There are worse ways of spending a Saturday afternoon than by loading up with culture, especially when it involves both learning some history of your home town and indulging in the odd beer.
After having called at The Yorkshire Square last Thursday to see what was going on, I returned on Saturday to attend two events I had pre-booked.
The first was a talk by Mike Hampshire who knows more about the brewing industry than most and describes himself as a ‘beer evangelist’ a moniker backed up by his enthusiasm for the subject which was amply demonstrated here. It was one in a series entitled Tap Talk which happen every day during the festival at 3.00pm and last for half an hour. There is a different speaker and subject each day and all are free.
Mike reminded us that when the Tetley Brewery closed down, Leeds Brewery became the city’s largest beer producer overnight with an output dwarfed by the erstwhile behemoth. It, and several others have grown substantially since then and Leeds now has 28 independent breweries. He outlined the origins of two of them; Nomadic Beers, with which he has a connection and who generously supplied The Yorkshire Square with stock, and Piglove Brewing Co.
We were given a sample of Nomadic Pale which prompted a lesson in beer tasting from Mike. It is a lot like wine tasting as you look, smell and taste the brew. Unlike wine tasting though, you don’t spit it out, mind you in Yorkshire we don’t spit wine out either – have you seen the price of it!
We were told the story of how Gaffa Kate, the founder of Nomadic, started brewing in the Fox and Newt on Burley Road where she and fellow brewer Ross, had not only to produce the ale but repair and maintain the machinery in order to keep going. No mean feat as it was less than reliable. They must have done something right as they now occupy much bigger premises in Sheepscar. If you go to their website you can not only buy their wares but book a spot at the tap to sample them where they are made. https://www.nomadicbeers.co.uk/
The second Who Do You Think You Are? story concerned Jesus and Marcos who hail from Venezuela and in 2019 set up Piglove Brewing Company as a cuckoo brewery, meaning that they used other people’s premises to produce their craft ales. They now trade from their own brewery in Cross Green. They also have their own outlet called Piglove by the River just up from the Royal Armouries. It is a perfect place to hang out when the weather is fine. The beer we were given from them was OMNIA described as a 4.5 Session IPA. As with the Nomadic it was excellent but a bit on the strong side for this old man to make a session out of it. https://piglove-brewing.myshopify.com/
If you want to hear more from Mike Hampshire about his passion in life, please go to his website https://www.leedsbeertours.co.uk/
After the beers and the talk it was time to do the oddest thing I have ever done in my life – go on a pub crawl to ale houses which have closed down! At least it wouldn’t leave me with a hangover.
This tour was conducted by Ron Kilner who is a Leeds historian with an interest in ale, and a world authority on Kirkgate Market where he gives occasional walking tours. I won’t give too much away about this event as he is doing it again on Saturday 24th as the culmination to Compass Arts Festival at The Yorkshire Square, so I don’t want to spoil it should you choose to go, and why wouldn’t you.
We left the market and ambled into Kirkgate where Rob regaled us with tales of the huge houses and gardens which once were there, notably the site of the old Royal Oak.
A short stroll away, pausing to look at other long gone boozers, some of which I remember, we crossed Vicar Lane where the last vestige of The Golden Cock was pointed out. The good thing about this tour was that there were not too many people on it, as that would have made walking round the city centre team-handed a bit of a nightmare. Being a small group we were also encouraged to share our stories of the places visited. One chap seemed to know of, and drunk in, just about every boozer in town so he was full of tales of yore.
On Briggate we paused outside what was the Bull and Mouth, a coaching inn with stabling for 30 horses. It must have been quite a sight in its heyday, and produced quite an aroma as well!
After turning round and pausing in the Angel Yard, we strolled down The Headrow ending, appropriately at Hugo Boss on Vicar Lane, which is where The Duchess of York used to be, yes, the same Duchess that the pop-up pub in Kirkgate Market is named after.
As you can imagine, the stories of a lot more establishments than these were told and Rob brought them all back to life for those of us who knew them and introduced the younger members of the party to some of them for the first time.
The tour lasted just short of an hour but not all of the time was spent walking and, as the route was on the level, it was easy enough to manage for most.
To see what Rob is up to please go to https://www.workerslunchtime.com/tours and/or https://twitter.com/wkrslunchtime?ref_src=twsrc%5Egoogle%7Ctwcamp%5Eserp%7Ctwgr%5Eauthor
To book any of the remaining events in Compass Arts Festival 2021, all of which are free and run until Saturday, 24th July, go to https://compassliveart.org.uk/event/public-house-the-yorkshire-square/
I would like to finish by saying well done to all of those who have created and volunteered at this, and the other events in Compass Arts Festival 2021, I have enjoyed everything I have been to.
All photographs by Stan Graham.
Feature image shows Katie Etheridge, one half of Small Acts, the other being Simon Persighetti, whose creation The Yorkshire Square is.