Tuesday, 27 December 2011

Forum bars own brewed ale.

Afternoon persons,

   just a quick update about a beer puzzle that made me scratch my head earlier in the week.

True North Brew Co

I was in regular haunt The Old House on Devonshire Street last week and amongst the beer offerings was, as I put it myself " a reindeer themed beer that looked like it was brewed by Far North" which having not noted down its name, I couldn't find despite utilising several Internet search facilities and beer databases. Intrigued, I assumed this was a new brewery that had just opened and made a note to pop back for another look.

Earlier today I was looking on the Broadfield Ale House Facebook page (and yes, they are open) and noticed the mystery pump clip was the York's profile picture. Close inspection identified the brewery - and from thence the mystery was solved.

The beer in question is Blitzen Beer and the brewery in question is True North Brew Co. Information is still a bit sparse on tinterweb but the clue to the likely physical location and expertise comes in the name  - the beers are produced for the Forum Chain, i.e Old House, Forum Cafe Bar, Common Room, York and the Broadfield Ale House,  by Pete Roberts of Brew Company - do you see what they did? Brew Co! How clever!

Anyhoo, it appears that more ales are to come and that Blitzen is the second. Although its not exactly awash with details. you may wish to have a look at http://twitter.com/#!/steelcitykitchn/status/150566208452820994/photo/1  for more details. And who knows, their beer may even be on at Tbroadfield when I finally make a visit over the next few days. At least this sorts out my query, and the beer's appearance may in turn discombobulate a ticker or two along the way....they do love a joke, as I recall.

Wee Beefy

Sunday, 25 December 2011

Christmas bottle selection, Harrisons 1854, Three Cranes, Beehive, Crispin Ashover, and Shakespeares

Hello, and Merry Christmas readers.

            owing to an unfortunate spell of crap telly am ensconced in Thangor's kitchen so will endeavour, despite this cumbersome alien keyboard, to give you a few days worth of updates on beer and pubs in Sheffield.

Shakespeares Gibraltar Street Beer festival.

   its too late for this to be advice but I have to concede that actually there was a beer fest on at the above from 21st to 23rd December. Beers seemed to have been intended for purchase from the separate upstairs bar but I understand this is not open yet - hence you read a beer list (written. with that personal touch, in biro ) and having made and paid for your choice staff fetch it from upstairs for you. On my visit I had a half of Atomic Winter (which was supposed to be white!) and a spiced beer from Revolution brewery, in addition to another fine pint of the Raw Black Ghost dark IPA.

Crispin Inn, Ashover.

On the Tuesday before Christmas me, Wee Fatha, Wee Keefy and Chala went to the Crispin for a meal. Ashover is fairly unique in terms of Derbyshire villages in that it has 3 pubs (5 if you include the two at Milltown), all of which serve a range of real ales, serve good food, and one even has a brewery. When walking and seeking refreshment in the area,  it has to be the Old Poets Corner every time, but, despite their excellent food, we have started a family tradition of visiting the Crispin when we fancy eating out.

Beers wise there are 4 handpumps selling Jennings Cumberland, Cocker Hoop, Marstons Pedigree and a guest - on our visit the Wychwoof/Refresh Bah Humbug Christmas Ale was on at a bargain £2.00 a pint. Generally real ales are about £2.90 depending on strength. I warmly recommend this and indeed any of the Ashover pubs for a bite to eat or a pint of the real stuff if you are in the area.

Harrisons 1854

     I was in the 1854 twice in the run up to Christmas, on the 23rd (Friday) there were free pork scratchings and mince pies cooked by the inimitable barman extraordinaire Dave, plus the lovely Joanna behind the bar (both in civvies) and, crucially both Abbeydale Deception and Moonshine were on at £2.00 a pint! (pics to follow when I get back on my own computer).

Add to this other drinks offers and live DJ's and it was a merry night on Regent Terrace. Hopefully 2012 will see a much deserved increase in patrons and the 3 real ale beer range maintained in this "hidden" city centre venue. Below : Barraharri and Joanna wish readers all the best.

Three Cranes Queen Street

     just a brief note, in addition to the excellent Bees Knees and Bradfield Belgian Blue on offer, the Cranes were selling Abbeydale Black Mass (6.6%) at a very competitive £3.25 a pint. Obliged as I was to investigate, I can confirm that said finisher was in excellent form.

Beehive, West Street

    I have made two albeit brief sojourns into the hive in the last week, and found some not to be sniffed at offers in their real ale range. On Thursday Thornbridge Jaipur was £2.60 a pint (5.9%) in addition to the Blue Bee Pale and Bitter rebadge offerings which I understand were cheaper (but need to confirm this -can you help?). On Friday, as well as mercifully not being overrun, a well kept pint of the Thornbridge Kipling was also £2'60; so now you can get a decent pint of real ale on West Street without having to pay over the odds in doing so!

Christmas bottle selection

      my Christmas beer list has taken shape nicely after a visit to the Archer Road Beer Stop and presents and deliveries from Wee Fatha, not to mention trips to Tesco and Waitrose. Amongst many highlights (in addition to those listed in my last post) are Dunham Massey Dark, Gold and Winter Warmer, Tatton Yeti and Ale, Derby Business As Usual, Brampton Winter Bock, Sierra Nevada Torpedo IPA, and Harviestoun Porter. Virtually all these beers came from the Archer Road Beer Stop. Give them a call on 0114 2551356 to check availability. And don't forget to get your orders in ASAP for New Year, or indeed any celebration, polypins, and enjoy pints of real ale at home.

Finally, rumour mill miss.......

     it seems almost irrefutable that the Broadfield, following a period of apparent soul destroying mediocrity, has closed and reopened as the Broadfield Ale House, selling real ales and an enviable range of whiskeys. I intend to be up in the New Year so expect a review soon.

In the meantime, Merry Christmas and Happy New year to all you readers and everyone who has helped and supported me in my ongoing blogging adventure - Slainte!

Wee Beefy.

Thursday, 22 December 2011

Christmas ale news - pubs polypins and packs o bottles


    have been out sampling and in some cases enduring the delights of a Christmas works night out along with a few other festive get-togethers of late, and have also purchased my supplies of essential liquids for the wearisome Christmas period. All is not lost though, and to celebrate the winter solstice, I am providing a Saturnalian rundown of recent beers tasted and venues visited.

Shakespeares Gibraltar Street Shalesmoor

I was in today for a very brief couple of drinks and to catch up with my friend, alas he was on the fizz, but I tried a refreshing and hoppy Hornbeam Top Hop bitter at £2.40 a pint and a half of the more expensive Raw Black Ghost dark IPA which was fantastic, if a little top heavy on frol for a lunchtime. And, at the risk of falling foul of my rubbish eyesight, i am sure there was a sign outside advertising a beer festival starting today,and running until the 23rd December - alas no details on their website or Facebook page so please accept my apologies if this turns out to have been a hallucination.....

Archer Road Beer Stop

I have been up to Britain's premier beer selling emporium tonight to purchase a polypin of Abbeydale Moonshine at mates rate, which modesty forbids me from disclosing, as well as  a selection of their finest bottled ales. As well as the incredibly generous Davefromtshop giving me a bottle of Brampton Winter Bock, I selected, amongst other things, a Hacker Pschorr Oktoberfest Marzen, a Durham Temptation imperial Russian stout,(as depicted in picture below, owing to a lack of ARBS images!) a limited edition Thornbridge coalition (NOTE - no longer in stock, sorry!), a Blue Monkey Ape Ale, a Durham Evensong, a Summer Wine Brewery 10 malts porter and their NZ IPA, Tucher Kristkindlemarkt, and some Timmermans Framboise, Mythos and Vedette for our lass.

There are of course many many more ales available but even availing myself of a generous discount my intended bottle expenditure could not run to many on top of the Polypin. So my suggestion would be to get yourself up there to sample the amazing range and see for yourself - now selling Dunham Massey Winter Warmer (subject to availability).

Dunham bottles

Which brings me nicely on to Wee Fatha's kind errand to the Dunham Massey brewery shop to purchase some of their realiably excellent bottle conditioned ales. My absolute favourite is the porter, alas there were only 2 bottles left so me and WF had one each, along wth a new Strong beer called Gold, and their Dunham Dark to name but a few.

Aside from the pertinent fact that I love the taste of their beer, especially the dark ones, I am happy, in Dunham Massey Brewery, to have found a reputable beer bottler who knows their stuff. In an age of reckless amateurish bottle conditioning techniques that has seen breweries seemingly willing to sell sub standard yeast bombs, its refreshing to see that Dunham, who know they are good at it, have continued bottling and selling their ales with yeast in the bottle to an appreciative public. The fact that its safe to drink their beers just past the best before date and that the yeast can be poured into the beer without adding a horrid astringent edge is proof that the beers are a fine example of the bottle conditioning craft.

