Thursday, 15 November 2012



as you may have gathered I'm having a blogging holiday... Also having a jolly good think about how to improve this whole thing and be generally better.

Bear with me - something new will appear here one day... XX

Saturday, 30 June 2012

Now we are 15!!

Righto! So it's the eve of the 15th anniversary of North, we're proud to have been at the forefront of the beer revival for so many years.

North itself is a pretty special place, I've been working here for 5 years, drinking here for about 10 or so. What these walls have seen, doesn't bear repeating but there's not much that hasn't happened in this bar. It's a magnet for drinks lovers and crazy people. Always cutting edge but never self conciously cool, it's about amazing drinks, music, art and people. We have AMAZING STAFF! We also sell pies.

We have commisioned 15 beers to entertain you all, they're all on draught as I write and they are all delicious!

I had a part in brewing 7 of them alongside Christian (director), Kath (my legendary AM) and Jim (SUPERvisor). They are shit hot.

For people who like lists, here's one...
#1 Roosters - NYPA - it's Bramling X Vs Galaxy
#2 Lindeboom - North Pils - Hops turned up, booze turned down.
#3 Brewdog - Everything in its right place - Belgian Pale
#4 Thornbridge - General Sherman - Mega imperial red...
#5 Flying Dog - Kujo - COFFEE STOUT
#6 Odell - Milk Stout
#7 Nøgne Ø - Oak Aged Sunturnbrew - Bonkers
#8 Flying Dog - Farmhouse IPA - Favourite breakfast beer ever!
#9 Mikkeller - Beer Geek Breakfast - 2nd favourite breakfast beer!!
#10 Marble - Little Jim - AGED JIM!!
#11 Cantillon - Gueuze - handpulled sourness.
#12 Sierra Nevada - Solar Storm - meaty IPA
#13 Kernel - Double SCCANS - 25KG of HOPS!
#14 Gaffel Kolsch - From the barrel.
#15 Uerige Alt - From the barrel.
#16 ??? bonus ball...

Way back last year we had this idea and it was with a slight cringe that it was discussed, you see embarking on this sort of endeavour is a little scary due to the fact that just dealing with one brewery at a time can get complicated, geting hold of 15, brewing a bunch of beers with them, then making sure that we have the volume to release 1 a day for 15 days, have them go 1 to 15 down the bar and still have them all on the 16th day for a party... Well that's just fucking bonkers.

We did it though, you all better bloody enjoy it ;)

See you on the 1st of July. xx

Tuesday, 15 May 2012

Collectors corner

Fascinated by collections me, it is a peculiar and in many cases an almost irrational pursuit.

From the age of around 8 I collected all sorts of things: Beermats, stamps (boring), miniature cars, coins, rocks, weird sweet wrappers, miniatures, nicely designed things (!), tickets

I've now thinned it down to beer and stickers. Obviously the beer is pertinent here and what got me on to this is a combination of needing a board to catalogue my collection of beers, thus saving me literally hours sitting in the larder rummaging through crates, trying to decide what to drink and what to keep.

It has also been prompted by a visit to the headquarters of Mr Sukhinder Singh of Speciality drinks and the whisky exchange - who with his brother Raj, is no less than the worlds foremost collector of vintage whisky and indeed many, many, MANY spirits. Alongside the utterly comprehensive selection available to mere mortals I was privileged to bear witness to an astounding collection that lines the walls in the boardroom. 'Blown away' is a trifling understatement.

My general rule for starting a booze collection is to amass enough quality souse so that you couldn't possibly drink it in one go. You then work upwards to you and the people in your house, a small gathering of good friends, a football squad, a bar and then the sort of collection that would kill the aforementioned gatherings if they set about it in the right way. Then you get to what the Singhs have and you just stand, and be mind boggled. 

If you have the time and the incineration you end up setting up a company that specialises in this sort of stuff and you move from being an evangelist to a supplier. In many ways these guys are the unsung heroes of the trade, working behind the scenes, dealing with the labyrinthine mores of customs and excise, and attempting to satisfy the outrageous demands of people like me.
Hats off to the likes of James Clay initially and subsequently Vertical drinks - without these guys Leeds wouldn't be the international hub of great beer that it is, and North would be, heavens forfend... A normal bar.

