Monday, 27 August 2012

Bottled beer mystery - Franklins Conqueror

Now then,

     I recently heard Wee Keefy say on a number of occasions about a beer he was buying regularly from an off license chain on Crookes, Sheffield. Having been bought a worthy selection of their offerings for my Birthday, including ones from Great Orme, Box Steam and Hopdaemon, I wasn't surprised to hear about an unusual brew, but was surprised to hear it was from a closed brewery in Harrogate. Time to investigate....

Franklins, as any fule kno, was a brewery that was based on Bilton Lane Harrogate. Bilton Lane is also the location of excellent National Inventory of Unspoilt Pub Interiors example the Gardeners Arms, although it may now be on Part 2. It never sold their beers, and indeed, it seemed, nowhere did. Franklins was that frustrating beast the unobtainable beer, a beer that purported to be on but never was, and eventually simply stopped existing.

Routing around earlier I found a 2008 GBG and noted it's omission from there. I then tried finding an older copy (I have lots, somewhere) and found it still listed in the 2000 edition. This informs me it was started in 1980 and now run by Leeds CAMRA member Tommy Thomas, presumably someone retired from the great Harry Enfield Arsenal side that included Charles "Charlie" Charles. But I digress....

Somewhere between 1999 when the guide was compiled and 2007 it closed down, and has now resurfaced in Bexhill in East Sussex. As you do. The kit, according to Quaffale website, has been purchased by Whites of Bexhill who are now apparently running the revived Franklins name alongside their own business. Whites, as you may recall used to be mainly a brewing supplies firm who brewed beer intermittently on the side. Around the time of the millennium me and WF drove down to the South coast to pick up beer from Whites for Sheffield beer festival (and a cask for the Hillsborough Hotel, but don't tell anyone....) and it really was a haphazard small scale operation. So what, I wondered, was the beer like now?

Well firstly, I never got to try the illusive Franklins! It was alleged to be a regular at the George and Dragon in Melmerby North Yorkshire, but a trip out there heralded only Theakstons Black Bull, and it was also reputed to be at the only ever Leeds beer festival I attended, which it invariably wasn't. So all I know is that their bitter was highly regarded according to successive editions of the GBG. Here's what the "revived" Franklins was like :

Beer : Conqueror, 5.1%

Colour : dark russet brown, decent whitish head.

Pour - decent carbonation initially but goes flat quickly and the head disappears

Aroma : Hmmm....very little. Some sweet malt, barely discernible caramel?

Taste : without the above background this may be my shortest bottled beer review ever! Because it tastes of very little. There is sweet malt, and a very lightl burnt toffee/roast malt taste, and a predominant flavour that I found to be akin to hobnobs, but more bitter.

There was very little in the way of hops, and sometimes with bigger mouthfuls the beer tasted of burnt sugar, but all the facets of sweetness and malt fought against each other to remain equally unremarkable and undemanding on the palate. A really average beer, by comparison, nowhere near as good as the excellent White 1066 ale I tried at the Double H (it lasted less than 40 minutes).

So, not really much to be excited about, a malty brown beer by numbers, and seemingly one entirely divorced from the excellent output of Whites, and what was alleged to have been the qualities of Franklins beers.

Which brings me to my final point - is it really  revived ?

I would lead you to the brewery website but it links to some redirect bot which now means I simply return to Google every time I click on their link - you should be able to see their Facebook page at the following which says basically the same. The blurb states"were back" which seems a little odd since Quaffale suggests it stopped brewing in 2000 (Quaffale gen) - so are those involved the same people who brewed at Harrogate?

Also the contact details are for someone at - they list Whites and Potton as their friends, but the website (here, but I wouldn't bother, its mainly spoof and there's no real info or even contact details) for that company doesn't mention Franklins!

A final snippet was found on Brighton CAMRA's website CAMRABrighton) :

"EDGE BREWING Co. (and Franklins) Pebsham Farm Industrial Estate, Pebsham Lane, Bexhill, East Sussex TN40 2RZ. tel. 01424 73 1066. They say 'We have changed our name from White's to Edge Brewing Co. We now also have a sister company called Franklins. It is a separate brewery but is run at the same site as Edge. The beer produced by both breweries is selling extremely well and we are currently brewing seven days a week. For this reason we have scaled down our range of beers and are now producing two core beers for Edge Brewing and three for Franklins Brewery'. The Edge ones are Brighton Rocks 4% (pale colour) and a weaker IPA 3.6% Franklins PDF to download "

All in all, its a bit of an unseemly puzzle, and on the evidence of conqueror its not particularly exciting beer either. The bottle label tellingly does not mention the address of the brewery only a website which, even assuming it worked and doesn't redirect you to Google, should give you an insight into the kind of operation Franklins is. That said, I'm tempted to follow them on social media to see what the crack is.

I hope to post next from a far away place, but for now, I am finishing packing and wearing shorts in anticipation of some sunshine.  And its chuffing freezing.


Wee Beefy


Sunday, 26 August 2012

Derby - a beer festival on every corner

Good evening,

     yesterday I made a late start of my trip to Derby. I usually aim to be there for dinnertime if am planning some drinking but I was preoccupied, mainly with holiday plans, so didn't leave the house til 15.50. I was quite impressed then to arrive at Derby station at just gone 5PM.

I had left Sheffield amidst thunder and lightning but on the journey down all I saw was sunshine so I studiously hid away my coat in my bag before I strode off for the Station on arrival. Unfortunately, it wasn't open (I know the doors are shut when its open as well, but there was no sign of life) so I walked back round to the Brunswick and caught the bus into town. By now it was monsoon rains all the way. Time to unpack the bag.....

Potfest at the Flowerpot

The weather was foreboding as I crossed the market place with the streets running with water and a biblical cloudburst sheeting down gallons of rain in minutes, but it had stopped when I reached the Flowerpot. Inside it was very busy, but that was what I expected, and I quickly sought out a programme and thought about a drink. I started with a  half of Shottle Farm Shottle Cock, 3.6%, and a Black Iris Black Mountain at 5.9%, a single hopped dry hopped black IPA. Overall that's a pint at 4.3% so not as daft or reckless as it sounds. Instead, that description applied to my standing under a parasol between the soaked seats in the beer garden - on the presumption that there would be nowhere to sit inside.

This quickly became a cheerless undertaking and with no sign of a sunny spell I headed inside to scan for seats and to photograph the Black Iris pumpclips. I like the artwork style on them and their effective black and white motifs (although the first time I spotted one it was like where's wally trying to locate the ABV)  and they remind me a little of a friend of mine's artwork which is based on books he has read. This may be a shoehorned and unapologetically biased plug but if you like the below pumpclip you may also like what you find at cloudpine illustrations .

Anyhoo, on with the beer, I found myself somewhere to sit with a couple from Derby and chewed my way through the imposing, black, billow cloud topped lake that was Black Iris Great Eastern Transatlantic Porter. This is only 4.6% but had the characteristics of a much stronger beer and my lengthy tope helpfully applied the brakes o my winged horse to insobriety.

Soon I had the table to myself (the above descriptions do not serve as an explanation for this!) and I went on supping my way through a very good list of beers, including :

Brightside Bitter
Truefitt Ayresome Angel
Northstar Sentinel

The Northstar was a very unimpressive one dimensional beer, and was notably 5p a half cheaper than the others which sold for £3.00 a pint (with the very strong ones £3.20 which isn't bad) but that was the only let down on the Flowerpot list, and it wasn't off, just poor.

I finished on what turned out to be the two best beers of Potfest for me, Black Iris West Coast IPA (6.2%) and Scarborough brewery Scarborough Stout, which at 4.6% was more than a match for the fruity citrus bitterness of the excellent IPA. I had hoped to bump into one of the Black Iris folks but alas they were yomping about the Peak District, but I made the effort to try some of their beers and was well rewarded. I also tried a massive burger (£3.00, cooked on the barbecue (despite the rain) which was fantastic and filled a hole very nicely.

