cloudwater tasting A

The tank tasting was soon over and everyone slowly moved on, however me, Leanne and Mark ending up staying behind to talk Paul for quite some time. Having spoken to him briefly at a meet the brewer event at Tallboys, it is clear to see that he has a great passion for brewing great beer, and doing it in a unique way.

Cloudwater tasting B

Next stop…….


Just round the corner from Cloudwater, underneath a railway arch is Alphabet. Like most start up breweries they only have a small kit but what is clear to see here is that they have a great space they can grow into.

Alphabet barrel

They had some great beers on tap here, I went for the Space Invader. This was a crazy 6% pink grapefruit farmhouse saison with tarragon –  it was fruity and light as you can imagine! Leanne went for their oatmeal American pale ale; A to the K (5.6%) –  a hazy beer that went down a treat. Alphabet were one of the few breweries that served food. They had a Malay food stall serving authentic Malay street dishes – the smell was mouthwatering.

Alphabet Food B

The atmosphere was great – plenty of people but not too busy. A DJ was set up at the back and most people sat outside thanks to the unusually sunny Manchester weather. We wish could have spent more time here, but keeping to our itinerary, it was time to move on.


Privateer A

The smallest brewery of the day was Privateer, a cask beer focussed operation. Leanne accidentally left her Expo glass at Alphabet so had to move on to the plastic ones. The day was open to non-ticket holders too so luckily there were plenty of spare glasses for anyone wanting to purchase a drink. I had the Dainty Blond which was a solid 4.2% blond beer. It was a good quality cask ale but unfortunately didn’t leave a lasting impression. Leanne had the Red Duke 4.8% – it was bitter and red so a winner in her eyes.

Mark Privateer A 


Squawk was our final destination of the day, right under Ardwick train station. We were booked on a 5.30pm talk, so had time for a quick beer beforehand. We used the last of our beer tokens on a fruity IPA at 6.7% and a low abv quaffable American Pale, Small Pale at 2.8%. After a day of drinking, hunger soon struck and it was time for some grub. Thankfully Squawk had also catered for hungry beer lovers and was serving up chicken or lamb tagine with cous cous for a bargain £4. We had the chicken and it was absolutely delicious.


Time for the talk with Oli. What we really got from this talk was the size of the operation and what a small scale he was working on. Going into beer shops and seeing all of these bottles of beer you assume that there is a big team and high tech machinery behind it all. For most of the breweries we visited it was just a few people or one brewer. At Squawk it’s just Oli – brewing the beer, filling casks, bottling and capping (“one hand for filling one hand for bottling!”). This made it all the more impressive.

We just had time for a final drink with Tom who we had seen at a few of the breweries earlier in the day. You can check out some of his pictures here. We were recommended to try the Bean Brothers Espresso Stout. This wasn’t available when we ordered but later on one of the bar guys brought us a glass to try – on the house. This pretty much summed up the hospitality from all the breweries throughout the day. Generous, welcoming and friendly. The beer was great too.

We thought the day was a complete success. It was great to go visit some new breweries that we hadn’t heard of and that were just starting up. What was really enjoyable was the relaxed vibe and great atmosphere. We drank great beer, learnt many things and talked to beer lovers and brewers alike. It was also clear to see that none of these breweries are working in competition they are just wanting to put Manchester breweries on the map. After the long days of brewing and evenings organising the Expo they have become closer and are interested in sharing their own practices and experiences. We can’t wait for the next event to head back over the Pennines for another great day.

Simon’s beer of the day – Track  – Zaka 4.8%

Leanne’s beer of the day – Track – Ozark 4.4%


Leeds Twissup Itinerary – November 29th

I have set timings for each place so people will know where we are at different points in the day.

Itinerary for the day then:

12.30pm – Northern Monk Refectory 
Only opened on 24th October. Over 15 taps to choose from. If you are feeling peckish food on site from Grub and Grog Shop. This is a small walk out of town from the station. I thought it would be good for people who don’t live in Leeds to see this great new place. Leave here around 1.45pm.


We will have a space reserved for us in here.

