Saturday, 17 September 2016

Sheffield's newest Micropub.... opening this evening, across from Shakespeares, if what Neepsend Rich told me is true - and why wouldn't it be? In the hours before that however, Sheffield's newest Micropub opened about 5 weeks ago and is the Itchy Pig on Glossop Road in Broomhill. That was where I was last night. That was where I met Neepsend Rich. That was my second visit.

I don't actually know, or more likely can't remember, what the pub used to be - I mean a shop, obviously, but not what type. The pub is small, it is a micropub after all, and seats about 18 people, with room to stand. Friday night you have to be patient to get a seat - I started off at the bar supping my excellent pint of Neepsend Snapshot talking to Rich, before spotting an end seat on the small table on the right.

The pub has 5 handpumps selling 4 real ales and 1 cider along with 4 or 5 keg lines including Curious Brew, Abbeydale Heathen and guests like Brew Foundation. The pub sells, in packet and in pints, 7 different styles of pork scratchings and has a deal with the Pizza shop round the corner, possibly called Roots, who  you can order pizza from to eat in the pub. The atmosphere is noisy, mainly due to high ceiling and hard surfaces, the bar is homemade (and has a coin under perspex top) and the decorations are subtle and beer or alcohol related. Its very much a micro pub.

The pub was very busy last night and two yoot came in - am guessing they were students, and immediately took their beer outside. The owner went after them to say they couldn't, and they sat down next to me with a giant bag of Sainsburys salt and vinegar stick crisps, which they started to eat whilst they supped their beer. The owner, whose name I have obviously forgotten, said "thats a bit cheeky, eating your own crisps" and asked them not to. Thereafter, the world's most boring man moaned about this for 45 miunutes to his hopefully deaf female friend. Apparently he hadn't heard the word cheeky since 2007 (?) and there wasn't a sign saying you couldn't eat your own food, and that he didn't see why the guy couldn't have just said don't eat your own food in here.

Now I've only been drinking for 25 years but I have known only two pubs where you could bring your own food, and that was advertised clearly as you entered. Everywhere else I would expect, especially since they serve their own snacks, that you couldn't eat your own. The funniest thing he said was "and its really expensive". I nearly said " try the York - where you definitely can't eat your own food". Anyway, the mindless chuntering of mewling children aside this was a great visit, and  I had another pint of the Sharpshooter and a half of the Brew Foundation to finish.  The bus 120 stops virtually outside and you can catch the 51, 52 or 52a to stops nearby. Give it a try!

By way of comparison I caught the 52 next and got off near South Road to visit the Walkley Beer Co - Sheffield's first Micropub. An excellent range of ales was available as always, and I had a pint or two of the Buxton Axe Edge pale on keg at £4.90 a pint. It as on impeccable form, and went down,  being about 6.5%, far too easily. Was good to chat to Dan and Mr Ransomne, and also to see Kit for the first visit in a while. The Walkley Beer Co is possibly smaller than the Pig, but is a wonderful place to visit to drink great real ale, take bottled beers out, buy brewing ingredients or books, and mainly to be part of the Walkley Beer Co community.

Best of luck to all the above - including the one which may open in 70 minutes time. More excellent reasons to drink real ale in Sheffield.


Wee Beefy

Sunday, 11 September 2016

Sheffield beer survey crawl, 03 September 2016


       I promised young Matty that I would accompany him, as young members secretary, on his part of the survey of the Sheffield pubs selling real ales on a particular day. The crawl is (mostly) chosen by CAMRA and is designed to reflect the largest number of pubs selling real ales, or rather the smallest selling the most, for the Beer Capital Survey.

Being the Young member's secretary Matty decided to rashly ignore my sage advice on how to get to the first pub, the Cross Scythes on Derbyshire Lane. He caught the 20, and the driver said he would tell him where to get off. Numerous stops later, when Matty asked, the driver said he had forgot about him and told him how to get back to where the short walk started. Matty arrived half an hour late. Luckily, the bar staff confirmed he was their first customer.

Being so late I arrived only 5 minutes after he had left - I had planned to meet him at the Abbey on Woodseats but instead hared up to the pub to have a very quick half of Thornbridge Clerks Well, an excellent hoppy pale at about 6%, one of the beers of the day, then nipped out to catch the bus up to the next pub which Matty was already at.

The Mount Pleasant Inn front door was closed but I knew to get in round the back. The pub is currently being run by Gwyneth, landlord Stuart's daughter, and her husband. Sadly Stuart passed away at the end of June and they have only been running the pub for three or four weeks. From the ales on offer me and Matty both had halves of the Adnams Samba City, a clear wheat beer brewed to celebrate the Olympics - its refreshing and very easy drinking.  Lets hope the pub continues to be a successful community hub.

