Saturday, 28 April 2012

A surprise Friday pub crawl


   owing to a sudden surprise discovery in my bank account I decided to take my mate Mr H out for a pint after work. Here are the details of how that and the rest of a refreshing night panned out. Please accept my apologies for further photo free posts - stupid arse B.T download limit is putting paid to any such ideas until Tuesday am afarid....


We got to the pub about 18.30 and both had delicious halves of Cotswold Spring Brewery Old Sodbury Mild, a luscious malty not overly sweet creamy mild which went down a treat. After this though we wanted hops.

Next we had a pint each of the excellent Summer Wine Brewery Gambit Golden Ale. A bit of a misnomer this, its only very slightly less pale than other 4 or 5% SWB beers and for all its claimed colour differences tastes very similar to their Zenith Pale ale. Not that this is a bad thing - lots of hops to quench the thirst plus some extra ones to tingle the tastebuds and the tongue, a very enjoyable pale beer.

In between having an important "evening meal" (a pork pie and a pack of crisps) we ended up having 3 of the Gambit each. All the time the pub was filling up with punters, and before we knew it, not only was it 21.00 but Wee Keefy was in with his work colleagues. Mr H had to escape home but I stayed for another half, this time the Revolutions Overkill Rhubarb Wheat beer. I had eyed this up with caution even though I rate Revolutions, but I needn't have worried - this was a fantastic quenching not too chewy not too sweet fruit beer which I wished I'd had enough "real money" to have a pint of.

Wee Keefy departed for fuel and I headed into town and caught the bus up to West Street (very lazy of me) to pop in the Bath Hotel

The Bath

Here as you know I was interested in quizzing Brian about recent news and also had chance to chat to one or two regulars, neither of whom seemed impressed by the revelation (that the Bath was to be run by Thornbridge, not that I intended to talk to them...). Beer wise, crucially, I had a pint of the ever reliable Deception. Given that one of my lasting concerns about Thornbridge is how much their beer will cost, it was imperative that I remembered how much my pint cost. I didn't.

Red Deer

I was headed Harrisons way but they had a private function on so I went for a quick half in the Red Deer. I remember that I fancied a half of the Wharfebank Tether but I went for something else instead. As was a feature of the night, I didn't think to record what this tipple was - it was one of the last 3 pumps on the right looking at the bar. I never stay long in the Deer when am on my own so hotfooted it off to Dada.


Here, irony took over to an extent, given that I had halves of two Thornbridge beers - now, I know its my fault, but I didn't make a note of the new Thornbridge offering because I knew I could find out what it was (it was dark and called something with three words in!) on their website. Except I can't - it won't load (perhaps flooded with enquiries about the Bath).

Anyhoo, it was very enjoyable, possibly smoked, and I had 3 halves of it altogether. I also met a group of  ladies from a Sheffield office who were out enjoying themselves, and let me join them for an hour or so. Much chat was had, little remembered, but I do now have a new blog to follow out of it.  Alas all too soon they were all off somewhere else and a quick trip to the loo meant I lost the whole party! This was a little disconcerting since the barstaff took my bag and coat away thinking it had been left by them, so I was temporarily bag, wallet, companion and coatless. I was soon reunited with m,y possessions however.

On reflection it was probably best that this was the end of the night's entertainment as I had become a trifle tired, so I headed off home on the night bus in a relaxed state.

All in all a great unexpected night out with excellent beer and company.

Wee Beefy

Bath Hotel update

Afternoon all,

    I thought it might be helpful to provide further clarification on the situation at the Bath, and a bit more thought on the upcoming arrangement for Thornbridge to run it.

I spoke to Brian last night, which was quite a job because he was very busy, receiving congratulations on what he had done with the pub, best wishes, and fielding questions. He was happy to take time to chat and keen on providing me with reassurances about the future of the pub, and most importantly its interior. Here's what I know...

1.Thornbridge are going to run the pub. They are already doing work in the cellar and will be putting their beers on the bar.

2. Brian will continue to own the pub. He has the say on what they do with the interior.

3. Which of course, as previously discussed, is Grade II listed, so there's very little Thornbridge can do.

4. They will be adding a lick of paint.

5. They will take over the running on Monday - but I have a feeling it might not be open until Tuesday - best ring to check.

6. Brian is off to pastures new (couldn't pin down any specifics on this, but I think its highly unlikely we'll see him in the pub again, but that's just a feeling I get).

In terms of what I think, I don't mind admitting that I love the interior of the Bath Hotel so much that I don't even want the colours to change! I know this seems a little weird, but its important to appreciate just how rare a survival the pub is in South Yorkshire. Sheffield, in particular, has always seemed to have had had ignorant, ill-informed, blinkered and disinterested future fanboys for councillors, so almost no old buildings of significance have escaped the wrecking ball. Maybe this skews my outlook, but it adds weight to the gravity of any threat to the Bath's design and architectural integrity.

Also, it would appear that Tetley will no longer be sold at the Bath Hotel. I will have a look at the link on later to see if Thornbridge have mentioned any specifics. Am not a Tetley fan, but I think you'd have to go back many decades to find an era when Tetley hasn't been sold. This seems a shame, and if it turns out that's what happens, then it suggests a lack of knowledge about the job of running the Bath by its new incumbents.

Finally, why are Thornbridge doing this?

I still don't know. Its not like they are short of bar coverage in Sheffield. You can get their beers in the Bee Hive 5 minutes away as well as the Wick at Both Ends, The Great Gatsby and the Devonshire Cat. We're not in a Thornbridge drought in that part of the City, nor indeed in any part of Sheffield. I know of one long standing regular who is intending to make Sunday his last visit. Admittedly I don't know if this is a problem he has with their beers, prices, or the company themselves.

Which makes you wonder if therein lies the only plausible answer. Maybe they want to shake off their (admittedly not widespread) bad image, by running the Bath as an even better pub (which I seriously doubt) and showing that they can be considerate, sensitive careful wards of this fine building.

Lets face it, we'll know by next week.

Wee Beefy

Thursday, 26 April 2012

Heritage pub under threat?

Good evening all,

      the above headline is perhaps a journalistic own goal, as it is based on fear and supposition and negative expectation. A bit like a shabby tabloid headline penned by an sad, heavy drinking, chain smoking tabloid journalist grubbing around for the latest Daily Mail scare story about nothing of interest to the rational minded.

However, it does have its roots in a serious subject. As many of you will have noticed and probably if you live in Yorkshire already posted about, the Victorian gem which is the Bath Hotel in Sheffield is to be taken over by Thornbridge Brewery  (I bet it hasn't or won't be bought by Thornbridge, they don't own pubs lest we forget). Discussion at a high level beer meeting in Harrisons 1854 last night seemed to lean towards dismay, anger, surprise and worry. I have yet to meet (only two days after I heard the news albeit!) anyone with anything positive to say about this latest change of, erm, well, again ownership may be misleading, stewardship... (?)

Aside from obvious concerns about price, inherent pretentiousness, the idea that they might buy in cheap as dishwater Italian lager and sell it as a premium product (my personal worry, difficult to explain am afraid, but for legal reasons I must make clear this hasn't happened!) ) and the lack of guest beers to grace the bar, my specific and justifiable worry is that they will ruin the interior.

To those of you who don't know or appreciate the Bath's interior, it is an intact 1930's refit complete with beautiful tiled and glazed bar and a glorious back room snug with original seating. It won the CAMRA/English Heritage pub design award in 2003 for the sensitive restoration of its original features and refurbishment (which may not be the right term) of the paintwork and upholstery to give a level of reassuring,  plain finesse which the pub retains and presents admirably.

The live music is free, the food is simple and inexpensive, the bar staff are helpful, the fixed seating is elegant simplicity, and the beautiful brown tiles and dark wood frame of the bar, with the eye catching black and white diamond tiled floor, sets off the scene perfectly. There is, quite frankly, nothing to be gained by change, even of the colour scheme. There is certainly, nothing worthy of loss or removal by an incoming manager, tenant or partnership.

The magnificent bar at the Bath Hotel

Lets not forget of course, this is a Grade II listed building. Its listed on the merits of its architecture, and presumably because of its intact unspoilt interior. Only a fool would want to change the set up to stamp their "mark" on the building, only arrogance could sanction any watering down, bastardisation or ruination through modernising of such pristine pub stock.

So would anyone really be so ill-advised?

