Hoppy new year readers!
today I shall provide you with details of my Christmas (ish) ramble round some (but not all) of Sheffield's best real ale pubs with barkeep extraordinaire Barraharri. The idea was to steadfastly avoid well known haunts in the centre of town, and the classic most popular real ale free houses of the Kit, the Cat, the Gardeners Rest and the Harlequin. Instead, we were to start at the station and make our way along back streets and byways and bus routes to some of the less central beer haunts, and to some of those worthy of visiting for no reason at all other than them being good.
Sheffield Tap, Rutland Arms
We started here at noon ( well, ahem, I did) and sampled two excellent beers to start our adventure, the hoppy above its weight bite of Magic Rock Curious, and the heavy hammer blow roast malt of Kirkstall black band porter. Being our starting point this was but a brief visit, and we were quickly off to sample the delights of the Rutland.
Here we thought about sustenance but decided it was too early, Barraharri renegotiated his mortgage on the phone, I acquired a free Tolly Cobbold pint glass, and we each had a pint of Blue Bee Nectar Pale ale and Milton Pegasus. Barra's Milton was a bit odd, quite sweet and almost metallic, certainly a curious mix that didn't suggest a return tasting, and my Nectar was a bit limp and not very itself. Interestingly, the comparison I am making is with the best Blue Bee Nectar Pale I ever tasted, which was at the Rutland!
Three Cranes, Dog and Partridge and Grapes and Dada
We intended to pop in all of the Trippet trio but not before my only daytime arrival in the Cranes. It was a little subdued but between Christmas and New Year is a weird time where pubs don't seem to follow any set rules about opening times and expected trade - and neither do punters. More than one beer caught my eye so I opted for halves of Blue Bee Lustin for Stout and Abbeydale Black Mass. BH stuck with a pint of the Bee, and I think that may have been a better choice, the Lustin for Stout was in excellent form but the Black Mass was tired and ready for an honourable retirement.
Next we headed up to Trippet Lane. We decided to grace the Dog and Partridge owing to its precarious fortunes but for the second time in a fortnight there was no real ale on. There are doubtless many reasons why this is, but i have to say i am starting to worry that the present incumbent isn't acting in the best interests of this redoubtable institution, which would be an insurmountable loss to Sheffield. That said, this was a real ale crawl, so no lingering for us!
Round tcorner was the Grapes and we headed in here for a duo of Abbeydale - halves each of Moonshine and Absolution. Both were in OK condition but weirdly it was almost impossible to tell them apart flavour wise - has Absolution been docked hops for misbehaving? The pub was busy and there was food available on the bar, we sat in the cosy right hand room which, eagle eyed BH spotted, seems to have quite a few wall pictures/displays devoted to the Dog and Partridge. Quite ironic considering...
Dada across the road was also a place I visited in day time for the first time and there are some pics to prove it.
A daylight visit if anything increases the coldness of the decor although some aspects are in fact less harsh, but it also makes it easier to get a feel for the place. Apart from opening out the small snug on the right as you enter (which may only have been so by virtue of a large item of furniture ) there is no structural change, and some improvements in that in the aforesaid area you can now sit at a real table in comfort and everything.
Beers wise, mainly for reasons of sense, we only had halves, and avoided the Thorngridge plus 7% Yule, opting instead for a half each of Fyne Ales Holly Days, which was a tad pricey at £3.20, but a rare if slightly odd beer all the same.
The Hop, The Bath Hotel and the University Arms
Up onto West street next and then we headed into the Hop at West One. Food was on our minds so we sensibly opted for the pie and pint deal at a bargain fiver each. Both of us had the steak and ale, and both a pint of the Ossett Pale Gold. Personally I found the Pale a bit disappointing really, am glad I hadn't chosen it as my first pint in there on that occasion, otherwise I may have thought slightly less of returning. Overall though, the deal did what it promised and the music was OK as well.
Through West One we went to the Bath Hotel, pretty busy for late afternoon, and I tried a pint of Deception, and Barraharri a pint of Smarts best bitter from Preston. The Deception was very palatable and the Smarts a signature North West real ale with a slight sweetness in it, but both were enjoyable and were a pleasant accompaniment to being sat near the fire in the cosy back room.
Our next stop was to have been the University Arms, however, as if to prove me right about weird inter festive openings, the pub was steadfastly shut, occasioning a hop on a bus up to Crookes for the next part of the crawl.
Crookes - Princess Royal, Hallamshire House and Blake Hotel.
Crookes, I often describe in jest, is in the wilds, out in the sticks, but no word of a lie it was chuffing perishing up there that night. As a result, we were grateful of a warm and a feed in the chip shop which used to be called Bolehill chip shop, and which now, having changed its name without consulting me, my brain refuses to recall the name of. Food in hand we made our way through stair rods and side siling sleat to our next pub.
The Prinny had its usual roster of ales to try, and to try and maximise the benefits of a second nosh in about an hour we stuck to halves again. Barraharri and myself both had the Farmers Blonde, if nothing else, to provide some sort of contrast or comparison with that on offer at Harrisons 1854. The Prinny version was found to be in good nick, and Barraharri seemed to enjoy discovering a pub he would otherwise maybe not have heard of and, as I pointed out, one so traditional in decor and layout.
