Thursday, 29 November 2012

New faces in Sheffield


     despite the title, regrettably I haven't managed to snare a fresh faced buoyantly optimistic newly arrived student to write this post. It would no doubt be an interesting idea, but I find that even had I not used the word "snare", approaching persons 20 years my junior and asking them to look at my prose/help me out with a blog could be misconstrued, especially in a loud bar. Not that I particularly frequent such places, but...

Anyhoo, this is just a little bit of news really, and the first info surrounds a new pub, or rather a pub reopening, in the city centre. For years there seems to have been no life in the Sanctuary on St James Street, between Vicar Lane and the Cathedral. I rarely recall seeing it open, and before that its name escapes me, but I know I never visited it. So the fact that its reopening tomorrow as The Church House means I may be setting foot inside, finally, for the first time.

Details are, to say the least, sketchy. I photographed the pub walking past but I can't read the Facebook address on the sign, although I did find a page which might relate to the pub (but I won't share it in case it transpires to be some dreadful religious organisation). Oh, and there is nothing on it but a photo. And it aint of a pub. I also could only find one reference on the Twatter, so have had to make do with dieing of boredom reading the planning application.

In short the application relates only to some external signage and entrance lights, and that the proposer is Scottish and Newcastle (pre Sanctuary, in the mid nineties, it was Sherwood Inns). Add to this some rather overly technical architectural details I found on the British listed buildings website, and that the sign proclaims real ales and free Wi-Fi (plus irrelevances such as coffee and "food", whatever that is) and you now know as much as I do.

So, erm. Wooh! Yeah! A new pub run by Heineken in disguise is to open in Sheffield. Oh, and by the way sign writers, announcing that the pub will open on Friday the 29th November does not fill me with confidence. Just saying....

In other news, Harrisons 1854 has staged a bit of a coup by getting hold of some of Bradfield Brewery's perennial winter favourite Belgian Blue. Despite its gimmicky colour its actually a very pleasing and suitably seasonal offering and a Bradfield brew that I usually look out for. Barkeep extraordinaire Barraharri tells me (and, erm, Facebook) that it will be on the bar this weekend. So get thi sens darn theer and try it.

Meanwhile DAda, who are people, have news of some Thornbridge Yule coming on soon, and also a couple of casks of the excellent Fullers Bengal Lancer. Fullers Past Masters and seasonals don't seem to make it oop North, not to Sheffield at least, so in addition to this being a very competent exploration of the brewing styles of the past this is also a quite unusual beer for the area. No specific dates for its appearance, but you could always go in and sup the absolutely excellent Thornbridge Evenlode Brown Porter whilst waiting for the Fullers to appear.

Finally, Black Lurcher, a beer brewed for the Three Stags Heads at Wardlow Mires by Abbeydale brewery, has appeared in bottles, and everything. Intrepid explorer Wee Keefy returned from a recent visit with a bottle for us to sup. Some confusion surrounds its antecedence since I have a sneaking suspicion that its bottled at the pub, although, am not sure how long it would last if that was the case.

I know from my days working at Archer Road Beer Stop that Abbeydale weren't keen on bottling of any kind so I'd be interested to know the story behind this bottle, but to be fair, I haven't got round to asking them yet!

So, that's all for now, hopefully with payday arriving in a couple of hours I will have a bit more news to bring you over the coming week.


Wee Beefy

Tuesday, 27 November 2012

A Monday night tour of Chesterfield pubs


      this week due to it ending with payday, I have decided to get my drinking done and out the way at the beginning. So that's my excuse for why I ended up sampling the obvious and less obvious delights of Chesterfield in the pissing rain last night. Here's what we found during our extended weekend night out.

I met Davefromtshop in the salubrious environs of the Rutland Arms in Sheffield. The Internet, which is a person, had told me that the first beer from the new Chantry Brewery in Rotherham would be on the bar - and so it was. As I was planning quite a significant evening of refreshment and since Dave turned up after me we both stuck to halves like good lads. Mind you, the draw of the excellent and yummy XT Brewing "9" Black Velvet was too strong so we had another half, of that.
The New York Pale from Chantry was excellent by the way. A lovely peachy, orangey citrus hit from the hops (including centennial) made it gloriously refreshing yet reassuringly luxurious - certainly a brew that promises good things. Heres their somewhat embryonic website, which has at least a line more info on the beer and brewery than the above paragraphs contain....

Off to Chesterfield next on the train - seemingly we caught the only one not delayed by floods - and made our way straight to Coco Bar. Davefromtshop is in the CAMRA, and we knew he was entitled to a discount, so it was his round. To be honest, neither of us expected it to be quite so generous, at 15%. This meant we had two pints of the excellent Dark Star Revelation (5.9%) at just £2.55 per pint. Dangerously good value, and impeccably kept.
Up the hill and off to the other Rutland next, for my first visit this century. A range of about 6 beers included larger regional stalwarts plus 3 guests from smaller outfits. Dave opted for half a Barbarian from Derventio Brewery, whilst I had a half of Black Country Ales BFG. Derventio are frustratingly inconsistent, and they were consistent in this approach by making Barbarian, which should have been really good, slightly poor. The BFG was excellent on the other hand.
Dave had long wanted to visit the Crooked Spire pub. We headed there next with my full approval since I had never seen or heard of it despite its central location. Alas, this enormous former Mansfield house had two handpumps but no cask ale - the barman said they have just one on at a time, but it wasn't ready. So our first visit will have to wait. We went to the Victoria next, recently reopened after plans were shelved to turn it into a strip joint. It was modern, spacious and comfy inside and was similar to Wetherspoons, except without the range of ales. Sharps Doom Bar and Wychwood Hobgoblin were available, served in not bad condition, at £2.00 a pint.
The Spa Lane Vaults was another pub threatening to be very inexpensive indeed. Not that its expensive at the best of times (real ales £2.09 a pint) but Dave had some vouchers for this actual Wetherspoons pub which we used when selecting a couple of pints from a range rather too top heavy with Derventio style masters of inconsistency Milestone Brewery. Their Old English Ale was tasted and found to be grim, so we opted for pints of Rich Ruby which may have been £1.49 each. Either way they were inexpensive and on decent form.
 It was my turn to purchase inexpensive drinks next as we ventured unexpectedly to Abacus bar across the road. Easily the oldest people there, we quickly noted that it looks more forlorn when empty based on the extent to which its clearly a place to be seen, glad ragged and wide eyed, strutting your stuff beneath flashing lights and glitter balls. Nothing says depressing more than an empty dancefloor. Still, there were two real ales on and we both had halves of the uninspiring if decently kept Morland Original, which sells at £1.79 a pint. Given that its the same price in the Anglers Rest in Richmond, I wonder whether Abacus is a Barracuda pub?
Our final stop saw us save the best till last. The White Swan had a full compliment of 8 or 9 real ales on plus some Keykeg offerings and as reported previously, bottled exotica. Myself and Dave both opted for halves of the excellent Bridestones brewery Dark Mild, whilst I also had a half of the Steel City Brewing Schrodinger's Cat is Alive and Dave the excellent Raw Try Ale. As this was our last stop we also treated ourselves (probably, this is one of those ghost memories!) to further halves in the form of Try Ale for me, since it was fantastic, and, erm, yer know. Beer. For Dave.
We finished on a half between us of the Arbor Ales Down Deeper on Keykeg. It was very very silly indeed, and unsurprisingly, quite difficult to drink what with its formidable 12% strength. What was perhaps more silly though, was that try as we might, we couldn't get the White Swan to revise their pricing policy. It was £3.95 a pint. That's right the same price as a half pint of a weaker albeit perhaps better Keykeg beer in the Rutland last week. Astounding value.
 And so ended a very enjoyable amble, albeit in monsoon torrent, drizzle and high winds, round the largely deserted streets of Chesterfield town centre. Its worth noting that in my 4 visits to the White Swan and 5 to Coco I have never had a bad beer or reason to grumble, making the Vegas of the East Midlands a must stop when in the area. Long may the town's real ale resurgence continue.
Wee Beefy
P.S Stupid arse Blogger is still disbarring me from uploading any images (like some of the rubbish phone pics I took last night). Apologies for the unavoidable lack of photos whilst this daft situation is resolved.