Well, having been in a number of Thornbridge run pubs I note a rather unsavoury love of pastel greys and light browns. A more cynical chap might muse over the prevalence of the shades watered down despair and troubling "movements". Light wood is great, in a restaurant, especially one searching a modern look. Its also great in newer pubs, or one with tired and sorry interiors requiring a revamp, or a touch of lighting up, to make it less dark and depressing. But spend one minute in the Bath Hotel and you know that's not required. Or warranted. Or wanted.

As usual I am behind everyone else covering this - have rightly (but infuriatingly!) beat me to a post on the subject, the link for which is here , and I'd encourage you to have a look. It seems Thornbridge have made assurances about the surfeit of other brewers beers, but I think the crucial point, and the biggest threat here, is the way they treat the interior.

A wildly unjustified, unsympathetic alteration to its character would be a travesty. No amount of expensive but usually good draught real ale and slightly more expensive bottles is going to soften the impact of a cack handed meddle with the layout or fittings. Lets hope Thornbridge prove themselves to be responsible sensitive stewards by retaining what sets this pub apart from most others in Sheffield and indeed South Yorkshire - its place on CAMRA and English Heritage's National Inventory of Unspoilt Pub Interiors.

I have never been a regular in a pub taken over by Thornbridge - although I went from time to time into Trippets, which was to be fair, far better decorated prior to being Dada. I don't like many aspects of the dour grey branding of the Hallamshire House, nor do I really appreciate the (initial at least) food  prevalance at the Coach and Horses in Dronfield and the Cricketers (albeit a food venue already), but I haven't been a regular in any pub subject to Thornbridgefication. Except now.

Thornbridge have form, and that's why lovers of this unspoilt interior should be concerned.

And finally, I should point out that, ironically, my first taste of Jaipur, when it was really good instead of OK (perhaps credit to it being slightly hazy), was in the Bath Hotel.  The very best pint I had of it was at Archer Road Beer Stop. Lets hope that I will be able to eclipse even that magical cask in the place I tried it first, and leave the Thornbridge owned Bath Hotel with a positive bitter taste in my mouth.

Wee Beefy

P.S - here is the link to the Heritage Pubs National Inventory entry for the Bath Hotel

Tuesday, 24 April 2012

North East beer on TV


       welcome to (what was to be) my first post on the new fangled fanny about fairground that is the "new look" blogger. I assume that, not only will you the reader see precisely no difference, but that the latest incarnation of the site will share precisely none of the ideals and business outlook of the popular high street clothing chain of the same name. We can but hope.

And on with the words...

So, Boak and Bailey, homing in now on their 100,000th post this month, have made some very astute points about beer branding and advertising (as is their forte) here. In doing so they have posted a link to the latest set of ads for Newcastle Brown Ale. This was also reported on by Darren at Beer Today earlier in the month.

A proper beer advertisment
Personally, I've never seen any of these ads on TV or indeed anywhere outside of the Internet, but its interesting that even the better ads linked by Boak and Bailey, i.e the last two, are eclipsed by one from probably twenty years ago - but not for Newky Brown.....

Because in my humble opinion, if you want to see a good, knowingly self deprecating North East beer ad you need the Castle Eden one from the nineties (admittedly it may have been penned by Whitbread's London marketing chaps).

It may even be ironic....

I have found a clip, the link for which is below. The only problem is, it being the only clip I could find after, erm, a good minute of searching, is that its a whole roll of ads. So you need to play the clip at 00:45 to get to see the important bit (not at quarter to one in the morning I hasten to add....when you watch the clip from 40 odd seconds in is entirely up to you.)

Apologies for the crap presentation and fannying about required.

Castle Eden Brewery advert

Wee Beefy

Wee Beefy's Derbyshire Pubs

Now then,

     I promise this is the last retrospective/regressive look at pubs of my youth (for now at least, until I age ten years or more beyond my last period of pub and beer writing, which started in about 2005...). And can I also apologise for the lack of photo's of any of the pubs listed below.

In 1995, for it was then, I was asked by a friend to produce a guide to my favourite pubs in Derbyshire. I insisted that this would be a mammoth task unless I concentrated on one area, and designated a random swathe of the county "South Derbyshire". Of course, this was entirely erroneous. Its more like mid to South West Derbyshire. Sort of ten miles either side of the River Dove. Ish....

Anyhoo, I listed nine pubs that I liked, probably half of which I got from the GBG, some of which may have been introduced to me by Wee Fatha. I confess that am unsure why I stopped at nine, unless I wanted the list to be printed on one side of A4 only?

A copy of the handwritten list, missing my rather obtuse descriptions, is reproduced below (not in preference order I admit) :

1. Winster : Old Bowling Green, 
2. Kirk Ireton : Barley Mow
3. Parwich : Sycamore
4. Hartington : Joseph Cotton (I know, I know, its the Charles Cotton...)
5. Alstonefield : The George
6. Fenny Bentley : Bentley Brook Inn
7. Fenny Bentley : Coach and Horses
8. Earl Sterndale : The Quiet Woman
9. Chelmorton : Church Inn

What I find interesting about this snap shot is that I was 21 when I compiled it, and it features a lot of very traditional pubs (so seems my tastes haven't changed), and a few that are, quite frankly, still classic pubs. The Barley Mow and Quiet Woman are still firm favourites, remaining unaltered in nearly two decades, and I have been to all of them in the last couple of years, except for those in Fenny Bentley.

Also, as if anticpating the future of village pubs (the good future that is, where they remain open...) I notice that some of the featured pubs have received plaudits for taking a central role in their communities. The Sycamore at Parwich particularly, in having received TV coverage, has made the pub the hub with a shop inside the premises, and the Barley Mow at Kirk Ireton opened a shop in an adjacent building a few years ago. In 1995 I am certain there was at least one shop in each village (in my day, etc). See more info about the Sycamore here from the excellent

Finally, I note that all but the Hartington, Alstonefield and Fenny Bentley pubs were still featured in the 2011 Good Beer Guide (I don't buy GBG's, I inherit them, so will have to wait til September 2012 for Wee Fatha to receive his new 2013 edition), many having been featured for many years now.

Which begs the question, given the ongoing success of most of the above pubs, who's assessment of the best pubs in the area in 1995 was most prescient - mine or the respective CAMRA branches?

Well, I had considerably less resources and pub going experience, so....

Wee Beefy

Pub courtesies

    I have read a few posts recently by Tandleman highlighting the rather abstract view of politeness and unselfish pub behaviour demonstrated in some London hostelries latest here. I have noticed however that this is a widespread malaise, and throughout the UK people seem to have quite forthright views on pub etiquette and the rules defining the relationship between customer and staff.

One comment on the post struck me in particular :

"I'm physically incapable of leaving a pub without trying to catch the eye of someone behind the bar to say cheerio - it's an instinctive reaction, like looking right when crossing the road. But on this count alone, in the last ten years of pub-going in London, I've seen a big drop in the number of bar staff looking up to see if you're leaving." (Gueuzel)

This is a joyous affirmation of my own outlook in terms of pubgoer and pub staff interaction - an all too often encountered blight on an otherwise brilliant visit which can be so easily avoided. Here is my slant on the attitude of barstaff and the role of customers.


Lets start by, as only Beefy must, adding a caveat. Like the role of being a bus driver or school teacher, I wouldn't want the job of working behind a bar (anymore). Not least because, like bus drivers and teachers, your job entails dealing with emotionally undeveloped, irrational, aggressive idiots on a regular basis. (please note, the above image is illustrative, any resemblance to a bar you might have been stood at is co-incidental, and any description of customers above is unrelated to anyone accidentally featured in the above picture, or actually there at the time.... )

So, caveats in place, its useful to remember that for a small number of usually louder punters, being an absolute cock is a behavioural prerequisite, leaving staff disheartened, annoyed, and immune to the needs of customers. So its important to think about what staff might be expecting from you.

However, pubs aren't always rammed, or indeed filled with ignorant clientele. Most of my shitty politeness experiences have come in quiet pubs. If you are one of only a couple or indeed the only person in a pub, being ignored or not speaking to the member of staff seems particularly rude.

Reasons (for) Greetings

The thing is, as Gueuzel points out, I too find it almost impossible to not engage with barstaff on leaving, even if only to give a nod and facial affirmation, or to say "cheers" or "see you". Weirdly, sometimes when I leave I find that I am willing even to wait for the reappearance of the barstaff who served me just to give my farewell. This is particularly prevalent in pubs I rarely visit.