Next I walked to my next festival, stopping en route in the Old Silk Mill. The beer range was OK, but nothing really caught my eye except the Burton Bridge Damson porter. I remembered that the Damson gave a slightly sour sweet edge to the beer but half way down I realised it was not how it should taste, and was in fact grim, especially the aroma. For reasons unknown I took about a third of my half back and explained that having drunk most of it I didn't require a replacement but that the beer was off.  The barman smelt it and pulled a telling face but I didn't hang around to see if the beer was taken off.

Exfest at the Exeter Arms

I arrived at the Exeter Arms, home of Exfest (which sounds like a rather unfortunate gathering of former partners) to find the pub heaving with every handpump in use on the inside bar, and an outside bar serving a range of about 20 on stillage. I had halves of the fabulously rich Dancing Duck Dark Drake, and an excellent new offering from Blue Monkey - Rhesus to be cheerful (groan) but the pun belied the beers excellent taste.

Whilst outside I noticed the new addition to the Exeter, that being the 19th century dwelling adjoining the pub which has been opened out to provide extra seating, and is only open at weekends. The Cottage is apparently an original size early 19th century cottage that stood on Exeter Place. Its minus artefacts which makes sense since its pub seating, and also there appears to be no access to the upstairs but its a unique spot to enjoy a drink.

I tried 3 more beers in here from 3rd pint measures (3 for £3.00) which I had carefully selected from a list and intended to photograph the board advertising them so as not to forget the beers names. Well, the best laid plans and all that, I loved the somebody's California bitter, and the dark one, and the really light one but having forgotten to take said pic am afraid that's literally all I know!

Off back to the Station next to find out the time of the last train. Surprisingly, and frustratingly, its 22.38, which, arriving to check at 22.08 gave me only 30 minutes for a last pint. I rushed round to try out the recently reopened Crown and Cushion on  Midland Road, after reading an advert in Derby Drinker, to find friendly staff and two Marstons beers including their 5 hop which I had a ridiculously swift half of, before allocating 15 minutes to race down a delicious pint of Bass from the jug in the excellent Station, much to Dave's dissatisfaction I am sure, but I didn't want to miss my train.

All in all I had just over 5 and a half hours in Derby and managed to visit 5 pubs and two beer festivals. Not a bad evenings work if you ask me!

Wee Beefy 

Saturday, 25 August 2012

Friday night in North Staffordshire


     after me and Barraharri's failed camping expedition saw us miss the Quiet Woman, and after Cliff at the Royal Cottage mentioned that he'd not seen my Dad for a while, a chance conversation with Wee Keefy and Wee Fatha resulted in a plan to head out into the dark brooding landscape of the moorland border between Derbyshire and North Staffordshire.

I have started a lengthy break from work as of 17.00 yesterday so was in the mood for some good beer and pubs and the chance to visit two of my favourites was the perfect finish to a great day. We picked up Wee keefy before 19.00 and headed out via Ladybower, Bamford, Bradwell, Millers Dale, Brierlow Bar and Longor to the Royal Cottage on the A53.

We arrived early, its surprisingly easy to make the journey from Crookes in an evening, so we parked up outside in the rain and waited for the outside light to come on at 20.00. Every time me and Wee Fatha visit the Royal Cottage it rains, is foggy, or there are high winds. Or all three. Somehow, the meteorological maelstrom is the perfect accompaniment to a visit to the Cottage, and true to form, since Summer is now officially gone, the fire was lit as we walked in through the passage to be met and licked to death by Jessie the friendly Rottweiler.

Just like last time there was one customer already in, presumably a friend, and he sat with us and Cliff the landlord to talk about just about anything really, whilst I supped a bottle of Old Speckled Hen, WK a bottle of Newky Brown and Wee Fatha a Manns Brown Ale. There is something calming (despite the rather busy garish wallpaper and carpets!) and relaxing about sitting in the Royal Cottage listening to the stoic, measured conversation, especially between Cliff and his regulars. Apart from that those words, the only sound is the odd vehicle whizzing past on the main road outside.

As mentioned before, the pub only really seems to be busy at the folk nights on the last Friday of each month, on all other occasions, I've never seen more than 4 customers including us. Sat near the fire with Jessie slumped like a dead weight on my leg listening to Cliff suggest my Dad's recollections of the local railway were from the Thirties (now that's harsh!) and calmly arguing with the bucolic chap next to me about the number of dogs at the Butchers Arms 30 years ago is, despite my description, the epitome of traditional pub atmosphere.

Wee Keefy in the bar room

We stopped for  a few beers in here, Wee Fatha had to go to tomato juice after a bit, and I made a rather unwise decision to try the draught. I noticed Cliff was on the Tetley smoothflow, and whilst that's not a beer I like particularly I thought I'd give it a go.

The more militant amongst you will view what I did next as a travesty, as might those with a nod to medical knowledge, but I drank the beer, even though it was unlike almost any other beer I have ever tasted. And that's not a compliment. It was, through the first two layers of odd earthy sourness, reminiscent of the nitro cream edge of all smoothflow beers, and there was a hint of Tetley malt in the background, with bitterness indiscernible from the sharper flavours. It reminded me of the odd "beer" they sold at the Seven Starts at Halfway House in Shropshire - identifiable only as beer by echoes of malt and hops. Maybe I'm soft not to refuse to drink it. So be it. At least when he offered to top it right to the line I declined....

All too soon another customer had arrived and unfortunately it was time to move on, to leave the darkness of the bar and the harsh single light above the tables and the amazing flock upholstered and covered furniture behind. Having only been visiting for about 6 years I can hardly be accused of having a blinkered memory lane view of this unique pub, so perhaps I have a blinkered view of it now. I can't find fault, well, other than the draught, and that's not really something I say very often. Opening times, as confirmed last night, really are only 20.00 to later on, Friday and Saturday. I continue to believe that the effort of factoring in a trip is well worth it.

We drove back through Longnor next where its clear that the Crewe and Harpur has closed (a light or two on but curtains drawn and the big door shut, no outside lights) and then down through Crowdecote and left up the little lane into Earl Sterndale where Wee Fatha's settling dog parking habits ensured a tantalising wait for entrance to the pub.

Inside it was quite busy and there were 3 beers on, with the excellent pork pies and meat pies on the bar (along with fresh eggs on the piano top) offering a choice of Jennings dark Mild, Marstons Bitter and Wincle Sir Philip. I had intended to keep up my tradition of having a pint of mix but I love Wincle brewery beers so couldn't resist the complex fruity allure of the Sir Phillip.

We got sat down in front of the bar and got chatting to a bloke who used to live in Sale - not that remarkable, until you consider that is where Wee Fatha grew up, and it turns out they lived round the corner from one another. The last time such a co-incidence occurred was in the Royal Cottage, where we got chatting to a man who used to play in the woods near the Jacksons Boat Inn near Sale. I love small world stories like that.

Being somewhat short of good draught thus far I probably had 3 or 4 pints of the excellent Sir Phillip in here, with WK departing for a Dark Mild for two of his, and I got chance to chat to Ken the landlord who is a veritable font of knowledge. Turns out he and Cliff went to school together, and I learnt more about the Royal Cottage in ten minutes than I could have - or indeed would have tried to - in 10 years of visiting.

Alas eventually we had to head home, and with very little traffic we were back in Crookes in 50 minutes, and back home a little further on for me I sat down with a bite to eat and a satisfied positive feeling of having been to two of the best pubs in the area.

All we need to do now is go back and visit the pub at Crowdecote - where rumour has it, an enterprising new landlord of this formerly Worthington or Tetley only pub, has gone mad and put on four guest real ales. Its just another excuse to go to the Royal Cottage of course, but why not?


Wee Beefy

Thursday, 23 August 2012

Pubs around Trippet Lane, and other news.