Hop gen.

On Friday the team works night out started at the Hop so ensuring a decent, if very long waited for, pint of real ale to start things off.

The Hop also had fantastic Fernandes offerings and on Monday night the excellent Rat Brewery Dirty Rat mild and their hoppy King Rat IPA. A member of staff told me that they were concentrating on having a Fullers pump and one for each of their (Ossett's) other brewery offerings, i.e the Rat and Ratchett, Riverhead, and, to my surprise, Fernandes at Wakefield (although I should have known really since the founder am certain moved to Filey or similar to set up a Brewery there.). This still doesn't really help to clear up the price disparity but does unfortunately offer little indication of an upcoming none Fullers or Ossett beer, but I will no doubt be back in soon to find out.

Real ale after midnight

One of the never ending disappointments of late night city centre drinking has always been the dearth of places where you can find a decent pint after the witching hour. Recently a few bars have added real ale and the trend is slowly being reversed, to the point where you can now almost rely on a decent drink no matter how late it is you are strutting your stuff.

A case in point would be Friday, when (albeit only at just gone 23.00 ) we were in the Cavendish (groan), which had one real ale on offer, a palatable pint of Blue Bee Nectar Pale Ale. Harrisons 1854 round the corner serves after midnight Friday and Saturday and has 3 real ales, Deception, Moonshine and Bradfield Blonde. The Wick at Both Ends may be open a smidgen later and they seem to have settled on a range of Sheffield Brewing Co Tramlines and Thornbridge Sequoia.

Bungalows and Bears opens late as does the Old House and Great Gatsby. The bears range is usually a York beer with a guest although quality can be patchy, Gatsby offers a pleasant Blue Bee rebadge, and the Old House continues to impress with Bradfield Stout, Abbeydale Moonshine and Kelham Island Sheffield best bitter as regulars plus two guests - recently Abbeydale Thaw and a reindeer themed beer that looked like it was brewed by Far North (but they are now defunct), and, having forgotten its name, appears not to exist despite 30 minutes of internet searching.

Final suggestions would be the Red Deer (obviously ) proudly selling Rudgate Ruby Mild on Friday along with 7 other real ales and open til about 2 AM or later, plus West Street Live offering Hobgoblin till an unspeakable hour, and the dear old venerable Washington, still offering Tetleys and Moonshine and sometimes great tunes until somewhere near 03.00AM. So, you need no longer despair if you require a sophisticated yippled after 00.00.

Christmas Beer Review #001

Brewery Hacker Pschorr, Munich
Name : Oktoberfest Marzen
Strength : 5.8%
BCA/none BCA? : None.
Purchased : Archer Road Beer Stop Sheffield

This yummy marzen comes from my favourite Munich brewery, the often unfindable Hacker Pschorr. It has a white foamy head (although served a little warmer than would be ideal ) and the aroma is of malt, predominantly, and a sweetness that reminds me of light English Ale.

The colour is a pleasing light chestnut (as hopefully demonstrated above) and there's just enough carbonation to create a pleasing pop on opening the swing-top bottle and a slow restful recline in the glass, with no unnecessary assault of bubbles charging up through the whole of the drink.

The taste is mellow and pleasing - there is a burst of lager malt, alas my knowledge of the different types is sketchy so thats all I can say - which develops into a more noticable sweeter flavour, more like an orange preserve, and then as the flavours mingle you can detect something not unlike a low gravity bottled sweet stout. The finish is a bit short somehow, but enjoyable, reinforcing the malt and some subtle bitterness, and lingering briefly with a reminder of the sweeter malts in the beginning of the mouthful.

WBrating : 7.5/10

More bottled beer reviews as and when sobriety and availability permits over Christmas.


Wee Beefy

Thursday, 15 December 2011

Hopupdate, Delaneys Music Bar, bottled ales, Sales and for sales, Flickr.


  a disparate mix of news bites tonight reflecting my repetitive drinking patterns and a surfeit of new drinking experiences of late.


A recent visit to The Hop Sheffield helps clarify some regrettably hazy points from my previous posts. Firstly, there aint seating on the left of the entrance, only the right - the left is in fact a slowly ascending sloping walkway to the stage area that overlooks the green. The mural also isn't, perhaps mercifully given its now certain veracity, a picture depicting anything connected with the "Hop" franchise or its brand. Instead, it is a traditional steel works scene, one entirely appropriate given the venue location.

Meanwhile, I have now sampled the pie offer! An ideal and inexpensive after work filler up before a crawl or just to sustain you in general, the deal is a pie of your choice from a range of 3 or 4 , with mash, peas and gravy, and either a soft drink or a pint of the Yorkshire Blonde or Pale Gold, all for only a fiver. I opted for the more traditional offering, the Gold, and it was better than that I tried on the opening night. Service is fast on pies, so choose a perch first, and as long as you don't mind a polystyrene tray and wooden cutlery I can warmly recommend this offer.

N.B - I also tried an excellent pint of Acorn Warrior IPA, but noted that this 5% beer was £3.10 a pint - the same price as the far weaker Osset Yorkshire Blonde would have cost if purchased outside of the pie offer. From this, and experiences on my other visits, it woud appear that the guest beers on offer are consistently better value than the Ossett offerings. Whilst I undertsand the Hop(s) are a franchise, surely the idea is to promote Ossett as a first choice real ale? Am glad there are guests, but what chance a new Ossett own goal beer?

Delaneys Music Bar

Between the bottom of London Road and Waitrose is, apparently, the end of the mighty trackway of Cemetery Road. Petering out meekly and undistinguished at a raised pavement facing the ring road, this seems like no place for  a decent drinking or indeed any other venue. However, in addition to a takeaway, this hidden but so easily reached backwater houses one of Sheffield's best kept secrets, also a venue for live music, right at the edge of the hustle of the city centre.

Delaneys has been open for some time now, and came to my attention a few months ago with the announcement that it was now selling Thornbridge real ales, in addition to those from Bradfield. Despite the Beer Matters report being distinctly shy of identifying the address, I soon worked out that it is what was, in days of yore, the Beer Engine, at times the most expensive pub in Sheffield as I recall, and in between times, a series of theme led incarnations which appear not to have worked terribly well.

I visited on a weekday evening and found the pub had a few punters, some decent real ale on, and a good if at times eclectic mix of tunes playing. Blackboards and posters advertised upcoming bands and behind the bar were details of a distinctly late New Years Eve party, and details of food, which it appears is available all the time, i.e not just at New Year.

The bar area is open plan with the only seating being bar stools or high tables at the edges, with a fireplace to the left.  To the right as you enter are two small cosy rooms, comfortably furnished and displayng a laudable mix of older pub interior staples like fireplaces, bench seating and prints, along with more contemporary stuff like fairy lights and leather seats and white walls. Still, its interesting to note that they have retained 3 separate rooms (and maybe another upstairs? Am unsure!). But is it retained?

I ask only because on my last visit the Beer Engine as it was then was a tired homogenised Whitbread/Sherwood Inns managed "Ale House" or Hogshead" themed pub, with extortionate guest beers (nearing £2.80 a pint in the early nineties, late 1995 to be precise!), and falling foul as so many of these forced antiquity showrooms did, in being a venue which was not what anyone particularly seemed to want, whilst simultaneously failing to be good at those few features that punters probably did appreciate.

So, although I have no idea about its appearance before the nineties, am unsure if the layout I foggily recall has any resemblance to the pub's appearnce now. I can say, however, that the three rooms seem original in terms of placement, and the opened out bar is commensurate with what I would expect of its former themed identity. So at the risk of being proved otherwise, I'd go as far as to suggest a certain authenticity in its appearance. And I like that.

Peripheral structural concerns aside, what of the beers? There are 4 real ales on offer, on my visit 3 Bradfield, and a Thornbridge ale - Bradfield Bitter, Blonde, Belgian Blue (which given its seasonality  would assume is a guest) and Thornbridge Sequoia. There are no noticeable Continental draught options available and there seems to be the usual fare in bottles, but even in these enlightened times, a music or other venue of any kind selling real ale is a good thing. And, on my visit, bearing in mind it was about 5PM, it was cosy and relaxing with a couple of locals sat reading papers at the bar. So if it does get much rowdier later on, at least it would appear to perform the function of a local pub during the earlier part of the day ( I understand they open at 16.00). I think a return visit is required.....

