Tuesday, 30 October 2012

The DA, da, do (or the do, DA, da)

Now Then,

    one thing that has become prevalent recently, (well, more than once), is pubs and breweries having birthdays. The Rutland Arms pretty much set the standard with their terrifically fun and birthday-centric goings on in October, and the Blue Bee birthday at the same venue was also notable for its excellent cake and celebratory atmosphere.

So its well timed that I am using the, ahem, "celebration" of my 200th post in 2012 to tell you about the first birthday at DAda on Trippet lane, where I have been known to visit previously. Please note, other pub venues near West Street are available....but not for the purpose of this post.

The thing is though, despite my borderline DAda bias, I was mildly underwhelmed by the pzazz and sense of occasion underpinning the DAda event. There was a distinct lack of party hats, balloons, streamers and cards when I arrived on Friday evening. No noticeable instances of the bumps, no raspberryade, no sausages on sticks, not even a novelty gift. I hadn't even brought my camera to record the celebrations. Thank goodness for excellent beer, or this would have been the most unbirthdayish birthday do at DAda since the last unbirthdayish DAda do (note, this doesn't really make sense, but is an unashamedly enjoyable jumble of noises, which I like).

Anyway, having broke from tradition and popped in on a Friday it seemed rude not to buy a drink, and undertaking which I was in equal measure surprised and dismayed to find that my spot was taken by another barfly. To my abject horror, I discovered that not only are there other nights of the week than Tuesday, but also, other people stand at the bar and drink.

Luckily I suspended my indignation long enough to discover that Rupert is someone who recognises me, even though I misremembered him from the Rutland, and is a fan of excellent beer. So I had good company for the first hour.

During which period I had a pint of Dark Star Sunbeam, having reassured myself that it wasn't the spicy one that I dislike, and indeed enjoyed it so much that I had another. My companion meanwhile was on Tzara but desperately awaiting the running out of the Abbeydale chocolate stout since we were told that Thornbridge Evenlode would replace it. Neither of us were in the mood for the chocolate malt offering but we grudgingly bought a half each, prompting a rush which cleared the way for the joyous Evenlode to appear. We had the first out, having listened to a hilarious 5 minutes of faux horror from the staff at the beer being unsellable....

Alas soon after acquiring his desired drink another pub and another drinker drew away my fellow barfly so I sought to protect myself against the possible isolation (not that this would happen with a full compliment of excellent DAda staff) and bolstered my determination to enjoy myself by having a few pints of the Evenlode in the end. Perilously easy to drink and deliciously smooth and satisfying at 6.2%, it was an irresistible tipple. I was later joined by the Bad Panda from the world of the Internet, so was able to talk beer and Manchester pubs with him for a while, all the time thinking about how I shouldn't have another Evenlode, only to promptly do just that.

Meanwhile, the threat of "music" hung like the sword of Damocles above us, threatening to make me leave early. Luckily I was able to stay long enough to wish everyone (the staff that is, not each individual punter, that would be mental) happy birthday, and to apologise to Jamie for being a girl the Saturday before.

So there you have it. Another anniversary, and another fledgling venue passing an early milestone, soon to be followed no doubt by the Three Cranes and The Hop and whatever celebrations they have lined up. Lets hope there's plenty more occasions to attend over the coming years.


Wee Beefy

Monday, 29 October 2012

Stalwarts and starlets of the South Yorkshire pub scene


    on Sunday, despite promises of dreadful weather, and the fact that Christingpher was coming for tea and considerable alcohol the night and morning before, I rashly agreed to go for a walk. We planned to find the source of the Don, but that's a bit disingenuous since it appears that its beginning is around the grains moss area, the nearest settlement being White Gate near Hade Edge.

So myself and Mr P conceded that having thought originally it sprang from Dunford Bridge we'd catch the bus there and walk along the Trans Pennine Trail as far as our hollow legs would carry us. Luckily, Mr P had escaped the chains of a temporary ban on alcohol so was keen to utilise a facility or two along the way.

We started off on the novelty joke train line between Sheffield and Huddersfield, where although our train was vaguely on time we heard the one coming the other way had broken down. Par for the course in my experience. We alighted at Penistone and caught the 21 bus to Dunford Bridge via a tour of local villages. On the way we passed the Victoria Inn at in the middle of nowhere. I can't say as it looked like its still trading, and if that's the case is a shame. I went there in the late nineties with Wee Keefy for a pint of well kept Tetley, from a landlord who must have been late seventies in vintage then.

Dunford bridge of course has definitely lost its most important asset. Some time around 2005 or so the perfectly fine as it was, GBG listed Stanhope Arms was purchased and turned into the destined to fail "Stanhope Restaurant and Bar" with inevitable results. Its now a theatre company premises. Still, there is at least a phone box in Dunford so you can't say its without facilities....

Speedwell growing near Thurlstone

We made brisk progress in rain and mist following the Don, sometimes with views, often with none, occasionally spotting the sun trying to shine through the knitted grey quilt of cloud. Soon we were  opposite Millhouse Green, and shortly after departed the trail to walk onto Manchester Road and visit the Huntsman at Thurlstone.

I have only ever been twice, both times at night, so it was nice to have a daylight visit, alas this brightness also coincided with almost half of the village arriving at the same time to order drinks and Sunday lunch. At first we appeared to be in a queue down the bar in the narrow pub, and that was working out well, even though the lady serving stopped to serve a regular at the other end, but he may have been there already. Finishing his order another couple arrived and went to the opposite end of the bar to us. And then ordered 5 lunches and a round of drinks.

I would assume the barmaid noticed they had only just materialised but to be fair to her she was rushed off her feet - something made obvious by her getting half of our 3 drink order wrong; but what exactly the hell did the woman waltzing at at the other end of the bar think we were doing stood with no drinks in our hands and wallets at the ready?

As we were getting served a local came to say goodbye to someone and pointed out that we had been waiting nearly 10 minutes to get served before she pushed in. I do like a shared dislike of ignorant queue jumpers!

When we finally got served the beer was excellent. Mr P eased himself into drinking with a pint of Tetleys which he reckoned was one of the best he'd had for a long time, whilst I had a pint of Acorn Quantum and Geeves Coco Canal. There were three other beers on offer including one from Slightly Foxed brewery.

We managed to find a seat and set about warming up, drying off (dressing for th outdoors whilst still drunk inevitably leads to cold), and savouring the brilliantly kept beers. By now the maelstrom of customers had dissipated, and we could have walked up and got served straight away, but you need the co-operation of other punters for that. They bought soft drinks by the way....

We walked into Penistone next and failed to find some shelter to have our dinner. In the end we picked the least wet bench under a tree to consume our pack up - I think my lunch tongue sandwich, Polish kabanos and wasabi peas was an eclectic, if mildly preposterous combination, neither enhanceed or ruined by having rain and leaves blown in my face mid-chomp.

Alas we hadn't time to hang around so bypassed the delights of the Wentworth Arms (former GBG entry now to let) and ploughed on towards Oxspring. Here we also missed out the Travellers on Sheffield Road and continued towards Silkstone Common. It was just gone 16.00 when we saw a sign off the trail for the station so we decided, given the distance to Dodworth, to get off and catch the train back. As it was the bus came first so we caught it into Barnsley - nicely demonstrating why it would have been foolhardy to walk to the Ring Of Bells and back to the Station as I had planned.

In Barnsley I persuaded Mr P that we should call in at the Old No.7 (above) .This was our first visit, and we weren't disappointed. An unusually long pub with a pleasing topping of handpumps on the bar, we had about 6 Acorn beers to choose form plus a couple of guests. I had a pint of the excellent Acorn Tangerine Dream that I'd enjoyed at the Sheffield beer fest, and Mr P a pint of the Herkules IPA - although interestingly, if anything the Tangerine was hoppier. The two pints came to a creditable £5.45, not a bad price for strongish beers.

Passing the time I wandered back for a half of Gorlovka (£1.50) and then noticed that Mr P had found the beer menu. And what a delight! Loads of Brewdog offerings, plenty of American exotica and, whilst its important not to base your appreciation of a range on one bottle, I was tingly with joy to spot the amazing Petra Brewery Columba wheat beer from Corsica. I didn't see the bottle prices but I know I will have to go back.

We caught the train to Sheffield next, when it finally turned up, 20 minutes late that is, and Mr P went home whilst I popped in the Sheffield Tap for some expensive if delicious ales. There were 3 from Hawkshead, 2 from Fyne Ales plus Thornbridge and possibly Tapped, but I didn't check. From the fabulous selection I chose a pint of Dry Stone Stout from Hawkshead, and a half of the 6.9% Fyne Ales Sublime Stout.

