Friday, 22 April 2011

BrewDog timid IPA, Greystones Greystones Road, Porter Cottage and Lescar Sharrowvale Road, Sheaf Island Ecclesall Road, Rutland and Sheffield Tap.

Hello Readers

I have now purchased and drank a BrewDog newly weakened Middle Aged rocker IPA, a beer now competing in an uninspiring market of mass produced regionals and conglomerates such as Marston's Ringwood, Polish Tyskie, Theakstons Old Peculier and slightly better ales from smaller concerns such as Bath Wild Hare and Sierra Nevada Pale Ale.

Thing is, there is nothing wrong with tweaking a recipe, nor, as demonstrated by the last two beers above, along with the fantastic Worthington White Shield, is there anything wrong with a 5.6% IPA. However, with a brewery that grew its reputation on unflinching defiance of conformity, the lessening of the alcoholic potency of this beer suggests its brewers aren't confident enough of its staying power. What could this mean ?

Well, firstly, this change of market position, for that is what the reduction is and what it spells, is especially prescient in the face of an almost never ending list of 5.0% "premium" ales, as marketed and produced to a non-negotiable cost savings and market share recipe for success by every medium to large sized brewer in the UK.

Secondly, and quite frustratingly, the fact that 5.6% is an untrendy strength in terms of shelf coverage means it could be the forerunner of great beers in its style, but, its not - this is punk IPA light. And yet still, it has the same blurb - come on BrewDog! We know you bolted in the face of savings - why pretend your beer is the same ? What less maverick an action could there be than to effectively neuter the dog for the sake of a potential alcohol duty saving ?

Taste and appearance wise - and this could be the third strand of the sea change - the bottle still pours cloudy; seemingly the lessened alcohol content has done nothing to help the beer fall crystal clear. Mercifully it still has that ostensibly brutal fizz of hops in the initial flavour, but the problem is that the reluctance of BrewDog to maintain Punk IPA's gravity suddenly gives me doubts about the overall and ongoing evolution of the beer.

Had it always kept that harsh astounding zingy bite up until the strength was reduced, or had the beer's inherent and unhindered hop blast been steadily on the decline since its inception ?

The point is, the 5.6 % beer is not radically different to the 6. That's my opinion.
And moreover, I admit, the potential impact of the post reduction cost is muddied by Asda reducing the price, meaning that no-one can be sure what, if anything, the duty saving is about.

I would however be interested to know why BrewDog swapped the impressive venom of Brutal Truth for the asinine strains of Good Charlotte, something we might only know in a few months time, when market pressures have been allowed to affect the costs and a true and reflective new price is proffered by the brewery.

In the meantime, to paraphrase the young bucks themselves " its quite doubtful that you have the taste or sophistication to appreciate the affect of the sudden decrease in alcohol, you probably don't even care that because Asda constantly fanny about with the price its almost impossible to notice an impact on your wallet. So just go back to drinking your almost mass produced watered down in strength cloudy BrewDog and assume everything is OK, closing the door behind you.....

So, wanderings.

On Wednesday, having survived yellow fever or similar, it was time to meet Dave for a wander to Greystones and a catch up with what Ecclesall Road had to offer the discerning drinker.

Owing to having left work early I had 20 minutes to kill so went for a half of Kelham Island Riders on the Storm at the Bessemer on Pinstone street. Davefromtshop thought this was a Wetherspoons, and I don't want to fall foul of my own ignorance here, but I reckon its not.

Mind you, there are similarities in the high ceilings and vast open plan drinking areas, but the beer is more averagely priced ( £1.30 for my half) and there does not seem to be the ubiquitous food options available.

Onto the bus and we were drawing up outside the Greystones in little time at all, noting a spare table in the warm sunshine, and marvelling at the views over the city. Inside is a long bar with 8 handpumps and various continental and lager fonts, with distinct drinking areas on each side, notably a raised area to the left. We went outside having purchased, after having tried, a pint each of the fantastic Marble Ginger.

" Everybody's talking about it" Dave informed me, before inserting a numerical caveat which indicated that only 3 customers had taken up the mantle of the subject of this ale. Either way, notoriety is only right for this beer - I had reservations about ruining my palate with a strong ginger episode, but needn't have worried.

Although the inclusion of ginger lends a refreshing edge, there is sufficient bitterness and overall beery notes to make the ginger a complimentary bonus rather than an intrusive interloper on the palate. We supped our pints outside, trying hard not to earwig in a conversation between a man in Thornbridge staff attire and someone who was likely sales profligate Sheffield wine shifter John Mitchell.

