Q&A: Leigh Linley, The Good Stuff

The great thing for me about the Q&A is that i’m able to delve into the experiences, likes, dislikes and tips of those that I respect in the brewing, writing, blogging world and beyond. Leigh Linley is someone i’ve followed for quite a while now and is one of my must reads. As his blog drops into my inbox, it’s the cue to pop the kettle on and stop for a couple of minutes. His mix of good food and good beer appeals to my own sensibilities. I urge you to read on and then check it out…



I’ve been blogging about beer and food since 2007 – and enjoying every minute of it. Since then, I’ve done a little freelance work with stories featured in BEER Magazine, Leeds Guide and Food and Drink Digital. Last year, I was involved in the process to choose Leeds as the location for the European Beer Bloggers Conference and led the delegates on a ‘Best of Leeds’ crawl that weekend. My main interests are exploring beer and food – be it linking brewers and food producers and supporting each other in that wa, or recommending matches and pairings for others – and pub life. It’s not all just about beer tasting! I live in Leeds.

First pub experience…

Both my parents worked in a pub when I was born; a notorious one in Leeds called The Fforde Grene. It’s not there now (its a supermarket), but I remember it being smoky, dark and cavernous, with a large guard dog. It was a little scary at the time, to be honest, but now I’m older I can understand the relationship it had with the locals. First hand, I saw it fall into disrepute in the 90’s and eventually close. That was probably my first experience of how a publican and clientele affect a pub and a community, both adversely and positively.
In terms of Beer, I recall bravely ordering a pint of Sierra Nevada Pale Ale in North Bar circa 2005/6…and the first taste was like the scene in Alice in Wonderland when it goes technicolour. Being a self-confessed lager drinker, it was unbelievable.

Best pub finds…

We stayed at The Watermill Inn in Cumbria at the end of last summer, using it a base to explore some of the lakes. It’s completely dog-friendly and brews its own beer and we spent a lovely evening in the last rays of summer warmth drinking really good, clean, tasty beers brewed all of 10 yards away. That was a great weekend.


At the moment: Seven Wonders by Fleetwood Mac, Gimme Shelter by The Stones and Private Eyes by Hall and Oates.

Pub heaven…

A friendly welcome, staff who can tell you a little about the beer, and a little pride in appearance. Not difficult, is it?

Pub hell…

Rude and indifferent staff, bad toilets and bad beer – and by that I mean kept poorly, not range.

Favourite local…

I’m lucky enough to have four really good, ale-serving pubs on my dog walk route along Leeds Liverpool Canal: The Abbey, The Owl, The Rodley Barge and The Railway. All have good beer gardens in the summer, serve well-kept, local real ales and are dog-friendly in the main. Those dog walks in the summer do tend to be long ones!

Favourite non local…

There’s so many, but a perennial favourite is The Grove in Huddersfield. It gets everything right; a staggeringly varied beer range, good staff, well-priced and a lovely space to drink in. The varied clientele it attracts reflects the pub’s range on the pumps, and there’s no pretention at all – you want a pint of Landlord? You got it. And a bottle of De Molen? Fine. That sort of thing. I really like The Rutland Arms in Sheffield, The York Tap and The Maltings in York, The Marble Arch in Manchester…wonderful pubs, wonderful.

Beer and food…

My all-time favourite would have to be simply a plate of Calamari and Whitebait, dusted in flour and deep-fried, doused in lemon and served with either a cold lager or what beer. I’ve been known to knock that up even in the depths of winter! I’m a sucker for Blue Cheese and Stout (the stronger the cheese and beer the better!), Pepperoni Pizza and Anchor Steam…all the classics, really. We eat a lot of fish at home; pan-seared served with Black Pudding and Minted Pea puree sounds odd, but it’s delicious with a crisp IPA such as Oakham’s Green Devil.


It’s all about participation, for me. If you become of a community, you’ll find blogging both interesting and rewarding. I think you’ve also got to work prolifically to maintain a semi-successful blog; people have short attention spans and if you don’t blog for a long time, often, people will drift away, no doubt. Saying that, bloggings what you make it; that’s the beauty of it – if you just want it to be a notebook of thoughts, then so be it. I’m proud to be a blogger.

