Salt's Mill, from the northern bank of the Aire. Photo by Jon Farman via Wikimedia Commons.
The visit I paid to Bradford recently was enlightening, even to me. There are Subways and Tesco Express stores where I remember pubs and independent stores.* There are housing developments where I remember open fields, even as recently ast 13 years ago, when we left Bradford for Cumbria. But beyond that, and much more importantly, there are the fruits of the new Bradford, borne of seeds laid long ago in the hearts of men and women like me, who wanted more for their home town. My priorities were somewhat changed when I moved away, but there has been some amazing work done in Bradford recently and not one but two of these examples were the very reasons I was in town.
The Sparrow Bier Cafe, on North Parade, recently celebrated its second birthday. There's much I could say about the short history of the place, the drive and commitment of its owner-operators and what a great place it is to go and drink in general, but much of this has been said already by the great Leigh Linley, over at The Good Stuff. In the interview he gives Leigh, Mark (Husak, co-owner) states his passion for the city and upon meeting the fella, which I have done on a few occasions now, this becomes abundantly clear.
The vision for the Sparrow is clearly rooted in the long-established craft bar scene. The size of the place brings to mind North Bar, or The Rake, with a beer selection that was well-judged, well kept and sold by knowledgable and friendly staff. Even the soaring temperatures on the evening I was there didn't affect my enjoyment, it was simply a case of ordering another pint of Bernard Light, Pivovar's stunning 3.8% pilsner.
The reason I had made this pilgrimage was for the launch of a new brewery, Northen Monk, and their first beer, New World IPA. Northern Monk is the highly anticipated arrival on the commercial brewing scene of Bradford's own David Bishop, multi-award winning homebrewer, who is now working with business partner Russell Bisset on this new venture. I've only had the pleasure of one of Dave's beers before, DamNation, a Belgian-style strong golden ale. Needless to say it was brilliant, understated with a lovely balance of light, wispish malt, bold (without being aggressive) hopping and a luscious estery yeast, in perfect complement to the style. All of this prior knowledge made it essential for me to attend on the night and taste the new output for myself.
New World IPA did not disappoint. The malt character provides a strong backbone for the generous amount of hops, which effused tempting aromas of mangoes, gooseberries and freshly cut limes. I found it to be brief but full on the palate, while being cleansing, refreshing and all too drinkable (especially in the heat!). The bitterness was low and gentle, wringing the most life out of aroma hops and delivering a resolute, fruit-laden flavour that is well deserving of that same hallowed ground currently trodden by Jaipur, Dobber, High Wire and Diablo.
Much like The Sparrow, I suspect these Northern Monks will be around for some time to come.
*Here I was ready, to lament the demise of Frizinghall Model Railways, a place where many happy hours were spent with my Dad in my childhood looking at the beautifully made up displays and set-ups, only to find that no such demise exists. It isn't where it was, but that is because FMR has moved into larger premises and has established a thriving online shop, truly bringing the business into the 21st century. More power to them!
If you're a tweeter and not already doing so, may I recommend following The Sparrow, Northern Monk Brewing Co., David Bishop and Russell Bisset. There's more reviews of New World IPA out there by Simon at CAMRGB, Nick at The Beer Prole, Leigh at The Good Stuff and Boak and Bailey.