Clearly my modest journalistic decorum forbids me from writing the salient points of said talk here, but it was interesting enough a chinwag that we had to go inside for our next pint so as we could actually hold a conversation. Inside we had pints of Bracia - all but the Marble on the guest handpump are Thornbridge beers - which was probably very nice, but despite my earlier praise, I have to concede that the astringent flavours of the ginger do impinge on the taste of your next drink.

Both pints were £3.00 each, leading us to speculate that all beer was that price regardless of strength- alas, our timetable and some confusion meant we were unable to be certain of the veracity of such a claim.

Afterwards we headed downhill to Sharrowvale and went first to the Porter Cottage. Inside the interior is slightly dark, and there are two large bay window seating areas on either side, and noticeably, more bar like features meaning that the further you get from the front door the less traditional and more unpub-like the outlook becomes. The bar was a depressing modern design (except for the diamond patterns ) with bright lighting and a bar rather than pub feel. That said, our window seat was a nice alcove, and an excellent vantage point to see what the legendary - and for once deservedly so - jukebox had to offer.

Tellingly, given my previou concerns over costs in Sharrowvale, our choices from the range of three Bradfield beers - Dave had Brown Cow and I the blonde, were £2.85 a pint, making it marginally cheaper for the area.

Our next stop was the Lescar. The same range of beers was on as Thursday last week, and I had primed Dave on my concerns over the cost issues. He asked what the prices of the real ales were and the barman stated that Sharps Doom bar was £2.80 (reflecting its role as the most disappointing beer of the range perhaps?), the moonshine and Ashford £3.00 and the Atlantic IPA£3.05. I queried why I had paid £3.10 for moonshine last time and the prices were reiterated, so it must have been a mistake....

Information now stored, we ordered 1 pint of Atlantic IPA (£3.05) and 1 Ashford (£3.00) and it was somehow £6.10 !?! As a result (and I know we should have pointed this out but we didn't) I therefore don't know the true extent of how expensive the Lescar is because the staff seem unsure themselves - either way its at least and likely more expensive than the Greystones, more so than the Sheaf Island ( see later in post ) and more than the Porter Cottage. So hey, why not digest these facts and reach your own conclusion ?

So, having grabbed fuel from the greedy Greek we headed down Sharrowvale road, and down a jennel to Ecclesall Road, and finally onto the Wetherspoons adventure in irony that is the Sheaf Island.

Housed as it is in the former Wards brewery, it serves Samson brewery (or similar ) Wards bitter which tastes unlike the original, and of course is the first proper bar to appear on the site dispensing real ale since the Wards tasting room was mothballed with the brewery in 1999. But, on the plus side does at least bring the building agreeably towards its original use of providing beer. It was bit difficult to figure out what parts, if any, of the original buildings the pub occupied, and even more difficult to solve the riddle of how to get in through one of the four double doors, only one of which was unlocked.

Inside is a long bar and a high ceiling lounge area at the left side and along open plan seating area with separate seating to the right. There were a number of real ales on tap, a combination of regionals and unusual guests. Alas our order of choice meant we missed out on the intriguing plum beer but sate ourselves instead with pints of Titanic light Fog Mild and Lymestone Gold, which, even with Dave's discount cards, were £3.90 for 2 pints.

Now, that's not expensive at all, especially if you have just invested in a drink at the Lescar, but its a little bit steep for Wetherspoons. Usually you can get two pints for a little over £3.00 ( real ale at least) - so perhaps this is a deliberate attempt by the chain to define the direction and target clientele of the venue ?

Its perhaps contentious, but there was a noticeable surfeit of refreshed characters propping up tables and the bar and deafeningly holding court across the venue with friends imaginary or otherwise.

At this stage its unclear whether we had halves first and halves again - in fact i think we did, but its not unfair to mention that the lengthy escapades of our sojourn had left us a trifle tipsy. Despite that, I was able to procure Dave's camera to take couple of photo' which I hope to upload in the near future.

We were soon off into town trying to guesstimate which 80 service stop we disembarked at to be nearest the Rutland. We got it half right, of course the answer is, neither potential escape points are really any good.

Once in the pub we had halves of Blue Bee Lustin for stout and their red white and blue bitter. I have tried the stout before and was a big fan, but only had a half on both occasions - Dave and I agreed that despite its admirable qualities it might in fact be a half rather than pint option in future, owing to its mass of flavours and vinous qualities. Soz Rich...