But why?

Well, firstly, its because I used to work behind a bar. Mainly this was in a real ale off license and at occasional beer festivals. Admittedly I didn't really find many problems at the shop, in fact it was a great place to meet remarkable, interesting and inspiring  people from different backgrounds who shared a love of ale. Here, one of the great joys for me was talking with customers, not even always to find out what they wanted to buy. Just taking the time to hear what they had to say. That engagement is something that I find I miss when I am on the other side of the bar.

The other reason is probably my Dad. I spent much of my formative drinking years in pubs with Wee Fatha, certainly when I tried my first real ale, and definitely on my first visits to far away pubs. His contribution to the pubgoer and barstaff experience is that he always says, sometimes in a single conjoined word, "oritethanks" when he leaves any pub, whether he has enjoyed his visit or not. That's a strong influence that I am glad I haven't shook off. (the strange thing is, he used to be a bus driver - so between us we have a strong shared knowledge of good, and bad, customer interaction)

Mainly, and crucially though, its because saying hello and goodbye is just polite. Whether you are serving or slaking.

Absence of welcome

Because the other problem is that no matter how determined the customer might be to maintain the two way exchange of warm words, some pubs just don't have a human touch. Customers are numbers, pints sold or meals masticated; the staff only look at the till, not your face.  It seems that interest in the cursory hello and goodbye and the conscious treaty of civility between barkeep and barfly is waining fast.

Personally, I fully intend to keep on being polite, but every now and again I come upon and up against a hostelry so devoid of customer appreciation that its difficult to know how to react. So I shall leave this subject with a quote from my first ever post about a pub where pleasantries seemed gratuitous and indeed engagement of any kind seemed abnormal :

"Heading further into Sussex the level of hospitality dropped. Deep in Winnie the Pooh country, The Hatch at Colemans Hatch was a stark contrast to the New Inn. This unfriendly restaurant stocks a few beers to sell to its valued food customers and had no proviso for either welcoming or seating financially unrewarding drinkers. Squinting in pretentious near darkness at the pumps we selected Larkin’s traditional and more Harvey’s before finding a much sought after seat in the garden. The beer was fine, but when my Dad took the glasses back (as a courteous person would) the bar person looked at him with derision, and then glared at us when we said goodbye. Judging by the prices I am sure that the pub can easily afford to alienate drinkers, but it’s disappointing that financial demands should affect visitors to that extent."

Its time we re-established the pubgoer/pub worker relationship. Saying hello and goodbye isn't difficult for any of us, after all...

Wee Beefy

Sunday, 22 April 2012

Some Sheffield pubs and beers

Hello again,

    apart from going to the Sheffield Tap and trying an excellent beer in the equally excellent Rutland I have been eking out my meagre funds to have a half or two in some other pubs lately, so here are a few details of those visits and the beers I drank.

Red Lion

The Red Lion on Charles Street isn't exactly a regular haunt of mine. They usually have four real ales on, they are a bit pricey but not objectionably so, and given the extensive remodelling and refurbs of the interior over the years, if am not sat in the back snug (which is invariably full) then I am thinking how much more enjoyable it would be sat in there. The other Saturday, en route to the Rutland, I picked an occasion upon which I was unlikely to have room to stand, let alone sit in a preferred spot.

It was a Sheffield United Football Club home game and an FA Cup semi final. I believe the interest in specific clubs and occasions within the broad church of association football is very popular in the public houses of the area....

Hence, it was kin rammed. after fifteen minutes at the bar (not the staff's fault, it really was that busy) I had already told myself five times that as this was a fleeting visit I could just leave. But the thing is, having joined the queue, I was determined to complete this undertaking at all costs.

In the end I got myself an enjoyable half of Abbeydale Now Then, and retired to the only spot I could sit in peace - outside in the not waterproof beer garden. Perched on a damp bench, I was struck by the fact that a Monday night at 19.30 would have been a better time for my 2012 visit. You live and learn...


On Tuesday I was out with Mr C. We don't get out to the pub that often and had arranged a night out heading towards Hillsborough sampling pubs en route. We started here and got ourselves a seat in the School Room and enjoyed our beers - Mr C a Becks cooking lager, and myself a pint of Welbeck Abbey Dark Horse. This wasn't quite how I remembered it at the Three Cranes but was an excellent pint all the same. We also stopped for another, this time I had a delicious Steel City Raw Steel NZ IPA, which I think is a second collaboration, having had Raw Steel IPA at the Abbeydale Sports Club beer festival in September. This was another bold hoppy offering that gives you plenty to think about. Very nice.

I also made it in yesterday for a half of the Steel City A Slight Case of Overhopping (5.2%, I think). I had the feeling this was hopped mainly with Simcoe, but I still haven't got my hop identifying GCSE yet, and I probably thought Simcoe as the name was on my mind. It was a delicious hoppy beer all the same, if a little cloudy, and not too strong for an afternoon tipple.


A quick note is that the Gardeners Rest is holding its Last Orders beer festival between Thursday the 17th and Sunday 20th May. This is Pat and Eddies farewell beer festival as they are retiring this year, rumour has it to live on a narrowboat. I am really hoping I can get down to wish the two of them all the very best.

I was in last week and had a pint of the Greenfield Vanilla Stout. Having had a few and developed quite a taste for the style over the last 6 months I was surprised that this wasn't more creamy or balanced, it had quite a sour edge but was still enjoyable to drink. Alas, the same could not be said of the Sportsman Pigeon Bridge Porter. It was very grim indeed. Not off, I hasten to add, just a grim beer! I replaced it with a far better half of Sheffield Brewing Co Crucible Best.

Three Cranes

I popped in on Saturday for a half of the Blue Bee Lustin for Stout. They have two of the Blue Bee crucible themed beers coming on in the next week. The Lustin was bursting with flavour and a nice stopping beer - giving me time to try and not pay attention to the football scores whilst chatting with Luke. He advises that they close early Saturday nights unless there's a function on - if you are thinking of going Saturday night perhaps check beforehand - following them on Facefriend is a good way of doing this.


Another of my all too infrequent visits to the Cask and Welly as its officially known, last week. Despite my rave review on the Barraharri New Year crawl I still didn't taste any of their exclellent Little Ale Cart beers! Not that what I had instead was a disappointment. I had a pint of West Berkshire Brewery Pig and Tea (coffee surely?) a tasty 4.3% dark ale, and a pint of Steel City Brewing Queen Anne's Revenge. Both were in excellent nick, but the Queen Anne was late in the evening so I'll have to have it again to provide a description.

Friday theatre

Not a euphemistic term for the going's on in Sheffield's licensed establishments, but my primary Friday night event, going to see Stewart Lee at the Lyceum. Beforehand our pre performance drinking plans had gone awry so having arrived alone thirty five minutes before I needed to be inside, I dallied first with the idea of the Crucible Corner (Tetley and Kelham Easy Rider), but it can be expensive) and instead opted for a pint in the Old Monk. How I laughed when the beer in there was £3.20 a pint, probably as expensive as Crucible Corner next door....

Not a good pub to go in on your own, it did at least have two guests, or would, had the Barnsley Bitter been on. I had the Sheffield Brewing Co Milder Spring, which was on good form. Crucially, I also got to go to the loo, prior to sitting in a theatre for 90 minutes....

Afterwards, some of us went to the Bath Hotel. Not my first choice, but only because it was absolutely siling it down and The Bath was almost the furthest pub we could have chosen. Rewards were to be had however, as I managed to buy a fantastic pint of Revolutions Brewery Milk and Alcohol before they called last orders. This was as good as I remembered at Magna,  and worth the trudge. It was also less than £3.00 a pint I recall.

My final stop was in Harrisons 1854. I had thought about puling up a pew and having a quiet pint but there was a function or a DJ on so I stopped only for a half of Abbeydale Now Then before heading off. Its fuunny, but I love it when its quiet in the 1854, but without getting rammed at weekends am sure it simply wouldn't be viable.

So, that rounds up ten days of grog and inns. And only eight days until payday when I can go out for another half....

Wee Beefy

Wee Beefy's Sheffield Tap pub review

Now Then,

    This week, I arve been mostly drinking.....very little. I have however, made it out three times in the last ten days and have some news to report. Full details are on their way later but firstly I'd like to say a few words about the brilliant, ever expanding, infuriating and popular pub which is the Sheffield Tap.

Early days.

