It’s astonishing to think that it was only just over 6 years ago that Leeds’ brewing scene was still dominated by Tetley’s. After Carlsberg’s decision to close the site and move brewing elsewhere, it was a tough time for employees, beer consumer support groups and for the city of Leeds itself. Almost 200 years of brewing heritage gone in the blink of an eye.
I look back now and I think that although it was a bad time, what has flourished from that has been quite incredible. Not only is Leeds recognised nationally as a hub for great beer drinking venues, providing a never before seen vast choice of high quality beers, but Leeds has shaken off the loss of Tetley’s and is now a brewing centre for different reasons. At my last count, we have 23 breweries in the Leeds metropolitan area; something I dare say we wouldn’t have if Tetley’s were still here.
A few have had time to build up a strong reputation, such as Leeds Brewery, formed in 2007 and now claiming to be Leeds’ biggest brewery, and Kirkstall Brewery. Some have only recently broken onto the scene and have helped Leeds evolve from good quality traditional cask ales, to align with the growing trend of palate challenging, flavoursome and different beer styles, such as Wilde Child and North Brewing.
During my time on the Leeds CAMRA committee, I had the opportunity to meet some of the great people who are behind the beer produced in Leeds today. What I didn’t realise at the time was that the then Membership Secretary, Katie Marriott, would also go on to join this group. I think at the time, she may not have realised that herself either!
After a brief time away from Leeds, Katie returned to the city and in 2015 joined the brewing team at Whippet, another of Leeds’ new breweries although I believe they have now unfortunately ceased trading. On that brewing team was also Ross Nicholson, who made his name as a brewer of great quality and tasty ales whilst at Ridgeside Brewery.
Fast forward two years, and Katie and Ross have moved on from Whippet and now run their own brewery, Nomadic Beers. Brewing on the kit at the Burley Street Brew House (this is in the cellar below the Fox and Newt on Burley Road), Nomadic have quickly established themselves on the Leeds brewing scene by brewing traditional cask ales but with a modern take, such as their 4.9% Oatmeal Pale (I’m quoted on their website “Tastes like you’re drinking Hob Nobs!”) and more recently the 4.4% Himalaya, a pink grapefruit, pink peppercorn and sea salt Gose, brewed in collaboration with Eyes Brewing. Did Tetley’s ever brew anything like that?
As part of Leeds Beer Week 2017, Nomadic presented a Tap Takeover event at Brunswick on North Street. Holding an event like this on its own just shows how far they have come in a very short space of time. They brought with them 4 great beers.
First up, their Vagabond (rebadged as Brunswick Pale), a collaboration with Brunswick. This is a 4.1% pale brewed with Cascade and Galaxy hops, probably my favourite beer on the night. Up next was the 4.4% Strider, which is a classic English Bitter, followed by the aforementioned Himalaya and finally Renegade a 5.4% American Pale Ale. What stood out was not only the flavours, but also the great quality of the beers, which is testament not only to the brewers, but the cellarmanship at the Brunswick too.
With Katie and Ross, you get no nonsense, straight forward and down to earth. Whilst talking to Ross during the takeover, he said that he often listens to other brewers talking about beer, getting into the detail and the science. But for him, he just “likes to brew”; and that for me really is the key to being a successful brewer. Of course, you need to know what you’re doing, but when you’re passionate about what you do, then that’s the fifth ingredient to brewing beer which can’t be bought (the other four are, of course, water, barley, hops and yeast!).
You can check out Nomadic Beers on Twitter to find out where their beer is being delivered, cask and bottles available.