So, our final resting place was the Tap, which had their usual Gamut of splendid Thornbridge offerings, as well as 3 from Buxton Brewery in gosh, no idea where. We both, perhaps unwisely, opted for their 6.2% Axe Edge dark ale. In the end, this formidable mighty beast was our match, and we quickly abandoned plans to sample the rest of the Buxton portfolio, and instead wend our way home - a suggestion I took perhaps a little too literally since I had to walk home from Woodhouse terminus for somnambulistic reasons....

A fantastic night all the same, and a nice change from the usual Handsworth run and booze at Chez Nut....

Wee Beefy.

Monday, 18 April 2011

BrewDog ABV crisis update


further to yesterday's post, I feel I should update you on a couple of things.

As you perhaps groaned upon noticing, I had to load my piece last time with a number of caveats due to a combination of failed memories and unfindable evidence, so its perhaps useful that i can now try and clear up a couple of those "althoughs" and "howevers".

I had to go to tsupermarket today to get medicine ( literally, this is not a euphemism ), so despite the fact that the walk up had made me feel gross, I ventured to find the Punk IPA anomaly on the shelves. I can confirm that the new weaker strength is 5.6%, so its not as bad as I made out. Its still bad though - like I said, its not a sixer.

I also noted the price, but its not worth recording since Asda will no doubt change their minds again in a week and put it back in an offer or make all beer the same price or some other rudimentary switch that the shelf stickers will fail to reflect.

On further investigation, based on my reading a couple of other people's blogs, therefore employing the steadfast journalistic tools of opinion supplemented by supposition, I read that not only had BrewDog cut the strength, but they had also dared to reduce the hop content.

This, of course, is a grave development. Its pointless talking about bite and being anarchic or for Punks if you take away some of what made the beer noticable or unique in the first place. Draught Punk IPA (at 6%, obviously), is one of the finest beers I ever tasted, and the conditioning lets it mellow just enough, without losing its edge, and therefore to be better than the bottled version. Now that care bear adopting and cabbage patch doll amassing has taken the place of frightening people with a combination of hops and alcohol, one wonders what's next for the taming?

All this upheaval reminds me of happier days when BrewDog beers first arrived at Davefromtshop's shop, and we got to try them for the first time. It was 2008, or possibly as long ago as 2007, and everything was great.......

We tried the punk first. We liked the packaging, we liked the strength, since it stood up to classics of the genre like Flying Dog, Brooklyn East India Pale, Thornbridge Jaipur and Burton Bridge Empire to name but a few. The thing is, when we tasted it, it was nothing like any of the above beers. It was harsher, punchier, and for a few weeks in my mind, palpably better.

We both loved hoppy beers and there were hops in abundance in the initial taste and the lingering background bitterness. We laughed in admiration at the ballsy wording on the bottle and mused on what customers might make of this raucous assault of citrus bitterness. Pleased, we moved onto the Physics.

I actually winced. I pulled a face like I'd tried to swallow a paracetamol and it had dissolved on the way through. Dazed, and desperate for there to be a saviour in the taste, I sought out the recognisable hop bitterness in the wall of ascorbic white-flavour buzzing on my tongue, then looked surprised at the gentle, lingering almost soothing caramel flavour that washed in like a tranquil ripple at the end. We both looked at each other and had we got our words out, would have said the same thing - "its amazing, but how the hell are we going to described it accurately and still sell it ?"

Mercifully we need have had no such concerns. The next beer Dave got was the paradox which was a whole different story, sold out in next to no time despite its price tag, and create a lasting buzz about these new brewers.

Apart from giving my mate one to try ( he was similarly horrified and warm with admiration for the obtuseness of the overall taste ), I didn't try Physics again until it came out in cask form, when Paul at the Sportsman in Darnall had some on at £2.20 a pint and we tried what was now a slightly tweaked version of the initial shocker, made many times better for being conditioned, and being one of the best beers I have tasted at the pub. Meanwhile, Punk IPA continued to be my bottle of choice for parties and when entertaining, and I never turned down the opportunity to drink it in cask form.

So, you see, if only the above was the case, BrewDog would be the crown princes of non-conformity and pushing the boundaries, and therefore could rightly shout this from every bottle label.