I was out the weekend that the Tap first opened. Having been in some sort of vacuum for a while it seems I missed all the buzz about it opening, but on the first Sunday it was I happened to be sat in the Devonshire Cat (only been in once since ironically) reading a copy of Beer Matters and noticed the announcementt. I decided to pop in for a neb.

The first thing that struck me was the interior fittings and decoration. I had no idea that this place existed, and being a fan of Edwardian and Victorian pub interiors, I was gobsmacked by its opulence and high ceilinged grandeur, topped off by that amazing one piece bar back (which I think they had specially made).

The second thing I noticed was that it was cold. It was the 6th December 2009 and there appeared to be no heating. I sat in the panelled room which is the one you walk through from the road to get to the bar, and even out of the draught it was cold.

The final thing I noticed was that all the beers on the first weekend were from Thornbridge (am pretty sure!). It was when they were doing some of their novelty lower strength beers. This helped to identify that, as a regular Kelham Island Tavern guzzler, the beer in here was a tad expensive. On an unrelated note, early guest ales were from BrewDog (including Punk and Hardcore IPA in cask) and Orkney.


In two years extra space has appeared and heating has been installed (or turned on), and the beer range is now 4 Thornbridge and four or five guest cask ales and a cider. There are ten key keg taps with three from Bernard and guests including Sierra Nevada pale ale on the first weekend. Initial visits always seemed to involve me sat with a friend with up to seven glasses of beer on our table (for two of us!) - almost like we knew what we wanted next but were so desperate not to miss it that we'd be unwilling to finish the beers we had before reordering. That would never happen in the Red Lion, Ampney St Peter....


I am in too often. And I have even started to take an interest in drinking keykeg stuff, despite the obvious expense. Usually stuff you can't get in cask, making the expenditure worthwhile, having already done a few comparison beers. Am still awaiting the chance to try a cask and keykeg beer side by side however...

There are still gripes, obviously. No pub is perfect. There seems a lack of bar staff at busy times, and certain products are disproportionately expensive. To their credit however, staff usually let you know if you are about to be asked to part with an obscene sum of money, which is only right.

The Saturday of the Steel City 666 Black IPA tasting I was in the Tap afterwards trying some Liverpool Organic Brewhouse beers. I tried a strong pale one, a little cloudy, called amnesia - not literally (although it could have been called Losenotes since I have, and now can't recall its name). This was not really a great example of their beers which was a shame, but the other two were really good.

The Kitty Wilkinson Chocolate and Vanilla Stout (4.5%, above middle) was brilliant, and I had started with a half of their refreshing Pale Ale. One of the things that's good about the Tap is that they quite often have a guest brewery and because of the number of pumps available, if for some reason you don't rate their output you can always have one of the other guests. They also have some beer samples poured to show you the colour, and if this is still not enough info then you can always ask for a taster.
This was a great opportunity to try a selection - and there was one of their beers on this Saturday as well. Yesterday, indeed, was Buxton Brewery day. I tried halves of their Best Bitter, 3.9% and stout 4.3%. These two came to £3.45, which is steep, but both were excellent examples of their style. The Bitter was a hoppy and refreshing beer whilst managing to be complex and robust, all crammed into a fairly low alcohol brew. The Stout was traditional with lots of roast malt bitterness, a little bit like Titanic Stout, and was probably the beer of the week for me.

I also tried halves of Pennine Amber Necker and Bristol Beer Company Sunshine. These two were more reasonable at £2.85 for the two halves. I didn't get on with the Bristol, it had a strange malty sweetness which was neither to my taste or what I would expect from a summer beer - too "sticky", if that even makes sense, to quench the thirst. The Pennine on the other hand was an aptly named beer which didn't hang around long, with a very dry bitterness that made it stand out, but ultimately, very quaffable.

My final pairing was a Camden Pale, and a Stone IPA (6.9%) on keykeg which came to a fiver. The Stone was intensely bitter, possibly using Simcoe (which I understand is BrewDog's signature bite, rather than Nelson Sauvin?) followed by a yeasty Belgian sweet malt. This was a very good example of its style, a strong Belgian inspired American IPA, but it was too heavy to be enjoyable, and I was pained to leave some in the glass. The Camden was quite light and didn't really benefit from being cold - I would have loved to have tasted it in cask, assuming it was available in cask, before Camden announced they were concentrating on keg in 2012. One feature that I did like was its bite - for such a light refreshing beer it had this pleasant hoppy sting at the back of the throat, which despite my choice of words, was actually quite nice, and an impressive flavour.

All too soon I had to go - which brings me to my final eulogistic point - as with many old bars (or old recreated bars, am still not sure) there is a carriage clock built into the fitting. The difference with the one at the Sheffield Tap is - it works.

A clock used for telling the time - what will these innovative brainiacs think of next?

Wee Beefy

A Premier Cru bottled beer


    the title, you will be relieved to discover, is not a reference to some dreadful over-concept "craft"(?) bottled beer made with wine, instead, its simply a wine term used to afford compliment to an excellent British bottled beer, from an excellent local brewery.

Brampton Brewery in Chesterfield produce a regular range of really very good beers. Impy dark is a classic, and a personal favourite of mine, and the Stout and session bitter "Best" are worthy features in a commendable portfolio. Interestingly though, it seems like they haven't branched out much into stronger beers yet, or at least, not until the end of last year.

Winter Bock

When I went to buy my Christmas beers from Archer Road Beer Stop, Davefromtshop told me that, despite its rather exclusive price tag, Brampton Winter Bock was one of the best beers he'd tried for a long time. Curiously, seeing its tempting livery of mucky white and black in a flip top 750ml bottle I assumed it was really strong. I was actually a little disappointed to discover that it was "only" 6%, so accustomed had I become to stouts being of imperial strength when packaged so well. Dave reassured me that despite its strength, it was still a brilliant beer. And then, I was bought one for Christmas.

I was going to patiently store it until my birthday in June but caved in last night and offered to share it with Chala - after all, at the sharp end of a refreshing night, the last thing you want is to munch your way through a wine bottle sized slab of beer, no matter how delicious it is. As it turned out, it was so good that I could  easily have sunk the lot on my own. A good job then that it wasn't a gorilla baffler.

I should confess now that I didn't make notes. I couldn't be arsed to be quite honest! I didn't want to impinge on the event by thinking carefully about what flavours I could pick out, so here are some rambling vaguely useful notes about this wonderful bottled beer that I have managed to more or less remember.

Brampton Winter Bock is 6.0%, numbered 063 from a limited edition of am not sure how many and, possibly due to an identified degree of refreshment last night, I thought it was bottle conditioned, whereas the label makes no such claim. No spine chilling "CAMRA says this is real ale" vinegar portent to be seen. The label also proudly proclaims that its a barley wine. This is in fact, the only thing that I could find fault with - I think barley wine does it a disservice, since its much more drinkable and well balanced than most barley wine offerings. And really, at 6.0%, its too weak to be a barley wine. But I digress....

It pours a glorious black and smells straight away like a a Belgian Dubbel, but that is quickly knocked into touch by a familiar Brampton dark beer aroma. Aside from this, Brampton do three dark beers - Impy, Mild and Stout. I swear if you tried every one of them one after another you'd soon recognise that Brampton waft. Is it the yeast they use perhaps, or do they always prefer to use specific malts in their dark beers? I don't know, but why change something that works - if they continue to all have that appealing sweet and roast malt aroma I'll continue to enjoy drinking them.

The taste is the same as the aroma, in that there is a definite dark Belgian or possibly German, perhaps Andechs Dopplebock taste, giving way to a glorious blend of roast malts. This is a surprisingly refreshing drink for a strong beer - the label describes it as dangerously drinkable and I think that's spot on. There is some bitterness, it kind of appears with the malt in the second part of the taste, and lingers subtly in the background when you finish each mouthful.

The primary feature though is its lustrous creaminess, the sort of smooth palate caressing warm satisfaction that could never be achieved by filling beer with Nitrogen or other crap. Its smooth in a good way. And tremendously enjoyable.

Labouring under the illusion it was a BCA I actually poured it in to 4 glasses - a near full pint for me, a small measure for Chala who also loved it, another small measure leaving what I thought would be yeast in the bottom, and then a mug containing the last of the bottle contents. In the end this interesting but needless exercise served me very well as it drew out the drinking experience that little longer. Its just a shame that mild befuddlement means I am not 100% certain it wasn't bottle conditioned, and so will now have to buy another to find out - which depending on its limited edition numbers, will either be extremely expensive or impossible.