2pm – Bundobust
A great selection of keg beers and bottles. Also, the Indian Snack food is bloody good.

Marko has informed me that the guys here are ready for us!

3.15pm – Tapped
Probably the bar with the largest keg / cask / bottle selection in Leeds. Beers from all over the UK and the rest of the world. Pizza anyone?

I have informed Richard of our arrival

4.15pm – Friends of Ham
The refurb has made space for over 50 bums on seat and a much bigger bar giving a wider choice of beers. Lots of beers in the fridge too.

Friends of Ham are unable to reserve us a space, so we may struggle to get in. If this is the case, we will go next door to Brewery Tap or we can just stay in Tapped. We shall see what the vibe is on the day.

5.30pm – Whitelocks
If the weather is OK I thought it would be good to take a trip to Leeds oldest pub. I say weather depending as we will most likely end up standing outside. It’s a bit cramped inside for a large group of people. Cask only, but you may get a bottle of blue moon if you are lucky.

6.15pm – Belgrave Music Hall
Thought we would go here to re-charge and re-fuel before we go to North Bar. Resident pizza guys, Dough Boys, will give you a slice to keep you going that bit longer or there will be a guest street food vendor on site. e.g Patty Smiths

7.30pm – North Bar
No description required

North Bar are unable to reserve us a space, but I knew this already, they are going to have something very special on keg for us all, this has been waiting in the cellar for us!

Please feel free to invite any friends and/or partners!

Let me know if you are planning on coming, just so I have an idea of numbers.

Brewers Market Leeds

Back in early August I noticed someone re-tweet a new account on Twitter; Brewers Market, which immediately grabbed my attention. On further investigation, Brewers Market was going to be a three day market in an old mill, filled with a vast array of keg beers and street food stalls. Keg only. I was excited.


The location of the Brewers Market was Canal Mills, an old 18th century textile mill on the Armley side of Leeds. The mill was only refurbished two years ago and the space is currently used for a variety of different events ranging from night markets to club nights. The Brewers Market was the first of its kind for Canal Mills; a beer festival of sorts offering over 50 different beers.

After taking the ‘scenic’ route along the Leeds – Liverpool canal you enter the mill and immediately feel like you have been transported to somewhere in London. The high ceilings are dripping with fairy lights, the exposed brick work gives a trendy urban feel and the floor space is filled with picnic benches.


The £7 ticket cost covered your entrance fee, a pint sized souvenir glass and a programme. We were a bit disappointed with the programme – it was a list of the beers which had been previously published on the Brewers Market Twitter account. There were no additional tasting notes available which would have been a nice touch – even a mention of the beer style would have helped.

Personally, when we are drinking keg beers we like to drink them from a half glass and in third measures. In our opinion, any beer over 7% should be offered in thirds. For example, there was BrewDog Russian Doll Barley Wine which is 10%. I would have liked to have tried this one but there was no way I could have drunk a half and continued long into the night.


Once we picked up our glasses we went to the token stand. As with most beer festivals the bars were cashless and operated a token system. Here you exchanged your sterling for raffle tickets –  these were your tokens. Each raffle ticket represented £1 (which wasn’t advertised or explained when we were making our purchase). Many of the beers were £2.50 which required tearing the paper in half. This seemed a bit of an after thought and didn’t work as well as the token system should. A card with £1/50p values to mark off would have been just as easy and would have worked a little better.

When me and Leanne are at festivals we both like to try beers we haven’t tried before (where we can). I started with a Liverpool Craft Love Lane Pale as it was a modest 4.5% – a good starting beer to enjoy whilst browsing the programme. Leanne started with a Weird Beard Little Things That Kill (3.8%). We assumed this was Batch 9 but this wasn’t listed in the programme. After having Batch 8 at Leeds International Beer Festival and loving it, this seemed a good place to start. It was slightly more sour than Batch 8 but still nice and juicy.


My next choice was the Northern Monk / Weird Beard collaboration; Blue Habit, a blueberry saison at 6%. It was great that this was served at a good temperature so that the big fruity flavours of the blueberries came through (some of the beers served were ice cold and the flavours were lost). Northern Monk are fast becoming one of my favourite breweries. From first trying their New World IPA (a big punchy boozy IPA) early last year to more recently sampling their take on a black IPA; Dark Arches. Look out for their Refectory opening later this month….

