Leeds Beer, Boozers and Breweries, Reviews and events

Unexpected Renaissance

There’s not many gloomier booze sensations, then opening a beer or sitting in a pub and thinking…what happened here? 

About 8 years ago Mr Foley’s Cask Ale House opened in Leeds, replacing Dr Okell’s, a pub based in the ground floor of the grand Pearl Assurance building on The Headrow and run by Okell’s Brewery of the Isle of Man. This coincided with my increased interest in all things Beer and the Bar and I agreed to form a mutually beneficial partnership. It would open to serve beer, I would visit to drink said beer. 

It worked well. Despite being primarily an outlet for York Brewery, the guest ales were good, the staff were great and knowledgeable and they became one of the first bars in Leeds to have a permanent Punk IPA tap, a rarity back then. I had many great nights, and one memorable stinker. This was the Jewel in the crown on my 30th birthday crawl, and I even saw the ‘Aguerroooo’ moment in the bar with a City fan. 

Then, not long after, things changed. Management left for new challenges, the Leeds scene moved on (Friends of Ham had just opened) and the place didn’t seem the same. Perhaps due to the limitations of the building, there had always been an ‘Aroma’ to the place, and this pissy stale smell was now not outweighed by the Beer selection, which had become unloved and lukewarm. Cellaring now seemed to occur in the disabled toilet at ground level, which seemed sadly, lazily, apt.

Having given the place a wide berth for a couple of years, bar the odd pint when I visited Leeds Town Hall, I’d been encouraged to give it another go by an expanded Beer range noted via twitter and Tony Naylor’s piece on Leeds’ best craft beer pubs.

Always a busy place, last Friday night was no exception, four deep at the bar and all seats taken. Foley’s has a unique layout, with a large back room, a raised seating area to the front, and a Gallery perched over the main bar area. Alongside York Brewery’s cask range, there were at least eight guests on handpump, and six keg fonts, all displaying interesting and varied selections. 

I asked for an Arbor Ales Half-Day IPA and, I’ll admit, didn’t have high expectations with regard to the expected condition of my Pint. As the title of this post suggests however, I was pleasantly surprised. Cellar-cool, pungently hoppy and with a superb neatly sparked head, I was knocked back. Another Pint came quickly, followed by beers from Pilot and Thornbridge. I talked myself out of a Jaipur X or Cannonball, partly because the night was young and I was already a bit giddy, partly because it gives me a further reason to return soon. My only slight criticism was that nearly all of the beer on sale was 5% and above, but I can’t really blame a pub for offering to get me drunk…responsibly. 

Pleased with my visit, I wandered off into the night, happy that a place I fell out of love with was making me want to come back. And I will…


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