      I have, as suggested previously, found less time to write these tomes of late due mainly to stuff, not to mention things. In short I have been busy being out, but rarely to the pub. This is a sad but ultimately much cheaper predicament, which I hope will not continue for too long.

That said a couple of outings in the last of the warm weather over the last two weeks have dug up a bit of gen, and an opinion or two, which I will share below.

Firstly, I appear to have been drawn to spend much more time frightening off young folks by standing at the bar looking thoughtful, glaring, and opining on bibulous subjects at Dada. Its testimony to their care in the community credentials and good natured outlook that no-one has sought to politely dissuade me from frightening the more timid customers, either that or no-one has noticed. Either way Dada has been a friendly house to hang around in of late and I like that.

Its interesting based on my experience that the perceived atmosphere and theme, which I myself commented on a few times in the early days, continues to be a gripe with customers of a beery slant who might enjoy the ales. Beer people, whatever the hell that means (!?) seem to be of the opinion that it loses points for its lack of guest ale, and for having a theme, making it instantly pretentious and therefore unwelcoming.

l still think the the theme is obtuse, puzzling and misplaced, but having watched a mixture of confused, enthused, bamboozled, happy and suspicious customers come and go from the bar over the last 6 months I am certain that the warm welcome isn't in doubt. Admittedly its not traditional bar fly territory, since punters, mainly groups or couples, retire to the furthest corners (and more than two stood at either bit of bar is just impractical), but if you take the time to hang around and talk to the staff, I think you'll find the banter is good. Ergo, the atmosphere is good.

There are two regulars who go in on a Tuesday which is my default visiting day. I feel I should know them because I have seen them in the Dog and Partridge, Red Deer and Bath Hotel for as long  as I can remember. The above list of boozers has little in common with Dada so its testament to the qualities mentioned that they seem to be  as happy as me sitting at the bar and enjoying good conversation.

Beer recently spotted includes Thornbridge Kipling, Bradfield Stout and they have been having beers from Sheffield Brewery. There has also been some decent Keykeg choice, if such things float your boat, such as Nogne O barley wine, Magic Rock High Wire and on my last visit the excellent Schlenkerla Rauchbier. And for those unsure, Steph, Emily Jamie and James know their stuff when it comes to the beer. Its a shame their aren't more guest cask ales but I suspect this is out of their hands, thus more a blot on Thornbridge's copybook. If they could just sell less of my "sigh beers" Brother Rabbit and Sequoia, I'd find it hard to stay away.

Other pubs do exist of course and on a recent unexpected visit I found that the the Wig and Pen still sells real ale (and not a bad price). I say this because it was starting to get a bit grim and I wondered if the expensive tastes of their clientele might see it stop being sold. Admittedly it was only Wentworth, WPA and a Wentworth guest on Tuesday, but it means a drop of the real stuff can be found to accompany the food if you are there for snaffling.

Its interesting though that I am now in a position where I feel the need to say "only Wentworth". When it was launched and for years after it was reliable stuff with Oyster Stout, Gun Park Dark and WPA standing out. WPA used to have a big hop finish, lots of grainy dry bitterness that realy hit the spot. However, I don't think I've had a good Wentworth beer in years. WPA now tastes like a beer of 3.0% and more malty, with almost no hoppy bite in the finish. Is this a case of familiarity breeds contempt or have they changed the recipes?  Either way its a groan beer  Which is a shame.

Talking of not exactly renowned venues for real ale, I was in All Bar One (not by choice) the other day and noted they once again only had 1 real ale on. I get the feeling two is unsustainable. This time it was Black Sheep, and to be honest its difficult to decide which is the more average of the two offered across their estate (the other being Doom Bar) - perhaps the Sheep edges it for being independent. And, even having said all that, contrary as I am, I didn't even try the real ale!

 Instead I had a pint of Rothaus wheat beer, and was quietly amused by the barmaid telling me when I asked for a drop more that the line was a pint - I could see the beer was well below and after my top up it settled just on, meaning my request was perfectly judged. The thing is, the line is on my side only, so how would she have known it was already at the line? I've moved on now though....

In developing news, as I think I mentioned previously, the Dog and Partridge finally closed in July but to continue my Kevin Keegan-esque predictive talents, is now set to reopen under the management or potentially ownership (a bit fact light I'm afraid this particular segment) of those running the Sportsman in town. I hear they intend that the venue will operate along similar lines,and they are hoping to sell good value beers. I couldn't be sure if it was open when I went past earlier in the week, so will update you when I know more.

Finally, this weekend (23rd to 26th August in fact) sees Potfest held at the Flowerpot at Derby. The idea of a beer festival at the Flowerpot is a bit like a sand festival at a beach, since there;s always a festival sized selection of beers at any given time. Expect an emphasis on the excellent Black Iris brewery output and guests from Yorkshire and Lancashire, and also perhaps the sight of a lesser spotted blogger or two. Well worth a visit.

Thats all I have for now, hopefully the last week of the month will herald some further beer adventures.

Wee Beefy.

A real ale weekend in Manchester


   I'm going to try and make this is as concise as possible. This tour lasted from Friday afternoon to late Sunday night (we came home Monday, and I don't think anyone had a drink!). It was the now annual trip away with Fluff and John and Si, Donny, Nat and Steve, this time joined by Col, Gonejohn and Nextdoorjohn, plus 3 others along the route. Here in beers and pubs is what happened....

Day 1

We started by having a beer in the Sheffield Tap to see us off - halves of Moor Somerland Gold and Amoor for me, both of which were excellent. Our first Manchester pub was the Salisbury. A rather unremarkable range of Hobgoblin, Deuchars et al meant I had  half of Batemans Summer Breeze. Others unwisely continued with pints.

We would have visited the Peveril of the Peak next but it was closed, so we went to the Britons Protection. A better range here, but I wasn't yet in photographing pumpclips mode, so all I know is I had something pale from Allgates - narrow that one down anyone?

The Knott bar was next, SWB Gorilla Cash and Buxton Rye stood out but the SWB Teleporter was off. The barman claimed it tasted different because of the smoked malt, the sharp acid vinegar of the offering slightly giving away his assumption that we knew nothing about beer. He did change it for us though. The Deansgate was next, Unicorn and 2 guests in here, one of which was rancid, all but one of us had the alternative which I think was another local beer.

Off next for an excursion, AKA getting lost trying to find our digs, the Salutation off Oxford Road near the University - I would say thank god for maps on phones but you need to know how to follow the directions..... Here we had an annoying wait for our rooms (at about 18.00?) and supped Magic Rock Curious, or Cloudiest as it should have been called whilst we waited, and were joined by Manchester John and Paul. The accommodation was OK in 2 rooms, and positively eclectic in the other. They also didn't do food and recommended a sister pub - that didn't do real ale. They didn't shower themselves with glory on the first night I have to say.

So we ate at Troff where some people were slightly shocked by the cost of BrewDog on keg - I had water! Our next pub was the Marble Arch, plenty of beer on in here although not a huge number of guests, I had a Marble mild (6.0%) and a something from Blackjack whose beers we saw a lot of. I also had water - clever eh? Nat was really smitten with the Marble Dobber in here.

Round the corner to a packed Angel for halves of exotic sounding beer that my camera forgot to record, then onto the Smithfield. This seems to be on a downward slide, having always been a bit tired and tatty, there was now an issue with undrinkable beer. The Piddle in the hole was that, as was the Burscough offering and another, in fact we reckon only the Adnams Gunhill Dark (£2.00) and the Robinsons Old Tom (which some tried) should have been on sale.

The Crown and Kettle welcomed us next, we said goodbye to Manchester John and Paul, and I had  halves of West Berkshire Maggs Mild and Dunham Massey Bollington Bitter from an excellent range, before we persuaded trip organiser Fluff, now quite tired by events, to walk with us and final visiting guest Anthony to the Port Street Beer House. Here a plethora of Keykeg and cask Cromarty ales was on offer, but I went with a Red Willow Smokeless (pint! I must have been confident...) and a half of the excllent Cromarty brewed awakening which was fantastic.