Overall this was an example of a recommendation deserved. It was fantastic. If you find one buy it; if you own one, drink it.


Wee Beefy

Thursday, 19 April 2012

Sounds good to me?


    I was reading Tandleman's post about background music in pubs yesterday here and it reminded me of quite a few pub music experiences, not all of them good. So as not to post the longest ever comment I thought I'd paint a few aural pictures for you ont blog instead.

Springfield, not Illinois

On Broomspring Lane in Sheffield, surprisingly near my first pre eighteen drinking haunt the West End, was a small traditional Kimberley pub called the Springfield Tavern. Strangely empty at times you'd expect it to heave, this was a proper locals pub with pool and darts on the left and, well, erm, I can't really say, as I only ever went to the bar, and then in the room on the left.

This is because the left hand side housed the pool table, the jukebox, and was the perfect space to fit in a gaggle of (now mostly not underage) teenage drinkers who had fallen out with the West End. We didn't really mingle, we had nothing to share and likely very little to convey other than our involved and over emotional trauma's and stories of gigs played by obscure bands that we had been to or could never hope to afford to attend. We looked alien in this environment. We may as well have spoken alien, and we probably smelled like aliens. Were there a less suitable hostelry to essentially "adopt" as our new home, I can't really imagine what it would be in that area. Except maybe the Hanover.

Anyhoo, the Springfield no doubt got on with its business quite happily for the hours following and preceding 8 til 11PM on a Friday, but in that short window of opportunity, normal service was disrupted by a skulking dishevelled mass that would appear and divide the pub into two strictly delineated halves. And we had the jukebox.

Of course, having something that offers you precisely nothing that you want is no prize I can assure you. Whether by accident or design the Springfield had managed to assemble a bank of musical archaeology that was too old to be ironic, or too recent mainstream to be tolerable. We had the desire to stamp our sandalwood and death metal (odd combo I know) footprint on the pub though, and plans to oust us using poor music choice were to  backfire.

Every Friday night for about a year, we played just two tracks. Manic Street Preachers "Suicide is Painless" (Theme from M.A.S.H), and Iron Lion Zion by Ziggy Marley. Two opposites of style and taste, not particularly to anyone's liking, but better than the reams of Jim Reeves and Neil Diamond which seemed to be the only other choices. We were happy in our group, eking out minute quantities of alcohol and clubbing small change together to get drinks for those who were in danger of being asked to leave for not having a drink, and steadfastly never using the pool table (we needed the change for the jukebox see).

In the end this protracted war of music ownership fizzled out as we moved on to pastures new and the group slowly grew apart. No doubt throughout that time the same regulars continued to take their usual seats at the bar and round the tables to the right, and afterwards raised a toast to a Friday night without reggae or film theme rock. Hopefully, but not necessarily, they enjoyed the warm irony of a song about suicide played so frequently that you wanted to take your own life.

Sadly I read on the Internet where everything is true, that the pub had cosed down and been converted into flats. Ironically, flats probably built to house the students who swarming around the nearby streets must have stared down Broomspring Lane from Glossop Road, and spotted, without I suspect ever venturing into, the Springfield Tavern.

 Washington, neither in Washington State nor Tyne and Wear

In a time long long ago the Washington on Wellington Street used to open during the day. It was certainly always open around 5 or 6 o clock when I left work. As such it was, as well as one of my favourite dinnertime haunts, being so close to Charter Row, also one of my favourite meeting places for a night out. One night in the cold early months of the year I was meeting Rox for a few beers.

Rox was always late. It was just how the passage of time worked when our lives overlapped. So I was keen not to get there early, but I have this innate fear that I will be late on the only occasion when someone has gone to the trouble, (quite significant trouble it would be in this case) to arrive on time. So I strode in at 17.25 to meet her at 17.30. In reality I expected her for 18.00, and got myself a pint of disconcertingly nice yellow Moonshine.

One of the reasons I think the Washy started closing in the afternoon was painfully obvious as I sat supping my pint. The lass behind the bar had her I-Pod on, so bored was she with the lack of bar action, and I was the only one in until five minutes before I expected my drinking partner to arrive, when, as if to mock me, a procession of single visitors arrived, noisily letting the door close behind them to prick my interest, only to congregate one by one into a joyous throng.

Even if you mentioned to people that you intended meeting them at the Washy at something like 6 o clock they refused to believe it would be open, so there was no chance this would ever catch on. That evening, one of the last times I remember it opening in the late afternoon, it seemed a fitting dirge would be played to signal the demise of its frivolous all day opening.

Prior to the commotion I was trying hard to not pay attention to the music. The Washington has a good reputation in this respect, but usually when its blasting out at full volume sometime around 2 in the morning. At this time, all I could hear were the dulcet, depressing and wearyingly uninspiring tones of Dido.

In the room on the right it was moodily lit, and cold. It was raining outside, and the scene I found myself in was like a rubbish but very long music video featuring a lonely man drinking by himself, amidst a miasma of mounting unhappiness. Most of my pint (which I was trying to drink slowly) and three tracks in I couldn't cope anymore. I sprang from my seat and went to the bar to implore the lass to change the music.

Having explained that the music choice was forcing me to perform an unpaid role in a maudlin backlit advert for being stood up, she flicked a switch and a new track came on. It was quite upbeat, it seemed far less morose, and so I sat back down a little happier. Alas, this was just the end of one album. The last track. Next, it was Portishead.

Now I like Portishead, but this was becoming a bad joke. I seemed to have somehow teased the most depressing music available out of the Washington's collection and was now worrying that my mood would start reflecting the music and vice versa. When I explained my predicament the lass behind the bar laughed in a kind of half sympathetic half mocking way and put on something so jangly jolly and non descript that I almost laughed back, then sat down with my pint once again to await the arrival, at 18.20, of Rox.

It seems that the background music plays an important role in pubs, whether you want it on at all or not. If you are running a pub, whether or not the pub is busy or empty, you've got to think about the mood you wish to convey - and that applies to the horrors that may lurk in your jukebox.

If only they'd had a copy of "Tired of Waiting" by No Meanz No to play in the Washy that night....

Wee Beefy

A young man's favourite beers part 2


    here is the second part of my top 20 Desert Island beers from 1996, when I was nobbut babby. Choices eleven through twenty should hopefully throw up as many points as the first ten...

11. Jolly Boat Bideford Plunderer, Fat Cat, Sheffield, July 1995 - "it was dark, it was sweet(ish) and it was BIG. And I loved it"

12. Kelham Island Fat Cat Pale Ale, Derby Tup, Chesterfield, March 1995 - "the ideal accompaniment to a heart meal - at the Fat Cat or Derby Tup for example"

13. Mill Brewery St Patrick's Ale, Cask and Cutler, Sheffield, March 1995 - "the best St Patrick's day beer I tried, and the best stout I had for ages after"

14. Ridleys Winter Ale, Small Beer Off License, Sheffield December 1994 (consumed elsewhere!) - "one of three amazing beers I had from Small Beer in December, this wins by a whisker because it was so many beers rolled into one"

15. Titanic Stout, Tap and Spile, Sheffield June 1995 - "I was in need of a thick, robust and huge tasting dark beer"

16. Tomlinsons Richard's Defeat Porter, The Beer Exchange, Leeds, December 1994 - "I only had it a few times, and picking out a favourite time was difficult, but this was the time I probably enjoyed it most"

17. Townes Pynot Porter, The Dore Junction, Sheffield, September 1994 - "this is what made me take notice of Townes, and carrying on with the undoubted quality of this porter, they've never brewed a bad beer since"

18. Vaux Extra Special, The Grouse Inn, Longshaw, Derbyshire, October 1995 - "It was really easy to drink for a beer of that strength, and had a brilliant fruity aftertaste - I can't wait to try it again"

19. Whim Hartington bitter, Cask and Cutler, Sheffield, September 1995 - "whats best is, it tastes bloody wonderful every time. My favourite bitter."

20. Woodfordes Stout Cat, The Fat Cat, Sheffield, August 1995 - "I was a bit broke, but still opted for three pints of this inbetween sampling the other beers"

So that's it. A twenty three year old real ale drinker appraises the best of the scene between 1993 and 1995. And thank god I recorded the venues as well - I can even remember who I was with at the time on some of the occasions described (at my age!)