Sunday, 25 November 2012

Oh aye, we can all mess around going to pub beer festivals


       well, I survived the trauma of another late November night of camping, and apart from a few mislaid items, losing horribly at darts and needing six hours to dry my boots out I seem to have come away from the 18th Annual Cropton Brewery beer festival unscathed. Not that I'll be able to share any photographs of said event with you - Blogger, in its ultimate wisdom, has decided I have now filled my Picasa web album (where, allegedly, my pictures are stored, even though they don't need to be) and wishes me to part with cash to upload more. It ends with off, I beleive...

Anyway, whilst I wait to start that battle I can be telling you about the beer festival at the New Inn in Cropton.

Firstly, its notable that its called the Annual Cropton Brewery beer festival - because in late April next year the New Inn will be hosting the 1st Great Yorkshire Brewery beer festival, at the brewery. Which one assumes is still the same one that makes Cropton beers, housed behind the pub. Right?

I say this because some of you may know that Cropton have rebranded themselves - as the Great Yorkshire Brewery (GYB). Except, erm, its not that simple. Last night there were GYB keg beers and a cask beer on the bar at the New Inn, along with Cropton cask beers. In the festival downstairs there were 6 GYB beers on cask (and the lager was available on lager font and cask), plus 5 Cropton beers. And, the beer festival glass (misplaced item A!) had both breweries logo's on it. The New Inn sign still proclaims its a free house but advertises Cropton brewery ales, and there are picture frames of their bottle labels in the pub, along with a selection of the bottles. So what is happening?

Well, am afraid I don't know any more than you. Cropton and GYB are both on Twitter and Facebook, the GYB website lists their keg beers and other beers (cask), none of which seem to be re-badged Cropton beers (although Blackout, on keg, was a Cropton beer) and there is a lot of emphasis on their lager. In a puzzling little tease they say that they are using new methods to brew their beers, and that a video of the brewing process and other details are coming soon. Whatever could they mean?!

Also, there is a Cropton Brewery website which mentions the brewery and the New Inn in Cropton but makes absolutely no mention of cask ales - only bottles. Finally, the Cropton Twitter account stated on 8th November 2012 "We have rebranded and are now The Great Yorkshire Brewery, please follow us for up to date information ".

So, here goes, maybe GYB will produce cask and Keykeg beers (spearheaded by their Yorkshire lager which is making appearances in many bars around tNorth), whilst Cropton will concentrate solely on bottles. That's my guess. If anyone knows whats really going on please let me know!

So, onto the beer, and talking of the lager, I started with a generous half of that since I was very thirsty. I could have had it on cask but chose to have it a bit colder, as befits the style. It was excellent. Very tasty, and very easy to drink despite its carbonation. Wee Keefy started on the Wolf Lupus, being a fan of the maltier beers as he is.

Next up was Red Squirrel Hopfest, which was very palatable indeed, and Jo C's Norfolk Kiwi - a new brewery to me, producing a very quaffable pale beer with New Zealand hops (heres a link to their website). Next I had a pint of the excellent Dark Star American Pale Ale. In some ways I was really pleased to see it, since I love this beer, but the unfortunate downside was that it severely restricted the number of beers amongst the 80 on offer, that I tried.

I did however, manage to try halves of Fyne Ales Jarl, which is always a good hoppy light beer, Cross Bay Zenith, which was very nice but too late on to have many details, ahem, and I also had a half of the excellent Red Squirrel Redwood IPA, a perfectly balanced fruity hoppy ale that went down far too well. By now Carlos, Jake and Mole from Sheffield had caught up with us, and we were chatting with them and some of the bikers from the Hidden Valley bike rally next door.

My final half/taster was the J W King Old Ale, which was fantastic, before I settled on several pints of the Dark Star APA, which is undoubtedly why I lost at darts - not because I'm crap at darts. Which I am. The Dark Star was excellent by the way.

Food wise there was a decent range of burgers and hot dogs, and not too badly priced considering the pies were expensive last year, there was also a commendable range of ciders, quite a few of which I got to try tastes of because two of Wee Keefy's biker friends were working their way through some of the offerings and asked me to taste them. Despite this, I bet zoider drinkers Jeannette and Sue felt better than I did the next morning, putting on cold wet boots to walk across a muddy field in the wind and rain, with a horrendous hangover, to use the portakabin loos!

Finally, the music was quite good as well this year, which is good since it had been a bit hit and miss on the Saturday last year. And all the above serves to remind me that I really must try and get back on a none festival weekend to have a meal when its quiet (does it ever get quiet?) and appreciate the pubs homely charm and see, if nothing else, whether Cropton or Great Yorkshire Brewery cask beers are on - if not both...

Heres to April 2013 at the New Inn!
(and hopefully more seating, which was literally my only gripe about an excellent beer festival...)

Wee Beefy

Thursday, 22 November 2012

Ilkley, Mikkeller, Fullers, Hardknott, Blue Bee, gold, fine wine, luxury liners....


    after my joy unbounded at drinking the Blue Bee Shake Rattle and Roll and Magic Rock Human Cannonball in the Rutland the other night, I figured it would be some time before such a stellar line up could be found again.

This was quite a dispiriting outlook though, so I went back to the Rutland last night, assuming that (hopefully) the price would scare off all but the most determined punters from draining the Human Cannonball keg. Alas, when I arrived this is precisely what had happened. Yet I still ended up having a truly fantastic selection of ales. How could that possibly be?

Well, firstly in the Rutland Arms the Blue Bee Shake Rattle and Roll was still on so I had a couple more pints of that, Mr P opting for a Nectar to start before joining the growing band of this beer's admirers. Continuing the Blue Bee theme we bumped into Brewer Rich, who informed us that the SRnR was brewed with New Zealand hops, mainly Green Bullet but also Summit and Galena. Just another beer that demonstrates the glorious pungency and bitterness in "new world" hops. Good to see K.E Page from the world of writing as well.

Off to the Sheffield Tap next, to find a dangerously good range of beers. From the casks available 3 were from Ilkley; Mr P had a pint of their Fireside Porter and I the Mary Jane IPA (6.0%). This beer was a sumptuous blend of hops and malt that packed a nice punch but was effortlessly easy to drink. I followed this with half a Hardknott Azimuth which was a decent dry, hoppy, pale beer, and the excellent Ilkley Siberia Rhubarb Saison. The prefect foil to the ascorbic bite of the Azimuth, and a beer everyone I was to meet later on was also enthusing about.
Mr P sensibly headed home at this point and I went for a last "one" at DAda, where the brilliance continued. I had a fantastic half of Fullers Bengal Lancer on cask (first time I have seen it, and it was fantastic), plus a somewhat unwise pint of Halcyon. I was then treated to two of DAda's best bottled exotica courtesy of a member of staff from another Thornbridge pub who was buying and sharing some of the finer examples of the brewers art. A noble and highly commendable gesture.
First up at (£price too high to insert) was a large bottle of Mikkeller Beer Geek Breakfast. Shared between a handful of us I got a decent sized taste, and wasn't disappointed. Despite its near legendary reputation and high standing in the (wait, am going to heave) "Craft" world, I have had very little Mikkeller output. I had a bottle they did with BrewDog back in 2011 (at the excellent Andersons Bar in Fortrose) and also had a taste of the Big Worse barley wine. Other than that the whole collective Mikkeller-gasm has eluded me.

