Sunday, 1 April 2012

Summers here kids

Good afternoon,

    granted if you are reading this in 48 hours time any notion of Summer will seem absurd and long since passed, but it has been summer for the last week (except yesterday) so that's what we need to focus on.

As a result, I have been out every day since Wednesday socialising in licensed establishments. Its funny how a drop of sunshine changes our patterns of behaviour - I had actually already made an arrangement to meet up with Mr P on Thursday irrespective of meteorological considerations, and Friday was pay day, so it was the law that I had to go out, but in every establishment I rolled up in there seemed numerous people for whom the potential of a sultry after work pint was too much of a draw to resist.

This was perhaps most noticeable (and impressive) on Friday night when it quickly became apparent that the hot spell was coming to an end, yet over optimistic folks, myself included, were out in a t-shirt and short sleeved shirt, sat outside in near empty beer gardens determined to live the summer time dream, even though as soon as it passed 18.30 the temperature dropped like a stone....

Here are a few details of the ales, ale houses and alesmen I have encountered over the last 4 days.

Thursday - Riverside supping

I was to meet Mr P at our usual allotted time and venue, and we were going to the Harlequin for some well earned after work refreshments. Mr P announced that we were meeting up with Mr K, one of my former colleagues, which was certainly a rare occurrence. Alas the pub was rammed and had a 10 minute queue at the bar, so we made a surprise visit to the Riverside.

This was also busy but most people had gravitated outside - we managed to find a spot on a bench but had we wanted to sit in comfort inside there were choices available. From a range of 5 or 6 real ales Mr P chose the Brew Company Riverside Pale, which one assumes is a rebadge (but not necessarily!), and I had their Krakken, both of which were enjoyable refreshing ales, at a decent price as well. Here was the only place in the 4 day hot spell that we really got any sunshine, soaking up a watery white suns rays just clearing the flats across the river as we sat , appropriately enough, beside the river, at the Riverside.

I also had time here for a half of the Two Roses brewery Black Beauty Stout, a bitter creamy slab of black beer at 5.0% which whilst I was glad I had not started on, could easily have had a good session drinking it.

Gardeners Rest

Possibly only our 1st visit of 2012 Me and Mr P were so reckless as to go and sit outside near the river, giver that the evening afforded such clement climes. In reality, it was chuffing freezing, which meant we had a rather short stint outside during our visit. Here Mr P went pale (that would his beer choice not his appearance) and I had a very interesting pint of the Norton Priory Festivale. It was perhaps getting a little low in the barrel, but it was no less enjoyable, and a rare find in these parts I think.

Having given up being outside in the cold lapping up the balmy single figure temperatures we sat down near the Bar Billiards table and supped some more ale, well I did anyway - I tried the very enjoyable Sheffield Brewing Co IPA 11 (I am fairly certain this was eleven not two!) which was as hoppy and well rounded as I had hoped. I also tried the easy drinking dark roasty Wilson Potter Dark from the brewery of the same name, which was a tasty mild with bags of flavour to dispel any preconceptions about its magnitude. A good way to finish our visit to the Gardeners.

Ship Ahoy

For the sake of a talking point if nothing else we steered our passage to our last pub via the Ship on Shalesmoor, assuming it would be shut. However, our plans were delightfully scuppered when we found it open. On the bar were 3 real ales, once more heavily featuring Sheffield beers. Mr P went for the Abbeydale (possibly the deception) and I had a pint of the excellent Kelham Island Night Rider, which I had somehow contrived to think was a Black IPA - not sure where this idea came from, since reviews suggest this is basically a dark version of Pale Rider, which I think is about right. It was a drink to sip slowly whilst chatting to the landlord about Greedy King, pub ownership and weak beers - I get the feeling you'd be very unlikely to see anything below 4.0% on his bar any time soon.

Shakespeares Ale and Cider House

So to our last stop. I seem to have accidentally become resident at the Shakespeare. Whether by accident or the result of some other worldly karmic happenstance, I have found that I want to go there or are meeting people there quite a lot of late. Mind you, the range of beers helps.

We sat down in the left hand room, me with a half of Salamander squonk porter and Mr P with a half of the SWB Vanguard, which I later had a pint of. The porter (could have been a stout?!?) was a nice drink but the real star of the show was the vanguard. It had  a very specific well defined hop flavour which I couldn't put my finger on for the life of me. Try as I might I couldn't recognise it, and it seemed quite different to what I had been expecting, but the more I drank it the more I liked it. Another excellent offering from SWB.

Friday freshments

Shakespeares - again!

Yep, Friday was still officially summer so I went to the nearest pub likely to afford me somewhere to sit, and which had a beer garden. Unfortunately Shakespeares doesn't exactly catch the early spring sun so it was a breif sit down outside admiring the surroundings and drinking an excellent beer. I had spotted the Summer Wine Brewery Barista and remembered that it was a beast of a beer from earlier tastings. Regrettably this was my first beer of the night so I should have headed for a lower gravity less challenging beer but a  combination of SWB and espresso and hops was too good to miss. True to form the Barista, £2.80 a pint, was in fabulous condition and went down a treat.

The Blake

Off round the corner up the hill next to catch the 31a to Daniel Hill and walk up to the Blake. I haven't been in since Christmas and it seems after a rash of earlier visits about this time last year my patronage has dropped off somewhat.