Leanne loves Burning Sky Devils Rest so really wanted to give the 4.4% Arise a go. This is a session IPA with peach and pine flavours followed by a bitter after taste. Enjoyable but it did lack a bit in the flavour department. An easy drink however. 


Most of the beers I wanted to try were quite high in abv (especially when they were being served in halves!) so I wanted a low percentage beer next. I’ve had a few bottled beers from Red Church before and as I hadn’t seen them on keg anywhere I chose the Broadway Black Ale (2.9%). Although this looked dark and heavy, it smelt like your typical IPA and was refreshing in the mouth with a light coffee after taste. Leanne opted for a Magic Rock Pith Head (4.5%) which was a radler style beer. This has big hits of lemon and lime making for an ultra refreshing beer, almost like a juice. It was a bit tangy but in that thirst quenching, refreshing kind of way.


Three drinks in and it was time for some food. On offer there was Pizza from Pizza Fella, street food and stews from Grub and Grog and what we chose, Fish and Chips from Fish&. We picked a Sharing Box for two which consisted of three types of battered fish pieces with chips. The batters were your regular fish shop batter, a salt and pepper and a sweet chilli batter. We both agreed that the salt and pepper one was the best.

Time for another drink. I had Summer Wine Brewery Diablo (6%) in a bottle for the first time a few weeks ago and after going on about how good it was I convinced Leanne to try it on keg. The problem was that this was served far too cold so none of the big tropical flavours could come through. I’d built it up and it just didn’t deliver on this occasion. I’ll get her to try it again at Indy Man Beer Con this weekend.


For those who were not big beer fans the mill also had wines from Guest Wines or gin based drinks from Portobello Road Gin Bar. The gin drinks seemed really popular. The bar looked pretty cool too.


Down to our final few tokens, I wanted another try of the Five Points IPA (7.1%) as when I had it last at Leeds International Beer Festival it wasn’t tasting its best. At the Five Points bar I was informed that this was Batch 2. (I had Batch 1 previously). Batch 2 was much better but still lacked a little something. I’d be more than happy to sample Batch 3. Leanne went for one of her favourite beers; Five Points Hook Island Red at 6%. This is a red rye ale that is big on the pine flavours with a dry after taste. She loves this so much because it tastes incredible on both keg and cask. She’s spied bottles of this at Belgrave Music Hall and hopes to complete the cask/keg/bottle trio. Hopefully it will taste just as good. 


Last but not least I went back to the Liverpool Craft bar to try their West Coast Pale (6.2%). This is their take on an IPA, a hazy amber coloured beer with slight hints of orange peel. I enjoyed this one and would most definitely have it again if I saw it in a pub. Leanne finished on a Wild Beer Bliss (6%). This is an apricot saison that we had in a bottle a few weeks back and both really enjoyed it. On keg the spicy, peppery, fruity flavour really came through. This is a fantastic beer. 

Overall we really enjoyed the Brewers Market. There was a great selection of beers which were all reasonably priced. The venue had a great atmosphere and was a nice change from the usual beer festival scenes. There was a good mix of music and a even a live art installation. We look forward to seeing if Canal Mills decide to have another Brewers Market next year…


Simon’s beer of the day – Northern Monk / Weird Beard – Blue Habit 6%

Leanne’s beer of the day – Wild Beer – Bliss 6%

Leeds International Beer Festival

A work colleague asked me what I was doing on my day off. I said I was off to the International Beer Festival at the Town Hall. She then asked ‘what is a beer festival?’. I think you automatically assume that everyone knows what a beer festival is and it’s quite hard to put into words, but I gave it a go; ‘Imagine the biggest most amazing pub with hundreds of beers from all over the UK, Europe and America’. ‘Then imagine a selection of the most delicious street food you have ever tasted’. ‘Finally, add a really great atmosphere and a group of friendly beer lovers’.This year, the festival didn’t disappoint. 