Yorkshire beer is…

Incredibly varied and vibrant Yes, we have the traditional Yorkshire beer that we do so well…but hidden amongst that we have smaller brewers producing every style you can want. We have Yorkshire lagers, saisons and barrell-aged stouts. We have international award-winners. We have brewers forging strong links with communities and other independent food producers to bring great food and drink to your table. We have some of the countries best pubs, run by amazingly devoted publicans, for you to enjoy these amazing beers in. We have brewers pushing Yorkshire beer across the world and setting up links in Spain, Italy, America and Australia.

What’s on the horizon…

Well…Great Yorkshire Beer! The book’s out in May, and we are launching it on the 30th at The York Tap. I’m currently spending a lot of time working with the brewers involved to get the book promoted. Blog-wise, The Good Stuff will be focussed on beer from the UK, and my new year’s resolution was to see more of the country; so now on our little drinking jaunts we are getting on the train instead of the bus, and seeing more of what’s on offer around me. I’m also looking forward to more collaboration with Food bloggers this year, and trying to bring some fresh ideas to my own blog from outside the ‘beer bubble’.

How did you choose the breweries to feature in Great Yorkshire Beer…

It was difficult, to be honest. I clearly couldn’t interview every brewer in the region – the book would have been like the Yellow Pages otherwise. So, first and foremost, the book is about modern beer in Yorkshire; the brewers that have been the catalyst to amazing growth and interest that has then rippled out across Yorkshire beer as a whole. So brewers over ten years old were out in terms of specific features. Then I looked at the geographical area, and tried to get a selection from north to south, east to west. I looked at availability; the book had to be useful in terms of interested parties simply getting to your beer – the beer had to be widely available across Yorkshire and the UK, and also, in most cases, bottled. And of course, the beer had to be good!

That last part is obviously subjective, but I believe the line-up I’ve chosen to represent the region, overall, are incredibly highly -regarded – and the book being successful will be good for every brewer out there. The book mentions (such as in the food section) many breweries that don’t fit into that criteria, so hopefully I’ve been able to highlight as many in there as I can!

If you want to get hold of a copy check out this link

Q&A: Leigh Linley, The Good Stuff

Sebright Arms Homebrew: Pure Evil Black IPA

Press releases and brewer collaboratians are often yawn inducing litter in my inbox. The collaboration was once something of interest but more often than not strikes me as jumping on the band wagon. Whack a collab tag on it and it’ll sell. But now and again I’m not in cynical mood and there’s something that doesn’t go straight to the trash. Something genuinely interesting.

The Sebright Arm’s has carved a bit of a name for itself in terms of Lucky Chip, live music and now: Sebright Arms Homebrew. They describe it as: a nomadic, collaborative type of brewing. This ‘nano-brewing’ allows for beer to be brewed in very small batches, inviting experimentation and encouraging brewers to create more niche brews.

Best label you’ll see all year? Pure Evil IPA

The launch brew is a Black IPA with nearby Redchurch Brewery. To add to this already interesting mix you’ve got Pure Evil; a local street artist who has worked closely with the team to produce Pure Evil Black IPA and probably the best label you’ll see in a long while (for those who have a label fetish). Launched at The Sebright Arms on 25 April; the beer will be in short supply, so get it while you can. You can book tickets here. Hot on the heels of Pure Evil they’ll be teaming up with Vagabond Tattoos and creating Black Milk, a dark milk stout. It adds a nice twist to the crowded collaboration scene in both the team behind it and the design elements. A little too hipster for some perhaps but for me enough not to press delete.


An Easter dose of Raging Flem

Last year I spent Easter in Belgium. I blogged at the time about taking a clutch of Kernel beers for tasting and the trepidation of introducing these beer lovers (and connoisseurs in the truest sense) to some of London’s best offerings.


A year on and I’m here in Western Australia wondering what they’d think of Raging Flem. From the Feral Brewing Co’s new Brewpub Series I was sent a sample which arrived hours before the trip to the South West. The label tells me to treat it like milk, to keep it refrigerated. They’re serious about their cold storage at Feral and I was worried that it’s trip to me and then down south may have an effect.

It’s pitched as combing the traditional ferment driven Belgian style with the new world movement for floral American hops to create a blend of new and oldbrewed using a mixed bag of specially selected Australian and European malts, a truck load of American Hops including Amarillo, Cascade and Chinook with a special addition of Belgium candy sugar to round out a unique brew.