Down Cobnar Lane next in torrential rain, we arrived at the Abbey. Before we got there, there were more staff than customers (6 vs 5) and the pub was very quiet. We both had halves of the Moonshine from a range of two - the range of four if the others had been on however, hadn't changed since they reopened. As we chatted a staff member spotted a small rogue crumb on the table next to us and raced over to swipe it from the tabletop. He then went to clean a clean door. I know it was crap weather and mid afternoon on a day with no home matches but this doesn't bode well.

Off to the Woodseats Palace next, my first ever trip. Unless it used to be Kwik Save....I had  a half of O Hanlons Yellowhammer and Matty Burton Bridge Top Dog Stout and we settled down to chat and plan the rest of our crawl. Both beers were well kept and possibly cost £2.60 a pint.

Down to Heeley next through the torrential downpour, and we ended up at the Crown Inn. Now refurbished it sells four real ales at a decent price. I had a half of something hoppy, Hop Gun which may have been from Everards, and Matt a half of the Lost Boot from Charles Wells. We dried off here and chatted to the landlady, who very kindly gave us a bag for Matty's notes. By now the rain was heavier still.

Just up the road is the White Lion and in here Matty had a half of Abduction from Dancing Duck and a half of something else, whilst I had a pint of Hopjacker's Vics secret. All the beers in here, apart from Tetleys, were £3.15 a pint, which is very good value for the stronger ones. We sat in the lovely front bar snug and I asked Dave to share updates from me with the beer crawl page, as we were, and remained, the only two persons on the CAMRA beer crawl. And I am not a CAMRA member.

Up the hill to the Brothers next and we had pints of cask and halves of keg. Regrettably the identity of the cask beers has slipped my mind (it was strong) but I recall having the excellent Rango Mango from Abbeydale on keg and loving it. The pub was busy inside what with the weather but was a great place to stop, and Matty chatted with the bar staff about upcoming beers.

Down the hill again, to the Sheaf View, where we had halves of cask which may have been the Neepsend pale ale, but also may not have been. We sat in the back and worked out our route to the next pub whilst enjoying the ales.

Its a short trek from here to the Hop Hideout - and it had virtually stopped raining. We bumped into Andy C outside (with 3 accompanying folk) and tried to ascertain where they had been and were going - we found out we did not need to visit the Broadfield. At the Hop Hideout Jules and Will were on hand to dispense two excellent halves of sour on keg - a 7.2% one possibly from Lervig Brewery, and the excellent 6.2% Oud Beersel Gueze were sampled. An excellent and palette cleansing visit.

Up the road next to the Union, a pub I have not been in for ages, and Matty may never have been. Halves of Moonshine I think in here, mainly because the Taylors was about £3.60 a pint (and the recently run out Absolution was £3.80!?). Its a lovely, if pricey place to stop, but we needed to head for London Road.

We followed the 22 route and turned down past the new Tescos and came out more or less opposite the Cremorne. Here we both halves of the excellent Alchemist from Pictish, and shared a half of Last Rites from Abbeydale on keg. As this was nearly our last pub we downed our quarters before we left, for reasons absolutely unclear. Our penultimate pub was to have been the Club House, but we popped into the Albion anyway. They had one beer on, probably Farmers Blonde, which we supped quickly.

At the Clubhouse at the end of London Road we had halves each of the Clubhouse Pale and I had something pale from somewhere. We met up with Wee Keefy and he joined us for a half before we headed to the Beer Engine, our last pub.

The pub was busy but alas we missed the food, so both had pints of the 7%+ Wild keeper of the peace pale ale on keg as a finisher, and chatted before being joined by Em R. My memories appear to fade in here a little, no doubt unrelated to my having another pint. After this we all went to the Bath Hotel, where I can't remember what we had to drink at all, before they went to the Dev cat and I finished at Shakespeares on two halves of the excellent De Molen beers from the Tap Takeover. One was the strong beer possibly called heaven and hell and over 10%, and the other was the Amarillo pale ale at 7%.  At about midnight I announced I was sober enough to catch the bus home, and got on and fell asleep, waking at Woodhouse. The things I do for beer....

This was a highly enjoyable crawl, in atrocious weather conditions to start with, but it was strange to me that nobody joined us - although, Matty didn't have any charge on his phone so maybe that's why he couldn't update the young or other members, but am sure the event is well known in CAMRA circles. I was assured that nobody joined Patrick on his crawl and other people did their tours solo, but that just suggests that the Beer Capital of Britain is a crown that Sheffield CAMRA doesn't want.  Combined with Sheffield council's woeful dis-interest in Sheffield's claims to be the best place to drink real ale in the UK it is clear that Sheffield is missing a trick.