So you'll forgive me if it all seems like a bit of a late on the boat, heard it all before, well worn refrain when I say that Beer Geek Breakfast was stunning. I was worried that the beer might taste ever so slightly of hype but no, it just tasted of perfectly balanced, excellently delivered bottled coffee stout which I could have drank plenty of. It was the epitome of what a good smooth stout should be, and that's up against some stiff competition. Perhaps this is one of those rare occasions when the hype is in fact just reasonable comment.
Up next was Thornbridge/Odell Pond Hopper. I didn't really like it on draught, I found it clumsy and overly sweet and just not , well, balanced enough. In bottle it was better. It was a similar sized helping and was definitely a good choice to finish the night on. I still think that Thornbridge have done better beers but there's no escaping that this was a big statement. Very many thanks to the kindly benefactor who funded these free tastes - although financial ruination now beckons since I am now willing to go out and pay silly money for the Beer Geek Breakfast...
So, an impeccable night of local, national and international beer aristocracy was enjoyed, giving me the chance to be blown away by quality and consistency for the second time in a week. A hugely rewarding way to spend 4 hours....

Wee Beefy

Tuesday, 20 November 2012

The week in Utopian beers.


      despite my rather bold forays out soon after I contracted an illness which had clearly intended to steal my internal organs via my throat and break my ribs from heaving (sorry for the graphic description!), its been an otherwise quiet week, during which I have been out and about only twice, but with excellent beers found on each occasion.  Here's what happened either side of the ebola virus.

Drinks for the workers

On Tuesday a wearying exercise in work based indoctrination made me and Mr C remember that alcohol is a great soother of sore brains, even if ironically, its also the path to making sore their housing. So we escaped from work and headed for Shakespeares. You know, for a change. Bearing in mind that I mentioned my surprise on Friday at discovering that the beer festival was on, its worth admitting that Robin and Chris were actively preparing the line up just 2 days earlier, on the Tuesday. Clearly the inner head sieve wasn't up to retaining that.

One salient piece of info however was that having sorted Mr C out with a lager, I immediately found myself awash on a sea of hoppy goodness. Without even first checking which brew it was, as so often happens when I spot a Mallinsons pumpclip, I went for a pint of that. Which was Chinook, a fantastically well balanced fruity, hoppy, delight with layers of perfectly matched sweet, dry,  and citrus hops and complimentary malts.

On arriving on Friday night it was no surprise to find that the Mallinsons Bramling Cross had been the first to go. If it was even a patch on the Chinook it would have been surprising if it lasted  more than a couple of hours. Whilst here, I also had a half of the tasty Blue Bee 5o'choc shadow, and, inevitably, more yummy Mallinsons.

Off to DAda next and it was time for pork pie and olives and beers, with Mr C going for a Bernard Light, myself a pint of the Blue Bee Bees Knees, followed by an entire pint of Thornbridge Halcyon. Despite a mishap with some slippery bush fruit and an unforgiving incline, we had a fantastic hour or more talking nonsense sat on a leather settee at an impossibly low table. Just as a night out should be.

Next on our route was the Red Deer, and it was halves only, and mine possessed mind altering, or more precisely mind wiping qualities. Sorry for the umpteenth time to the Red Deer for failing to remember, in this case even the slightest bit of information about my visit.

Harrisons 1854 beckoned after that and it was nice to pop in for a pint after quite a spell without attending, I was on a very enjoyable jar of Abbeydale Deception. We had a good catch up here and a brief chat with Dave, before heading off to the Bath Hotel. I know this, because I had Thornbridge Brock on the understanding that it was better than usual. I was assured it was. Alas, owing to the late hour, the parameters of said thermometer of quality were undefined....

On Sunday, myself and my soon to be Giant amongst Chinese men, met in the Rutland for a pint or few. I was meeting at 18.00 and had enough time to pop in the Sheffield Tap for a "quick one". Choosing halves of the excellent Truefitt Ironopolis Stout (nice to see its brilliance first time out wasn't a flash in the pan) and Arbor Yakima Valley American IPA, I was a bit surprised, even at Tap prices, to be charged £3.95 for the privilege, so belatedly looked at the Arbor pumpclip. It was 7.0%. Good.

Despite this we converged on time at the bar in the Rutland and after initial disappointment at the mild running out my companion Mr J opted for a pint of Marstons EPA to start, and I a fantastic dry, bitter pint of Blue Bee Shake Rattle and Roll. I was surprised to find this on (ahem, someone was supposed to let me know...) but was glad I did, and had two pints. Mr J on the other hand made a slight climb in ABV in his unbounded youthful recklessness, buying a half of Magic Rock Human Cannonball. This was so incredible that on the next round, he had a further half, and I followed suit, despite its strength.

BOOM! And the doubts are gone...*

Human Cannonball, brewed to 9.3%, is probably about 10 times better than the Magic Rock Cannonball, and represents the better aspects of UK American influenced super hopped pale ale brewing. Whereas Cannonball has an awkward dryness fighting throughout with a needless sweetness, making me think it was neither what I had wanted or expected, Human Cannonball is so well balanced as to almost be a lesson in strong ale brewing.

And, whilst it may pack as much alcohol into a pint as three of session beer, its not difficult to drink. Indeed, really the only thing to slow the drinker down is advisable and understandable caution. Were it 4% I think both of us could happily have drank it all night.

Human Cannonball has a tantalising aroma of spicy, floral hops. It delivers everything you could want from a strong pale ale by unleashing wave after wave of juicy zesty bitterness that mingles on the palate, lingering long in a heavenly aftertaste, before joining an understated but formidably well executed mellow, balanced malt in the background. Its bittersweet, potent and rewarding, and theres no jarring sweetness or ascorbic bitterness in there to spoil things, just a seamless procession of glorious flavour.

Once again, Magic Rock, who's output I have been disappointed with quite a lot of late, have produced a superlative strong beer. And the fact that it was a strong UK brewed pale ale, served from Keykeg with a nod to the USA style of pale ales, and which I really loved, made it all the more pleasing.

Next, if only to prevent us succumbing to the cost and impact of yet more Human Cannonball, we headed to the Tap to get the end of the Arbor Yakima Valley IPA, which was a shame, since I had made quite a job of recommending it. I also had a half of the Ironopolis again, whilst my companion had a half of some fearsome sounding Hardknott offering on Keykeg. Its not really fair to offer any kind of specific details of any of the post Human Cannonball beers - because there was no way they could match it.

So, a great way to spend four hours on a Sunday, and a perfect way of wiping away the memories and feelings of dread experienced during the middle of last week. I might have had to drag my sorry arse into work the next day but the buzz of the Human Cannonball kept me going, as I thought about whether or not I could persuade Mr P to go to the Rutland on Wednesday instead of our usual Wanderiains route...


Wee Beefy.   

*please note, this is in no way intended as a subtle endorsement of a well known branded product, neither is it meant to claim that "all of a sudden" Magic Rock are back to their very best. That said, it goes a damn long way towards doing so....

Sunday, 18 November 2012

Pub beer festivals - like buses....

Good afternoon,

    I dunno, we are slightly spoilt here in the Sheff. As well as a number of outstanding real ale pubs selling a vast range of real ales and slightly more expensive key kegs or bottled exotica, theres folks toiling with spanners and taps and sales reps to arrange the coming together and dispense of a range of beers on gravity, in pub beer festivals. And, having not been to one since August, all of a sudden three come along at once.

