“So basically, we got into brewing by accident” – is not the first line I expected to hear in North Brewing Company’s swanky new pad in Circle Square just off the hustle and bustle of Oxford Road.
And it is an absolute beauty, stylishly decorated in a nordic style, wedged on the left hand side of the square underneath some impressive student apartments.
Circle Square already hosts an interesting selection of eateries such as Hello Oriental, Bird of Prey, Tsujiri, Tahi and Canvas.
It’s getting a bit of buzz about the place.
On entering the modern taproom, the first thing that strikes you is the tap line – there is a massive selection of beers on offer here.
We spoke to Sarah Hardy from North Brewing Company, about the history of the brewery, and their plans for the site.
Sarah said: “North opened up in 1997 in Leeds – in admittedly – a bit of a sketchy area.
“Usually breweries start by brewing beer, get good at it, then open bars. But we did it the wrong way round. We just got stuck in straight away with a bar.
“In 1997 there wasn’t much of a craft beer scene at all – at the first site we opened we just served a load of Kronenbourg and Beamish Red.”
It was only when the bar started to branch out and serve international beers, that they saw more and more interest in serving something a bit different.
“For the 98 World Cup we tried to serve a beer from every country in the competition, and that’s when people really got into it.
“We realised there was a market in doing things a bit differently.”
North Brewing Company was set up by two old friends, John Gyngell (who is originally from Manchester) and Christian Townsley, who opened their first bar on New Briggate in Leeds City Centre.
What followed was a journey to sell interesting beers from around the world, attracting a cosmopolitan following of people into art, design, music looking to try something unusual or a bit quirky.
North Brewing Company now have ten sites across the UK, opening their first Brewery in Meanwood in Leeds in 2015.
So just the 18 years after their first bar opened.
Sarah was quick to praise Manchester’s amazing beer scene.
“Coming to a city like Manchester, with the amazing selection of beers it has, you have to try and stand out.
“We’re looking to work together with the breweries up here, collaborations have been really successful in the past.
“We’ve worked with Track, Cloudwater and Pomona Island Brew Co before – and we’re now working on a beer with JW Lees on a golden cask ale – an absolute Manchester classic.
“It’s a really cool scene here and we hope we can add to it.”
If you’re feeling a bit peckish, Little Bao Boy is also based as the site, serving an amazing selection of Asian Fusion foods.
They are an independent who started doing pop ups from a ‘rickety gazebo’ at the Brewery in Leeds, who have now built up an amazing following for their great food.
It is the brainchild of James Ooi, who now operates LBB at four of North Brewing Companies sites.
You can check out their menu here. Because you’ll probably need something to soak up all the beer.
Sarah added: “Manchester is a bit further ahead than Leeds and a lot of cities in terms of food and beer too, so we come over here for inspiration to take back across the Pennines.
“All the breweries here have been really supportive of us. It’s been great. We’re glad to be joining that kind of community.
North Taproom have 24 taps, with 17 keg beers, two cask lines and also negroni, wine and aperol spritz on tap too.
“We generally have twelve beers from North, a mixture of our core range beers that are always available, constantly tweaking the recipes to improve them, and we also release three new beers a month – limited edition specials that are often collaborations with other brands. Usually it’s other breweries but sometimes we collab with ice cream brands, clothing brands too.
“We’ve currently got Track and Sureshot on the guest lines too.”
If that’s not enough, you can also enjoy the extensive can selection from their fridges that includes: Sours, pilsners, IPAs, pale ales and an extensive selection of non-alcoholic beers for dry January.
Sarah added: “We’re also open for coffee and snacks during the day, so if you’re looking for a quiet place to work and be well fed and watered, we have plugs on most of the tables and wifi.
“We also serve great coffee.”
North Brewing Company are offering two Baos and a beer for a tenner this January.
Don’t know about you, but I’m feeling thirsty…