Obviously I got spanked for the cost - even considering I had a pack of crisps, it came to £6.45. That didn't matter so much though when you consider how fine the ales were. The Hawkshead was erm, well ironically "sublime", and the Sublime was, ironically, dryish, but not too much. In fact, both were excellent beers, but the Hawkshead was incredibly good. A brilliant choice from which I could have drunk a lot more.

So, a cold, tiring, and refreshing day seeking out some excellent pubs, but most refreshing of all, not a duff beer was to be had anywhere. Top marks to all the pubs for their cellar skills.


Wee Beefy

Friday, 26 October 2012

Middle aged man watches pub open.

Now then,

     this rather unprepossessing description is not a reflection of myself and Mr P outside the Ship on Shalesmoor, nor myself and Davefromtshop fruitlessly waiting outside the Crown and Glove, but instead relates to an important night in the continuing evolution of Thornbridge brewery into an ever so slightly but not really much larger pub running company.

The principal joy of reporting this is the opportunity to "declare" a gift which could be seen to influence my writing, erm, unless you read all of what I am about to tell you that is. You see, young James of DAda fame had a spare ticket which he generously gave me so that I could be part of this joyous metamorphosis. It entitled me to a free pint or two, so I was very grateful, and I wouldn't have entertained the idea of attending had I not had it, so essentially its a freebie. I like freebies. They taste fab....

So it was then, on a damp misty night, I walked to Psalter Lane, to behold the spectacle of a refurbished pub opening its doors to an impatient public. Gleaming lights, toasty warmth, local beer and industry hoi-polloi provided the sparkling backdrop to this occasion, with crowds jostling to be the first to visit the newly opened pub. Inside I expected to see elephants delivering beer barrels, the finest musicians, and beer served in antique tankards.

Well, to be fair, that's not what happened. There was men in suits, chairs you couldn't sit on because coats lived there, and the smell of food  And, as it turned out, the pub had already reopened recently (or maybe only earlier that day) and what I was attending, press card in hat and lamp flash Rolliflex in hand, was in fact a "do" organised by those Thornbridge folks. Here's how it played out....

The Stags Head, as it was originally called, was first licensed in 1805 and has been run by generations of the Mackenzie family, whose crest features the beast (thanks to the Europeana website for this info, click the link for an old photo).

Inside are three areas/rooms, one on the right having a large window sized space in the wall, making it more a distinct area than a room, with the area to the left housing a fire and the bar at the end. At the side of the bar is the panelled snug, and the access to the loos and the conservatory is off to your right. One interesting feature is the right hand curve of the bar - bearing in mind I can't recall whether it was there prior to the refurbishment, it looks very similar to the one at the Lamb in Eccles, a sort of 30's train carriage sort of effect,  floor to ceiling, with dark wood. The rest of the bar is opened out and quite modern however.

I didn't get chance to appreciate the what I believe is new panelling in the snug since it was rammed all the time I was there, as indeed was the pub in general. It certainly seems like that would be the place to make your own on a visit though, much like the amazing snug on the right at Fagans which seems to be constantly occupied.

And now, the important bit. The slaking. Being unaware of the form at such occasions I was quite surprised not to be tapped for my ticket on entry, and it was only when I bumped into James after nearly an hour that I realised the ticket was for drinks, and that anything approaching a do would be going on in the conservatory later.

To rein in my anticpation, I started with a pint of Wild Swan since I haven't had it for a while. It was £2.80 a pint which isn't bad for the area (I'm thinking of the Union and Lescar here) and was a decent drop. I also had a half of the Thornbridge Celluloid Screams, a special beer brewed to coincide with a horror movie event organised by the Showroom cinema. This was a surprise I admit, since it was quite dark but not typified by roast malt, having a peculiar but enjoyable red malt flavour. Its a beer I think I'll have again.

Once I worked out the ticket idea (and acquired another one from a bloke on his way out, very kind) I had a pint of the Jaipur. It wasn't as dire as it has been but still seemed average compared to its glory days, even when served in a handled glass (not that this changes the flavour, it just seems more, erm, right...). It was also cloudy - I had three pints in all, over about 2 hours and all carried a haze, so it couldn't have been the beginning or end of a particular cask. Perhaps rumours about overly dry hopped Thornbridge beers never clearing are accurate?
I only stayed an hour or two as I really only knew one person, James, who was networking, and besides which I was very hungry by now. The do, such as it was, seemed mainly to comprise of a man in a pullover playing grim 70's to 90's funk too loud in the conservatory to an audience of up to four people. It didn't really make sense. Being a pub relaunch virgin I don't know what usually happens but this wasn't what I was expecting at all!

Overall then the Stags Head doesn't seem any better or worse to me, although I reckon the snug is noteworthy, However, I have only ever been twice before this event, so its difficult to estimate the scope of any alterations. My first visit was when I was about 20 and I probably didn't care about anything other than the range of beers, my second was earlier this year, which now I think about it was the first time I heard that the pub was to be run by Thornbridge.

Beers wise, the lack of Bombardier or other national dross is a bonus, and it looks like Thornbridge seasonals or specials will appear from time to time so I think the beer range is already looking better. What the regulars will make of nothing but Thornbridge remains to be seen of course.

The other thing is that whilst its obvious as a pub owning brewery to have a brand, many features seem to crop up in almost all Thornbridge run pubs. Even the best ideas lose their shine when repeated too often, so Thornbridge may need to keep an eye on not becoming the new Ember Inns in terms of pub design.

The mixture of dark wood and light pastel colours (thankfully no dark grey!), the ostentatious mirrors and picture frames, the large tables, and the tiled fireplaces, all conspire to make this feel like another Greystones, Coach and Horses or Hallamshire House. Against which backdrop, another feather in the cap for DAda is that even if you don't like the decor in there, its certainly nothing like any other Thornbridge venue.

One last note - I went outside to take a phone call leaving my pint glass with probably a third in, and my jacket. When I got back the beer was gone! Luckily the guy sat across from me said he'd pointed out the error of taking my beer to the staff and the gent who I think is the manager came back with what was effectively a half, and apologised. Now that's how you deal with wrongly taking away unfinished drinks. It could have been reopening night special service but it was good to see.

Maybe I'll pop back in a few months to see how things are going....

Wee Beefy

Thursday, 25 October 2012

The Bower Spring, Red Hill, Jericho and Portobello beer-way.


    one of the features of my never ending search to drink in peace (not a euphemism for drinking in the afterlife) has led me to develop a route between my most oft visited pubs. In  order to misleadingly grab your attention, and to stop this being simply a list of beers, I have spent a lengthy 40 minutes "rigorously" researching and guesstimating details of Sheffield's central districts, and assumed that the areas I drink in are Bower Spring, (AKA West Bar) Red Hill, Jericho and Portobello. And probably St Georges.

This is rudimentary research at its most base - I am sure those of you who know anything about Sheffield history will be able to better identify the area from Gibraltar Street, up Tenter Street and Bailey Street, along Trippett Lane and then following Portobello Street and down Regent Terrace. But I can't, so lets not dally with the foggy detail and get on with actual facts.

Starting at Bower Spring and pub number one is no surprise. I haven't been in Shakespeares for a bit, but on my last visit I was on Blue Bee Lustin for Stout, a half of, and a very competitively priced pint of Welbeck Bay Middleton which has a very distinctive taste which I can't really identify, but find marvellously enjoyable. Alas this visit was marred by the heinous lack of pork pies. Perhaps drinking in the afterlife might have its advantages...

Off up Tenter Street next, and heading for Trippet Lane via Bailey Lane, in the area which could just about be known as Red Hill. Following the route brings you to the Dog and Partridge, but as you may have guessed, I was heading for my usual spot at DAda. Once again riotous assembly was taking place with literally tens of people swelling the ranks and standing at the bar of all places, thus almost ruining my night. Luckily I had beer experts Emily and Steph to keep me company, along with excellent ale.

Despite having missed the Dark Star Hophead, their Sunburst (AKA the summer one of theirs that I like, on account of it having no spices in it) was on so I tried a pint of that, along with a few of the excellent Abbeydale Abbey Ale, a dry hopped pale bitter beer that went down a treat. I also tried a half of the Thornbridge Wallonia (Saison style) and the last of the excellent Schlenkerla Rauchbier. T

The Abbeydale Abbey Ale was also my tipple of choice on Saturday after the Green Hop event at The Hop - my time spent drinking it was used to persuade Jamie that he had to try the Brecon Brewery Green Beacons, so we headed off to the Hop to do so - only for me to become "tired" and have to go home like an old lady....