Its important to point out that I have already discussed the above with David, AKA Kate, the Sheffield CAMRA wallah. So bear in mind that my concerns have already been lodged.

A shame, but nonetheless a hugely enjoyable crawl.


Wee Beefy

Sunday, 28 August 2016

A Sheffield crawl in August


      last week was quite a thirsty one - I mean, nowadays, all weeks are quite slakish but last week was particularly so. On Thursday I had a beer "none" crawl, supping in the Devonshire Cat all night with Mr Marsh. Strange that we both ended up on the roulette wheel of despair at the same place having initially worked in the nineties together. The beer I was drinking was delicious, as was Steve's - he on Yorkshire Blackout which is Cropton, or the Great Yorkshire Brewery, and £3.75 a pint on keg. I was on the Great Heck Yakima IPA at 7.4%. On cask. How much do you think that cost?

Well, to my astonishment, a cask beer below the HSBD limit (does that even still exist btw?) was an astonishing £4.90 a pint. Thats right. Take a step back and breathe in that price. Four chuffing pounds 90 pence. This is matching the absurdity of prices in the Sheffield Tap. It diminished an otherwise excellent night. Madness.

Wednesday myself and Mr P had a Wanderiains night. We met after work and caught the tram to Hillsborough, where we were stood for 15 minutes in logjam as two sets of lights failed. I was just about to tell Mr P how much quicker the tram was....

We got off at Leppings Lane and walked the short distance up Wadsley Lane to the Horse and Jockey. Obviously quieter than my first visit, I was now able to see what they had done with the inside. It looks very nice - a lovely long bar, hops and bottles on display, dark grey and black walls on the left and an eating area on the right (am guessing?) with a lovely old fireplace. We had pints - Mr P the Old Number 7 and myself the one that I still can't remember the name of! We sat on the right with a glass of pork scratchings for me and pack of cheese and O for Mr P, having initially sat outside in the last of the sun.

Once back inside I was recommended trying a pint of stainless so did, and Mr P bought a not too expensive bottle of Sam Smiths India Ale. Despite their often ridiculous behaviour as an employer, I do have a liking for Sams beers and the India Ale was just what I expected - flavoursome, lightly hopped and malty. Overall this was a great start to our wander - back into town.

Our next stop would have been the Riverside Bar but it was shut - am not sure they open Wednesday nights unless there#s a Wednesday match on. Instead we headed down to Penistone Road and along to the New Barrack Tavern.

The New Barrack has remained a god traditional boozer for many years and still has three separate rooms with drinking space out the back. It was, however, quiet when we went in. I think myself and Mr P had pints of the same - Castle Rock Screech Owl, a strong pale ale at 5.something percent. As we talked I looked at the beer board and noticed that the excellent Marble Lagonda IPA was on on keg at something like £4.30 a pint - remembering its a strong ale on keg that's a good price. So I ordered us a pint and a half to finish.

Up and along next to the Hillsborough Hotel. The Double H has been a feature of my drinking life since Del reopened it sometime in the late nineties - 1998? Its currently run by Tom and is a good place to stop en route to town. We had a pint each again in here - alas somehow these facts have been removed from my memory but both pints were in good nick, and we sat as always in the conservatory supping and chatting.

Our final walk took us past the now to be reopened (in October) Wellington and onto Shakespeares for me to have something expensive but excellent on keg and Mr P to have a pint of cask. He may well have had the Wild Weather United States of Whatever or the Vocation Chop and Change - both were excellent on other visits. I might have had the Firestone Walker Luponic Distortion - there again, I might not. Either or whichever way, this was a fine end to an excellent crawl of pubs.

Pub crawls - a great way to keep fit and tipsy.


Wee Beefy

Saturday, 20 August 2016

The Beer Engine is the best pub in Sheffield this month

Hello readers,

          the Beer Engine at the bottom of Cemetery Road round the back of Waitrose, in Sheffield, is the Pub of the Month for August. And, might I say, rightly so. I had been going in more regularly of late after a lull and was overjoyed to drink the amazing Fyne Ales Ragnarok Imperial Jarl, among other highlights, in the last month. So when I found out that Camra had recognised their achievements and awarded them pub of the month, and after finally catching up with Tom and hearing what he had lined up, I couldn't wait for Tuesday night.

Tom made it clear that the award should be presented to his staff - the bar and cellar manager, who have names, one of which begins with L, were therefore the recipients of the award, mainly to reflect their hard work running and stocking the pub, whose beer range continues to improve and impress.