Best of bottled ales

Just a brief run down of a few treats I have managed to purchase in Sheffield - alas a lack of foresight has prevented my taking notes and thus being able to present a detailed review and assessment of each, but using guesswork to identify the sources, I have compiled a list of my favourite recent tipples :

1. Little Valley Brewery, Hebdens Wheat, 4.5% BCA, Asda, £2.07
A puzzling price hike means this is the most expensive but by no means the most alcoholically strong beer on sale, but, even against my perennial favourite Punk IPA, its perhaps Asda's best bottled offering at present.
2. Thwaites Wainwrights, 4.1 % Co-op £1.89 (ish)
A mighty draught offering and my second favourite Blackburn brewed beer after Nutty Black.
3. Fraoch Heather Ale - 5%, various outlets - Gift!
The excellent "Frook" is still a classic and unique beer to try, and despite it being even better on draught, this is still an acceptable, and crucially your most likely, chance to sample delightful heather fragranced hoppy ale.
4. Co-op Bavarian Wheat beer - 4.9%, £1.90 approx, most Co-op stores.
In the absence of some Hebdens delight the other night I found a couple of these wheat beers - unspecified of source, although they are German - are an ample and tasty substitute.
5. Laverstoke Park Farm Organic Real Lager, 4.5%, £1.15 (330ml) Waitrose.
A biscuity, malty, refreshing English lager with more flavour than you might expect at 4.5%, with a very helpful label, and creditably for Waitrose, a sensible price despite its bankable certified Organic proclamations.

Next week - am intending to grab a mixed box of about 16 beers from Archer Road Beer Stop, so may have some more details to share, and if am lucky, another beer tasting  to report!

Sales and for sales

Just a brief note about pub opportunities I have spotted. The premises housing the former Dempseys bar, previously I think the Golden Ball, on Campo Lane, have the lease for sale, free of tie. Despite being hampered by its unfortunate position and rather laboured modernity, this may be an interesting opportunity. Having seen what the Hop has achieved in a modern building, and given the dearth of real ale in the area what with the Wig and Pen now reducing their range and selling only the rather less well known Wentworth offerings, perhaps this could be a prime candidate for conversing to a real ale outlet.

Further down towards the Wicker, The Black Swan, Spital Hill, variously Under the Boardwalk and numerous other incarnations, appears to have abandoned its path towards reopening as a music venue for now, as there are posters on the door offering the premises and upstairs penthouse flat for sale. Unusual not to see an estate or letting agent sign this would appear to be an intended private sale. Perhaps if anyone could overcome the reportedly bizarre owner and pub co trading arrangements/restrictions, this could be another venue combining music and a drop of the best stuff - real ale.

Finally, a Flickr of light across the pictures.....

I have recently joined Flickr - the link is on my Friends and links page above. Its not all pubs and at this early stage uploads are quite random but there will in the near future be albums, allowing you to access more specific image sets, such as pubs for example. More details to come.

In the meantime, happy Christmas, unless I get back on here beforehand!

Wee Beefy.

Wednesday, 7 December 2011

A return visit to properly assess The Hop at West One, Sheffield's newest real ale venue.

Now then,

   after my pitstop visit on Friday i was determined to head back to the Hop at West One to take a pic or two and see if I could find out a bit more, like, for instance, where the bands play....

The Hop lowdown

I got in just before 19.00 last night to discover, to my joy, that they were indeed serving pies, as promised in their blurb. I would have been pushing it to have ordered but wasn't looking for a meal so decided on a pack of Ox flavour crisps and a fantastic and all too quaffable pint of Riverhead Sparth Mild. This was demolished in about 6 minutes, including time spent trying to take a decent photo in a dark pub with a phone camera that has no flash. (apologies in advance for the crapness of pictures in this post)

In terms of its layout, to the right of the door is a very high wall showing a mural, I'd like to persuade myself it 's of steelworkers but I couldn't be sure - maybe it shows men lowering a giant Ossett Brewery sign into place? The mural overlooks a spur of seating at the right hand side as you enter, this is replicated on the left. In the meain body of the pub are a number of tables with fixed seating and chairs on the left, then a dividing wall, and another round table and seats. The entrance to the stage area is here on the left, with yet more seating inside, and a large blue edged raised area which I think, must be the stage. This is essentially the front of the building looking out over Devonshire Green, although am not sure if the glass is frosted - otherwise a cold, free gig could be found?

The wall dividing the stage from the bar area is made up of bricks and probably masks, quite well I concede, the fact that its made of less than traditional pub materials. Similarly the beams look like wood but are most likely girders. However, one worthy nod to an old fashioned pub is the splendid bar. In front of the long down lit counter with patterned wood panels along its length is a pleasing and striking carpet of tiling not unlike the great mosaic works of Leeds' finest gin palaces. Above the bar are green lit panels containing bottled beers, hopefully, they are empty, otherwise thats a real waste of ales.

As well as the incongruous drinking lobby I mentioned last time there is the entrance to the disabled loo and the stairs to the others and more seating. Its dark upstairs, one imagines intentionally, but its a nice idea and i hadn' realised there was one on my last visit! The decor is not helpful for the rubbish visioned but there are seats on what are in effect balconies overlooking the stage and the seating in the music area and down below, as well as a cosy room on the end of the upstairs area to your right which looks like its filled with shelves of VHS videos. (alas, too dark, so the below pic is looking directly above the stage)

Back downstairs, there are the regular Osset Ales, and 4 guests on the bar, and the Pyder is obviously on a guest pump as it has now changed into Broadoak perry. My delicious and well kept Sparth Mild was a not unreasonable £2.80 at about 3.5%, and my half of the tremendous Fernandes Hop Master (complete with pump clip displaying fresh green hops) was probably about £3.10 a pint. It was a shame that the Golden Pride had gone as I'd have liked to have tried that, and of course noted its price.

The bottle range includes Timmermans fruit beers, Erdinger and Sierra Nevada amongst many others, and I think the barmaid said the that was only £3.00 a bottle which would make it a very decent price. Overall the bottle range is average but acceptable without being too expensive. Lastly, the wine list is, erm, well, not really so, just a bottle of each style plus an extra white I think. I didn't see what brands they sold but persuaded myself that there would have to be exemplary choices if the one per grape colour plan was going to tempt me to a glass.

Overall they have tried hard to create a traditional feel in an empty retail unit and as far as that's even possible have succeeded, whilst also making it feel comfortable and relaxed, whilst includinga a commendable nod to its musical intentions.

The Hop promises much and at the moment delivers a very good range of real ales, along with a full looking roster of bands to come. The availability of food (especially if the pies form part of the same offer available in Leeds) will be an extra draw, and it always nice to get some decent traditional pub grub in one of the trendier areas of the City. Just knock 30p a pint off the Ossett prices and I think we could have a new contender for best real ale pub around West Street (come on now, there's too much competition to put it that high across the whole of Sheffield).

Hopefully I can get in again soon and sample some more beers, perhaps even trying the Silver King and Excelsior from Ossett, both of which I haven't had for a good while.

Wee Beefy.

Sunday, 4 December 2011

New Inn Beer and music festival 2011, Nottingham pubs

New Inn Cropton 2011 Beer festival


         a week after my return form the above I am fully recovered enough to tell you about the festival. I went in the car with Wee Keefy, alas Paddington was unable to attend which meant we had the option of sleeping in the car - but also the opportunity to fill it full of protective blankets and the like should temperatures plummet.

We arrived late afternoon and found ourselves a pitch that didn't appear too foreboding in respect of the creaking boughs and shuddering branches of the trees round the edge of the field. This was, if nothing else, going to be a windy night. We went for a quick walk round the village with friends Kev and Sue before we entered the warmth of the pub, and queued for our £3.00 festival pint glass.

The bar upstairs carried Cropton beers and a guest, there was a further small downstairs bar offering about 6 beers, then attached to the conservatory was the large double marquee housing about 60 festival guest beers. The only slight problem was that, even though beers were more or less grouped together by brewery (but then with some of the brewers offerings elsewhere in the pub), the beers were in no order at all. Being a bit hard of seeing this was a less than helpful arrangement since most of the staff had not memorised where anything was. My quest for a low gravity pint to start was therefore quite laboured.

I eventually plumped for a pint of Itchen Valley Godfathers. This used to be a favourite beer of mine but not since I had it in Rye in East Sussex had I found a really good pint of it, and alas, this trend continued, it lacked taste and seemed very watery. This disappointing start was however wiped out by a hoppy Nottingham Knights Tale - although I wouldn't usually entertain the idea of supping a novelty named beer, this was exactly what I had expected from a Nottingham Brewery offering and was very refreshing.

As the evening went on the ale flowed and having patiently waited to grab a seat at one of the picnic tables we were soon filling up on tasty but not inexpensive food. The marquee was surprisingly warm, although it was only 8 degrees overnight so not as cold as we might have feared, and as the crowds thinned later on we were able to get a seat inside. Just for reference, there were bands on, starting and finishing a little earlier than billed, nut to be fair I can't tell you who was playing, and there were no stand out moments from the bands in the marquee, even if the guitarist in the pub was pretty good at times.

