Packhorse Manager Serves Up His & The Pub’s History

“ The Otley runs as well for me, it’s very much like now, we’ll be empty, and all over a sudden have 50 Smurfs in. Half an hour later they’re gone and all you have left is blue paint everywhere.” Paul McIntyre

Many can flaunt modern grand aesthetics but not all can boast a reputation enduring over a century. Established in the 1850s, the Pack Horse still reminds you of its former character through its conservative look. With an outside courtyard sat on former stables, a live music room and an unmatched collection of its own brewed ale ; its blend of the old and the new makes the Pack Horse one place that deserves your visit. Manager, Paul McIntyre fills Wonders of Woodhouse on 16 memorable years of work at Woodhouse’s oldest pub.

I’m really curious Paul, what was your first day like?

(Laughs) I remember it very well. A friend of mine had just taken over and I used to work with him for another company years before and somebody had let him down and I didn’t like the job I was doing. He said come and join us and I said alright. My plan was just to stay for about six months and on the first day I remember when I got here, he showed me around and he said… “right I’m off”.

Could you describe what the Pack Horse looks like on a regular day?

There’s a lot of nice people who come here, a lot of regulars. You get a nice mix between regulars, you’ve got the band people with their music, you get students, a lots of post graduates, a lot of lecturers. They’re usually more interested in having real ale and having a discussion like the philosophy society meetings here, we’ve got the sci-fi society, a lot of political groups meet here as well especially left wing ones like Red Flag and the Socialist Worker. It’s not quite a mainstream pub.

How do you balance service between the locals and uni students?

It just manages itself really. I think people who live out here just accept the student population. I’d say we are more of a university pub because we get more post graduates and people who work at the university .I think it’s a little less raucous than the Library. People who live around here realise how important the university is, so it’s not something they get particularly worried about. An exception though would be when we get people coming from outside town for the Otley runs, which has changed over the years, massively! (laughs) I blame the internet. It’s good though because it means we are busy all year round.

Are there any seasons in the year that tends to be quieter than other ones?

Well, Christmas is really quiet. Two weeks around Christmas are the quietest of the year and also the back end of the summer. Once we get the last holiday out of the way, you see it usually goes quiet in a build up to freshers. I believe it’s on the 18th this year. It is good because when the students get back it just changes the whole dynamic, the streets become busier again. We tend to open later in the day to manage it, I think around here we are the latest pub that stays open. Often the busiest time would be in the last hour.

What has been the biggest importance after winning the CAMRA award?

We won a ‘most improved CAMRA award a few years ago for our commitment to real ale. We have our spirit sister pub which is called the ‘The Fox & Newt’ down on Burley street where we have our own brewery. We have about four or five at the same time which is quite a big part of the business. It gives us an option to be cheaper. That was one of the biggest points for the CAMRA award we won. It said we are more inventive with the stuff we sell. A good example is ‘Brickyard’ which is one of our standard bitters, we sell at £2.45 a pint which is the cheapest you most likely get in the area. Plus the fact that it is locally brewed, is a quality a lot people like these days.

Looking back on your time at the Pack Horse, is there a day or time that will always be memorable for you?

We have a social every year with ski society, at the beginning of term, the first Friday of every university year they have a social outside and that always memorable. It’s usually one of the busiest days of the year, there is usually about 300 people and it’s quite raucous, all quite friendly. The Otley runs as well for me, it’s very much like now, [we’ll] be empty, and all over a sudden have 50 Smurfs in. Half an hour later they’re gone and all you have left is blue paint everywhere. I mean it’s got a flow to it, not like a normal pub really. It’s unique in that sense. I remember being here one Tuesday afternoon years ago and a load of fellas outside, all in fancy dress as 70s dancers. They were the biggest men I’ve ever seen (Paul gesticulates). I realised they were the Leeds Rhinos. There were only about 15–20 of them but they took up the entire space. I mean, I’m always thrown into situations that just make it so entertaining. I can say I’ve never been bored here. Everyday is different, even tonight, I don’t know what I’ll get.

If you could sum up the Pack Horse as a character, how would you and why?

Ah, I would say it’s been around the block a bit (laughs), maybe a bit rough around the edges but it’s got a lot of good stories. It’s very much a proper boozer. It’s about beer. It’s about music.

By Anne Olaleye