recently my friend Mr Shape at work told me about the City Bar opposite the Casbah in town, which he reckoned was a decent place to go for a pint. This place used to be Henry's, which it has since reverted to, but the change that started with the city bar is extensive in terms of drinkers choice.
As you enter up the steps from the tiled entrance, there is a long bar against the back wall in front of you, with 9 or 10 handpumps and a number of continental beer fonts, and wines housed in wooden racking to the right. There is a mixture of comfy settee seating and more vernacular tables and chairs to choose from, in several separate seating areas, and steps to an upstairs gantry. All around the edge of the premises are high glass windows giving the opportunity to watch people trying to look cool whilst walking up towards the town hall, and, if you put a camera in the right place, pausing to stand under the h of the henry's sign...
There is a huge mirror at the end of the left hand side near the loos, which is probably an invaluable commodity if you are on a night out and want to subtly espy yourself to make certain that you look good, something i saw a few people dong not so surreptitiously when I was in on Tuesday evening. With the aesthetics taken care of, what about about the beer ?
Well, on my two visits so far there have been 2 ciders on - or it may have been one cider and one perry - plus 8 pumps dispensing real ale, from the Henry's house beer, favourites from the larger regionals, a Sheffield brewing company beer and a number of guests.
Prices start at £1.95 for the weaker beers and increase 5p per 0.5% of beer strength, although the lady behind the bar conceded this was really a rough guide rather than exact science. The Continental range includes Erdinger wheat beer and Dunkel and Franziskaner, as well as Leffe and I think Peroni.
On my first visit I went in for a quick pint by myself on a Friday night, and this was a good opportunity to see whether it was a friendly pub by day and a bustling cattle market at night - a fear dispelled almost instantly by my discussion with the barman about the range of beers, and the number of couples quietly drinking and chatting. I had a pint of Hopback brewers challenge which was about £2.05 and got a nice table near the blocked off entrance that I had walked up the steps to earlier, and which is pretty much guaranteed to attract a percentage of all other visitors until they spot the sign at the top.
It was nice to spot a Hopback beer because they seem to have disappeared from Sheffield bars of late, and this new beer of theirs was a welcome change.
I visited again last week in the evening with Waarf, and ended up staying for a meal. The wine list is a little disappointing, but the beer range was excellent. I started on a pint of Elland brewery Bargee, which went down a treat, so quickly did it that i had to have another after 10 minutes. I also tried Hereford Brewery Celtic pale, Liverpool organic brewhouse celebration bitter and some Erdinger Dunkel which made a nice change. Overall a positive "new" venue in town and a good beer range and pleasant location to boot.
Despite our fulfilment there was time afterwards to visit the forum where there was choice of two Kelham Island beers, I opted for the Pink Floyd themed special, before we migrated to wines.
Good news from Walkley now, especially since the pub stock seems to be disappearing at an alarming rate. I visited the Florist, which i don't think I've ever had a pint in before, having visited once 10 years ago and found no real ale, and previously as a kid sat outside drinking coke.
There is a John Smiths bitter handpump on the right as you look at the bar and round the corner where the bar finishes on the left is a Bradfield handpump, dispensing their Blonde. I had a pint and a half of the Blonde and can confirm it was in very good condition. I also had a half of the Smiths, strangely the Bradfield was cold, perhaps a smidgen too cold, but the Smiths more or less warm - but, this is not a bad thing, as it allowed me to find the subtle malt and bitter flavours, in what is lets be honest a fairly uninspiring beer, and which are usually hidden when served at a low temperature.
The interior looks like it may recently have been refurbished although of course I can't be sure, its a sort of modern cool greys and browns look, a bit like the Royal Standard, the difference being that it works at the Florist owing to its traditional layout. Although there aren't separate rooms, the areas are sufficiently different to appear separate, and I sat in the right hand side, where a really old and incongruous out of keeping table has been retained in front of the wall alcove seat on the right hand wall - perhaps a regulars spot ?
This development is good news since opposite, the Crown is closed, and perhaps has been for a while, and until I wander round on Thursday, i don't know if the Walkley Cottage has reopened.
This trip to the Florist formed part of a Walkley jaunt on Friday. I started in the Blake where I met Christingfer, and had several enjoyable pints of the Toad Brewery Blonde, and a Shardlow 5 Bells. We then headed up to the Firwood Cottage where I could keep my promise of returning for a magnet, although with funds almost exhausted we only had halves of magnet. The magnet had an interesting malty flavour but not like I remember it ( not that long ago )used to taste in cask form. It was good to see the pub busy, it caters for a more mature clientele - I think we were the youngest people there apart from some kid playing pool in the back - but the atmosphere was relaxed and it was friendly.