Yet now that Punk has been violated and made to sit ashamed on the shelf with its embarrassing purple flares and yellow dicky bow with a bright orange badge proclaiming "I am 5.6" it can't make those claims. It must instead nuzzle up to it new friends Old Empire and Bishops Finger and wait to become part of an "acceptable face of British Brewing" suicide anonymity bottled beer pack for Fathers Day.

I suppose the only way to get over this is to order a box of Hardcore IPA and Tokyo from the brewery website. How you have let us down BrewDog. ....

Wee Beefy.

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.

Sunday, 10 April 2011

Fir Vale to City Centre via West Street pub assessment


I recently had time to kill after an appointment at the Northern General. I had been going out later anyway so had made no plans for getting home, although my original arrangement had been cancelled. It was a nice sunny day so I went for a walk, intending to catch up with the Corner Pin on Carlisle street and the East House.

The walk to the Pin took quite some time, I know the route onto Upwell Street and you can either head up and then down to the Pin past the Hallcar Tavern, or right down to the railway bridge and along which is what I did. Its worth pointing out that I didn't try all the pubs en route, mainly because I was heading to the two above and also beccause I wasn't hopeful of finding any real ale at the Sheffield Arms for example, although the Hallcarr sold a decent pint of Pedigree back in 2009.

Prior to reaching the Pin, I noted with dismay what a ball ache of a walk it was along desolate and dusty Carlisle Street, quite possibly the side effects from which were less halthy than the exercise. Luckily I was soon at the pub, admiring the promise of real ales on the board outside.

Alas, as the lady behind the bar explained, the handpumps are "for show " and their guest offering was Caffreys. I didn't question what had happened to the Ossett and Bradfield real ales from 2009, but in a state of dry mouthed exhaustion plumped for a half of magnet, which was invariably keg, but an acceptable enough drink.

I got chatting to two gents at the bar about pubs in the area and it was a friendly place to be, but it rankles that the sign is knowingly misleading, and that the change of ownership had resulted in the disappearance of real ale, when it was likely the only place in the area you could drink it.

So i trudged on, noting the apparrently still closed Royal Oak on a sideroad between two giant factories, and eschewing the temptation of visiting the Staffordshire, which would only be for old times sake and would not be selling anything I'd fancy drinking. I arrived at the East House to find an "under new management " sign on the door and inside, most of the artwok gone, a large speaker rig on one of the tables, and a noticable shift in the portion of the community who now owned it.

When I heard, with dismay, that the Kashmir across the road had closed, I wondered if the removal of the slow drip of irregular and one off visitors coming to buy beer and take it to the curry house, or even returning after for a pint, would affect the pub. The East House did seem to have a few regulars when I came in, usually a good mix of ages and cultures as well which is unusual for a traditional pub, but never seemed overly busy.

Now there were three handpumps still but only the Moonshine seemed to be on. The barman laboured for what seemd like 10 minutes to pull me a pint of slightly hazy moonshine, which tasted OK, but this may have had more to do with my thirst than anything else.

The barman left the pub after I had sat down and I listened in on the conversation between two guys sat at and parallell to the bar watching a rerun of the 2009 champions league final. One was from South Africa, the other Zambia, and they were earnestly discussing the changes in South Africa, as the screen flicked back to the modern day fixture about to be played. When I left, the guy at the bar asked if the beer was OK, which I confirmed was ok, and I quietly left to jump on a bus.

I don't know what the future holds for the East House as a traditional pub. Its not impossible to think that the real ale is on because of a recent change of ownership and one had been left in the cellar ready. Or perhpas there is still demand for pints to be taken to the Mangla up the road. I don't know the nationality of those running the pub or of course of its visitors, so I wouldn't try and guess how popular real ale is likely to be, but I can't be sure and am not confident that the Moonshine wiill have a place long term either. Since I have promised myself I wil try the Mangla, that will provide the opportunity to see how things develop beer wise.

Once in town I walked past the Three Cranes on Queen Street again, unfortunately there is still no sign of it opening, so I made my way to the Dog and Partridge. Here I got chatting to Bill and Stuart who, only afterwards I realised I recognised for the Bath Hotel. The irony is I had made certain I went to the Dog and was not going to let any perceived lack of customers or atmosphere deter me, but unlike last time they were now only selling Tetley. I opted for a half, and had a brief chat about the beer with the staff. This is another classic punch versus reality scenario regarding beer.

