I am very happy to be in the middle of a great beer scene. Since I moved to Leeds it's always had a plethora of options to fill my pint glass, but the onus on creating more variety seems to be getting better and better. There's plenty of craft beer bars in Leeds to create quite the pub crawl, or just set up shop and work through the menu in one place.
Since my free time is mainly filled with some measure of craft, it's a mystery as to why this guide hasn't appeared on my blog already. So, in all their glory, here are the options on where to get the best beer in Leeds. Although, even with this comprehensive list, you can fill in any gaps with even more taps that are dotted around the city.
Let's kick off with my favourites and where you'll often find me...
North Brewing Co Taproom
Good for: sours and guest taps
My second home! The Sheepscar brewery is usually where I'll be on a summer's weekend for Eat North, but for any other time, I'll be in the Leeds city centre taproom. An excellent sun trap, or plenty of stools to set-up on inside. A few of the permanent taps have my favourites flowing through them (namely, Sputnik from North Brewing), but expect to see regular guest taps and schooners waiting to be filled with sour flavours, alongside a nice whisky selection, cheap G&Ts and good coffee. Little Bao Boy are also in residency, offering an A+ nibble if you're there for the afternoon.
Good for: something stronger and unique flavour pairings
Such an ace venue, based just outside the city centre. Another excellent beer garden and indoor bar, with guest kitchens rotating the food menu. Whether it's a collab from Northern Monk themselves, or another British brewer, you'll always find some interesting flavours to try here. Case in point is my all time favourite beer, the Neopolitan Pale, usually back on tap each summer. Set up for a session with caution, as most of said interesting flavours come with a pretty high ABV, but it makes the perfect spot for a literal couple. This venue also plays host to a few beer festivals each year, between Hop City and Dark City, there's plenty of beers to adventure no matter what your preference is.
Good for: something for everyone and easy drinkers
The fail safe for those new to beer or the starting point to get your group together. Tapped is a micro brewery in house, as well as hosting plenty of Yorkshire brewers on tap. This, alongside some of the best pizza in Leeds (my favourite would be the veggie Nicholas Cajun). I find most of the flavours here tend to be pretty similar, standard to be easy drinkers; pales and sessions, with the occasional dark beer thrown in. For a little plot twist to your drinking, they also have a lucky dip selection - cheaper beers with no idea what you're getting, all with short use by dates or those that may have slightly passed it. I'm yet to get anything undrinkable and there have been some winners underneath the paper.
Good for: the most variety
There's not much I can't shout about at Assembly from the food variety (including the irresistible Slap & Pickles), to the brilliant atmosphere and included in the greatness is their array of beers. Beer at Assembly Underground is yours for the picking from the 50 taps on offer. The guys from Vocation & Co are the ones behind this venture so you'll see plenty on offer from them, alongside some familiar locals (and fellow places in this round-up) and current lager trendies like Veltins. There is truly something for everyone here, with menus dotted around divided into style of beer to help you decide. Over faced by the variety? Get your friendly Assembly beer puller to share their favourites or go with my favourite fail safe, Vocation's Heart & Soul IPA.
Good for: real ale, proper cider and Yorkshire beer
Ah, the mainstay. An old favourite and the ultimate when you need to get cosy (their USP is no sun). My immediate go-to for darker nights and weeknight sessions, Foleys has an extensive collection of traditional cider, more traditional ales and a rotation of guest taps that bring some more unique flavours for you to try. Prices are great at Foleys, for their beer and their food, so it's the perfect place to set-up for a session in craft, bringing traditional English pub vibes with a craft twist.
Of course, Leeds isn't limited to my favourite craft beer bars. Here are a pick of the rest, combined with the above would form an excellent ~and extensive~ craft beer crawl in the city.
Good for: An award winning location
I couldn't have a craft beer in Leeds round-up without North Bar earning a place. Another offering from North Brewing and a national award winner for the best craft beer bar in the UK. Don't be deceived by the slim shop front, this place seems to endlessly stretch back from the street, with taps racked up from North Brewing (of course), as well as their local beer friends. Stash your group in the photo booth at the back before you leave to commemorate your trip.
Good for: my own nostalgia & a good selection
Taking a step back from the ongoing marketing debacle from the brand, let's focus on the beer. Brew Dog (the beer and the bar) was my first proper foray into craft and I spent my early days of living in Leeds near exclusively drinking in the venue behind the Corn Exchange. Punk IPA has filtered into pretty much every average bar and it's usually my easy pick, but the branded venues always host the full Brew Dog selection, alongside a handful of guest taps that are usually dark beers or hopped up.
Good for: something different
Fairly new to Leeds, Craft Asylum refreshed two spaces in the city and lovingly titled them Craft Asylum #1 and Craft Asylum #2. Salt Beer from Shipley populate the taps in both bars, with most of their main menu being made up of unique-to-Salt flavours and subtle sours. The bright red neon signs light the way in both of these spots, both seemingly having the exact same menu based on my previous visits. The Candle House venue is ideal to start off with from the train, then take your pick of the rest of this list for wherever the night takes you.
Whitelocks & Turk's Head
Good for: History and English taps
Your ultimate in history with a modern little sibling next door. Whitelocks is a true British pub, dating back to 1715. The small space is split between a bar and a restaurant, with short-lived tap placements from all around the UK. Next door, along the courtyard, Turk's Head opened in recent years and is the slick modern offering, with a throwback speakeasy vibe. The crystal decanters and marble backsplash line the back bar, with sleek velvet furnishings and apothecary cabinets finishing off the interiors. At Turk's Head, get the best in modern craft taps, again with plenty of tips to Leeds locals, as well as UK up and comers.
Good for: pre-train beers and easy drinkers
I'm going to call this a hidden treasure as it doesn't seem to have got half as much attention as it should have. In what was previously the White Cloth Gallery, Brew Society has taken up residence. It's good for coffee, a quick lunch or, ideally situated for pre-train beers. The taps are always changing, with a great mix of styles and flavours, ranging from easy drinkers through to the odd weird and wonderful brew. If you can bag a stool in the window, it's a great spot for people watching.
Good for: North Brewing and tap takeovers
Another old favourite and another destination perfect for getting cosy in the winter. There's an excellent sun trap in the back, but come colder weather, the log fires will warm the place up in heat and atmosphere. North Brewing beers populate the taps, with regular tap takeovers and a rotating wider selection of Yorkshire locals from your craft favourites. This is proper pub vibes, with a menu full of delicious stodgy food should you need to soak up any of your session.
Good for: Something different and hoppy beers
The Indian street food favourite is more than little pots of joy (more on their food in a separate post if you're unfamiliar, if the bhaji burger is on specials, don't pass it up). The backdrop to the long set restaurant is a bar crammed with as many taps as they can fit in. As with the twist in some of the Indian food favourites, expect the same for beer. Experimental flavours, usually always a Northern Monk offering and plenty of collabs or guest beer launches at the Leeds venue. As an aside to beer, they also have a pretty crackin' cocktail menu if you need an alternative.
So, now when you're looking for the best craft beer bars in Leeds, you have a one stop shop to refer back to. Of course, there are plenty more to try (for better and worse), but you'll be off to a flying start in any of the above.
If you want to follow along with my own adventures of the taps, I'm on Untappd ('Phibster', obvs). Otherwise, I'll see you at the bar 🍻