Once again there are some defunct pubs, like the Dore Junction, the Tap and Spile (in so far as its changed name, hands, and doesn't sell real ale) and the Beer Exchange in Leeds closed pubs entry here , as well as some rather odd flavour characteristics ticking my boxes - sweet? Am I sure this was me?

Mind you, there are a large number of dark beers in there. And across the list, there are some national brewers beers, like Vaux, and the Allsopps recreation in list one was brewed at Tetley Walker I think. The fact that I seemed to drink and find my favourite beers in the Fat Cat and Cask and Cutler almost exclusively is telling, because at that stage the Valley of Beer didn't exist.

And, once again, there are some beers that I still rate - Hartington Bitter, Titanic Stout, Townes Pynot Porter (assuming they still brew it, can't access their website properly in my browser), and the Derby Tup and Small Beer, now the Archer Road Beer Stop, still appear in the GBG.  Its nice to see some consistency over the last three decades.

The final point is, how many of these beers were very hoppy?

Almost none! Only Whim's beer had any prominent hops, and there was almost no mention of the pale citrussy beers we see today. So from that you could draw the conclusion that in the early nineties, (given that I was able to write the list having tried a plethora of different beers from across the UK) regional and national beers were perhaps more popular, and the micro brewers made more "traditional" ales. I don't remember tasting really hoppy beers until Freeminer Trafalgar IPA appeared in bottles along with Burton Bridge Empire Pale Ale, both of which I bought lots of between 2000 and 2003.

Perhaps I need to do a new Top Twenty in 2012 and see how my tastes and the microbrewing world's tastes have changed.

Wee Beefy

Wednesday, 18 April 2012

A young man's favourite beer

Hello again,

    I am distinctly off colour today, and despite the prospect of going to see Stewart Lee on Friday cheering me up, I am looking forward to spending tomorrow Saturday and well, most of the rest of the month's nights indoors. This is quite unusual for me these days, because I normally like to get out twice a week at least. If am not on a "beer quest" I am enjoying a fine wine with Chala, so am well watered most nights, but this never used to be the case. I used to stay in more, and, before the magic of blogging, I used to write things, on paper, using a pen, and everything.

Some younger readers may find this an alien concept, but I used to find any scraps of paper I could to jot down ideas, song lyrics, track listings, and record all the beers I tried (yep, in the days before it became "material" or "research" this was called beer scoring, for which I sincerely apologise). I also often recorded details of the pubs I had visited, more often those that I wanted to visit, indeed during the prolific nineties I probably only managed to keep myself sane by writing this stuff.

Better than a Top Ten...

Where I am seemingly never getting to is this - I wrote  a list of Desert Island beers. Not a top ten, no that was passe, I wrote a top twenty. Mind you, looking back, it seems possible that it would have been a twenty five or thirty had I been able to find some more paper. I wrote it some time in 1996, so this was a list from someone who had been drinking real ale regularly for probably only three years. And I was barely past childhood -  I wrote the list aged just twenty three. Imagine! I probably wore faded grey clothes that I wished were still black, ginormous framed glasses which no-one had the heart to tell me looked ridiculous, and weighed ten stone. Even I can't imagine that...

Better still, I found that list tonight. Here it is, not written out verbatim because each beer comes with a lengthy description, but I shall provide the name, place tried and one quoted line of prose. Please note that the order of the beers confers no preference - I really didn't have a favourite.

1. Samuel Allsops Traditional English Stout (also called dry stout), White Lion, Heeley, Sheffield April/May 1995 - "gorgeous, totally refreshing, if a little overpriced"

2. Arkells Kingsdown, Fat Cat, Sheffield, July 1995 - "I can't describe the taste, but I must say - butterscotch"

3. Bathams Best Bitter, Great Western, Wolverhampton, June 1995 - "the sort of bitter you can drink in Winter (I suspect) or Summer, beautiful"

4. Cannon Royall Millwards Cannon Mild, Cask and Cutler, Sheffield, May 1994 - " the best mild I've ever had and the only beer I ordered another pint of that night"

5. Church End What the Fox Hat, Fountain Real Ale Bar, Gornal, West Midlands, June 1995 - "it was wonderful, as was the atmosphere, as was the barmaid. There was a beer festival on at the time, and in the corner of the tiny bar a band belted out covers of the Pogues"

6. Devenish Regal Ale (1977) at home, July 1995 - "It had a taste and smell I'll never forget, like the Kingsdown it was butterscotch"

7. Enville Gothic, Fat Cat, Sheffield, July 1995 -  "it was beautiful, not only that night, but every night I've drunk it since"

8. Federation Best Bitter, Miners Arms, Acomb nr Hexham, June 1993 - "the last pint I'd had before this was a unnaturally cold Newcastle Exhibition, and this just hit all the right spots"

9. Hexhamshire Shire Bitter, Yellow Lion, Apperknowle, Derbyshire, June 1994 - "it was low in alcohol and easy to drink, but it had a beautifully strong flavour for a beer of that strength"

10. Sarah Hughes Dark Ruby Mild, Beacon Hotel, Sedgely, West Midlands, February 1995 - "this is a wonderful beer, and the Beacon Hotel provides the ideal surroundings"

I'm going to leave the other ten until my next post, because this is a lot of information to take in (and to write out!).

A few things strike me about this - firstly, that the Yellow Lion was demolished years ago, but that the Miners and Great Western are still in the GBG (2011). Secondly, that I keep using the word beautiful, which is really not a word I use very often to describe beer (or at all) nowadays; perhaps this was a romantic phase of my life.

Also, my appreciation of Federation !?!, which quickly turned into one of the most dreadful real ales in the UK, in fact am not even sure it is still available as a real ale. The fact that virtually all these beers were tried after I had got my first job, and finally, that price was an issue then - the Sarah Hughes was £1.55 in the Beacon in early 1995, and £2.15 at the Yellow Lion the same year, according to the notes. I was most displeased...

Somethings of course, never change - I still love Bathams Bitter, Enville Gothic, Sarah Hughes Dark Ruby Mild, and Hexhamshire Shire Bitter.

I can't escape my black malty beer past it seems...

Wee Beefy

Monday, 16 April 2012

Range Lust


     Range Lust - (Colloquial; Et: Bloggers, Eng.) - the desire by publicans and drinkers alike to see ever increasing numbers of beers in pubs irrespective of consumer demand or beer quality.

Above is a definition that despite its professional looking template does not in fact come from the dictionary. I'm sure that if enough printed media types started referencing it there may eventually be a begrudging reference in the OED and some exploration of what it actually means, but for now I'll attempt to provide an example of how range lust presents itself...

I visited a pub in the North East last year, which made several boasts about its extensive beer range. There were probably 16 handpumps all in use - on a Tuesday lunch. Christ, I thought, they must have some throughput, yet there weren't many punters in to keep the ale flowing, with inevitable consequences.

Me and Wee Fatha tasted 6 beers before we found one that was palatable. In the end, of the three tried halves we bought and the two we recklessly purchased untried, only two ended up being good throughout the drink. Of the others, two were OK, and one was tired and about to be taken off (hopefully). Really they could have just had 4 beers on and we could have chosen a pint each of one of the two decent ales.

The above may seem like a good example of range lust, if not its epitome. It may also seem like it isn't a major issue, given that few pubs even have that much bar space. Except, there's another manifestation of this problem.

When new isn't new enough

There are now, using childish exaggerations, 147 million different breweries in the UK, producing an average of 20 beers each, meaning that there are approximately 3 billion different brews available in the UK at any one time! This is brilliant of course, (not least because I made it up) since it means that all styles imaginable are covered (and some you perhaps can't imagine) and generally, the huge diversity of breweries affords free houses the opportunity to stock an astonishing array of beers.

This sounds like a familiar rallying cry. And yet the above uUtopian beerscape is precisely the problem.

Recently I found myself becoming very picky about the breweries who's beers I was interested in drinking. More than that, I was regularly finding myself faced with banks of new breweries beers that seemed to be on sale for no reason other than their embryonic status. And worst of all, I found that I had no faith in the likelihood that any of these new breweries would deliver.

As a result, I have regularly eschewed the pleasures of numerous CAMRA vaunted real ale oases with hundreds of years GBG inclusion between them, to go to Dada, The Sheffield Tap, Shakespeares, and The Rutland Arms. All of them sell new brewery beers, of course, but they tend to be good ones, even those I've not heard of, and crucially the newer beers are supplementing established, quality beers.