Carrying on along the road the areas become much less well defined. Zion, Jericho and Portobello all seem to be candidates for the area behind West Street between Rockingham Street and the Barracks. Crossing Rockingham Street you can carry on in the same direction along Portobello Street, and you can nip up the steps on your left and walk out onto Mappin Street, and onto Pitt Street to visit the Red Deer. My visit on Saturday was a short one, and from what I would describe as a "usual" selection I chose a half of the Wharfebank Tether.

Its a short hop from here across the car park to Harrisons 1854 on Regent Terrace which is in front of you with the Red Deer on the right. I was in Saturday for a pint of Bradfield Blonde, although theres usually Abbeydale Deception and Moonshine, and midweek at least (not Mondays though kids...) its a quiet place to hang out, relax, and chat to Barraharri.

Now in the parish of St Georges (83% sure on this one) my route is officially finished but the more astute of you will have noted  the nearby delights of The Beehive, Wick at Both Ends, Bath Hotel Fagans and University Arms to name but a few.

So there you have it, a bit of beer news dressed up unconvincingly as local history.

Neeyithinkhow, lazerngennelmun.......

Wee Beefy

Sunday, 21 October 2012

Fresh green hops at the Hop


         yesterday was the highlight of the Green Hop festival at the Hop, West One, Sheffield. As well as sampling some of the excellent beers on the bar (the beer festival ran from Thursday until today) customers paid a little extra to listen to a talk by Paul Corbett from Charles Faram, Ali Capper from Stocks Farm hops in Worcestershire, and Paul Spencer the Ossett head brewer, about hop plants and specifically British hops.

Its perhaps easy to forget what with endless mention made of Nelson Sauvin, Galaxy, Centennial, Amarillo, Ahtanum and the like that whilst they may not be as high alpha, there are a large number of different hop varieties grown in the UK with a wide range of different subtle flavours and strengths.

To make the most of this zesty tingling celebration, I started with a couple of beers from the bar. Treboom First Draft Houblon Nouveau (Fuggles) was a very strong tasting herbal green hop beer which was a good pint to start on. I also tried halves of Irwell Works Green Manalishi (with a two pint crown), also brewed with Fuggles, and Worth Brewery Sovereign. The Irwell won prizes for probably the best name but was an off mix of dry burnt like hoppinness and an unfortunate caramel flavour which blended unpleasantly, the Worth on the other hand was far better with just enough bite to work.

I also took another pint into the talk itself, my favourite beer of the festival, the Brecon Brewery Green Beacons, brewed using fresh Fuggles from Little Lambswick Farm Tenbury Wells. I was blown away by the pungent herby edge and refreshing bitterness that this beer produced.

The talk was very interesting, although the slides were near impossible to read on the screen high above the stage. Hops, I discovered, are part of the cannabis family, and are mainly grown in the wine growing regions of the world - Germany is the biggest producer but to my surprise South America is also up there. The centre of the hops cone produces lupulin which is a resin, and they (can) grow on hop strings from the ground up in their search for sunlight - hops are very susceptible to sunlight.

We learnt about hop picking, previously very labour intensive, now slightly less so with machinery taking the strain, new dwarf varieties like Pioneer, First Gold and Herald, also how organic hops are grown with the help of flowers planted down the middle of the rows to attract pest eating predators, and how, once picked, the hops need to be quickly dried to a level of just 12% moisture.

Next up was Ali Capper, who with her husband Richard grows hops including Endeavour, Target and Admiral on 100 acres in Worcestershire. Ali went into some detail about the subtleties of aroma and flavour in British hops, and by this stage samples of Great Newsome Autumn Bounty, 4.1% and brewed with green AKA fresh Pilgrim hops, were being passed round. Throughout the talks there was also a table of hops to rub and sniff, aroma and bittering varieties, the pungent smell of which was wafting over us as we sampled the beers. The hops were quite sticky and incredibly flaky, but it was difficult to resist rubbing them in your hands.

There are 1000 hectares of hop growing land in the UK, down from considerably more back in the 1950's. And there are 20 different varieties commercially grown in the UK, although it was pointed out that once you plant a hop seed and grow it from scratch you are in fact growing a new variety. For more info see here.

Other free tasters came from Fernandes (Green Gold, 3.8%, a pleasant but not assertively "green" hoppy ale brewed with Sovereign), Big River Hop3 (2.8%, using East Kent Goldings and Northdown) alas this was a poor brown beer which failed to highlight the hop flavours, and finally the excellent Hop Harvest, a gold coloured 4.0% extremely quaffable beer from Green Jack brewery in Suffolk, hopped and then dry hopped with fresh Bodecia hops, with the addition of field fresh wheat, which I concede I had quite a bit of.

This was largely because once the talk was over and Paul had launched his new range of beers for 2013 we were informed that the 10 pints or so left in each of the polypins was free and needed to be supped. Well, it would have seemed terribly rude to have turned the offer down...

Mind you, a word of caution, 3rd pint measures are incredibly easy to empty!  And also make it far harder to keep track of how much you are drinking. There was consternation when a bloke started filling his pint glasses, but only to the half pint line as he said, and actually, it probably meant he consumed less in the end. Meanwhile, myself and Simon from the world of the internet bought another pint from the bar to provide us with a more suitable receptacle for our lovely free beer which seemed not to last as long each time we got some....

In the end, the amazing Brecon brewery Green Beacon proved just too nice and despite being tempted by the Hopstar and the Hop Studio Beerjolaise (plus the Marble Quantum IPA, but that had run out) I thought better of staying for more beer and headed to Betty's for some essential sustenance.

This was a really interesting event, and a great wake up call to brewers and punters alike to the fact that there are British hops to be found and they can go into making really enjoyable beers. Target, Admiral and Pilgrim have a higher alpha content than most British hops so the citrussy dry bitterness of American and New Zealand hops could perhaps be matched, albeit with a heavier load than your average English beer.

I noted with interest the other day that Dark Star had produced an English Hop IPA. That we are in a position where this is considered a niche or experimental beer highlights nicely the extent to which British hops have fallen out of favour (I say British, but in reality no commercial crops are harvested in Scotland, and the most northern hop farm, East Yorkshire Hops, is based near Brough (Humber Bridge) so nothing is harvested north of the Humber).

Lets hope we'll see more British hopped beers, and, crucially, information for punters about which hops are actually used in making their beer.

Wee Beefy

Saturday, 20 October 2012

Changing face or surprising trend?


     I was out with Wee Fatha and Wee keefy and Jambon last night for a trip to the redoubtable Royal Cottage, and another pub in the area. It was interesting to note that the Royal Cottage, probably one of the most traditional rural pubs in a 100 mile radius survives, in spite of its restricted opening hours and isolation. On the other hand though, other pubs in the area appear to be falling by the way side at an alarming rate. Is there a defining factor?

Last night was the trip to help find out, but we  were a bit late picking Wee Keefy and Jambon up as the Friday night Wednesday Leeds game was generating lots of traffic. Despite telling W.F this, he stuck to his desired route - and got stuck in traffic, whilst commenting that football always used to only be played on a Saturday, without extrapolating how that meant it shouldn't be played on a Friday. Once heading off with our full quota, Wee Keefy advised a Manchester Road escape, which was also ignored, leading us to another mire of traffic on Ecclesall Road. Hmm...

Eventually reaching the Royal Cottage, the light was already on and the door unlocked, and when we got in, and Jessie the Rottweiler finally realised that she was supposed to scare us off, i.e try and lick us all to death (especially tastily named Jambon), it was clear that Cliff's mate wasn't in either. This seems like such an insignificant thing, but as a semi regular visitor I can assure you that, quite simply, nothing changes here. Not at all.

Bottled delights in hand we sat down facing the bar end with Cliff in his favoured chair for a long chat, including finding out that having said nothing changes, the pub had in fact previously been called the Moorcock Inn. I couldn't find out when the change happened since Cliff and W.F and the others were busy nailing the date of Bonnie Prince charlie's retreat from Derby, which was amusingly implied by Cliff as the time the name changed, whilst the Scots were camped on Bareleg Hill nearby. Alas no-one asked W.F if he remembered.

