Wednesday, 18 May 2011

Railway Wadsley Bridge, Grenoside pubs, Harrisons 1854 Regent Terrace, Cavendish West Street, Henrys, Old House, and The Blake, on Blake Street.

Hello all,

I have quite a few things to cover as last time I sat down with intent and decided to write up some news there was a blogger problem and I couldn't get on, so there is a bit to catch up on.

Firstly, a correction. At some point in the last few posts I claimed that Soyo bar had reopened as Cuba Revolution. However, in my old age, I had confused somewhere modern I had never been, with somewhere modern I had, but had not wanted to have been to. So, before I am besieged (erm, I concede this is unlikely) by hoards of Dubcore listening, trouser or short indecision encountering, i-puter users of a tender age writing in to complain, Soyo (whatever that is) is no doubt the same, and the venue that has reopened was formerly called Bar Hoi or similar.

So, back to nice things.

A quick Handsworth update first, and on my last brief visit the Cross keys was selling Youngs Bitter as well as Cocker Hoop and Bombardier - the bitter was a pleasant change and in good nick. At the Old Crown, they have kept the White Rose Blonde on as well as their El Gecko ale, along with Concertina One Eyed Jack - both that and the Gecko were in good nick and although the White Rose seasonal or specials have a tendency to be a bit samey, its good to know that you can expect a nice pale hoppy beer to be on when you visit.

The Railway, Wadsley Bridge.
Just before the bridge heralds the change of Penistone Road North into Halifax Road, there is a pub, on the right hand side coming from Hillsborough, which was no doubt once a Whitbread pub, based on a few features of its appearance, and which had been closed for some time before reopening in November 2010.

The Railway is smaller and, if I might venture, more genuine in its appearance than the ever enlargening hostelries across the road. It has been rescued from an uncertain future and now once more aims to provide Wadsleyans (is this a religion?) with a decent pint.

Currently the opening hours are 16.00 until midnight Friday and Saturday and it is open from Midday Sunday. I understand that as trade picks up, which I think and hope it will, there may be scope for extending the opening hours. The pub will also open on request for groups, which I believe is what is happening soon ( or maybe yesterday ) on a Tuesday for Sheffield Camra.

The pub has been bought and is being nursed back to health and revitalised by Sheffield landlady extraordinaire Jean. I went in the pub for the first time ever on Saturday, and although I am certain I have never met Jean before it seems like we have been missing each other for about the last 12 years.

She ran the Crown and Glove in Stannington until a few months before I started visiting, she worked with Del at the New Barrack Tavern, before I worked fro him at the Hillsborough Hotel. She also worked at the Pheasant on Foxhill road at the time me and Chala nearly bought a house up the road, and she worked at the Pheasant at Lane Top prior to Chala's Aunt running it and at the East House prior to our friend Foxy taking the helm. Considering all these facts, and details of other pubs she worked at that I have failed to recall, its a surprise I have never had her pull me a pint before, but now I have.

Which leads me to the crucial subject of the beer and the pub. There are 4 real ales on hand pump and Warsteiner lager, and possibly Leffe. There is talk of a few interesting bottled beers and perhaps cider, but all in good time, for now the range is miles ahead of anything in the vicinity ( I think all the pubs nearby have been and three still are, real ale free ). From the choice of Thwaites Original, Nutty Black, Bradfield Bitter and Blonde, I had a few very enjoyable pints of the Nutty Black.

Whilst so doing, I noted that the pub still retains 4 separate drinking areas, with 1 separate room on the left, and a function/concert room being finished at the back which can be hired or used for bands. Talking of which, there are regularly bands on at the pub, I think at the moment only on the Saturday night, with a quiz on Sundays.

And, in an ingenious move, outside there is a board with information on it regarding opening hours and upcoming events. This was especially relevant as I wandered down about 14.00 on Saturday to note it was shut, but took my life in my hands crossing the road anyway to try and find out more info. Knowing I had a while to wait i walked into Hillsborough to catch the bus to Grenoside to have a very different pub experience in the Norfolk Arms.

