Saturday, 24 September 2011

Wee Beefy's beer bites - Part 4

Good evening

despite money running out faster than patience at an automated checkout, I have still managed to cram a lot into the nearly two weeks since I last posted. So here's some news....

Dove and Rainbow Hartshead

The Dove seems to be on its usual tri-annual rollercoaster of fortunes - in the past few years it has gained plaudits a plenty for its range of beers and been an incredibly popular venue despite its hidden city centre location. Now I can't possibly comment on its popularity amongst music fans as I am in my dotage and listen only to the soulful babble of Jim Reeves et al, but I can make an observation on my Monday night visit recently.

Essentially, Mondays are unsurprisingly slow to get going. There were a few people in, a man who disliked Gary Moore but appeared at ease with wearing a cowboy hat behind the bar, some pool players, and the hatted fella's acolytes around the bar.

Beer wise the choice was about 6 but with little of interest - the Kelham Easy Rider was a god send amongst almost exclusively super regional or worse still Grim King offerings, but as always, i can use my sense of perspective to note that choice is the saviour of any good venue and so did not even mind being accused of being a smoker and given a plastic glass in anticipation of my inevitable sojourn outside.

Overall I reckon that a busier Dove is likely a better Dove - the service was an odd mix of aggressive and matey and the lack of any noticable hubris probably laid bare a few failings that would otherwise not matter or be seen. I think a return visit is required, to sample the best of the pub, and see whether it is still the only decent mix of rock bar and real ale pub in Sheffield.

The Venerable Cat

So spoilt are we in Sheff that often folks forget that there used to be but 1 place (quickly followed, admittedly, by about 4 others ) in the town to get a decent range of beer. The Fat Cat on Alma Street is where this trend kicked off and I was in there for a retrospective last week with Stevo. She was on lady beer of some kind, but i was able to enjoy two fantastic pints of the Wellbeck Abbey brewery Portland Black whilst we munched on sublime pork pies. This is a timely reminder that I don't actually have to walk miles round the city for a relaxing after work imbibe, and reminds me, as it should some of you, that the Cat is always worth a visit.

Henrys - Beer Cafe?

I was acutely aware that after an initial flurry of visits I had somewhat neglected Henry's so popped in for a couple of halves one recent Wednesday. Am pleased to report that their enthusiasm for real ale has not wained, and it still commands a central and important place on the bar.

On offer was a fantastic range of 9 real ales including the two I tried, that being Dark Star American Pale Ale, and Brew Company Smokey Joe (note this is a guess - my somewhat vague notes proclaim only the word "smoky" for this ale...). As well as sampling these two fine beers, the Dark Star being excellent and the Brew Co beer exceeding my expectations of just how Rauchbier-like it would be, I also managed to snaffle some free sarnies en route to my next stop. Top marks!

Bungalow and Beers

Yes, that's a deliberate mis-spelling. To my shock and discombobulation, what I had previously considered a trendy bar offering nowt more tempting than expensive continental fare found everywhere, was now worth a visit for the real ale alone. In a shock move, which has somehow evaded my radar, it turns out that popular bar Bungalow and Bears now , and has for 9 months or more according to the barman, sold real ale! Add into the mix a decent selection of music and some eclectic but comfy seating to tempt the dotards in our midst, this makes the Beargalow worth a look.

On my visit there was 1 cask cider and two cask beers; York Guzzler, and to my surprise, Oakleaf IPA from Hampshire. I didn't even find Oakleaf beer when we were in Hampshire never mind oop ere in Sheffield, and this was one of the best beers of the night. This is a pleasant change and an encouraging development matched by nearby venues as I shall report now....

Great Green Gatsby's

The Great Gatsby, formerly the Olive Bar and before that the Forresters, now has real ale. Only one handpump is used, but it proudly proclaims the sale of a Blue Bee brewery beer, and is served in their Pint glasses. The beer, a 4% pale beer called High Bouncing Lover, with a flavour nearer to Bees Knees than Nectar (based only on the fact that I have tried Bees Knees only once and associate it with a maltier style than the nectar) is £3.00 a pint and heralds a swift return to visitability for a venue, which, like many of its neighbours, has noticed that people do actually care about what they drink and want something tasty and well made. This infectious drive towards choice and ultimately the supply of quality independently produced products can only be a good thing.