Overall including the above beers I tried the following :

Brass Monkey Tamarind Mild
Banks and Taylors Edwin Taylors Stout
Cropton Scoresby Stout
Cropton Blackout
Mike Halls Dark Angel cherry porter
Mike Halls Furry Black IPA (both brewed at Cropton)
Goffs Merlin
Marble Best
Partners Tabatha
Partners Shoddy Porter

We finally sloped back to the tent in pitch darkness at gone midnight, but slept well, although i can't say I enjoyed getting up in  the siling down rain at 3AM to walk to the loos. In the morning, i was delicate, but Wee Keefy went for a breakfast in the pub, before we attempted to make a hot drink using the trangier - it worked, but it was impossible to lend a description to the unusual warm and wet concoction that we struggled through.

Before returning to Sheffield we had time to sop off at the Lion at Blakey Ridge, which was cut off for a week in the heavy snow last winter. This Thwaites pub offered a couple of their beers, Theakstons including Lightfoot and Black Bull and a guest. Alas, as WK was driving and I was feeling a little delicate, we opted for a tremendously sensible pot of tea, at a not too sensible price I might add.

I would heartily recommend the New Inn beer festival, even if like us you have to camp ( booking ahead would be required to secure a nearby B&B, although there is a bus back to Pickering at Midnight if you could stabling there). Overall the beer range was good, and the food tasty, and prices weree OK, with beers typically being £3.00 a pint but more for the really strong ones.

A fantastic weekend was, I hope, had by all.

Nottingham pubs visit

Yesterday I joined Chala and Thangor the Unpleasable (the Motherinlaw) on a trip to sunny and windy Nottingham. The plan was to walk around, grab a coffee, then head up to a decent pub for a drink, then I would venture off in search of great pubs and real ale, and Waarf and Thangor would busy themselves fannying around touching things in shops.

Our first stop was the Hand & Heart on Derby road, just up past the Albert Hall. Perhaps not entirely prepossessing from the outside, the interior is a pleasing mish mash of antique period furniture and fittings, with old leather chairs, antique settees, and chandeliers. One of the best features of this former brewery is however the fact that ecxept for the front bar the rest of the pub is carved into sandstone caves. The loos have an unusual stone ceilling and what looks like a natural stone chimney to let the air out; there are two distinct seating areas in the rock rooms to the side of the bar and the whole back bar counter and the long room behind are cut into the rock.

On the bar are 8 handpumps selling mainly local beers. I had a pint of Buxton Best, whilst Thangor stayed on softs and Chala had half a Leffe. The Buxton was reliably refreshing so I quickly moved onto a Flipside brewery Copper Penny, a malty darkish beer with a taste not unlike beers from times gone by, which is an example of a rather poor journalistic practice of not being able to fully remember the exactitude's of an experience so using an unverifiable and ambiguous phrase to describe it.

Anyhoo, our paths parted here and the Heeladeeez left me at the Ropewalk just up the road. Even more unpromising in its outer appearance but showing a reassuring SIBA sticker, this turned out to be the most varied range of the day, not in number, but in the mix of local and national micro beers.

On the bar were offerings from Magpie, Cotswold Spring, Bristol Beer Works and more, I opted for halves of the Cotswold Spring Ambler which I was assured was very popular, and the, in fairness, far far better Bristol Beerworks Independence. The decor is a mix of bar and pub idioms, with a relaxing window seating area where I was sat with tables that looked primed for dining on the far left of the bar, and a pool table on the right.

All too soon I was off across the square (or circus) to the Sir John Borlase Warren, a white painted Everards pub with an exquisite bar, and a range of Everards Real ales, and maybe a guest. Owing to an injury to my digital camera I took pics with a real live old fashioned SLR, but none of this pub with my phone camera. Of the 6 or so beers on offer I opted for  a half of Everards Pitch Black, £1.64 a half and underwhelming in light of its impressive sounding moniker - otherwise an enjoyable dark brew.

From here I laboured aimlessly to the Organ Grinder (having got a bit lost since I did not know the address) and was releived on entering to find a real fire and about 10 real ales, most from Blue Monkey brewery. My first somewhat inevitable beer was BG Sips which I rate incredibly highly, followed by another half and one of the Redwillow brewery of Macclesfield Wreckless, before I tried a Blue Monkey 99 Red Baboons and Guerrilla, both of which were dark. I got chatting to a couple of blokes from Lincoln who were in sampling Blue Monkey beers ostensibly on the basis of them having tried the excellent BG sips locally - I had to confess that I had gone to a beer festival and drunk almost nothing else such was the quality of the beer.

My next brief stop was the Running Horse across the road with some exquisite tiling on its frontage. Inside it was clear this was a music venue, and this maybe was reflected in the beer range - just a single beer ( 2 of 3 handpump clips were turned round ) being Copthorne Comanche, which was acceptable but uninspiring.

My penultimate stop was the Falcon on the circus almost. This tiny two roomed hostelry had a real fire in the bar room as you enter ( there is one other tiny room to the right) and 3 beers, the notable highlight being Castle Rock Harvest Pale which I had a half of at a reasonable £1.35.

I stopped for a last one in the Hand and Heart, which I think was the Flipside ale again, before time drew me back to the centre to meet the ladies and to get the tram back to the park and ride and thus start the drive home.  I would have had a drink in the Hawksley but I could not even see the bar such was the magnitude of slow witted individuals stood in front of the bar - one guy even said excuse me and pushed past so he could stand directly in front of me so I was now even less able to see the clips or manouvre to get served. As always in these cases, you have to ask whether the staff might hjave been interested enough to have asked the obstructors to move rather than lose trade, but they didn't and I was annoyed by this silliness and left, so there you go.

So, the above excepted, this was a fantastic intro to Nottingham real ale pubs, bearing in mind that time constraints meant I could not sample places such as the Keans Head or Canal House or others. Hopefully I can get back there soon enough for more supping and to visit some of the other excellent real ale pubs that Nottingham has on offer.

That's all for now, hope I can bring you some more ale news soon.

Wee Beefy

Friday, 2 December 2011

The Hop at Sheffield's West One opens


    Hop officially opens!

     The Hop, the new real ale bar venture franchise from Ossett Brewery has officially launched today at West One on Fitzwilliam Street, off West Street. I arrived at 18.00 having made a fortuitous journey from work to see if it was open at all. Thank god I didn't venture up in my dinner hour, because it had only been open 2 hours when I arrived.

I walked in, having eventually found that the fire exit was not an entrance (seeing is not my strong point, but the entrance doesn't exactly stand out). On entering there is an ante-lobby then the pub/bar opens out in front of you, with a cosy finger of seating on your right, and a long room ahead flanked on the left by booths of tables and chairs. All along the main right hand side of the room is the bar, and at the end a glass collection point, and a drinking corridor, reminiscent of the classic West Yorkshire layout of the same name, but incongruously situated, at the left hand end of the building.

Bar wise there were a number of handpumps, one dedicated to a Pyder, which as a traditionalist am as yet unsure whether I should be affronted by its lack of verifiable antecedence. In terms of the beers on offer there are a range of not unusual continental bottles in the fridge, and a range of Ossett Brewery real ales supplemented by guests.

On the opening night the range was :

Ossett Gold (also on a second "cold" pump
Osset Blonde
Ossett Treacle Stout
Ossett Excelsior
Ossett Silver King
Acorn Freebird
Rat brewery Rat Brown
Fernandes Ale to the Czar
Fullers Golden Pride.

The Ossett beers were OK if not exemplary for an opening night showcase, the Treacle stout was in fantatsic form though, and its nice to see a strong ale, especially one as rare and as indicative of the style as Fullers Golden Pride.

The only puzzle was the lack of any worthwhile Continental draught beers. The keg fonts contained achingly familiar brands with the exception of the rarely seen, but perhaps deservedly so, Tuborg. Perhaps the fact that even the 3.8 % session beer I drank was £3.10 a pint (about 50p dearer than the price for the equivalent at the University Arms a mere 10 minutes walk away) was the explanation for a fear of the overseas drinks, but I recognise at the same time that this is a new venue and they may be just testing the water. Conversely however, they must already have the same market outlook and nounce from their other franchises so maybe that won't hold true...

Overall an interesting if worthily welcome addition to the real ale scene, which offers a decent range of cask and bottled beers plus some good music (piped on first night, but certainly live to come), in that most celebratory of circumstance - the retail flop outlet utilised to sell beer. I wish them all the success they seek.

Dog and Partridge Trippet Lane, Dada cafe bar.