Because yesterday, heading for Shakespeares to continue to sample the delights of their 4th beer festival, I accidentally discovered there was one on at the University Arms as well. The pain! The imposition! The likelihood of attendance....

So it was that I crawled across town on the fool waggon and disembarked on Brook Hill to find a range of beers on the bar at the University Arms, as part of their Coastal festival. And before I could even make a decision on what to sup, someone said "there's a beer you've just missed which you'd really have liked". Now, this is a bold opening gambit, since it simultaneously creates a sense of anticipation and guaranteed disappointment, but on pressing, and being addressed by a member of staff who somehow recognised me from this blog (he could only see half my face I suppose...?) I discovered that said brew had been Ayr Brewery Rabbies Porter, 4.3%.

The prediction was correct, I was gutted, especially since, technically, in a unitary authority sense, Ayr is my home town, but also because this was the third occasion that I had heard positive praise about this beer.

In the end I opted for half a Scarborough Mild, and half a Blue Ball Dunkel. The mild was inoffensive and had a pleasing roasty character and went down well. The Dunkel was a trifle odd, well meant, but not managing to create the glorious creaminess of a good German version, which would no doubt be stronger. It was also from a not exactly coastal brewery - but, I was assured, the criteria was within thirty miles from the sea, so it counts. ...

Off into the conservatory bar next, where it was freezing cold, which was good for the beers at least, and the stillage was offering a selection of about 15. There were also delights in the cellar which the bar staff would fetch if required. I went with a half of Ayr Brewing Company Towzie Tyke, a decent if malty Scottish pale, and settled down with a copy of Now Then to sup my festival beers.

An interesting mix of clientele came through, quite a lot of students who either automatically wanted a super hoppy Dark Star Hophead (or the Cullercoats Rocket Brigade which I had tried and was recommending) or were led straight to the novelty of the Blue Ball Pumpkin IPA. There were also a lot of more mature attendees, perhaps here for the music, who were slaking their way through the paler offerings in traditional Sheffield style.

Before leaving I also had a half of the Tryst Pils which was the beer of the festival for me - refreshing, crisp, pils flavours mixed with more biscuity malt and pleasing citrus hoppiness. That clearly does it no justice - you'll just have to taste it for yourself.

On my way down to Shakespeares I popped in Fagans for the first time in yonks. The beer range is still steadfastly Tetley bitter and Abbeydale Moonshine (of which I had  a half) plus a real cider, the pub is still charming, and nothing seems to have changed in all the time I have been going there, now nearly 20 years. Its interesting that the pub is known as Fagans after a previous long standing licensee, having previously been called the Barrel. The current mine host (who's name I forget!) was celebrating a milestone of running the pub some ten years or so ago so he may well have been there 30 years himself. And the result of slow turnover of landlords? In this case, careworn comfort, regulars, legends, sensitive change and consistency. Long may it continue.

Down at final port Shakespeares there was a melee at the bar but not as dwindling a selection of beers as I had feared. To my surprise the Raw Porter Geist was still on so I somewhat recklessly went for a pint of that (5.9% £3.10 pint), about the same time as the Cross Bay Aurora and Fyne Hurricane Jack, my intended next two tipples, both ran out!

I picked a spot in the left hand room and set about fighting my way through the dark chewy beast which was the Porter Geist. It was very enjoyable, but I think a half may have been a more sensible option. I also then got a half of the Urban Brewhouse Smoked Stout, (4.3% £1.40) which was very nice and smooth, but I wanted something citrussy and fruity and light to stave off the black creep of the two current offerings. Luckily I found a very enjoyable Oldershaw Mellow Yellow on the bar, and had a half of that.

Wee Keefy came down to keep me company and he had the Jolly Sailor Cue brew, then I went to the bar and bought half of that, and the excellent Cullercoats Winter Warmer (£2.65 altogether) whilst he ventured upstairs for the Marlpool Straw Dog and a half of the Red Willow chocolate stout, which, having a sweet tooth, he possibly enjoyed even less than I did. The Cullercoats Warmer was a very assured wintry beer and the cue brew a surprisingly dark but enjoyable ale.

This was a great end to my festival visiting, overall I think the Fyne and the Allendale from Friday were still perhaps my favourite although the Urban Brewhouse, and Cullercoats ales in general, come very highly recommended. Another finely organised spectacle (both) with a great range of beers from breweries old and new.

And, to finish on a separate pub beer festival note, Wee Keefy also reminded me that we were going camping in North Yorkshire next weekend - at the New Inn Cropton beer festival, which runs Friday 23rd to Sunday 25th November as far as I know. Camping or not, I am sure, if last year is anything to go on, we'll enjoy the festival tremendously.


Wee Beefy

Friday, 16 November 2012

The 4th Shakespeares Sheffield real ale and cider festival


    tonight I had been aiming to take it easy. To slip home quietly after work, not having been left to lock up, nipping to the shops for essentials and creating a leisurely meal then spending the remainder of the evening in front of the telly. Then I remembered tonight was Children In Need night. Where good telly went to heaven. The waining careers  of peripheral or has been figures resuscitated for schmaltz strewn discomfort, admittedly with a worthy pay off for charitable causes.

Luckily at work someone mentioned my inevitable attendance at the Shakespeares beer festival. Which I had, erm, remembered. In my unused memory. So now I had to fanny about going to the pub after work, seeing people I knew and liked, and partaking in the rigmarole of drinking beer.

Still, it could have been worse - I could have been sat in front of the computer screen, driven senselessly mad by the sh*t combo of Orange snoozeband and Internet Explorer with Blogger, a double act who's flaccid unresponsive death jerk of a typing portal will lead me to actually smash the keyboard to pieces with my fists. I realise Google Chrome maybe better, but that's only one out of three problems solved. But I digress (breathe, calm, breathe....)

Shamelessly poor technology aside I arrived at the Shakespeare to bear witness to a seething throng of punters, some curious, some oblivious, many excited, and some taking it far too damn seriously. Portus was with me, and I bought him a lager and myself a Revolutions Masquerade Black IPA (4.5%, £2.80). This was a dry, ascorbic hoppy beer with an unforgiving bitterness. Just a slight extra facet of balancing flavour would have made it impeccable. As it was, it seemed uncompromising with none of the redeeming features that usually faultless Revolutions beers have, which was a shame. I could admire its bite but not its intent.

Portus had to leave soon after and I went upstairs to find the helpful lass who'd served me downstairs in the bar. Alas the upstairs "festival" bar wasn't officially open at this point; but being a top bar person she offered to pour me a half in a pint glass and let me take the beer downstairs with her to pay. The upstairs bar was to be manned later on, but this was a good example of the usual excellent Shakespeares service.

From said haunt alas the beer was less commendable, that being the Marlpool Straw Gold, 4.2% which I had long wanted to try, not least because I fancied a trip to the Queens Head where the brewery is based. Alas, whilst this may not be a best example, the overriding feature was hazy and sickly sweet honey flavours. Not to my taste at all.

Up next was a dark and pale combo - halves of Red Willow Heartless Chocolate Stout (4.9% £2.80) and a half of the Tryst Hop Trial Nelson Sauvin, 3.9%, at the same price. The Tryst started well but became a bit one dimensional, not a surprising trait for a single hopped beer but a suggestion that the malts used to balance its flavours weren't suitable. It was at least a refreshing drink. The Red Willow meanwhile was even more disappointing. A heavy cloying chocolate free slick of a stout, with a grim burnt edge, perhaps made worse simply because of my expectation? I don't know, but I was very disappointed, and left a bit in the glass.