Not oly do Punch appear to be reluctant to let them choose which real ale they have as a guest, but they want to provide it instead of it coming from the brewery. This is a familiar scene from almost any pubco managed house, but this unjustifiable license to print money means Punch can charge £50.00 more than the cask should cost, which then has to be reflected in the price and met by the customers. Its situations like this which make the Governments slow stuttering amble towards reigning the pubco's in look incredibly negligent and ill thought through. Punch are quite simply bad for pubs, as are most other pubco's. Sort it out.

Next I popped into Trippets for a pint of Lord Marples and to take some pictures which I promise will appear on this post soon. One of the guests as well as the regulars, which includes the Red Lion which is almost certainley Thornbridge White Swan, was a Wentworth spring offering featuring summer fruits ( it may be spring fruits for practical reasons ). This ewasn't to my taste, but its nice to have a choice, and shows that along with the Kelham offerings theers usually a good range of styles and brewers available.

I should really have taken this opportunity to sit in the back with the high ceiling admiring the postsers and bottled beers, since I almost never seem to go in this part anymor. This is a a shame because on a sunny evening its a bright and cool place to relax, waiting for the stampede of suits which inevitably occurs after 18.00on weekdays.

From here I headed for the Wick At Both Ends, my original intended venue, and bumped into Namesake, who was somewhat incongrously drinking a vodka and coke. I opted for the Thornbridge beer, which on their website states Airtight, although i couldn't see this on the clip. They also had Sheffield brewing Co Tramlines, and, perhaps because it was now after 19.00, the beer was £2.90 a pint, not the £2.60 touted on the website. The WABE looks a tad different from when it was the Mailcoach and sold Tetleys and that empires various guests, and it no loinger seemed to have an area behind the bar where they used to have the DJ playing rock music on a Wednesday, or possibly Thursday night - my uncertainty stems from not having been in since about 1996. Insie now is comfy with plenty of seating and tables and some decent music playing.

I stopped for a pint and a catch up with Namesake but turned down the chance to try the food and went instead to the Red Deer. Here the beer range was much changed since it seemed now to include many more guests than regulars, alsa I can only remember my choice which was Castle Rock pale ale, which I washed my homemade fishcake and chips down with greatfully. I also bumped into the Bath drinkers again, now with companion James in their ranks, and suggested I may see them later on, depending on where my wander took me.

In the end I never reached the Bath but tried a few new or past places whilst I was out and about. Bar Lounge on West Street used to sell a good range of bottled beers although am unsure of its previous draught credentials, but I also noticed it had changed its name to Route 66. On entering, the music was good but there were not even any fonts tp be seen on the bar - I asked optimisticly about the range of bottled beers but only Sam Adams was even vaguely tempting, and when I politely declined to stop the barman said " we did away with all that draught tap stuff ". Whatever could he mean ?

I also looked in the Green Room to find empty handpumps yet again, although the lady behind the bar did confirm it may be back on in a couple of weeks. Further diwn Devonshire Street, I popped my head round the door of Bar Olive, but the handpump in the former Foresters pub has disappeared altogether.

So I headed for the good old Rutland, which had a good range of beer on, and, to its credit and my amazement, Hollow Hills by Bauhaus playing on the jukebox. My beer choice was Twist and Stout from Spire Brewery at an eye watering £3.10 a pint, which I supped slowly whilst listening to what else the jukebox had to offer, and smiling contently at the sign beseeching users not to play Meatloaf...

So, a mixed trip, with 1 confirmed real ale loss, a few maybes, a gain and some reliable stalwarts of the scene.

Wee Beefy.

Sunday, 3 April 2011

Stout in Stannington - Crown and Glove, Peacock and Anvil

Good evening,

               it may have been grim today what with rain and wind but yesterday ( Saturday 2nd ) was gloriously sunny. So much so, that I decided to wander off up Stannington to get some views, soak up the weak spring sunshine and try some new pubs.

I started at Crookes, easy for me to reach on the bus, and walked along Stannington View Road (it seemed apt), down the jennel, and out into the field at the end of St Andrews Road. Instead of heading towards Mark lane I went straight down and over the stile then made my way down a steep slope, through the woods and eventually out on to the road. I headed down to the allotments then picked my way across the stream and through more steep woods out onto Rivelin Valley Road.

I then headed through Rivelin park and left up onto Roscoe Bank - a good start so far, except I wanted to start at the lowest point and catch the bus to the top, so I had to walk downhill for 5 minutes or more to the Anvil.