Me and Nat walked back via the Grey Horse for what I think was Robinsons not Hydes? Anyone? And met up with Col at the Salutation for a last pint of the Pennine Salutation ale.

Day 2 - the Rail Ale Trail

Hangovers were cured in the Paramount Wetherspoons with big breakfasts, and our first stop at 11.00 was the Circus. We all had pints of excellently kept Tetley and tried to persuade ourselves that we were ready for a day of trains and beers and time constraints.

We met Si at the station, and then Trevor from Crewe, and got the train to Dewsbury (the whole trip was £13.40 I think) and started in the West Riding Licensed Refreshment Rooms, where I unwisely started on Hawkshead NZ IPA (6.0%). The sheer size of the crowd leaving the station should have prepared us for the trip ahead. Off to Mirfield next for a very long wait to be served (not the staffs fault) at the Navigation - I had the Mallinsons Sorachi Ace lemongrass and their Mudstopper from a good range, although it wasn't immediately obvious what was on the other bar.

In Huddersfield we went to the Kings Head for Brown Cow Frazzles celebration and Pictish Columbus, which we drank in the sunshine outside. Alas the Head of Steam was really rammed and the beer range disappointing so we went back to the Kings for me to try an Owenshaw Mill SWP, whilst everyone else was on pints of the excellent Magic Rock Curious, this time crystal clear.

Slaithwaite saw us in the brilliant Commercial enjoying Naylors Black and Tan (one of the beers of the weekend) and Kingstone Classic from Tintern, along with good company and redoubtable fishcake buttys. This was also one of the best pubs of the trip, despite the yomp back up the hill.

To Marsden next and the choice of three pubs was always going to be the excellent Riverhead Brewery Tap. From a good range I had a pint of Titanic chocolate and vanilla stout whilst sat in the grass on the riverbank in an idyllic setting. Mind you the crawl back up hill nearly killed us. Off next to Greenfield for the second best beer garden in terms of views at the impressively situated Railway. It was becoming obvious here that some of the 100 strong revellers had not paced themselves and it was all getting a bit rowdy but Millstone Tiger Rut hit the spot. Last stop Stalybridge was suitably chaotic with halves of Tiger Rut again and Abbeydale Revelation from an average line up in the Station Buffet, plus my customary water.

Final Manchester stops of the day were the Peveril of the Peak where I have no idea what I had, the Lass O Gowrie where I had the dreadful "Outstanding" Bettys best and Bridgehouse Gold, then onto Joshua Brookes where a pint of Brodies White IPA was 7.3% and £2.50 a pint! I had a half of that and a half of Little Valley Ginger Pale, but the half of Brodies was £1.75. A misleading literal advert caused little amusement, and the DJ was poor. Just time to leave here for junk food and then Pennine in the Salutation.

Day 3 - Salford

More Wetherspoons breakfast then walking in torrential rain to our first stop the Sawyers Arms, whose cask marque accreditation cursed it to sell two of the dullest beers we tried all trip - Ruddles County and Bombardier. Next was the excellent Gas Lamp on Bridge Street. Just two pumps here, dispensing malt madness in the form of Great Orme Orme, and Little Valley's Two Lads bitter in this atmospheric cellar bar.

Over the Irwell near the Peoples History Museum next (amusingly renamed by me the Museum of Ordinary Life, which made us snigger for the rest of the day, imagining exhibits such as a chair, a kettle and a carpet....) to Salford and the Mark Addy. This is a really nice place to hide from the rain and "admire" the river, with a great range of beers - Merlin Merlins Gold and Red Willow Mark Addy is Fearless for me, which was excellent. More Blackjack stuff in here as well.

Our longest stint in any pub was the three hours we resided at the New Oxford. This excellent pub didn't disappoint despite "only" having 10 beers on, plus key kegs from the UK and Europe.

The jukebox was 10p a track for the first hour so we were well catered for and we tried everything that was on - I especially loved Empire Extra Stout at 6.0% which was sublime (a pint and a half's worth). The Dunscar Bridge Clocking off, Conwy brewery's excellent Beachcomber ale, Blakemere Summer Breeze were also sampled, along with a half of SWB Teleporter on key keg, which unsurprisingly tasted of smoke and roast malt as opposed to vinegar.

Round to the Crescent next via a depressing itinerary of derelict and closed pubs. John (in)famously described the Crescent as a derelict shambles, perhaps a tad harsh but the walls did wobble and there was an especially "unique" aroma to the place, made all the more tolerable by a chip cob for me and Boggart Rum Porter for us all (too much Cottage on the bar though folks...).

Back to the Salutation for excellent Hornbeam Galaxy Pale, before we headed out by taxi ( a farcical journey including the cabbie asking if we minded if he stopped to fill up, which we did, then ignored us and charged us more than we paid for a very similar journey later) to 57 Thomas Street, the Marble bar. Three casks (on) on stillage plus bottles and taps afforded us a great choice, and I had a pint of Marble Lagonda, and of course, a half of water.

By this time Si and Steve had gone home, Donny and Nat were in search of food or something, and Gonejohn had stormed off in a huff on morning 1, so only the 5 of us enjoyed a wild goose chase to almost no pubs as Fluff's return train time approached. The Hare and Hounds appeared to have no real ale and some dreadful entertainment, then Mother Macs was described by advance party Nat and Donny as being hostile and also having no real ale. We ended up in the Waldorf trying to hear ourselves over a crowd of rpwdy football fans making idiots of themselves and tolerated a dire pint of Holts seasonal, before we ended up in the Bulls Head near the lower Piccadilly entrance.

Slightly better range and better kept ale in here included Ringwood Boondoggle and Martson/Banks etc French Hop, before we waved Fluff off home and got a taxi (£3.00) to the Salutation for more Pennine - (the Magic Rock High Wire, at 5.5%, was £4.00 a pint. What? Where did they find a price like that? And it was cloudy!). We finished the night in here and did in fact get a free drink or two since it had only emerged Saturday night that we were entitled to a discount on pints. I bear no malice to the friendly staff at the Salutation, but it seems incredibly disorganised.

None of us braved a pub on Monday, and so came to an end a fantastic weekend of beer, including the excellent rail ale trail and some great pubs, the highlights including the New Oxford, Crown and Kettle, Circus, Gas Lamp, Commercial at Slaithwaite, Marble Arch and Mark Addy. Highly recommended!

Wee Beefy.

Thursday, 16 August 2012

George Gales Prize Old Ale (corked)

Now then,

     the Olympics finished on Sunday and in a moment of heady excitement I decided it would be good to celebrate the event with one of my "stash" -  a cavalcade of bottled beers from 1971 (yes, long before I was old enough to drink, or even born) til the present day, amassed since 1993.

One such bottle was a Gales Prize Old Ale from the last batch brewed in Horndean and thus corked. I had two so figured one could be sacrificed, having had them laid on their side (as per the label instructions) since 2005. A cursory glance at the label proclaimed it had been brewed that year and was best before March 2010. Well, I thought, its 9% for chrissakes. Surely it had the balls for the journey? And besides, whenever I caved in after 3 years and drank one it was invariably unbalanced and too "young". So this seemed a perfect chance to try a good one.

With the roar and razzmatazz of the Olympics blaring out of the TV behind me I set about opening the chilled beer. Not rate chilled you understand, but I had concerns that it might be fizzy. I broke the pinkish red plastic seal round the top and slightly indelicately removed the cork. There was little sound. Hmmm..

The aroma was predominantly sherry. As I breathed n a bit more there was a sharper stronger aroma like whisky, plus the sweetness, reminiscent faintly of cane sugar, and for a mad moment fruit salad sweets.

I poured it out flat as a millpond. Some carbonation was caused towards the end of the pour, although not knowing what to expect from the yeast it was eked out slowly so no gravity pushed the bubbles into the glass. I still don't think throwing it in would have created much bubbles, if that is even grammatically correct.

