I’M not sure I want to tell you this. Indeed, I’m in danger of alienating a number of friends by saying what I’m about to say.

You see, for the past three weeks or so only a select, observant few have been enjoying the latest addition to York’s drinking scene. We’ve been delighting in the view, the atmosphere and the outstanding beer at this hidden gem, tucked away in an upstairs room in the city’s historic heart.

But word is getting out, and you fine people deserve to know. York’s newest bar, the intriguingly named House of The Trembling Madness, sits above the Bottle beer shop in Stonegate, and is arguably the most exciting venue to open in York in years.

The stunning 12th-century medieval hall creates a wonderfully historic setting, aided by a striking view over the neighbouring roof-tops towards York Minster.

More importantly though, the place is serious about beer – and not the stuff with which most of us will be familiar. No sirree.

Instead this place offers a mouth-watering array of exquisite beers on tap, and a dazzling selection of bottles too, with offerings from numerous countries but an over-riding focus on the finest Belgian brews.

Now, I have been to Belgium only once, on a visit to the European Parliament early last year, and to say I was indifferent would be an understatement. Mocking Belgium seems clichéd, but it really was as lame as its reputation.

If the days were dull though, the evenings in the bar were a joy because if Belgium does one thing well (and I can’t readily think of a second) then it is their beer.

Thankfully for all of us, Stonegate is much closer to home than Brussels, and eminently more enjoyable.

I began with a bottle of Straffe Hendrik, weighing in at a commanding nine per cent ABV. It had a golden-copper colour and spicy fruity flavours, of which orange was the most noticeable. A wine writer might say it had an undercurrent of citrus peel. I’ll stick for saying it made me think of marmalade. I really enjoyed it, and will have it again once I’ve worked my way through some of the other offerings.

I opted next for a half-pint of Kwak dark, slightly down the scale at eight per cent, and served in a glass that looked like it belonged in a laboratory, rather than a bar.

Unless the fading light was playing tricks on me, this was slightly darker than the Straffe and I didn’t enjoy it quite as much. I thought the tang a touch too strong and bitter, but that’s just my preference – I know others who rave about Kwak and who are thrilled it’s on tap here.

I ended my shift with a half of Timmerman’s strawberry beer, at a comparatively-measly four per cent. It was very sweet, and “un-beer-like” but very enjoyable, especially for the final drink of the night. The fruity flavour is more akin to tinned strawberries than fresh ones, but with much more vivacity.

An added nice touch at this place was the complimentary popcorn on the tables – although the cynic may note that such saltiness merely fuels one’s thirst.

But such flourishes are no more than a bonus. The potent brews, ancient timbers and quirky glassware already make this place a truly unique and immeasurably welcome addition to the city.

Get yourself along – and to those who have already done so: I’m sorry, the secret’s out.


*There is a “meet the brewer” event at the Bay Horse in Marygate, York, at 9pm on Wednesday, in association with Neary’s the butcher. There will be free sausages and mash and a finger buffet.

*Tockwith Village Hall is hosting a beer festival from noon til 11pm on Saturday, May 8. There will be more than 25 real ales. Entry is £5, which includes a festival glass.

*The Waggon and Horses in Lawrence Street, York, will hold a garden summer beer festival from June 17 to 19, with more than 20 cask ales, plus ciders, a barbecue and live music.

Gavin is Yorkshire columnist of the year.