Another round of drinks followed, me and Jambon on original strength bottled Old Speckled Hen, Keefy on Newky and W.F on tomato juice. As a professor of reminiscence W.F, and Cliff could probably, given the chance, talk for a whole day about all things transport, 1950's and changing times. Despite an unfortunate emphasis on motoring issues, I was just happy to sit, albeit slowly cooking by the fire, watching the natural conversation ebb and flow in front of my eyes.

All too soon we had to be off, which as per last time coincided with the arrival of Sam who probably comes in every Friday night. Jessie seemed to know he was there before he came in and got up to welcome him before any of us heard the door. We bade our farewell safe in the knowledge that whilst ever the pub remains open this scene will repeat itself unsullied for years to come.

Heading back through Longnor next we thought we saw life in the Crewe and Harpur Arms, and the Horseshoes is now closed, but we were heading for the new hub of real ale that is the Packhorse at Crowdecote. Its ten tears or more since I last visited with Wee Keefy, the 1980's since W.F popped in and a frst visit for Jambon. Whilst nothing has changed in the layout which is a long thin pub with an offshoot at the side of the entrance, one major change here is the bar.

Now sporting 5 handpumps, one for real cider, and almost all selling local or nearby brewery ales, this was a welcome relief, but not exactly a surprise since hearing of its renaissance I had looked at their website and knew broadly what to expect. The sites emphasis on food was not the catalyst for marginalised drinking, even though it was late when we arrived there was plenty of space to sit and drink and the owner Mick encouraged us to sit wherever we wanted. None of this "oh, you can't sit here I'm afraid, this is a dining table" malarkey. Just sit down and sup your beer. I may have to test this theory at peak food times admittedly...

On the bar was a choice of Kelham Island Best Bitter, Church End Lock Stock and Barrel, Nook Brewhouse Red Ale and the excellent Wincle Brewery Life of Riley. Keefy had the Nook, me and W.F the Riley and Jambon the surprisingly hoppy Church End. All the real ales are £3.10 a pint which I don't think is a bad price and the Church End and Wincle ale was brilliantly well kept and fantastically tasty.

The Nook Red was a little less well rounded and seemed to give up being a nice beer half way through, so that was taken off, but reducing the range slightly hardly ruined the excellent choice, and by the time Jambon had moved onto Bunnahabhain whisky it was clear that this was going to be an enjoyable closing session.

It was here, and along with information gained frm the Internet earlier this week, that I learnt the fate of Longnor's pubs and some of the others in the Staffordshire Moorlands Area.

The Crewe and Harpur, a large once traditional Marstons pub, changed hands about 8 years ago and became a destination food pub with  a range of real ales. At the time, though it was regrettable that it was deemed impossible to continue on a traditional course, the bright side was the range of real ales not usually available in Longnor. It has now closed, and is rented out as a holiday home (still with bar in situ it seems).

whats interesting is, this is an idea already made reality at the redoubtable Mermaid Inn, a listed building high on the Staffordshire Moorlands near the Royal Cottage. It had been a bit shakey in recent years and shortly before its closure, and on my last visit in 2008 it was a food pub doing one or two real ales. W.F suggested it had branched out into luxury accommodation and that too has now become a holiday home - sleeping 36. Necessary work appears to have been done and the interior looks stunning, and once again the bar is in situ but not in use. Its a sumptuous venue, but a crying shame its not still a pub.

Meanwhile down the road the Rock Inn at Upper Hulme forges a traditional path, still with a food emphasis but now stocking 3 real ales, one of which is local - Wincle Brewery's website states that they supply the beer, so that's a good sign. I haven't managed to get since the Wincle ale appeared so that would be my next plan when we are out that way.

Meanwhile, and finally, the Quiet Woman continues to attract customers by being unbendingly traditional, and in Longnor, the Horseshoes has finally closed, the Grapes has been shut for something near 5 years leaving only the very traditional previously never seemingly open Cheshire Cheese as the market village's only pub.

Its interesting to consider then that, the more traditional, almost exclusively real ale purveying country pubs are in fact doing well, whilst the ones that ditched that core traditional outlook have succumbed to conversion to other uses or simply closed down (not that either the Horseshoes or Grapes were particularly non-traditional).

Its heartening to see the traditional pubs hanging on and in the case of The Packhorse, thriving, but I wonder how many more large struggling isolated country pubs will be seen as tempting accommodation cash cows and suffer the same fate as the Mermaid? That two such pubs in close proximity (and apparently the owners are connected, if only by knowing each other) is almost a trend, and given the hard times in the pub industry I can see no reason why it won't continue to happen.

Thank God we can still visit the Royal Cottage and forget about post 1950's horrors, then nip to a quality real ale pub nearby to sate our drinking needs.


Wee Beefy   

Friday, 19 October 2012

Grumbling from the same hymnsheet?


     I read a post recently on the Beer Compugation blog here about the writer's experiences of drinking with his Uncle in Huddersfield, and how said relative's increasing grumpiness was, from his point of view, representative of him being a CAMRA member.

This provocative look at the CAMRA stereotype attracted a range of unimpressed responses, which is understandable, but rereading it made me smile as it reminded me of my trips out with Wee Fatha, and how he craves disappointment, sometimes actively seeking it out!

A good example of his slightly fatalistic outlook and predilection for dissatisfaction came in Kirby Lonsdale in the Orange Tree, a not particularly good visit that I described in my post here. We were pushed for time and nothing on the menu took his fancy. He moped endlessly about how his beer wouldn't settle and how he'd waited ages for it and it still wasn't a legal measure and how he couldn't afford to spend " a fortune" (£10.00) on a meal, and he didn't like the table we were sat at.

Sensing we'd already boarded the bus to diddums, I suggested we gave up and went elsewhere since we faced a long wait to get our food, and he clearly wasn't happy with the place. You'd have thought he'd have appreciated this chance to seek out a better venue, and to extricate himself from a pall of mardyness, yet, after all he'd mumped about, he said "well, I suppose I could find something on the menu" then sighed wearily and set about glaring at the text and his woefully underfilled 263ml of beer.

Luckily I got my way and we went, but not before he admonished a random bloke in the queue about the lack of a price list which was illegal, and told him how incredibly short his measure had been...

Who would decide to stay somewhere whilst already dissatisfied and then when given the opportunity to move on would still not be happy until they had become apoplectic about issues which would no doubt have seemed even worse had we stayed?!

Its a rhetorical question, but the answer is Wee Fatha of course. Holder of grudges (don't mention the Bhurtpore Inn in Cheshire), nitpicker, "groundhog dismay" resident, offence taker , and indignant exchange instigator par excellence.

I'm going to quickly defend Wee Fatha here though. He doesn't have to drive me to the corners of the UK to visit fantastic pubs and drink amazing beer. He is a mine of information and a natural teller of tales, so is an ideal companion on such escapades. His sheer dogged determination to ensure that he does not enjoy his visit to some pubs for sometimes undetectable reasons, is in fact admirable and fairly amusing in its absurdity.

Against that backdrop then, you'd think that we are ill-matched in the arena of pub exploration. Because there are plenty of differences, obvious and less so, that could and perhaps should mean our expectations of how enjoyable a trip is, or indeed what we expect makes a trip enjoyable, are perilously mismatched. Given time to mull it over I'm not so sure though...

You'd think that the age gap would automatically be the divisive issue when me and Wee Fatha are cooped up together for the day, and, borrowing a theme from the Beer Compugation post, perhaps the fact that he is a long standing CAMRA member and I have not been since last century would provide extra friction.

Add to that my love of (but not devotion to) very hoppy beers and interest in foreign muck and you have the Steptoe and Son of beer hunting. Or do you?

Wee Fatha, as he delights in telling everyone, comes from an era when "every pub sold real ale" and when no-one drank lager and every pub could sell you a scotch egg. He is entitled, at 70, to have a rose tinted view of ye olde innes and hostylries (I think I may have added a couple of centuries to his pub visiting lexicon) but these are the sorts of pubs I crave.

He may baulk at paying over three pound for a drink (excluding whisky, which he positively dares himself to overspend on) and he does make a noise like he's just put his hand in a pan of boiling water if a price seems steep, but I too share this internal fairness calculator; albeit that my reaction is more Anglo Saxon than W.F's.

