It’s exciting enough to have a new brewery just a hop, skip and a jump away from the city centre in Holbeck, but Northern Monk isn’t just a brewery, they have much more in store for us with the Refectory.
Whether it’s craft beer or real ale, Leeds loves it. So the addition of a new brewery in Holbeck has been eagerly awaited, to say the least. But now that wait is over, as Northern Monk have set to work brewing their exceptional beers on the premises. They’re not just making beer though, they’re serving it, in their new taproom – The Refectory.
Northern Monk Brew Co. isn’t exactly new. They’ve been brewing for a while, bringing out their first beer, a 6.2% IPA at The Sparrow (the Bradford sister to our Bundobust) in July 2013. They’ve been collaborating with breweries across the North to create some mighty fine pints, giving us the Smoked Porter with Saltaire Brewery, the Crafty Monk with Hopcraft, Enlightenment with Atom and De Mönch with Blackjack Beers.
But their brand spanking new brewery, which has taken a little longer in its inception than initially hoped (they did choose a Grade II listed building, after all), will enable Northern Monk Brew Co. to go it alone, creating thousands of litres of beer on site.
Brother Russell Bisset told us a little about their methods. “We take the best of the international brewing scene, we take some of our influence from the grassroots approach to the use of ingredients of breweries in the US, and we combine that with the tradition, and history, and heritage of the brewing industry in the UK. And we’ve thrown in a bit of ‘je ne sais quoi’ of monastic brewing that has gone on for thousands and thousands of years. That’s the way we approach things, we take all the best of the global brewing, both past and present, and take it into the future really.”
As you can imagine, that kind of approach leads to a huge variety of beers, and indeed, there’s a lot of diversity to Northern Monk’s range. “We have a really wide selection of beers, so we have everything from an Imperial Stout at 9% to lower APV traditional session pale ales at 3.7% on cask.” Bisset told us, “We do Belgian style beers, we do American style beers, our focus is really on beer styles with British roots and heritage, which the majority of beer styles originate from anyway.”
The Tap Room
Leeds has many a brewery, and while we happily reap the rewards of their labour, Northern Monk have something a little bit special to offer. You see, they’re opening up the brewery for all to see with the Refectory Tap Room.
“You’re able to come down to the place of production and see elements of the production process whilst you’re drinking,” Bisset explained. And this isn’t a small scale endeavour, they’re going to be producing a vast amount of beer here, so you’ll get a real glimpse of a commercial scale brewery.
But it’s not just the brewery that we’re intrigued by. These old, graded buildings have always intrigued us, and this one in particular is pretty special. It’s the only publicly accessible mill in the city, so as well as the brewing process, you’ll get a look at a building that was pivotal in the industrial revolution – and that’s something the ‘Brothers’ at Northern Monk are actively encouraging, by showcasing artefacts from the building’s past and telling its story.
But enough about the history and the heritage – what are you going to be drinking at the Refectory Tap Room? Well, of course, they’ll be plenty of Northern Monk Brews, with at least ten of them available at any one time – but why stop there?
The Refectory is going to be a celebration of the North. They’ve got twenty draught lines and the ten that are left will be dedicated to the North’s fine brewing talent. As well as the beer, there will be a host of British delights, with Yorkshire gin, vodka and even single malt whiskies.
Then there’s the food. Brought to us by Grub and Grog, the menu covers breakfast, lunch and dinner in their distinctly creative style. Start the day with braised beans or eggs and cured trout on sourdough or have something deliciously healthy, like the bircher muesli soaked in fruit juice with your choice of toppings.
For lunch, you’ve got gourmet sandwiches, like the veggie-friendly beetroot, tamarind, mint and chickpeas – or there are stews and salads. Then dinner gets better still with squid, black bean & fennel stew or the goat cured leek & almond tart.
It seems that Northern Monk has something very interesting to offer – and not just because they’ve opened up the most accessible brewery and tap room in the UK. See you there?
Northern Monk Brewery & The Refectory Tap Room, The Old Flax Store, Holbeck Urban Village, LS11 9YJ.