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

Saturday 10 March 2012

Reprise / Homebrew

So if you don't already know I drunk a bunch of beers over Christmas that I won in a label design competition, they were all home-brews, all brewed by Mr Andy Smith of Redemption brewery (one of my brewers to watch out for in 2012) and pretty much they were all excellent.

I failed in my mission to drink a beer a day by missing the one on the 24th of December. For me the whole thing was to see if a little side blog with built in parameters (a post a day) would be interesting to people, would make me a slightly better writer and would allow me to try a couple of different things that I could use in NBBB. It was difficult to write every day especially among the combination of the Christmas rush at work and the inevitable merry making that goes with it, and I won't be likely to do it again, unless I win another case of 24 different beers of course! 

I got to the last beer yesterday. It was a wassail - a celebratory brew, which was a blend of most of the other beers I'd drunk over the 23 days previously. It was a combination of sourness, porter type flavours, spice, fruit and a multitude of sweeter flavours. It was very good and half a bottle made me feel rather... enhanced. 

I think the point of this whole endeavour for me is that Andy as a professional brewer is churning out some brilliant home brews, some which could be easily bottled and sold on a larger scale if someone could back it up with a bit of cash. That aside the brews were very experimental and well, on paper I was expecting some to be rough, but they were pretty much all delightful. Experimentalism is the key to home brewing for me, I've always found that smaller breweries tend to make more interesting beers and in expansion many breweries can lose some character. 

So the good news for home brewers is that providing you follow some simple rules and don't piss about with the basics you can brew some outstandingly bonkers and delicious beers to share with your mates, enter in competitions or bring to thirsty bar managers to elicit some form of opinion. It's a noble art!

For those who are interested, here's the completed blog... Cheers!

Friday 24 February 2012

Blend is best

This post is prompted by an influx of Southern Tier Gemini in to Leeds - via Beer Ritz of course.

I approached with some trepidation at first...

me: "ooh Gemini..."
Jeff: "hell yeah"
me: "is it fresh though Jeff?
Jeff: "Dunno man, there's no date that's for sure,"
me: "fuck it I can spare £12 on one beer."


Despite the ins and outs of spending quite a sum of money on a single beer (I'm fine with it) it is lucky that it WAS fresh and well... Extremely fucking good. You see I had a bottle last year some time in London and it was really disappointing as it had travelled half the world and then sat in a warehouse Sweden for god knows how long, then ended up as part of a trophy collection in a pub with shit service. Hops totally gone, malt bready, flaccid and boring.

So very glad it is fresh then, not quite as fresh as when I tried it first time around in Brooklyn, on draught, but fresh enough. But fresh isn't todays issue.

I popped back to Reer Ritz and purchased more of this cracking beverage. Hazy orange, heady fruit, greenly herbal, hedgy nose, mouth coating mega complex balance of citric, herbal and bitingly bitter hops and really solid, quite sweet & smooth malt core. The great, great thing about this beer is that it's VERY complex but VERY well balanced. The key? Blending two beers.

Blending in the UK has a bad rep, the initial, and noble history of bar and brewery blended beer starts with Entire gives way to Porter and leads to Stout to a practice undertaken in secret by many breweries in the UK, especially the larger ones. It hit the buffers when scrupulous and unscrupulous landlords started cutting corners and blending slops on the fly to try and increase their margins, usually as a result of monopolistic owners squeezing them very hard. It is also the fault of the terrible Auto Vac.

It seems fairly obvious to me that blending is a good thing, I mean why not? Take some good beers, unique recipes, several ingredients. Then mix them, with other beers, with care which also have several ingredients. Find the best combination. Sell the fucker.

It's a technique employed in the greatest of sour wild beers: Gueuze. A practice used by brewers of Flemish brown ale, fans of Black & Tan, hipsters in Scotland and Denmark (the superlative I Hardcore You) and of course our friends and current inspirations across the pond.

It was quite popular in UK a few generations back but the art has been lost or at least hidden. Look in to some of those winter beers you've been drinking recently, look in to those breweries that only brew four or five beers - there might just be a blend in there. Drink a beer like Gemini or I Hardcore You, Drie Fonteinen or Rodenbach.

We have at present some singularly brilliant beers in the UK, but perhaps we should mix it up some.

Friday 3 February 2012

Beer & Sex pt II


Industry sexism is right up there on the news agenda due to the 'Top totty' saga currently distracting the likes of Jeremy Vine, the BBC and upwards of 22% of the House of Commons.
If it's passed you by then this is pretty much a pumpclip parade post made flesh by the likes of MP Kate Green who complained about serial pumpclip offenders - Slaters brewery's 'Top Totty' pouring in the Strangers bar in the Commons. Not only is it rubbish to drink, it also has an utterly crap pumpclip featuring a playboy bunny girl from the 70's. 

Stupid that it got in to the Strangers bar, although apparently a barman commented that "We haven't had any complaints raised with our bar staff." Clueless eh? Also presumably clueless are our elected representatives who had been quaffing this swill all evening and lunchtime before anyone thought that the breweries chosen method of marketing the beer was so fucking outdated as to miss the point entirely, alienate 50% of the drinking public and firmly entrench Real Ale as a habit for furtive singletons who are 40 years past their prime.

It's stupid that it would get in to any bar, we really should be past this sort of nonsense by now, but still I get 'funny' or 'sexy' beer listings in the post no matter how much I ignore the breweries who send them in - someone is selling this. Beer is not funny or sexy at source, the fact that it can make you funny and probably more likley to have sex is a matter of post consumption.  