The colour was, well, sherry to be honest! Maybe brandy depending on the light. But with a darker brown shade more reminiscent of the beer it was supposed to be, with some attractive reddish hints.

The first taste was something of a slow motion slap across the face. I could see it coming, but couldn't avoid the massive sherry, tart fruit and residual alcohol smashing into me in one angry wave of tipsy bravado. Further tastes allowed the sugar to increase, or rather its sweetness to come through, and I detected candy, lavender sugar, treacle, and fighting unconvincingly at the back, some hops.

Later tastes revealed lemon sherbet and a taste I can only describe as the smell of leather (just trust me) and, regrettably, cardboard. I added the yeast half way down which only served to increase the sweetness but it was also mildly acidic and there seemed to be even more alcohol - certainly my complexion was telling me that this was no longer 9.0%.

The body was thin, there even seemed to be a little suggestion of water, almost like I hadn't dried the glass after rinsing, except I had. It was strange having a thin beer with such incredibly strong flavours.

So in conclusion, not a subtle beer, and not really a beer at all in terms of taste. More a sherry with a suggestion of malt and hops with sweet tart fruit and alcoholic flavours.

This is interesting since I don't think I've ever had a really good Gales corked beer. They've always been a bit muddled or eccentric or unbalanced, usually with only one prominent characteristic on display - I am thinking of 5 examples over the past 18 years. The best one was a celebration beer at around 7.0% which had a bit more subtlety to its flavours and was a bit more, well, beer.

That the Harveys Imperial Russian Stout that was brewed in the mid nineties and was undrinkable was blamed by the brewery on their contracting bottling to Gales says a lot, although perhaps more about Harveys, since it was their yeast which died in the bottle. It makes you wonder whether the passage of time clouds our memories of what was good beer, I mean, does it all have odd flavours and no carbonation? And it also begs the question, can we make good corked ale in Britain?

Wissey Valley managed it , at least I think they did! But really its not a British strongpoint - its got to ne Chimay who nailed it. So perhaps we once again have to look at how the Belgians do things.

In defence of the "old stagers" of brewing though, I'd like to try a bottle conditioned new world hopped IPA or Black IPA, or heavy hopped stout after 7 years to see how the more popular ingredients fared over time in the bottle. It would be really interesting to see if they could match classics like Thomas Hardy Ale.

To which end, I am, co-incidentally as it happens, hoping to try what I think is a 29 year old vintage next month. The 25 year  was still carbonated and you could taste the hops. So already better than Gales, but might 29 years be a step too far?

Wee Beefy

Sunday, 12 August 2012

Mount Pleasant beer festival and other tales


    yesterday I continued my walking theme and managed to get to another new pub, and a recently refurbished one into the bargain.

I had seen a few beer festivals advertised at the Mount Pleasant on Derbyshire Lane at Norton Lees over the last year and since I had never been to the pub before this seemed like a good opportunity to make my first visit. To save myself the princely sum of £2.00, I opted to walk there from Handsworth and then down to Heeley and into town, hoping to stop at the Cricketers on Bramall Lane.

Legs still aching from the other night I was slow getting going as I walked along Richmond Park Road and up and down the hills of Richmond Road to Intake chippy. I cut across to Ridgeway road and with most of my climbing now done picked up pace walking through Gleadless Townend then cutting up Raeburn and two lefts past my first pub of the day, the Nailmakers, set well back from the road in a area of dispiriting modern housing. It is I think, the longest licensed public house in Sheffield, not the oldest building, and years of shortsighted clumsy modernisations inside have made it look like a small 19th century pub on one side and a fake Hungry Hedgehog chain pub on the other.

I wasn't going to go in but since I also wasn't pushed for time I nipped in past the solitary customer outside. On the bar were two handpumps with the clips turned round. When I asked if that was the choice of real ale the man behind the bar said that he hadn't got any at the moment, so I said never mind, and went on. A warm Saturday afternoon and only a solitary customer plus no real ale you say? There's an equation in there somewhere....

I came out on Hemsworth Road next and walked past the New Inn. I hadn't visited before and there were customers sat outside and in, so I ventured across the threshold and was hit by the looming waft of the smell of chips, which despite my description, I don't mind as it makes me nostalgic for pubs I visited with my parents on holiday. Alas, having spotted two pumps with the clips turned round, and having to ask 4 times if there was any hand pulled available, I was informed that they didn't do it anymore, so I thanked the guy and walked onto my destination. I wondered how the recent Thornbridgification of the Cross Scythes would affect the fortunes of my intended target the Mount Pleasant, and to be fair if two of the 5 pubs in the area don't sell the good stuff I think that's wind in their sails.

I arrived at my destination, the Mount Pleasant on Derbyshire Lane, 1 hour 48 minutes after setting off and set about ordering a half of Phoenix Arizona and a half of water. I was met at the bar by Stuart and I think the Lady behind the bar was the other half of the management team at this cosy and traditional pub. I was handed a programme and told what was on the bar and what beer was available from the outside bar, plus what was waiting to come on.

After a quick chat about my walk it was time to sit down in the spacious car park in the bright sunshine and admire the range of beers, whilst already noticing the small of food, thinking dreamily about what I could snaffle.

All beers were £3.00 or under per pint which is a decent price, especially for the first and only pint I tried, which was an impeccably kept, smooth and slightly chocolaty Black Pearl Stout from Wooden Hand brewery in Cornwall. I also bought 4 tokens for the other beers I wanted to try outside, and got chatting to a couple on my table, who were drinking Titanic White Star and the Phoenix Arizona (the White Star wasn't on the programme, so was a bit of a bonus).

I soon got fed (hot dog and onions £1.50) and set about trying the following beers :

Dark Star Partridge 4.0%
Pictish Alchemist 4.3%
Wylam Magic 4.2%
Salopian Hop Twister 4.5%

Stuart in the outside bar

All the beers were well kept, some were served on gravity from the outside bar, although as it turned out only the Salopian and Dark Star were of the ones I tried. The best beers of the day were probably the Wooden Hand, the Wylam and the Dark Star, in that order. There were also ales from Oldershaw, Abbeydale, Bradfield,  Derventio, Slaters, Brampton, Idle and Wolf in a selection of about 18 if you include the Mount Pleasant Tetley re badge on the bar.

Its great to see a small traditional pub thriving (it was very busy when I left) and able to sell an interesting and desirable range of ales despite the pub being leased from Punch, whose logo along with that of Camra, adorns the programme. A final point is that they are Cask Marque accredited. Where this usually means a pub sells decent examples of the dullest beers ever produced, it does not seem to be the case at the Mount Pleasant, a pub well deserving of a trip if you are in the area, or not.

I headed off for Scarsdale Road next, eschewing the chance to visit the Prince of Wales across the road, but not for any negative reason. I was soon at the smart looking Cross Scythes, with customers enjoying the sun outside at the front and back, and inside, a revelation. Quality wooden floors, light woodwork, a bar with 10 handpumps on (I think, and two were for guests, from breweries what aren't Thornbridge) comfy seating as well as traditional, 3 distinct drinking areas, and a large function room with its own bar access, through which you walk to the beer garden. And crucially, not very much dark grey paint!

I sat outside (one gripe, why have a weighted sprung door on the entrance to the beer garden? Staff coming in and out were struggling as much as I was with my two glasses) with halves of Thornbridge Pollards (of course!) a glass of water and a half of the excellent Saltaire Cascade. The beer garden had always been a neglected and wasted resource at the Scythes as long ago as 1994 when I worked across the road, and it has been done up nicely if a little unnaturally, and there is now parking round the back.

Overall this is one of the more subtle and admirable Thornbridge makeovers and a welcome return to their habit of returning dreadful boozers to brilliance instead of interfering with already excellent boozers.