I started the evening on the Wylam Jakehead IPA at 6.3% on keg. It was lovely and hoppy, but also well balanced,  and only a percent above my usual starting strength. I saw Rich and Kath and me and Matty sat with them and Richard, AKA Martin, or Dave Pickersgill. Am assuming he found this misrememberance amusing. I hope for his sake he does! Soon Tom came out with his kitchen garb on and asked when the other CAMRA members were turning up - more on that later. He went to get changed, and Myself and Matty got more beers and the excellent food was served.

Five types of pinchos on five large platters were placed on the bar, and on Tom's advice I tried the anchovy and green chilli one with the amazing Cloudwater DIPA6 - an excellent food and beer pairing. Myself and Matty had a couple, I think, and I also tried a third of the Redrum from To Ol, a red ale at 10% matured over rum barrel chips. It was amazing, and Matty tried some of the cask including the one from Sonnet 43 which was on excellent form. I also tried the Baltic, a pineapple and passion fruit sour which was incredibly refreshing - and a fantastic looking beer in the glass. The pinchos were fantastic, especially the chorizo one and the cheese with what seemed like perfect squares of pickle, and the tangy anchovies.

Well done to the team at the Beer Engine for putting on such an amazing spread, and continuing to source such excellent ales. It just goes to show what brilliant food can be served with what is a very  diverse range of beer styles.

I have to say however, that a big let down was Camra. I don't claim to recognise all of them but at the time of the award there were probably only 5 members there, including Matty. The do had also been rearranged for that night as the chairman was at the GBBF the week before, and now she was on holiday. Nobody had agreed who would present the award - this job went to Andy Cullen, who didn't therefore have time to prepare a speech specific to the pub, and despite there being numerous regulars there, there was way too much food, prepared with skill and love by the catering staff for the event, and specifically for the Camra members to enjoy.

I talked to Tom after he took the chef home and I am sure he won't mind me telling you how disappointed, annoyed and let down he was by this. This suggests to me that CAMRA had the vote for the pub of the month and many voted for the Beer Engine, but those who did so didn't bother to turn up, and the rest stayed away. What kind of message does that give out? I realise people are busy but this poor turn out undermined what should have been a richly deserved award for the pub.

Anyway, luckily that didn't ruin the excellent food and wonderful beers we tried, and we finished the night sat in the beer garden trying the Northern Monk marmalade beer, alas the name of which now escapes me, and finishing the excellent Cloudwater DIPA6.

With my very best wishes to all at the Beer Engine for the event, and hoping to see you all again soon. Well bloody done the lot of you -  take this as recognition of your continuing hard work at the pub.


Wee Beefy

Saturday, 13 August 2016

Abbey, Woodseats, reopens, and nearby pubs

Hello all,

     first post for a while - mainly as have not completely fixed the virus I now have on the tomputer  -so don't follow any links! Just a few details of the pre-launch night I went to with Matty at the Abbey pub on Woodseats on Thursday, and a couple of other pubs.

Matty had been invited as the CAMRA Sheffield young members wallah and had a plus one ticket - I was his choice. There was no expectation I would write about it, but I am anyway. The Abbey is potentially my least visited Woodseats pub - from those open in 1994. I think I have only been once and I can scarcely remember that. I did remember it has a bowling green, and it still does. And thats about it.

Arriving after 18.00 we went into the small room on the left with a small bar featuring two handpumps. From a choice of four real ales I opted for Abbeydale Moonshine and Matty Farmers Blonde. They will have two regular beers and two from the SIBA list, which I understand has some decent ales on it. The other two beers were Doom Bar and Greedy King Abbot - not an inspiring choice for myself, but I don't think O am the kind of customer they are targeting. The moonshine was well kept and on at £3.20 a pint.

The ticket entitled us to a tour with manager Wayne Morton (I hope I have remembered that right!) who showed us the three rooms, including an upstairs function room with a handpump. The room on the left retains its fireplace and is cosy and traditional in style, the right had room is much larger, likely previously having been two, and has the bar in the middle. It was in here we talked to Richard Short, a CAMRA fellow, and got to try samples of the free food.

One thing that makes the Abbey stand out from its near competitors is the food. A bit pricier than the Spoons and the Chantrey for beer, the food is of high quality and comprised excellent steak, calamari, garlic cheese mushrooms, pork pies, sweet chilli chicken and others. The staff were friendly throughout and this was an enjoyable visit. If their two guest ales become a little more adventurous I will definitely pop in again.

Down the road is Archer Road Beer Stop. They weren't selling any real ale, and,. despite being a long time friend of Dave I didn't ask him if this was a long term arrangement. Instead we had cans of Chorlton Brewing Amarello sour, Beavertown India Stout and a Fierce Panther IPA that might have been from Sonnet 43. As we know Dave we were able to sit in the back and chat with him and sample the beers, which were sold for about £2.00 each. The Beavertown is a very hoppy stout and was enjoyable, and the sour from Chorlton was OK, but the best beer was the IPA at 6.3%. An excellent visit to the ARBS as always.

