Sunday, 12 February 2012

Wee Beefy's beer crawl bites - Dronfield Woodseats and Heeley

Afternoon be alikers

    See below details of a pub crawl by bus using the 43 Sheffield to Chesterfield Service

on Thursday 9th February I used up some of the last of my annual leave to embark on a days drinking in that Dronfield, where, legend has it, whilst most pubs were almost always uniformly disappointing, there are now a few good boozers these days.  It sempt like a good time to venture out to put this theory to the test. With me was Mr M, a doughty alesman with a healthy interest in pubs.

Hallowes be thy name

Of course "a good time to venture out" is a purely personal interpretation. In reality, it was only a good day based on the fact that I had secured leave to do so. It was chuffin freezing on Thursday, and much like when me and Christingpher had ventured out the other weekend, the ne-ersayers were quick to warn me of the meteorological perils ahead. As it turned out, initially the most perilous aspect of the trip was the ball aching trundle through standing traffic on Woodseats en route to pub 1.

Eventually I stepped off the bus across from the Three Tuns, formerly the Hallowes, a pub I had never visited before. I had heard that the new owners Spire had retained or maybe restored some of the original features and there were still one or two subtle nods to its 1930's origins, in addition of course to its mock Tudor frontage. Inside, they had sought to make the pub naturally atmospheric by making it as chuffin freezing as it was outside - an interesting touch. I was briefly warmed however by the sight of 12 handpumps in front of me (2 for Zoider), and decided I wanted to start dark.

The obvious choice was a pint of one of my favourite Spire beers, Dark Side of the Moon, while Mr M had a pint of Barlow Heath Robinson. Having recounted my experience to a few folks who have been, it has been confirmed that the pumps at the Tuns are a bit rubbish, with really very short pulls that make you think the beer is running out. This is a potentially unhelpful feature since the second my Dark SOTM didn't taste exactly as I remembered I convinced myself it was the end of the barrel - but it probably wasn't. Next time I may ask them to take the sparkler off...

Soon we were warming up, and after a quick trip to obviate via the nice looking 1930's style toilet doors (you notice the small details in 1930's pubs I find) I was ready for another half. This turned out to be a quite significant one, since I wanted to try almost all of the rest of the beers on offer.

In the end I narrowed it down to and plumped for the Barlow Ebeneezer Scrooge porter, so had that, along with a half of Intergalactic from Black Iris brewery with its beautifully designed pumpclp. Alas, the extravagance of the writing hid from me its true strength, 6.0%, so I insisted Mr M partake of some as well. This hoppy bitter pale ale was the best of all the beers we tried in the Tuns.

Siding with the Dronny Arms

Next we trudged in the damp sapping cold through sleet to the Dronfield Arms, another first visit for me, and Mr M. Its an odd shaped long establishment not unlike a turn of the century Scottish bar in layout, but with a sleek modern blue and pale wood interior. All the handpumps, I think there were 4 beer and 1 cider, were at the end of the pub, and there was a board listing the ales on offer. Mr M opted for a safe Farmers Blonde and even though I suspected the Dronfield Arms bitter was likely from Thornbridge I opted for the sensibly weak Thwaites Nutty Black, which was £2.10 a pint, and thus £4.60 for the round.

We sat at the end of the pub listening in on a chat about the Three Valleys festival and the pubs of Holmesfield (theres another crawl, maybe in addition to the festival) and admiring the comfy surroundings and light airy space in which to drink or eat. The barman/landlord told us they were opening up the bottom floor.cellar bar room which was to be a restaurant. This fits in with what some people had told me about the former Sidings pub which I think this used to be. A pleasant visit, with a surprisingly tame beer range, but a warm relaxing place to drink.


Our penultimate Dronfield stop was to have been the older White Swan across the road. Still showing scars of Whitbreadifying in the early nineties I suspect, the maroon sign board mentioning traditional ales and the gold letters of th pub sign told me instantly that Sherwood Inns had clasped their grubby fingers round this venerable old building in the past.

Inside is a really old bar, alas laden with multiple shiny gas filled fonts, but affording space for two handpumps. Mr M lost control of his senses and ploughed straight into a reckless and unwise pint of Bombardier, and me a half of the strangest Adnams Bitter I ever tasted. It wasn't off, but just tasted of malt and fatigue. It didn't even appear to be the right colour. That said, it was still better than the dread horror of trying to enjoy Bombardier, the asinine homogenised beer by numbers which you must have to work really hard at to sell in a condition that would attract compliment.

We sat under a Sky Sports screen grimacing at the interchangeable images of Fabio's blind cobblers thumb and Redknapp's melted landslide faces as reaction to the former's acquittal and Capello's resignation was raked over tediously by "faces" from the world of the beautiful gane. Welcome to the brain poison world of repetition which is Sky Sports. The pub was quiet, but crucially, warm, and very comfortable. There was quite a lot of pub to look at actually and had we had more time I would like to have seen one of the other rooms. Alas we had to press on to our next destination down the main road.

Coach and Horses - now replaced by bus.

