Category Archives: Leeds

The Pack Horse, Hyde Park

The Pack Horse pub in the Hyde Park area of Leeds is a historic place. A former Tetley pub with heritage accreditation. Recently, the pub has come under new management and I visited the new team to learn more.

Otley Run

My own history with the Pack Horse is quite light in content. Most visits have been part of the (in)famous Otley Run; a pub crawl that stretches from far Headingley to Leeds City Centre. The route passes lots of pubs and by the time you get to the Pack Horse, things tend to be a little hazy.

Of more significance to me personally, the Pack Horse was the first pub I hosted a branch meeting after I became Leeds CAMRA Chairman.

For others, it’s well-known for being a band venue and has often hosted local musicians.

In recent years, in my opinion, the Pack Horse has seen better days. Fine for a visit on a lengthy pub crawl, but not necessarily my first choice of pub.

Outside the Pack Horse pub in Hyde Park, Leeds
Outside the Pack Horse, Hyde Park

For me, the bleak corridor that greeted you as you entered, the lean beer selection, worn carpets and poorly kept toilet facilities, were characteristic of an old pub needing some tender loving care.

In late 2018, the pub (owned by Heineken’s Star Pubs & Bars) came under new management –Jay Teague and Pete Alessi.

Custodians

“I said ‘bloody hell it’s big!’” mused Jay, when I asked him what his thoughts were when he and Pete first visited the pub. “Jay loved it” added Pete, “straight away he said, ‘that’s it, we’re getting this.’”

Jay is a veteran of the pub game, having spent three and a half years previously at the Brewery Tap in Idle. There’s beer industry blood in the family too; Jay’s sister runs the George in Idle, plus he has a cousin at the Telegraph in Bridlington.

 “We were overwhelmed by the welcome” said Pete. “At first, we thought it would be difficult to win people over; it would take time to prove ourselves”.

Pete’s concern wasn’t about the people who frequent the pub, but more about whether he and Jay would be worthy custodians of this historic place.

He and Jay spent some time sprucing up the Pack Horse before opening it up to the public again. A deep clean, a lick of paint and the bleak corridor is no more.

Beer

These aren’t the only improvements either. Jay openly shared that the reason the beer selection was lean. It was due to one of the seven cask hand pulls being nothing more than cosmetic, and of the other six, most of them weren’t working.

The Bar at the Pack Horse, Hyde Park
The bar at the Pack Horse, Hyde Park

“I’ve taken out the hand pull that wasn’t connected and the other six are working now” said Jay. “We’ve started being able to get different beers in and I can now do a ‘beer of the week’!”

Jay’s beer of the week is his own personal recommendation. Plus, on occasion, he has offered a small discount for anyone ordering the beer, in the accent of the brewery’s location. It was fun hearing the attempted Cornish accents when people wanted 10p off of their pint of St Austell’s Proper Job!

Each beer I’ve had recently in the Pack Horse has been well cared for and tasty; Jay is a very good cellarman.

Caretaker

It isn’t all about the beer either, Pete is a fan of Botanicals and has his own ‘Gin of the Week’.

Amongst Pete’s former jobs are teaching, and marketing for Team Great Britain Paralympics. So, what’s life like in his first landlord job?

“No-one told me a Landlord was also a caretaker!” laughed Pete, who can often be seen doing DIY jobs around the pub when you visit. “It also pains me to say it, but Jay is a very good teacher!”

Landlord Pete Alessi stood on the bar doing some DIY
Landlord/Caretaker Pete on DIY duty

One of the lessons perhaps taught by Jay; Pete is meticulous in the detail and can often be spotted shining up the glasses for his beloved gin.

It’s the care and attention to detail that is something Jay and Pete also want to bestow on the team supporting them; Helena, Jack, Ryan, Megan and Martin. “We’re keen to invest time in our staff” adds Pete.

Refurbishment

All being well, although Jay and Pete have spruced the place up, the Pack Horse will be getting a refurbishment from Heineken, starting in June 2019.

Plans have already been submitted to Leeds City Council. The intention is to sympathetically restore the pub. Keeping a strong link to its heritage but modernising it.

