yesterday I had my dear friend Christingpher over for a meal and some wine and beer, so I decided a daytime yomp around part of Sheffield sampling pubs along the way would be a good "practice" before the feasting started. Despite the fact that it was St Patricks day, so pubs were likely to be full of wearying behatted hobby drinkers, I was determined not to let this put me off my quest.
I started at Nether Edge, getting off the bus at the terminus, its just a minutes walk to my first pub. The Union was open, allaying fears I may have been harbouring about its long term prospects, and just to confirm how erroneous some of my assumptions had been, the barman clarified that they didn't open until 17.30 each night (except Sundays) for their evening session. So 10 to 5, which is when I am usually at Union Road, was never going to enable a pub visit.
On the bar were 5 beers, GK IPA, Taylor's Landlord, something else, and Abbeydale Moonshine and Absolution. I decided it was probably a little early at 1PM for an Absolution so opted for Moonshine. This was a well kept pint which I enjoyed sitting secluded in the right hand corner of the pub near the back entrance. Saturday really wanted to be warm and sunny, and the sunlight streaming in across my table kept urging me outside, but I remained where I was, appreciating another of the pubs many nooks and crannies.
Stagger from Stage to Stag
I couldn't hang around as, having planned my route on the tinterweb I wasn't completely sure of how long my walk was going to take. So I carried on next past the Union and up past the Merlin theatre (sort of) and then up Cherry Tree Lane to Psalter Lane. My next port of call was a 100 yards or so on the right, The Stag.
I have only been to the Stag once before. It was 1994 and I had been to see Oliver Stone's "Nixon" at the Showroom. The film was, if I recall accurately, about 7 hours long. We were exhausted and damaged internally by the length of time we had postponed taking a trip to the loo. Having said all this, I am not sure if this in any way affected my experience then, but I don't remember liking it much.
These days the Stag looks much like it probably did in the nineties, and quite modern inside. There was a strong influence (both olfactorily and as advertised) on food, and there were plenty of people sat in the conservatory enjoying a spot of lunch. It was quite warm inside, which is good when you are eating, but after my walk I decided I wanted to enjoy my beer outside. The range of 3 real ales was Courage Directors, something national, and Thornbridge Wild Swan. I had the swan, and this proved to be an interesting choice - I usually only see it in Thornbridge pubs where their range inevitably draws me to something a little stronger, so I rarely have it. Sat outside in the fresh air this was a very drinkable well kept pint which I devoured quickly.
Next I waked along Psalter Lane to Ecclesall Road South. Along the way I spotted a pub that filled me with a quite unexpected determination to not even cross the road to take a look. To try and put this irrational disgust into some sort of context, I think it ,must have been the Psalter Tavern's wearisome pastel greys, creams and dirty white colour scheme coupled with its chain restaurant appearance and the ugly buildings it was housed in. Not an especially balanced reason to avoid a pub but one which I suspect won't turn out to have denied me a memorable pub experience.
On reaching Eccy road I turned right downhill and made my first (unplanned originally) visit to the Banner Cross Hotel. I opted for the lounge on the left having never been in before - which is a bit weird since the bar is usually the most unspoilt part of any pub, nut there you go.
Inside was a bery large room, one assumes it would have previously been two with bar service in the right corner in the left hand of the two rooms. The unnatural size of this room makes it an ideal spot to sit and watch live sport, and being an important 6 Nations weekend there was a large contingent in to watch the rugby. However, the most notable feature of the pub was the bar.
It was quite large and central and served both sides, with a dram shop hatch in the centre facing the door. Something about it reminded me of the one at the Commercial in Wheelock, or in some of the Holts houses in Manchester. I have no idea if this is an original bar structure but I would like to go back and see it from the bar room to perhaps get a clearer idea.
Beer wise the choice was Tetley, Doom Bar and Kelham Island Easy Rider. Having picked Kelham's least hoppy ale there was a clear malt bias in the range, but an Easy Rider suited my needs perfectly, not too strong, not too heavy. I was only stopping for a half, but to be fair, the pub was very warm, so had I not been mid trek I think I may have stopped for a pint at least.
Off next towards Greystones road, via Glenalmond, Dobbin Hill and Greystones drive (there seems to be no convenient roads across so I had to gain height to walk down to the pub without exerting too much effort). The Greystones was bathed in sparkling, erm, grey cloud whenever I got my camera out - the sun was playing hide and seek throughout the day so my Greystones pics are decidedly and appropriately grey.
I opted for a refreshing pint of the Black Harry mild, which I noticed, for the first time, has a rather weird and not entirely nice aroma. Still, it watered me well as I sat near the Backroom venue surveying the bar and decor in fitful sunshine.
The Greystones scores well on having a good beer range and I admit that this was a bit of a quandary. I didn't want to get drunk, but I did want to fit in another pub at least. In the end, I decided to get the bus down to the end of Eccy road and pop in the ex Pomona, now renamed the Ecclesall. At least, that's what I wanted to do.... However, a 35 minute wait for a missing bus meant it was gone half three before I set off so I changed my plans. I decided to get off in town and walk to the Sheffield Tap. Since I had to go to the shops for some booze supplies for the night ahead I thought that if nothing else, I could get some draught beer to take out from there.
Sheffield Tap - land of the Stouts
It was quite busy at the Tap but not unpleasantly so, and I didn't have to wait too long to get served. The problem was, there was just too much nice beer to choose from. U opted for a half each of the Dark Star Sussex Extra Stout and Hardknott Atomic Narcicuss. The problem was, I also wanted to try the Dark Star Dark Lager, the Cromarty brewing co coffee infused stout and the Dark Star Revelation IPA that I had heard so much about. Why so many good beers The Tap?!?
The Hardknott was the first of their beers that I have tried, and had all the dry possibly Simcoe or Nelson Sauvin hop bitterness that I was expecting. That said however, it wasn't quite as dynamic as i though it would be, but it was still an enjoyable beer. The Dark Star also missed a few expectation markers by being slightly less full bodied than I had expected (although it is only 4.87%). It did though have a lovely creamy and roasted malt flavour that I liked, not dissimilar to some aspects of the aftertaste in a milk stout.
Alas, by this stage, I had recognised that as well as costing me extra money for a container, my take away beer idea was also based on me trying another, and then carting the beer to the supermarket (Sheffield Tap don't sell potatoes and mushrooms; come on lads, make an effort). So I tore myself disappointedly away from the cavalcade of beer and promised myself I would get back tomorrow (which is today, and I haven't).
Overall this was a pleasant 4 hours or so wandering round Nether Edge and Greystones, and one which I would do again, and can highly recommend. Some of the beer range may have been a bit safe and reliant on stalwart brews but that doesn't matter when the beer is well kept, and across the board, prices were generally £2.80 - £3.00 a pint.
And most importantly of all, I didn't encounter a twat in a hat all day....