IMG_20140905_124021 (1)

This was the third year of the festival and Leanne and me have been to each one. We’ve seen it grow in size and popularity each year. I remember the first year just being in the main room of the Town Hall with Friends of Ham taking the centre surrounded by bales of hay to use as seats. In the second year the bars had spread into other rooms and the outside area had come alive. This year there was definitely an emphasis on quality over quantity and we couldn’t wait to get started. 

For our first drink Leanne and I decided to start with a lower abv beer.We both chose the same beer from  Weird Beard – Little Things That Kill – Batch 8. Weird Beard Paul had described this beer perfectly in response to one of my tweets; ‘I call that baby SORACHI FACEPUNCH’. At 3.5% it was surprisingly high in flavour. With so many high percentage beers around its really nice to have a lower percentage option without compromising on flavour. 

Next on the hit list was Pressure Drop – one of my favourite London Breweries. Although they hadn’t brought any Wu Gang Chops (a foraged herb hefeweizen and a personal favourite), I was excited to try one of their beers that I haven’t had before. This was Strictly Roots (5.1%); a dandelion and burdock porter. This was great. As you would expect from the name it was a really good porter entwined with dandelion and burdock flavours. I thought it was a nice take on a porter as most breweries seem to go down the coffee/chocolate route. This was a welcome variation on the norm.

Pressure Drop - Strictly RootsThere was a good mix of breweries from all over the UK but noticeably a big presence from the London brewers. Camden are fast becoming a favourite of ours, mainly because their beers taste so good! In our opinion they do simple beers well. We both had Gentleman’s Wit, a witbier at 4.6%. This never fails to disappoint – flavours of banana, cloves and lemon. It’s actually too easy to drink this and on a warm day it goes down an absolute treat. Later in the day I went back for a beer from their Versus Range; Black IPL (5.8%). This is a black larger brewed in collaboration with Mohawk brewery who are based in Sweden. It’s slightly hoppy but has a nice bitterness and a roasted undertone associated with those darker malts. 


We wandered down to the European Bar which was almost empty. This came as no surprise – Friday afternoon seemed to be a quiet session and the weather was glorious. The majority of people were sat outside so we grabbed a quick beer and headed back out. Leanne chose Devil’s India Red Ale (6.5%) by Cervesa Marina, a Spanish brewery. She likened this to one of her favourites from Five Points Brewery – Hook Island Red. Deep red in colour with lovely rich flavours. As with the Hook Island she claims it smelt like cheese….in a good way apparently. I picked Geisterzug Gose Rhubarb (5.2%) from the German brewery Freigeist Bierkultur. This wasn’t as good as I had expected and the Rhubarb flavour didn’t really come through.

Back upstairs I wanted to try Oakhams Green Devil IPA (6.0%) – it’s not a beer I see that often. Oakhams brought both keg and cask. I opted for keg. This is a stronger version of their Citra beer, one of those go-to beers that you know will always be great. The Green Devil is an intensely hoppy beer, with flavours of pineapple and mango. The finish is crisp and dry. Leanne popped over to Marble for a Howgate & Kemp, a New Zealand style pale ale at (6.4%). This had a great big sweet and citrus aroma with a boozy punch to finish. We LOVE Marble Beers. Make sure to visit one of their pubs;  Marble Arch if you are in Manchester. 


Finally a quick note on the food, because you can’t drink all afternoon without getting a bite to eat. One of the great things about this festival is the choice of food, with an array of street food vendors. The choice ranged from currywood fired pizzasBrazilian BBQ and fish and chips.We went for a hot dog from Piggie Smalls. Not the most dignified snack to eat (there were a few mustard spillages) but delicious all the same. 

We enjoyed this years festival the most out of the three so far, mainly due to the quality beer on offer. Previously, we had been to the Saturday afternoon sessions but this year we decided to go on the Friday. If you enjoy your festival a bit less chaotic and enjoy the chance to chat to the volunteers and brewers then this is definitely the time to go. 

IMG_20140905_150639The festival is fast becoming a staple in most peoples diaries, I suggest you add it in to yours. We are already looking forward to Leeds International Beer Festival 2015 and hope the idea of a WEEKEND PASS becomes a reality…!

