Tuesday, 9 March 2010

Big lad goes for a walk.......

Hello, here are the details of some White Peak pubs and beer.

Now that its, erm, well winter still I suppose, me and Dave decided to go out for a walk and visit some new pubs, and a couple of old favourites. Luckily, despite three solid months of snow and rain, we picked a day when the sun shone and it felt warm and spring like to go for our yomp.

It’s perhaps diligent to point out that whilst a walk it may have been, the main traverse finished in the afternoon, allowing us to spread our net further. It still made me and Davefromtshop sweat and nearly pass out and so was no doubt good exercise.

We started by catching the latest version of non-integrated public transport, the TM Travel 218 to Bakewell - or Buxton, depending on what you read and who you know. We were going to Bakewell so didn't care, but Buxton bound travellers were less impressed, especially since about 3 buses leave for Buxton or Bakewell at the same time, so it’s crucial you know which to catch. Instead of having a PMT ( yes, that was their catchy name ) coach taking you from Sheffield to Hanley in Stoke straight-through, you now need to catch 3 buses, the first 2 of which almost certainly don't connect.

Anyhoo, I digress, we were in Bakewell on time and set about our walk, heading up to the school and then taking the left hand lane towards Conksbury and turning off to Over Haddon. We walked up a lane that becomes a surfaced track up to an estate near the school, the precipitous steep ascent reminding us that there was exercise ahead, and almost all the first part of it walking uphill.

Once at the school we followed the road and admired the views looking out across the valley and guessing where the path across Haddon fields might have come out. At our first turn in the road requiring a decision, inevitably got it a bit wrong, what with my defiant yet simultaneously stupid anti map crusade being in place. I mistook the road to Over Haddon on our right for an earlier one and carried on downhill expecting to find it.

Seeing time creeping on and knowing the road ( especially if you miss it ) was likely a spot further round, we set off across the fields looking ahead to spot the white of the Lathkil Hotel ahead. Several unlikely seeming sightings followed, and only when a larger path traversed the field in front of us did I look right - to see we were 20 minutes downhill from the Hotel and had gone too far.

Spirits undampend we headed up the path along the side of the dale and were at the Lathkil Hotel for 11.20, a bit later than planned. The Lathkil, as well as having been in the GBG for ever and won countless awards, has the sense to open for morning coffee at some early time, meaning the gar opens at 11.00. We strode into the bar which was drenched in white sunlight to find the fire lit (although we didn’t need it () and 4 real ales.

Me and Dave both had pints of Whim Hartington Bitter and sat down to admire the view and catch our breath. Within a short space of time we were requiring more beer and took the bar staff’s recommendation that we try the Whim Schnee Weiss, which was fantastic.

As we continued slaking and trying not to get too heavily involved in talking shop, the time came for a last one, and although I wanted to try the Storm Brewery Red Mist the wheat beer was too good so we had another pint of that. At this point my primitive limbic brain began to suggest that there was a bus about 13.00 so we should wait for that and go to another pub by bus, but we were determined to drag our considerable forms around on foot at least as far as Monyash.

This unplanned but not surprising long stop at The Lathkil meant I abandoned my careful plan to walk to Youlgreave then Monyash, and instead we opted to walk along the lane along the top of the dale and then follow a path along the side and into the dale into Monyash. We set off at good speed about 12.45 and reached Haddon Grove, where the path takes you dale-wards and the road goes to join the main drag into Monyash.

Following the path through the farm we arrived at the edge of Lathkil dale overlooking a side dale and the sheep track that lay ahead. We followed this precariously until we dropped down onto the head of the side dale, and decided that we should continue our precarious tiptoeing along the top side for a bit longer. Where the path seemed to diverge down into the dale itself it looked somewhat off putting so mindful of the time we headed up a path out of Lathkil, then over a hill and out onto the main road for the last 10 minutes into Monyash.

Dave predicted we would make it to the pub at 14.35, conveniently securing 25 mins for a pint before the bus. I can't let him gloat at how close we came so will instead point out that we arrived at 14.33, making him erm, miles out.

We ordered pints of Bradfield Blonde and Dave went to wash his face in the gents whilst I snapped some rare empty Bulls head photos.

At 15.00 we went outside and saw the bus - which is really a school service - waiting outside, so got on before being whisked away for a brief tour of White Park plateau villages, with a load of admirably well behaved bairns. Having deposited the last ones at Flagg the driver then finished his route and dropped us outside the Duke of York at Pomeroy.

This was a new pub to us both, no doubt passed an endless number of times, an isolated, large roadside Robbie’s house selling Unicorn Bitter. Despite our odd time of arrival there were a few people I, and the sight of someone having their food made us hungry. We knew we had a good hour here so made the most of our time by having a look round, taking pics outside and then ordering what was probably the nicest chip butty I have had in years.