Thankfully things improved greatly from here on in.  A pint of the brilliant Fyne Ales Hurricane Jack Blonde (4.4% £2.80) and a half of the Allendale Winter Dunkel were impeccable, with the Fyne perhaps edging it, if only for a slight smokey sweet aftertaste to the Allendale. Based on staff recommendation, and my own curiosity, I really wanted to finish on the Porter Geist from Raw (5.9% £3.10) but it was getting late and I wanted to get home and get some food - although the pizza sold in the garden (?) smelt and looked fantastic.

Other breweries beers you may wish to seek out for yourself over the weekend include :

Cross Bay
College Green
Jolly Sailor
Lincoln Green
Two Bobs
Urban Brewhouse

Not to mention the fantastic LocAle offerings on the bar including, of course, Abbeydale, plus Geeves and Welbeck amongst others.

So, although a fleeting 3 hour visit, (and despite being enraged by the fact the programme lists 3 full beer fests and 1 mini one then above lists this as the third!) this was a great start to the festival for me, and no doubt based on how busy it was, a great second day to proceedings for Shakespeares. And all beers were priced between £2.50 and £3.10 a pint, so very good value.

Get down quick before it runs out!

Wee Beefy. 

Monday, 12 November 2012

A fascinating but dwindling list

Good evening,

     I spotted an interesting post on Paul Bailey's blog here about the resignation from the CAMRA (you've seen the CAMRA) of legendary unspoilt pub hunter Rodney Wolfe Coe.

It struck me that not only does the list he is renowned for compiling, the Classic, basic, unspoilt pubs of Great Britain, link together through its possession a wide range of unspoilt pub lovers over a huge area, but also that of those who have a copy, very few have thought to reprint them online. I think we (sic) are missing a trick.

Of course, there is the issue of whether RWC would mind. Given that his denouncement of CAMRA's dedication to the modern at the expense of the traditional, as its claimed he stated in a letter to Whats Brewing, it seems unlikely that he would have considered making his list an online tool, or that he would stumble across it via Google on a quiet evening. Its still his list though, irrespective of the level of perceived assistance he had in compiling it.

I picked my copy up in the Duke of York in Elton (above) years ago, and have carefully, erm, misplaced it since. I remember there were plenty of pubs I had never visited, but a version I discovered online last year lists plenty I had never even heard of, testimonies to the existence of which linger on only by virtue of the scantest of references in disparate bodies of text across the worldwide web.  

More frustratingly, having found a copy of the 1994 list online, the address 
no longer works.  Having been known to me for a long time its particularly frustrating that I never thought to copy it.

A quick look around the Tinterweb shows a copy of Worcestershire CAMRA's Pint Taken magazine, which, on Page 13 of the Winter 2005 edition mentions a final 11th edition of the list, now featuring just 12 pubs! Since I don't have Word and this is a PDf I have saved what I hope is a "picture" of page 13 which, with any luck, will be shown below. Apologies to Worcester CAMRA if it does work. Apologies to everyone if it doesn't... (there is also a link here )
I don't know how to make the text larger, sorry!
It's noticeable that there are a few pubs that I know are on one of the lists that I have never been to, and now never will. The Welcome Stranger at Herstmonceaux, Eagle at Skerne, Fir Tree at Cornsay Colliery, and, having to do this from memory, I think the Dun Cow at Billy Row in County Durham are all pubs I've either only stood outside, or didn't know about the existence of in time to visit. Frustrating as this information is, the comparison between just two of the lists is a fascinating study.

I wonder therefore, given that the leaflet allegedly started out with over 160 pubs, if anyone would be willing to dig out the editions in their possession and copy them into the blog comments (or better still blog or host them and post the link), or, whether anyone out there knows RWC and would ask for his thoughts on such an idea? It would be fantastic, whatever the route taken, to arrive at having this invaluable picture of our fast disappearing pub heritage in one place.

It would certainly be interesting to find out whether potential inclusions that I also never got to, such as the Lodge at Shirland and Queen Adelaide on Snelston Common, both in Derbyshire, ever made the mark.

Finally, in response to the question posed at the end of Paul Bailey's blog :

of the pubs listed, the Welcome Stranger, Eagle at Skerne, Red Lion at Llandovery, Red Lion at Stoke Talmage, Horse and Trumpet at Medbourne and Seven Stars at Halfway House no longer trade, and the Bath in Cheltenham, Three Tuns in Hay on Wye (now a pub and restaurant, shudder...)  and even the Sun at Leintwardine, have had varying levels of change that would or might disbar them from a 2012 list. Hope that helps.

Wee Beefy.


Sunday, 11 November 2012


Good evening,

     yesterday I decided to do something that I'd been intending to for a while. I had made the first faltering steps back in June 2011 (described at length here ) but now I decided I should go the whole hog and spend a day visiting some of Leeds' city centre watering holes. I photographed the excellent Leeds CAMRA city centre beer guide and set off with a thirst and an insatiable curiosity.

On arriving I tried to find a cash machine, without success. A Leodisian glitch that would also affect procedures later on, however soon, by luck rather than planning, I arrived at  my intended first stop, Friends of Ham, on New Station Street.

Friends of Ham describes itself as a bar and charcuterie. It sells real ales, Keykeg and bottled exotica, a selction of unrivalled meats and cheeses and good wine. Beer, meat and cheese. Heaven.

Upstairs you enter a small busy bar area with limited seating. This is where you do important things like buy beer. You can stay up here if you want (and its quiet) but assuming its not too hot and stuffy its best to head downstairs for a more comfy and less "off the wall" selection of seating (annoying bar stools, humph). That said, downstairs its still not run of the mill.

Here it was busy and warm and featured the all important menus. I won't go into too much detail about the decor as that's already been done with aplomb by the Beer Prole here , instead I'll concentrate on the beer. I had a pint of Tynebank Cherry Stout, 5.2% to start, at an "interesting" £3.80 a pint, AKA about 80p too much. It soon became obvious that this wasn't the place to come if you were watching the pennies. The Tynebank was well kept and delicious, but a look through the beer menu showed fearful numbers such as Thornbridge Halcyon at £7.00 and Moor Old Freddy Walker (albeit in a 660ml bottle) at £10.00.

I think its a case of if you want to try something unusual or difficult to get, and there was oodles of that from breweries such as Redchurch, Beavertown, Quantum and Hawkshead, you may well be less concerned with things like the price. The only reason I can compare the price of Halcyon for example is its quite easy to get, but the fact that its under £5.00 a bottle at Dada makes this a less enjoyable comparison.

Still, I went back for a more reasonably priced Magic Rock Curious at £3.20 a pint. The Curious was enjoyable, but lacking in balance and not really reminiscent of the amazing examples encountered earlier in the year, which was disappointing. What was good though was my splashing out on a selection of three of the meats, which was £11.00. And that wasn't bad value. Because this was a porcine treasure box of delicious flavours and incomparable quality the likes of which I have never encountered before. Quite simply, the meat selection I tried, including the instant heart attack that is Lardo, was mesmerisingly brilliant.

And its for that reason that I will ignore the absurdities of the cost of the beers and remember my visit fondly with a determination to return. For more info see their new website.

Off next for a fruitless search for a working cash machine (15 bloody minutes, Grrr!) only to come all the way back to New Station Street to pop in the equally untraditional, but nonetheless enjoyable Leeds Brewery Tap. There were 6 Leeds beers on the bar here with a few guests. I started with a pint of Leeds Gathering Storm (£3.00) which was an enjoyable strong dark ale, although it faded a little toward the end, followed by halves of Leeds 7 spires, which was dry and hoppy but ultimately lifeless, and Hawkshead Cumbrian 5 Hop, which was fantastic - one of the best beers of the day.