Up the road, having derided them in May for leading me a merry dance concerning the provision or not of the beautiful drink, I also noted that the Green Room had gone and got a Blue Bee beer as well. This time it was the Nectar Pale, a little less balanced than at the Rutland where it has been excellent of late, but nonetheless signs of a seachange in bar ethos with regards to drinks choice, started by the Old house and the Wick at Both Ends, and now encompassing almost every venue in the Devonshire Green area.

The Rutland Arms, Brown Street.

Just a quick mention for the above, my recent acquisition of a Blue Bee brewery loyalty card for the venue has prompted a few visits of late, where on my first visit I had a truly fantastic pint of the Nectar Pale at £2.60. On my second just this week, I had a half of the light tasting slightly foxed ale from Slightly Foxed Brewing Company ( see ) and a rather unwise, given its early appearance in my drinking line up that night, pint of Blue Bee Tangled up IPA. Always a pub worth a visit, the addition of these Blue Bee cards makes it doubly worth popping in, although am not sure where one gets the cards from ......

And finally, the rumour mill....

No, not the name of a pretentious bar or themed restaurant, but an object that when twisted dispenses an enticing selection of granules of truth and supposition. I am informed that the Three Cranes on Queen Street, shut for some time now, is finally due to reopen. Real ales will e available, but only a few at first in order to gauge demand. I understand the owner purchased this and another pub with more pressing needs (lets face it, the Three cranes, superficially at least, appears in damn good nick) hence the delay in its reopening. Here's to a potential new addition to the Sheffield real ale scene!

More soon, with updates from North of the border. Slainte!

Wee Beefy.

Sunday, 11 September 2011

Wee Beefy's beer bites and Blue Bee Brewery too


another rapid fire round-up following my epic trip round the mid counties of England (and two in Wales ) with Mr P, Davefromtshop and Wee Fatha, ending a frenetic (but enjoyable August of trips away.

Blue Bee Brewery launch new beer - Rugbee Rugbee Rugbee!

I was lucky enough to be present and taking snaps for the launch of Blue Bee Brewery's new beer Rugbee Rugbee Rugbee. ( see!/bluebeebrewery ) The launch took place at the excellent and now annual Abbeydale Sports Club/Shefield RUFC beer festival on the side of the pitch at the club, near Dore Station.

The club (with able assistance from Sarah Louise Morton) organised a troop of volunteer bar staff, some home made samosas and curry from a local restaurant along with the assembly of an impressive list of beers and ciders to tempt customers to the free festival where all beers were £2.50 a pint, regardless of strength.

Among the beers on sale was Blue Bee's new 4.8% beer Rugbee Rugbee Rugbee. This beer was launched at the festival, and brewed to coincide with the Rugby world cup being held in New Zealand, and brewed using Pacific Jade hops.

I started with a pint of the Blue Bee Nectar Pale by way of a comparison, and found the Rugbee had just as much hoppy bite, and a little more body than the pale, presumable because its a stronger brew. Along with some other fantastic ale this was a beer I tried a few pints of, along with (not in order) the excellent Boggart Rum Porter, Raw Anubis Porter, Spire Twist and Stout, Steel City Brewing Raw Steel IPA, Leadmill Rapture, and Thornbridge Summer ale (not all pints!). Sensibly my last beer of the night, was Thornbridge Geminus, a fearsomely hoppy 8.5% bed coaxer that meant despite heading to Dave's for a last one, I instead swiftly ended up in a taxi unable to recall the way home....

The festival was very busy especially with the crowds enjoying the band, Mahogany Newt, and runs for three days until, well, possibly 18 minutes ago, depending on when they close. Definitely a date to make in your diary for next year.

Forum Cafe Bar

A recent visit saw the beer range down to one, not that this is a venue renowned for its real ale or anything, but the surprise was the choice of beer. Springhead Olivers Army (see is a ruby beer with strong malt notes that is somewhere between a bitter and a brown ale. I reckonm, if you are only to have one real ale on, this is either an edgy but confident idea, or a risky gamble. The beer was very quaffable but it was a hot day and I was dreaming of a pale ale all the way there.

