Leeds Shuffledog is Brewdog’s latest bar, it’s also Leeds’ latest addition, but probably not for very long on both fronts, so I went along to have a look. First thoughts? Impressed. Will it sustain? My verdict is this is a worthy addition to the already outstanding beer scene in our fine city and I reckon it will be around for a long time to come. It’s got to be, they’ve signed a twenty five year lease!
As you walk in the first thing that strikes you is how light, airy and open the main bar is, surrounded on three sides by floor to ceiling windows on the ground floor of Crispin House, a converted factory consisting of eighty plus, loft style apartments. Those of you who have been in Leeds for more than two minutes will remember it as H W Poole’s bootmakers and even older residents, as Heaton’s garment makers. Either way it sits at the apex of this grand building on NewYork Road, in the up and coming Northern quarter of the rapidly expanding Leeds City centre scene.
Inside it’s a variant of the standard Brewdog post modernist fit out with it’s recycled gymnasium type floor and graffiti art. Although they are always slightly different, I always think I’ve wandered into the Crystal maze – Industrial zone, when I walk into a Brewdog. There’s seating all round the windows in various guises and a big open space around the sizeable bar. Daniel, one of the managers explained that they might look at putting some more furniture in. It could possibly do with it because at 4.30pm on a Sunday afternoon we got the last two seats and the punters were all sitting down, rather than standing up throwing it down their neck, style people
In terms of beer this is something a bit different for both Brewdog and for Leeds. Firstly there are thirty five draught beers on. I know the term might be a bit hackneyed, but think Craft beer. So what’s different there, apart from the huge range? Well, there’s no cask, no hand pulled ales, just keg. There’s no bottles either, just keg and a massive neon sign saying, ‘Craft Beer Spoken Here’. Too right it is, a comprehensive selection of the Brewdog standards, which is something the original Leeds Brewdog never seemed to have. ‘What do you mean they haven’t got Dead Pony on … again?’
On top of this there were familiar local names like Rooster’s and Ilkley, through Cloudwater to Stone, Firestone and Mikkeller and lots more esoteric ones in-between. I’ve never seen five Cloudwater ales on in one place before. My first drink in Shuffledog was an IPA from this excellent Manchester brewer – I really, really like their beers. Chris served it up for me and then started suggesting what else I might like, pushing tasters under my nose. ‘Try this, you’ll definitely like this one, it’s a Braggott.’ I tried it, I liked Siren Craft Brew Uncle Zester, a blend of mead and barley malt; sour, almost balsamic vinegary, sherbert, passion fruit and … erm … Green Giant sweetcorn niblets, to balance it all out. Wonderful, so good we went back, after touring town, for another one, even at £3.50 for a third, it is 8.5% though. Overall I thought the prices were reasonable, a bit dearer than normal, but I guess you get what you pay for and I paid £5 for a half of a decent Mikkeller brew in another excellent city centre bar that same afternoon.
The next divergence from your standard Brewdog is the food. At the minute they are doing the usual cheesey/meaty platter type stuff. Billy, one of the crew, said the food range was going to be extended soon and a more comprehensive selection of vittles will be offered. I had a look in the sparkling kitchen behind the bar, a chef was taking stock of things and it looked suspiciously like a full kitchen to me, with two big griddle plates. It’s the biggest kitchen to date in any of the Brewdog bars. Billy told me that even the staff don’t know what the menu is going to be yet, but it’s coming and it looked to me, like it would be pretty soon.
Okay Rich, so what else is different? The name; Shuffledog not Brewdog. Pretend you’re following Richard O’Brien down the stairs into the sizeable air conditioned basement (you will have to at some point, the bogs are down there) where he will offer you games of skill, tests of brainpower and even some mystery games. You could start off with venerable board games, graduate to classic arcade games or even one of three Pinball machines. You could of course miss all these out and start with the highlight, the mighty Shuffleboards which dominate the basement. Forty grands worth of highly polished precision finished wooden decks on tables. I’ve never seen anything like them before, apparently it’s quite big in America. Best described as a table top cross between bowling and curling. The idea being to precisely slide the heavy metal pucks along the deck to score points at the other end. The only problem being the other end is twenty two feet away and the pucks just fly over the microscopic silicon beads which cover the playing surface.
I played a few ends with Joe, another friendly Shuffledog crew member. He said he wasn’t an expert and hadn’t played until last week! Verdict, it’s tricky, but addictive. Mrs C could beat me hands down. There’s always a crew member in the basement to supervise the tables. It costs eight quid an hour to play and you don’t have to leave the table to get a drink. Just tell the crew member what you want and the drinks are brought to you. I think it’s pretty good value. If four of you play it’s only two quid each an hour, you can spend more playing pool or snooker in some places.
The outstanding feature for me was the staff. I’ve mentioned a few and I know it’s their job to promote the venture, but they were all genuinely friendly, enthusiastic and very knowledgeable about what they were doing. I really enjoyed being shown round and having everything explained to me, thanks.
Overall, I think Shuffledog is pretty cool, best range of craft keg anywhere I have been and I’m looking forward to see what the food is like. Good concept with the Shuffleboard tables and I genuinely think people will go and play this, within a month I predict Shuffleboard leagues and competitions. Whatever, this is another jewel in our string of beads (1) .
1. string of beads – Leeds, rhyming slang.