We go for a pint with festival directors Richard & Matt to talk this years events, venues, and Leeds' recent "transitional moment"
The Leeds beer scene in 2017 is more exciting and innovative than ever, and with the second Leeds Beer Week approaching (25th August - 3rd September), we went for a couple of thirds with festival directors Matt Gorecki (Beer Press, Zapato Brewery, IndyMan, HopCity) and Richard Brownhill (Little Leeds Beerhouse, HopCity) at Northern Monk Refectory, where they’re currently brewing their Leeds Beer Week IPA.
Beer Week involves a range of venues across Leeds coming together and putting on great events across one week, and came about from the desire for events with a focus on the venues; giving whoever wants to get involved a platform to communicate their particular niche of the beer community.
“There’s a lot of great singular events in Leeds, they're brilliant and we're really lucky as a city but we wanted to do something more about giving the love back to the venues and making a platform for people to improve their day to day business through beer and supporting the local scene as a whole”. Rich tells us.
“This year we’ve got some fantastic events: Bundobust are doing a Belgian style beer week featuring a new collaboration with Redchurch, a Brasserie de la Senne takeover with modern plays on traditional styles, and a Cantillon showcase, which is a Belgian heritage style. They are also mashing up their food specials with Belgian flavours.
I’m also excited about North Bar, who are also sticking on the Belgian vibe with a Black Damnation tasting. It’s this incredible Belgian beer which generally you don’t see anywhere other than De Struise brewery and the best bars in Belgium. Belgian beer is kind of the gateway, there’s so many variations of flavour and a lot of them are very subtle and there’s some real classics in there. For the likes of me and Matt, our entire beer career is built on those beers. These kind of events really set us apart as a Beer Week.”
Much of LBW is also focused on the aspect of food going hand in hand with beer. “Wild Beer have always done exciting stuff, and Ox Club just keeps getting better and better, so the two together for their pairing event is going to be absolutely killer. They’re both really inventive and push the boundaries a bit which I can appreciate.”
Offers and discounts across venues are available by flashing the branded LBW bottle opener keyring, with £1 from each one going to their partner charity Simon on the Streets. “Friends of Ham are doing discounts on their takeaway stuff which makes for a nice idea if you’re heading over to Ilkley and want some train beers...”
Speaking of which, this year they’ve stretched further from the City centre, reaching out to Headingley, Kirkstall, Chapel Allerton and Ilkley on top of their central “hub” venues.
“When we look at our hub venues, they fall into place quite easily because you’ve got Turks Head being right slap bang in the centre of town, everyone knows Whitelocks, Headrow House has got insane footfall and a really extensive range, North Bar whilst a little more niche has a really broad outlook and Northern Monk are reaching out to so many people”
“The main aim of the game is to just widen out the reach of the beer scene in Leeds and start pulling more people in. It’s essentially a platform for people to have an excuse to do something different, it gives them an opportunity to be creative, and as a result they might find that they make new connections or learn certain ways of doing things that helps their business.”
An opportunity for Matt and Richard to be creative has come in the form of two official beers, a juicy session IPA brewed with Kirkstall using loads of citra for a big aroma hit and an IPA brewed with Northern Monk using fresh Loral hops, a fairly new ‘hop of the moment’. “It will be interesting to see how the Loral works in the IPA, but the hops smell phenomenal, like bergamot and lemons”. The plan is to have one of each in every venue so it’s as widely available as possible.
“With Leeds, we’ve always had the venues - you’ve got historic pubs, cool venues and the likes of North Bar who were always pushing forward and staying miles ahead of everyone else, so you get that hospitality vibe in Leeds.” Matt tells us. “Recently though, we’ve had this transitional moment with brewing; Northern Monk firing on all cylinders, North Brewing Co on the up too, Ridgeside killing it, winning competitions, and it’s amazing!
“You’re seeing things coming on, and it’s not a result of Beer Week, but Beer Week gives a snapshot of Leeds right now. We're miles ahead of where we were a year ago, and next year it’s going to be even bigger!”
Seeing how far Leeds Beer Week itself has come along from last year is really encouraging and Rich and Matt and the team have clearly worked hard in pushing it along whilst taking advantage of the incredible growth of Leeds’ beer scene.
Some highlights from @hopcityleeds last month... We're off to @mbcc2017 this week and then the #LBW17 preparation ramps up! 👍🏼🍺🎯
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“We’re going to do a little party for everyone in the form of Leeds Beer Week Awards at Northern Monk's rejuvenated refectory so it will be nice to have everyone in one place, do some awards and say a few thank you’s. We want to do something positive, and I think that’s the long and the short of it really”
“The aim over 3 years is to make it into an event which is actually going to bring people into the country and bring people into Leeds and have that sort of touch point. The US are great at doing it, their Beer Week’s are insanely good across like, 150 venues, with ridiculous events and the wealth of brewers that they have over there is amazing. Over here we can kind of do it as a mix, we can get people over from the US, the Continent, New Zealand, so Year 3 is about making it an International event that people are really travel for. No pressure really!”
Leeds Beer Week guides are currently available across participating venues and a full listings and maps will be published shortly. Visit leedsbeerweek.co.uk for more information.