He also loves to amass grievances once he dislikes a pub. Perhaps we all do, but W.F is a champion at it. He loves the idea that he can claim someone is breaking a rule or law especially in regard to price lists, or half pint surcharges. He revels in quoting and likely inventing "laws" which are actually unwritten rules or examples of good practice from stories, which are usually only ever rolled out when he is already annoyed. Its fair to say though, despite my best intentions, mentioning such failings is a hobby of mine too....

So far from being chalk and cheese or polar opposites, we are in fact the same consumer, divided only by decades, struggling to fit our natural desire to be disproportionately affected by minor things into a scene, place and time in the world of beer where in fact there is much to celebrate.

Which is a prescient observation, since tomorrow (today!) the whole of the male Beefy tribe is off out together to visit two contrasting pubs.

Lets hope a half pint surcharge doesn't ruin the entire evening for us all....

Wee Beefy

Wednesday, 17 October 2012

Miserable twat WLTM venue for quiet pint..


     its with some mild shame that I confess that I went out for a mini pub crawl, by myself , ON A MONDAY. Yep, that's right, a blummin Monday. Less than 24 hours after the presumably libatious revelry of the weekend had dissipated, big lad was slaking in a public house like it was, erm, Tuesday or something.

The thing is though, irrespective of my own guzzling patterns, Monday isn't exactly a daft choice for a beer and a wind down is it? Its a school night, granted, but I'm not talking about a raucous descent into crapulence here, just a refreshing pint or three and a bit of banter.

A chap standing at the bar next to me ordered two pints - one was for his friend who was arriving shortly as it turned out, before knowing which it was suggested that this was reckless Monday behaviour. As he pointed out though, Monday is by far the most depressing and unpleasant day of the week. And he's right. Back to the grind, into your work attire or uniform (possibly out of a uniform, I'm not here to judge), away with the careless slouching and on with the tense frustrating pressure of another day on the treadmill. Its enough to drive anyone to drink.

To be honest though, this post serves not as a defence of Monday drinking, nor really an exploration of what drives us to it, instead its intention is only to illustrate how far I am willing to go to drink somewhere quiet, what I did whilst doing so, and ultimately, the failure of my recipe for uninterrupted contemplation.

Its a fact well known to the staff at DAda that I really am not a busy pub kind of drinker. Even if I am with a friend, or two or three, I can't really be arsed shouting to make myself heard through the shimmering fart cloud of badinage and high spirits. And if I am alone, this desire to keep myself all to myself, or at the very least to have exclusive ear bending rights over the bar staff is all the more overwhelming. Nothing disappoints me more than a throng. Does this make me a miserable twat? Well, that depends on whether I share my solitude willingly, and I don't think I'm best placed to comment on my sociability....

Anyway, to avoid unnecessary annoyance, I have found myself at least two regular haunts that have a bit of a reputation for being quiet and one which is sufficiently large to be quiet in places, midweek. I have then homed in on Tuesdays as an ideal retail blind spot, and following recent disruptions to my plan, I have moved to Mondays.

Despite the above justification of why people drink on Mondays, I would still be amazed and somewhat despairing of large groups of people choosing to drink on a Monday. So cue their being an event on at utopia of solitude number one on Monday night. Gah!

What must I do to avoid these mass inundations! Can I now only go out at the end of January, through the first third and last week in February, the first and last of March depending on when Easter falls, the third week in May, the last week in June, not at all in July and August, the first week in September, the middle of October, the end of November and beginning of December?

Well, I hope not, because the above list features far too many times of the month when the reason everyone else isn't going out is the same reason I wouldn't be - lack of cash!

In the end of course, my Benedictine inspired search for silence is rather absurd and is no more likely to be enjoyable if I find it, as demonstrated by the fact that on Monday, having been frightened off my bar perch by incomers, I also went to the Sheffield Tap, which I don't think I've ever found quiet at 8.30 PM.

And for the record, heres the important factual bit : in DAda (for it is they) I had a fantastic couple of pints of Dark Star Espresso plus a half of Bear State on Keg, and at the Tap, from an unrivalled range I sampled a half of the Art Brew Green Bullet on cask, a half of Magic Rock 8Ball on keykeg, a half of Cromarty Brewing Brewed Awakening, which I tried on cask previously and is fabulous by either method of dispense, and a fantastic Tapped Ale from the Pivovar Taps in house "Tapped" brewery.

This was the real reason for going I concede, not so I could tick the bugger off on some damned list you understand, but just so I could put paid to my anticipation and also review it, after a fashion. My notes, which I recorded laboriously and inconveniently in a text message,  read "orangey with pleasing dry hoppy bitterness and lemony edge". It sort of does it justice, but a far better description would have been - excellent.

And that's good, because so often you wait ages for a new brewery to start producing and everything is a bit last minute and not quite how it should be. Well ironically, the brewery that hit the ground running when it launched, Magic Rock, provided the most disappointing beer of the night, whilst the Tapped and the not quite as new Cromarty were outstanding highlights.

So I'll leave you now, as I'm off to build a pub in my cellar, in the search for ultimate exclusivity, which should be one of its obvious features - given that I don't have a cellar.....

Now wheres that trowel?

Wee beefy

Tuesday, 16 October 2012

Wee Beefy's Sunday Ale Amble

Now then,

     a couple of weeks ago, myself and Fluff met up for a beverage or two, and a walk from Broomhill, over Crookes, down to Commonside, onto Infirmary Road and into town. There was a secondary motive for this yomp, but mainly it was to get to some pubs that we either rarely or had never previously in Fluff's case, visited.

We started in Broomhill, just time for one pub here from the choice of 5.  If I'd had my visiting a new pub head on we'd have gone to The Place - but I hadn't, and we met in The York.

Visiting The York on a Sunday is probably suggests its a restaurant that serves food. Its clear that most of the tables are for gnashing and chomping at and despite the relaxed lazy Sunday vibe and comfy seating on the right, I can't escape feeling like I'm gatecrashing a family meal.

When we were 17 (shock, horror, scandal!) we both used to drink in the York. I know I used to favour the Bass over the Stones, but its unrecognisable in terms of interior as well as beer choice now - from a range of beers dominated by True North offerings, I tried the excellent Kelham Island Wild Rider, which is or more likely has made an appearance at the Ship at Shalesmoor. This is a cracking hoppy beer and probably one of the best Kelham beers I've had for a while, although their Brooklyn Porter a year or so ago was exemplary.

After Fluff had recovered from walking over from Woodseats, and finished his much needed pint we headed up the bus route to Crookes. If we'd been doing a proper survey we'd have made 4 stops before we reached the Punch Bowl but really Crookes was just a convenient route over the hill to Commonside. A pressing need for Fluff however meant an unplanned visit to the Princess Royal.

Still serving a good range of beers it was warm, crowded and friendly, and there was some good music on the jukebox. We both had  halves of the Welbeck Bay Middleton, a well kept refreshing dry bitter with a lovely aftertaste.

All too soon we were off for a rare visit to the Dram Shop. We'd earlier noticed that Rhythm and Booze on Crookes had real ales on handpump, but despite the obvious temptation to follow suit, the Dram Shop have always steadfastly concentrated on bottles. From a list of to be fair expensive bottled exotica, Fluff purchased a Brooklyn beer (I think) whilst I saved my cash for more beer in the next pub.

Its only a short walk round the corner along Howard road and down the hill to the Blake Hotel. This was the first time I had been when I noticed the slow service that some people complain about. To be honest, its fair to say this was out of the hands of the staff - some customers really are just slow.

Fluff had time to go to the loo and come back to find me in exactly the same position, and when a bloke turned up and motioned for us to go to the bar to be served since he'd only just arrived, I was quick to point out that I needed to have been nearer sooner to spot which beers were on offer. Bizarrely, this chap took my comment as an invitation to simply put his order in first, and then take a seeming age to get it. A lack of pub etiquette always baffles me, but this was surprising in just how brazen it was. I was temporarily speechless.

Luckily the beers helped soothe the hurt, and despite not being reckless enough to make any notes the quality of the very best beer means I can remember clearly what it was. I know we sampled halves of Potbelly and possibly a Phoenix offering as well but stand out ale there was the Peakstones Rock Black Hole, very much like a silky porter or dark ale to me, but described by the brewery as a dark bitter brewed with chocolate malt. Either way it was fantastic.

Down the hill next to the Hillsborough, where I noticed the Raw Dark Peak Stout was on so had an OK pint of that, Fluff meanwhile went for a Wood Street Brewery Ebony Stout. The jury, I think, is still out on Wood Street beers. The stout was nice enough but not especially well balanced, and lacking in that edge that usually defines a stout. Still, a work in progress can of course improve, so I will continue to try their beers as and when I get chance.