From here we walked down to the Broadfield. Rammed, as it always seems to be, we had pints of Acorn Gorlovka and a Wiper and True Pale - as the barman said, the brewery were far too cool to tell them which beer it was, but it was a 5.something% pale and it was delicious. It was. Matty wanted to try the keg Gorlovka as he is a massive fan of the beer on cask - if anything, he didn't like it as much as he did on cask. Another example of why not everything that works on cask works on keg.

Our final stop was a short bus ride away at the Beer Engine. Winners of the pub of the month (award Tuesday coming) this is a place I have been going back to a lot recently. As per my last two visits I and Matty had pints of the excellent Fyne Ales Ragnarok, Imperial Jarl at 7.4%. A wonderful mellow but hoppy golden pale ale which slips down far too easily - we had another two halves before closing.

Overall all the venues visited were excellent, and as regular readers may know, there are numerous other pubs nearby worth a visit. Best of luck to the Abbey on their reopening (following a £550,000.00 makeover) and to the other premises. Four more places worth a visit in sunny, slaking, Sheffield.


Wee Beefy

Tuesday, 2 August 2016

Since I've come back.....

Now then,

       the day after Yorkshire day - that's what today is. And yesterday was brilliant. Nothing to do with the annual celebration of Gods own County, just because it was me and Tash's anniversary.  Not a lot of great beer was supped, apart from Cloudwater DIPA 4 and 5 - a separate post will follow on that. Instead of any of the above, I wanted to tell you about some of the things I have experienced since I returned from the Sudreys.

I went in Shakespeares a lot - no change there admittedly, but some of their recent keg offerings have been exceptional. As have their cask as well, recent highlights of both have included the last of the Omnipollo tap takeover including Leon, their 6.5% IPA, their Apricot Sour, and the Alesmith Double Red IPA. Also, the tremendous bite of the Wild Beer Hibernating lemons at Tramlines, along with a Cloudwater White IPA, cans of the Beavertown Bloody Ell, with the frankly excellent Abbeydale Hop Smash on cask. Numerous other highlights, alas, have slipped my mind....

I also went to the reopening of the Horse and Jockey on Wadsley Lane. Having never been there before it was a bit of a trek to reach, but well worth it when I got there. I arrived about 20.00 to find the queue for the bar out onto he street, and inside it was 6 or 7 thick. I met up with Gav and Clare and bumped briefly into Liz Askam form the Barnsleys, and immediately tried to establish what was best to drink. I opted for a pint of Sentinel on keg - the staff didn't seem to know what it was, but it tasted wheaty - and a pint of Stancill pale ale, the name of which escapes me. We sat in the beer garden til it went dark, and I had a fabulous chicken and chorizo pizza from the Nether Edge Pizza Co. It would be nice to go back when its quieter to see some of the inside but on this evidence it looks to be a very successful reopening.

I also went to the Walkley Beer Co - this, along with the Bath Hotel is the second regular haunt of mine to win a pub of the month form the CAMRA which I did not attend - Gah! Many many apologies to Stef and Kit at the two venues. It just goes to show how little I know about my favourite pubs! On my last visits to the two I had Hopjacker Ultravox Vienna IPA in the Bath, which was excellent, and Buxton Axe Edge and a pint of Tempest Long White Cloud on cask. Stellar offerings as always from both.

Other recent visits have included those to the Three Tuns and Kelham Island Tavern. I had the excellent if surprising Tempest Marmalade on keg, strong ale which tasted of...marmalade. And hops. I also had some excellent Hop Smash from Abbeydale there as well. The Three Tuns continues to impress with numerous regular appearances from Blue Bee. Their excellent 6.5% NZ IPA is on at present and has a massive hop bite with fruity citrus notes and a long dry bitter finish - an excellent beer to start and end any day.

More posts - I promise - this week.


Wee Beefy

P.S - if you see any arrows or links on this post, DO NOT follow - am having a few issues with a virus so they will be dodgy......

Sunday, 31 July 2016

Drinking in the Sudreys - the Ales of Arran


      the final part of our trip saw us head off from the Isle of Islay over to what may have been Kennacraig from Port Ellen. We had ages before the ferry from Claoneig so nipped to the Skipness seafood shack. Home made fish finger sarnies for me and crab meat sarnies for the others,. accompanied by bottles of Arran Blonde. A beautiful spot for a drink.

The ferry to Arran is quite small so we had no chance to et, just stepped up to the side to take in th views before arriving at Brodick. Tea that night was at the Ormisdale Hotel, which was serving 3 or 4 real alea and excellent food. I had a huge chicken curry and rice which was packed full of chicken along with numerous pints of the Arran Blonde from a choice of their ales including Gold, Ale and Ormisdale. Although, that may have been brewed by Isle of Skye or Ayr.

