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Are You Tasting the Pith? - 3rd April 05

Draught Round-Up

OK, a quick whizz through some of the liquid entertainment that has been keeping my palate awake in various hostelries over the last couple of weeks. WARNING: may include comments about things other than beer.

Finally got around to trying Skippy's Bar at Trio in Headingley - obviously not the sort of place one goes for a pint of real ale, and the beer list is a little conservative (but makes an effort to find interesting bottled beers with a wide appeal), although Sleeman Honey Brown is a good inclusion. However, the cocktails are something else - some of the best I think I've ever had. Superb Manhattan, a whisky-based Blood and Sand, and an unlikely concoction with gin, pineapple and basil (sounds odd, but really works - quite dry and savoury). The tapas are also great and fairly reasonably priced, plus you get to sit in a leather booth, shielded from the proles by a classic Red Velvet Rope.

Arcadia in Headingley continues its steady run of top-quality ales. Recent highlights include Durham Magus (3.8%abv) from The Brewery That Can Do No WrongTM, a very pale bitter, zesty, dryish with just a hint of spiciness in the finish. E&S Bargee (3.8% abv) is marginally drier and tarter, with a more pronounced pithy bitterness lingering into the finish - a very good one-pinter, although the hops tend to have a cumulative effect in the same way that Goose Island IPA does, albeit to a lesser extent. It would be nice to see a bit of variety on the Belgian front, and I'm a bit dubious about the practice of selling Maredsous 8 (8% abv) in pints, but hey - it's not my name on the license.

Finally, Japanic (Clay Pit Lane, Leeds) was a bit of a surprise, as I'd had it pegged for a load of rubbish (reasons: bad name, bad location, chain owned). Having been summoned their for a friend's birthday (I was a little surprised at the choice of venue), I was obviously astonished to find a choice of real ales and some passable Japanese food. The pint of Bateman's XXXB (4.8% abv) was in very good condition - soft, nutty and balanced - and the food was a lot better than it deserved to be a 3 odd a dish. I couldn't bring myself to order sushi in a pub on the corner of a busy road (call me a snob if you must), but what I did order was great, fresh, tasty and reasonably priced.

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