Irrational Front
On the road heading out of Grenoside on the edge of the village, and opposite where the woods begin, the Norfolk is a former Wards pub which I am fairly sure has sold real ale for many many years. There is still a large concrete(?) or otherwise rigid sign on the wall advertising its Wards credentials, and despite the ominous To Let sign, its still open at the moment, but no longer selling food, as the sign makes clear by having painted over the word food.

I was pleased on entering to see two hanpumps selling Abbeydale Absolution and Bradfield Farmers Brown Cow, and a further 2 down the side with Bradfield blonde and Taylors Landlord on offer. I had the Blonde, which was £2.90 a pint, and settled down in the window seat on the left as the telly relayed the build up to the cup final. And then a funny thing happened.....

There was the landlord and a customer seated on the right and a man who had come in with some goods fetched for the landlord, all sat together on the right (ironic) watching the TV when, horror of horrors, a black person became the subject of a feature on the programme. Being a rational chap this passed me by and I couldn't have seen the impending hiatus, but after a sudden change in the tone of the banter, the newly arrived customer loudly proclaimed " of course he's arrogant, he's a fucking n*****. He's a coon".

I quickly checked the date to make sure I had not been transported back to the 1980's or even the 50's but no. it really was 2011 and a man had used a word I had only previously heard in reference rather than in real time, and once in a Lenny Henry sketch about someone daubing the word "cone" on his house. There was tacit agreement with this incredible departure from rational thinking, before the conversation returned to deliveries and football, one assumes, of a purely uniracial nature.

Now, I realise that as an informed person I should have remonstrated with these by gone bastions of backward thinking, but I don't mind admitting that I was still running the statement over and over in my mind, trying to get it to register what I had heard. And besides which, if you are misguided and feel safe enough to make absurd comments like that without batting an eyelid, what other lows might you stoop to in an argument? After all, I had started to maintain an admirable sun tan, I might not have escaped unharmed...

Instead I quickly downed my drink and left. You see, I only went out for a quiet pint or two, not to attend a clan rally or get embroiled in an argument with idiots. So if you think I should have done more then so be it, but I can already do more by not going in again, and you can all do something by following suit.

So, with the wannabe BNP ralliers stewing in their own bigotry behind me, I headed off up hill on a rather zig-zag route to the top side of Grenoside and over to the Cow and Calf. I got there at just before 15.00 but needn't have rushed, as am fairly sure they serve all day. Here was a marked difference from the last pub - not only was the beer only £1.59 a pint (well, it is Sam Smiths), but the atmosphere was convivial, people were having structured logical discussions (ignoring a conspiracy theory about Sven Goran Ericsson) and the pub was packed with families diners and drinkers enjoying their free time.

The Cow and Calf was one of the pubs I used to visit when I was younger - not alone, obviously, and I remember sitting out in the garden and their being a tuck shop for kids - surely I can't have dreamt this ? Irrespective of that, I have continued to visit now and again, and I have been back a few times in the last few years with Chala nd Christingpher and Mr P. Its nice to know I can rely on it being open, selling real ale and perhaps even serving food, especially if I am walking into Wharncliffe woods or down past the Birley Stone.

So, two contrasting Grenoside hostelries, and a brand new positive pub reopening story from Wadsley Bridge. Which leads me nicely onto two school night wanders around the city centre and Walkley.

Tuesday Tippling
Me and Mr P last week visited the Blake, partly because we fancied a change and because I was getting withdrawal symptoms having not been in for a month. Getting the half 5 number 31 eats into your drinking time, as there is more traffic at that time, but it was still probably no more than 15 minutes to the pub, which was quiet, but healthily attended with drinkers in each one if the rooms.

We started proceedings with a pint each of the Allgates California, a pleasing hoppy drink that didn't stand a chance in my glass after a thirst inducing groan of a day at work. Mr P opted for a half of the kelham Riders on the Storm next, along with some essential food (crisps) whilst I sampled a Pictish Alchemist Pale at 4.3%, which without wishing to denigrate the brewers achievements, was a typical Pictish beer - which is a good thing.