The verdict? Well I didn’t have any Belgians, on hand but did have present a Dutchman, a Mediterranean and an Honorary Belgian (with a keen palate for Flemish beers). The panel like the beer is a bit of a bitsa. It takes those brewing styles and mashes and melds them together. The result a resounding success. It’s a bold IPA, those hops coming through loud and clear but has a degree of subtlety which I guess is driven by the malt and that candy sugar. I’m thinking this would be a winner for my real Belgian panel but they’re unlikely to see it make the trip to Europe. Stocks of the series are limited at present to trusted suppliers of Feral. There’s more to come from the Brewpub Series so keep your eyes peeled.

An Easter dose of Raging Flem

Beer Festival 101: Melbourne Good Beer Week

If there were a Beer Festival 101. A lesson in how to create a programme of events that draws in ticker, beer geek, dabbler and novice alike then Melbourne Good Beer Week would be it. I love beer, but I’m a bit non-plussed when it comes to beer fests. I’m much the same with music festivals. I listen to music year round, like to get to gigs year round, not tick the boxes in one weekend and declare myself a music lover. There’s one exception. All Tomorrows Parties. I’ve been only once and crave the next. Melbourne Good Beer Week to me is the beer equivalent. I’ve not actually been but I covet that experience. Everything from the branding, ads with no frothing pint of beer, to the teaser video draw me in. Then the actual programme of events. An innovative mix to educate and intoxicate. Check it out but be prepared to consider a long flight if you’re anywhere other than the east of Oz.

Beer Festival 101: Melbourne Good Beer Week

Q&A: Chandler Jurinka, Slow Boat Brewery

Chinese craft brewing isn’t something that is at the forefront of the minds of most, but at Slow Boat Brewery two Americans are starting their own revolution in Chinese brewing. We catch up with Chandler Jurinka to get the lowdown.



Slow Boat Brewery is a small American style craft brewery, located in the outskirts of Beijing. We aim to produce small batches of hand crafted micro brews unique to the Beijing market.

First beer experience…

I can’t really recall the first pub experience but I do remember the first microbrew I had in one. It was so different, so flavorful and beyond anything I had tried previously that it inspired me to become a brewer years later.

Tell us about Slowboat…

At it,s core Slow Boat is two American’s living and brewing craft beer in Beijing. The name Slow Boat comes from the era 40’s song written about a journey that originates in the USA destined for China. The ingredients used in our beers are imported so we are bringing something very American to the local Chinese consumer.

Why China…

Collectively, my business partner and I have lived in China for over 13 years. The USA is our home but China is where we currently live. We got tired of whingeing about watery beer and decided to do something about it.

Is there a craft brewing movement in China….

It’s been a relatively recent phenomenon that seems like it was a long time in the making. For many years ex-pats have been craving good beer that tastes like home. Curious Chinese and those previously exposed to brews while working and studying abroad were also pushing demand. Bottled imports slowly started to trickle in, but the next natural step was brewing fresh beer, and that meant building a brewery here in Beijing. As that was going on, the home brew movement was making progress, clubs, and co-ops have been gathering strength. The market seems ready for it all.

Pub heaven…

A quiet place where I can get a proper pint of a hoppy IPA, original music and something interesting to look at, on the walls or out the windows—that will keep me amused for hours.

Pub hell…

A place where I can’t get service, and I have to out-shout the music and the crowd noise just to be heard—that will send me out the doors pretty quickly.

Favourite local…

I spend a lot of time at the brewery located outside of the city proper. At the same time the concept of a local pub hasn’t really taken off in Beijing yet. But if there were a pub with good beer near my house that my friends and I could regularly visit, that would be my favorite.

Favourite non local…

The best pub, the Pelican Pub on the Oregon coast. It’s right on the beach, so you can sit there, watch the fog banks come and go, the surf roll, and sip a proper pint of some of the best micro brews in the world. Fantastic.

What’s on the horizon…

Henry Ford once said “If I listened to my customers, I’d have built a faster horse.” We will continue to push the local beer palate here in China with unique hoppy creations. Our brewery just doubled in capacity to keep up with demand. We are close to bottling and with that distributing to more cities in China. On the local front, we’re also looking forward to our first (local) taproom that will have 15 of our beers on tap.

