Cheers Leeds! – Leeds International Beer Festival 2017

Header Image: Sarah Empson (@geo_heaven)

There’s one thing we know for certain… In Leeds we bloody love a good beer.

The talk of beer makes your mind wander onto the beauty of the drink scene in Leeds, and the iconic events that are held to rejoice in our love for all things beer! The weekend just gone marks the 6th annual Leeds International Beer Festival – which the thought of waiting another year is probably enough to bring a tear to the eyes of some people.

No fear though, the festival just gets bigger and better as the years go on, with a huge number of attendees in combination with a huge number of suppliers – all spreading positive vibes and sharing a love for beer in Leeds. So roll on next year!

We spoke to some independent breweries, suppliers and all-round beer lovers about what they thought of this year’s International Beer Festival…



Vas is a part of the Northern Monk gang – which is a craft brewery housed in a Grade II listed flax mill in Leeds. They are committed to creating the highest quality beers, taking years of brewing heritage. Vas and the gang got into LIBF through a love and passion for beer!

Passion is one thing that all these vendors, breweries and beer fanatics have. Events like the International Beer Festival is where people get to showcase this passion, and with Leeds being a real community based city it just makes the atmosphere even better.

When thinking about the beer scene in Leeds, Vas said: The beer scene in Leeds is a thriving hubbub of activity. A city that truly celebrates food, drink and hospitality, there’s always events on and somewhere fun to be. Outside of Leeds the beer scene is simply exploding which has just meant we’ve seen more and more amazing beer emerging from the UK!”

Vas’ best moments/recommendations from this year’s festival: “Noibu, a juicy IPA which we brewed in collaboration with Verdant, a brewery in Cornwall, who are creating some fantastic hazy beers. Magic Rock had a keg of Barrel 25, a wild fermentation beer which was outstanding. Hawkshead were also showcasing a sour cherry Tiramisu which was also super memorable in a haze of fabulous beer.”


Credit: Gage Oxley


Drew draws pictures, and has done since about 2004 when he and some friends were putting on gigs and needed to advertise them. He has now been doing illustration full time for about ten years – and the Leeds International Beer Festival print just shows how talented he is.

Art and beer may not be two things you would initially pair, but together they are absolutely perfect. Drew’s artwork that we saw featured around Leeds Town Hall is a mega example of this as his work helped to bring even more life to the event and became a symbol for us.

For somebody who just a beer lover, the festival for Drew was a different experience to the others. Drew said: “It was great! I only made it for the Friday day time session, but that was plenty. I always prefer those early sessions, when it’s quieter.”

“It feels like you get the whole place to yourself and all the best beer is still available. The festival just seems to get better and bigger every year. It is an absolute joy to be involved in a small way.”

Drews best moments/recommendations from this year’s festival: “All of it.”


Credit: Drew Millward



Spike is the general manager of Tapped Leeds, who sell the international beer festival tickets to customers at the bar. This year for the international beer festival, Tapped Leeds tried to replicate their bar and changing their beer selection up at the town hall.

Although entitled “beer festival” – the event is about so much more as well. Obviously, the priority is on beer as we are showcased with the best of the best from loads of different vendors, but the atmosphere is what makes it so special. The circus tent, the different varieties of food, the entertainment all add up together to compliment the beer and just make it a right laugh.

Spike agreed and said: “The town hall is an amazing venue and they kit it out so well. The size of the event and the various activities which aren’t about beer are all big parts of the weekend.”

Spike’s best moments/recommendations from this year’s festival: “Brew York – Imperial Tonkoko really stood out for me. It tasted like a bounty bar and had a decent abv to go with it. I really enjoyed the face painting and the balloon animals this year, that was a nice surprise.”


Credit: Magic Rock Brewing



Richard is the founder and managing director of Magic Rock Brewing, which is a business he started with his brother Jonny (and head brewer) Stuart in 2011. He had a long-term interest with beers and was inspired to start the brewery by the craft beer scene in America, which he had fallen in love with.

