The first thing that caught my eye when I walked into the venue was not the beer, but the art. I got chatting to a man painting an installment, which he described as a ‘horror comic’ of Canal Mills. He is a resident artist at the Assembly House Studios and is part of a sub-project that deliberately does not have any internet presence or publicity - a bit of retro concept. The group especially likes working in conjunction with music and might create a piece of artwork from the beginning to the end of a band’s set at a music festival.
It is safe to say that my friend and I were most likely the only 19 year olds there, or at least the only first year students. This could have been because it was still the day-light hours of a weekend. Even so, the setting and the décor made me feel as if it were already evening. The collection of breweries and individual wine bars gave the market a sense of sophistication. Low lighting and trendy street art added to the atmosphere. And a ping pong table. A favourite of mine was a mannequin in a wizard’s cloak which I managed to get a selfie with. From the remote venue to the subterranean ambiance, everything about this festival, was hip, relaxed, and very Leeds.
Rather than choosing a beer lover to bring to a brewery festival, I decided to bring a celiac, so I was alone in my beer sampling. I tried a few of the local brews including two types of ale from the Fourpure Brewing Company. My first was ‘Beartooth’: I was tempted by the promise of “notes of toast and coffee”. I’m no beer expert but to me it tasted a bit like a fizzy Guinness, which is no bad thing. I then tried their IPA which was had much sweeter, fruitier tones (mango grapefruit and pine apparently). I didn’t get a chance to try anything else but was intrigued by the flavours Wylam Brewery had to offer and by Liverpool Craft Beer Expo’s display. I’m a wine lover, and if I had been up for mixing drinks I would have sampled something on offer from the friendly bartender at the Latitude Wine and Liquor Merchant stall.
We very much enjoyed the food. I had a mushroom pizza from Pizza Fella and my celiac friend sampled the onion bhaji plate from Manji’s Kitchen. The appetising meal set off a conversation with some tipsy beer drinkers, one of them asking for a cheeky taste. My friend was not best pleased. The Grub & Grog Shop had a cosier, less street food vibe than the other food stalls. It offered crumpets and ping pong, which is a combination new to me. This was alongside a colourful display of toasters and an assortment of comfy sofas to lounge on.
Speaking as a Southerner, the Northern stereotype was on full display, in the very warm and welcoming atmosphere. It was hard to sit for long without striking up a conversation with someone. The alcohol probably helped.
The event was obviously popular, raking in large numbers for a windy weekend afternoon. For my first beer festival I was impressed, but next time I will aim to drink more beer.