I walked down next to the Archer Road Beer Stop to see Dave and have a quick beer (not in the shop of course!) and had a very well kept pint of Moonshine from a choice of that and a Salamander beer. Some good recent additions are on the shelves, so I must pop back when I have some money, and just a note to remember if you are visiting, there are Bradfield mini casks for sale, but they are kept in the back where its cooler. Thanks to Dave for his hospitality, and also the chance to watch Mo Farrah win gold whilst sat in the back talking beer.

My penultimate call was a 15 minute walk away at the White Lion on Chesterfield Road. I was meeting Fluffy and John for a quick catch up before next weekend's trip to Manchester and managed to get a seat in the snug. It was great to see Blue Bee available from the range of excellent Sheffield area beers, plus Osset Silver King, and I had a half of Nectar Pale and a glass of water whilst waiting.

Soon after my companions arrived, they were on Sequoia and Silver King respectively, latterly the Nectar as well. It was great to sit in the snug chatting and drinking quality beer in this excellent traditional boozer, with a decent band playing rock covers at the other end of the pub.

All too soon though we were off for our last stop at the Sheaf View. Despite my dire warnings that we'd never get a seat, arriving about 22.00 it wasn't too busy and we got sat down easily at the front of the pub with pints of Salamander for Fluff, something dark but less strong for John and an excellent earthy pint of Burton Bridge Golden Delicious for me.

With time getting on, and having established that the Ale House was shut by 22.45 (established was not quite the right word, there seemed palpable confusion about the actual state of affairs) we decided to stop for a last one, which for me was a pint of the Salamander Stout, before heading down the hill to the main road and getting on a bus straight away into town.

This was a fantastic day out taking in some fine pubs (even if I still haven't made it to the Cricketers....) and a well attended well run beer festival which was a great way to spend my Saturday.


Wee Beefy.   


Friday, 10 August 2012

Wee Beefy's evening pub slog

Hello all,

    I thought I'd write about my evening of slogging up hill and down dale after work on Wednesday, where an unexpected visit to pubs old and new was had, along with an equal smattering of sunshine and exhaustion.

Starting point of my aleyompics was the Broadfield Ale House, which you may recall I have mentioned previously. Sadly none of the excellent Black Iris output that often features but an admirable range including the excellent Ilkley Best Bitter, at £3.00 a pint (or is that a half surcharge? Oooooh.....). I had two halves of this (and a glass of water, for reasons that will become clear) whilst sat in the glare of the sun in the beer garden, before heading up to my next pub.

Not exactly en route but the Union is always a nice spot to stop and I had a pint of impeccably well kept Abbeydale Moonshine (£3.00 a pint) in here - I would have gone half of that, half of Absolution, but I was determined this would be rewarding physical exercise not just supping. In order to maintain sobriety and to keep myself properly hydrated I had a half of iced water here as well.

Next I took an absurd route past the Byron, then headed up Brincliffe edge and walked up through the trees along the side of the valley until I came out near Ecclesall Road South. Knowing I wanted to get across, I had to walk downhill quite a bit then up into some wiggly road through housing to Carterknowle avenue or rise or something, before popping out, by luck rather than planning, at the Cherry Tree.

This was to have been my first visit. I say was, because I already know, its shut. A handwritten sign in the window states that due to a licensing error from Enterprise (gawd luvvum) the pub has had to be closed and that this was out of licensee/manager Billy's hands. At the risk of seeming rude, although the note is not dated or faded the outside of the pub does suggest its been shut for a while. Hopefully it will reopen soon for my inaugural visit.

A quick swig of warm homemade lemon and lime drink (its just the juice of half of each, some water and a little mint) didn't really slake my thirst so I walked up Carterknowle Road to the chameleon visage of the Prince of Wales, formerly the Green Pelican or Woodstock or Plum and Marmite or other nonsense.

Inside is depressingly asinine, but I wasn't expecting antiquated careworn distinctiveness. There is some seating on the left which may be for the unlikely spectacle of drinkers but I sat at the bar since this was the only recognisable spot to sup. From a choice of York Terrier, Marstons Pedigree and Leeds Pale I had the latter, a half of, at £1.55, and a half of iced water. Its a soul destroyingly staged, wearyingly clinical interior by numbers establishment, but at least it has no pretencions of being anything other than a restaurant with a bar, and at least customers get to drink a decent if unremarkable real ale with their nosh.

Off next for serious guesswork, as I did not know the address of the next pub, only its general direction and the area it was in. Luckily taking the road towards High Storrs School I was soon at the T junction with the ancient Hammer and Pincers on the left. This long, squat building is a venerable age but many had told me it was scarcely recognisable as an old pub, and expensive. True, on entering, what would have been a small cosy low ceiling possibly beamed couple of rooms, incongruously modern in their furnishings, its hard to imagine it being more than a decade old, but the fireplace and odd layout and route to the bar belied its haphazard ancient design.

On the left is a small opening with toilets on the right leading to a large room with the right angle bar facing the garden and the end of the pub with the arch. The ceiling was low in here and it was easier to imagine what the original features might have looked like, but the main plus point was the bar.

There were 5 handpumps dispensing Tetley, something else, a Wadworth themed Olympics ale, Archers Old Gold (Who brews Archers?!) and a dark beer. Not only that, but it was the cheapest beer of the crawl at £1.45 for a half of Vale Black Beauty (and of course a customary half of iced water). And I promise I kept a straight face when, not seeing the pump clip, the barmaid said
"and this is a dark one, Black Beauty"
Me  "Is it from Vale that one"
Barmaid (looking at pump clip) "yes, valet". No doubt she didn't mind my pause and walk round, to inspect the clip and pronounce Vale correctly!

I sat outside with my well kept beer and cool water and updated my notes and thought about my route. It was busy outside as you'd expect, and though it had been remodelled and refitted nearly to extinction, I was pleasantly surprised at what I found, and the staff were friendly, so all in all a pleasant visit.

My traverse to my next stop was a triumph of guess work. I didn't carry straight on from the shops instead walking to the left past High Storrs School and following the bus route, checking the road names on the bus stop all the way down, and hoping this was Greystones Road. It soon became Greystones Drive, and joined Greystones Road, shortly after which I spotted the pub.

On the bar were 6 Thornbridge beers (none of them new-fangled guests here, not since the opening month) and I think probably the same range as back in March or April, so I had a half of Black Harry, with a glass of water, which was £1.40. Clearly as I headed downhill the price was descending with me.

Off down the steep hill to Sharrow next and the Lescar was inevitably rammed with people soaking up the warm late evening sunshine. Inside there were 6 beers to choose from, 5 of which I wanted to drink, so I ditched my precautionary water and singlr half plan  to order a selection of 4. They were, in order of strength, Ilkley Mary Jane, Sunny Republic Beach Blonde, XT Dark Roast and Hopdaemon Green Daemon, which came to £6.20. Given the relative strengths (Ilkley 3.5 and Hopdaemon 5.0) this may have been comparatively cheaper than the Prince of Wales.

I sat in the beer garden at the back, and despite deliberately sitting in a smallish space on a table made for 8, seemed to be giving the impression that only one half was mine, as I sat reading, so this remained a solitary repose. Either that or my red sweaty face and straggly beard frightened off the young folk ....

My penultimate stop came on my way into town, after popping into Spar to find nothing I wanted to eat (although the visit wasn't wasted, as I got to watch a zombie like employee push a trolley into a display, and then reverse, pulling it with him, which made me laugh) and Sainsbury's where I did (but cucumber in a chicken wrap? Eeeugh) and also, after pausing temporarily to consider entering the unappetising environs of serial student haunt the Nursery (no pun). I headed instead, and I concede I surprised myself, for the ex Pomona which is now Champs, a bar I had never visited.

Luckily I knew what to expect and to be honest this visit was inspired more by a pressing need than a desire to watch ferret tickling and amputee pinball on one of 452 large screens, but to their credit there was real ale, an odd mix of Wild Swan (I had  half, £1.35), Jaipur and er, Tetleys. And at least I got to sit outside where it was cool, and slightly less testosterone filled.

