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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!