It's about time the industry engaged all people on a level which is not smirking behind the bike shed, pre enlightenment twattery. That means not just purile pumpclips but sex based marketing as a whole - focus on the damn product for once or in a short space of time you won't have one.

Sunday 29 January 2012

Charts - Sour Beer

Oh dammit! I knew I'd come a cropper somewhere on this, 'Sour' just covers beers with sourness, beers made with some prescence of wild yeast. So that ranges from Fruit beers all the way to Gueuze and Flemish Red... Here we go, I make no excuses. There is no way this can ever be a complete list - but then that's not exactly the point...

1. Drie Fonteinen - Any Oude gueuze. Consistently just so very, very good. Incredibly complex, insane length, just brilliant I want one now! 
2. New Glarus - Belgian Red. The most cherry beer!
3. Liefmans - Goudenband Drink it, age it, make Carbonnade flamande with it.
4. Drie Fonteinen - Kriek. See above, add cherries.
5. Lindemans - Cuvée René - one of the best places to start for a beginner. Hits every taste bud, sweet, sour, bitter, salty, umami!
6. Leifmans - Frambozen (why did they retire it? FFS!)
8. Cantillon - Iris, fresh hops in Lambic? Equals Lemony delightfullness!
9. Verhaghe - Vichtenaar. Duchesse De Bourgogne's lesser known more quaffable brother.
10. Rodenbach - Barrel Land!

Lambic and sour beer is consistently one of the most surprisingly wonderful and ethereal experiences available to you - the beer drinker. If you don't like it, drink it until you do and then thank me for making you do it.


Monday 23 January 2012

The End...

Well end of 2011 anyway! HA! How's that for SEO? It's well past that too as I wrote this quite some time ago and forgot about it... 1000 apologies.

Yes and what a year it was, and how huge was it for British beer? Well if I were to tell you that currently British bottled beer is pushing out US craft beer and Belgian beer in the fridges of North then perhaps you'd understand. In a beacon of world beer with 15 keg lines and 4 cask lines British cask is still the best selling product by a good measure. Despite the sustained influx of beer from the US, new craft products from Denmark, Norway and well, Scotland (that top bit is almost Scandinavia in my book) as well as sleeping giant Germany starting to experiment with newer styles the renaissance in British brewing is growing, becoming more diverse and very much going from strength to strength.

British cask and bottles are here to stay folks DO NOT underestimate cask beer and slag it off at your fucking peril. The British cask tradition is the heart of our beer scene and pretty unique, when done well it'll knock spots off any serving method - I triple dare anyone to show me an imperial stout that tastes better on keg than in cask.

Don't get me wrong, I've been pretty closed lipped on this subject, perhaps because I serve a hell of a lot of keg beer, perhaps because all the fuff going round last year is just that. It's certainly a distraction if not a complete waste of time to gibber away over format. Just as in North bar, the holy triumvirate of cask, keg and bottle must and will remain.

There's shit out there for sure, and however unfortunate for smaller local brewers a consolidation will doubtless occur soon. With new and interesting powerhouses of British brewing emerging it will become harder to sell dull beer, which to be honest everyone should be happy about. Beer can and should be outstanding and delicious, indifference is not an option.

I strongly suspect that 2012 is likely to be a bit of a new dawn for beer as the press and recognition people in the industry have been madly craving is slowly coming through. Trade publications (yes the ones with wine and cocktails in) have been gradually increasing their coverage and savvy entrepreneurs are cutting swaths through the traditional image of the beer drinker and leaving old stereotypes by the wayside.

It's a great time to be in the industry and what with some big plans for North's 15th anniversary this year as well as the mega coup that is getting the EBBC in Leeds - it's gonna be fun!

Wednesday 4 January 2012

Mephistopheles - Partizan's Advent


Alright so I'm writing this on the 3rd of Jan. So, reader, you can surmise that the partizan's advent was a little bit of a failure in terms of being able to write every day. But it was very much an experiment and I've likely learned a lot. What that lot is, however, I will have to think on some.

So, if you will let me transport you back to the dark days of December, back, back... Way back to the 17th... When I had a total god fucker of a hangover. You know one of those when you wake up knowing you've done something severe but aren't quite sure what. All you have is a terrible feeling of guilt, broken nails and a bastard behind the eyes. 

Yes at that point there was no way I was drinking a 17.5% turbo yeast beer. Nuh uh, not me! So I blobbed and just went to work and felt like a twat all evening. 

But now. 

Rejuvenated by a whole 5 days off in two weeks I'm ready to wrestle the demon. Not even the nagging cold I developed (on Christmas fucking eve!) is going to stop me now. Actually, like the cask strength malt I was drinking last night I'm hoping that this will actually get rid of the cold and fortify me ready for a shit arse January. We'll see.

I've tried this beer before, but never on its own - just when it's popped up in a session when Andy has been in the bar that's how we roll over here:). It's a bruiser for sure but fuck the alcohol, especially as I can't really taste that much alcohol except that warmth in the chest that we got in the Milou. Very pleasant. My immediate impression of this is sherry - Pedro Ximenez to be prescise. It doesn't have the thickness of PX but many of the nutty, fruity and slightly bitter characteristics. 

There's a touch of smoke and vanilla that works a treat and with the sherry-ness this beer, more than any other, is the one that you could peg as a barley wine. It's as good as any beer I've tried of this strength, and there are few so there's some more praise to pile on the praise pile for the Partizans advent calendar. 

Perhaps I should take heart from yr man Goethe 

Hail him, who keeps a steadfast mind!
Thou, else, dost well the devil-nature wear:
Naught so insipid in the world I find
As is a devil in despair.