Sunday 26th January 2014
Down in the catacombs of Leeds station something stirs, especially in the evenings. The source of this activity is The Hop which opened its doors in 2010. The concept of this pub is that is a live music venue in the evenings and a normal pub during the day. Add in that it sells good cask ales at all times and you have the basic idea of this dual mode pub.
It is part of a chain within a chain as there are four Hops with the others located in Wakefield (2009), Sheffield (2011) and the latest in York, which started trading in 2013.
These four pubs are in turn owned by the Ossett Brewery chain. This was founded in 1997 in a brew house at the rear of the Brewer's Pride pub in Ossett, West Yorkshire. At that time all of the beer was sold through the pub. It was founded by Bob Lawson, a brewer who had been with Tetley's in Leeds for the previous 25 years.
Their beers were soon in demand from other pubs and capacity was extended at the brewery. In 2002 Bob's son, Jamie, a former investment banker, joined the company and he was the catalyst for their amazing growth. He started a trail of pub acquisitions through West Yorkshire that continues up to the date of this visit, and hopefully beyond. There are at least 18 pubs in the chain.
On this visit I was with wife Linda and we walked from the front of Leeds station into its bowels. As we walked along the aptly-named Dark Arches we crossed the wild River Aire that actually flows under the station. It truly was a raging torrent and the noise was deafening as this normally calm river poured over rapids. We could even hear the river after we arrived inside of the pub.
Basically, the pub occupies one large arch on the Dark Arches side and this joins on to two smaller arches that extend to Granary Wharf. This is a dock that leads to a lock at the beginning of the Leeds & Liverpool Canal. Despite the protection of the lock the water here was not far off flooding. The junction that marks the beginning of the canal is not much more that 150 metres from this side of the pub.
As we entered the bar was facing us. The decor is more or less what you'd expect with somewhat strange cartoon style painting over some of the walls. Either side of the bar had curved staircases leading to the upper floor. The one on the right having an impressive display of beer bottles behind glass. On the canal dock side on both levels there are wooden tables and chairs that are reminiscent of an older pub with the walls decorated with ornate Ossett Brewery mirrors.
We both thought the beer and cider selection was good with the following beers available. There were three Ossett (Ossett, West Yorks) beers that I think constitute the regular range: Silver King (4.1%), Blonde (3.9%) and Pale Gold (3.8%). It appears that the Ossett Brewery-owned microbrewery of Fernandes in Wakefield regularly has a couple of their beers on sale here. On this occasion they were Rum for Cover (6.5%) and Columbus (4.8%).
True guest beers were Rudgate (Tockwith, North Yorks) York Chocolate Stout (5.0%), RAW Brewery (Staveley, Derbyshire) Black Forest Stout (4.4%) and Gales (Fuller's, London) H.S.B. (Horndean Special Bitter) (4.8%). When I have visited Fuller's pubs that do guest beers, the brews of Ossett are often featured, so I guess they do a lot of swaps between each other.
The cider and perry list is equally impressive. There was Riches' (Highbridge, Somerset) Legbender Cider (6.0%), Burnard's (Banham, Norfolk) Vampire Spit Cider (5.5%), Sandford's Orchards (Crediton, Devon) Pear Shaped Perry (7.5%) and Broadoak (Clutton, Somerset) Perry (7.5%).
There is a large outside drinking area opposite the canal dock so, should you wish to come in the evening to sample some live music or maybe to just indulge in a quiet lunchtime drink, the Hop is recommended.
The Hop, Dark Arches, Granary Wharf, Neville Street, Leeds LS1 4BR. Tel: 0113 243 9854
Open: Monday-Sunday 12.00-24.00
Using the main exit from the railway station cross to the other side of the station approach using the crossing and descend the steps to Swinegate. At the bottom turn right into Neville Street which runs under the station. Before you exit to daylight, turn right into Dark Arches, cross the River Aire and you'll find the pub on the left. It will take around five minutes. There is a plan to build an exit on this southern side of the station.
Leeds station is very well connected by rail to most towns and cities in the country.