Simon’s beer of the day: Weird Beard – Little things that Kill Batch 8 (3.5%)

Leanne’s beer of the day: Marble Brewery – Howgate & Kemp (6.4%)

A big thanks must go to the organisers and all the volunteers because without them this festival wouldn’t happen.

Leeds Twissup

So whilst down in ‘that London’ last weekend I bumped into Matt at Camden Brewery and got talking about a Leeds meet up. Leeds is a great place to drink at the moment with a growing number of places serving GREAT beer. It got me thinking….lets have a Twissup.

The date in question is 29th November, destination TBC, probably meet at eiter Tapped or NMBCo from 12.30pm.

Leeds Twissup

Probable Questions:

Why the 29th November, that’s ages away!

I have chosen a date that is around people’s pay dates and is far enough away for everyone to get the cheapest possible train/bus tickets.

12.30pm, that’s a bit early!

People who want to join later can! Making this an all day event makes it more flexible – come and go when you want to.


I have chosen Tapped as it’s quite close to the station and big enough inside for a group. Like the other Tapped Pubs (Pivni, York Tap, Sheffield Tap, Euston Tap) it has a large cask & keg selection for the real ale lover/craft w*nker.

If NMBCo is open by then, we may start there.

We will obviously be making the pilgrimage up to North Bar.

If people have any suggestions as to where they would like to go, let me know. Here are a few potentials:

Friends of Ham should have finished their extension by then.

Bundobust is just round the corner too. Bit of a write up from Leigh on it. Cracking place and potential for easy/cheap eats.

Whitelocks is the oldest pub in Leeds, great for cask.

There are lots of places up by North Bar too. Reliance, The SocialSela Bar, Belgrave Music Hall.

Full itinerary TBC nearer the time

How do I get in contact for more details or if I have any questions?

Twitter – LeedsBeerWolf

Please feel free to invite other beer lovers to this meet up. I look forward to seeing you there!


The Great British Beer Festival 2014

We have been to many beer festivals over the past few years, the largest one being Leeds International Beer Festival. We were therefore VERY excited to be making the trip to London for CAMRA’s 37th Great British Beer Festival which promised a whopping 900+ beers, ciders and perries. The five day event was held at Olympia, Kensington and had a carnival theme. Leanne and I were there for the Saturday session.



After a rather filling breakfast at Balans, we hopped (literally as I am still recovering from my broken ankle) on the overground to Kensington. There were plenty of people about but thanks to the efficient CAMRA volunteers we were straight in, no queue, no hassle. First job was to pick up the programme (which was included in the £10 entry fee) and on to the glasses bar; £3 got me a GBBF branded pint glass and Leanne a cute 1/3rd tulip glass. These were refundable at the end of the day but we decided to keep them as a souvenir.

Join Camra

Olympia Hall is HUGE and the number of bars was slighty overwhelming. We decided to grab a drink from the first bar (named ‘The Lion Tamer’), took a seat to look through the programme and mark off the beers we both really wanted to try. I had a small scan through the beer list prior to the festival and The Lion Tamer had a beer I had already earmarked; B&T‘s Fruit Bat. The tasting notes described this as a fruity, hoppy beer but I was quite disappointed to be honest, it was lacking on both fronts. Leanne went for an ‘old faithful’ from Offbeat Brewery; ‘Way Out Wheat’ which is a hazy wheat beer with typical sweet banana and coriander flavours. 

B&T - Fruit Bat

Once our list of ‘potentials’ was complete we decided to browse round the stands and see what was on offer. If you would expect that going to a beer festival on the final day, a good amount of the beers would be gone…you would be correct. Credit to the volunteers, as soon as a beer was off, best efforts were made to remove it from the list above the bar. This did avoid that endless listing of beers to the server only to find out they only have one beer left. It was however a bit disappointing. 