The landlord was friendly and chatty throughout and although the Unicorn was a tad chilly it was in good nick and we ended up at time to leave without realising it. We caught the 42 into Buxton and sought out the Old hall hotel, a second new venue.

This is a large and very old building with stylish 1920's style polished wooden revolving doors at the entrance, and then a brief walk through corridors to the tiny bar at the back, where there are 2 real ales on, and you have to ring the bell for service. The main attraction was the promise of Buxton beer in Buxton, and we weren’t disappointed - the Buxton Spa was on. At £3.00 a pint it might have wanted to be a smidgen stronger and maybe a bit more adventurously flavoured, but the surroundings were nice, and by hotel standards it was a surprise to see two real ales on in what is probably not a renowned stop on the Town's drinking circuit.

After this we headed across the park ( scene of dreadful inebriated confusion in the past ) to another hotel - this time GBG regular Ramsays at the Buckingham Hotel. There were about 6 beers on and we had halves of Deverentino Medusa and Howard Town Ramsays ale. The Deverentino beer was bit limp and lacked flavour , it’s a brewery that seems to promise much but doesn't always deliver, which is a shame because the beer styles are very interesting.

The Howard Town had a bit more bite, and this whetted our appetites for 2 more halves, this time the weaker Howard Town Longdendale Light. Careful to finish with some light still remaining we headed up into the Market Square to check the bus times and found a 66 to Chesterfield in situ.

Naturally the diver was happy for me and Dave to stand half on and half off the bus for 5 minutes unravelling the possibilities of our route, but having learned that there was no longer a 67 to Chesterfield from Tideswell late on we opted to travel all the way to Chesterfield in search of more local beers.

We alighted at Brampton near Morro's and Dave used his somewhat eclectic directional ability to deliver us safe and sound to attractions including a dead end behind some garages, a housing estate, a patch of grass, and a path to some bungalows. Luckily we returned to the main road to find where he had been when he and his friend parked up to visit the Rose and Crown, before leading us up Victoria Street West and round the corner to our destination, 1 minutes walk from where we started.

Still, it was worth the tour, and we compensated with two pints of Impey Dark from Brampton brewery, the tap of which the pub is. So excellent was this beer that I had another whilst Dave tried a Tryst brewery bitter, before we had Brew Co Midnight Stout and then 2 final pints of Impey dark. The helpful bar staff secured us a taxi to the station and we were on the train with time to spare. Just in time on arriving back in Sheff to catch a bus rather than invest in a taxi and arrive home safe and sate and sloshed.

All in all our Oliver reed fitness diet comprised walking about 7 miles but maybe less, and drinking 12 pints, the very best of which by a mile was the Brampton Impey Dark.

It might not be a healthy walk but it was bloody enjoyable.

Wee Beefy.

Friday, 5 March 2010

Some Sheffield pubs you might not know.....

Sheffield pubs recent visits.

When not traipsing around Derbyshire or the rest of the UK I am very lucky that here in Sheffield we have some excellent pubs, selling fantastic beer, and some retaining interesting original features.

Since December I have visited a few new ones, seen one close down and visited some old favourites. Here are a few that should appeal to real ale and real pub fans...

The Hallamshire House, Commonside.

This is a former Wards pub selling 3 or 4 real ales, with two large games rooms, an old fashioned snug and lounge, all laid out in different rooms, just like they should be. If you visit on a match day then its fair to say you may only have the corridor or the snug to sit in, but overall its always been possible to grab a seat and be in your own world.

I went in on a December Saturday and was pleasantly surprised to find that the Sheffield brew Co beers were £1.60 a pint. There was a good range, two Sheffield BC, 1 Kelham Island and another.

We got sat down in the snug and noticed just how cosy the size of the rom made it. Looking at the fittings we admired the tiled fireplace and he old Wards leaded windows and the bar, which is a traditional design, quite long and open on 3 sides. We soon got chatting to a couple sat under the window, and discovered that they had been visiting for decades - always a good sign, since this often indicates that rash changes have been avoided.

There was an FA cup match on featuring one of the minnows, and people were thronged in the back rooms, but we were ensconced in this tiny room and enjoying its comfort and the friendliness of the regulars.

We only had time for a few pints but it was a nice haven away from the busier student orientated pubs on Crookes where we had just been. I don't know if beer is always such good value but even if not, I would warmly recommend a visit. The important retention of traditional separate room layout means that if a quiet cosy pint does not attract you and you want to be in front of the TV watching a match, you can also do that. And if you got bored, you could always try the closed Shop just opposite.