My final stop in this long slog was up the hill from Moorfoot, and into the Devonshire Cat, a pub I haven't been in this year, and mainly because I heard from The Twitter (you've seen the Twitter) that Axholme Brewery beer might be available. It was, I had a half of their Bitter, it was surprisingly inexpensive for the Dev Cat at about £2.60 a pint (?) and was a pleasant and refreshing brew with an endearing slightly earthy flavour.

All in all I was bloody exhausted but had visited some new pubs and tried some exciting new beers (and revisited old favourites) on my lengthy crawl. Now to walk over Woodseats way tomorrow for the Mount Pleasant beer festival.

Wee Beefy

Sunday, 5 August 2012

Epic three counties beer tour


    I won't make any apologies for the superlative above because what I am about to describe really was a massive undertaking, featuring some of the most stunning scenery, absurd roads, momentous vistas and finest pubs. Barraharri was the driver who made the trip possible, and if we conveniently sidestep the fact that camping didn't go to plan due to a lack of poles, this was a fantastic day out. Here's what happened (apologies for the length of this post!).

We set off in inauspicious circumstances, taking the Staveley exit from the M1 (and then the Staveley ageing process road) into Chesterfield, before finding our way up to Walton Hospital and over the moor to Two Dales. Our delay meant we could have legitimately stopped off at the Plough but it was a Friday lunch so it wasn't guaranteed they'd be open - unfortunately, this Friday lunch malarkey was something that slipped my mind prior to stop number one.

Having headed through Darley Bridge and Wensley, where the bizarre and eccentric Red Lion is now reportedly closed, we drove to Winster and wound our way up the barely drivable snickett that comes out at the Miners Standard then headed over Bonsall moor into Uppertown. Here we took the preposterous road down into the dale, to find a beer festival banner at the Barley Mow, and it closed. They don't open Friday's. They probably never have. I thought it was Saturday. Silly beefy...

From here we came out onto the Via Gellia and followed the road as far as Newhaven then headed down the A515, coming off past Shining Tor to Milldale and Hopedale, then through Stanshope to Ilam, followed the footpath/road through Throwley and out onto the Leek Road at Waterhouses, to head to teh Yew Tree at Cauldon. Which was also closed. Doh.

Barraharri wore a pained expression, I was annoyed, but as we later discovered, the landlord had been unwell, and somebody else was running the bar for him. They really did used to open dinnertimes, but this was obviously no longer the case. Knowing that the Red Lion at Waterfall would also be closed we headed into Leek, parked up and visited the excellent Wilkes Head.

Three beers on here, all from Whim, Barraharri went for the Hartington Bitter and me a pint of the IPA, which lasted about 5 minutes. I also went back for a pint of the excellent Flower Power. All the beers including the stronger 5.2% Flower Power were below £3.00 a pint (the latter £2.90). An excellent if belated start.

Next we had to suffer the dismay of driving on a proper road into Macclesfield and on to Bollington where we parked up and visited the Vale Inn. There were 5 Bollington Brewery Co beers on with one guest from Blackjack Brewing. Barraharri enjoyed a half of Parklife and me a pint of the 500 nights (I think, it was dark anyway) which was a fabulous smooth roasted malt delight that went down well.

Since we were now effectively early, we decided to go for a walk and maybe another beer. It was gone three and we passed the Hollybush, Bollington's National Inventory listed pub, but in keeping with our theme of abject closed pub disappointment the door was locked. We walked onto the Poachers, not really expecting it to be open, which inevitably it wasn't. We completed our Bollington circuit via 2 more closed pubs and one which was open which we decided to give a wide berth before getting back in the car. On our way out we noticed the Holly Bush was now open, but the moment was lost and we decided instead to press on.

Up to Pymchair next for a look at the views and a late dinner, before we got back onto the route, somewhat wiggly, to Earl Sterndale, via Wincle and the Royal Cottage (so we could memorise its location for later). We headed past Lamaload and straight across the main road into Wildboarclough, followed its length then headed down into Wincle for gone 17.00, alas, that was too early for the Ship at Wincle to be open as well, although I hadn't expected to be there that early.

Next we followed the road over the moors to Royal Cottage before heading along Dale Head and down Dowal Dale then up to Earl Sterndale for 10 to 6 - we had told them we would arrive about 6. We parked up in the least fly-y place, and started to unfurl the tent.....and discovered half of the poles were missing. How we laughed. This was not a simple A frame tent so no poles 3 and 4 meant no tent. I'm not apportioning any blame here but Barraharri was very annoyed with himself. And we were too early for the Quiet Woman to open....

A lesser duo may have given up at this point but we pressed on, not least because we needed a loo stop. In Longnor, we found the Grapes, Crewe and Harpur Arms and Cheshire Cheese shut (but then, has the Cheshire Cheese ever been open?) which is surprising for nearly 18.30 on a Friday, but luckily the Horseshoes was forging a path by being open, so we popped in for a pint of Marstons Bitter (two in my case) whilst Barraharri spent 20 minutes waiting at the chippy for the most rubbish fishcake butty you ever saw. The proprietors of the chip shop really need to go to Betty's to see how its really done.

Next we drove the short distance to the excellent Butchers Arms at Reapsmoor. They opened a few minutes after we got there (officially its 18.45) and we were soon inside, playing the find out the identity of the real ale game. Only one on this time, an apple themed ale which Carl repeatedly insisted he did not know the identity of. Which was a shame, as it was quite nice.

We got settled down near one of the fires and admired the view across the moors whilst supping our refreshing fayre (a delicious water for Barraharri) as the pub quickly filled up with drinkers and diners. Please note that a rudimentary web search has thrown up very few suggestions for the beer's identity, unless it was Downton or Wissey Valley, both of which seem very unlikely. Perhaps Springhead Bramley Bitter?

Anyway we made our way over to Royal Cottage next, stopping to photograph the view at the Mermaids pool, before parking up next to the pub and enjoying the views over Staffordshire. The Royal Cottage opens "about 20.00" but the landlord has always said that you can knock if you are in the  area earlier and he'll let you in. At 20.00 we caved in and knocked and Cliff let us in to the dimly lit delights of this ultra traditional pub.

The very first time I came was bout 6 years ago and it was a folk night - there was draught beer, in the form of Tetley smoothflow, which I think he'd bought in specially. It was certainly heaving, so no doubt he sold most of it, but I've never spotted draught beer since. So my beer was a bottle of Old Speckled Hen whilst Barraharri experimented with a small bottle of Manns, just for the novelty.

We stood in the dim light (Cliff turns the light off over the bar when he's not serving!) and chatted to him and his friend and fussed the enormous rottweiler that has the gruffest and loudest bark, but not a temperament to match. It was here we found out about the Yew Tree and the fate of the Red Lion at Wensley, and discussed some of the finer points of life in Sheffield over our drinks.

I think its safe to say that I don't know of another pub like the Royal Cottage. Its a dying breed of farmhouse pubs that serve as company for the farmer and a place to meet for the locals, and probably almost never sees passing trade, although visitors are made to feel welcome. Bearing in mind that its only open from 8ish onwards Friday and Saturday, I reckon a casual unplanned visit is unlikely, but I highly recommend you make the effort to go. Please be aware that Cliff insists he's not about to start serving food any time soon....

We headed towards Elton next, and petrol became a bit of a preoccupation. We drove through Hartington and up to the main road then into Monyash, and decided that we would have to divert so headed to the garage in Bakewell for supplies. We now had just enough time to go to the Duke of York at Elton, having missed the Winster turning, by the rather lengthy but pleasant dawdle from Middleton by Youlgrave. We were able to park up outside the pub, distinguishable only by my knowing exactly where it was, and a dim light above the doorway.

