Great Beer in Bradford

So, here we are in the middle of Tryanuary 2018. I’m pleased to say, after a fairly slow start (I thought a few days off the beer after a beer a day in December, was probably a good idea) I’ve now embraced the campaign and I’m looking forward to some special events I’ve got to come. In this week’s post, I wanted to write about two fantastic bars, new to me, that I went to as part of the Bradford and Leeds Tryanuary pub crawl.

Before I get on to the bars, I just wanted to extend a huge thanks to Si, Gareth and Mark who not only arranged this crawl, but are the champions for the Leeds area for Tryanuary 2018. These three are great ambassadors for beer and the crawl was a real success. Thanks guys!

The places I wanted to write about are the ones where we started the crawl, in Bradford. Conveniently located a few minutes’ walk away from Bradford Forster Square train station, these two bars are a small but very important part of Bradford’s recent beer renaissance, and are widely regarded as stand out bars, not just in Bradford, but beyond. I give you the Sparrow Bier Café  and The Record Café.

Sparrow Bier Café

Just as the modern beer movement started to gain momentum, the Sparrow popped up early on the scene in Bradford. Opening in 2011, the Sparrow has established itself at the heart of Bradford beer.

When you get to the Sparrow, you’d be forgiven for thinking you’ve arrived at a café bar in mainland Europe. Outside is a small seating area with tables, although a bit too cold to take advantage of this on our visit. As you cross the threshold, small café style tables and chairs greet you, with a wooden floor in a small but comfortable place. Or it seems small, if you explore further there’s a larger seating area downstairs.

Pump clips and beer!

As we all piled to the bar, we were warmly received by owner Les, who didn’t seem flustered at being alone and having to serve a sudden large group all wanting beer.

In keeping with its café bar theme, the bar is lined with a variety of keg and cask beers. From traditional bitters to fruit sours, the choice was excellent. Additionally, this is complimented by a variety of boxed ciders and bottle and cans of beer in the fridges. If it’s not alcohol you’re after, no problem, as soft drinks and hot beverages are an option. Hungry? Then pie and peas are readily available.

Across some of the walls and on the ceiling beams, pump clips have been used to decorate what could have been left as a bland space. This is a common sight in pubs and bars across the country. It’s such an easy way to draw interest for customers. To this day, I still never tire searching the walls for pump clips of beers that I’ve had. And, I still get the tingle of delight when I see the pump clip of a beer that I love. Thornbridge’s ‘Jaipur’ was spotted on one of the ceiling beams.

A little bit of Europe in Bradford

I had chance to sample a couple of beers here. In the spirit of Tryanuary, it was two beers I’d never had before either. First up, on cask, ‘Pitch Porter’ by Rossendale Brewery. Not only was the beer new to me, but the brewery too. Rossendale are based at the Griffin Inn at Haslingden, Rossendale across the Pennines in Lancashire. As you’d expect from the porter style, this was smooth with the roast malt flavours coming through. Coffee, with a light bitter finish.

The second beer could not have been more different. A light fruity sour session ale – ‘Lady Muck’ by Northern Whisper Brewing. Another new beer and brewery – also in Rossendale, just 2 miles away from Rossendale Brewery.

The Sparrow Bier Café is a superb little bar and I really enjoyed my visit. After finishing these two beers off, the pub crawlers wandered a few yards across the road to the next venue.

The Record Café

The Record Cafe

I am a massive Untappd geek. So, although I was looking forward to my visit to the Record Café based on word of mouth and reviews, I must confess I was also excited at the prospect of getting an exclusive venue badge by checking in a beer here. Happy to get the badge, of course, I was equally pleased that the Record Café is much more than just somewhere for the Untappd badge collectors.

The Record Café is a ground floor bar and charcuterie, with a vinyl record store upstairs. When you walk in this place, you immediately feel that this is a cool bar. Where the Sparrow feels like a traditional European Café, the Record Cafe is more modern approach to beer drinking. Traditional keg fonts are replaced with a wall of keg taps on the back of the bar, for example.

Beware what lurks in these bars

Similar to the Sparrow, walls and beams are decorated with pump clips. Here, the Record Café has gone to town, with pump clips seemingly fitted wherever possible – although still with order and not feeling cluttered. The detail on the record theme for the bar is also quite clever. From the traditional wall prints of musicians to the vinyl used as the shade on each of the light’s hanging from the ceiling.

As mentioned, the Record Café also does food. Although I didn’t try any, the meat cuts for the charcuterie looked superb and I think if I was staying a little longer, then I would have tried some.

Another pump clip extravaganza

More importantly for me, the beer selection and quality is excellent. The first beer I tried here was the ‘Plum Porter’ by Milestone Brewery in Newark. This was an unusual beer. It was nice, but dominated by the yeast flavour, I thought, which almost made it seem like a Belgian ale than a fruit porter. Second was a more local beer, ‘Phantom IPA’ by Ghost Brewing. Ghost are based in Baildon and have built a local reputation on brewing good quality and flavoursome beers. ‘Phantom’ is no different.

Award winning

I must admit, it was tough to leave the Record and Sparrow to head back to Leeds for the rest of the Tryanuary crawl. I left feeling I’d only scratched the surface of each bar.

Can’t Wait to Re-Visit

Unsurprisingly, I’m quite keen to head back and re-visit these two places. Although my trip was short, they have both made a lasting impression and given me the desire to return. Don’t just take my word for how great these bars are. Both of them are local CAMRA award winners, testament to what they’ve brought to the Bradford beer scene.

When you live and drink somewhere like Leeds, it is easy to stick with what you know, because it’s so good. However, the Record Café and Sparrow Bier Café are more than good enough to make me want to explore Bradford even more.

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2 thoughts on “Great Beer in Bradford”

  1. If you like Jaipur, the Peacock bar just up the street from the Sparrow has it on permanently. And some some great Indian snack food too! Both the Sparrow and Record are always top notch, and a couple of the other North Parade pubs are worth a visit!

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