Our final brace was another half of the riders for Mr P and I had one of the most fantastic pints I've had in a long time, the Cherry Stout from the Nook Brewing Co, based at the Rose and Crown in Holmfirth. Not too sweet despite its fruity flavour and with a perfect balance of maltiness and smoky bitterness, this was miles ahead the best beer of the night, and a good source of fuel to get us up to the next pub.

The Princess Royal had been closed when me and Mr P had visited the Blake in the snow, so we went in on a pleasant evening to sample a beer in here, which was Mr P's first visit. There were 3 real ales on, including Tetley I think, but we both went for the Sheffield Brewing Co 3 Rivers, with the two pints costing £5.70. The beer was in better nick than last time, although am uncertain if it normally has the biscuity characteristics that these pints displayed. Nevertheless this was a nice drink and a refreshing reward after toiling up the hill from the Blake.

We headed into town and Mr P home as he'd reached his quota, whilst I went to Henry's to see what beer was on offer. I only stayed briefly but enjoyed my preferred window seat and the excellent half of Wharfebank Brewery Spinners, a 3.8% session beer costing a whole English Pound. I also briefly popped in the formerly droughty venue that is the Cavendish on West Street.

Despite being unapologetically aimed at students and younger drinkers who seek out offers on a range of variously dire and fearful drinks, the Cavendish, or "Cav" as it needlessly shortens its moniker to, has now gone mad and started selling real ale. There are two handpumps - I am sure there was one when they first opened - and on the night they were selling Everards Tiger. It was a tad warm and fairly tired, but this sighting was still an unexpected bonus, since no doubt on some future team night out we will wind up there and I will now, assuming it works out, finally have something to drink.

I ended the night in Harrisons 1854 on Regent Terrace, a stark and pleasing contrast to the noisy big screen hub-ub of the last venue, where Barkeep Dave was showing someone round, and the band practiced upstairs. Having arrived later than normal, I was able to see the musicians for myself when they came in for one after practice, and it was nice to see the bar full up and hear the warm buzz of conversation over the music, even though the choice was excellent as usual, until much later at least.

Beer wise, the cider box has gone to be replaced by cider on handpump, which means at present there are just two real ales on, being Deception and Moonshine from Abbeydale. I stuck to the Deception as is my normal Harrison plan now, and settled in (as far as that's possible for a big lad on a bar stool ) for a few drinks and some crisps at the bar, the only minor downside being a rash moment of what was hopefully ironic musical digression where Dave played Cherry Pie by Warrant. Unacceptable Dave, truly, but another great evening overall.

My final news concerns last night's trip to the above preceded by a visit to the Old House. Inside there appears to have been a slight makeover, and it seems mercifully a little lighter inside so now I can walk unhindered and in safety to and from the bar. There are 5 handpumps, which I think is relevant as I only recall 3, on this occasion selling Moonshine, the excellent Farmers Stout, and rather surprisingly, Flowers IPA, from whichever contract brewer has takken it on lately.

I had a pint of Moonshine and then a pint of the Stout, as well as fooling myself into thinking the Franziskaner was a dunkel not the standard wheat (not that I mind), so had a half of that as well. I also sampled some excellent Errazurriz pinot noir, with Chala sampling the Robert Mo(n?)davi Chardonnay, before we caved in and got two pricey and for me slightly too dry chip butties, and some more stout.

Afterwards we headed to Harrisons as I said, and found it a bit busier than usual, although I didn't detect the welcoming sounds of the band upstairs this time. Once again Deception was my tipple of choice as the Moonshine was getting a bit low, and we nibbled on some free nuts to stave off the hunger until we left about 22.00, allowing me the opportunity to wolf down a steak when I got in.

More news soon, especially since I have finally found the details of my January pub trip to Derbyshire, and hopefully will have something to tell of my catch up with Carlos on Friday.

Wee Beefy

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