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

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

Q&A: Ghost Drinker

Pub Diaries Q&A returned for 2012 with Brewer, Duncan Sambrook. We change tack this week with the lowdown coming from Beer Ritz’s Will, better known as Ghost Drinker.


Your blurb…
The name’s Ghost Drinker, but most people just call me Will. I’ve been working for Beer Ritz in Leeds for over 5 years now, serving the good people of the city and customers from further afield with a range of over 600 hundred beers. It’s the best job I’ve ever had. If I ever get into a suit and tie behind a desk, I’ll go fully mental. Eventually I’d like to work for a brewery, but now I’m pretty happy to talk to all the beer geeks we get in the shop about the ‘new beers in’ at any particular time.

First beer experience, beer epiphany…
I never really touched beer till I was 17, and I’m pretty sure the first pint I ever had was Timmy Taylors Landlord. After that, for a few years I drank Tetleys and crap lager. It wasn’t untill I had a pint of Golden Salamander in Arcadia at 19/20 that I discovered what good beer actually could be. At the time I had just started working for Beer Ritz. After a few more good pints I started to really get into the world of different beers, and after that a true beer geek was born.

Best beer find of the last year…
It probably has to be The Kernel Brewery. I got to take a little trip round the Brewery last year with Evin one on one, and really got to know the guys, what they’re doing and we sampled quite a bit of their beers. Since then I’ve never had a bad Kernel beer, and they continue to impress and push the boundaries of beer.

What sounds are to be heard while blogging…
If it’s a question of music, then my tastes range as far and wide as my tastes in beer, my motto is if it sounds good I’ll listen to it. I do have a soft spot for metal like Metallica and bands like Aerosmith to blare out while I drink and write about beer though.

What brought you to blogging…
A couple of years back Zak (Boss man of Beer Ritz) got a lap top for the back of the shop. I started reading his blog from this and after a while thought it would be pretty cool if I could do my own. (Don’t worry Zak, we don’t spend all our time on the lap top, the cellar’s always ship shape).

What have you taken from blogging…
Whats really been great is the like minded people I’ve got to meet and chat too through blogging. I love this industry and blogging has really been a way to get much more involved in it.

Are beer bloggers frustrated brewers…
Well I know of a couple who are, but I’m not naming any names… Truth be told, quite a lot of the people I follow brew their own beer, and they do it pretty damn well, so I’d call quite a lot of them successful brewers.

Which brewers / breweries would you hold up as the way it should be done…
Off the top of my head; Buxton, Thornbridge, Saltaire, Kernel, Williams Bros, Harviestoun, Durham, Sierra Nevada, Anchor, Stone, Brooklyn and Odells to name just a few.

Pub heaven…
The quiet country pub feel, but Arcadia fits my pub heaven criteria – No music, no large groups of students, just great cask ale and a really friendly warm atmosphere.

Pub hell…
Having to stand in an overcrowded “pub” with sky sports blaring out whilst drinking the only beer option available; John Smiths Smoothflow or Carlsberg.

Favourite local pub…

Favourite non local pub…
North Bar + Mr Foleys

What advice would you give any aspiring blogger…
Try to be unique, and don’t just post up tasting notes about hundreds of different beers. Sure, put up tasting notes – there’s nothing wrong with that, just don’t do it all the time. Post about different things, mix it up, be engaging. People say don’t just post for the sake of it but I do it all the time, just make something interesting out of it – it’s your passion, share it with the world as often as you can.

What’s on the horizon…
It’s all about British Beer at the moment, the next couple of years is going to see some great things to come out of this country. We don’t know exactly what but it’s going to be one hell of a ride. If I had to make a guess I think India Red Ale is going to be pretty big next year.

Up next week… its back to the Brewers and a hop across the pond with Brent Cordle from Odell Brewing Company.

