You’ve Got a Friend in Meat

Saturday night was the much awaited opening of Friends of Ham, Leeds’ newest bar and charcuterie adding more meat to the healthy bones of a thriving beer scene.  I received an invite having spoken a little with the owners via social media and having briefly met Claire Kitching when she was out and about sourcing beer.  There were a few bloggers circling the premises on the night and they will give you the full rundown of what you can look forward to if you get to visit.  I left my bloggers hat at home, resting on my notebook and camera…. I was unarmed.  The photo above is the only one I took on the night and is testament to the fact that my attentions were solely on having a night out.   Claire and Anthony (or Kitch as you may know him) have worked tirelessly to transform their new home-from-home into a sleek, inviting and comfortable space.

Along with Head Barman Tyler, Claire and Kitch have put together a very respectable selection of beer and if Saturday is anything to go on, then you’ll never be wanting.  On tap I enjoyed Redchurch Gold, Sierra Nevada Bigfoot and from the fridge Magic Rock High Wire.  I had already been at a brewery and visited a few pubs so had to leave it there.  This time around I missed out on tap-treats from The Kernel, Hawkshead, Huyghe, Magic Rock and Red Willow.

Neil over at Eating isn’t Cheating describes the food on offer much better than I could, but I did enjoy more than my fair share of Iberico Ham.  As I understand it, the food that was on offer was really just a taster and there will be much more in the way of breads and cheeses in the coming weeks.

Their clever strapline is A friend of ham is a friend of ours, and to that I say “A friend of beer is a friend of mine“.   Whether you are planning a trip to Leeds or just passing through, then their location on New Station Street is perfect.  I’ll be back there as often as I can make it, but don’t take my word for it, I recommend you go and see for yourself.

You can follow their updates on Twitter and Facebook.

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Saltaire Brewery Beer Festival 2011

 PictureWhen I bought my ticket for the Saltaire Brewery Beer Festival 2011 (September  16th-17) back in July, I was feeling rather pleased with myself as I usually leave it until the last minute and miss out.  When the Brewery started sending updates about the beers they were sourcing I couldn’t wait for the date to come around.  Just as Saltaire confirmed its lineup, CAMRA released its Good Beer Guide for 2012 with the news that Yorkshire has welcomed an impressive 16 new breweries in the past 12 months, making it the number one region for beer in terms of its choice of real ale and wealth of new and established brewing talent.  You can see all the details of the CAMRA findings in the Yorkshire Post.  Saltaire took full advantage of having an embarrassment of amazing beer right on its doorstep and chose a mouthwatering line-up including Yorkshire’s; Magic Rock, Kirkstall, Old Spot and not forgetting Saltaire Brewery’s six offerings, including Saltaire Blonde, South Island Pale and a couple of new ones in Madagascan Ale (5% Pale) and Bulldog a 4.6% Brown Ale.  South Island Pale being my pick of the bunch.
Other breweries of note and of particular interest to me were Buxton and Hardknott as I have tried and continue to return to their bottled beers time and time again.  And as if all that lot wasn’t enough,  you could also feast on beers from Marble, Liverpool Organic, Captain Cook and Dark Star to name but a few.  I did also find myself drawn to the cider tent, no not for the cider, although the choice matched that of the beer, but for the Sierra NevadaPale Ale and Kolsch.  At times I had to pinch myself, as there I was in Shipley, struggling to decide what I wanted to drink next, knowing that I had my alcohol tolerance working against me.Saltaire outdid themselves on the beer front (28 in total plus 10 craft ciders), but also on the infrastructure which has been born out of their successful monthly Beer Club.  In addition to the marquee, there was also extra seating under heated parasols, which as the weatherman had predicted were much needed and most definitely appreciated – it rained a little bit (ahem!).  Add to all of that the barbecued food on offer and it doesn’t take a beer geek to tell you that it was a very good night indeed.

I’m not sure if there was an official vote for the beer of the festival, but I do know that it was Magic Rock Brewing Co’s Curious a 3.9% Original Pale Ale and the breweries flagship beer which sold out first.  For me, my favourites of the night (from the 10 that I tried) included Magic Rock’s High Wire, Buxton’s Axe Edge and Captain Cook’s Schooner Grenville, although my pick of the festival was Marble Brewery’s Utility,their 5.7% IPA.  For anyone that tried it, no explanation needed here, for anyone wondering, I suggest you hunt it down and see for yourself! delicious!

Excellent work by Saltaire’s team and I’m looking forward to next years festival already!