From here I continued alone, stopping on South Road for some chips and curry sauce which I simultaneously ate and painted my coat and bag with. I then went to the Freedom House, which, I can report, is very much open, just not with the outside light on. I sat in the left hand side, which is weird, because I always do that yet there is no discernable reason why i can't go in the right. There are usually two real ales on, the Deuchars had just run out so I had a pint of Moonshine, which being one of my favourite beers is no great hardship.
Nothing has changed here it seems since I used to come in about 10 years ago, there is still noise from the right hand bar which seems to be busier, mingling with the gentle hub of conversation in the left; a couple at the far end having a drink and a hushed chat, and a group of lasses next to me discussing dreadful 90's pop bands and Rasta mouse. Despite leaving my scarf here (which provides an excuse for returning on Thursday with Davefromtshop ) it was a pleasing experience all round.
I went to the Florist next as already described, before heading down to Hillsborough. I had fleetingly considered popping into the Freemasons which had been selling real ale, but that was along time ago, and the deafening music and rowdy atmosphere made me think twice.
I ended the night in the Rawson Spring Wetherspoons. Depending on your outlook its either a canny use of space, a hellish meat market with no character or a kooky Gothenberg style beer hall with a range of real ales, although it was so dark and so noisy I could barely see or hear what was on offer. I had two halves, one from Black Hole brewery in Burton, and something called Chuffin Ale, but no more detail was provided. I managed to find a table in the small room on the left to avoid the unseemly scrum of aftershave and perfume in the main area. That said though the beer was nice enough, and its certainly an unusual venue to enjoy a pint in - perhaps I should go back on a weekday in the early evening to appreciate it more.
Finally, despite succumbing to some terrible virus, I struggled to the White Rose Festival at the Magna centre yesterday, allowing me to catch up wit Matt who used to work with me in Rotherham, and his family. That was reason enough to venture out, but there was a free ticket for me as well, and a good festival to boot.
Now, Magna, there is a unique venue for a drink, large enough to make the Rawson Spring look like the Brown Bear in terms of size. The 3 cavernous hall areas, including the entrance, plus some smaller rooms enabled the organisers to replicate the transitory feel of Oakwood by housing different regions beers in different places, hence we had Derbyshire, Cumbria and Hampshire rooms. The programme boasted 220 or more beers, I certainly gamely tried about 14, including some Hampshire beers which we did not find whilst down there last year. This also gave me the opportunity to try some Brown Cow beers which always seem to elude me.
According to my highly scientific recording system, which involved me ticking or scrawling next to in the programme (which, I lost at one point, then went back to where I thought I had dropped it and recovered it, so as not to lose the info...), I tried the following beers :
Bird Brain Black Bishop; Brown Cow New Beer (its says that, but it did have a proper name, will have to look at their website to find it out - I know it was about 4.3.% and tasted fantastic ); Naylors Pinnacle Porter; Wainstones Jet (which I was told was a mild, but is more like a porter); Geltsdale Hell Beck; Ulverston Fra Diavola; Nutbrook Mongrel; Barlow Anastasia; Botley Old Cooperage; Havant Stopped Dancing; Irving Type 42 - tried it, not a fan; Steel City Brewing St Brendan - saw Dave unpronounceable, hats off to him for this pale ale; Toad Dark Side of the Toad; Five Towns Flintlock: Golcar Mild; Old Spot Spotlight.
Overall the range of beers was fantastic and there was still plenty of choice when I left about 20.00. My favourites were probably Golcar Mild, the Steel City St Brendan, the Brown Cow and the Bird Brain Black bishop.
The venue was fantastic, although the West Yorkshire bar was set in a tall lofty space with only patio heaters for warmth, so was incredibly cold all the time. And the 1 hour break was done only partly well, since everyone was told the only place we could go was the South Yorkshire Bar, when we could have gone to the Fat Cat cafe bar and queued considerably less for food; also the Bombadier bus was trying to sell beer during the break, which I applaud them for, but they were stopped. This slightly contradicts the stated reasons for the break which are that the staff need a break. The Bombadier bus bar staff didn't want or need one, so why stop them from selling beer when they are not part of the main festival staff ?
Other than that, a great festival, and the free bus to Meadowhall was a good idea - I just wished I'd looked at the website prior to going so didn't spend 1 hour 20 minutes getting there....
Definitely an event I will try and get to in 2012.