Now if I said I’m in the Botanist all the time I’d be lying. I’ve been loads of times before though, usually in a group of people; friends from work, nights out, that sort of thing. It’s that sort of place and not the usual haunt of lone middle aged beer snobs. Anyway I went down the other day with a few friends to try their new house beer Tribal Ale.
The Botanist nestles under Leeds Trinity centre, next to the impressive Trinity Church, after which the ‘state of the art’ shopping centre is named. If you didn’t know it was there you might miss it, just do an eyes right after Burger King and before the Church, or vice versa, depending which way you’re walking along Boar Lane.
Mind you, a lot of people do know it’s there because it’s always busy. Sunday afternoon was no exception and we had to book a table to get in. The Botanist is quite a good name, perhaps the Potting Shed would have been even better? I’m instantly reminded of childhood days in a neighbour’s Victorian greenhouse, evoking memories of compost and things growing.
You walk through the outdoor terrace, then down into the main bar area and the eating side of things sort of meanders around the back and side of the bar room, effectively creating connected but separate spaces. Just watch your head on the dangling buckets, garden implements and things.
Okay, enough about the place itself, what about the beer? Tribal Ale is billed as a 4.4% Pale Ale, and brewed by Freedom Brewery in Abbotts Bromley, Staffs. For the detail minded, it’s brewed with Caramalt and Pilsner malts, with New Zealand hops; Motueka, Pacific Jade and Rakau. In line with the rest of Freedom’s products it’s vegan friendly. What it definitely isn’t, is brewed by Tribes Beer Company from Illinois as a lot of people on Untappd are posting.
It’s pale golden in colour with a thin white head, there’s an initial biscuity malt, a touch of caramel followed by very subtle citrus notes and then some tropical fruitiness, maybe a hint of Galia melon. Like I said, it’s all quite subtly pleasant and not overstated. It’s not over carbonated neither, and nothing like a fizzy mainstream keg beer.
So what did I think? Well it’s not going to appeal to real ale buffs, because it’s not real ale, although I’m guessing it’s both unfined and unfiltered. It won’t suit out and out craft beer aficionados neither because it’s just an easy going sort of sessional beer. It will suit most people though, including lager boys. We took our tame one along and he quite liked it.
Thing is, The Botanist wasn’t crammed full of real ale buffs nor craft beer geeks, it was just nicely busy with ‘normal people’, you know the sort I mean, decent folk who are a little bit more discerning, who know a good thing when they see it, who just want a good time, something nice to eat and a few drinks.
I think that’s what Tribal Ale is meant to be, a session beer that most people would enjoy, not too strong, not too challenging, and on that basis it’s a winner. It’s good with food too and certainly complemented everything that we had. I’d note here the excellent food. Okay it’s not fine dining, but it’s several grades above above your standard pub fayre, and offers something a bit different. A starter, main and pudding would rush you between £20 – £25 each. The service deserves mention and was outstanding, as were the lavs.
The tribal theme is replicated in the Totem pole style dispense font. The colours reflecting those of the various ‘houses’ or tribes within New World Trading Co. the parent company, and the figures are taken from the Canadian Kwakwaka’wakw tribe. It also resonates with the many tribes; families, friends and groups who will come to NWTCo. bars to have a good time and drink the house beer. A beer for everyone in your tribe to enjoy.
Verdict: The Botanist is a nice place, with excellent food at competitive prices. Tribal Ale is a decent beer that will suit the Botanist’s customers (and the more discerning drinker who frequents mainstream chains), but would probably get the thumbs down from out and out beer snobs.