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.
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!