The University Arms, Brook Hill.

I have been visiting this pub ever since it opened to the public a few years ago, having previously been the 192 Club owned by or certainly open for, the University. Inside is a gleaming dark wood fitted bar which looks like it may have been there ever since it opened.

There are snob screens to break up the main seating area, with a tiny semi-private seating area next to the far side of the bar, along with a conservatory and beer garden. There are 4 real ales and foreign draught beers and bottles, as well as inexpensive light meals at dinner and evenings.

The pub has bands on at weekends form time to time, and also has a rather eclectic collection of blues played in the background. Thornbridge Brewery seem to be the main payers - their Wild Swan ids a mainstay, along with guests from local breweries.

The toilets are located off a corridor on your right as you enter - it’s quirky that they are housed in a very large high ceilinged room, where old tables and chairs go to retire, and reminds me of school toilets for some reason. This adds to the feeling that you are in a private venue that hasn't altered very much over the years, although it’s worth pointing out that it would appear to have been refurbished quite recently and is clean and bright throughout. Don’t forget that they don't open Sundays.

The Sportsman, Main Road, Darnall.

I read abut this pub in Beer Matters, having passed it a couple of times and noted that it and its next door neighbour boozer the Albert were now the only ones of 5 or possible many more pubs on main road heading to Darnall.

It’s fair to say that it doesn't look like a palace; there's no up and coming or large brewery bank rolling this pub, but then there's none of the annoying preoccupation with gimmicks and branding that come with it. The other plus point is the fact that the landlord has made an effort to get a varied range of beers and lagers and other drinks at sensible prices, making this probably the cheapest place to drink for miles.

On a recent visit they had Harviestoun Engine Oil (4.5%) and a light Springhead beer of similar strength, for £1.80 a pint. There was Leffe and Hoegarden for Chala, at nearer supermarket prices, and pool at 50p a game. Had it been a Marston's or Greene King pub it would be £2.50 or more a pint, £1.00 a game of pool, a corporate jukebox at 2 songs for a pound, and there would be a raised floor for the pool table, upstairs toilets and faux olde-worlde bar fronts and seating.

The pub has a central entrance into the bar with a door on the left leading to the games room. There is a side entrance on the left now disused, that would have taken you straight into the games room - although this may have been the bar or Tap room, with the room on the right originally being the lounge. The gents are entered from both rooms, so there are two ladies loos, one on each side. The pub therefore retains a classic traditional two room layout, which is good to see.

It’s quite difficult to ignore the fact that this is a proper working men's pub where people don't mince their words - I think if you were of a nervous disposition or allergic to swearing you might not like it. However, the fact that it survives and appears to do well relies on the regulars and latecomers like us going in day in day out and spending cash.

The mark up on the ale might be a little less than in other pubs but its competitive pricing encourages you to drink more - or at least that's my excuse.

The Masons Arms, Carson Road, Crookes.

I only visited this pub for the first time last week - having grown up in Crookes and been there of drinking age ( ish ) for 3 years, and visiting regularly.

The Masons is off the main road and seems to have fluctuating fortunes based on info supplied by my Brother and other friends living in Crookes. I heard discouraging things about it being unfriendly and a boring old mans pub when I was 18 ( put me right off then, but wouldn't so much now ), and decided that I owed it to myself to go have a look and a few games of pool.

We went in the room on the right which houses the pool table and the darts, it sounds like there’s a telly in the other room and that seemed a bit noisier later on, but we didn't go in. The loos are along a passage running behind a bar, and there’s some space on the front for outdoor refreshments.

On the bar there were 3 handpumps, with Black Sheep Best, Copper Dragon Golden Pippin and another more ubiquitous option. We all wanted the Pippin but unfortunately it ran out, but the landlord was at pains to make sure we got a replacement, which is good to see.

We enjoyed a few games of pool and a rather, ahem epic game of darts (none of us can play, and we took an hour to get from 301), along with several pints of very well kept Black Sheep.

The pub was quiet but Sunday nights are awkward to call, we were allowed to finish our game of pool and sup up at a sensible speed before we had to leave. Its difficult to get a sense of a pub in a couple of hours on a Sunday night but I saw enough to convince me that I should go back and try the Pippin and maybe even learn how to play darts.

With the possible exception of the University Arms, these pubs might not be familiar to readers of this blog, but it shows that in addition to established high quality award winning pubs, Sheffield has traditional back street boozers and quirky watering holes to suit a wide range of people.

And just to somewhat devalue that statement, my next posts should be from Wales, Bradfield, Cheshire and Staffordshire and the Peak District.

Seizure, Yan