North Brewing Co, Sputnik
The story of North Brewing Co. begins with North Bar, Leeds longest standing craft beer institution. It opened in 1997 with humble aspirations... “just a place for nice people to drink in the city” explains co-founder Christian Townsley. Having moved on from being the UK’s top account for Kronenbourg 1664 “at the time it was the newest and most exotic beer anyone could get hold of”, North Bar soon became the go-to destination for imported beers from the continent and the US. “We searched for new beers. We pushed boundaries. One day we came across Anchor Liberty Ale. We poured the first Sierra Nevada, Brooklyn and Erdinger in the UK.”
As the UK craft beer scene took off, North Bar started dedicating more and more of its hand pulls to decent British beer, including a fine pale ale called Prototype, which North Bar had brewed exclusively for them at Kirkstall Brewery, just down the road.
In 2005 they decided they wanted to get in on the brewing act themselves. They visited brewpubs and breweries all around the world to gather inspiration. But by this point, the bar was doing rather well. So they opened another bar… and then another… and then… well, now there are eight bars affiliated to North Bar within a 20-mile radius of Leeds city centre. A lack of time and money meant their dream of owning a brewery would have to wait.
It took until 2015 when North Bar teamed up with the folks at the Belgrave Music Hall and Headrow House to finally make it happen. “The number of bars we owned had grown to a size that we figured we could sustain the brewery with the customers we already had, so it became a no-brainer and we took the plunge”.
One of Christian’s friends saw a picture online whilst the brewery build was taking place. “Woah! What the 'eff are you doing? Building a rocket?” he asked. The name 'Sputnik' was born.
Sputnik is their super sessionable, dry-hopped pale ale and as the team at North Bar are at pains to point out… “It's ALLLLLL about drinkability”. With a slightly lower ABV than the likes of Transmission (their flagship West Coast IPA), the body and colour are light. The blend of American hops give this beer a citrus and pine aroma, whilst tropical and stone fruit also put in a hoppy appearance. It doesn’t last long. You will want another. Come to terms with that before you start.
North Bar still boasts one of the finest, most interesting and comprehensive selection of beers in the North of England. Many of those beers are now brewed by North Brewing, which was a long time coming. At least it was worth the wait.