I always worry about Mr Foleys on the Headrow, Leeds. It’s such a good pub, but why is it always pretty quiet during the afternoon/early evening? I’m assured that it gets pretty busy later on, especially on Friday and Saturday nights, which is good. If I’m honest, I really think that more people should be calling in and trying what’s on offer because it’s got a lot going for it.
For a start, the grade two listed building is pretty impressive. Originally the old Pearl Assurance Company chambers, hence the name; Mr Foley was the founder of said insurance company. The premises are now a rambling semi-open multi level affair that provides a nice ambience, whatever you favour; stood at the bar, sat at a decent table, slumped in a comfortable settee or the best bit (for me), sat at one of the tables on the upper mezzanine floor cum balcony looking down on the bar.
On the downside, the Westgate end of The Headrow in the Civic quarter is a fair trek from the up and coming Arena and Cultural quarters of leeds where most of the newer bars and pubs seem to be. You could of course combine a visit with a drop into the nearby Victoria hotel, Town hall tavern or somewhere like that, or even one of the two nearby ‘Spoons.
I think it’s fair to say that when it opened, a good few years ago now, Mr Foleys was well received, unfortunately it went down hill for a bit. Well that’s definitely not the case now. I’ve been calling in on regular basis now for well over six months and on every visit I always get a cracking glass of beer. There’s a comprehensive choice available, as good as anywhere, twelve real ales, ten craft lines, twenty four traditional ciders and loads of bottles. Yes, you did read that correctly, twenty four different ciders, that’s why it’s Leeds CAMRA cider pub of the year (2015). There’s also tea and coffee but no food, apart from pork pies and the like. In terms of the all important toilet test, once you’ve walked what feels like half a mile down into the bowels of the premises, then it passes with full marks.
In terms of real ale then York Brewery are well represented and they usually have Guzzler, Ghost and Terrier on because it’s their boozer, in fact the only one they have outside of York. Beyond the York standards then expect to be surprised, modern IPA’s, stouts and porters figure highly on the tap list, more often than not decent offerings from cutting edge brewers.
We called in at the weekend to see what they had on, primarily because they had a beer festival event going on. Thirty different cask ales , including three wooden casks, one from Ridgeside and two of their own brews. Prices varied with the mean being around £3.60 per pint. As well as the twelve pumps on the bar they had set up a stillage and bar on the middle deck of the pub, everything gravity fed and properly cooled.
I tasted quite a few during the session, they did thirds. Stand out for me was Siren Rysing tide (7.4%), obviously a Rye beer but tasty, tasty, very, very. Others that hit the high notes were Ridgeside Stargazer (5%) from the wood. I love this beer and it just had that hint of something else that a wooden cask gives. I also tried York Terrier (4.2%) from the wood, again there was just that little extra to this easy drinking session ale. The big surprise for me was York Otherside (4.5%) which had been specially brewed and given a massive hit of extra Centennial and Simcoe at the dry hop stage. It really was one of those beers you could have drunk all day, they really need to brew it like this on a routine basis. In terms of quality, everything I had was spot on, which was also the opinion of some of the erudite beer enthusiasts I spoke to.
The festival started on Thursday, so when we arrived on Saturday about ten of the casks had gone already. Mostly the lower strength, easy drinking pale ales. I asked Jason Allison, the manager, how the event had gone. He told me it was looking like a big success. Friday night had been packed out and he did not expect to have many of the festival beers left by the end of Saturday. In fact two more barrels went off while we were there. Although there were plenty of people in, the Saturday afternoon session was really relaxed, sat at a table with a lovely crowd of beer minded people, I really enjoyed myself.
Keep your eye out for the dates of their next festival, it is well worth attending, and so is Mr Foleys, at any time, and in my opinion it’s currently one of the better real ale bars in Leeds for choice, quality and ambience. Go on give it a try and be surprised.