Beer festivals are an amazing place for breweries to showcase their work, as we don’t always get the men behind the business when their creations are served to us in bars and pubs. For Magic Rock Brewing, this year’s International Beer Festival was the best they had been a part of.

Richard said: “We have always had a great relationship with the organisers of the festival and together put a lot of work into the big top this year. I attended the Saturday afternoon session and had a great time.”

Richard’s best moments/recommendations from this year’s festival: “I spent a lot of my time in our circus tent out front but was enjoying Hawkshead and Wylams beers too.”


Credit: Leeds Beer Fest



The team at Kirkstall Brewery had previously been doing some work at Leeds Town Hall with Darren Potter and Maria Estibaliz Terron for the Film Festival. They all went to a beer festival and picked out elements that they liked – and some they thought they could improve on. When they realised they had access to both the most beautiful events space in Leeds and the best range of beers in the world, they put on a festival to combine the two!

There is no denying the fact that there are a lot of beer festivals out there, but the Leeds International Beer Festival is somewhat prestigious amongst the rest and the people of Leeds really look forward to it. 

What is it that makes LIBF stand out amongst the rest? John said: “My favourite aspect of it is its accessibility. Although we’ve undoubtedly got some of the best beers in the work, you can turn up without having a huge passion for beer and still have a great time. There’s absolutely no pretentious element to the fest at all, it’s just all sorts of fun.” 

John’s best moments/recommendations from this year’s festival: “Obviously Kirkstall’s Virtuous Session IPA! Also, a Lervig beer that tasted like Double Deckers, can’t remember what it was called, long weekend. Beer aside, the combination of Cal’s (North Bar) Bloody Mary and Bundo’s Vada Pav are the only reason I’m still alive.”


Credit: Bundobust



Rich’s job is Operations Manager for North Bar ltd, so he oversees the running of the 7 bars – having worked in bars and pubs since he was 18, he has a good taste for beer, and has been working at North Bar for three and half years. At LIBF, he oversaw the 3 bars that North Bar had running there.

North Bar is a household name in Leeds now, since opening in 1997 the brand has a family of bars under its belt that has helped to shape the beer scene. It is fair to say that Rich and the rest of the gang at North Bar have seen the developments in the beer scene in Leeds.

Here’s what Rich had to say about the scene: “I may be biased but I’d say that Leeds is the best city in the UK for modern beer. We are really spoilt by the number of bars and shops doing great things in Leeds, and you sometimes forget that until you go elsewhere. In addition, there’s always things like the festival which really help spread the word of good beer to a wider audience. Within the industry we’re all proud of how good Leeds is for beer and try to keep it that way.”

Rich’s best moments/recommendations from this year’s festival: “My memory may be a little hazy, not sure why. The final thing that happened to me at the festival as we were closing down was a volunteer come up to me and said ‘there’s a guy with a tiger’s face looking for you’ – that pretty much summed up the festival for me. I’m absolutely knackered but had the best time, same again next year.”


Credit: Magic Rock Brewing


Dan is one of the founders of EYES brewing, which is the UK’s first and only wheat focused brewery. One of the things that got him into brewing was attending events like LIBF, which got him excited about beer and made him want to make his own. When he started brewing and tweaking recipes, he couldn’t get enough of it and knew that it was what he wanted to do for a living… and the rest is history!

As somebody who was an avid beer festival attendee before EYES was created, Dan has the beauty of being able to see the festival as both a beer lover and a beer creator. The fact that he says Leeds International Beer Festival is a stand out shows that the festival is a great experience for everybody, whether you’re an attendee or supplier – it’s a proper good weekend.

So, what did Dan think about the festival? He said: “The beer festival was great again this year. The beer was plentiful, the people were friendly and the atmosphere was amazing – everybody was excited to be there and thrilled it was that time of year again. The eye for detail and the fact that brewers are excited to showcase their best products makes Leeds International Beer Festival one of the best there is.”

