Sunday, 17 April 2011

In which BrewDog are old ladies and are afraid of alcohol, and I visit the Lescar, Fat Cat, Kelham Island and Gardeners Rest, Sheffield

Good evening fellow slakers,

I have less than usual to report owing to having contracted some sort of evil noro virus, likely from my trip to the Hospital on Thursday, which means I have not been out catching up with my friend Rox on Friday, and have made it to precisely none of the CMARA AGM beer festivals that were on ( bearing in mind that not being a member, that's all I would have graced ).

So after Thursday night, I have been bereft of Champion Juice and, until this afternoon, solid food. However, before my social life temporarily ended I was out Wednesday, and did have a quick pint before a meal on Thursday night so here are the details, as well as a little bottled beer news.

I start with revelations that despite their uncompromising and radical stance on alcohol, BrewDog in fact turn out to be a couple of old women wearing shawls and discussing marmite tights in the war. And why has this claim been proven beyond all reasonable doubt ?

Well, aside from being an image I dreamt up, its because I bought 2 bottles of their finest Punk IPA the other day from Asda, and only when I got home to devour these wares did I realise to my horror that I had purchased a girl's bottle of 5.3% or possibly 5.6% standard pale ale, rather than the acceptable 6.0% ABV beer I had expected. The catch ? It still says its Punk IPA.

(note, this is 8 days ago now, the rueful reliability of the bin men, coupled with the fact that Asda is now shut, means I can't decide which weakling strength it was, but listen, its not a sixer. That's all that counts )

I quickly referenced the BrewDog sales blurb that I had liberated from the Sheffield Tap and saw as I had thought, that Punk IPA was indeed 6.0%. Not to be fooled I checked the label again, and just now their website. The label clearly states 5.3%, and their website, for all its rhetoric and bluster, fails to get the basics right, as it does not mention the ABV of any but the strongest products on sale. I even flicked through the beer section of the 2010 GBG and noted that, albeit using information from 2009, Punk IPA was once listed as 6.2%.

It tasted more or less the same, noteworthy that it was still a little hazy, but seemed to be the same price!? (although once again, with Asda's Mavis style pricing policy, its impossible to judge if its now the same price as it was before or after the last offer, or before the offer before that when it was last sold separately, prior to it being on offer - so I have no idea.)

If this proves to be the case, this could be a Greedy King style deceit such as when they "helped" consumers by reducing the strength of Old Speckled Hen without making the necessary adjustments in the price to reflect the duty saved.

And don't forget kids, reducing the strength of a beer is always the first step in its sad and slow demise. Show me a beer that's been reduced in strength and got better, and I will put it straight into my self abusing apology in the next post. Alternatively send me a depressing list of ones that have been reduced in strength and then sunk without trace, been discontinued or farmed out to Burtonwood or Hydes, such as Ind Coope Burton Ale, or Stones....

So, in conclusion, not withstanding the fact that pathetic easily spooked retailers may have begged the naughty older boys form Fraserburgh to reduce the alcohol in their beers to keep interfering do-gooders off their backs, BrewDog may now have to be called BoooDog. Shame on them.

Right, ont t't pubs now.

I was in the Lescar for a couple on Thursday, before my plague took hold, and prior to a meal out with some of Chala's college friends. I sampled Thornbridge Ashford, a pleasant brown ale, Sharps Atlantic IPA, which may never have been a different strength on draught being new to the format (and am not even sure that is true ) but I swear was stronger in a bottle - the end is nigh!, and Moonshine. Puzzlingly, the Thornbridge and Sharps were £3.00 a pint, which is steep enough, and the weaker Moonshine a spine chilling £3.10 !

Whats going on The Lescar, who is a person, not just a building that houses a pub? I understood the Students Union ran the pub, surely they can't be advocating profiteering and catering only for the richer students ?

In the absence of facts on this matter, i will reason that maybe "ran the pub" is literally the scope of their arrangement - on which basis they would be tenants, likely to some disinterested greedy Pubco, and there could be some vague semblance of justification. I have to say I don't drink anywhere else nearby, so perhaps in leafy Sharrowvale its maybe the norm to be paying £3.00 or more a pint for average strength beer. Its just that I seriously doubt it.

And also, there is always the possibility that the pub is owned by the SSU...

If so, that's very poor. I know of many pubs in Sheffield where the average price is £2.30 a pint, a few where its less than £2.00 and with the exception of swanky bars that sell only imported continental lagers and wheat beer, only one that sells real ale at over £3.00 a pint.

Of course, to add weight to the above point I do need to try a couple of nearby pubs, and I intend to do on Wednesday, but for now I have to stick with my initial feeling that this is too pricey. Charming as the Scar is ( god, I hope no-one actually calls it that, although, it could be the Les, which may or may not be more suitable ) it appears overly expensive when it would seem to better serve its intended customer base by being competitively priced. Sort it out please student related licensee folk !

Finally Wednesday's brief saunter. In anticipation of my vile intrusion at the Hospital the next day, I decided to stay out near work and restrict myself to a few pints only, which in strict scientific terms, is 4, possibly 4 and a half with a sandwich.

We started at the Gardeners Rest, where I had a pint of Stag from what might have been Milestone Brewery, and Mr P the Five Rivers from the pubs own brewery. We sat in the empty conservatory watching the sun trying to come out whilst discussing the pertinent issues of the day, although this task became less viable once a group of the loudest people on earth arrived and chose to share that same echoey space with us. By this time we had soundproofed ourselves with a Stag for Mr P and for myself a Sheffield Brewing Co IPA V, which had been recommended on my last visit to the University Arms, and was very nice too.

Its odd that whenever you come in, unless its incredibly busy, you always, sorry, I always, seem to feel uncomfortable about sitting in the snug through the separate door on your left as you enter. This is maybe because you of course need to be served at the hatch on that side, but if its busy then Eddie or Pat are usually invariably at one of those handpumps anyway, but I am still strangely reticent to go in there, despite this being a fantastic example of a small separate bar snug.

Odd preferences aside you can of course always sit in the main bar which is rightly popular, as I am sure the outside seating will be when it warms up and the whole of the riverside area is safe (currently the parts nearest the river appear blocked off ). The conservatory, foghorns permitting, is perhaps the nicest spot, and the absolute best place to be in a real heavy downpour.

For now, we had an IPA each, and admired the changing scene as the sun finally broke through for 15 minutes of impotent brightness. On finishing our drinks we walked back from here along the river to the bridge on Ball Street. Here we stopped to take some pictures of the reflections of the last of the sun on the low river and the weir, before we headed down the street and left at the Milestone round to the Kelham Island.

Our choice of ale was a pint of Thwaites Nutty Black for us both, which I am sure is still £3.60 for two, although it may have been £3.80 - either way its a good price, and if you stick to their own brewed beers at the Gardeners on your crawl its an inexpensive affair all round. We sat in the back room as we always do, whilst I demolished a sandwich, before Mr P reached his limit - beer not patience wise, and we parted ways to allow me a last one in the Fat Cat.

The pub was quite busy and there were 4 or 5 blokes stood at the bar whilst I was there, I tried a half of a mild which I have frustratingly forgotten the name of, and a slightly sweet but very enjoyable half of Tigertops May Bock, before wending my way home.

I will continue to find new places to drink and to revisit venues from the past, but I am lucky, as Sheffield is lucky, that there are an unswerving, longstanding hardcore of excellent pubs to come back to time and time again.

Wee Beefy.

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