Beer Blog

From Cynic to Supporter – The Leeds Digital Ale Trail Challenge.

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I think my last post evidenced my cynicism about The Leeds Digital Ale Trail . Hey, but I’m open minded and a little more investigation was definitely required. Assisted by a clever tweet by Boak and Bailey, to whom I am grateful, I managed to flush the designer of this innovation out into the open.

To be fair Philip Bennison didn’t need much coaxing, he’d already committed to come out on a Leeds CAMRA branch social last Tuesday night when we had a few pints, a good old natter, a full explanation and demonstration and a right good trial run of the App by CAMRA members.

Philip has been in Leeds for about four years now and he really loves the place. He also loves his beer too. He earns his daily bread working in digital technology and is a director in a company called fablr who are behind The Leeds Digital Ale Trail. Quite simply, Philip wanted to showcase Leeds and it’s beer scene, whilst at the same time showing what he could do and making something that people will like. He says he likes making things that people like. At the minute there is no financial yield from The Leeds Digital Ale Trail and it’s purely a project being undertaken in Philips spare time. Although he was clear that if the opportunity arose to monetarise the project then he would do it. I guess we all would, given the chance and I have no issue with this.

The acid test for me is the pubs on the trail? At the minute there are 23 Leeds city centre pubs, which are all walkable. I’ve been shown them. No, I’m not telling you what they are. Yes, they all pass my ‘pub test’ and are bone fide drinking houses of the highest calibre. If you are drinking in and around Leeds, the giveaway is the presence of the The Leeds Digital Ale Trail beer mats.

Philip assures me that no money has changed hands between him and any of the premises on the trail, there are no financial incentives of any kind. He just chose the pubs and bars he likes going into. I’ve since spoken to some of the managers of premises on the trail and they wholeheartedly confirm this.

Phil, Keith & Paul

Phil demonstrating the App to Leeds CAMRA members Keith and Paul.

So, where did the trail take us when we tried it? Well, starting in Baht’ap, we split into small groups and went on our separate ways. Our first pub was Wapentake, subject of a recent post by myself. Mein host, Anton instantly recognised Philip and asked him how the App was going. Shortly after getting our drinks we got our first question, which we got wrong, even though the explanation of a Wapentake was written on the wall above us. Hey ho. Once you’ve started, you seem to get a question every ten minutes and every time you answer correctly you get points towards your team score. We got the next one correct. To maximise your points you need to stay in the premises for 30 minutes before clicking to get the next venue, which was The Lamb and Flag, also subject of a post by yours truly. Now there’s a theme building here, and No! I’m not involved in this project at all. There are some sponsors involved though and Philip would like to say thank you for the generous support from; Northern Monk Brew Co. Leeds Food and Drink LTD and Flash Talking.

When we entered the Lamb and Flag the girl behind the bar was quite excited by the fact we were doing the The Leeds Digital Ale Trail and was asking where we had been taken. Throughout, Phil was really keen to get feedback about how the App was going and she told us there had been quite a few people using it.


I think we got that question wrong!

Now this feedback thing is important because when Philip says it is a trial then it is a trial. There were a few glitches that had to be ironed out. Now, I’m okay with the basics but I’m definitely not an IT expert and I had no idea how to tweak and develop an App. I do now though, you just get your lap top out of your satchel and start typing away. With his computer on the bar top Philip had soon remedied the fact the App hadn’t given us our bonus score in the last pub. Secretly, we were hoping that he was promoting our team score, but he didn’t, even after quite a few subtle hints. The App shows the leader board for all the teams who have participated.

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Now is it easy to play? Dead easy, apart from Philip the rest of our party were all over fifty and the interface was easy to interact with, in fact there’s not much to mess about with once you’re logged on, just ‘press and play’ as they say. They probably don’t say that anymore, but hey, what do I know?

All the questions are related in some way to Leeds, with a historical focus. I won’t give any away because it might spoil it; the bank of questions is still not huge. Some were quite hard and I don’t think many would know which Egyptian God the Temple at  Temple Works was styled on? I actually did get this one right! If you’ve never seen it, it’s near to NMBCo Refectory, both fascinating places.

The App then took us on a logical tour of the pubs and bars just South of the centre, visiting Calls Landing and then the classic Victorian splendour of The Adelphi, both good boozers, one post modern, one very traditional. In the Adelphi we got a 20% discount for being on The Leeds Digital Ale Trail , which is similar to the CAMRA discount the establishment offers. Eventually we all met up again in Tapped for a debrief. Clearly all the pubs that were visited that evening, by different groups, got the CAMRA seal of approval. None were part of the overtly commercial night time economy vertical drinking type establishments, nearly all were independent or small chains (there are two more Calls Landing/Stew & Oyster venues in the suburbs). All of them were places that I would have chosen to go to. So full marks there Mr Bennison.

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I was surprised that some venues  were unenthusiastic about joining the project. Maybe they will come on board as it takes off. I hope so because I think it’s a really good idea, definitely if you are unfamiliar with our city. It’s clear the opportunities here are almost limitless. Philip recognises this and we chatted about a Headingley (suburb of Leeds) Digital Ale Trail, different cities and towns. You could even have themed routes, a Whiskey or Gin trail hunting down specialist bars.

As I said, one thing that is vital is  feedback, so if you’ve had any problems, or got any ideas then let Phil know through the Facebook site or tweeting with the #leedsaletrail hashtag. One thing that is important is to keep updating your App because they are continually modifying it, as I saw.

Overall, I was really impressed. A really nice guy who was enthusiastic beyond belief about what I think is a really good App. Okay, it won’t suit everyone, but those who like this sort of thing will think it’s pretty cool. Perhaps it will come to your town or city in due course?

Now the Pokemon thingy hadn’t really hit the news last Tuesday, but think what you could do, if you combined them both? Or even an App that tracked down virtual mythical and legendary brews? A decent pint of (original) Tetley’s or a proper pint of Draught Bass. Can you do ‘back to the future’ Phil? Maybe not.

The App is available on iPhone and Android devices, and can be downloaded for free from Google Play  and the App Store .


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