“It should take 4-6 weeks, once we have planning approval,” Jay told me. “The good news is, though, that the stage is staying upstairs, so we can keep having bands on”.

Jay is passionate about music and the plan is for him to focus on this side of the business, once Pete is fully confident with running the bar himself.

Before the refurb, though, there is lots planned to bring people in. “We’re trying to be ambitious with what we’re doing here” said Jay. “We will have bands before the refurb, with a focus on Leeds-based artists who play jazz, country, folk; not just rock.”

“From January, we’ll also be running a weekly quiz, with different themes like Family Fortunes, Rock and Roll Bingo and Play Your Cards Right.”

Pete Alessi discussing his love of gin
Pete discusses his love of gin

There are also plans for Jay to host a tutored rum tasting, and Pete a tutored gin tasting.

Change for the Better

Things have changed at the Pack Horse, and for the better. Although some bits still look a little tired, it’s something only a refurb will fix.

After visiting the pub a few times since Jay and Pete’s takeover, I sent them both an email. These words sum up exactly how I now feel about the pub:

“I’m really impressed with how quickly you’ve transformed the experience of the Pack Horse. The place is clean, bright and you both add high levels of service and friendliness that has made the Pack Horse somewhere I want to spend time”.

You can find the Pack Horse in the Hyde Park area of Leeds. It’s regularly served by bus from Leeds City Centre and is also walkable, if you don’t mind going uphill.

The Pack Horse also has a Facebook page, which is kept up-to-date with information.

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North Brewing Co. Tap

After a break from blogging to focus on the launch of my new business venture, this week I return with a post about North Brewing’s latest addition to the rapidly growing family. Plus, a reminder as to how good some of their existing bars are too!

Rapidly Growing Family

It’s hard to believe that North Brewing celebrated their 2nd birthday just a few weeks ago. Such has been their rapid rise to prominence in the Leeds beer scene, it feels like they’ve been around much longer.

In fairness, although North Brewing is a relative youngster on the Leeds scene, the North family has been around much longer. Arguably Leeds’ leading craft beer bar, North Bar, first appeared  in 1997. Setting it’s stall out as a pioneer and continuing to so over 20 years later.

A busy soft open night

After years of focusing on North Bar, the family showed its first signs of growth after the millennium. This has quickly gathered pace in recent years. Along with North Bar itself, the Cross Keys remains one of my all-time favourite Leeds pubs. The North family now boasts eight pubs/bars and a fast-growing brewery.

Recently, I was invited along to the soft opening of the latest addition to that family, their Leeds City Centre-based North Brewing Tap Room.

Bright, New and Comfortable

The new venue is located south of Leeds City station, in amongst some of the city’s largest law firms and a new build area in Leeds.

The first impressions of the new bar is, it’s a great take on what you would now expect from a modern craft beer bar. A minimalist, straight forward design. The size of the venue is modest. However, a high ceiling, large windows and bright lighting give it an open, airy feel.

There are high stools and high tables placed in the centre of the room and some additional seating also by the windows. However, rather than the high school science class feeling you get from a lot of other bars with high stools and tables, these are bright, new and comfortable.

Light tubes and ductwork

Up in the ceiling, exposed duct work is visible, adding an industrial vibe. The lighting comes from groups of three lowered light tubes. Each group is angled slightly different and I thought it worked really well with the rest of the design of the bar, including the logo.

Although it’s not the season for sitting outside, there is a generous space reserved with outdoor seating. I suspect this will become one of Leeds’ most popular outdoor drinking spaces in the summer!

Because the size of the venue is quite modest, rest room facilities are at a bit of a premium, with two communal toilets and one disabled access toilet. There might be a queue on the busier evenings.

Snap!

Also, as you enter the bar, look up by the fridges to your left. See if you can spot the hidden door and winch that is used to lift deliveries to the upper floor. Or on this night, a fantastic vantage point for some promotional photos!