This large corner pub has a car park and small outdoor drinking area, and two large rooms inside. The main bar room is on the left with a well lit seating area and a bar with lots of dark wood panelling. Most of the punters were in here watching the, for once, good football news rolling across the screen, and I sat behind them keeping an eye on the scores. I had a pint of Bradfield Blonde from a choice of that and Black Sheep, the Bradfield was well kept and a hard earned reward after my near sprint, albeit a needless one, from Rivelin.

I went out about half past the hour to catch the number 11 bus - I had seen it at Roscoe bank at 4 minutes past so assumed it would be on the hour, 20 past and 20 to. Alas, the bus stop suggested this was not the case and I had obviously just missed one, so I began walking back up the hill to where I had joined Stannington Road.

Once on the bus I kept an eye out for the turn onto Uppergate Road, and having spotted the sign hopped off expecting to espy my intended destination. Alas my eyesight was having an off day so I headed initially left past the closed Hare and Hounds opposite the church.

The pub looked as if it had been shut a while based on the tempest of encroaching undergrowth, and I wondered what may have occasioned its closure. Certainly in comparison to other Stannington pubs (perhaps with the exception of the Sportsman ) it looked as if it would have struggled to compete in terms of traditional appearance - it appeared to be a 1960's prefab stuck incongruously across from the church, on a site which surely would have had an older pub there if not next to the church.

Its fair to say I see a lot of closed pubs and think, surely someone could make a go of that. I saw a pub, stood almost on its own near Meadowhall the other day, on a street off Attercliffe Road after the Wentworth,a road I had never had reason to travel down before, all of a sudden in the wilderness of flattened industry a dirty brown and grey, once terracotta fronted Stones pub loomed up, forlorn and abandoned but not seemingly in disrepair. Alas my fleeting glance meant I did not see what its name was, but I immediately started to imagine what could be done to save it, assuming, as I am afraid I have to, that it closed years ago. No such thoughts however, accompanied my view of the sad edifice of the Hare and Hounds.

On round the corner back on myself (I was sure i could see a sign on a wall) i walked up the hill to the Crown and Glove. The impressive frontage is large, looking like 3 or perhaps 4 buildings encompassed into one, the part on the left being the only one that still resembled a cottage or house. There is a 1930's style jug and bottle as you enter, with rooms on either side.

No-one was in the left side so I ventured to the right and found a few locals in the bar and the pubs dogs readying themselves for a walk. On the bar were 3 handpumps, with Black Sheep, a Tetley seasonal and Kelham Easy Rider on offer. I opted for the Kelham, although I did try the Tetley offering, which was not to my taste, reminding me of the things I dislike about the Tetley flavour whilst hiding the facets that make it distinct. I also had a trip down memory lane in the form of a couple of bags of Frazzles to stave off my hunger.

After the dogs (and owners ) returned I sat at one of the tables thronged by the large windows which afford a fantastic view over to Staithes and Rails, and was joined by Bella the bull terrier for a while before parking myself at the quiet bar for a chat with the barman. We discussed at length the vagaries and injustices of renting a pub from a pubco and the state of beer in Stannington amongst other subjects. Overall I had a fantastic time and intend to go again soon.

Heading for the Robin Hood at Little Matlock I popped in the Peacock on the off chance this Thwaites house would have some dark beer - and was well rewarded. The pub was heaving with diners and drinkers sat outside catching the fading evening sun.

On the bar were three handpulls, dispensing a range of Lancaster bomber, Nutty Black and Black Magic, a dark porter style beer with a lovely cappuccino head and a robust malty finish. It was impressive enough to see them selling a dark mild but the porter was a revelation, so much so that i stopped for a pint despite being by now a little behind schedule.

15 minutes later I was walking down the path to the Robin Hood, which was quiet inside but a lot of people, mainly families were sat outside. This had been my first experience of the pub when we used to visit on summers evenings when I was a kid. We would sit outside or, more likely in my case, go on the swings or the climbing frame ( which may have been a pile of rocks, or indeed any structure, but was climbable nonetheless).

Inside there were two Bradfield beers on the bar, the Blonde and one which may have been called Decade, which is what I had, with some emergency olives to put me on - not a traditional beer accompaniment I know, but a change from crisps. Alas I could not linger for food so had to trudge back up the path and on eventually to Myers Grove lane where i caught the bus, making it all the way back on two buses to Handsworth in 45 minutes. So, a successful day of stout walking and almost stout drinking in sunny Stannington, where all the pubs I visited served more than one real ale, and were just reward for a weary walker.

Wee Beefy