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Leeds International Beer Festival

Leeds International Beer Festival 2016

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I love Leeds. The people, the city, the bars.

And despite some stiff competition, Leeds International Beer Festival was my 2015 ‘Beer Festival of the Year’ too.

Naturally I couldn’t wait to return this year. So much so that I booked two sessions instead of one.

Just like last year it was another warm and bright September day. Yorkshire was looking beautiful in the sunshine as I crossed the Pennines.

As was the stunning 160 year old Leeds town hall, a unique setting for a beer festival.

Leeds Town Hall Outside Leeds Beer Fest

Besides the venue and beer selection one of the things that really impressed me about Leeds Beer Fest was the organisation. Staff exchange tickets for wristbands in the queue, before the official opening time. That way as soon as the gates opened we could just walk straight through.

Outside Leeds Beer Fest Outside Leeds Beer Fest

I like that the breweries bring their own branding too. It makes them stand out way more than they do at other festivals.

The selection was as good as ever. With most of the top UK breweries represented and a handful from around the world too. Including Scandinavian bars downstairs and a New Zealand Collective outside.

After grabbing some tokens (simply priced at £1 per token) we took a seat on the town hall steps. Where we enjoyed several beers from the nearby Fourpure and New Zealand bars.

Beer Fourpure Juicebox Party Fourpure

Before venturing inside to admire the grand decor and giant organ.

Inside

And of course explore the dark corridors and Victorian jail cells downstairs.

Basement

The ‘European Hall’ is also downstairs; home of the silent disco, trees and many of my favourite beers.

europeanhall European Hall

The Mikkeller bar and Tall Boys Beer Market were where I spent most of my time. Drinking several beers from some of my favourite breweries: Omnipollo, To Øl and of course, Mikkeller.

European Hall European Hall - Mikkeller Bar European Hall - Lervig Bar European Hall - Tall Boys Bar

Although the brewery list was great, many seemed to only be pouring their core range. Whereas at events like CBC or even Indy Man they go to the effort of bringing new, special or rarer beers.

There was one big exception; Beavertown launched their new IPA ‘Lupuloid’ on the Saturday.

Beavertown Beavertown Lupuloid Beavertown Lupuloid

Unfortunately, it didn’t really live up to the hype.

I mean, it was fine. Very drinkable in fact. But it just didn’t excite me much. I think when you’ve waited five years to release your first proper IPA it should be better.

I’ve had it from can a couple of times since and slightly prefer it but still think it should be better. I’d just rather drink Gamma Ray.

Beavertown Lupuloid
Beavertown Lupuloid

There were loads of beers I did enjoy though. Across the two days there were 31 in total according to Untappd.

Most good with some very good and a few exceptional.

Beer

My Top 5 Beers At Leeds International Beer Festival 2016

Omnipollo – Esperanto

Omnipollo are famous for their crazier beers these days but they’re definitely not all about gimmicks. They already brew one of the best DIPAs and probably the best oatmeal pale in the world. Now they’ve added a sensible but excellent saison to their repertoire.

Esperanto is light and fruity with tons of funky brett character and a well balanced hop profile.

To Øl – Kaffe Og Røg

A beer apparently inspired by the ‘dimly lit and smoke filled coffee cafes of Copenhagen’.

It makes sense really given it’s a smoked coffee sort of stout.

That’s the best description I can come up with as I’ve never tasted anything like it before. It’s smooth, sweet, chocolatey, nutty and full of coffee and smoke. It’s unusual but really works for me. I had no clue it was 9% ether.

It was so good it was the only beer I had twice at the festival. And I was very happy to see a bottle of it turn up in my Mikkeller Beer Club box.

Yeastie Boys – Rex Attitude

Speaking of unusual. There are few more unique beers than Rex Attitude.

Officially an IPA but you’d never guess from the flavour profile. There’s some fruitiness but really it’s all about the peaty smoke flavours.

It’s apparently made with 100% heavy peated malt. We’re talking Islay whisky levels of peat here. It’s intense.

I loved this beer but I can understand why people wouldn’t. Definitely stay away from it if you don’t like heavily peated whisky.

Mikkeller – Spontannelson

I’m a huge fan of Mikkeller and their Spontan series. And I’m a big fan of Nelson Sauvin hops. So it’s no surprise I loved this beer.

It’s sour, dry and grassy, woody and oaky in equal measure.

8 Wired Brewing Co. – Fresh HopWired I.P.A.

A ‘wet hopped’ version of their classic HopWired IPA. Fresh Motueka and Nelson Sauvin hops are added within one hour of being harvested.

It gives a really fresh floral aroma and a big juicy fruity flavour. There’s a subtle bitterness but it fades really quickly.

Beer

Another area Leeds Beer Fest excels is the food. Outside is full of fantastic street food vendors. Selling everything from gourmet hot dogs, burgers and pizzas to Indian street food. And even cheeseboards.

Bundobust Piggie Smalls

I ate a variety, starting with meat from ‘Crackerjack BBQ’ aka UK BBQ champion Andy Annat.

Both the ‘Wild Boar Burger’ and ‘Meat Platter’ – essentially a box stuffed full of smoked beef, pork and chicken – were good.

Crackerjack BBQ - Wild Boar Burger Crackerjack BBQ - Meat Platter

Followed by spicy Nduja wood fired pizza from ‘Scream For Pizza’.

I had the same pizza last year and it was good but this years was even better. Stunning base, just the right amount of tomato and cheese, spicy nduja sausage and perfectly cooked.

Scream For Pizza - Nduja Like It
Nduja Like It

One thing that was missing from the stalls was a dessert option. Instead we settled for bao buns from Dim Sum Su.

Pillowy soft steamed buns filled with a variety of meat or vegetables and topped with spring onions and toasted peanuts.

We had ‘fried duck’, ‘pork belly’ and ‘aubergine & tofu’. They were all good but the pork belly was the star of the show.

Dim Sum Su Dim Sum Su BAO Dim Sum Su BAO

I had another amazing time at Leeds Beer Fest and I’m so glad I decided to go both days.

The only real negative was running out of the pretty stem glasses by my second session (Saturday afternoon). Meaning I was stuck with this ugly pint glass instead.

Besides that and the breweries maybe not bringing as many exciting beers as they could it was almost perfect. It’s a great venue, good value and so well organised.

I can’t say Leeds International Beer Festival will be my favourite of 2016, that accolade is almost certainly going to CBC. But it is one of the best UK festivals, it certainly gives Indy Man a run for its money yet is much cheaper and far less hyped.

Date of visit: 09.09.2016 & 10.09.2016

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Agree? Disagree? Let me know!