I have been off work this week and have maturely and sensibly used my free time to get important jobs done, make the house spotless, tend to the garden, and, well, go to the pub. Quite a bit. Here's some details of my Wednesday waterings...
I was off to meet Wee Keefy and Jambon int Blake and decided to go via the Hallamshire House at Commonside. Since I have a pass all the way to Crookes I got off just past the recently reopened Grindstone. I haven't been in this century I think, my Crookes drinking seemed to have been in the Ball, Cobden, Prinny or (RIP) the Old Heavygate. So I thought I'd pop in for a half.
On entering it seemed a bit spruced up but essentially the same. The pub has always had quite a modern interior layout, and I didn't stop to check if the upper level back room was still the snooker room like it was on the day I got my A-Level results (I was 19, law fans!). Remembering that this was the first and only pub I ever drank Wards Kirby on draught in, and the first I ever picked up a copy of Beer Matters (which I still have, from 1993) in, I was hoping to have a pleasant trip back down memory lane, with some great beer.
On the bar were 4 handpumps, with one disheartening Greedy King IPA clip facing me and the other three turned round, making a defencive wall of disappointment. "Ay up" I said, swiftly followed by "Oh dear". I quickly scanned the bar for more pumps. "Is there only the IPA on?" I asked, out of a desire to buy time to mute my disappointment. The barman was unsure and told me something about a new set of something in the cellar; I said it was OK, not to worry, but he insisted on talking to the manager(?), which was very kind but probably not necessary, and came back to confirm what I really already knew - it were IPA only.
I asked him what I missed and found Brains Milkwood, Nottingham Legend and another, and jokingly asked what day was best to visit for real ale. The barman apologised again and insisted any day but today would be fine, that the beers in fact had not yet settled, and was so eager to assuage my assumed dissatisfaction that I felt sorry for him and said "Its OK, I really don't mind, I'll just come back another time - me and IPA don't get on thats all". Looks like the staff are friendly and certainly eager to help, so perhaps when the full range is available this will be a good place for a pint.
Off down School Road next to the Hallamshire House, a pub so grey and depressing in its appearance that even though it was overcast, I swear I took a completely grey picture on my phone camera. Inside there were about 7 Thornbridge beers on offer, including their new beer flavoured with cucumber. I was very sceptical that I would enjoy this, not least because I am not a big fan of the cumber. The barman's description of a pale refreshing beer that has " a whole cucumber added to each barrel" really didn't help but I gamely tried a sample. It tasted of beer and cucumber. I couldn't really complain that it had confounded my expectations, but in meeting them, tasted grim. Amusingly, it was called Wye, which I know is the name of the river running out of Bakewell, but would have been a far better name with a question mark on the end....
In the end I had a very nice pint of Wild Swan instead, and sat in the snug on the left enjoying the quiet scene, and trying to see what was different about the stained glass in the window - had they taken the Wards Fine Malt Ales lettering out? Jesus, what's wrong with these power mad aristo's! (having looked at an old photo taken in the same room it seems I may have misremembered this feature, although the whole window is not in view...jury's out.)
Luckily the relative emptiness of the pub enabled me to get a pic or two. Les also came in and took up his position at the bar, which is a positive sign, although ironically he could not receive the compliment on the pump clip Les's Best, as it wasn't on. I finished with an enjoyable half of Jaipur, which seemed sweeter and slightly spicier hopped than before.
Off through Commonside next past the insalubrious Springvale, advertising the amazing upcoming Sky Sports events which improves the pub experience no end with its ability to bring disparate sections of drinking society together in one small space, in a relaxing, level headed thinking encouraging, non divisive way. Soon I was down at the Blake in relative peace eyeing up the 3 remaining pork pies on the bar, and selecting a pint.
I opted for a pie and a pint of Vale Lock Prop and Barrel, a pleasant enough beer from Brill, which went down well. I quickly texted WK and Jambon to inform them that there were only two pies left now, and settled down to wait. They made it, and Jambon had the Dancing Duck brewery Ay Up, and Koof summat grim from a brewery I expected better from. We sat in the right hand room surveying the scene and discussing the cost of beer amongst other things, and blogging - well, I say discussed, more, I talked at them.
I finished with a delicious pint of Brewster's Stilton Porter, which went down really well, and disappointingly appeared to have no chunks of cheese in it - come on Brewsters (who is a person) you missed a trick! This last beer was also a little rushed, since young uns had to get home to drop their respective vehicles off so we could go for another pint legally.
Parking up on Crookes we walked to the (former) Bolehill Chippy, now called Five Star - this misleading name is a travesty, since not one of the original line up works there - for some useful sustenance. Suitably fed we then walked down to the Cobden View. This is another of my formative years drinking venues (shamefully supping Newky Brown when there was real ale on, aged erm, lower 18) and is one I try and visit if I am in the area. On the bar were regular offerings plus Copper Dragon best, Farmers Blonde and Farmers Stout. No prizes for guessing what I had.
We sat out in the beer garden in a rare spot of dry weather although it was still pretty chilly. The stout was a little thinner than at te Old House but was an enjoyable snifter. After a while we caved in and went under the heated smoking shelter for a warm. WK and Jambon were off for more food or telly or other young folks pursuits after this so I strode off down to Conduit and out onto Western Bank to head for the next pub.
The Arms was busy and smelled enticingly of food, but I had eaten a fishcake butty a pint ago so saw no reason to fanny about masticating. Instead from a range of four beers, I opted for a pint of Abbeydale Archangel. This is the second of their recent seasonals (Dark Angel being the other ) and even though I am a dark beer fiend at heart, this was equally excellent. Vibrant fruity hops and gentle balancing ,malt made this a tasty quaffable brew that I could have drank many more of. However, I was off to see Barraharri in his natural environs next..
Star beer turn of the night at the 54 was the Farmers Blonde which was on very good form. I had two pints and an enjoyable chat with John, who was carefully assessing the white wines on offer. As the (late) evening progressed myself John and Barraharri devised an interesting project pertaining to the beers breweries and pubs of the Steel City. The details are entirely embryonic at this point but I will share them with you when they have some form, over the coming months. During this early meeting, a couple more pints of Blonde passed my lips, which may have explained my missing the last 52 bus home.
Mind you, the timetable info is a bit misleading, and ultimately unhelpul. According to that at the bus stop on West Street, there is a 52 to Woodhouse at 23.49 every day. Except there's not. It goes to town. Still, it also says theres a 30 everyday at 23.59 from West Street to Plumbley, so I could always rely on that...except there isn't. It leaves at 23.10 from Arundel Gate. So this cock up warranted sharing a taxi. Two blokes stood at the bus stop having been similarly tricked (because I think the 30 did until very recently run at that time during the week) let me jump in their taxi, and when disembarking hastily at the Parkway roundabout on Handsworth, they insisted I didn't need contribute.
Karma, however, is a sly mistress. So warm with the glow of humanity was I after this kindness (and I suspect a drop or two of frol may have added to my temperature), that on getting home, and being directed towards the edge of the steps by the springy gate which I know from nearly 11 years experience needs to be pushed aside, I took one giant step for Beefy, and one face down full on flop for mankind into my bluebells. (this is not a euphemism)
That I cracked the back of my head on a blob of concrete growing wild in the undergrowth made this a more vexing and time consuming end to the night, as I had to staunch the wound and then wash it painfully several times before getting to bed.
Aah, the slings and arrows of outrageous familiarity with alcohol readers. How one pays for one's art...