We finished the night in the Fiddlers where I had a bottle of Fraoch heather ale and Matty a pint of Scottish keg and a bottle of Arran.

The next day we went for a tour of the island and saw numerous sites on the coastal walk, having headed into Lamlash to look at the Holy Island. We returned after our walk and went to the Pierhead Tavern on the seafront. I think WF was getting tired by this stage - having accused us of being an hour when we walked to the Co-op, of not knowing where we had gone or for what, and then claiming the Pier Head was a pub for young people - because he couldn't hang his stock on his chair. This, as the rst of us, by far the youngest people in the pub, listened to an hour long mix of 1960's hits....

We had excellent food in here - snack size portions of the main meals and I had wonderful haggis neeps and tatties in a whisky sauce. Real ale wise there were two or three so I had pints of the Arran Blonde and an Isle of Skye one. There was also a fantastic range of bottled Scottish beers including Drygate to choose from.

We visited the amazing Machrie Moor stone circles and then headed for the Best Western Hotel at Blackwaterfoot - alas it was far too rammed to eat in but we did have Fyne Ales Usghe Dubha and Damh Ban. We finished the night at the Ormisdale Hotel once more and had more food and excellent real ales along with a selection of the Arran whiskies.

The next day it was down to Brodick to catch the ferry to Ardrossan - the bar on this ferry serves draught although the Arran was not available. On arrival we crossed to Sorn and the Sorn Inn where we had pints of Orkney Puffin Ale before heading south on the motorway and stopping at the Park end (or New Park) Tavern in Samlesbury for tea, washed down with excellent pints of Purity Mad Goose.

Overall this was a holiday with ample opportunities not only to sample beers brewed ont he islands but real ales full stop - and the range of small Scottish brewer's bottled beers is welcome and exciting. The fact that 4 of the 5 islands visited have their own breweries, all but one of which produces cask, is a brilliant situation - and long may it continue.


Wee Beefy

Thursday, 21 July 2016

Drinking in the Sudreys - the ales of Jura and Colonsay

Hello again,

         the two islands named above are easily reached from Islay, and we visited both during our 5 days on the island. In terms of size comparison both are minuscule next to Islay or Bute - Colonsay has a permanent population of just 135 (according to the island's website). Its also the smallest, being just 10 miles long and 2 miles wide. Jura on the other hand is significantly bigger, although probably with a similar number of inhabitants. (188 in 2001). It does however have a distillery, whilst Colonsay has a brewery.

The trip to Jura from Port Askaig is quite short and soon we were on the long winding the end of the island. After miles of rugged coastline and moorland the first, and indeed only large place you come to is Craighouse, found on the A846, the only A road i have ever seen with grass down the middle, and passing places. Here is where the distillery is, and also the Isle of Jura Hotel.

Finding the bar is interesting as you need to walk through the back of the bar from the main entrance to reach it - I think there is another way in round the front. No real ale but an interesting range of kegs - along with the Harviestoun Bitter and Twisted they also had Drygate Gladeye IPA on at 5.5%. Despite continuous expansion and improvement in Scottish beer, am still surprised to find a really hoppy Scottish IPA - and this is it. We also got a bottle of their Red IPA to take away.

The bar was friendly and well stocked and the IPA was excellent - this was in fact one of the best bars we visited on the whole tour. That Jura is so sparsely populated, yet has such riches in terms of drinks, is worth celebrating.

Colonsay is further away from Islay and the ferry was packed on what was the hottest day of the holiday.  Arriving before the bar of the Colonsay Hotel opened - the only place to drink on the island bar the brewery,  we set off on a long tour of every road on the island, driving to Uragaig and the beautiful Kiloran beach (and meeting Walter and his dog Queenie) before returning to the hotel via the Colonsay Brewery.

I have to say I was a little disappointed by the brewery - they only had two beers from their range of three available in bottles or on keg at the hotel, and are only open 15-17.00. I do realise however that running a brewery on such a tiny island makes comparisons with  mainland breweries fairly pointless.  At the Isle of Colonay Hotel beer is expensive. Two pints of Colonsay IPA for me and Matty cost about £10.60 and the other beer, a Fyne Ales Haus lager, was £4.90 a pint if memory serves. Once again though, island life is different. And in this case, significantly more expensive.

Overall both islands were unique - Jura is rugged and barren in places, Colonsay is a haven for wildlife, and Jura had an excellent hotel. Both islands are very much well worth a visit.


Wee Beefy

Thursday, 14 July 2016

Drinking in the Sudreys - the ales of Islay

Hello again,

          this post continues the details of our trip round Bute, Islay, Jura, Colonsay and Arran. All very different islands with their own character, and crucially, pubs, bars and beers.

