Thursday, 8 March 2012

Wee Beefy's (March of the) beer bites

Good evening,

    my first news regards some recent and planned ale related openings.

Spoon fed

News via a reliable sources comes of a Wetherspoons discount grog warehouse opening at Handsworth, near the Asda. There is a lot of work going on creating what I understood was to be a retail park. One wonders how this would fit into the area's drinking options, especially if it was offering much cheaper alcohol than its nearest neighbours?

Handsworth is blessed with four pubs; (I am not including the White Rose, although it is 200 yards inside the boundary, because its not really part of the original Handsworth village).

These include some older more traditional ones; The Old Crown, Cross Keys and Turf, and two of those sell real ale. And there is also the New Crown, which sold real ale last year, and is admittedly a newer (looking at least) pub, which is why it differs slightly (and perhaps because it has suffered from being the first choice port of call for the local tweenies).

Its safe to say that any new build pub would struggle to match the atmosphere of a venerabl;e haunt (no pun) like the Keys, but in these hard times that counts for little. And that's pertinent, because one thing that does link the Handsworth establishments is that irrespective of ownership, prices are roughly the same in each - i.e. normal. In isolation this is no cause for concern, but Wetherspoons of course sell real ale and other drinks at a consistently lower price than the "normal" rate. I remember baulking at a £2.00 pint in a Wetherspoons last year, but then thought, wait a minute, this is still a good 50p a pint less than anywhere else (in town, not to mention the suburbs).

So if we accept that retail park (if even that is what its to be) visitors are likely to lap up discounted ales and lager, and that a Wetherspoons will open up, what impact would this have on the pubs of Handsworth ?

In my recent experience The Cross Keys struggled during its change of ownership but on my last visit seemed steady if not soaring, The Old Crown has a recent CAMRA award to its name and a good range of beers food and clientele, The New Crown is potentially popular but not necessarily for the right reasons, and the Turf Tavern is almost always rammed, no doubt credit to being managed successfully by Aidy.

I can imagine that your "floating voter" imbiber would quickly ditch any of the above, but the Old crown and Turf seem to have a loyal following. If we interpret that to mean the other two fail, then no matter how good the Spoons spoon fed offerings are, I consider that would be bad news.

The first off license to sell own beer wholesale to the on licensed trade?

According to essential brewery info site Quaffale (see : off license to brew own beer by Quaffale ) the Real Ale Corner in Chesterfield is brewing its own beer, albeit at Raw (an on premises brewery would make the above novelty headline all the longer). I think there may previously have been a tie up between an offie and a Brew pub in Newcastle but certainly this would have to be the only off license I know of retailing its own brewed products.

In my time working at Archer Road Beer Stop customers often came in expecting us either to sell home brew supplies, which wasn't exactly outlandish, or, not recognising the beers on the pumpclips (especially those written in marker pen on white paper) expected that we brewed our own.

Dave was always very modest about his brewers potential and reassured enquirers that he had neither the ability or intention to do so, but it happened enough times for me to think that the Real Ale Corner have happened upon a really canny idea.

In the past, Threshers, Booths supermarket in the North West and Wine Cellar (and other brands owned by Parisa Group) have all had beer brewed for them or been involved in the ownership of a separate brewing arm (I think Parisa fits that bill) but I can't recall hearing of an off license brewing its own. More details can be found at Real ale corner, and everything  .

Pub News

Just a quick note about pubs and beer this time!

Shakespeares number beers

I was in the above recently and sampled two excellent beers. The first was from the cask, and was the excellent Steel City Brewing "9" (based on Xiberia). This was easily as good as the aforementioned ale, and again I think its gravity dispense takes an edge off some of the less conciliatory hop flavours that sometimes arise in their brews. I also think it was a little hoppier than the Xiberia, and perhaps better for it. Maybe the alcohol being 4.8% also helps calm down the flavour. Either way its a cracking pint.

I also tried a pint that i had read about in the world of beer blogging. I had never come across any Five Towns beers before except at Oakwood so seeing their "65" beer I thought I would give it a go. I had read about it on the following blog earlier in the week so was keen to try it for myself  (see a review at Timbo writes about Five Towns beer ). I think his review covers all of the taste features but I would mention that I was surprised by the sweetness on display. It crept into the taste after every mouthful and if it hadn't been riding the crest of a hoppy wave it would have ended up tasting like a far less appetising beer.

As it was this ws a really enjoyable (worryingly) easy to drink 6.5% pale beer which wins my praise for having the potential to be ascorbicly dry yet ending up being almost unsettling mellow and of course quaffable as a result. Hopefully there are a few other Five Towns Brewery ales in the cellar so I can get to try some more of their output.

Upcoming Events

There are two beer fests this week in Sheffield pubs - the Kelham Island Tavern one starts tonight I think, and there is one at the New Barrack Tavern. This is a little confusing however since K-cott reports the festival beers in the left hand snug room were available on Tuesday night prior to the Wednesday match. If this is so, I would assume the festival runs all week? Their website says it starts tonight though and runs til Thursday so will head down Saturday for a peak I hope.

That's all the news I have for now, happy slaking!

Wee beefy

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