Downhill (perhaps in more ways than one) next, and we arrived in the Hallamshire House at Commonside. I wasn't wanting to disrupt our period of reigning in excess so we opted for halves in here as well, despite a stellar range of Thornbridge offerings. I have to say though, I was fairly gobsmacked by the proposed price of a pint of Thornbridge Brachia - it was £9.60!?! (WTF). On being told this by the barman, I could only say " no its not ". He replied that it was as it said so on the clip, but I made it clear that it wasn't that price in reality here on planet earth. A truly uunbelievable price.
Still, we conquered our palpitations and Barraharri had Wild Swan and myself a very very nice McConnells Irish Stout. Alas, even this experience was soured, as I noted with dismay that they had managed to de-quirk the small snug on the left. Now, although retaining its fire, it was a clinically tidy dull grey and green tribute to asinine mediocrity, with endless unnecessary old photos on the wall. What a shame it no longer looks like it did in the image below :
Our spirits were however, lifted by a trip to the Blake. I had not been in for a couple of months so this was a nice chance to return and once again bring someone with me who had never been before. Barraharri perhaps quite optimistically went for a whole pint of the dark stuff - not the nitrogen laced over promoted gunk but the Celt Experience Dark Age. I only had a half, but also, having been a bit tired of thought and poor of seeing, mistook the "Ariel" of the Ariel Square Four pumpclip from Concertina, as Arkells, and ordered half of that. Alas, not only was it not of course Arkells, but it was also at the end of the barrel, and was swapped instead for a pleasant half of something from Salamander with the word Noel in it. We also conducted a brief customer survey of persons to find out whether £9.00 odd a pint was an acceptable price for a 9.5% beer. Resoundingly, and unsurprisingly, the answer was no. (N.B - this rigourously scientific consumer testing was carried out in 2 more pubs with the same result)
Hillsborough Hotel, Wellington, Shalesmoor.
At the hotel there was a decent range of beers but disappointingly for me no dark beers but for one that looked like I might have to go to sleep after drinking it. So we opted for two pints of their traditional bitter. At £2.20 a pint this was competitively priced, however the Double H had somewhat failed to see the bigger picture and it was a really deeply unpleasant beer to drink - and was duly returned.
The staff were a bit surprised but agreed politely, with none of the pointless muttering and lazy beer murderer quotations often used, and did not charge the difference for our replacement pints of the stronger Loxley Gold. That said, this was also not up to its previous best, but was a pleasant enough beer all the same, and the comfy settee's in the right hand room afforded us a catch up and a few pics.
The Cask and Welly was our destination as we wandered now a little less carefully along Infirmary road. Here we found a decent range of beers including a few from the Little Ale Cart Brewery. Alas they weren't brewing a dark ale at the time so I opted for a half of the Mighty Oak brewery Old Bangers porter/dark ale, which was not like their usual beers and not really to my taste.
Barraharri on the other hand played a masterstroke and picked a half of the Little Ale Cart Fairway (no pun intended). As he remarked this was "probably the clearest beer (he'd) ever seen" and I can certainly attest to the glorious effervescence of this dark golden brew which was perhaps appreciated as much as the pub itself. I don't seem to spend much time here nowadays so may have to take steps to address that in 2012.
Final stumble - Ship Inn and Shakespeares Shalesmoor, Three Tuns.
I was looking forward to a return visit to the Ship since I was in last month, and Barraharri also had it on his list of must see pubs for our trip. Luckily sufficient time had elapsed over the previous 11 pubs to make it opening time, and we found it busy, warm, and selling 3 real ales as usual. We both had pints of the Spire Coal Porter which was really nice. Barraharri agreed that, in having met his expectations, the Ship was a great proper pub, and I don't think I could disagree.
The official final stop was at Shakespeares. By now recollections were becoming non existent and guesswork was all I had so I am willing to suggest I had a pint of Abbeydale Deception, but it could have been that tasty Summer Wine Brewery beer I had the day before. Either way, BH had to run for his last bus not long after we arrived, and I stayed behind briefly to finish whatever the hell I was drinking, then to unknowingly drop my wallet on the floor and have to run back and retrieve it! (thanks to the bar staff and most particularly the kindly customers sat in the left hand room for helping me to be reunited with my cash!)
The unofficial last stop was for me only, having headed towards the bus stop I noticed a pressing need was afoot and the only obvious solution was to find a pub. The Cranes was closed so I went down the road to the Three Tuns, a pub I rarely go in, but one which I thought I might get a seat in to finish my last half and attend to my ahem, business. It was here I realised I had lost my wallet, but once back, I had ten relaxing minutes sat at the top end of the galleon like pub to enjoy a half of Bradfield Belgian Blue.
Overall we tried 13 pubs and had approximately lots of pints in the process. Best beers on the night were the two in the Tap, the Celt Experience in the Blake, the Blue Bee stout in the Cranes, The McConnells in the Hallamshire House and the Spire Coal Porter in the Ship. There are even plans afoot for a Dronfield and West Sheffield crawl in the near future!
All the best