A rare stumble into the Dog and P saw it fairly bloody full which is a treat - a further swelling of the customer ranks was forbade by the fact that the single real ale had gone off. I dearly want to support this pub, but honestly, a real ale free Friday night is a step too far for me.

Across the road meanwhile awkward but not intolerable idea mishmash Dada (see less than flattering pic above, although, painting it dark grey does rely on a sunny evening to make it stand out...) was busier than ever and now selling a different Buxton Brew after the recent pleasing appearance of the Pale. Buxton SPA was their first beer and the first of their brews that I tried, in the Old Hall Hotel bar in Buxton. This was a refreshing (and better than in the above venue) pale beer that went down well, in the odd but I admit comfortable surroundings of Dada.

Harrisons 1854

A final quick note that Harrisons have introduced Bradfield Blonde as a guest real ale. So Abbeydale Moonshine is still the regular but Bradfield, as a guest, attracts a premium and costs £3.10 rather than £3.00 a pint. Regular music sessions and occasional classical music nights continue to feature.

More news soon regarding the NewInnfest11.

Wee Beefy

Rumour Mill potential win, Three Cranes, Henrys, Browns, Ship Inn and Shakespeares.


   another short entry am afraid as its late and I need to get to bed!

The Hop at West One
Rumour Mill Success on cards

I note from the latest copy of Beer Matters that the much anticipated and by me, feared dead in the water bid to open a new bar at West One has finally got the all clear and the venue should be open about today! Ossett brewery have got permission to open The Hop, a real ale bar, specialising in casks, pies and bands. The article I saw stated opening late November which by my reckoning means I could have gone tonight - watch this space for more info very soon.

Browns. Literally very.

After a taxing trek to Abbeydale and Nether Edge (finding the Union Inn in darkness, which I am sad to hear is apparently due to the landlord's ill health) and the Broadfield lit up but being refurbished, me and Chala arrived in town thirsty and fancying a change. I had campaigned for a trip to the Rutland but was rebuked, Chala was warming to my Henry's suggestion but en route decided that the sparkly lights and pastel darks decor of Browns at the top of Union street and the Peace gardens, was worth a look. I had heard it sold real ale but it was well down my list of preferences but I decided to acquiesce.

It was busy inside, with many people annoyingly sat in two's at 4 seat tables, and there was a prevalent, if unused waiting staff desk on entering, that threatened to scoop you into a dining area instead of allowing you to indulge in a sit down and a sup. Chala headed off to find a table whilst i ordered a pint of York Terrier and a half of Peroni for her. The staff were uniformed, but not exactly exuding character or personality, and laboured long over pouring the drinks, mid way through which Chala returned to report a surfeit of seating. So we asked if we were OK to sit upstairs, which the barman confirmed.

Beers in we headed off upstairs but spotted a table downstairs near the window was free so sat there, crucially taking up only a half of the available 4 seater space. Minutes later a waitress asked if we wanted a menu, upon the refusal of which she insisted that we move as this was an area for diners only.  So we suggested we moved upstairs, only to be scalded for our ignorance, given that this was also the restaurant. Pointing out that we'd been assured this was OK fell on deaf ears even though there was no-one hovering for our seats so she could have let us stay there for the time it would take us to finish our drinks.

So like second class citizens we traipsed back to the bar area and found a place to stand at a high table, to be joined by a lady who bemoaned the grim quality of her spritzer and looked, like me, as if she would rather have been in Henry's or Platillos. As soon as the drinks were gone we gratefully headed off for Henry's, with ample seating, kind and friendly staff and barely audible music.  Browns, I think, is a restaurant which begrudgingly provides drinks. I would stay well clear unless you are going in about 15.00 and can snap up a  seat at one of the four tables for drinkers. Very poor.


Further to the above we spent an enjoyable evening in Henry's stopping for a bite to eat and some nice beer - I had a Fernandes bitter, and halves of Riverhead Liquorice porter and Castle Rock Black Gold mild. One word of warning though - the Bacchus  Frambozen is an excellent example of fruit beer, and no doubt attracts some hefty import duty, but without a price list on show, charging £5.50 a pint is just plain cheeky. You need to sort that out Henry's - do that and get a better wine list and I'll be in once a week rather than once a month.

Three Cranes

On a couple of recent visits there have been 2 Blue Bee beers on again, and the magical seemingly never to happen Stones cask has appeared on the bar at a reasonable £2.55 a pint. On my last visit the range also included the fantastic Blue Bee Lustin for Stout. The appearance of two dark beers in the last few weeks maybe suggests they are able to shift the darker brews, which most publicans baulk at.

Ship Ahoy

Talking of which, the excellent Ship Inn at Shalesmoor had no such problems with the Spire stout, and this time when I visited they were offering Thornbridge Brother Rabbit, Bradfield Belgian Blue and a Sheffield beer which sounded like Abbeydale Daily Bread but looked like a Kelham clip. Either way I didn't try it, but the Blue was excellent. Its well worth making time for a visit to the Ship to remind yourself what having a free hand in beer selection can do for consumer choice, (especially real ale fans) and what difference an experienced landlord  makes to a boozer. It doesn't open til about 19.30 in the evenings though - just to note.

Shakespeares news

A few recent visits have included offerings such as Hornbeam Black Coral Stout, and Kelham Island Stockwell Rocker, a 4.0% stout, to name but a few. Alas, I missed their recent beer festival but with 6 to 9 neers on all the time its unlikely you'll be unable to find a brew to suit your tastes. Look out for regular offerings from Summer Wine Brewery, who's excellent offerings can often be found on the bar, often with biro on paper pump clips.

That's all for tonight am afraid, but I'll be on again in the next few days to tell you about the New Inn beer festival at Cropton, amongst other beery details.

Happy supping

Wee Beefy.

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Wee Beefy's beer bites - announcements

Now for the briefest of blog entries....

Events Ahoy!

Cropton beer festival at the New Inn, Cropton,

(near Pickering North Yorkshire)

All being well I shall be attending the above event with Wee Keefy, my 6 foot 9 inch 104 year old ickle brother, and possibly Paddling, who is a person, who I have had to hastily make a new nickname for as had forgotten the one I always used to use for him. The festival is on this weekend with a marquee dispensing hopefully unfrozen real ales ciders and continental bottled beers, plus of course beer on the bar and food inside the undoubtedlyy warmer pub.

Being a bit tapped, there is a significant chance that WK and I or all three of us may be camping. Outside. In a tent. FFS. Seriously, a whole 24 hours of drinking then stumbling out into freezing night air on the moors and being deluded into a sense of toasty warmth by alcohol - what could possibly go wrong?  Well, time and potential medical reports will tell. Either way, if you want to know more, please follow the link below :
New Inn Cropton beer festival 2011

CADS real ale and blues festival 2011

Following on from the success of their event as part of the tramlines festival in July, CADS on Snow Lane (and Smithfields and other nearby back streets), are repeating the bluesy boozy part of the trick again and having a similar range of bands performing, and hopefully a similar range of ales available.

The event is on for one day and tickets are £6.00 in advance available from local pubs and online. There seems to be an emphasis on it being at Snow Lane CADS - which makes me wonder if there may be more than one entrance.  Either way there is food and real ale and 12 hours of entertainment to keep you occupied. See the link below for more details :
Snow Lane CADS December real ale and blues festival 2011

More news to come should I survive camping in nearly December up at Cropton....


Wee Beefy.

Monday, 14 November 2011

Dada for Dee-daa's, new members CAMRA beer crawl, 2 local beer fests and a new Blue Bee brew

Evenin arwhl

    its been a busy 6 days and have learnt lots and seen lots in the world of beer, here are some of the salient details :

Dada for Dee-daa's

With the Dog and Partridge left behind to die by a feckless Pubco, recently the only refreshments to be had on Trippet Lane were in the New Dog, or the Grapes to give it the proper title. This was down to a refurb and significant name change for redoubtable Sheffield boozing institution Trippets, once a wine bar with bands on, then a real ale pub with a little less live entertainment and now....

Well, I should clarify that I made the mistake of reading up on the transformation on the Sheffield Forum before visiting. Not that the Forum is a bad place to gain info and opinion, but it can rather taint ones expectations. Despite this I reckoned I could still manage an honest appraisal and ventured in a couple of times this last week. The outside is changed significantly by its dark grey and black colour scheme, inside the decor is also radically different but the layout is the same. Notable changes are afoot in the furniture, the beer range, and, ultimately, the name. Below is a last lingering look at Trippets from "back in the old days ", i.e about May 2011.

Dada is not, lets be fair, an artistic movement notably connected with Sheffield. Neither is it one that's instantly identifiable or is readily summarised by the average Joe or recognised by a global signature. In essence, the name reflects a movement as undefined and non specific as the decor, and at this early stage, the apparent direction of the venue.

