Who would have believed traditional old Harrogate would shortly be welcoming Leeds’ leading ‘craft beer’ bar The North Bar to its traditional-looking streets?
But that’s what is happening in late January, its owners confirmed earlier in the week.
In this feature we talk to one local bar and one local microbrewery about what they do and how and why they think things have changed so much for beer drinkers.
And they have changed. Twenty-five years ago a visit to the pub mostly involved a simple choice - fizzy mass produced lager or lifeless mass produced bitter.
Only the heroic Campaign for Real Ale which campaigned for unpasteurised cask ale stood against the times.
Mocked for their trainspotter ways and reputed love of Morris dancing, CAMRA got a lot of press but its influence in an era of domination by the big brewers was limited.
How things have changed.
The current craft beer revolution taking place across North Yorkshire and beyond is one which unites the bearded hipster and the average man and, indeed, woman, who simply enjoys nice beer.The more recent wave of new craft beer bars such as Major Tom’s Social in Harrogate are simply their funkier, younger brothers.
Inspired partly by a long-term in the USA (the Americans always do it first) there’s been an explosion in Harrogate and district of new craft beer bars in kegs, rather than casks, from micro-breweries.
Locally-brewed beers of individual character can be enjoyed in bars such as the Harrogate Tap, Major Tom's Social and Ten Devonshire Place in Harrogate and the Half Moon in Knaresborough.To judge how much things have changed all that’s necessary is to look to Harrogate’s Old Bell Tavern near the Crown Hotel and Valley Gardens.
When it first opened in Harrogate in 1999, it was something of a trail-blazer.
Now it’s approach has almost become the norm.
Even the popular but far from radical Fat Badger on Harrogate’s Cold Bath Road offers a larger number of tasty craft beers from round the UK and the world than pub-goers would ever have got in the 1980s.
These new, tastier beers often come with quirky names reflecting the character and enthusisam of the small independents who've made them - Baby-Faced Assassin, Dazed & Confused, Monkey Wrench.
Quality doesn’t come cheap in this era of pale ales, zesty blondes and dark porters.
Many of these micro-brewery beers sell at an average of £3.50 a pint or more at the bar.
But it's a price the public seem happy to swallow.
Local microbrewery profile
The Roosters Brewing Co
Wetherby Road, Knaresborough
Tom Fozard, commercial manager said: Rooster’s was founded in the early 1990’s by Sean Franklin who set about brewing a new breed of pale ales, using new hops varieties he imported from the USA, with the emphasis on flavour and aroma. This followed on from his time studying wine-making in Bordeaux in the 70’s and remains Roosters continued focus to this day, despite the brewery having changed hands in 2011. Roosters is now owned and operated by Ian, Tom and Oliver Fozard, following Sean’s retirement. But the brewery’s ethos remains the same, although other styles of beer have been added to the repertoire in recent times. Jasmine Green Tea IPA anyone?
“There are plenty of quality pubs in the Harrogate area that stock a range of Rooster’s beers, with The Harrogate Tap, Old Bell tavern, Coach & Horses, Major Tom’s Social, Blues Bar, Swan on the Stray and 10 Devonshire Place to name just a few. Rooster’s small pack beers (bottles and cans) can be found on the shelves of shops in Harrogate and Knaresborough. Yankee remains the Rooster’s flagship beer in pubs.
“The Harrogate and North Yorkshire scene is incredibly vibrant today, with a few new bars having opened up in the last couple of years. We’re particularly looking forward to the new North Bar that’s set to open in Harrogate next year, which will make a great addition to the local beer scene.
“There’s no doubt that without small brewer’s duty relief being introduced in 2002 the market would look a lot different to what it does today. But I think that social media and creative thinking by breweries which aren’t shackled by their accounts department has contributed massively to the recent success of beer.“
Craft beer bar profile
The Harrogate Tap
Harrogate Railway Station, Station Parade, Harrogate.
The Harrogate Tap's general manager Andy Spencer said:
"We opened on December 18, 2013, so we are fast approaching our second birthday.
"Our parent company is Pivovar, who also have Pivni, Sheffield Tap, York Tap, Euston Tap, Tapped Leeds and the most recent addition is The Pavement Vaults; a smokehouse/BBQ restaurant that opened on the weekend in York.
"Jamie Hawksworth and Jon Holdsworth are the two guys who own our entire business, whilst we also have a brewery (Tapped Brew Co, mainly operating out of Sheffield Tap) and a distribution warehouse that serves our pubs and external clients.
"Our general policy on beer has been to stock a range of fantastic beers from around the world in the bottle fridges, whilst focusing on the UK and supporting local breweries (Roosters, Harrogate, Bad Co to name a few) on our cask offering.
"Keg will often feature a mixture of the two, with some UK beers accompanied by Belgian/US.
"In terms of range, we consciously strive to ensure our draft lines cover ABV from low to high and also styles of beer eg pales, best bitter, dark etc."
"I think the bar scene in Harrogate has improved immensely over the past couple of years, courtesy of ourselves and Major Tom's opening, whilst it looks set to get even better next year with the addition of North Bar and another new pub rumoured in Harrogate, too."
"In my opinion to the boom of microbreweries is down to people producing interesting, high quality beers and the pubs offering a broad range of different styles/breweries to keep the customers coming back in."