Our final stop was the Wellington. Despite being accused of being the inventor of Saison beer, I was disappointed not to be referred to in such terms, and after a rather awkward bar staff identification mix up me and Fluff both went for pints of the excellent Mallinsons Topaz Centennial, one of my beers of the festival at the Sheffield beer fest that same weekend. Its ironic because I'd been espousing the credentials of the excellent Little Ale Cart beers all the way to the pub - and then we didn't have any...

Fluff ended up walking all the way back into town from here whilst I studiously reserved sufficient funds to catch the bus. All in all this wander was further than we anticipated, but none the worse for it, and featured some great pubs and beer along the way.

Definitely worth doing again to take in some of the other gems that we missed.


Wee Beefy

Pub equals Happinness?


    I was reading in widely reviled fascist chip wrapper free rag Metro that the village of Mayfield in East Sussex could not apply for lottery funding because against the Office for National Statistics measure of need the village's residents were too happy, with a rating of need of 75%, or surely more logically 25%.

Obviously this has caused consternation to the Fortesque Humphingtons and the village squire but what's perhaps most interesting is the reported benchmark the lottery set in describing a village with almost no needs :

" Mayfield can hardly be described as 'deprived'. Prices for many four- and five-bedroom houses start at £850,000 and it has a butcher, baker, chemist, greengrocer, bank, post office and Catholic independent school."

Apart from the maudlin presence of a religious school, what is notable here is the absence of a village pub! the Post office butcher and baker seem like good and indeed rare facilities these days, but always assuming everything is listed, what kind of village is happy without a pub?

A commuter prevalent one maybe? (am looking at you, Sellattyn in Shropshire!)

I personally can't think of anything worse, although, of course, that doesn't mean the village is any more needy in terms of funding.

The other interesting fact about this, and perhaps one that better demonstrates the newspaper and Lottery organisations inability to recognise the importance of pubs, is that according to Wikipedia here the village has three pubs - the Middle House, Rose and Crown and Carpenters.

Surely supporting the N.A.O assessment of their low level of need...

Wee Beefy

Sunday, 14 October 2012

Wee Beefy's October beer bites


what with fannying around drinking remarkable aged beers behind off licenses, attending festivals and leaving do's and the like, I've actually been unable to report on having been to quite a few pubs in the last fortnight, and drinking some fabulous beer along the way. Here's my attempt at giving you some info about those experiences, on a pub by pub basis...


Starting at one of my usual haunts, I have been to Shakespeares a good few times lately. I was even in there practising for the beer tasting at the end of last month, supping the excellent Mallinsons Mudtopper. On other occasions I've been in I've sampled excellent beers and no more so than last week when I had a half of Rat Brewery Queen Rat and the excellent Hop Studio White Rose.

I sampled four of their beers at the Sheffield Tap on their launch night and enjoyed them, without being overly smitten, but you have to give a brewery time. A quick half at a beer festival a month or two ago was OK, but the White Rose was quite simply brilliant. A nice hoppy bite with lovely fruity hints and soft balancing malt made it incredibly easy to drink, so I had two pints of it, just to be sure.

This was also the occasion that I met young persons from the University of Sheffield (the proper one - only kidding!) Real Ale Society. I spoke to a bloke called Tom (isn't everyone?) and his mate but it so nearly didn't turn out well at all. After queueing at the bar whilst 743 of the party arrived simultaneously, I returned to find that my seat had not just been taken, but consumed by the mass of youth. I had to locate and liberate my half full pint glass, my open packet of crisps, my coat (which someone was sat on, for fucks sake) and my bag. Without wanting to seem harsh on what may have been fledgling drinkers, what more exactly do you need to see in addition to the above to work out that someone is sat there? Aaaagh!. I swore under my breath dear readers. And felt old....


Talking of feeling old, without even consulting me, The Da have gone and recruited a new member of staff, who's not even 38 like what I am, potentially upsetting the delicate balance between my rambling grumpiness and the boundless enthusiasm of James and his staff. Luckily, the world continues to turn after it turns out that proper Yorkshire lass Annie is a great addition to the team., being particularly talented at guessing games...

On recent visits theres been a Thornbridge McConnells and Halcyon vibe going on, and I've even mixed the first in the same glass as some fruity Black Isle porter, which is an interesting mix. My latest visit, on Friday, saw the abject horror of huge numbers of customers, the thought of which nearly drove me to seek solace in a church, but this was offset by the stonking good idea of having four Dark Star beers on!

So it was that I found a small space to hang and not be in the way and tried a pint of the excellent Espresso Stout, plus a half of the APA, and some necessary Halcyon, from a range including Dark Star Old Chestnut, a beer that prompted quite a few wry smiles - and surreptitious puns from Steph. The Espresso was brilliant, but the APA may even have been better. An impeccable range.


The Friday of the beer fest I went out on the second of two leaving do's for a colleague, this time at lunch. I had a very enjoyable pint of Revolutions Clash London Porter, and a lightly spiced Autumnal or similar, porter from Brew Company, which was a very nice contrast.

Common Room.

I went to the Common Room. Yep. I really did. I was the oldest person there. It was very bright and full of youthful sweat and shrieking. I had Welbeck Abbey Red Feather and it was very cold and tasted almost like it may have had more water in than it should have. I'm going to assume they don't rinse the glasses properly though, rather than accuse them of a more heinous dispensing crime.

Bath Hotel

That same night I ended up in the Bath (insert pun here) and had some very nice Dark Star there as well. Being so long ago I appear to have managed to forget which one it was but I suspect it was the Hophead. Either way it was very nice indeed. I got that, a hard won copy of Beer Matters, and a half of Halcyon, and was quite happy.

Harrisons 1854

Long time no see for me and the Harry bar, and not a particularly lengthy visit either, just time to grab a pint of Farmers Blonde, and chat with Bob and barkeep extraordinaire Dave, who had kindly and somewhat inventively provided a cake stand festooned with delicious slices of pork pie - and the were free! The mans a genius.

Three Cranes

I popped in for a change from my usual Tuesday menu starting at Shakespeares, and was drinking a pint of the burnt bitter flavours in Blue Bee Brown Street, along with their Lustin for Stout which was on great form. I also got to chat with Brewer Rich about the Brown Street, but I couldn't extricate any brewers secrets that would help explain that smoky edge....


I probably mentioned already that I didn't stay for a beer but I have a ticket for Saturday at 2PM when its the Green Hop event. Saturday looks like being another busy day since also the cathedral beer festival is on. Hopefully some of you will also wander down to the event, where I hope I can keep quiet and pay attention for once.

So that's all the news I have for now, looking forward to another sojourn into Staffordshire this Friday with WF and WK, and maybe a beer in a pub inbetween times.


Wee Beefy.

Hill Top Club beer festival October 2012


     yesterday I hopped on the bus out to Dronfield, the new real ale capital of, erm, North East Derbyshire, to visit the Hill Top Sports & Social Club in the same, sample their beer festival, and head to a few local pubs into the bargain.

Having splashed out £5.50 on an explorer ticket I was duty bound to go as far as Chesterfield, but I was straying from my plan early on as the bus I caught doesn't really go near the club. Luckily, it passes the Three Tuns at Hallowes, so I popped in there.

The Three Tuns is a pub I've only been to a few times but its growing on me. Regular visitors may find this surprising since its immediately obvious as you enter that its a shrine to real ale, but its not growing on me from a cold start, I just mean I seem to be liking it more and more. Initially I was only popping in for a couple of halves, although I could have had thirds since there was such a huge range to try, but I got talking to Dave the brewer at Spire and it seemed rude not to at least stop for another.

So it was I tried halves of the Spire Dark Side Of The Moon, which had a nice berry edge to it in amongst the creamy roast malt, and was reminiscent of Black Isle Porter, as well as half of their Sovereign escort pale ale, which was a lovely fruity IPA style beer, with a nice balance of hop flavours in the mix. I finished on the ever reliable Burton Bridge Porter.

It was well past 3 when I hopped on the 43 to Gosforth Lane, but luckily the Hill Top Club wasn't that difficult to find, and they had also gone mad and put a sign up at the top of Longacre Road. Being a small festival there was no need for an outside marquee or similar, they had simply hired and fitted a bank of handpumps from Barlow brewery, and all teh ales were served from the bar, which is on the right as you enter.

