Pub/Bar of the Month
North Bar, Leeds, UK
North Bar is a pioneer.
When it opened in 1997, the idea of a specialist beer venue was barely heard of in the UK, but this little bar in Leeds city centre proved that the concept really could work.
Today it is just one of a number of venues in the north of England under the same management.
North Bar stands at the top of Briggate, one of the city’s main shopping streets. Leave the pedestrianised area and cross the road but then keep your eyes peeled. It’s very easy to stroll on past the narrow and unassuming frontage.
Inside is a functional but comfortable beer lover’s hideaway. There is plenty of exposed wood – in both the block flooring and the slatted décor – but everything has been nicely roughed-up and worn down with time to give a knocked-about effect that is enhanced by stark, bare light bulbs.
Well-Stocked with Beers
As well as plenty of tables that allow customers to sit and sup, read a paper or simply watch the world go by, there are a few stools around the red-painted bar which is so well-stocked with beers that you really need the chalk blackboards to help you decide which of the five handpumped cask ales or 14 keg beers to choose.
The cask offerings may come from the likes of Thornbridge, Kirkstall or Ridgeside breweries, while the keg fonts dispense anything from Magic Rock Cannonball to Liefmans Kriek, via American craft ales such as Oskar Blues Dale’s Pale Ale and Stone Ruination.
Beers from North’s own brewery, which opened in 2015, are also available.
If the draught choices, for some reason, are not sufficient then there are also well-stocked fridges featuring the Belgian classics, other European treats such as Schneider Weisse or beers from Nøgne Ø, and ales from sought-after British breweries like The Kernel.
Wood panels directly opposite the counter provide a roll call of the world’s great beer names and many of these, it is likely, will have been sold here.
The bar is a long-time Orval Ambassador, too, which means it is accredited by the Trappist monks for its knowledge of their beer and how it should be served.
Food is kept simple and unobtrusive, focused on toasties, pork pies and cheeseboards, and, apart from the light rock music filtering out of the speakers, the only electronic entertainment is provided by a photo booth at the back where you can gurn at the camera after a few beers and have your strip of pictures pinned to the wall.
The whole enterprise seems effortlessly simple and elementary, but is no doubt built on hard work and a clever insight into what the discerning beer drinker wants from a bar. Twenty years on, North Bar is still hitting the spot.
North Bar, 24 New Briggate, Northern Quarter, Leeds, West Yorkshire LS1 6NU.
Tel. (0113) 242 4540
Opening Hours: 11–2am Wednesday–Saturday; 11–1am Monday and Tuesday; 12–midnight Sunday