It was starting to get really busy in the Tap so I decided to head off for pastures new, using my camera to find addresses of pubs and the numerous street maps to navigate my way to Whitelocks First City Luncheon Bar.

Its a good few years since I was last here (last century) and my overwhelming impression, that being that it was rammed, has not changed. I did manage to get a beer quite quickly, halves of a 4.2% Goose Eye beer that I could not read the name of, and Kirkstall Pale, which I supped sat on benches outside. I really must come back on a Monday in February to really get a look at this place!

I dallied with the idea of visiting some of the other alleyway pubs further on, the Packhorse did nothing to tempt me and a bilious drunk burping in my face in the Sam Smiths Angel was hardly a recommendation, but the Ship was a great pub. Also completely rammed, I somehow made my way to the back where there was seating and took with me two excellent real ales from a range of about 5 - halves of Ilkley Fireside Porter and Ilkley Siberia Saison.

The staff seemed knowledgeable (and helpful in the seething scrum) and the beer was well kept and interesting. I also got directions to my next pub from here, which wasn't too far away.

Admittedly in the dark and with my poor eyesight I missed North Bar, but luckily a helpful soul pointed me in the right direction. Inside it was busy, but most noticeably dark, making choosing my tipple a lengthy squinty process. I settled on halves of North Prototype 3, and Ridgeside Black Night, and repaired to the back of the pub to share a table.

The prototype was uninteresting but the Ridgeside was really good. Also excellent was the music - much better to have interesting "edgy" (dear god!) music played loud than the tired old MOR fare that dirties the airwaves at an irritating just discernable volume in some pubs. At this stage I also decided, quite unwisely, to have a half of Red Willow Ageless- £2.20 a half but then it is 7.2%, and was incredibly good. The only down side was that it left significant holes in some of my later recollections....

Off along the Headrow next to Mr Foleys where I have no idea what I had to drink, but it was very nice. Presumably. That's literally all I have to say on that one! I then headed back down Briggate and off to the Duck and Drake on Kirkgate.

Firmly a more traditional music led pub, this reminded me of the (Grinning?) Rat in Keighley or the Shakespeare in Sheffield. Large, with bare boards and no frills but homely and with an emphasis on good beer. I had halves of Naylors Pinnacle Mild and Revolutions Brew Bela Lugosi's Dead, named after the iconic Bauhaus song of the same name - alas none was plated at the time.

Things were getting a little tiring now and I ended up in the Scarborough where I had a half of, erm...dark beer. I don't mind the Scarborough but also have a niggling dislike of the place that I can't explain. Still, the doorman was friendly and gave me an estimate of how long it would take to get to my last intended stop, the Adelphi. I decided instead to sensibly get the train home.

Once back in Sheffield after my sleep, I decided to finish on a few beers in the Sheffield Tap. I chose halves of Williams Bros 7 Giraffes, their Fraoch, and Magic Rock Rapture. To my disappointment the Magic Rock was poor, very one dimensional and ill at ease with itself. Perhaps the brilliance couldn't last forever? That's a good few Magic Rock I've had recently which, even taking into consideration vagaries such as cellar skills and wacky weather, have been quite poor. Lets hope this is just a temporary blip, the likes of which every brewery has. The Fraoch was dreadful by the way.

So, a fantastic trip out featured some new pubs to me and some great beers. Pub (or bar) of the day was a tie between North Bar and Friends of Ham, but the beer was far better in the North Bar - F.O.H wins plaudits mostly for its amazing food.

And beer of the day? The Hawkshead Cumbrian 5 Hop. Better even than the Red Willow.


Wee Beefy

Friday night lies.

Good afternoon slakers,
   firstly, I recognise that its now Sunday already, but Friday night and Saturday I was tremendously busy being refreshed by liquids so this is my first chance to communicate news and other info.

I am mortified to report that, in fact, contrary to my last post, Thornbridge have not brewed a beer called Horny Goat. Its also not 6.2% either, even though it doesn't exist. Instead, Mountain Goat brewery from Australia have teamed up with Thornbridge to brew a 6.0% Mocha porter called Thorny Goat which was delicious. The only downside is that now everything I wrote so enthusiastically about this collaborating is tinged with an element of regrettable Newsnight style inaccuracy.

In an attempt to remedy this woeful scenario, I will be contacting the respective owners of Thornbridge Brewery and Horny Goat brewery in Milwaukee to arrange a collaborative brew run. Emily from DAda has identified the niche - it will be released on valentines day and will be an oyster stout - and it will be brewed by myself and Tom Ash from the Hallamshire House. And that's a fact. Sort of. Ish....

Onto real news now and I was in DAda enjoying the company of beer promoter Emily and cellar wizard Steph on Friday night. I was lucky enough to get the last pint of Thorny Goat, but alas missed out on the Abbeydale Abbey Ale which had become unwell. I also tried a pint of Brother Rabbit to remind myself why its one of my sigh beers, along with a half of Halcyon, before settling down with a lovely pint of the excellent Dark Star APA.

I also stumbled off to the Rutland Arms, carefully planning to arrive in time to sample the delights of the Rutland kitchen. In order to best showcase the output of the culinary skills available, I ordered a bacon sandwich. It was brilliant, which it always is. I even got to sit down at a  real table and everything.

Beers wise I was accompanied by at least one pint of Abbeydale Deception (in protest at having missed the chocolatey Blue Bee beer) and finished, somewhat recklessly, on a pint of the Black Iris Intergalactic IPA. This irresistible interplanetary mash up was prescient, since I ended up feeling rather more tired and mashed up than I perhaps should have been, before I escaped for my final beer in the Sheffield Tap.

Its safe to say that the IPA had used alien technology to rid my memories of beer details by now, but those space sailing, green skinned yolk heads hadn't bargained on the magic of my phone which cunningly took and saved a picture of the beer I had right under their very noses. It was Williams brothers Movember, which was a red wheat beer about which I remember precisely nothing. No doubt it was delicious....

So, that was a great way to end a week of work, and having sown the seeds of a brand new collaborative beer to be released in February 2013 I think I've stolen a yard on other bloggers who may otherwise never have found out about this brew, what with my having made it up.

All suggestions for the beer's name welcome.

Wee Beefy.

Wednesday, 7 November 2012

Collaborations that work.


     last night I got to try a couple of wildly different collaborative brews. The only thing they had in common was that without exception, they were both excellent.

Thornbridge, whom you may have heard of, have been at this collaboration malarkey for a while now. Downstairs I have bottles of the Alliance, a stupendously strong series of aged beers brewed in conjunction with Brooklyn brewery in 2007. I have had one of them before. Unfortunately, it was too overwhelmingly strong to be enjoyable, but could, when I open a bottle (hopefully on the 18th) at my beer tasting with friends, be a little more rounded and approachable.

Also downstairs I have a bottle of Coalition, a 7% Old Ale brewed with Dark Star Brewery in Sussex in 2009, with a price tag so heinously astronomical that I only own this bottle due to the kindness and generosity of Davefromtshop. I have yet to try this beer, but I get the feeling it will be very nice based on the ingredients. There are liberty hops involved, but surely Thornbridge wouldn't ruin the old ale style so well represented by Harveys and Highgate by ramming it full of bitterness?