On the advice of T_i_B I started on a pint of the Barlow Jolly Roger Porter at 5.2%. This was everything I expected, and whats more everything I could have asked from a porter - dark, smooth, rich, well balanced with roasted malt in abundance. A perfect moreish black beer to suit the weather, which had conveniently turned to rain on my walk up to the club.

The Hill Top Club's has to be one of the smallest and simultaneously quietest beer festivals I've ever been to! There were just two groups of festival goers sat near the bar when I arrived, and although I'd like to think that I was in no way the catalyst for the exodus which followed, within 20 minutes everyone had left! So I had a quick chat with the lass behind the bar, and a much needed sandwich, before it started to get busy around 17.00. Now it started to resemble a more familiar festival scene with tasters and discussions and good atmosphere abounding.

My next pint was the Ashover Liquorice Alesorts, one of the beers of the Three Valleys beer festival earlier in the year and still on good form here. I then had halves of Sheffield Brewing Co NZ IPA, Abbeydale wheat, which was a little too sweet for me, and the immense Full Monty IPA, a 6.5% monster of a beer from Barlow brewery. Perhaps I am becoming too accustomed to zesty citrus hop monsters with a light colour and quaffability, but I was surprised at just how big and sweet the Full Monty was. Having said that, it was a very enjoyable beer, although I would have struggled to get through a pint.

I finished off on an ironically hoppier beer but at nearly half the strength - Raw Blonde was only 3.9% but more than stood up in terms of hoppiness, to its towering fruity bedfellow.

Alas this was my last beer, as I had neglected to bring enough money, which is a bit stupid really. So I didn't get to try the Brampton Mild, the Barlow Three Valleys, the Muirhouse Lurch's Liqour Stout or the Ashover Poets Tipple, to name some of what was available.

This was my first Hill Top Club beer festival (and indeed my first visit at all) and it was a very enjoyable way of spending a few hours - a good range of beers, all well kept, and all the beer was a fantastic value price of £2.80 a pint - or, at least, that's what I think the barmaid said....

With an hour of daylight remaining I went to catch the bus into Chesterfield, but once again had to change my plans as I had just missed it, so headed to the Coach and Horses instead. Here I supped an enjoyable pint of Thornbridge Brock and a half of their excellent Halcyon, no doubt the increasingly long list of stronger beers wasn't helping my attempts to remain compus-mentus.

This was more apparent when I got outside and decided, rather than wait 10 minutes for the bus to Chesterfield (a privilege for which I had earlier paid handsomely) I would simply jump on the bus back to Sheffield. Luckily as I spotted the Sheffield bus coming round the corner, I remembered that the White Swan was waiting for me and crossed the road in time to get the oncoming Vegas tractor.

Once in Chesterfield, I headed a rather odd confused route through the churchyard to the White Swan. Busy, and with the regrettable vision of bouncers on the door, I was a little dismayed to see a distinct lack of dark ales on offer. However, in the end I opted for halves of Abbeydale Chocolate Stout (the dark beer) and the absolutely excellent Raw Mucky Duck, as recommended by the barstaff. Had I not been knowingly undersober, I might have stopped for a whole pint of this delicious beer.

Next I headed down to Coco for some more rather ill advised strong beer - this time Raw Pacific Ghost IPA (5.9%) a fantastic orangey bitter pale beer, which I enjoyed slouched sottishly on the black sofas surveying the cloudy and disconcertingly wobbly scene.

A mere 50 minutes wait followed, for the now assumedly intentionally late last 43, which I used as a great place to catch some zeds on, before I nipped in the Bankers Draft where I had two halves of.....erm....beer. One was dark. One was from a brewery I'd never heard of. Both were cold, and £1.00 a half. I also bumped into Mr Shape who was out with some mates, none of whom got to speak to him after I collarred him at the bus stop as well!

So, another good day out, and a brilliant little beer fest (which I only noticed this morning said in the programme that it ran from Friday 12th October to Sunday 14th May, 2012, the tricksters!) and a cracking selection of ales in excellent venues.


Wee Beefy

Thursday, 11 October 2012

Three not out - Rutland Arms celebrates birthday


    last night I had the pleasure of being personally invited to attend an exclusive celebration at the Rutland Arms, Brown Street, Sheffield. Unfortunately my exclusive invite was hijacked by the a hundered or more of the great and the good of the drinking world, but I overcame my disappointment to attend and write this...

Arriving to find the pub unsurprisingly rammed, the first thing that caught my eye was the pumpclips. Every last one had been redone for the evening, with a variety of eye catching, bizarre and frankly ridiculous designs. The only minor downside to this was that you couldn't tell which beer was which - and even had I seen the list on the wall, it was far more fun asking the staff what each one was, with varying levels of success.

Luckily I quickly sniffed out a Dark Drake from Dancing Duck brewery, a favourite of mine lately, and one which went down pretty well. I saw Andy briefly, and got to meet nano-andy (babies are lost on me, seriously, although this is the first one I have looked at which hasn't cried, so that's a feather in my cap) before I eventually spotted the authoress K E Page, from the world of the Internet.

We managed to find a seat at the end of a table at which sat the loudest people on earth, and set about supping beer and catching up. In between times I got to the bar for more beer and spotted Dave U and Shaz, allowing me to get my blanket apology out of the way in case I'd said anything too boring or more likely heinously offensive on the train journey home. Seems am in the clear.

Pass the parcel followed, after a fashion, and I also departed from common sense and only went and bough a half of a Keykeg offering, on this occasion Bitches Brewing Graduate IPA, which was very hoppy and had a dry bitterness but with some redeeming balance in the aftertaste. It was far better once it had warmed up as well.

After a lengthy speech by Andy and everyone being given a piece of another flawless Rutland cake courtesy of Mike,  came the bizarrest feature of the night - Joe standing on a chair whilst young folk batted a carrier bag with sticks until lots of sweets fell out. That really did happen, I kid you not.

Further sweets were handed out in bags during the rumbunctious revelry, and the celebrations got slightly more haphazard as the night wore on. Meanwhile Rich from Blue Bee arrived to squeeze into the corner I'd found to hide in, as I made my way through several more pints of delicious Drake, before finishing on a half pint of the Marble Ginger.

This was a great night out wih everyone being in high spirits without being idiotic, and it nicely symbolised whats weird and likable about the Rutland - odd occurrences, a sense of humour, excellent beer and food, along with great customers and staff. Roll on the glorious 4th!

Wee Beefy.

Wednesday, 10 October 2012



     its come to my attention (which means that you probably all already know this)  that a successful pub owning brewery has taken the rather odd decision to disbar British breweries Keykeg beers from some of its venues.

In those where guests are allowed (you probably guessed the identity of the company by now) cask ales from British breweries are permitted, but they've gone and got all hot under the collar about the, one assumes "threat" of other producer's Keykeg output.

For a brewery that prides itself in diverse and interesting beers across a multitude of styles presented in cask, bottle and extensively in Keykeg format, you'd think they would be sufficiently confident of the quality of their product in the face of albeit stiff competition, from breweries like Magic Rock and Kernel. Unless they think that other British micros produce better beer, or maybe, far worse beer (!?) it seems bizarre not to let them be on sale on Keykeg alongside their own such offerings and those from the continent and across the pond.

I remember when short lived Drummonds brewery appeared on the scene in Sheffield and when they appeared in a Punch or similar pub up Bradway the Drummonds far outsold the dross available normally, and was far cheaper. The Pubco got the tittylip on and demanded the beer be removed instead of acknowledging customers preferences, and presumably without justifying why the tenant should have to sell what they decreed. Most shoddy for all concerned.

So, fast forward to today, is this a sign of desperation, lack of confidence in your products, arrogance or anti competitive spirit by the brewery in question?

I don't know, but I think it makes "them" look very silly indeed.

Wee Beefy

Tuesday, 9 October 2012

The 38th Steel City Beer and Cider Festival 2012


      well, I finally got to the Sheffield beer festival this year after having decided not to read the info on the website properly, thus not realising that Wednesday night was a real live session which was open to the public and everything. Silly I.

I went Friday after work with friends and by myself on Saturday afternoon, and I have to say, had a very enjoyable time. Here's some of what I found...

It was £5.00 to get in plus £2.00 for the returnable glass, then you bought tokens on top. This year was just £1.00 and 10p tokens to make up the amounts which is possibly the simplest way to do it unless all beer is the same price. I got the ticket idea a long time ago, so it doesn't bother me that I can't spend real money behind the bar. In some ways its easier to keep track of the tokens, but its by no means flawless - as you will see further on.