Back on the hunt, we avoided the ‘obvious’ brewery branded bars (such as Greene King and Bombardier) in an effort to try something new. Starting at Brains Leanne went for the collaboration beer (with Hardknott) Gordian Knott. I follow Hardknott on Twitter and after seeing Dave (the brewer) talk about the brewing process I thought it would be a good’un. It was. I wandered over to the Hogs Back bar enticed by the Collaboration Tawny Ale. This was brewed by Andy Parker, a home brewer who had brewed this with Hogs back especially for festival. This beer was straw like, fruity and hoppy – delicious and very drinkable. 

We wandered round some more, thinking we had seen it all until we noticed another hall, only slightly smaller than the first filled with….more beer! Hoping to find the US bottles and cask bar we found this…….

Empty US Casks

This was SO disappointing. We understand that beers wont last the entire festival but have been to ones before where casks are held back for certain days, or there is a ‘cap’ on certain drinks for each day. After all, we did pay the same price for a ticket and those who were lucky enough to attend earlier in the week so it would have been nice to have the same choice. Regardless, there was still plenty to be drunk elsewhere. 

Drinks were available in pints, halves and thirds. Here are a few of our personal favourites:-


St Austell Brewery – Liquid Sunshine (3.9%): A zesty golden ale with citrus flavours and a bitter sweet finish. 

Sulwath Brewers Ltd – Solway Mist (5.5%): A cloudy wheat beer brewed with Seville orange peel – absolutely gorgeous. 

Grain Brewery – India Pale Ale (bottle – 6.5%): Rich, malty, hoppy with a really great IPA punch. 


Grain Brewery – Blonde Ash (4%): A blonde ash wheat with flavours of bubblegum, orange and coriander

St Austell Brewery – Big Job Double IPA (7.2%): Citra and Centennial hops made this really flavoursome. 


As well as the beer there were plenty of food stalls about – burgers, bratwurst, seafood, curries, pies, pickled eggs and Pipers crisps. Seating was aplenty, however later in the day it did become more difficult to find an empty bench. There was a stage at the top end of the hall which played host to a pub quiz, live music and auction throughout the afternoon. Bournemouth Carnival Band proved very popular. One thing we felt was really lacking was the availability of anywhere to buy a bottle of water. The only place selling water had priced a small bottle at £2.25 – more expensive than most of what we had drunk through the day. Water shouldn’t be priced more than beer. 

All in all the day was fantastic. I think with the boom of the ‘Craft Beer Revolution’ and the ever growing keg variety available in our favourite bars, it is easy to forget what real ale and CAMRA have to offer. Both me and Leanne have fallen guilty to choosing keg over cask thinking that the newest London brewery with their crafty brewing methods has something more to offer then the old favourite. Cask beers can have great flavour too and they don’t have to be 9% and served in a fancy glass. I think the CAMRA festivals are a constant reminder of that. 

Leanne’s beer of the day – St Austell Brewery – Liquid Sunshine (3.9%)

Simon’s beer of the day – Grain Brewery – Blonde Ash (4%)









Otley is a small historic market town, north of Leeds. There are 17 pubs in and around the local area.The majority of these are your typical Yorkshire watering hole serving quality cask ales, however there are the odd few where you can sample a wider range of beers aimed at the craft connoisseur.

On our visit we decided to go to two of our favourites, both a stones throw away from the bus station. We feel that these two pubs represent the best of Otley – one being a traditional real ale pub and the other geared towards serving a wide variety of ever changing world beers.

The Old Cock 

The Old Cock

The Old Cock was opened in 2010 by Lee and Linda, who spent two years restoring the original building. The pub itself has retained many of its original cottage features, with exposed stone walls, wooden beams and large stone fires. The pub is quite small, but they have made use of every corner with seating upstairs and ledges to rest your pint on. You can find a wide range of clientèle in here, both young and old, ranging from dog walkers, ramblers, couples, and individuals grabbing a quiet pint and a paper.

The pub has 9 cask ales, 3 ciders, specialist bottled beers, fine wines and an impressive malt whiskey list. My first beer was Mad Dogs & Englishmen from Irwell Work, this was an export style pale ale at 5.5%. Leanne went for a Hop & Glory from Briscoes, this was a hoppy session beer coming in at 3.9%. Although it was a Sunday afternoon and fairly busy we managed to find a table and decided to stay for another. This time I chose Scotts 1816 from Copper Dragon, this was a full bodied malty pale at 4.1% and went down well. After much debate Leanne plumped for Cherry Picker from Wharfe Bank Brewery, 5%. This was a cherry flavoured stout, but tasted more like a sweet chocolate stout with very mild cherry tones.

