The Leeds International Beer Festival is always one of the highlights of the year and this time around proved the same, with us tasting 30 beers over the course of two highly charged evenings.
I got to the queue very early on Friday, and thus found myself very near the front. In a shock, Wolfie was already on his way in, and joined me some twenty minutes later. Granted, he pushed in line, but there was a bloke in front of us who had pushed in too. Anyway, this meant we were amongst the first to be served and we got a prime spot on one of the scaffolding balconies underneath the main entrance of the Town Hall. Sadly, they had taken all the tables away this year and replaced them with deckchairs, but the weather was warm and it was pleasant sitting outside.
Our first beers were six of the seven from this year's International Rainbow Project, with some definitely being stronger than the others. They were all rare one-time only brews though so it was worth having a sample. After this, we opted to go international, with us trying Sweet Water, the only American brewery of which we hadn't heard there. It was around this time that I noticed the Sierra Nevada guys were doing a tasting of Narwahl, a rare beer we had not had at the brewery, so we popped along for a guzzle. Only a handful knew what this was, and it wasn't that well-advertised, so as Wolfie was playing on one of the retro arcade machines, the chappie came over again to top up our glasses.
We sampled some excellent food across the two days - Piggy Smalls hot dogs and poutine living in the memory - but the burger we had at the end of Friday wasn't the greatest. Wolfie was feeling a little ill by this point and so for the first time ever, we left the Festival early. It was about an hour early but I was pretty pissed off about it, wanting to try a few more brews. In hindsight it was for the best though as Wolfie really was quite sick when we got home. I don't think it was the beer though, rather the lack of food as his work meant he hadn't had chance to eat much before coming out.
With time to kill during the day on Saturday, I managed to get a quick trip to the gym in. We also headed into town slightly early as we needed to pick up an International Driving Permit for a forthcoming holiday. Only Leeds City Centre Post Office issues them apparently, so we had to get it sorted. Here I decided to weight a number of things on their scales - Wolfie's credit card was heavier than their pen - which amused the staff somewhat. Then, with a little time to kill, we headed to BrewDog North Street for a beer. It was a shame that BrewDog weren't at the beer festival and I noted they were at Beavertown's Expo in London, which makes me wonder how committed they now are to local craft beer. It's been a year of disappointments with them really, what with them selling out too, and my love for them has definitely waned.
Back in the queue for the beer festival, we bumped into three charming beer drinkers, all of whom looked like teenagers. They were very knowledgeable though and we had a good half hour of beery discussion as we waited. Towards the end, an old chap walked up saying he was filming a documentary on his phone, and said he had asked all the ladies what real ale is, and he couldn't get an answer from them. Our new friend put him in his place, but he was a bit strange. Anyway, we were soon let in, and decided to focus on UK breweries - although we did have a cheeky Spontan or two from the excellent Mikkeller. We had aimed to have low strengths but every brewery I went to, when I asked them to recommend the rarer beers they had on, always pointed to the higher value ABV ones. There were a number of breweries I had not tried before there - Left Handed Giant, Legitimate Industries, Mondo, Tempest, Elusive and Odyssey - to name them, and it was good experiencing their excellent work. It was quite a chatty affair and I got speaking to a number of their staff, who all claimed how delighted they were to have come. I also got chatting to two gentlemen in the toilets who were talking about Middlesbrough and its environs while having a pee, while our friends at Raynville were there again too and it was great catching up with them. Indeed, the whole evening was rather friendly and it was sad to leave at the end, although probably for the best due to the state of inebriation I was in. It didn't hit me until I got home, but then it was particularly bad. Not good at all.
Today was largely a recovery day, although we did go into Leeds to meet Tonks and Cosmo. They wanted taking through the fursuit walk for next week's meet, while we also took the opportunity to search for new venues too. They were very receptive and we have come up with some very interesting ideas for the future of the meet, so I'm looking forward to what these may hold. We also grabbed a couple of drinks too, ending in Head of Steam as Tonks wanted some Kwak. After this, they headed up to Trinity while we went to new restaurant Georges on the Headrow. Self-styled British cuisine with a twist, this is one of the most exquisite restaurants in the city. We had a cod dog - a battered fish hot dog with mushy pea filling - with stilton chips and by God were they delicious. Heavenly even, and at just £9.99, fantastic value. Their range of balsamic vinegars were to die for too and the whole set-up was first rate. Definitely one to come back to.