On our way from Bute we sailed from Rubodach to Colintraive and then headed for Glendaruel. We had hoped to nip in the Glendaruel Hotel, not neccessarily for real ale, but just a drink - alas this seems to have closed down sometime ago, now a weed surrounded relic of more prosperous times. Whilst in the village we stopped to look at the carved stones and then headed for Otter Ferry and the Oystercatcher pub and restaurant. The GBG said it was open Friday and Saturday only but this was a Monday. Luckily it opens all day on a Monday - thank God we tried it.

Two real ales on the bar, one Scottish craft keg and an astonishing range of Scottish brewed ales in bottle, along with an extensive whisky list, was what we found. Two real ales, Fyne Ales Lismore Red IPA at 5.5%  and their Cloudburst at slightly less, with the excellent Sanda Blonde IPA on keg. All three were tried and the Lismore and Sanda were both excellent. We also ate - WF had a house cured Gravalax, Matty had local oysters, Tash soup and myself calamari. WF bought a box of bottles to take home as well - all in all this was a fantastic first stop on the Cowal peninsula.

We headed next for Kames and the Kames Hotel. This sells two real ales and we had Jarl once again, on excellent form. We then sailed from Portavadie to Tarbert and stopped in the Harbourside Inn for a half of Jarl each. Tarbet is quite a large place so we stocked up on food before heading to Kennacraig to get the ferry to Port Askaing on Islay.

Although Islay like Bute and Arran has its own brewery, Islay is very different to Bute. Its harder to get to, less well populated, and perhaps as a result is mre expensive. It also has nowhere near as many pubs., and less of those sell real ale. On our first night we stayed in Bowmore and we went to the Harbour Inn for a drink. Two pints of West Lager (at least its craft...?) a whisky for Wee Fatha and a large sauvignon blanc for Tash came to over £22.00. Luckily, despite not selling real ale, the guy running the bar was able to advise where we might get some, and was also a good person to chat to about the Island. The bar shuts at 22.45 so me and Matty had raced round the corner to find WF and Tash and get them in, and even with the door locked we were only able to order one more drink - these were both whiskies for us all to try.

The next day we went to Jura - more of that in the next blog, and then on a tour of the distilleries. Not actually visiting them, rather to photograph them in the bright sunshine. That night we went to the best place to drink real ale on Islay, the Port Charlotte Hotel. We managed to get a table despite not having booked and all tried, except Tash, pints of the Islay Ales Finlaggan. This was a disappointing beer - tasting slightly but not nicely of whisky, it was a tired ale with an unusual aftertaste which sadly  none of us really liked. Luckily they also sold Fyne Ales Jarl so Matty and then I had a pint of that to accompany our wonderful meals - mine was seared Islay scllops for starters and a main of lamb shank in a drambuie sauce, sharing a cheeseboard for afters. The Port Charlotte is not cheap but you get what you pay for - the food quality is amazing. The real ale, for info, is £4.10 a pint.

The next day we went to Colonsay details of which will follow in the next post, then when we got back to Islay we went for a drive to some more distillerys includng Lagavulin and Ardbeg, before heading to Kildonan cross and then to Port Ellen, where we went ion the Ardview Inn on the seafront. The pub does not sell real ale but did serve bottles of whisky from all the Islay distilleries, so we had Kilchoman and Caol Ila whilst sat in the front bar.

We drove back from here to Bowmore and this time we did go in the Lochside Hotel, formerly Duffy's, and they did sell real ale. A favourite in bottles on the last few ferries the Islay Ardnave Extra at 5.5% was on sale. It was lovely - but it should have been at an eye watering £4.95 a pint. The Lochside still carries a wide range of whiskies - there is a whisky book - and many sell at over £500.00 a shot. The real ale is expensive, but it went down well, and they serve til midnight.  

Our final full day on Islay involved another lengthy drive and a coffee in Ballygrant past Bridgend. We visited Finlaggan in the rain (still worth it) and then headed to Kilchoman distillery for a tour, a taste and for WF to buy me a bottle of the 100% Islay limited Edition whisky. An expensive but incredibly enjoyable present! We then headed down what seemed like a road to nowhere - we found it - and then returned to the Port Charlotte Hotel for more Jarl, plus cans of BrewDog and excellent food. The Port Charlotte was definitely the best pub or bar we tried on Islay.

We finished our day at the An Tigh Seinnse in Portnahaven, which translates as "the Public House". Bottles of Ardnave were supped in here, although they do have a single Islay Ales handpull - when I asked, they said they sold real ale when its busier - so am guessing that means August.