Ok then this is what's in my cellar, or rather, larder. I'm looking to upgrade to a cellar but at present it is certainly a larder.

I post this picture simply for posterity, it's also somewhat cathartic. I am not a 'ticker' and am quite aware of the nonsense of lording it up and showing off about nicely flavoured liquids. But there's something to be said for having more booze than you can nail in one session in your house.

The likes of untapd and twitter posts without any sort of exclamation or opinion leave me a little cold, it is, to coin a phrase 'willy waving'.

I find bragging and one upmanship pretty silly, even nieve and pointless. But then it is a part of what I do in marketing a place such as North bar. This blog and my job are really just about recommending said nicely flavoured liquids in the hope that other people will see the point and of course that we grow the business and I can attain pleasure through sharing my passion.

I do however as Dr Humphries observes, have a better cellar than most bars. ;)

Wednesday, 9 May 2012

Charts - Oddball beers

Stuff that really doesn't fall in to any category, straddles several or is just weird - but - good.

1. Shorts, Anniversary Ale 09/10 - Blood Orange wheat wine anyone? Tastes a bit like a mad head negroni. Spectacular.

2. Bells Hopslam - Oh my fucking GOD how good is this beer? Well extremely... It makes this list, despite the fact that it's pretty much to style as a Double IPA, because of the welcome addition of honey and the fact that it's so stupidly rare that I have to bribe 'Agent A' to bring the damn stuff over! It's also on the list as it spawned a mind bending after hours drink that eventually made the menu at North. A 'ghetto' hopslam is whatever double IPA you have to hand plus a shot of honey bourbon (we use Evan Williams). Sling em together and melt your brain!! 

3. Dogfishhead, Midas Touch - Never in my life had I experienced a flavour profile like this, and never since. It's all grapey malty softness then musty honey and then it just completely dries out, seconds pass, and then just as you think it's over it comes screaming right back with a shit ton of saffron. Fucking crackers.

4. Struise, Pannepot Gran Reserva - A clusterfuck of a beer! Pannepot is what the 'sturdy brewers' call a fisherman's ale, essentially a quadrupple brewed with spices, Gran reserve is aged in French Oak for 14 months and calvados for 8 months!

5. Three Floyds, Oat Goop - I had one bottle of this about three years ago and it fucking blew my mind. What sort of maniac makes a barley wine out of oats, this sort of maniac.

6. Uinta, Labyrinth - Black ale, liquorice, barrel ageing. Fierce.

7. Marble, Ginger - this was one of the beers I tried in my formative years and the beer that first brought Marble in to the Cross Keys and subsequently Leeds in general. It's not as offbeat as it used to be unfortunately but in terms of spiced ale works a dream. Definitely ale, hot ginger, better than the sum of its parts.

8. Stone, Arrogant Bastard - A brutish, total wanker of a beer, the beer that puts the Cock in Koch.

9. Liefmans Gluhkriek - HOT SPICED CHERRY BEER! Perennial favourite in North, gets the nod in this list by the necessity of serving it warmed in a water bath. Tastes like hot cherry sherbet and is utterly delightful.

10. Evil Twin, Yin & Yang - 2 beers! One GREAT, One good - mix em and get one outstanding Black & Tan

These here charts are just lists of recommendations, things I love, things I think you should try. Ratebeer in my head, ever evolving top o the hops, whatever you like, it's pretty much for posterity but if you wanna pitch in at any time with opinions or your own charts - do!

Sunday, 8 April 2012

What has Belgium ever done for you?

In my never ending onslaught in the search for perfect SEO you could be forgiven for thinking that the title of this post is baiting the likes of the tory unconsciousness and the fool lawmakers in a vain attempt to  criticise the EU.

It is more likely a clarion call or a symptom of my potential approaching curmudgeon-ness that I feel it is important to fly the tricolour of yellow, black and red and remind any naysayers that the produce of Belgium - a country roughly the size of beloved Yorkshire - is worthy of your full appreciation.

Belgian beers have had a surprisingly rough ride in terms of some beer geek opinion in the last few years and quite often in the trade, possibly because the bigger breweries have been enjoying significant commercial success. More likely because the revolution in craft brewing has come from some very bold revivalism and experimentation overseas involving some groundbreaking hop variants.