This may not be a bad thing of course. Themes, especially those in licensed or dining premises, are usually soul destroyingly mediocre, sanitised or downright desperate, but are primarily oft repeated ad nauseum so that they lose all semblance of impact or ultimately identity. The "theme" of Dada, as far as that's even what it is, can at least be heralded for being unusual, unlikely to have been yet tried in the UK ( I think there is one in the US of overseas) and in taking a stylistic cause so ambiguous to all but die hard art fanatics, affords itself a freedom that say a Munch or Monet bar would be nakedly and recognisably restricted by. So when you enter and blink in the strange brightness of the left hand room, or rub your eyes uncomfortably at the headache tempting kaleidoscope of posters framing the back room, its probably worth remembering that in the event that this is not a Dada approved thematic statement, it is at least unique to Sheffield, and certainly an entirely new concept for the building and the real ale and continental beers scene.

Because that's the other change of course. There are less cask ales and much much more Thornbridge to choose from. In total there are now 4 real ales, on my two visits 3 Thornbridge offerings plus a Buxton guest, this was the excellent Buxton Pale both times, and the Thornbridge range included Brother Rabbit and Lord Marples. The prices are reasonable, being £2.70 for the guest so thats not bad for the city centre and there is an improved range of continental bottled beers, although, regrettably the pricing policy of the above is a bit Dali absurd rather than say Lowry down to earth.

One major gripe though is the placing of the bank of keg beers on the bar as you enter. No (legally required) price list jumps out to warn you of the keggy costs and only those who have visited before would definitely think to venture round the corner to find the cask ales. The advantage of key-kegs is plain, in that you can maintain an astounding range of Thornbridge products including some I don't think have made it to cask yet, but as many of you will know key-keg beer is about a pound a pint dearer than cask and the lack of clarity on this impedes customer choice.

Overall I think its an exciting, mildly frustrating, puzzle of a venue which, crucially, serves damn good cask beer at sensible prices. I look forward to seeing how Dada evolves, if only to see if they encompass the popular suggested name change to Dee-daa's in honour of its Sheffield location.

Hallamshire House, Commonside.

Being slow off the mark as usual I had contrived to miss the fact that the above venue, run by Thornbridge for Enterprise Inns, had reopened. I popped in late Saturday afternoon for a glim. Outside there was a worrying grey board and grey paintwork and signage which reminded me of Dada but that was really where comparisons end.

Inside the room on the right has lost its pool table and this makes it a great room for a quiet pint. On the left, the snug was quite dark and with a roaring fire going, and nothing appears to ave changed, what with it still being the most sought after seats in the house. Down the corridor the snooker room I am told is unchanged but I did not look in, the major difference seems to be the very high ceillinged back room, now resembling a small beer hall, and sporting a slightly disjointed banquet-cum-Edwardian town house look.

The other principle difference concerns the beer range. Once again you are spoilt for choice if you like Thornbridge, but disappointingly no non Thornbridge guests were available from the range of 8, albeit excellent real ales. The cask is supplemented with a few key-kegs, with the price disparity clearly shown on two beer blackboards. I tried what is unfortunately undoubtedly a rebadge, the Les's Best at 4.0%, and £2.60 a pint. Not having been a regular I don't know what the renowned former landlord would have made of the tipple, but I noted with childish amusement that said out loud it either suggested that same sex female relationships were best, or, that Les himself was the best, which whilst no doubt a deserved compliment, threw open to question Thornbridge's appreciation of their own management! Alas it just means the best bitter that is named after Les.......

Before departing I had time for an expensive (£3.50 a pint, but 6.2%) half of the Everlade porter, which was worryingly easy to quaff for its strength, and the perfect starter to my evening of porterly appreciation with a well known consumer organisation.

CAMRA new members beer crawl.

Its old news but I have not been a Kammrurr member for a long time now, but also worth considering that I support their aims, patronise their festivals (although, I wonder if patronise is correct, since it seems like I am patting the festival on the head and telling it that it would not understand my concerns about beer prices versus ABV); and that a goodly number of my best friends are also members of the campaign. So its against this backdrop that I accepted an invite from Rich at Blue Bee to join him on a tour of several local hostelries, and hopefully taste quite a lot of his delicious new porter brewed in aid of Movember and for the Technophobia organisation.

Hardy souls had started at somewhere before Noon at the Blue Bee brewery for a tour, then I know they had visited the Rutland Arms for lunch, and then a few more pubs, and I was hoping to see them in the Three Cranes on Queen Street at somewhere between 4 and 6PM. Having diverted all the way to Commonside it was surprise enough that I made it for 17.30, but alas they were long gone. So my 3 Cranes visit was a brief one, as I wolfed down an extremely quaffable porter, the Blue Bee Techmophobeer (see Techmophobeer). I did not check the beer's strength at first but assumed that this was about 4%, so easy was it to slake, and the pumpclip of the same that I recently acquired (quite legally mind) confirmed my suspicions about this porter, which went down like velvet and tasted like everything a good porter should.

Alas I had to meet the group a mile or two away at the Gardeners Rest at Neepsend so had no time to linger, but grabbing a bus straight away I had time to pop in the Cask and Welly (or Wellington) at Shalesmoor, for a half of Steel City Brewing "Its better Oop North", an unsurprisingly uncompromising throat punch of hops in an almost warming haze of dry citrus bitterness, with a hint of fruit that tried and failed to provide balance. Not that this was a bad thing taste wise, it was, despite my wording a most enjoyable drink, but I noticed a Little Ale Cart stout on the bar that I would have also tried had I not been on a mission...

The Gardeners Rest was busy when I arrived and I quickly spotted Rich and Kath, who as crawl leaders had to be quizzed about the location of the hundreds of new members I had anticipated seeing. Alas it seemed that 7 hours or more in, we were down to just one, and a gaggle (suggestion for the correct collective noun of CAMRA members welcome)  of stalwart and newer members alike sampling the excellent wares. It goes without saying, that despite the excellent range on offer as always, this occasion warranted a pint of Techmophobeer, which was likewise delicious and well kept, but all too soon we were off again and  headed from here to the tram stop and onto our first pub beer festival.

University Arms Celtic Beer Festival

The above promised a yummy selection of Welsh Scottish and Irish beers to tempt the curious drinker, and did not disappoint, despite the teasing details in the programme of food until 20.00, which was clearly not available when we arrived prior to that deadline. The Purple Moose beers were obviously very popular as they had all disappeared along with a smattering of most of the others, leaving four on stillage in the conservatory and 6 on the bar. Of the range available I tried Strathven Old Mortality, packed with a little too much Scottish malt for me but enjoyable if tired, Gertie Sweet New World Pale (which, with the greatest respect, seemed a misnomer owing to a lack of pale colour or hopiness), Tryst Cannamore which was a very refreshing Scottish hoppy ale, Vale of Glamorgan Cwrw Dewi, an ale about which through no fault of the brewer I remember precisely nothing, and Otley O7 Weissen, which was essentally Rich's choice, but I still had a taste and it was very palatable. We had a goodly stop here but eventually had to move on elsewhere, which was a shame considering i had failed to attend any of the other days of the festival.

Common Room beer festival

Next we headed down through West One and onto Devonshire Street for more casks. On my first visit to the most packed pub on Black Friday 2010 I was met with a bar with four handpumps with the clips turned round, but a whole stillage of casks awaiting me at the end of the room. Despite seeming like the most unlikely venue for a beer festival, this was also our chosen food stop, to help us soak up some of the days excess. We also of course took the opportunity to sample some beers - I had a pint of Blue Bee Nectar Pale (which was also not particularly pale, something Rich attributed to late season malts turning slightly darker)  as well as a swift half of Autumn fruits, which, due to some minor addlement on my part was either from Steel City Brewing, or Sheffield Brewing Co. I really couldn't tell you which! It was an enjoyable drink though.

Beehive beer behaviours

My final stop on the crawl, and possibly that of the whole group, was the Beehive on West Street. I had reservations about the suitability of such a haunt on a Saturday night after an England match but to be fair it wasn't overwhelmingly busy, and there was a good choice of beers - almost inevitably, I finished up enjoying a pint of Techmophobeer, which I drank slowly and appreciatively from a handled beer mug, which is a method of holding beer for drinking which is starting to be more common than straight pints in some venues. According to my photos, much revelry was had, and I left at gone 22.00 for a (not actually my) last one in Harrisons, which was Bradfield Farmers Blonde. Below is a photograph to illustrate the depth of our bibulous badinage, and is of myself and a gentleman who I am assured came for the whole day out, and despite not being able to remember his name, was undoubtedly a harmless CAMRA member as opposed to an opportunistic serial killer of drunks.  Modesty prevents me from identifying which one is myself.....