So ended our trip to Islay - the next day we drove to Port Ellen via the Oa Peinsula, and caught the ferry to Kennacraig for a short journey to Claoneig and the ferry to Arran.


Wee Beefy

Tuesday, 12 July 2016

Drinking in the Sudreys - the ales of Bute


       apologies first of all for a distinct lack of posts recently - a mixture of self imposed poverty and heady discombobulation through drink, as well as the holiday I will describe in this and the following three posts, has made me unable, unwilling and otherwise disposed not to post anything since June. What follows is an island by island breakdown of the ales we drank in the places known as the Sudreys - in this case, Bute, Islay, Jura, Colonsay and Arran. I realise there are other isles in the Sudreys but we visited the above only. For information, the Sudreys is an old Norse word for the Southern Scottish Islands, as opposed to the Nordreys for the North. There is a link here featuring more precise info on the Sudrejar...

We headed to Bute in rain and wind - the sun only came out on our first stop in Moffat. Here the Coachmans bar of the Buccleuch hotel no longer sells real ale only GK "craft" but the guy behind the bar did recommend two pubs that did, the first being the Star Bar which we were parked nearby. The Hotel Star is a tall, long, thin building on the main street. The bar is accessed down the side street and is also long and thin, although it goes across the building. They have two real ales on sale - the Old Speckled and the Old Golden Hen. We had two halves of each for myself, Wee Fatha, Tash and Matty. We also tried the 80 and 60 shilling Belhaven kegs.The Old Golden Hen was perhaps the best beer.

Our next stop was the National Inventory listed Old Wine Store at Shotts. The pub has had a new sign and some refurbishment since we last visited, but crucially keeps its original bar fitting with once used whisky barrels inset, and a small mirror on the other side which owing to its difficulty to find and photograph am guessing was for the staff only. No real ale here, but halves of Belhaven best for all apart from WF who had a J2o. Its good to see the pub popular and having had some work done on it, without losing its character.

Skirting Glasgow we arrived at Wemys Bay and opposite the delightful station we boarded a ferry to Rothesay. Going across the weather looked ominous but we arrived on Bute in glorious sunshine and temperatures around 20 degrees. We stayed at the Commodore, an excellent seafront B and B and quickly headed out to find food - we did, at a real ale pub in the GBG.

The Black Bull is a small multi-roomed pub overlooking the harbour near one of Zavaroni's cafes. They had three beers on, Belhaven Golden Bay, Inveralmond Lia Fail and Straad Ass, a 4.2% amber/blonde from Bute Brew Co. This was a fine pint on excellent form so we didn't try the other ales on offer, we just drank the Bute all night. We also ate here - and myself and Matty had perhaps the finest home made steak and ale pie ever. An absolutely stunning flavour, and washed down with the excellent Bute real ale.

Before returning to the B and B we visited the Scottish regional inventory listed Golfers bar - sporting a Bute Brew Co sign outside and a single hand pump. selling the same beer as the Black Bull. Myself and Matty had at least two pints each in here with WF on a half and Tash on wine - she has developed a bit or a reaction to beer (and cider) of late so was reluctant to have more than a try. The Golfers was heaving busy and we sat in the separate snug at the end with access to the bar. The pub has an excellent ceiling and intact long single piece bar back, as well as this screened off room, meriting its inclusion on the inventory.

The next day we visited Rothesay castle whilst WF went to the Esplanade - which also sells real ale, but only Bombardier alas. From here we drove through Port Bannatyne and out to Loch Ettrick, then wound our way down the island to St Blaines church. Despite persisting it down with rain we enjoyed the walk up the hill and looking around, before we headed to the Kingarth Hotel and Smiddy bar.

This roadside hotel does good food and two real ales as well as a good range of whiskies and Scottish bottled beers. WF had a half of Arran Dark and myself and Matty a pint each of the Fyne Ales Jarl, one of the best beers in Scotland - it did not disappoint. The food looked lovely so we booked a table for four and returned to Rothesay to pick up a change of clothes, and then came back for a fantastic meal, along with more Jarl. I think they also have a third pump for cask, and we tried three whiskys as well.

Back into Rothesay we persuaded Wee Fatha to drive us to Port Bannatyne to the Bute Brew Co recommended Port Inn. Arriving at 22.15 the landlady was about to shut so we ordered two pints of the Bute brew Co Scalpsie Blonde at 3.9%. It turned out that the pub would remain open a little longer, although we had to leave by 23.30 to get back to the accommodation - we had no key to get in! Many pints were supped as well as a can of BrewDog Dead Pony Ale (I think) before we dashed off up the coast back to Rothesay. The Scalpsie was an excellent session ale.

The next day we were away from Bute on the ferry and that part of the journey, and Islay, will feature in the next blog post.


Wee Beefy