Granted, these aren't the only pubs I've been to recently by any means, and they aren't the only places I've enjoyed visiting. However, they have consistently provided beers from breweries that I trust and who's beers I enjoy. They have also, excepting the small (but by no means bad) range at Dada, managed to offer a large range of well kept and interesting beers, and crucially most of my absolute favourite pints this year.

Why this matters is because I believe that the sheer mass of available brews in the UK is the reason why I find all too many new and often deservedly rare beers from brewers guilty of running before they can walk - lets face it, some pubs seem obsessed with selling only the newest beers over reliable favourites, often from breweries who only welded the last pipe to the fermenting tank the weekend before. 

That so many pubs seem to favour this beer selection policy shows that "range lust" is not just about numbers of pumps. Its about the clamour to sell (or taste) a beer before anyone else.

The problem is, this market force then creates its own momentum - so many pubs striving to always have the newest or the highest number of different beers on (perhaps to sate the desires of tickers, or scoopers, or chronic(a)lers, or whatever they are called) drives the unchecked and unsustainable expansion seen in microbrewing, whilst creating a demand for beers from frankly average or crap breweries.

Essentially, pubs want newer beers, newer beers means newer breweries, newer breweries means....more newer beers, and  in my experience, less good quality beers. If pubs are desperate to sell new or rare average beers, then (some) breweries will oblige, to the point where in the end, the benefit of extensive beer ranges becomes its very antithesis.  It seems the more beers there are, the less of them you want to taste.

 I am not suggesting that there should only be established breweries on the bar, but a better mix of established, reliable and quality new brewers represented equally. Seeing overly familiar tat like Greedy King IPA makes me sigh, but seeing their XX Mild, next to Fullers ESB, Jaipur and Brodies Citra would be far better than some of the nonsensically named homebrew that makes up the majority of beers in some real ale pub's range.

No-one wants there to be no outlets for smaller more groundbreaking breweries, but ultimately, less range lust will cut off the air supply to the more rubbish beer producers and improve the beer drinking experience for everyone.

Avoid lust at all costs!

Wee Beefy

Sunday, 15 April 2012

Did I see you with IBU?


    earlier on today I was able to taste a very special beer indeed. Its made with ingredients, including all those that you would expect to see, then put in casks, sent to a public house, and proceeds from there through beer lines using a pump and out into a pint glass.

Luckily, it managed to be a little more interesting than that....

DCLXV1 (nice catchy name lads!) was brewed by Steel City Brewing, beers they brew, here of using hops fame, and Arbor Ales, who are from Bristol and everything. Its 6.66% and 666IBU. Now, I'm no biochemist (or even a brewer) but I am led to believe that the above International Bitterness Units measurement makes this a very very hoppy beer indeed. And as if to reiterate that, I could smell the hops when the pint was put on the bar in front of me. Wow.

By way of comparison, BrewDog Hardcore IPA has an IBU of 150 (but Punk IPA apparently only 40?) so if you ever tried Hardcore and pulled a lime, salt and tequila face you might expect this Steel City beer to kill your tastebuds. Except it doesn't.

Its a Black IPA in style, granted, and they can often have masses of harsh dry bitter hops in the initial taste, and some Black IPA's, regrettably, fail to balance this out with the malts used and the way this leads through that malt to the aftertaste. This beer, on the other hand, achieves that perfect balance (considering the amount of hops such as Sorachi Ace and Simcoe used) of astringent hop, quickly followed by creamy malt and ushers a mixture of both into the finish, with hoppy flavours lingering long in the mouth.

This may be the best beer I have tried from Steel City Brewing. And its perhaps because the level of threatened bitterness, whilst am sure is there, is incorporated so successfully into the overall flavour. One wonders if perhaps it was the collaboration with Arbor that made the beer so much more balanced? Not for a minute wanting to take anything away from Steel City, but weirdly, I found the hoppiness in this beer nicer and easier on the palate than that in both the Black Hops and the Dark Funeral.....

In fact, the most terrifying or perhaps equally the most impressive thing about this beer was its excellent drinkability. Granted I only had one pint (it was 2 in the afternoon, am not mental) but had I been in for a longer session I reckon I could have put away three quite easily.

Finally, its not clear how much of this will be available and for how long so if you fancy a taste I suggest you get down to the Rutland Arms on Brown Street and get some.

Now to wait for the desperately silly Mikkeller 1000IBU beer, which I understand is served in lead lined tankards....

Wee Beefy   

Saturday, 14 April 2012

How much is too much?


     I have seen quite a lot of coverage on beer blogs about the cost of stuff. Beer stuff, obviously. Boak and Bailey posted about it, and judging by the venue and product choices of many bloggers it seems theres more blog folks that will pay whatever is asked than there is who'll question or decline.

Personally am not keen on paying over the odds, and I suppose our old friend expectation comes into that. Also, having worked in the off trade (albeit before HSBD) I do have some understanding of costs, and often consider that what I'm being asked to pay is unreasonable.

Recently I have been to many establishments that have made me think about the point at which something is just too expensive, and how much people would be willing to pay and why. Here are a few examples :

A low gravity 500ml bottle in a shop, costing £4.00. (Its very rare, in that its possibly the only time the brewery have ever done a 500ml bottle, or sold them outside of their pub estate.)

A pint of aged beer in a pub retailing at £9.00 a pint. (The beer was aged for quite some time and was potentially only available on draught at a small number of venues. Its just as expensive in a bottle.)

A 500ml bottle of beer from a local brewery selling in a bar for about £6.00. (The bottles are hard to come by I understand.)

A pint of lower gravity beer (about 3.5%) sold in a pub as a guest for the same price as a 5.0% beer. (Its unusual to see the beer in the area.)

The first three examples are specific, the last one is more a general annoyance that you get in pubs.

Please note, there is no evidence that the above retailers aren't selling this stock. So why are people willing to pay so much for it? I have tried to suggest the reason I think the retailer is charging the stated price, because I'm interested to know what factors might make someone part with their cash for something that is more expensive either than you'd expect, or that you would consider acceptable.

If I'm buying beer, here are a few considerations that I may undertake :

Is it being sold at the going rate.
If its not, does it seem like there might be reasons why not.
Is it something I've always wanted to try, and if so does that justify buying it if the first two criteria aren't met
Will I get chance to buy it again
Is it limited edition (most likely with bottled conditioned ales, and Christ, that's a whole other can of worms)
If it meets none of the above criteria, but I am convinced it will be nice, shall I treat myself.*

Do you have similar considerations? For instance, is the rarity or otherwise unattainability of a product reason to pay more than you would normally? Or indeed, is cost an issue for you at all when buying something as relatively cheap as beer?

Wee Beefy

*I am not holding up the queue at the bar having this internal dialogue. Having a good idea of price and which beers I have tried/breweries I like means that probably only one or two of these considerations apply at any one time. These are a broad representation of what I might consider when buying ale. Which is perhaps for the best. 

Friday, 13 April 2012

A pub crawl of new (to some) pubs in Sheffield, Part 2

Hello again,

     here are the rest of the details of my pub crawl in shiny Sheffield. Note I didn't say sunny Sheffield. Not even ironically. As some of the pictures may identify, it was a very wet evening for going out walking between pubs....

The Hop

The idea was to take Davefromtshop to some pubs he hadn't been in before, at least not in their current guise. In all honesty, there wasn't actually enough time to do all of those that would qualify, perhaps a sign of the burgeoning number of pubs dabbling in the finer end of the beer sector. So, having been home for some important food I was actually back out and at the Hop early - Dave, on the other hand, had been there ten minutes already, and had enjoyed a half of the Goose Eye thimgymabob. I didn't have room to write down his beers until later you see.

Anyhoo, . I was once again feeling a little peculiar so had an orange juice. Dave decided to try a half of the Banks and Taylor's beer, which definitely had a name. Dave, if you're reading this, do let me know what it was...

We sat in the area normally reserved for bands looking at the increasingly dreadful wet weather outside, and I was telling myself that if I didn't feel any better after my first beer this was going to be the world's shortest pub crawl. As it turned out I realised I'd gone hypo, so we decided to set off for a shop.

Great Gatsby

This radical departure threatened to upset my carefully planned route and take up time with unlegislated errands, since we hadn't spotted anywhere to buy sugary items of any kind on West Street. Before getting to Tesco I took us down onto Devonshire Street, into the shop there and then on to our next pub, the Great Gatsby.