Inside there was a choice of two beers, Adnams and I think Marstons Bitter. I went for the Adnams but it was very tired and noting that everyone buying cask was on Martsons perhaps should have been a hint to what would have been a better choice. Sat by the fire we got chatting to Len who used to work at Rolls Royce, whilst surveying the unchanging scene in the tiny bar. I seem to get out to the Duke of York less and less now, which is a real shame, because this is a fantastic unspoilt country pub on the National Inventory of unspoilt pub interiors.

All too soon we had to leave and got back to Dronfield by 22.30, Barraharri dropping me at the Coach and horses whilst he went to park the car. We had a few pints in here, mainly Jaipur and Lord Marples, although I did also have a rather enjoyable bottle of Urthel Saisonnaire, before we got a couple of pints (or more?) of Jaipur to take away, and enjoyed them at Barraharri's with homemade burgers.

The moral of this story is clearly, never go on a Friday! But had we been stopping over at Earl Sterndale we would have got to more pubs such as the redoubtable Quiet Woman, and perhaps Waterfall and Cauldon on the way home.

Either way this was a really enjoyable, if tiring and frustrating day out in fantastic countryside.


Wee Beefy

Saturday, 4 August 2012

Wee Beefy's August beer bites, already...


  with the hectic month hardly started, here's a round up of beer and pubs encountered over the last week.

Old House

A goodly selection of ales to choose from including First Porter from True North/Welbeck, but I plumped for the Abbeydale Dog Star having missed it at Sun fest. This beer, with an amount of each pint being donated to rain rescue, was a really satisfying well balanced fruity hoppy ale which went down well. I also tried a bottle of Saison Silly. Points go to the House for having a branded glass for this, but alas this was the most disappointing saison I've tried so far - far too sweet and hardly refreshing.

Wick at Both Ends

Just the Farmers Blonde on when I visited, and unfortunately their world bottled beer festival was in Asia, so nothing tempted me from the bottles either. Regrettably I had just missed the European leg - most unfortunate! The music was excellent though, so that was a plus point.

Gardeners Rest

A recent trip in with Mr P heralded another stonking range of new brews plus the output from Sheffield Brewing Co. I started with a pint of Bowness Tern Mild and Mr P the Radnorshire Whimbledon. The Radnorshire was, putting it politely, very grim. Slightly jarring with an odd malt flavour and a bewildering hop taste that defied description. It wasn't off, just awful. Luckily the smoky crispness of the Tern was far better.

We also tried pints of the Hackney Best for Mr P and Blackjack Stout for myself, whilst enjoying the calm before the storm sat in the beer garden. The stout was a perfect roasted, dry bitter beer which did everything it should. The Hackney was nice, with a slight caramel taste and good earthy hops.


We would have stood outside waiting to get in the Ship but it was hammering it down, luckily by the time they opened it had brightened up. Kelham and Abbeydale ruled the bar this time and I had a pint of the Abbeydale Brimstone, the same as Mr P. It was good to take some time out and relax in the pub watching the weather change from sun to downpour and back again outside.

Silly saison at the Wellington.

I persuaded Mr P our last one should be in the Wellington, a pub he had previously avoided due to a dislike of one of the members of staff. Realising that this was probably a long time ago I insisted we should go, espcially since their own brewed beer was so good. I got a pint of the Kimbolton Castle again, which was fantastic, and Mr P a mild which could have been called Light Grey. I should know by now to write these things down....

When it was the Cask Neil used to keep a fairly impressive range of Belgian beers so having sunk my pint I thought I'd try and find out if they stocked a saison. Having discovered they didn't, I also found out that this incredible departure from normality had attracted the attention of the grumpy man who runs the place. He asked what saison was, but as it turned out wasn't actually interested to find out the answer. Now I'm no saison fanboy, but me and the gent stood next to me did try to describe it, while his followers mumped and grumbled amongst themselves about the beer which it was suggested was a"new fangled thing". Alas the opportunity to improve this discourse with an answer was drowned out and the conversation then moved onto Rodenbach Grand Cru, one assumes not because its similar, since that's a well known Belgian sour ale (that he did not like either) as any fule kno.

I opted for another pint of Kimbolton because it was very good, and sat back down wondering why given an apparent lack of knowledge about beer styles, no-one seemed interested in learning anything, like erm, what the beer they had likely never tried was, for example. Had this been Shakespeares, never mind that they do stock one, and are probably quite knowledgeable (and polite), had they not known what it was they would have been interested to find out.


Nicely segued from the above I was in Shakespeares twice, once to have a half and once to have a pint, of the excellent Steel City Brewing A slight case of over-hopping 14 (according to the barman), which had to be secretly fetched from the cellar like some illicit product. It certainly ticked all the right boxes for me, and wasn't too strong either, so this was an excellent beer. I also think it was actually called a Hopfenweiss.

Interestingly, Steel City are going to brew a saison - alas, with it having ginger in it (and something else incongruous), I think I'll probably dislike it as much as Dave himself! Which means I'll be looking forward to the next slight case of over-hopping instalment instead.

The Blake

At long last I got back to the Blake with the excellent company of my good friend Middlemarch. She was off fruit beer for the evening so opted for a pale lightly hopped bitter, which was provided by Allgates, and named after a Pagan goddess. meanwhile, as well as the obligatory pork pies, I had a good few pints of the Bobs Yakima Pale, which was a brilliant session beer, along with a pint of Fortl Kolsch, (please note, I am sure that is wrong, can anyone tell me what brand the Kolsch in the Blake is at the moment?) which was a new one on me. This was another great reminder of how enjoyable it is to spend an hour or four sat in the Blake enjoying the simple pleasure of supping ale. Excellent.

That's all for now, hopefully I will have some more info over the next few weeks.


Wee Beefy

Upcoming beer events


    August is a damned busy month for me this year, so posts will br fewer even than than last month, but hopefully I will have time to tell you about pubs, beers, trips out, trips away, and as today, upcoming beery events.

Firstly Sheftival is on this weekend here in sunny Sheffield, and I understand that there will be real ale available. Its a shame I haven't had chance to try some of the pubs in the area recently, but based on hearsay and reviews I can suggest the following venues for a decent pint :

The former Coach and Horses on Attercliffe Road, now operating as the Don Valley Hotel, appears to be selling real ale;
The Carlton lower down Attercliffe Road carries a range of real ales;
(always assuming they are still open) The Cocked Hat always used to sell the good stuff. Ten minutes up from there is
The Sportsman in Darnall, who always serve at least one real ale at very reasonable prices.

I understand there is to be a Don Valley ale trail, so you may find that all of these pubs are included in that, more details from sheftival , although you may have to go along to find out about the ale trail.

Further afield,  the excellent Barley Mow in Bonsall, Derbyshire was advertising a beer festival when we went past yesterday. There were no dates on the poster but this weekend, indeed NOW! is the World Hen Racing championship which is being held at the pub. So although I can't be certain, I'm optimistic that the beer fest will be on this weekend, and even if not, there's 5 excellent real ales on the bar, and the "unmissable" hen racing to go at. See their link for more info.

Also worth a trip away to visit, the Worcester beer and cider festival runs from 16 to 18 August at the racecourse. Worcester is a good destination for lovers of unspoilt pubs, as you could easily factor in a visit or two whilst in the area, as well as visiting the festival. As with all the info provided in this post, I am actually quite jealous - because I can't make it to any of these events. If you can, you could find more info at worcester's beer festival website.

A bit later in the month The Nook, officially the Rose and Crown pub in Holmfirth, are holding an Ale'ympics event, a beer festival running from 24th to 26th August to include the bank holiday weekend. Paper lovers can pick up a flier (flyer?) at Archer Road Beer Stop here in Sheffield, or perhaps just follow this alelinkpics link to their website for more gen.

Finally, a bit of "duh" news for those of you with bad memories or only just able to access the Internet for the first time, a beer fest called the GBBF starts August 7th and runds through until the 11th. Its in that London. Apparently its quite big. See the Internet or any CAMRA publication for details.

That's all for now, hopefully some of you can grace some of the above events, more news coming later today about Sheffield pubs and beers.

Wee Beefy