30 Years (2012) – Leeds International

Looking back at the guide for the inaugural Leeds International Beer Festival (LIBF) fills me with envy. Granted there were fewer breweries in attendance than recent times, but looking at some of the names they had pouring at the time they were pretty significant; Kernel (pouring 12 beers!), Magic Rock, Thornbridge Sierra Nevada, Flying Dog and Anchor Brewing. In what were still early days for the UK’s craft beer scene, this must’ve been an exciting line-up.

Its allure and appeal doesn’t seem to have waned either since its inception having attended this year’s event. After an absence in 2020 (cheers, Covid) LIBF was back with a bang with the usual buzz and excitement circulating both inside and out of Leeds town hall. With some nerves and trepidation regarding crowds, these soon dissipated once the usual festival vibes started flowing. Oh, and the beer of course…

One thing that must be stated for 2021’s festival was the absence of an American or International presence (again; cheers, Covid) with a focus on all things UK. Whilst some may criticise, I think it’s important that we give our homegrown talent some time to shine and appreciate what they have been through these past 18 months or so. Likewise, the logistics of organising something like the Maine Beer Box of 2018 would be nigh on impossible in the current climate! Not a job I’d want to take on that’s for sure.

But, on the flip side, there was no shortage of choice for attendees with all the local powerhouses present mixed in with local brewers of note and those from further afield too. With pop-up bars from the likes of Whitelock’s, brewers who couldn’t attend could at least showcase their beers albeit remotely again expanding the range available. Beers of note for me were the Kirsch Russell and Jackie Flan soft serve hybrid from Brew York, Everybody Walk the Dinosaur from Neon Raptor and Street Jazz from Polly’s. One thing that I always fail to do at festivals is keep an accurate log of what I’ve had, I try not to be glued to my phone all the time…

Seeing the striking ‘Leeds Beer’ sign illuminated from the columns of the town hall once again gave me that warm feeling inside. Not only is the festival a pre-birthday do for me, it’s also a time to meet people from the wider beer community from Instagram and Twitter etc. Particularly after such a lengthy absence, this year was always going to be special. Hopefully, it’s the start of a return to normality for all involved.

The most endearing thing I find about LIBF, though, is how it affirms Leeds’ prowess and importance in the craft beer world. Drinkers from all corners of the UK look on in adoration and jealousy of those that live in or near Leeds, wishing they lived closer to such a wide breadth of pubs, bars and breweries. Fringe events support Leeds International across its four day showcase, again confirming its reputation and importance to the wider craft beer community.

The beer community has been all the poorer with a lack of festivals in recent times, and it’s great to see people taking the first tentative steps in an attempt to reach some sort of normality. Assuming there will be no restrictions moving into 2022, it will be hoped that Leeds International can celebrate its tenth birthday in style. What will be in store? Who knows, and with the town hall set for major renovation work that will last into 2022, will a new venue be on the cards? Either way, as soon as tickets are available, I will be booking my session well in advance…

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