After visiting the 1854, I had an awkward half (lone drinker at gone 23.00 in Dada = not cool ) of Buxton Pale on Trippet lane. I then utilised the fab new night bus service to get home, thus saving me a good 6 or 7 quid in the process, and rounding off an excellent evening of beer tasting travel and socialising.

More beer news as it comes, and who knows, I may even face down the demon of writing up my trips away! Meanwhile stay thirsty and drink real ale wherever you find it.

Wee Beefy.

Tuesday, 8 November 2011

Wee Beefy's beer bites, of beer and pubs, pubs and grub, and great music and beers.

Oh aaarh

    news tonight of a number of local haunts selling real ales and a few other things to tempt punters.

Old House.

A recent visit saw some excellent beers, looks like Moonshine, Kelham Easy Rider, Flowers (?!?) IPA, and Bradfield stout are regulars, and this time the guest was the Two Roses brewery First Edition IPA, (see Two roses brewery beers ) a sumptuous dry hoppy delight which warranted a couple of pints in our short visit. This follows a pattern in recent months of some unusual beers cropping up at this popular and often eclectic venue.

Shakespeares, Rattle and Roll (sorry, couldn't find a suitable "attle" to continue the theme")...

On Friday 4th November it was Jake's 40th and the Kingfisher Blue gig at Shakespeares on Gibraltar Street. Upstairs in the Bards bar there is alas still no signs of the bar of the name being open, but there was a polished presentation of excellent Kingfisher Blue tracks from their 15 year touring career. Never mind that, there were also inevitable excellent beers on the bar.

Downstairs (for it is there) they had some interesting beer choices and I plumped to start with Deception, a reliable pint and only £2.10 per 568ml, whilst Wee Keefy ventured into Cains bonfire Toffee (not to my taste but it did what it said on the clip, and some less hoppy beer producer which may have involved the word barrister. Myself, I followed with a couple of pints of Summer Wine brewery Whitewater IPA, and their Coffee Stout. Ultimately, the worst and most disturbing beer of the night was the Landlord's Choice/Landlords friend Chip, an unfeasibly sweet weird amalgam of sharp malt and sugary nonsense which was possibly the worst pint of not off beer I had ever tasted - thankfully that was keefy's choice!

All in all it was a fantastic night showcasing the excellent upstairs venue and topped off with a pint of Deception at Harrisons 1854. Good times all round.

Harrisons 1854

More news on the beer choice merrygoround, after a, I cannot confirm, but suspect, disastrous trial of Sheffield brewing Co Blanco Blonde. The 3rd beer pump role has for the time being been taken by Bradfield Brewery, not sure which one of their wares but suspect it was their Blonde, given that the beer had run out by the time of my arrival. Lets hope this does well, and that they may be tempted into a reckless foray into one of the other Bradfield portfolio, such as the Yorkshire Farmer or their excellent Pale Ale.

Arkwirght Arms, Sutton Cum Duckmanton Chesterfield.

Wee Fatha has aged officially in the last week so we took him out for a meal and some excellent beer at the above. Despite being a drizzly November Monday the pub was steady, with a good turnover of customers in the 2 hours we were there, and still offering a range of about 9 beers.  We started on Dark Star Hophead, which had to be changed, but was well worth the wait, and Church End Goats Milk which WF liked but I didn't care for. Next I had the Titanic Plum Porter which was exactly as named but lacked a little balancing bitterness, whilst WK had Whim Arbor Light and WF Prospect Silver Tally. My third was the excellent Brew Dog Trashy Blonde, whilst the others had another Hophead and a Muirhead brewery Pirates Gold, before I finished on a half of Durham Vanilla Waltz which was a very easy drinking 5% ale with a creamy malt taste.

The food was enjoyable, even if my chilli was a little sweet and perhaps shy of some more rice, and was very well priced. Overall this was a rare and enjoyable trip out to a fantastic pub.

Derbyshire Wanderings

My last dispatch comes from the wilds of Derbyshire and a trip out on the 6th November. Me and Davefromtshop went for a yomp starting in Litton, alas before the pub opened, then down to Litton Mill then along Cressbrook Dale and through Cressbrook then up the hill on the arduous track to Brushfield. Here our plans went awry slightly as we listened to half thought advice from other walkers and did not double check the map. Suffice to say we ended up back down the hill on the A6 having already toiled up one side of the incline.

Fifty strenuous sweaty minutes later than planned we arrived in Taddington at the Queens Arms, home now to the local shop, and focused on its food. In the past it was a redoubtable ale venue but changes have occurred since and now its perhaps not so much a nailed on source of beer. Prior to visiting I checked their website and the food and drinks link that hinted at real ales had only the food menu on. On arrival this was played out for real with the whole lounge full of diners. Mind you, in these troubled times this is not a bad sight, even if the picture was completed with the fire ablaze, increasing our thirstiness after dragging our considerable forms all the way from the valley bottom.

The Peak Ales Bakewell bitter alas ran out whilst we waited, and we plumped for the Delicious and refreshing Oakwell Barnsley bitter, from South Yorkshire's most secretive brewery, that being the only beer remaining. Mind you, although its not abnormal these days, one felt it had to hit the mark at £3.10 for a 3.8% ale. We enjoyed this in the garden whilst formulating a plan to catch up with our wayward timetable.

In the end, the route into Presitcliffe and down a precipitous muddy slope with cliffs on one side, coupled with sudden plunging temperatures and my concerns about my susceptible dodgy feet, meant that on arriving on the Monsal trail at 14.50, despite having time enough to reach Great Longstone in daylight, we opted to sensibly negotiate the slippery rock strewn slope to Millers Dale and the Anglers Rest.

On this visit the recent Sheffield District pub of the year improved upon its usual more than excellent rosta of beers with Adnams as its regular, and three Locale guests, Storm Silk of Amnesia, which is £2.70 for a 4.7% beer (all beers are the same price), Wincle Waller (of the dry stone variety), and Spire Brassed Off. So engaging was this bibulous team sheet we stayed for several pints before reluctantly heading to the bus stop.

With timetables and connections ruling out trips to any of the Longstone or Monsal pubs, we decided to stop off in Tideswell as I had never been in the Horse and Jockey and it was allegedly quite good.

Passing on the bus it was emblazoned with lights, however, on reaching the pub the door was locked, and after catching the eye of someone inside we were told it didn't open on that day as they were changing ownership! FML! So now (not even attempting consideration of the folly of paying to halogenically light ones closed business)  we had an hour and a half to fill in but only two pubs to go at, so, after a fortuitous stop at a late closing shop for pork pies, we headed up to the Star.

Its 6 years since I was in, and back then it was a thriving local with an excellent range of beers and take away pizzas (I think, unless am confusing it with somewhere else like the George at Youlgreave!). Now, at 17.20 on a Sunday, we replaced the customer at the bar and in doing so added 33% to the tally of patrons. There was now 3 of us in the pub, plus staff.

On the bar was Marstons Bitter and Jennings Cumberland, and one other customer to enjoy them. The bitter was very palatable, but, given that it seems the George was also closed for refurbishment, (and a lack of info about the other pub or club at the other end of the village), it seems desperately bad that the Star could attract so few customers. There is nothing wrong with the pub it has a traditional multi roomed layout, or at least, very distinct separated areas, and real ale and a central location. Yet the stark reality was that in the face of no competition the pub could barely turn over a trade. This does not bode well for the future, even if, as was privately mooted by the licensee, the late evening trade would be brisk.

Our escape was earlier than planned then and we were soon on the 173 to Bakewell, frustratingly highlighting that we could have got off for 40 minutes at the Red Lion at Litton. Once in Bakewell, we headed straight for the Peacock. They still served an impressive portfolio of four real ales from Peak Ales brewery, of which I had the rather rich Chatsworth Gold and the more refreshing Bakewell Best, whilst Dave opted for the Swift Nick and a rather optimistically  priced double whisky.

Once back in Sheffield we had time for a last one in the Sheffield Tap, Dave enjoying a rather prescient titled Brodies Prime, and myself relying on my favoured Thornbridge fail safe the Lord Marples.

Though its a shame we didn't manage the planned route we still got to visit some excellent venues and sample some terrific real ale, most notably at the Anglers Rest, but all of the pubs visited sold real ale and in general the choice was very good.

Keep drinking, and keep asking....

Wee Beefy.

Wednesday, 2 November 2011

Alcohol strength mistaken for root of sociatel breakdown by fools, retail behemoth appears in Sheffield.

