here are a few details of some venues visited on Thursday with Chala.
First stop was Popolo in Leopold Square, a chain of restaurant bars based mainly in the North and Midlands. Downstairs its all black and white lines and red lighting and classic film posters, upstairs is a separate small bar with the restaurant seating which is a little more traditional.
In days of yore (April 2011 to be precise) they sold bottles of Freedom Organic lager, both the standard and the dark. Although not labelled as bottle conditioned (instead unfiltered) they did seem to taste and behave like bottle conditioned beers (but in the better respects of the term, i.e not fizzing sour soup). Alas now there is no Freedom to be found, but they have at least got a couple of Brew Dog bottles in.
Interestingly, Sheffield CAMRA have for two years now included Popolo as selling real ale in their guide to city centre real ale venues. I admit that there is a small chance that the Theakstons bitter served through keg taps over the bar (one assumes the barrels/kegs are upstairs, which is a tad funky) but it seems really unlikely that this is real ale. It may be time perhaps for Sheffield CAMRA to reassess their list. Not that it impacted on the enjoyment of our visit, its just a bit strange to see them on it.
I started on a BrewDog 5AM saint, their ascorbic, bitter, dry red hop ale, whilst Chala had a cocktail, which came with free nibbles, which was a nice touch. The Saint was an interesting experience. This was my first taste of it since last year, and having since tasted the red hop wares of their brewing apostles in particular the excellent Magic Rock Rapture it seems a bit overly harsh and slightly one dimensional. Where Rapture has burnt toffee and a mix of complimentary malts in the second part of the mouthfeel the 5AM Saint delivers a big unwieldy slab of what I think is Simcoe, but offers no moderating flavours in support.
Next we had more of the same, except I switched to a half of Erdinger. All the drinks are discounted between 17.00 and 19.00 so the bottles of beer were about £3.30 and the cocktails were about a fiver, which is still expensive - if there hadn't have been an offer on I would have tried the Theakstons I think...
Our last drink was a bottle of Punk IPA for me and one last Godfather for Chala. The Punk was not a vintage example of itself, being slightly sweet in a way that it really shouldn't, possibly it had been light struck during some part of the process of getting to Popolo, but it was still a decent beer.
Our next port of call was city centre fave the Old House, selling both of the recent range of True North beers (i.e those brewed at Welbeck Brewery) and also the excellent Bradfield Farmers Stout and a couple of Kelham Island offerings.
I had a pint of the First Porter in here, which is a really nice beer, with just enough roast malt and plenty of body to carry off the flavours, and we also stopped for a meal, so we had a bottle of red wine to accompany. One of my only gripes is the table service idea. It doesn't quite work. As we were sitting down on arriving, we were asked straight away if we wanted to order food - we weren't sure at this stage, so were asked what we wanted to drink, but having not even made up our minds about food we didn't know if we wanted a couple of drinks to start or to order the wine. The lass told us we could order drinks from her and disappeared.
I nipped to the bar for my Porter shortly after and then after delibaerations and menu perusing Chala went to get the wine, since we now knew what we wanted to eat. Chala had trouble setting up a tab because we hadn't ordered food but we made it clear we were going to order, so returned to the table with the wine to await the waitress.
A while passed and it became clear she was otherwise engaged, and with the wine warming up I went to the bar to order food, but was told they couldn't put it in the till and it couldn't be ordered from there (Why? No logic was forthcoming...) In the end the waitress came to the bar to take my order and I sat back down again but that was a needlessly lengthy process to just order a meal. Why not use the magic of technology to enable the silly old till behind the bar to accept another reel of preprogrammed numbers, like you can do with every till on earth?
Anyhoo, ranting finished, we did enjoy a very lovely meal and some decent wine, and I also found time to have a pint of the True North First Blonde. This was a very pleasing blonde bitter ale with a lovely fruity aftertaste, which did carry off some of the characteristics of the originator brewery. Hopefully there will be more beers on the way.
Our final port of call was another bar, so not really a traditional pub crawl for us. Here Chala was back on cocktails and I tried a bit of the Farmers Tramlines beer. Once again it managed to be quite bland and disappointing, though not as grim as the Sheffield Brew Co one last year. I completely understand the need for the Tramlines ale to have universal appeal but it tasted like an amalgam of some of the less edifying and more dreary characteristics of the Bradfield output, although having said that it had a nice initial burst of malt and bitterness which reminded me a decent Yorkshire Bitter.
Despite that I had a Farmers Blonde next, before finishing on a small glass of the excellent Hugo Cassanova Sauvignon Blanc, which was just as light and refreshing as I required.
All in all an enjoyable and varied crawl of some of the more modern bars in Sheffield selling decent beer, which proves that even if you don't set foot in a traditional pub all night you don't have to settle for smoothflow or fake euro lager dross anymore.