Otherwise though, no real changes, with cocktails and wines still taking centre stage (and some decent continental draught). My only gripe - table service - sort it out!

Drinks seem to spend upwards of 10 minutes on the bar when they are busy, going warm or worse still, going nowhere - after waiting 15 minutes they then told me that they didn't have the product I ordered after all. A badly executed good plan am afraid....

York, beer from the shire.

Over the bank holiday weekend I was in sunny (and torrential rainy ) York, the capital of our county (that's right, its not chuffin Leeds) and beholder of an excellent range of pubs. Primarily this was a weekend away for me and Chala so tricky excursions to pubs on the outskirts was out of the question, we just wandered around and went in those we found, mostly.

On day one we holed up for an hour in the excellent Pivni near Newgate market and Swinegate. This fabulous old building has a wonderfully quirky tiled floor downstairs, some disconcertingly warped wood upstairs, and a beer to suit all tastes on the bar. In addition to an unusual selection of continental draught, and 77 lager in keg from BrewDog, there were 4 or 5 real ales on the bar.

I tried a pint of a low gravity Salamander Brewing Co beer which may have been their Axolotl but i concede I don't remember, as well as a half of the BrewDog (cask) Alice Porter, which was fantastic. Its a shame we didn't have more time to stick around, but on our way out later we stopped at a typically rammed Maltings, to sample a pint of Dow bridge mild, and half a Kirkstall Pale, both of which were very suppable.

On the Sunday we got to the Blue Bell at just gone midday to be puzzled that they had hired the front bar out for a private party - that's half of the pub! We did however get a seat in the back and enjoyed a Roosters Yankee, which is a beer I haven't had for a while, and Chala had to settle for coke as the Erdinger was all gone.

Later on we finally found the York brewery Yorkshire Terrier pub on Stonegate - not because its necessarily difficult to find, but because Chala had imagined it was accessed from the shambles. This excellent little pub has 4 separate drinking areas and a range of about 7 real ales. I had a very quaffable pint of the York Yorkshire Terrier, which unless am mistaken, seems to have lost a little hoppiness over the years ? Come on the York Brewery, terriers have bite!

Further up Stonegate is the excellent but real ale free Evil Eye lounge, an uber cool cocktail and tapas bar with a range of good bottled beers and a 4 page menu of cocktails and slammers for those who like the harder stuff. As well as trying some truly unwise and quaffable drinks, like a few B52's for yours truly, I also had a refreshing bottle of Schlenkerla Rauchbier. York bottled beers are also available, and there is a specialist off licence at the front. Well worth a look if in York...

Our penultimate pub stop was new to me, the Brigantes bar, a real ale pub similar in style to the Harlequin in good old Sheff, serving a range of about 8 real ales and once again some continental draught. I tried a half of the Kostritzer Schwarzbier from Germany which was a delicious if unusual find, along with pints of York Guzzler and a Brew Company IPA that tasted very faintly, but enjoyably, of oranges.

We did have a real ale with our meal - a half of Sharps Doom Bar at All bar One, a beer now starting to taste more and more malty and less like something I would choose to drink, but ABO only has one pump.

On Monday we somehow contrived to visit no real ale pubs, but with time to spare at the station made the mistake of visiting the coopers Bar. 6 Handpumps, all turned round and having sold 3 beers, Grim King IPA and Abbot, and Theakstons best. Not a continental lager in sight (not even a Kronenburg wheat or similar) and nowt more inspiring in bottle than Newky Brown. In the end, if only to fill in time, I opted for a tonic water and Chala a coke. That really was as food as the place got!

All in all (despite the lack of a decent station bar) York is a magnet for lovers of real ale and pubs, not forgetting of course my absence from the Golden Ball, Swan, 3 Legged Mare, Last Drop Inn, Fleece, Three Cranes and Rook and Gaskill to name but a few.

That's all the beer news I have for now, not withstanding that I have more Scottish cask ale travels to tell of, and our trip round the shires of England and Wales.

Take care and thirst no more

Wee Beefy