Find out more about Slow Boat Brewery by following the link

Q&A: Chandler Jurinka, Slow Boat Brewery

Style over substance

Plenty of times i’ve stood at the bar, eyed the pumpclips and been at a loss. Faced with a lineup of bad design in both name and graphic. You know the kind of thing: Rudolf’s Christmas Fart, with a picture of flatulent reindeer and a pile of carrots. In these situations i’ll look again at the clips, the brewers and the style, but in some circumstances i’ll just take a punt. Great discoveries happen this way and I enjoy wobbling to the bar towards closing for another pint of Fart. That was the old world, where a line of real ale pumps wasn’t just a cruel mirage. Now, i’m drinking as much bottled as I am tap, trying to get a better handle on the Aussie beer scene, but faced with a similar situation I recently went for good design and a good name with a bottle of Doss Blockos.


As the title of this post suggests it was a case of style over substance, that ended in a judgement of meh. I love the bottle design and the name, but started to become a little dubious as the bottle was placed in a brown paper bag, with no glass offered. Now, i’m in my mid 30’s, i’ve kinda got passed drinking in the park and the hobo style isn’t for me. The barmans bepuzzlement at the request for a glass told me that perhaps I should have gone for another $10 can of Punk (a price which lives up to the Sex Pistols ideal of Punk no doubt… take the money and run). Let’s just say that the almost indiscernable taste wouldn’t have been heightened by a brown paper bag. Great design and great beer is a truly wonderful union but this perhaps reinforces that beer is always king and design comes a close second.

Note: Sorry to disappoint but I don’t believe Rudolf’s Christmas Fart exists but i’m willing to give the name up to Skinners should they wish to brew some Farts.

Style over substance

A few beautiful curves

Perth. The dullest place on Earth. 2000KM from Adelaide, which in itself is a big country town. Melbourne, is the epicentre of Aussie cool… or a second class London... All statements leveled my way in the last few months and all complete bullshit. This isn’t so much a full on defence of Perth more a few points to those who aren’t sold on this city. I obviously have a bit of a thing for this place, otherwise I wouldn’t have moved 14500 km (9000 miles in old money) to live here. I’ve got to say the city on the Swan River – the most isolated developed city in the world – has thrown me a few beautiful curves that I didn’t expect.


Perth’s summer festival season is in full swing with the Perth International Arts Festival and Fringe serving up a programme that is sure to meet the cultural needs of even the most ardent Perth detractor. My main festival picks are still to come but the Rachael Dease show, City of Shadows, was an unexpected joy. If a show about a grainy black and white world of murder, suicide and the darker side of human nature can be a joy. It works for Nick Cave I suppose. A hit with audiences in New York and a winner of last years Fringe, I was lucky to get a chance to see it. The clip below gives you an idea.

Away from the Festival, there’s Street Art, Street Food and… Beer. Which as some will know are a few things that make me tick. A city where people write on walls is my kind of place. The street food movement is taking off and there’ll surely be a further boom in this area.


The beer… sure, it’s $10 upwards a pint but it’s good beer and that’s worth paying for (I’m half way to not flinching when I get the bill). Mainly drinking the likes of Feral, Nail, Little Crteatures and the brewers of the Eastern states I’ll give a particular mention to the pint of 5AM Saint I had recently.  On keg, it was easily the best i’ve had… anywhere. Whether this says something about consistency, how a beer copes with travel, I’m not sure. It was just a nice reminder of home. One day it’ll perhaps be a keg of Magic Rock or The Kernel, but maybe this is a hop dream too far.


A few beautiful curves

Brooklyn Brew Kids

I recently wrote a piece for The West Australian about the rise of the homebrewer. I say rise, but i’m not sure they ever went away. I just think that a new generation got interested who are a bit more connected so we have the impression that it’s a new wave… I don’t know, maybe you can tell me? Anyway I came across this and in the interests of sharing, i’ve posted it. It grabs me in a number of ways. One, that I really want to homebrew and only have a very small space to do it in. This reaffirms that small brewing is something I should be doing. Second, its a couple working together, something that i’ve recently started doing – having set up a business partnership (with the wife). Third, it features the city that rivals London for my affections (sorry Perth, you turn me on in different ways).

Oh, and the piece from The West, you can find here.


Hiatus, Ham, Hackney & Hopster

So It’s been a while since my last post but as is the way, life takes over and something has to give. Namely this. I’ve always hated posts full of fake apology – as if my absence from the blogging space would weigh too heavily on anyones mind – but i’ll just say that preparing to get wed, planning months of travel, leaving your job, moving home and hemisphere all at the same time isn’t a recipe for having time on your hands.