Plenty of North Brewing Beers

On to the beer! The bar and fridges are dominated by North Brewing products. The bar features an impressive 24 taps, with all except a few pouring North Brewing and guest beers. Alongside the beers, you can also grab draft wine and cocktails.

Should you find yourself here and not tried North Brewing beers before, then you can’t go wrong with the core beers. ‘Pinata’, ‘Transmission’ and one of my go-to beers ‘Sputnik’.

One important thing to mention is that this bar is cashless – i.e. card payments only. I believe this is the first of its kind in Leeds City Centre, but if not, it’s certainly an early pioneer of this (the pioneering approach of North Bar continues!).

Little Bao Boy in residence

It’s not all about the beers. The tap room actually opens from first thing in the morning for your coffee fix too. Coffee is provided by Dark Woods, based just down the road in Huddersfield.

If you find yourself needing some food, then Little Bao Boy have set up residence here. You may recall that they were on hand at my Festival of Brewers event in June this year. Super tasty and must-try!

This is a great new addition to an already crowded pub and bar scene in Leeds. It’s really testament to the city’s appetite for craft beer that places like this can open and immediately attract crowds. I believe that the North Brew Tap Room will be a great success; plugging a small beer gap in the local area with quality products in a great environment. Give it a go!

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A Samuel Smith’s Session

In Leeds, the number of Samuel Smith pubs rivals that of JD Wetherspoon pubs in the area. However, whilst it feels like you are constantly stumbling across Wetherspoon pubs, the Samuel Smith ones aren’t so obvious. I’ve recently spent time visiting Samuel Smith pubs in and around Leeds City Centre and I wanted to share my thoughts on these unique places.

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Anthology Brewing Company

Another day, another new brewery in Leeds! Anthology Brewing Company becomes the latest new brewery on the scene, as Leeds continues to demonstrate it’s a hot bed for craft brewers and craft drinkers. Recently, I had the opportunity to visit the new brewery and catch up with Owner and Head Brewer, Liam Kane.

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Tetley’s Brewing Returns to Leeds

Mention Tetley’s Brewery  to people in Leeds, and for some it’s quite an emotional topic to raise. I’ve seen a look of sadness and betrayal on some faces, anger and defiance on others. All this still felt, 7 years after the brewery closed it’s Leeds operation. But, something new and exciting is happening, which may help to put away those ghosts of the past.

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Call Lane Crawl

Call Lane in Leeds is one of the City’s most well-known nightlife hot spots. And, whilst you might assume this means loud music and cheap mass-produced drinks, you don’t have to try too hard to find some great bars, serving great beers. A few weeks ago, with my Leeds CAMRA friends in tow, we visited four of Call Lane’s craft beer bars. This is the Call Lane Crawl for the beer lover!

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North Bar & Half Acre Beer Company

Celebrating 20 years, North Bar has been, and still is, one of Leeds’ pioneering craft beer bars. Surviving two decades of continuous change in the beer world, North Bar has come through it all. In keeping with its reputation, throughout February, North has been celebrating beers from across the Atlantic, the USA. I found myself in North Bar in late February, as they welcomed Half Acre Beer Company from Chicago.

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Cardigan Arms, Kirkstall

Steeped in history, the Cardigan Arms has been evidenced to exist back in 1798, but is thought to be older than that. This would make it one of Leeds’ oldest still trading public houses, although a few decades younger than Whitelocks and a mere toddler compared to the claimed grand old age of the Bingley Arms in Bardsey, which it is said dates to before 1000 AD.

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Gathering a Head of Steam with Wilde Child

Last year, I had the privilege of meeting Keir McAllister-Wilde. Introduced by a mutual friend, it was an exciting time as it was one more brewery to add to Leeds’ growing list and an opportunity to meet another brewer.

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Quenching a Wandering Thirst with Nomadic Beers

It’s astonishing to think that it was only just over 6 years ago that Leeds’ brewing scene was still dominated by Tetley’s. After Carlsberg’s decision to close the site and move brewing elsewhere, it was a tough time for employees, beer consumer support groups and for the city of Leeds itself. Almost 200 years of brewing heritage gone in the blink of an eye.

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