Many classic and many new generation Belgian beers are just as immediate as the beers hogging the bylines at present, and it's just one of the best ways in to beer appreciation that I know of. The other week I held a Trappist beer dinner with the help of Mr Ben Hodgkinson at the Cross Keys, it was really good fun and I was struck once again by the real big,  booming flavours of the Trappist oeuvre.

The last two weeks have been North's Lowlands festival and once again I've been rediscovering classics and discovering brilliant new beers. Yes the inclusion of some Dutch beers does point towards a lessening of the Belgian influence in the bar but what we stock regularly and during the festival is unrivalled in quality and complexity. Great Belgian bottled beer still holds pride of place in the first fridge and is the biggest selling bottled beer range we have. The likes of StruiseDe La Senne, De Dolle, De Ranke, the Trappists,  produce beers brimming over with brilliant complexity.

There are poor beers of course but there are more classics and Great Beers than you can shake a stick at, they are held in such mighty reverence across the pond too

Of course all of this without even mentioning any lambics whatsoever.

I suppose the point I'm trying to make is that something does not become shit just because something different, flashy and new comes along. The very test of a thing is that is can withstand such avant guard onslaughts and come out smiling and twirling its moustache.

Friday, 30 March 2012

Beer mixology

Oh how blind we were...

North has led the way in the UK in terms of drinks and drinking, one of the first bars (ie. not a pub) in Leeds and one of the first European style bars in the UK, THE first for so very many of the beers that are now becoming much more readily available in the UK.

But for a time we were blinkered, a rather short time which ended around three years ago, but still a good couple of years in to my tenure in management. Somehow we lost a bit of experimentation and broadmindedness that we began with. We turned our noses up at the very mention of cocktails for a time and people may have been occasionally rebuffed if they asked for something that wasn't 'purest beer' or indeed purist beer.

I'll not dwell on it but while it was still ace and loved by many, the place wasn't firing on all cylinders. I've always loved all sorts of drinks but the discovery of good beer had lead me down a pretty brilliant road towards being enough of an evangelist to run North bar. When I got on top of things, with no little help from some of the brilliant staff who've worked there for the five years I've been boss, cocktails started making a comeback, the spirits selection then of course had to improve and now it has become Extremely Good.

Of course this also reflects the confidence of the British cocktail bar industry and a hell of a lot of new and interesting stuff referred to by the moniker 'mixology'.

First of all I really don't like that word, I will have without doubt denigrated it in a drunken tirade, and,  with extreme vigour. It doesn't seem to work as a word and sounds a bit wanky. It does however have an entry in the dictionary.

Mixology is the art or skill of preparing mixed drinks and a mixologist is a person who studies mixology.

So what the hell eh? You only live once.

Mixing drinks is extremely straightforward and in that respect is no different to cooking AND it gets you pissed. We've been rolling out beer cocktails at North for some time now, we kind of expected more resistance and debate but, somewhat disappointingly, everyone just took them to their hearts without question and no-one called us wankers (not a cue). Just shows what a bit of open-mindedness can achieve really.

If you learn more about food & drinks you learn more about flavours, you also achieve extreme joy in the consumption. You learn about the flavours. The different compounds and delightful sensations. Your mind broadens.

You win.

So now I'm a beer mixologist, along with whatever other dubious accolades I hold (I just listed them to my wife)  and indeed the very first Polak/Brit/Knaresborian on the Beermixology site. My first post is the most successful beer cocktail from our current range, Ladies and Gentlemen the Brooklyn Baltic.

Enjoy x

Tuesday, 20 March 2012

Charts - Belgian

I'll post some of my thoughts about Belgian beer appreciation and the UK shortly, thinking about it a lot of course as North's 'Lowlands' festival starts this Thursday.

1. Orval
2. De La Senne - Zinnebir
3. De Struise - Pannepot
4.Westveletern Extra 8
5. 3 Fonteinen - Any Gueuze
6. Chimay Rouge
7. De Dolle - Stout
8. Rocheforte 8
9. Achel Blonde
10. Gouden Caralous