Having a Friday off work is always a good thing. Even more so when the ulterior motive is to go drink beer all afternoon, which is what I did on Friday the 7th; there was no way I was missing Leeds Beer Festival. In its 7th year, the reputation for Leeds Beer Festival preceded it and I was expecting a lot. Considering they had the Maine Beer Box at the event, showcasing the finest beers from the US, I was excited. US style beers are one of my favourite at the moment and it was going to be a hard task keeping me away and getting me to visit the other brewers.
But get round to them (most of them) I did, and what was billed as an excellent afternoon out lived up to expectations. Housed at the Town Hall in Leeds town centre, the festival was a lot bigger than you may first think. The outside areas housed stands under tepees and in their own huts, whilst the hall itself was home to brewers on two floors including those downstairs in the old cells and cellars. It was quite easy to get lost initially, but once you found your bearings and understood the layout and who was where, you were set for the day.
The afternoon that we attended was nice albeit a little windy so we opted to spend most of our time undercover or inside where we could. First on the hit list upon opening was always going to be the Maine Beer Box where we hung around for the first hour or two before moving on. Armed with a pocket-full of tokens we were ready for a long afternoon session. To ensure that I was able to sample as much as I could, I opted for thirds or halves (asking for thirds mainly, given you usually got more!). When most of the ones I was going for were over 5%, it was a good job I was going for smaller measures.
When people have had a drink, they usually need two other things; food and entertainment. Thankfully you could easily find both with food stands from Bundobust, Parm Star and Doner Summer (to name a few) in attendance, you weren’t far away from an excellent array of food. Being a carbohydrate addict, once I had spotted Doner Summer were offering hash browns, I wasn’t going anywhere and they were superb! For entertainment, we found ourselves spending more time than we probably should have done in the retro gaming area mainly hammering away at Track & Field. Inevitably we had varying degrees of success but I managed to end 2nd on the overall rankings and Ana smashed two world records whilst we were there, not bad considering we were half-baked at the time…
During the evening sessions there were also live music acts on so I think most bases had been covered to ensure that the atmosphere was lively and people entertained throughout. What I will say is that the atmosphere was very relaxed, as you may well expect, but enough of a security presence around to make the event feel safe and secure. Everyone from the breweries involved were spot on and happy to chat with you and talk about the different beers they had on. Given we were at the earlier, and probably quieter session, they may have had more time than at others but we stood and chatted to a fair few people whilst we were there. I’ll talk to anyone at the best of times, but if they’re talking about beer then even more so!
For me the afternoon couldn’t have been long enough and were I able to, I would have bought another ticket and stayed for the evening session and maybe even for Saturday or Sunday! I’m not sure that my liver or bank balance would have coped had I have done but I was happy with what I tried over the course of the afternoon. The standouts for me were 200 Empire State Buildings by Verdant, Canopy Tour by Burgeon Beer Company and Storm Surge IPA by Rock Harbor Pub & Brewery. For anyone that had any spare tokens, the guys from Raynville were in attendance for you to spend up your last pennies and, if any were left, sample some excellent onion bhajis!
Much like my trip to North Bar for the Verdant event, it’s great to see Leeds is full of life and passion when it comes to craft beer and hosting such great events. It’ll be a long old wait until next years festival, but I’m sure there will be plenty more events heading our way over the next twelve months to see us through.
I had taken a lot of pictures during the festival but someone thought it a wise idea to upgrade their phone upon leaving the festival so all pictures were sadly lost as they hadn’t been backed up. I apologise for the large wall of text!