There were reported to be 150 beers this year with not too many having run out by 18.00 Friday, although inevitably most of the very best offerings had gone, such as On The Edge Berliner. Luckily I was in time to get a stupendously good Mallinsons Topaz Centennial Ale, which was so marvellous I went mad and bought a whole  pint of it. And but for a few late additions, all the beers were arranged in alphabetical order by brewery.

The venue once again excelled itself in making the location of the actual festival a secret. Even considering that my eyesight is woeful I am certain I only saw one poster or sign, in an indistinct colour scheme, but luckily I did have an inkling where it was. On the plus side, however, the venue was, crucially, cool this year. None of the vile sauna that marred last years event. And though there was cooling on the beers, very few beers seemed to have needed a lot, which was a positive.

Also, somehow the whole layout made more sense with the beers all in the middle, the cider on the right and food, CAMRA and merchandise stalls (including excellent, if expensive Biltong) around the edge. The music also sounded OK, perhaps due to it being at the end of the room instead of at one side. There was even probably enough seating, although there were quite a lot in our throng so most of the night was spent stood up.

Stand out beers of the festival were the Acorn Calypso, Mallinsons Gold Britannia and Topaz Centennial and the Thornbridge Evenlode Porter. Stocks were getting a bit low by the later stages of Saturday but in amongst slightly less tempting Ossett offerings there were still some outstanding and distinctive ales available including Abbeydale Black Mass, Thornbridge Evenlode and Ilkley Chief (all rather stronger ones!) when I left before nine.

Friday night saw me joined by Malc, Greg Robbery, Fluff, John, Wee Keefy, Half Pint, Jambon, and Paddington. Although I made my own weary way down on Saturday, if nothing else to spend the £4.00 of vouchers I found in my shirt pocket after leaving Friday (I then found £3.00 worth in my wallet today, which is really frustrating!) I still had great company from the likes of Sarah and Dave, Tom from On The Edge brewery and Chris Judith and Dan who were possibly from Stamford way and staying in Manchester.

So overall a far far better event than 2011, probably unlikely to lose as much money as I understand that festival did, although it wasn't rammed Saturday night, and with a far better set up and some great beers to try.

My only gripe is that two visits costs you a tenner, more if you don't hand the glass back. Admittedly I could have gone all day Saturday but then  would have missed some really great beers. I think that Sheffield beer festival is expensive in comparison to say, Ripley, although bigger, and making it a more attractive price could put it up there with the best.

Am now looking forward now to the Cathedral beer fest and the Dronfield Hill Top Club beer festival over the next couple of weeks.


Wee Beefy

Thursday, 4 October 2012

Hardy companions


    as you may know already from my post on Sunday, on Friday I got to try a bottle of aged Thomas Hardy Ale which was a fantastic privilege and a great experience. However, you don't just wander aimlessly into a plus 12% matured beer, there needs to be a bibulous pre amble. And so it was; Davefromtshop had carefully selected a few bottles, as had I, to try before and after the main event, the details of which are below.

We started low, as is always the best plan, with a beer I had lovingly carted back from Crete, Craft Black lager. I knew what to expect as I'd had a few bottles in On the Rocks but it was a first for Dave. The beer is, as you would expect, black, with a nice head of neat white bubbles and an incredibly intense sweetness that takes you back a bit at first. However, whilst its not subtle, and initially you could be forgiven for worrying that it would be too sweet, the flavours mellow out as you drink and it turns out to be an interesting, enjoyable, if unsophisticated drop.

Up next was Belfast Blues, from Birrificio Indipendente Elav. This is described as a bitter, which seems strange coming from Italy. I recognise, of course, that there is much new in the Italian beer scene so am not going to suggest that I expected a lager, but what we got was something really surprising and interesting. The beer is bottle conditioned (I think it certainly retains a yeast sediment) and was difficult to pour clear. Its also lively, although it would have probably benefited from being a little chilled on both flavour and carbonation fronts.

It was bitter, yes, but in a dry hoppy way, more pale ale rather than trad bitter, with a a wonderful herby aftertaste. Adding the yeast makes the beer easier to quaff and balances the bitterness better leaving a fantastic beer. A great introduction to the brewery's beer.

Next up was the Chiltern 30th anniversary ale. We tried it last time and were fairly underwhelmed, this time it was nearer its best before date and so had longer to mature. On opening it, despite my having taken it all the way from home on the bus, it didn't explode, although there was a fair champagne sounding pop, and it immediately smelt incredibly rich and strong in alcohol.

The aroma reminded me of a strong stout in some ways, but maybe a Fullers Vintage. Either way it was confusing, because the copper brown beer in fact had no such taste. Interestingly though, this older bottle had a very subtle edge to it that the younger one didn't, a kind of pleasant cherry flavour which worked really well with the dry bitterness and warming mouthfeel. Quite a puzzle of a beer, but much nearer to the excellence we had anticipated in the bottle we tried earlier in the year.

The Birrificio Indipendente Elav Indie Ale was up next, an "independent beer" which also carried a sediment but which we had no problem leaving in the bottle. Initial tastes were harsh - incredibly dry bitterness, not matched by much other flavours, almost metallic, and quite thin. So we added the yeast. It only heightened the ascorbic taste! It was strange, and not obvious what was being aimed for, the bitterness was impressive but it was neither an IPA or a indeed any other identifiable style, and its independent taste didn't help it to shine. A hop too far I think.

A totally different beer next, the last that I brought from home, Thornbridge Evenlode Brown Porter. This is a beer I remember trying on draught at the Hallamshire House and enjoying. It was a while ago, and to be honest I was quite surprised to read on the label that it was matured on blackberries, but it was too long ago to say for definite that I hadn't picked up on that from the cask.

I needn't have worried though.  The blackberry taste came through well, not too strong or overpowering, and melded with and complemented the brown malty porter brilliantly. Its certainly an unusual taste, but incredibly well balanced, a really subtle blend of flavours that gives an interesting new angle to the porter style - especially with an interest developing in sour stouts. After a few bum offerings from Thornbridge on cask of late this as a reminder of what they do well.

On the night our next beer was the coveted Thomas hardy Ale, after which we needed something at the exact opposite end of the flavour spectrum to compete with its strong tasting signature. Dave had been given a very large bottle of Hop-Ruiter, described as a blonde hoppy beer, and brewed in Belgium by Dutch brewers Scheldebrouwerij, so we shared that. It was suggested that they brewed the beer in Belgium because it would attract more praise as Belgium is well regarded as a brewing country. I'm not sure I could attach too much reliability either to the claim that this formed part of their thinking, or the insinuation that Dutch beer isn't well regarded, but either way, maybe one of those factors has influenced the unevenness of this rather puzzling ensemble.

Hop-Ruiter uses Belgian yeast and that is noticeable in the aroma and taste, its not particularly blonde, but Jesus wept its hoppy. Here though is s similar problem to the Indie Ale - its so dry and ascorbic you can't really get the benefit of the Belgian yeast or indeed any of the other flavours, such as the fruity notes that such yeast helps to showcase. Its just a big dry hoppy bitter beer, with little that stands out apart from the nagging questions it begs about what they may have intended.

That said, its quite hard following an even slightly past its best Thomas Hardy Ale, so maybe I need to try this one again. We both agreed that the fact it was a much larger bottle than is normally on sale also didn't help, so I reserve judgement on this one.

The last beer of the night was selected to stand up to any previous flavours and aromas and indeed, expectations we might have encountered.  Birrificio Indipendente Elav Techno double hopped IPA was exactly as we had expected, but perhaps in a better way than with their Indie Ale. Yes there was massive "assertive" hops, as label writers seem to like to say, but there were some subtleties in the overall flavour that brought out the best parts of the bite in the hops used.

It was a really satisfying, perhaps slightly challenging hop monster, but if I had a complaint it was that it maybe didn't have staying power - the initial thrill of tingly zesty hop was amazing but it didn't lead anywhere. Even the addition of yeast failed to make much impact.

Overall this was a night of great beers, some really interesting ones from new (or at least new to us) breweries and some rather incredible ones from those well established. Given that the Hardy's suffered from a minor but forgivable yeast malfunction, I think I would say that the joint best beers were the Belfast Blues and the Evenlode Porter on the night.

All I need to do now is start planning my festive treats by cracking a few examples from my collection. I'm very much looking forward to the return trip beer tasting at Chez Beefy in January 2013....

Wee Beefy