Q&A: Ghost Drinker

2012: The Year of Manning Up

It’s coming up to two years since I started Pub Diaries. In the early days it was an experiment and I didn’t know whether it would continue. I’d started a blog previously and posted once before getting all self conscious and dumping it.  The topic was different and my heart wasn’t really in it. Writing about pubs and beer was different though and so two years later i’m still here typing away about pubs, beer and anything else that takes my fancy. I’ve read other blogs, engaged in comments and debate on Twitter (in between all the other twaffle) but i’ve not really got out there and engaged one on one. When writing a piece for Crafty Pint I met Evin O’Riordan of The Kernel Brewery and by chance at the same time Max Chater from the Dean Swift, but that’s been it. I’ve kept a distance. Mainly as in the early days I was still finding my feet and well a bit of anonymity is always a little desirable. It’s difficult to introduce yourself to someone and then possibly criticise their pub or beer further on down the line. Well, a change is coming. I’ve grown into the blog, feel comfortable with my style of writing and the comments that I make. So, I decided its time to man up and get out there.

The European Beer Bloggers Conference coming up in May struck me as a great way to do this. It’s in Leeds, which is like going home and should hopefully give me the opportunity to sink a few drinks with those bloggers and brewers that i’ve been reading and interacting with over the last few years as well as meet others that are new to me. If this is striking a chord with you then you can find all the details on their website. I have to admit that as well as the programme of content of the two main days the chance to get to Magic Rock Brewing in Huddersfield sealed the deal.

Place secured on the conference and buoyed by a flying start to the New Year I was feeling bold about my blogging. I’ve thought of joining the British Guild of Beer Writers since I started blogging. It was a goal. I could hardly write a few posts and join, but coming back to the point about being comfortable in my style and content I thought why not. And so my application is winging its way to the Guild. I’ll admit I was slightly hesitant. The Guilds roll call is the Who’s Who of my beer reading over the last few years. There is a thought of do I cut it on this list? I put this aside and resolved that being on the list may make me raise my game and hopefully I’ll learn something along the way from any contacts I make. and who knows what opportunities may come my way.

So that’s the goal for 2012, to be more engaged, to get to know the people I read (and hopefully read me). For the bloggers out there I’d be interested to hear your hopes for 2012 and any thoughts you have on the transition from dipping your toe in the sea to taking the plunge.


2011: A Quick Salute

I can’t resist the temptation of wheeling out the old Blogger cliche of a roundup of the year. A quick salute to the great and the good of 2011.

I realised when cobbling this roll call together there is so much that i’ve done this year that hasn’t made it to these pages yet. Hopefully something that will be put right soon. These are my highlights, but I’d like to know yours. You know where the comments box is!

Best Pub… All roads lead to Leather Lane.  Craft Beer Co., has this one hands down. It’s the place I most eagerly anticipated visiting and to date have not been disappointed with. The ready availability of Mikkeller pushes it out front.

Best Beer (oh hell and Brewery)… Anything by Mikkeller. It was a close one. In another mood it would have been anything by The Kernel Brewery, but the Dane just pips this one.

Best Sunday LunchThe Cross Keys, in Leeds. I’d had a spate of mediocre London lunches which had left me underwhelmed. It took a trip North to restore my faith. If Craft Beer Co or Mikkeller did a Sunday lunch they’d have possibly bagged this one as well.


Best Bar SnackThe Pearsons Arms in Whitstable. Long strips of deep fried Pigs Ears. What more can I say?

Best BloggerBoggle About Beer. I’ll admit without shame that this is due to Boggle’s specific recommendations for San Francisco. More from Boggle in coming weeks with the return of the Pub Diaries Q&A.

Best Tweeter@HERMANOPRIMERO the Mild loving half of Dos Hermanos. Says it as he sees it. If you find pleasure in curmudgeonly outbursts, this is for you.

Best Barfly… well there were too many in 2011, to pin the title on one… more about theses characters in upcoming posts.

So that was my 2011… how about yours?

2011: A Quick Salute