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.

20 Years

It was in July last year that North Bar turned 20. I’ve seen so many pubs and bars come and go, but North is part of a unique group that’s seemingly been a constant part of Leeds’ bar scene.
Founded by Christian Townsley and John Gyngell in 1997, North Bar set out its stall as a pioneer in the beer scene. As the story goes, one of the first, exotic beers they brought to Leeds drinkers was Kronenbourg 1664. Many may likely turn their noses at that now, especially in an era where we are spoilt for choice and style. But in the late 90’s, it was a special rarity.

Fast forward 20 years and the bars’ approach to beer hasn’t changed. The North group is much bigger now, with six additional bars and a rapidly growing brewery too. You can read more about another of the North family of bars, the Cross Keys, here. So, whilst Christian and John are empire building, North Bar has been left under some terrific stewardship, in the hands of Cal Lister.

North Bar

Cal has been in charge of North Bar for the last 2 years, and has built on the successful foundations that were laid all those years ago. You will regularly find the exotic and rare, aged alongside new. Never standing still, North Bar’s beer selection will challenge any palate. And, to help you choose from the vast range of draft and packaged products, the helpful and knowledgeable staff are on hand.

North Bar is an amazing place and, to quote something that was said during a Leeds CAMRA Pub of the Month presentation last year, North Bar isn’t just a pioneer and leader in Leeds, but for the UK as a whole too. A bold statement, but one I fully support.

US Beer Month

February has seen a month-long celebration of US beers in North Bar. They’re old hats at this one, having focused on US brewers in previous years. But, as I said earlier, North Bar never stand still, they always want to move forward, make big bigger, make good better. So, unsurprisingly, this year is bigger and arguably better than ever before.

Half Acre – Daisy Cutter

Oskar Blues? Check! Stone? Check! Sierra Nevada? Check! A who’s who of US brewing royalty with a stellar supporting cast of other breweries.

It’s interesting to see the evolution and popularity of US beers in the UK. It’s almost now become the expected to see US beers on our bars as the norm. What I find telling though, is that each time I’ve spoken with a representative from US breweries recently, they’ve all said the same thing. They all love classic English Bitter. In some cases, even prefer it! Will we see a shift in what is coming to our shores in years to come? Possibly, but it’s going to be some time before the UK gets bored of insane hop bombs or imperial barrel-aged beauties.

Half Acre

Amongst the breweries being celebrated throughout February are Half Acre. Half Acre are a new name for me but an established name in the Chicago brewing scene. Although the most famous Chicago export is Goose Island, in a city of over 9 million people, there’s room for plenty of other breweries.

Half Acre – Navaja

With two brewing premises to their name as well, Half Acre aren’t small themselves. They are half the age of North Bar, but have grown quickly in that time. And, thanks to Cave Direct, Half Acre have hit our bars for the first time.

There were four of their beers on draft in North Bar, and here’s what I thought:

Tuna (4.7%)

The lowest ABV of the range, this is a XPA or Extra Pale Ale. A clear golden beer with aromas of sweet citrus and grass. On the taste was sweet citrus again, smooth and, I thought I could detect mosaic hops on this one – a guaranteed winner with me! Light in body and refreshing, I’d love to try this one on a summer’s day.

Daisy Cutter (5.2%)

Dialling up the ABV slightly and into the India Pale Ale style. Golden in colour again, this was very similar to Tuna, perhaps a little more bitter and without the mosaic hop notes. Although slightly more bitter than Tuna, it was easy on the palate and enjoyable.

Goneaway (6.6%)

I almost missed out on this whilst the staff patiently waited for a free keg line, but it appeared on the bar before I left, hooray! Slightly lighter in colour to the previous two, again this was hop forward, presenting some lovely citrus flavours. Although firmly moving away from the session ABVs, this was again a really easy drinker.

Half Acre – GoneAway

Navaja (10%)

Well, that escalated quickly! And, this is what I would call a dangerous beer. Hops and ABV amped up, I picked up pine and grass aroma and citrus flavours again. Here, the bitterness was also more pronounced and lingered on in the aftertaste. The beer was smooth and left a nice warming feeling. Why do I call it dangerous? A 10% beer should not be as easy to drink as this one!

Quality, Taste and Moving Forwards

Four very hop forward, golden beers. A style that is common for US brewers, but one which they do so well. These beers showcased not only what Half Acre are all about, but North Bar too. Quality, taste and always moving forward. It’ll be exciting to see how North Bar top their US beer month next year, and to see more of Half Acre’s beers in the UK too.

If you’re reading this as the post goes live, its likely some of these beers may still be available in North Bar. They’re well worth checking out! – Mike

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