I headed off down Water Lane to Northern Monk Refectory last night. Okay, so what you like it down there, I hear you say? Well they have just opened (Friday 10th June) their new kitchen with a brand new menu from head chef Gavin Jackson and I wandered along, with lots of others, to the preview.
I guess you will be really interested to know what it’s like? Unfortunately I spent most of the time stood in the brewery chatting to the guys at the heart of Northern Monks success – Russ Bisset and Brian Dickson.
Seriously, I did taste some of the food that was being passed around and it was very good too. In fact it has always been good and any improvement can only mean it is going to get better and better. I’ve had a keen eye on Northern Monk for some time. I really like their beer, their Refectory and I admire their enterprise. In a very short time they have come a long way. The fact that this preview was absolutely packed out is a testament to this.
What? You think they only went for a couple of free drinks, free food and a goodie bag? If that’s the case then why did most people stay drinking at their own expense after they had drank the complimentary three thirds? Why was the queue at the bar as deep at 8pm as it was outside at 6pm? I’ll tell you why, because it’s so bloody good.
For our three thirds (there were two of us) we had New World IPA (my favourite and probably their signature brew), Wasted, Heathen, Neapolitan ice cream pale ale, Solstice and Rapscallion. All spot on, but Neapolitan was the stand out, if only because I’d never tried it and because it did subtly taste of vanilla ice cream.
It got better when I went into the brewery and had a natter with Brian, the head brewer and his team. They’ve been experimenting with some different yeast strains, the latest being one from Vermont USA. I’m not going into the technical details but basically the yeast makes the most of the fruity flavours from the hops, accentuating them. After trying some New World IPA straight out of the conditioning tank, I can tell you that the theory does indeed work. Anyone remember Umbongo?
At that stage I didn’t think it could get better, but it did. Try this, he says bending down to the tap. What is it I said? 822. 822 what’s that? Try it. Fucking hell!
Now you should be able to get 822 next week on general sale in cans at all good suppliers. My tip is to get down to your nearest stockist/bar and reserve as much of this beer as you can get because it is stunning and you will never want to drink anything else ever again. In fact you won’t be able to taste anything else, which will pale into insignificance, after this monster 8.7% DIPA that is choc bang full of every fruit flavour going. It’s based on Heady Topper from The Alchemist in, guess where? Waterbury, Vermont USA, hence the yeasty connection.
Russ and Brian explained where they are going to go in the future. I’m not going to mention much of it here because it’s worthy of a post in it’s own right. Suffice to say onwards and upwards and if 822 and beyond is where they are going then I am following all the way. Brian told me they are trying the yeast in a coconut porter on a small brew kit at the minute and he’s enthusiastically optimistic of the outcome.
Anyway, a belting evening enjoyed with fellow bloggers, some well known faces from the leeds beer scene, both from up front and behind the bar, and even the pizza oven. If you’ve never been to Northern Monk Refectory then I suggest you get down there right away, and don’t listen to those who say, it’s too far to walk all the way down into Holbeck because it’s well worth it. If you’ve been before, then all I will say is it’s just got a bit better. Oh and watch out for the 822, and buy as much as you can, as soon as you can, because I am predicting they will not be able to brew enough of it. You can tell everyone you read about it here first as well!