That’s not to say that i’ve not had any chance to indulge, just that i’ve not had the time or mental capacity to string a sentence together. So as I ease myself back in after the short hiatas i’ll just list some of the highlights, which I may expand on in the coming weeks.

copyright: Friends of Ham

Friends of Ham, Leeds

If you follow on Twitter (@thepubdiaries) you may have seen a flurry of Ham related activity as I recently turned porcine fanboy. My visit to Friends of Ham, was much anticipated (bt me, not them). For months there had been talk of its opening and I watched at a distance through social media. The name intrigued me, the logo enticed me and when I finally got to visit the space and the people in it beguiled me. A craft beer bar, come charcuterie where Cheers style everyone knows your name (but maybe that’s @lordofthebeers fault for pre-tweeting my arrival). Quite simply the best bar i’ve been to in years.

Cock Tavern, Hackney

In between the planning, packing and honing wedding playlists, I have been doing more and more freelance writing. Pots of espresso at 5am have become the norm as I juggle deadlines (lets just say i’d never get a job in the circus) and try and remember what the hell i’m writing about. Many of these have been for View London and as much as I love to find a new pub to add to the beer drinkers equivalent of the Knowledge it can start to wear slightly. Until the assignment is the Cock Tavern in Hackney. It’s up there with Friends of Ham, which is why i’ve put the two together and you can read all about it here. It’s places like this that reinvigorate me and make me realise why I do what I do.

London Fields Brewery, Hackney

I am a late comer to the charms of this East London brewer, but have fallen for them in a big way. When I discussed the beer list for the wedding I wanted some relatively cheap bottles of well known beer for the guzzlers amongst the guest list. Asahi was the choice. We then had a mix of Meantime and the other usual suspects. It still didn’t grab me and while I was tempted to just let it go, Clerkenwell Kitchen’s manager Ciaran came through with a suggestion of London Fields. It fitted the bill in terms of being locally sourced and with a craft angle. There’s nothing better than looking round and seeing people eskew their normal habits, holding a big bottle of Hackney Hopster or Love Not War (apt for the event I thought) and more importantly enjoying it.

Hiatus, Ham, Hackney & Hopster

Welcome to Sheffield

My reaction to Sheffield. Who Knew? Well quite a few people it seems but it’s taken me a while to cotton on. Having family in Leeds it has always been a place I passed through – a marker on the M1 that said almost home. Somewhere people told me to visit but until now I’d ignored. With Lou attending the annual Doc Fest it seemed like a good opportunity to finally visit and added to which, the thought that she may get to the Sheffield Tap before me was truly horrifying (er, i meant the thought of a weekend without her truly horrified me… Did i get away with that?).

As my coach pulled into Chesterfield, a couple of miles down the road, I have flashbacks of Friday nights in a Northern town. It’s just after 10pm and post football jubilance is overspilling into the streets. Quite literally, as a swaying punter urinates against a phonebox. I get a text to say that Lou will be at an industry thing (read party) and that I should make my way to the hotel. As I head out of the bus station it’s unclear what the quickest way is and I go with my gut feeling, which within minutes sees me facing the Sheffield Tap – fancy that!

This is a pub I’ve coveted for some years. It may sound sad to covet a pub but I’ve heard people talk of it with a glint in the eye which was more than a half cut glaze. It must be credited with introducing countless travellers (it being in Sheffield train station) to great beers beyond their normal experience.

As I sit at the bar it’s rich pickings for a seasoned people watcher. From the beer geeks drawn to the Pondhopper (Thornbridge / Odell co-brew) or the two brash mockney lads who saunter in fresh from the train. The brasher of the two tells his mate “goin for a slash geez, get me the strongest fing they got”. This raises a smile from those in the know. Looking down the bar the lad looks in need of help. Turning to me, devoid of any previous swagger, he asks whether they do Stella. I point him in the direction of the Bernard and he looks visibly relieved. As his friend returns he tastes, looks at the pump and delivers his verdict: “it ain’t Stella but it’ll do”. Smiles turn to slight shaking of heads and rolling eyes.

As I drink my way down the taps – chatting with the staff and observing the oohs, aahs and puzzled faces – I can see why this place has a special place in many people’s journeys and why for some this is the reason for the journey itself.

I head for the hotel before I’m in danger of the morning after regret of staying for another; wondering that if this is a welcome to Sheffield what else awaits.


Welcome to Sheffield