Good Heavening,

    tonight we shall be steering away from valuable yet perhaps overly prevalent gen about pubs and what they sell and explore, albeit briefly, the complex machinations and myriad complexities of how the UK Lib-con coalition government know nothing, and are incapable of acting sensibly in respect of, beer.

Ignorant meddling - an explanation you may have missed

The Government has noticed that lots of people get very drunk. Thanks for that Sherlock. Apparently, the coalition (for it is they) have concluded, using guesswork and a blatant lack of intelligence and understanding, that stabbing wildly in the dark to find the cause is an acceptable and indefatigable means of identifying the root causes of alcohol abuse, and having pinned the tail on the donkey, have decided its super strength beer.

Initially, rational people might say yeah, that's a good point actually, all those drunks and street mentals supping Skol Super and Carlsberg Special Brew. And that is broadly correct. However, both the aforementioned brews start at upwards of 9% and are brewed by giant multinational conglomerates, with sites and revenue streams around the world, and the nounce and profit margins to, potentially at least, find legal but immoral ways to avoid paying UK tax, which whilst not exempting them from this ill thought through duty, does of course allow them to offset inconvenient things like this in the UK.

So, given the above, (and not forgetting the desire of alcohol abusers, the problem drinkers targeted but entirely circumnavigated in this unseemly quiche of shortsighted measures, to drink milm like Special brew at all costs), what exactly are Noddy and Big Ears hoping to achieve in Toytown?

Well, as hinted at by the children's TV reference, an inexcusable and frankly retarded "tar everyone with the same brush and punish anyone who likes quality higher alcohol beers from time to time". What an epic failure this will be.

Problem drinkers, a euphemistic semantic umbrella for everyone nobody making the decisions wants to think about, are, I am strongly convinced, not connoisseurs. Rarely, if ever, do they seek out a £5.00 750ml corked Chimay Blue Reserve, or a similarly priced Durham Brewery Temptation, or a Brew Dog Hardcore IPA, or a Lees Harvest Ale. These are premium products, at a premium price. If you seriously want to get shitfaced, the specialist beer importer or well stocked real ale off license is not your first stop. Yet, in la la land, the MP's have erroneously sought tp punish persons wishing to enjoy these and other bibulous treats. Why - because they are ignoramuses, making knee jerk policy on the basis of information which lacks clarity and veracity.

And the folly does not stop there. HSBD (High Strength Beer Duty) is just that - it targets beer only. So what part of the binge drinking culture have the Con-dems looked at to ascertain that quality, craft (or independently brewed, if you like) beers are the source of our drink sodden demise? Is it, perchance, precisely none? I suspect it is. Because of course, no-one drinks super strength cider to get mullered. Or cheap sherry. Or own label spirits. No, of course not. Except they do.

So in essence, what we have is a duty levied on taste, sophistication and intelligent consumer decision making based on knowlegde and pallette. The HMRC (for it is they whom implement the misguided edict) say "High Strength Beer Duty (HSBD) will be due on beer which exceeds 7.5% alcohol by volume (abv) and is produced in or imported into the UK. HSBD will be paid in addition to the existing general beer duty and is set at 25% of the general beer duty rate. At the time of introduction this is £4.64 per hectolitre % of alcohol in the beer.

Small Brewer's Relief is still available on the general beer duty element of beer above 7.5% abv. However, it does not apply to HSBD and no further relief will be applied to the reduced rate for lower strength beers.

Strangely, a search of the tinterweb offers no reason provided by the Government for this idiotic departure from logic. It is, more prevalently, the opinions of those reporting the fallacy that have mooted the reasons behind the change. So why so reticent? Is the Government and HMRC too embarrassed to argue its case? I only wish we knew, but if not, they damn well should be. This measure must have, nay could only have, been instigated out of spite and ignorance.

The End of All Sense?

But wait! There is surely a counter measure to appease unhappy folks? Why yes! A reduction in duty on despairingly weak beers! Hurrah! Its WW2 all over again - quoth HMRC "From the same date, a reduced rate of general beer duty for lower strength beer will apply to beers exceeding 1.2% abv but not exceeding 2.8% abv, and which are produced in or imported into the UK. The new reduced rate is set at 50% of the general beer duty rate, which at the time of introduction is £9.29 per hectolitre % of alcohol in the beer".

Well fuck me sideways kids. That is certainly aimed at the massive market percentage of sub 3% beers that, erm, don't exist.  There are some good low gravity beers, but immeasurably few below 3%. You could paint this as a challenge for brewers, but its not because the reasoning applied is palpably WRONG!

So how to make the reduced beer duty on products that don't exist work? Well  aside from reinventing a world where its 1940 again, we could look to the supermarkets to plough a furrow for failed logic. After all, they sell most of the chemically enriched uber crap at 11% that's quaffed at home before people go out, so they must be leading the way on pricing? Surely? See part 2 of my Review below for the Answer....

ASDA beer pricing farce unwrapped!!!

Yep, good ole Asda is leading the way once again in promoting cheap strong alcohol for binge drinkers, and making it more expensive to drink weaker beers, in line with upcoming Government legislation, erm, well, not.

On a recent visit, my regular tipple Brewdog IPA (which is 5.6%, and I buy it for the (albeit reduced) hops and bitter flavour ) is back to £1.46 a bottle, or 3 for £4.00. So, this makes it per ml the cheapest beer on sale in the UK beers section, and significantly more expensive than the two lonely low gravity offerings, which are Brakspear bitter at 3.5% and Manns Brown Ale at 2.1%. What foresight!

Clearly they saw the duty changes coming so have ensured that its financially unrewarding to drink low gravity beer but cheaper to get smashed quicker on the loopy stuff. When the changes bite, customers will rush headlong into the welcoming arms of Daddy Asda to crave their low gravity offerings, which will be cheaper to produce, but whose current over inflated price can be harmlessly reduced to ape the magnanimous actions of the purse string tighteners in HM Treasury. And if they don't? Well, happy days! The strong beer the customers crave is already heading for being too expensive for them to afford so they'll either cut back, and thus generate less revenue for HMRC (or buy from abroad thus sidestepping import taxation and utilising laughably generous allowances and loopholes like coach drivers using tee-totaller passengers combined allowances) or move to cider or spirits! Either way no memberof the public wins! Yet (and) neither do HMRC! Such philanthropy oh American owned friend.....

So here's to a stupid idea, neither justified by its proponents or its deriders, set to make enjoying quality UK and overseas strong beer a much less affordable luxury, for the good of nobody.

Retail Behemoth rises up in Sheffield

Hot on the heels of news about shortsighted government meddling in areas it clearly fails to understand, the new Tesco Extraneous has opened on Saville Street, bringing with it a maelstrom of greedy brand led neediness, and, an interesting range of frol.

Notwithstanding that Tesco, the anti competitive tax evasive giant that strangles fair trading out of every hectare it poisons, is nowhere near as good a destination for beer choice as say, the Archer Road beer Stop. It is, however, on my way home, and brand new, so i felt a single, if final, visit was required to assess the wares on offer.

Overall a fairly humdrum selection of British beer was offered, supplemented by an achingly conservative rosta of world and continental offerings that would make beer ignoramus's Morrisons feel proud of their core range, the UK lines resembling the decisions of a trigger happy Sainsbury's beer orderer, with a few notable highlights in the form of some Scottish Micro offerings, for instance brew Dog. I chose their Alice Porter, which is a sublime dark concoction, and a Tesco branded Double IPA which turned out in all but name to be Brewdog Hardcore IPA.

This is a welcome, and dare I say it (for now) affordable journey into hop meltdown. Almost brown in colour, like a dark caramel, this monstrous assault on the taste buds and olfactory senses packs in huge bitterness balanced with warm tingly citrus bitter-sweetness and hints of marmalade (sorry, its the quince again, i can;'t seem to separate it from hoppy beers!). Not a beer to be rushed, you can appreciate the flavours best by serving it cold but drinking it slowly enough to allow the drink to warm and release further biting fuzzy tangs of hop and belligerent bitter notes.

The appearance of Alice Porter and Glencoe Oat Malt Stout (not BrewDog) is a welcome addition to the Sheffield bottled beer scene, what with ASda, Sainsbuys' and Morrisons steadfastly failing to ignite more than begrudging interest in their Greedy King Wells/Youngs slew of identical ale products. However, how ironic this bounty is! Since, all too soon, we will be punished for our adventures in taste - as the Government wishes.

This means that anyone not wanting to drink Old Speckled Hen and Spitfire til it bubbles through their eyeballs will feel the impact, whether it be in the form of direct price increase on classic beers like Old Tom, or through brewers offsetting the onerous impact with moderate rises across their portfolio.

In short - HSBD - a baseless shot in the dark resulting in a shot to the head for consumer choice and brewing innovation. Shame on the Government.

Wee Beefy.