Craft beer may be everywhere you look in 2017, and boy are we glad – we have myriad varieties of full-flavoured and often ridiculously-named hoppy delights gracing our pubs, restaurants and bars.
But of course, it wasn’t always this way. Cast your mind back to 1997, when ales were more the preserve of crusty old pub regulars than moustachioed hipsters.
That, however, is the year the establishment known as ‘the first craft beer bar in Britain’, opened its doors in Leeds – and for the past 20 years North Bar has been one of the driving forces behind the craft beer revolution in Britain.
Birthday celebrations are kicking off with the launch of a brand new beer to be released ahead of North Bar’s birthday party on Saturday 1 July, which is being brewed in collaboration with Danish brewery Dry and Bitter, whose ‘Hops Not Hate’ fundraising project focuses on donating profits to charity at every point in the supply chain.
And this is only the beginning. The beer launch and birthday party coincide with the beginning of NB20: a year of fundraising activities across all seven North Bar venues in Leeds, Otley and Harrogate.
The birthday party will see a limited run of NB20 charity party bags sold at the bar, which will include a copy of the 20th anniversary zine – featuring interviews and illustrations contributed by regulars and members of staff as well as t-shirts, beer and other surprises.
Staff and patrons across North Bar venues will then carry on with the efforts by way of challenges and events, from barbecues to bike rides, with the aim of raising £20,000 over the year.
All proceeds from the celebration beer and fundraising activities will go to Leeds based charity St Gemma’s hospice.
‘We’re really proud of how North Bar has grown and we’re so thankful for the support we’ve received. The love people have for all of our bars is incredible, so we wanted to mark the anniversary by getting as many people involved as possible and giving something back,’ said director and co-founder John Gyngell.
Gyngell, along with co-founder Christian Townsley, was inspired to set up shop after visiting continental café bars, dismayed at the lack of options on the Leeds bar scene at the time.
The bar – in close proximity to two major importers and distributors of speciality beer, James Clay and Vertical Drinks – was well poised to help quench Britain’s growing thirst for better beer, and hosted the UK launches of brands which are now stalwarts of the craft beer scene, including Sierra Nevada, Erdinger, Brooklyn and Schneider Weiss.
Gyngell and Townsley turned to brewing with the opening of North Brewing Company in 2015. The North Bar and Brewing Company remain at the top of their game, reporting record-breaking turnovers and winning awards.