I was meeting Mr Robbery around 18.00 and got there at just gone 5 past, to find, as is more or less guaranteed, no pork pies, and a range of excellent ales to tempt me (as always). I started with a hoppy pint of Pictish Newport (4.3%, £2.50 pint) which the barman suggested had hints of gooseberries in the hop flavours - and by jove, the man was right! Having said that he was bigging up the attributes of the Geeves beer as he finished pouring mine, which made me think I ought to have a go at that as well.

Mr Robbery duly arrived not long after I got sat down in the beer garden, which, also having missed the last of the Friday sunshine, was likewise freezing, in fact we stayed out only for about 5 minutes before scurrying in and getting ourselves a seat in the long left hand room. Here crisps were the order of the day (literally in the case of Mr Robbery who bought what could only be described as a sack of them) and I quickly headed back to the bar for a pint of the Geeves Fully Loaded IPA.

The barman assured me he had found only excellent ales form them which was a slightly different experience to mine - the first two of theirs I tried, albeit likely only a month or so after they opened, were pretty damn grim. But I had enjoyed their Tunnel Mouth at the Magna beer fest so was willing to take a punt. Luckily the barman was right, this was a lustrous full bodied hoppy but not too dry IPA with bags of flavour. I don't think I could have lasted long on a session of these though....

My final drink before departing was a half of the Beartown Kodiak Gold which had a lot more subtle malt flavour than I remembered, but was a pleasant easy drinking golden ale to finish.

Sheffield Tap

Off next to the bus station on the 31a, and then over to the Sheffield Tap. I knew it was going to be busy, but I desperately wanted to get in and be seduced once more by their beer range. I got served fairly quickly and waddled over to the room with the window facing the platform. Bag sticking out around my waist, two halves in hand, I was fairly uncertain that I was going to be able to squeeze my way past the bank of chairs and past the rickety little tables safely, so plumped to put both my halves on the table nearest me - for safety.

Unfortunately, having made this decision, I lost my balance whilst swinging my bag round and took one heavy footstep forward, and the impact of my boot on the table's spindly leg sent it rocking, and losing me one of my halves (completely smashed), and showering a random bloke who I was going to be sat next to, with ale and glass into the process. How absolutely tremendously chuffing brilliant.

I quickly got the attention of someone behind the bar and requested a mop and to be fair it was all cleared up very quickly, but I was now of course minus a half, which I had already paid a pretty penny for (ironically it was the most expensive half that I had relinquished). Back at the bar I spotted ale taster extraordinaire Brian on one of his many tasting expeditions, and having pointed out my intended brew to him I reordered a half of the Tempest Brewing smoked rye and Juniper ale (5.4% and £1.80 a half - hmmmm.). There were also three Lytham brewery offerings, two from Kirkstall and another Tempest beer to choose from.

Safely sat back down I drank my Lytham brewery Blonde, which was a 3.6% light golden ale which wasn't really up my street, if pleasant enough, and of course the aforementioned expensive smoked beer. This was a very uncompromising but an interesting mix of flavours, and like all good smoked ale, it tasted of salami or applewood smoked bacon, thus making it very nice indeed.

Rutland Arms

My last stop was the Rutland, as I wanted to find somewhere to sit down and update my notes and retain a steady hand. From a good range including a couple from Blue Bee, I opted for a half of the Arbor Ales Mild West. This was a really enjoyable almost unbelievably creamy mild with even more flavour than the Wilson Potter offering, but of course, it was short on hops, as it should be, being a "mild". I supped this in here with Brian and some of the other clan of the higher tickerati, before wending my way home for a rather tasty extra rare ribeye steak and cous cous for me tea.

Its Saturday  - its gotta be Shakespeares!

Yes, this was visit number 4 for the week, and still the beer range kept delivering the goods. I was in to see  a mates band,. the Hudares, playing upstairs. This gave me the opportunity to discover that the rather nice looking upstairs bar is open, albeit at present without any handpumps, so not a tremendous amount of help to me. I also got to listen to some good music with a modest but appreciative crowd, but also, (and with the greatest respect to my friend Mr H who's musical exploits I was there to witness) to try some truly excellent beer.

The Dark Star Coffee Pilsner was a revelation - all the bite of coffee (well, obviously), with a good bite of hop but also creamy Sussex and Munich lager malt (I think, also Italian coffee?) which made for a refreshing and enjoyable beer that I had about 5 pints of in the end. I did wonder, what with the prevalence of the lager malt, that the distinctive flavour that i was assuming was Dark Star's favoured Sussex malt might not in fact have been their strain of yeast? Whatever it is you can detect it in all of their beers.

The lager malt gave it more quaffability than an ale of the same strength and with the same amount of bitter coffee flavours, and it was essentially very moreish. I did briefly divert to a Revolutions Brewery Devolution, which I can now confirm is not what I had at the University Arms or Fat Cat last month - because it had such a strong incongruous flavour that I would definitely have remembered having had it before.

I stayed in Shakespeares with friends until gone midnight, and at some point, in a reckless moment of unguarded refreshment, I gave away my "secret" online identity to the bar staff. Obviously, if you are reading this bar staff, then, erm, it wasn't me. Nope. That was someone else who obviously mis-remembered their own blog name....

Silly bloggers

So all in all this last week has proven to be a very refreshing exercise with some excellent pubs and truly outstanding beer.

Which was nice....

Wee Beefy

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