For those of you who like a snack with your beer The Old Cock offers crisps, nuts, pies, sandwiches and ‘traditional Yorkshire hot dogs’ – i.e. a succulent butchers sausage in a bun.

Our next port of call was The Curious Hop which opened at the end of 2013 by passionate beer enthusiast, Marcus. This is a speciality beer shop selling a large selection of real ale, craft beers and ciders. It is a must visit whenever we go to Otley. The shop is like a treasure trove of weird and wonderful bottled delights and if you love beer, this place will make you as excited as a kid in a sweet shop. The beers are shelved by region with good selections from Belgium, London, USA, Yorkshire, Italy and Holland. Marcus always looks to bring in new beers from new places and new breweries. Recommendations and suggestions are always welcome, he is more than happy to help and advise if you are struggling to make a choice!

As an example of what is on offer, here is what we went for:-

Calypso Berliner Weisse – Siren Craft Brew

Wallbanger Wit – Pressure Drop

IJ Wit – Brouwerij ‘t IJ

Beautiful & Strange – De Molen & Brewfist (collaboration)

Wyoming Sheep Ranch – Buxton

Bloed, Zweet & Tranen – De Molen

Blonde Ale (Galaxy) – Ben Rhydding

Pale Ale (Citra Simcoe) – Kernel

After pulling ourselves away from the shop we headed round the corner to one of Otley’s newest bars (actually it has just celebrated its first birthday).

North Bar Social 

North Bar Social

Brought to you by North Bar, North Bar Social has a relaxed bier cafe vibe about it. The atmosphere is friendly and unpretentious and the decor is cosy and inviting. It has seating upstairs and downstairs, along with outside tables for when the sun comes out. Bike locks are available for the many cyclists coming through Otley to park their bike while they drink. As well as alcoholic drinks they offer a good amount of non alcoholic beverages, including freshly brewed coffee and teas. There is always a delicious looking homemade cake on the bar.

North Bar Social - Outside

Also on the bar is a great selection of cask and keg, along with a good rotation of bottled beers. There is a suggestion board for any beers or breweries you would like to see on the bar in the future. My first choice was 3712, a collaboration brew between Founders and Abbeydale. The name comes from the distance between Founders in the US and Abbeydale in the UK. This is a double IPA coming in at a modest 7% (!!). It didn’t taste as strong as you may expect, but it was packed with the fruity hoppy flavours synonymous with IPAs. Leanne’s first choice was Simcoe from Great Heck (4.5%). A cask ale with as much flavour as the 3712 but without the high percentage. A great drink for a warm day – we both had more of this later in the afternoon as it was so enjoyable. We both always enjoy beers from Great Heck so decided to go with Treasure IPA, 4.8%. A blonde ale, again on cask, this still tasted great but with a more modest flavour compared to the Simcoe. Both Leanne and I then fancied a ‘Schneider Weisse Break’. We had a Tap 1 (5.2%) for those times where you just want a really good, thirst quenching, refreshing beer. This always hits the mark with juicy bursts of banana and clove. Our final beer was NZPA from Hawkshead Brewery (6%). This was on keg and a perfect drink for the warm afternoon. The hoppy flavours were less ‘in your face’ than they are in the American Pales but this made it much more refreshing and easy to drink.

Great Heck - Treasure IPA

We also got a bite to eat here – a meat board to share. We had cured meat, bread, gherkin, pickled onions, along with an onion chutney. They usually advertise meat and cheese platters, but unfortunately on this occasion they were out of cheese. We enjoyed the meat board regardless.


We paid our tab and headed round the corner to get the bus home with our bag of beer goodies in tow. It wont be long before we are back again and we would recommend you pay a visit too.

Simon’s beer of the day – 3712 (Founders/Abbeydale) keg

Leanne’s beer of the day – Simcoe (Great Heck) cask