Great Yorkshire Beer
Great Northern Books
pp 192 (hardcover)
As one of the blogosphere’s foremost beer and food champions, Leigh Linley’s debut book has been long overdue. Though he could have easily written one book about beer and another about food, we can be grateful that both passions share space happily in Great Yorkshire Beer. Having said that, after ‘Beer’, the second biggest word on the cover is ‘Yorkshire’, and it’s the county itself that’s the real star of this personal, heartfelt and stomach-rumble-inducing book about fantastic beer and food.
Leigh set out to write a book that didn’t currently exist – a guide to great beer in Yorkshire – and in the end has written something even better. From friendly and fascinating interviews with some of the most exciting and respected brewers in Yorkshire, to tantalising and temptingly accessible recipes for delicious-looking food, to lip-lickingly evocative tasting notes for fantastic beers, this is a treasure trove of information that you will want to return to again and again.
Thirteen Yorkshire breweries are featured, from the famous Saltaire, Summer Wine, Kirkstall, Ilkley and Rooster’s, to lesser-known ones like Wharfebank and The Brew Co . Whilst there may seem to be a slight bias towards newer brewers, that is simply reflective of the modern Yorkshire beer scene. It’s an exciting brewing landscape that Leigh describes with pride. He’s itching to tell us about this great couple that started brewing a few years ago, dying to show us the wonderful interiors of pubs and brewery buildings, and gasping to describe the amazing beers he’s tried from every brewer in the book. The interviews are insightful and interesting, giving us glimpses into each brewer’s starting point, their dreams for the future and what makes them so passionate about what they do. The interviews also serve to demonstrate the enormous variety of people and businesses that the Yorkshire brewing industry is made up of.
After an interview with the brewers and tasting notes of a selection of their best beers, Leigh will recommend a small, easy-to-make dish to try alongside them. These ‘Tasty tasters’ are one of the book’s highlights, and demonstrate Leigh’s ability to take great, simple food ideas and put them alongside beers that are exciting and interesting. Like any book with good food in it, there are plenty of vibrant photos, each making you want to pop into the shop on the way home to get some ingredients (and some beers).
The real strength of Great Yorkshire Beer is that pride and enthusiasm that takes you from one page to the next, and the sense that this is one man’s heartfelt attempt to nail down everything that excites him about where he lives and what he loves. Great Yorkshire Beer is not a list of every beer or pub in Yorkshire. Such a thing would have only have value as a reference material. This is a book that shines a spotlight on what is truly great in a county full of beer of pubs, and gives you something cracking to eat with every pint, too.
After the main body of the book, Leigh has included a further eight recipes for meals that are perfect matches for different beers. Again, the meals look absolutely delicious and the recipes are straightforward, requiring a very short shopping list (most need fewer than ten ingredients). As I said at the beginning, there’s a real sense that Leigh could – and should – do an entirely food-focused book , perhaps a sort of Yorkshire Brewmaster’s Table (just a suggestion, Leigh). It’s really refreshing to read a book where the beer and the food share an almost equal billing, instead of the half-hearted food matches being relegated to a dusty corner.
It’s a handy size for a beer book, too. Not a cumbersome ale bible for tickers, this is a travelling companion for some great weekends exploring the best of what Yorkshire has to offer. Great Yorkshire Beer is a genuinely different kind of beer book. It’s for people that love to read about culture, history, plucky Yorkshire ambition, and excellent food and beer, and marks the beginning of what will hopefully be a long list of books by one of the UK’s best beer writers.