On the first day of my pub crawl across the north of England, I swing by Northern Monk’s Refectory in Leeds for a funky pilsner, a gentle session pale, and a beer more suited for a croquet lawn than a pub.
Lockdown is over! At least in theory. Wary of our chances of being allowed across international borders, my partner and I took the safer option of booking a week travelling across Yorkshire and the Lake District. For her, this is a chance to see a part of England she’s never had the chance to visit extensively before. For me, this is a pilgrimage.
Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs // Reducer
It’s my first time in Leeds, my first time visiting Northern Monk’s taproom, and, perhaps most importantly of all, my first pint after four hours driving. I probably would have been happy with a lukewarm Kronenbourg. Instead, this golden beauty arrived at the end of our table shining like the pearly gates of heaven.
It’s pale yellow, almost green in colour, slightly hazy with a close, white head. The first whiff of the aroma is blissful: key lime pie and grape juice.
The palate starts grassy and resinous with a peach skin dryness. The mouthfeel is thick, almost oily, far thicker than a pilsner has any right to be. A little biscuit malt hides behind the array of hops, backing up the tenacious bitter finish.
Is this a pilsner? Probably not, honestly. It’s too thick, too resinous, too bitter. But that doesn’t stop it from being a damn fine beer. 4/5
Don’t Mess With Yorkshire
Next I move onto something a little more chilled out. Don’t Mess With Yorkshire (or DMWY, for short) is a pale ale, based on a classic English recipe but with added oats for mouthfeel and US hops for a bit more citrus.
It’s golden and hazy, with an inviting head and excellent lacing. I pick up apple, ginger, and wholemeal bread on the nose. The palate is malt-forward, crackers, followed by juicy tangerine. There’s more of that wholemeal bread flavour, but not so much so that it tastes like a Czech lager. The oats give it a chewier mouthfeel than you’d normally expect: it’s thick enough to satisfy, but not to overwhelm, as the bishop said to the actress.
It’s not as overwhelmingly exciting as the Reducer, but at 4.5% it makes an excellent session beer. As you can see from the delight in my eyes as I’m drinking it. 3/5
Now we’re onto the good stuff.
The enigmatically named OFS006 is, confusingly, the seventh in the Old Flax Store series. With their main brewing operation now in larger premises nearby, the kit at the Refectory is now dedicated to pushing out more experimental brews. Among them is this: a fruited sour, or, as Northern Monk puts it, a Punchy Irresistible Mashup of Marvelous Summer fruits.
It looks gorgeous, like a frothy rose. Red grape skins, strawberries, and orange zest dominate the aroma. It’s like a strawberry soda on the tongue, with some herbaceous, minty notes as it warms and more strawberry on the finish.
Booze soaked strawberries are always the best part of the classic summer cocktail, and this beer is full of them. For me, this is a highly situational beer: I’d happily drink one, and perhaps four or five more out on the tennis court or the croquet lawn, but apart from that glorious week of summer we get every other year in England there’s not many opportunities to drink this. My partner, however, may be on this all night. 2/5