We arrived at the coach before 15.00 assuming as any rational person would that being a Thursday not a Friday or weekend they would open restricted hours like 12 til 15.00. Alas, the Coach opens at 17.00 or some random hour so we met neither our thirst or toiletry needs. We skulked around at the bus stop for a while instead, the only brief highlight being that the beer carriage turned up earlier than it said on my up to date timetable.

Chantrey Chuntering.

Fifteen minutes later we were in Woodseats and heading for the Chantrey. The last time I had visited it had been, erm, well at least 1997, and there had been Tetley on, and a club singer who was so "club", that we had to leave half way through from laughing. Now the pub has a slightly more adventurous approach to beer, although I can't say what the entertainment promises.

Mr M once again plumped for Bombardier, which was a trifle better than in the Swan, and I had a very nice pint of Kelham Island Easy Rider in a Kelham branded glass. My only gripe was that the Easy Rider seemed to be lacking hops, but I think this is actually how its meant to taste - like Pale rider with the hops and alcohol reduced. It was in good condition though, so were able to warm up in here, trying to ignore the radio being played over the pub speaker system (always a bad sign), before venturing out once more.

A view of the Sheaf.

We decided to take the opportunity to grab some snap before we headed for the Ale House on Fraser road which was to open at 16.00. We got our supplies then called the pub to make sure we were on track to find it open - unfortunately they were going to open at nearer 17.00 due to a deliveries mix up so we spent a rather long stint cowering in the bus shelter eating our food, although this of course did keep us dry.

Eventually we headed off slowly for the pub and found that Tony's love of Saltaire had continued unabated, with 4 of the 5 cask ales on offer being from that brewery. Not that we were complaining, but I really fancied a stout, and there was none in the range to be found.  Instead we both opted for a pint of the Cascade which was once again on good form.

Conversation soon drifted to the pub quiz. Tony was mortified that the wining score in the last one had been 11. Really, we should have taken this as a hint that it had been really difficult, but bravado got the better of us and we unwisely agreed to be read the questions, have an aimless pop at answering them, before he gave us the actual answer. Estimates of our tremendous score were between 4 and 6 out of 20. I think Tony should simply accept that questions about betting odds and the name of the band the father of an upcoming act was in are just a little too difficult. But what do I know...

Well, that diversion did at least mean that we had another in here, this time I had the fantastic Saltaire Challenger which was a lovey dark strong bitter with a very defined hop character. This went down a treat, although, once again, with snow now starting to fall, we had to move on.

Archer Road Beer Stop.

En route to pub 6 we popped into the ARBS, which regular readers may recognise as Sheffield's premier bottled and draught real ale off license. Davefromtshop was welcoming as always and invited us in for a wee snifter in the back before we gilded ourselves for another chilly wander. There were 3 draught beers on offer and we both opted for the excellent Thorne Pale Ale, which was in good form and had a very pleasant lingering hoppy taste. Alas we could not stop long catching up, not least because I was coming back the day after for a beer tasting.


Just like the popular England cricketer of the same name the lovable old Broadfield is not without its flaws. Still there is a surfeit of seating, still no cask beer list and on this occasion am not even sure there was a dark beer to tempt me. Both me and Mr M grabbed two stools and a tiny table near the door and had a pint each of the Acorn USA Northern Brewer IPA. This was a nice drop but despite its name was still a slightly astringent bitter rather than a gloriously hoppy IPA, but we didn't let that trouble us. Since we had to change course at this stage to get over to Heeley it became clear that we could stretch to a re run at some point, starting at the Sheaf and taking in the Broady en route to the Union, Cherry Tree, Greystones and Lescar.

The Lion 

Next Mr M unexpectedly showed me a brilliant shortcut over the Sheaf to come out at Heeley almost at our next destination the White Lion. To our surprise the pub was busy (wait, that's not where the surprise emanates) but the snug was free - so we went in there and settled down to a pint and a review of the days events. I had a pint of Jaipur and Mr M sensibly a pint of Abbeydale Daily Bread. It was here we worked out that my up-to-date timetable supplied by Wee Fatha was, in fact, printed in April 2010. Which explained why the 43's had been a little early throughout our visit. This did however afford us enough time to dispatch our beers at a sensible pace, in fact Mr M was awaah before me, having decided he'd had enough and needed the safety of his home.

Tap route

Having also finished my Jaipur I caught the 43 using my cheap all day ticket to get off near the Sheffield Tap for a couple of last halves. There was a noticeable Marble theme again, so I had half of Lagonda 4th IPA (this is based on my "eclectic sloping and wavy writing style that I adopt whilst processing alcohol) and Thornbridge Black Harry. The Tap was mercifully quiet which meant i didn't have to hide away in a back room,. but it was a brief visit on account of my having a pressing need to get home and lie down.

Overall we got to 9 pubs if you count ARBS and tried a number of beers from a diverse range of breweries, all at sensible prices, i.e below £3.00 a pint (apart maybe from the Black Iris, but it wouldn't be overpriced since it was 6.0%). Its a shame that we couldn't get to the Coach and Horses and that we didn't have time for the Sheaf View but all in good time, we can always do this again sometime. A highly recommended pub selection.


Wee Beefy.

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