The world according to Christian Townsley

A Tierney-Jones

20 February 2019

The co-founder of craft forerunner North Bar in Leeds talks Spiderman, glass-collecting and the evolution of IPA with Adrian Tierney-Jones


Wile E Coyote is my favourite cartoon character. I think it’s because of his poor hapless nature. I feel like that about Daffy Duck as well. Maybe it’s because I identify with them.

Tips for success? Surround yourself with the best people you can get hold of – anyone who shares your values and your ideals – and remember what you do is hospitality.

IPA is here to stay. It’s not a fad. In 1998 or 1999, Anchor Liberty Ale blew me away – it seemed so hoppy, citrusy and piney. It’s funny how now, compared to modern IPAs, it seems modest in its hop profile.

The music from Tubular Bells still haunts me. When I was about 15, me and my mates went to watch The Exorcist, but before we went we had a couple of beers. Maybe that is why I thought the film was hilarious. I saw it again 12 years later and it terrified me.

John Gyngell and I opened North Bar in 1997. I was 22 and John was 25. We didn’t intend for it to be a speciality beer bar, but we started to research beers and find the likes of Orval and Chimay, and that was the start of it. The first few weeks were a bit quiet, but we got pretty lucky as we were opposite the Grand Theatre and the backstage crew started coming in. The reality was we didn’t know what we had until seven years in.

If I was an Avenger, I would be either the Hulk or Spiderman. My youngest boy is obsessed with Spiderman so it would have to be him.

We opened bars that correlated with where we were in our lives. In 2005, when we were a little older, we wanted somewhere we could take our partners and parents to lunch, so we opened The Cross Keys. When we took it on, it had been a store for tyres after closing as a pub in the early 80s. The area it was in was being regenerated. We were toying with lots of different ideas then, including an all-out Belgian bar.

I lasted two years studying astrophysics, but bars, beer and pubs led me astray.

I love lamb achari at my local takeaway in Skipton, where I live. It is hot and sharp with a bit of sourness in it, though they do need to put some more veg in.

I started working as a glass collector in a dodgy pub in Sunderland when I was 17 years old. It was a bit of an eye-opener for a naive teenager. At that time, I enjoyed a fizzy bitter known as Scotch. When I moved to Leeds for university, I went into a pub and asked for a pint of Scotch. They looked at me as if I was bonkers.

Christian Townsley's CV

1992 Starts working as a glass collector in a Sunderland pub
1994 Moves to Leeds to attend university
1996 Leaves university to work in a club, where he meets
business-partner-to-be John Gyngell
1997 Opens up North Bar in Leeds with Gyngell
2005 Opens The Cross Keys, Leeds
2007 Opens Further North, Leeds
2011 Opens The Alfred, Leeds
2013 Opens The Preston in Leeds, North Bar Social in Otley
2015 North Bar wins The Observer Food Monthly’s ‘Best
Place to Drink in Britain’
2015 Founds North Brewing
2016 Opens North Bar, Harrogate
2017 North Brewing’s Transmission wins ‘Best UK IPA in
2017’ in the Imbibe IPA Challenge
Late 2018 North Brewing Leeds city centre tap to open

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