Dan’s best moments/recommendations from this year’s festival: “I really enjoyed some of the weirder beers at this LIBF. Tadziki Sour by mad hatter was incredible. It tasted like cucumber and yoghurt but was a truly drinkable and refreshing beer. That’s whats so wonderful about the LIBF, it’s like a great big sweet shop from a Roald Dahl book full of amazing and weird choices. Something for everyone.”

Credit: Gage Oxley



Anthony owns Friends of Ham, who specialise in great beer and charcuterie. Friends of Ham got into the beer game after a bit of travelling around America and Europe and were inspired by the beer scenes and café culture.

The festival is not only for breweries, as charcuterie heroes Friends of Ham show by bringing good food and drink to the table (or festival in this case…) to bring showcase a bit of diversity, which is exactly how Leeds is as a city – full of diversity.

When asked about how the Leeds International Beer Festival was for him, Anthony said: “It was great fun. We took over the hut in “The Wood Beneath the World” and did a little Alpine theme with Raclette and Aperol Spritz. The smell of cheese took over the building!

Anthony’s best moments/recommendations from this year’s festival: “The Wild Beer Co Jambo we had on was delicious. It’s an Imperial Stout with Raspberries & chocolate.”


Credit: Friends Of Ham



The Leeds International Beer Festival brings back special memories for Marko, as four years ago it is where Bundobust started. Mayur and Marko came together in a pop-up to bring Prashad and The Sparrow respectively to create Bundobust.

It’s no secret that the boys of Bundobust love a good beer, and sell good craft beer too – so they know their stuff. Marko says: “Leeds has always been a great city for beer and West Yorkshire is one for the recognised beer capitals of the country. It is great to see so many micro-breweries popping up.”

Bundobust has a soft spot for The International Beer Festival as it is where it all began. The unpretentious and welcoming atmosphere that the festival offers makes it a perfect place for collaborations (as they did) and really showcases the community in Leeds.

Marko says: “They have something for beer geeks and general good beer seekers just coming to enjoy the occasion. The organisers have done a great job in pulling this together and making it really inclusive with ‘something for everyone’ without compromising quality.”

Marko’s best moments/recommendations from this year’s festival: “The high point for me was the Magic Rock big top, a real buzzy theatre, and I loved all the amazing rainbow project beers.”


Credit: Bundobust



Doreen works for The Five Point Brewing Company and has represented the brewery at Leeds International Beer Festival for the last four years. Doreen says she feels so lucky to be able to have met so many wonderful people in the beer industry, as well as in Leeds at LIBF.

For a brewing company that is based in Hackney, London – the yearly trip to Leeds for the LIBF must be a completely different experience and be a window of opportunities, not only to the beer scene in Leeds, but to our community as a whole.

Here’s what Doreen said about her LIBF experience: “Leeds International Beer Festival is one of the most inclusive and unpretentious beer festivals in the country, which one of its main strengths as a festival. It’s a beer festival for your friend who is nearing silly numbers on her Untappd profile as well as well as your mate who doesn’t know what she or he likes yet, but is keen to try stuff.”

She added: “It’s also good for your one friend who won’t drink anything but cider or lager. LIBF welcomes them all, with plenty of world class breweries to please any palate in an incredibly relaxed, fun atmosphere.

Doreen’s best moments/recommendations from this year’s festival: “I got to try some Het Uiltje beers from their stand, which was great. Also, lots of love to the Mad Hatter Tzatziki Sour, which was on absolute form when I had it. I also had Tempest’s Mango Berliner which was super squishy-tart tasty mango juice, and that Brew By Numbers Cuvée was superb. Shout out to the Yeastie Boys’ inflatable T-Rex for keeping it surreal. MVP of Leeds International Beer Festival.”


We can’t wait to see you next year!