News & views | Friends of Ham and where else to drink good beer in Leeds

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Friends of Ham and where else to drink good beer in Leeds

One of the bonuses of judging the BBC Food and Farming awards this week was a night in Leeds and the chance to take in the brilliantly named beer & charcuterie bar Friends of Ham which I’d been dying to visit since Jay Rayner reviewed it last year.

It didn’t disappoint. It’s a small cosy bar with a slightly larger restaurant downstairs where you can drink an amazing selection of craft beers and tuck into some top quality meats and cheeses. What’s nice about the place is that the food isn’t all Italian (though there is lardo - sadly sold out) but also a Yorkshire platter including salami made by another Leeds craft bar, The Reliance. Leeds is that cool!

It reminded me of a place I went to in St Petersburg about 15 years ago called Idiot Café - a couple of the punters were even playing chess. I drank a pretty good Tyne Bank dark brown ale from Newcastle (though less good with the salumi) and a gloriously hoppy 02/01 golden ale from Brew by Numbers yet another London brewery I haven’t heard of. It’s hard to keep up these days.

Prior to that, we - and by we I mean me, my co-judge Charles Campion and Leeds-based blogger Chris Smith of Northern Writes who had generously shared his local knowledge - had kicked off at Tapped Leeds, a huge modern brewpub just a few paces from FOH (both usefully just 5 minutes from the station).

I really enjoyed their Bramling, a 4.2% Golden Ale and Charles’ incredibly full-flavoured 2.7% Brodie’s Session IPA, less so their very banana-y Miami Weisse. They also do some cracking little pizzas which are on a 2 for 1 offer on a Monday or Tuesday night, making a brilliant bar snack for just £4.

We also looked in at Leeds Brewery’s The Brewery Tap on the basis that it was just round the corner but were less impressed (a strong smell of chips and a rather dull red ale). Stick to the other two or try the others Chris recommended: North Bar which started the city's craft beer revolution, The Reliance, Brewdog and Crowd of Favours (that too is owned by Leeds Brewery but sounds rather more fun.)

As a footnote I was struck when checking the beers we drank on sites like Ratebeer and Untappd how much geekier beer drinkers are than wine drinkers. There’s a ‘tick ‘em off’ mentality about trying everything you can lay your hands on that doesn’t seem to apply to wine - maybe why it’s failing to connect with Generation Y? Food for thought, anyway . . .

Do you have any favourite pubs or beer bars in Leeds I haven't covered?

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Comments: 2 (Add)

Fiona Beckett on March 13 2014 at 20:47

Funnily enough I don't mind that. Don't think bars necessarily need natural light. Evening place rather than lunchtime though I guess

Paul on March 13 2014 at 19:00

Well the place is just too small upstairs and the downstairs has no natural light and is like eating in a dungeon, so regardless of what they selling it puts me off. Great idea but needs better premises...

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