North Bar's official 15th birthday celebration this Sunday, and on offer were 15 amazing draft beers either brewed with help from the guys at North or chosen by them as being something a little bit special - as well as a BBQ, DJ and general carnival atmosphere.
It was a really fun event that genuinely felt like a party thanks to the hordes of people who came along; testament to the fondness that this little bar is held in by Leeds folk.
As I already mentioned there were 15 beers on draft, many of which were one off beers brought in especially for the event. One of the advantages of being a front runner on the UK craft beer scene is that North Bar have made a lot of beery friends along the way, and the favours had clearly been pulled in if this line-up was anything to go by.
The problem with such an amazing selection was the old kid in a candy shop syndrome, where you want to try everything, all in one go. My liver certainly wouldn't have thanked me for that though, the beers ranged from around 5% to 11% and the majority were around the 7/8% mark. But in true journalistic fashion I put my body on the line and managed a very respectable 9 - though all were 1/2 or 1/3 pint measures I might add.
What a treat to try Cantillon on cask. This was surprisingly drinkable with a manageable sourness, low bitterness and a really refreshing interplay between sour lemon and a savoury, almost salty, sunflower seed character from the pale malt and yeast.
Thornbridge - General Sherman Imperial Red Ale 8.3% (Keg)
This was a great beer. Probably the most rounded and balanced beer I drank all night. Big, sweet, fruity malt character punctuated by tropical and slightly piney hops. It drank much easier than that abv would suggest.
Flying dog - Wildeman Farmhouse IPA 7.5% (Keg)
Unsurprisingly this reminded me of the very fresh tasting keg of Raging Bitch (Flying Dog's Belgian Style IPA) I had in PIN a few days ago. Big citrusy American hop character on top of a funky, yeasty, grainy base, this was rather like a super hopped saison, and again was very drinkable for it's strength.
Sierra Nevada - Solar Storm 5.8% (Keg)
This tasted really fresh but didn't quite have the punch that some of the other IPAs did. But perhaps that's not a negative; Sierra Nevada make balanced, drinkable beers and this was no different. Sierra Nevada beers never batter you with hops, but they are on the whole hugely satisfying.
This smoked beer is insane. As somebody who loves smoked beers I can safely say this is the best one I've tried. The big abv gives depth and sweetness behind the smoke and phenols, creating a really complex BBQ like flavour. I think it's stunning, but I imagine others would disagree.
The Kernel - Double SSCANS IIPA 10%? (Keg)
The smell of the kernel beer was phenomenal. Mango, grapefruit, passion fruit, tropical fruit salad. The Citra and Nelson Sauvin jump out like a jack in the box from this beer. As I've come to expect from Kernel the taste is unbelievably drinkable, clean, yet very well hopped. It's a hop lovers dream and pretty much faultless.
Odell - Milk stout 5%? (Keg)
This was nice but not really a milk stout by my reckoning. It just didn't have that classic creamy milk stout flavour or sweetness. Hints of coffee, hints of chocolate, nice roasted backbone, but no lactic quality. Fine but not great.
Flying Dog - Kujo Imperial Coffee Stout 8.9% (Keg)
Again this one didn't blow me away but I preferred it to the Odell (though they are vastly different beers). It's a really smooth, drinkable beer that is more like an imperial porter than stout thanks to a lightness of body and good clean bitterness in the finish. The coffee flavour is roasted filter rather than the bitter, fruity espresso I'd expected.
Marble - Aged Little Jim 6.9% (Cask)
Little Jim is a lovely beer and this aged version was just as good, perhaps even better, than I remember it. Smooth, rich, deep and complex. It's classically British yet simultaneously modern and interesting - which is Marble to a T. Worth seeking out.
Many of the beers will still be on in North Bar this week, particularly the stronger ones, so I'd suggest you get down there and try them before they're gone.
North Bar - 15 years on going strong Reviewed by Neil, Eating isn't Cheating on Wednesday, July 04, 2012 Rating: 5