More recently Thornbridge brewed a collaboration with Odell brewery from the U.S, and bottled it (literally, not backed out). Pond Hopper was a heavy drinking hoppy but overly chewy spectacle  which was memorable less for its alleged brilliance than for its ludicrous price - I still laugh now thinking of someone at the Hallamshire House in Commonside telling me with a straight face that that they didn't seem to be selling many at the newly reduced price of £18.00 (albeit for 750ml) a bottle!

Colorado Red also appeared recently, thankfully I have seen it exclusively on cask, so it hasn't attracted the unpalatable Keykeg mark up or retailed at £12.00 a go in bottle, (or has it!?) and this was also brewed in conjunction with Odell. I can't say I loved it, but it was a nice enough red ale which made a pleasant change from dire versions of Kipling and Jaipur.

Now however, Thornbridge seem to have finally excelled themselves with a collaboration. It's called Horny Goat, a mocha porter brewed to 6.2% in collaboration, I think, with the brewery of the same name in Milwaukee. The details are a bit hazy based on one look at a pump clip but what is crystal clear is that this is a fantastic beer.

I actually spotted it on Saturday but was 2 pints and a half a Halcyon in and decided against trying it, but last night I had two ruefully short lived, wondrously smooth, effortlessly drinkable and hugely enjoyable pints of this beer. Complemented by a range of beers excellent even for DAda, this was the star of the show, bettering even the Halcyon. More please Thornbridge!

The other beer collaboration I encountered last night was that from Blue Bee Brewery of Sheffield. This time, not a mindmeld of two brewers but an offer by brewer Rich to Shakespeares staff to brew a beer at the brewery. I don't know exactly which of the Shakespeares staff brewed (its a lovely idea for it to have been every single one of them) but I know for certain that the end result is a beer called (Jesus, I hope I don't get this wrong!) Shake Rattle and Roll, which features a glorious blend of lovely hops.

Myself and Mr P got into Shakespeares just in time to get the last pint and a generous free nearly half pint of the last out to top up with. Alas for Mr P it was I who took up the honour of supping the Blue Bee, of course, but we shared the free top up.

Not only was this a fine pint but also, and I hope Rich won't mind my saying, a welcome return to form for Blue Bee after a very rocky September. I was puzzled by the Brown Street, horrified by some of the Nectar and Tangled Up, but nothing, not even the excellent Techmophobeer (remember its MOvember kids!) could match the hoppy glory of this one off brew. I just hope, having enjoyed it so much, that I wasn't witnessing the last ever barrel sell out at Shakespeares....

So there you have it, meritable, useful, understandable and ultimately incredibly enjoyable collaborative brews do exist, and they don't have to be plus 9% to be good.

They also don't need to cost a fortune. What terrifically good news!

Wee Beefy

Monday, 5 November 2012

Wee Beefy's Broomhill to city centre wander

Hello again,

      On Sunday I left late afternoon for a meander around Broomhill heading for the bright lights of town. Here's what happened when I visited some old faces, a new pub, and associated "other" venues en route.

First I had to take a relentlessly long frustrating trip on the dawdle tractor which made me especially thirsty on arrival. Not that I was intending to rush. I had no timetable (much like the 52 bus). I had a tardy Sunday pace about me. I had nothing much of a plan and ultimately no agenda. So no change there then. I do however intensely dislike spending twice as long as is necessary doing something that could be done in half the time. Clearly I needed exercise and refreshment.

I started my wander at the Fox and Duck. I haven't been in for about 18 years and noticed it was much erm, smaller? It was also much less busy than it used to be, when me and various mates tried getting in most New Year's Eves in the nineties, often carrying pints from elsewhere, sometimes underage or inebriated, often both, once carrying the words to all of Auld Lang Syne, and usually with almost no money.

On the bar now there were three real ales including Moonshine, Hobgoblin and Adnams Broadside. I went with the Adnams, a half of which was £1.50, and the pleasant malty smoothness reminded me of almost every beer that I drank in the era of my more frequent visits here. The pub was actually quite relaxing, and, mercifully, devoid of the smell of chips. I like chips, but the stagnant chip fat whiff of nearby student pub the Nottingham House haunts my memories even now, like Rivelin Cafe in the 1980's. I was glad I was spared that olfactory memory, but unsure how much that owed to the Fox no longer being owned by the students union....

On round the corner next to the distinctly un - bright lights of The Place. My first visit, I knew it was a new (ahem) build pub aimed at students so adjusted my expectations accordingly. Inside, with the surround sound echo of huge TV screens on every side of the room, I spotted a decent if similar beer range was offered, but with the addition of Jaipur at £1.50 a half. Even the slightly ominous threat of cellar cool, which usually indicates a cellar based in the arctic, did not ruin a very palatable and well kept Thornbridge ale. Still missing most of its better ingredients, but now seemingly getting slightly more likeable on cask (or am I just no longer able to remember how good it used to taste?)

Off down Nile Street and past the Rutland Hotel, which I considered might have a bar but couldn't be bothered finding out if it sold real ale, I made a snap decision to visit the old art block of King Teds school, now The Francis Newton on Clarkehouse Road. I'd last been when it was Aunt Sally's and only because my mate got a Spirit Group (shudder) discount. No real ale was available then, alas, but theres now a Locale sign on the wall and its run by Wetherspoons.

Inside its still pretty foody but there are 4 real ales and 1 cider with every pump utilised. Are you listening, other Spoons? Not a turned round pump clip to be seen!

I had two halves here, one of the Adnams Fisherman, AKA Old, and one of the very enjoyable Exmoor Gold. Exmoor Gold was one of the first beers I tried at Archer Road Beer Stop in 1994, and has always carried a sort of connoisseurs reputation for me. It was possibly different to how I remember but none the worse for it. The other beers were Wood Street Larch Bitter and Exmoor Fox; all beers were £2.00 a pint, and, they sold 3rd pint measures.

I sat down in a comfy seat and read the beer festival leaflet with interest. Its fair to say that nothing really appeals about a Spoons festival, possibly an opinion formed on the basis of some of their more grim hostelries, but I have to admit to a sneaking admiration for the range of beers available, and the wealth of collaborations, even if they all seemed to be between overseas brewers I'd never heard of and big UK Nationals. I decided I'd have to stop by a bigger Spoons later to try and find some of the range...

Soon I was crossing the ring road and heading down the dark side streets to Convent Walk, popping out at the Bath Hotel. I had been expecting to be starting my exploring at 12.00 in town and had queried whether the pub would be open at 16.00 as advertised - alas no response from Twitter... Perhaps it seemed like a hopeless cause to confirm the dreaded facts, since when I arrived at nearly 18.00, I was the only customer.

Luckily the wearisome Allgates cere-ale had disappeared, but the Marble bitter was wrong on so many levels, so I went for a pint of the Brock, which was £2.90. It was a pleasant if unremarkable beer, not eliciting the excitement that it used to, and left me feeling a little forlorn at how there was so little on sale in the Bath these days that I wanted to drink. Its a fabulous old pub that I love, but I'm starting to run out of things I can be bothered to drink in there of late. If I encounter another ropey Allgates 3.9% beer or a malty Kipling I might have to withdraw my custom in protest. And then where would I be?!

Well, certainly not in my next venue that's for sure. Having been wooed by the exotica alluded to in the beer festival programme I sought out a Spoons with a large number of handpumps, that being the Bankers Draft, where I'd had a decent Pewsey Vale offering last time out. This time however, there were only 3 real ales available - Abbott, a Milestone Ruby something, and Batemans Combined Harvest, plus 2 "Available soon" pump clips.

Whilst the above moniker is marginally less annoying than simply leaving the pumpclip turned round when the beer's run out,  the tawdry range did nothing for me, and not using 7 handpumps, albeit on a Sunday night seems a very poor show.

