20 Years of North Bar #NB20

July 1st marked the 20th anniversary of North Bar. Here we are, 7 bars and a brewery later. 2017 has been a fantastic year, on Monday we were voted ‘Best IPA in 2017’ in the Imbibe ‘IPA Challenge’ at Olympia, we’ve won Best Brewery Pub Company in The Publican Awards, Best New Brewery in West Yorkshire in the Rate Beer Awards and in April John and I were listed amongst the top 50 ‘Power List’ at the Northern Restaurant & Bar Show, acknowledging the ‘biggest players in the North of England’s hospitality scene’ – alongside some seriously talented individuals and teams, an accolade I’m particularly delighted about following over two decades of hard work and commitment to the industry.

To acknowledge the landmark of twenty years, we’re launching #NB20: Our mission to raise £20,000 for St. Gemma’s Hospice, a charity which does wonderful things for people in the Leeds community. For the following 12 months we’ll be encouraging staff and drinkers from all seven North Bar venues to get involved with various fundraising activities, some sporty and some less so. Please visit https://www.justgiving.com/company/northbar to sponsor us or get involved!

We have a thriving food and drink scene in the North and one that is unrecognisable from the one we became a part of in 1997. Back then there was no grand plan, no long term strategy, just an honest commitment to creating a place that was friendly and served great drinks to like minded people. To be frank, in 1997 the drinks weren’t even that great, but we soon found our feet and discovered a passion for what we then called ‘speciality’ and is now referred to as ‘craft’ beer. On the way North Bar accidentally became labelled ‘the UK’s first craft beer bar’, (although to us it has always just been a great bar that sold excellent beer!), as our passion and knowledge for great booze developed. It’s a journey we’re still on, I learn something new about beer, wines, spirits, every day, and long may that continue.

In 2015 the stars aligned and we found a way to set up a brewery. With a dash of naivety, a helping of optimism and a bucket full of hard work we opened North Brewing Co. Our 20 year understanding and knowledge of the brewing industry didn’t fully prepare us for this venture, essentially a start up business in manufacture, packaging and distribution. However I’m delighted to say that we finished our first full year profitably, we’re already ahead of our projected figures and we’re now brewing at capacity. With more brewing vessels on their way we’re set to double output in the year ahead.

We owe our successes to date to some of the incredible people we’ve worked with over the years, including the incredibly hard working, supportive and committed head office team and a group of wonderful site managers, assistants and staff across our sites, current and former. Our relationships with suppliers has remained consistent with our values, we remain dedicated to those relationships and working with people whom share the importance we place on relationships and our commitment to integrity.

There are way too many people to mention, although it would be remiss of me to not tip my cap to my business partners John Gyngell (North Bar & Brewery) and Steven Ballard (North Brewing), our Finance Director Joanne Wilkinson, our brewery team led by Head Brewer Seb Brink and Sales Manager Fay Haworth, our team at Head Office, Carolyn Pryce, Rich Fiddaman, Harry Headford, Matt Gladman and Fran Rackham, and our brilliant managers and staff at our venues, all of whom share our vision and work incredibly hard to help us achieve it. A remarkable team with whom I have the very good fortune to work, each with our own quirks, different attributes and skill sets and above all an over-riding desire to do something toppa.

Last but by no means least, a huge thank you to the many many customers we’ve been fortunate to share our venues and drinks with for twenty years. So many of whom have become friends for life. North Bar and the bars and brewery that it has spawned would be nothing without you!

Cheers! xxx

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