There were two beers on, Kelham Easy Rider and Thornbridge Sequoia. I think its interesting that this has become such a popular beer in pubs that never used to sell real ale. Usually, the transition to selling a decent pint is done subtly and seamlessly by introducing a lager type ale such as an Abbeydale beer or Farmers Blonde. Lately though, pubs seem to have been jumping at the chance to stock Sequoia, a very enjoyable dark reddish brown malty beer with resinous notes and a heavy mouthfeel. This is a very good beer of its type but its hardly a bridge between lager and Ale.

Still, looking on the bright side, many of the pubs adopting this as a regular continue to serve real ales so its got to be good. And me and Dave felt we should give it our seal of approval by having a half each (since early on we were sticking to halves to pace ourselves). As hoped, the beer was just as described above, with the malt prominent in the taste. Outside, a lake sized puddle was worrying pedestrians and drivers alike as it continued hammering it down. The Gatsby was warm and lively, a perfect antidote to the grey despair outside.

Oh, Behave

Next we went back to West Street and into the Beehive. Except for a visit with me to the Foundry and Firkin in the late nineties, the last visit Dave had made here was when it was still the Beehive. I am guessing that may have been 1992, or earlier still. In fairness, not much has changed apart from the incorporation of the adjoining building, and the beer prices now aren't likely much off what you'd have paid in its Tetley owned days. Or are they?

I say this because, having arrived at the bar, and noted that every pump has a price on the front (£1.99) plus a blackboard proclaiming all ales £1.99, we expected to be paying that for our two halves of Beehive bitter, brewed by Blue Bee. The barman started to say something then changed his mind and pulled our beers. He then said that what he'd intended to advise us was it was actually £2.40 a pint if you bought it in halves because it was only £1.99 a pint.

This throws up a few interesting issues. Firstly, its hardly an incentive to drink sensibly if all beers are the same price regardless of strength (and that's not a complaint!) but buying only half a beer costs you more. Also, saying that beer is £1.99 a pint but not mentioning half pint measure prices is cheeky. If you can find space to advertise the pint price (especially on a blackboard) you can find space to be honest about the price of a half, especially if it turns out that relying on the barstaff to inform you (and they should still be advising that prior to pulling your beer even if the half price is advertised) isn't working.

However, looking at this rationally, an advertisement stating that real ale is £1.99 a pint is semantically correct. I like that. Also, since when was £2.40 an expensive pint in town? It was that price in there two weeks ago. My advice would be to be more honest, but I shalln't lose any sleep over it.

Me and Dave retired to a comfy spot to update our beer lists, catch up on texts and plan the route. The Beehive bitter may be a unique beer am not sure, but its incredibly similar to their Bees Knees if not. Mind you, given that we expected to see Blue Bee in the Gatsby it was nice to get what we were after.

The 1854

Round the corner next to Harrisons1854 in a brightly wet dusk, and I was greeted by people aware of my slip of foot foolishness from the night before. I usually ask Barraharri for a recommendation re what real ale has been selling best, but having enjoyed the Blonde Wednesday I ordered two pints of that, having agreed with Dave to break our halves rule. Having asked him to find a seat I was then having a brief chat with Barraharri and Bob when Dave came to ask if I'd tried the beer - one sniff worried me, and it tasted grim.

Basically, Bob was in the process of finding out if the new (old) beer he had (re)connected was any good. Unfortunately that process was unfinished (started?) and we had been the guinea pigs for the plan. The beer was off, so we plumped for Moonshine instead. Dave remarked that it didn't taste of Moonshine, and I thought it tasted unusual, but it was OK. Bob then brought us over a free half each of a new barrel of Blonde.

This was a kind gesture but we were both still in half mode really so not all the beer was drunk. The Moonshine however improved slightly as it went down, and the Blonde tasted OK to me, so in the end we had an enjoyable catch up in here and a good rest before setting off again in the dry (then immediately the wet!)


I took Dave the quick way to Dada as a seasoned traveller of the route, and when we got in, after first being virtually knocked out by the heat, we noted that the beer range was par excellence. Thornbridge Wild Swan and Harry Noir, Magic Rock Rapture and Black Arts. Admittedly, my joy at spotting this did temporarily make me forget that I'd had it on Good Friday in the Tap, but nonetheless I was really pleased to see it. Dave got a half of the Wild Swan, and me the smoked meat darkness of Harry Noir and we repaired to the left hand room to devour them.

This was Dave's first visit to Dada (and possibly even Trippets?) although of course that is implicit in the post title, and it was also one of few occasions he'd had Wild Swan, and his first taste of Harry Noir. All too soon the camera was out and I was trying to capture our visit through a pint glass - as I always do (with varying levels of success).

Soon we were sharing a half of the two magic Rock beers - since both of us would otherwise probably have gone for Black Arts. This was a really good idea, since I remembered Dave had rated the Rapture on the brewery launch night (less than a year ago, it seems ages ago!) and I was impressed by how much hoppy bite it had, balanced out with the interesting array of malts used. Being old friends, it was easy to share by putting both halves on the Jaipur advert table top in front of us and helping ourselves at will. The Dark Arts, as perhaps goes without saying was excellent. In fact, I might even venture that it tasted better than at the Tap (sharp intake of breath). All in all a very enjoyable visit.

Henry the hungry beer monster

Next it was up the alleyway to West Street, down Carver Street, Back lane and out next to Cutlers then into Henry's. Here too someone had won a years supply of central heating and was intent on using most of it, and the whole place smelled very strongly pf smoked food, like someone was warming a pot of Harry Noir over some wood chips. On the bar were ten real ales and two ciders with plenty to catch the eye.

We started with a half each of White Horse Bitter for me and Maypole Wellow Gold for Dave. The White Horse was a refreshing malty bitter, admittedly perhaps better suited to being the first beer of the evening. The Wellow was a lighter refreshing beer that Dave said had a very distinct flavour of apples. I concur, Dave reckons this is perhaps a new hop variety giving the flavour since he's noticed it in quite a few beers lately - perhaps I was picking some up in Archangel on Wednesday?

Next up a half of Imperial Brewery Imperial Stout for me and a half of the Oldershaw Alchemy for Dave (£2.80). The stout was delicious, if a little less well balanced than prevoiusly, but, after a worrying pause, Dave declared the Oldershaw the best beer of the night so far. I tried it and there was a mass of flavours present from fruity bitterness to stronger warming flavours that came through one by one in a very large mouthfeel. This was a very enjoyable beer to round off our visit to Henry's.

Tap Speed

We were quickly down at our final destination, the Sheffield Tap. Dave and me have been in here loads of times, so at the risk of leeching credibility from my criterion, its best to confess that fact, and point out that the beer in the Tap is fab, and Dave doesn;t go in that often, so whay not?

Originally we had intended to have a pint of real ale each and then to finish with a half each of some of the keykeg, likely the Nogne. However, Dave really only had about 25 minutes before he needed to sprint for his bus, so whilst I got a pint of Marble Stout he went for halves of Thornbridge Pivni (3.2%), Marble Draft (3.9%,) and Peak Ales Summer Sovereign (4.0%)

We aimed to go in the rooms furthest from the bar but they were closed - I reckon they "shut them" near to closing time to make it easier to get people out. I have to say that the maniacal enthusiasm of their drinking up and closing time policy is admirable in its efficiency, but surprisingly and annoyingly rigorous in equal measure. Anyhoo, it wasn't too busy so we got sat down in the panelled room at the entrance and started trying the beer.

Thornbridge Pivni is their inexpensive session beer. Its 3.2% and tastes it. Perhaps the wheat malt in the beer means it doesn't really work, i.e its too light and lemony without having a bit of alcoholic (and balancing malt and hop) oomph in it. The Peak Ales, which Dave liked, was really most disappointing. Maybe it suffered form the Marble and Magic Rock assault from earlier, but even at 4% it was woefully lacking in body or flavour for me. I fully understand the draw of a lighter beer in Summer (whatever that is) but there has to be something to carry it off and this didn't seem to have it.

The Stout was just as good as earlier and the Marble Draft was a revelation. At 3.9% the same strength as Pint, but with much more assertive hop bite and a really nice malt flavour that complimented rather than defined the beer.

Alas Dave had to escape just before they called time, but not before we had agreed on our beers of the night - Magic Rock Dark Arts and Oldershaw Alchemy. Two brilliant examples of the brewers art purchased in two very different venues in Sheffield - a great place to drink beer!


Wee Beefy