Off to ever reliable haunt the Rutland Arms next, with rumours of a decent dark beer afoot. I had a pint of the Vigilante Brewing Co Dark and Stormy Stout, plus a half of the rather strong Black Iris Intergalactic IPA (6.0%). The dark and stormy suffered slightly from hype and the flavour smash of the strangely creamy but delightfully balanced IPA, and was a bit listless by the end. But I enjoyed my chat with Paultous the boy barman and my pickled egg with chilli sauce. How my Dad managed to consume half a tub of this oddness with his rambling mates back in the day is beyond me. I only bought it out of curiosity, and to find that the Rutland didn't have an egg fork made the experience much less enjoyable than it could perhaps have been.

I refer only to the experience of the egg, of course, since the Rutland delivered on all fronts as always, although, thinking about it - get some bleedin pork pies in....

My final port of call was the Sheffield Tap. Here I had a half of the Tapped Brew Co NZ and a pint of Gadds Number 7. The Tapped was also nearing retirement which was a shame, and I think someone had sneaked in and stolen the Kiwi hops, but it is still trial brews at present (opening December the sign proclaims).

Sadly the Gadds was possibly more of a let down just because of its surprising lack of flavour. I dearly wanted the Tap to blow me away with a beast of a stout but in the end I soaked up my disappointment with a very enjoyable half of the Titanic Cappuccino stout.

So all in all a great bit of exercise with a few pubs thrown in, and some equally exciting, surprising and marginally disappointing beers along the way. Nice to see a range of real ales available where previously there were few, and at sensible prices.


Wee Beefy

Pubs, ex-pubs and patches.

Now then,

            I have a few droplets of beer news to share, what with it having been the weekend, as well as details of a beer splashed celebration.

I was out and about on Saturday with Wee Keefy celebrating Wee Fatha's 70th birthday. Chosen eatery was the Ladybower Inn, which I have reviewed before, here , and which does a rather fantastic bit of steak. I say "bit", am not sure this is accepted butchers parlance, but for the record, its fillet and its fantastic. Indeed, the last time Wee Keefy went he organised a trip with a few friends solely on the basis of the meaty delights.

That said, to focus on which is neither fair nor wholly comprehensive, in terms of the inn's charms. They also happen to sell five real ales, at usual Derbyshire prices of £3.00  a pint (although I was on the same all night so am unsure if that applies to all beers). Not only that, but on all three of my visits the beer has been in very good nick, and whats more, is usually in the main, locally sourced.

On Saturday the range was Ruddles County, Bradfield Farmers Blonde, Bradfield Poppy Ale, Acorn Barnsley Bitter and Howard Town Snake Ale. The latter was a pleasant well balanced pint, admittedly short of a hop or two, but interestingly perhaps more palatable than the incredibly pale (h) poppy offering from over the hill. All in all you can't escape the pub's food led intent (and we were glad of that on a special occasion) but I think its got to be worth a stop if you are in the area and after a well kept locally brewed beer.

Later that night I was deposited in town to try and search out Fluffy who was celebrating a mate's stag do. An early phone call and text did not help identify their whereabouts but I assumed at some point they'd be in the Rutland.

Starting at DAda, I was shocked to discover that someone was playing a selection of my CD's (if you're unsure what these are, they're like gramophone records or cylinders, or at least they carry the same outdated stigma if you are under 30). At least two of my ska collections had been borrowed whilst I was out, plus a few tracks I wished I had.

This pleasing smorgasbord of sound was washed down with pints of the excellent Fyne Ales Jarl, a beer I'd heard plenty of and seen none. Add to this some cracking olives and a half of yummy fruity Halcyon and this was a great start to my late night socialising.

Alas, no trace could be found of Fluff as the minutes ticked on and I set off for the Bath Hotel for just before 23.00 to find it less than busy. I avoided the hopelessly hopless Kipling and went instead for an Allgates beer that I forget the name of. It tasted fine in the tasting glass but its exposure to the pint pot made it tired and taste of biscuits, or cheap cornflakes. I decided, on the basis of being in a similar state of tiredness, to eschew the obvious draw of the Rutland and head home like a good boy.

In other news, what there is, I noticed that the long drawn out extinction of the East House on Spital Hill has reached a rueful conclusion, at least in terms of it remaining open as a pub. As with so many nearby hostelries, what one might describe as a change in the cultural demographic has seen Pitsmoor and Burngreave stripped of pubs. The latest fate to befall one is that the East House is now yet another "vital" Kebab shop, without who's contribution the very bedrock of Sheffield's trade and financial security would crumble. I can't see anything but further utilisation as an unlicensed premises from here on to be honest.

Finally, much gnashing of teeth proceeded news on Friday of the sale of a hangover cure patch in the UK. The Bytox patch makes some scientifically implausible and even at a casual glance highly dubious claims about wiping out hangovers before they happen by infusing the wearer with various vitamins and nutrients throughout the drinking period.

Apparently the product claims, in this report peppered by over reaction from do-gooders and joyless Methodists here, to do something that somehow enables users to therefore drink without effect. Hence, the reaction in today's  Mailtro letters page was full of the rather predictable moralistic outpourings from people convinced that this would lead to more drinking, and therefore directly the destruction of family life and the sanctity of the festive period.

The point they miss is that people who regularly drink absurd quantities of frol to the detriment of their families, ergo the people apparently harming the nation's children, will do so irrespective of the availability of this mugs game wonder cure. The only heinous aspect of its sale is that the company responsible  could potentially make money out of hocus pocus,  rather than as feared, from any forceful pushing of society into a mire of reckless ebriosity.

No doubt this new attack on family, and the church and the Easter bunny (erm, or some other story?) will only embolden those seeking to swipe aimlessly at every aspect of alcohol production, sale and purchase. How foolish they would feel if they realised that the attacks on the average man's drinking are already being led quite successfully by the Chancellor of the exchequer and the Pubco's!

How we cried in our pints....

Wee Beefy

Friday, 2 November 2012

Stuff, not to mention, things.


     I have discovered a few snippets of info about Thornbridge over the last week which I thought I might share.

Their seemingly odd and sometimes risible policy of no guest beers is not all arrogance and fear of competition it seems. A man, who is male, and works in a Thornbridge pub, informs me that certainly in the case of the Greystones and Hallamshire House, its the terms of the lease with pub ruiners Enterprise, Punch or (add unlikeable behemoth) whoever. It seems the deals, which were fairly revolutionary at the time, only included Thornbridge beers, and none of that frightening outsiders stuff.

Broadly, if the restrictive terms of the original agreement meant licensees/tenants could only buy guff like Burton brewed Stones or Tetleys at twice its market price, the same backwards outlook prevailed, except now the new tenants were at least restricted to a brewery with a range of styles. Easily a better deal for punters, but still a monopoly. You can have too much of a good thing, after all.

It seems the terms at the Cross Scythes (visits - 1 Guests - 1, promising...) are a bit more relaxed, and clearly the trading arrangements at the Sheffield Tap are radically different because Thornbridge only supply the beer, rather than own or lease the pub from a Pubco. DAda, one assumes, along with the Bath Hotel, basically continues what ever arrangements were in place already as well, its just that they are far better in terms of choice.

Alas, no clarification was forthcoming about whether these arrangements applied to Keykeg as well....

Other news now, and it turns out that moving up in the reaching the Top ten stakes for my favourite breweries of 2012 is Hop Studio, most recently at Shakespeares on Shalesmoor.

I remember being underwhelmed by their ironically hopless offerings earlier in the year but they seem to be getting better. Last night I enjoyed a pint of their Spooks (or Sparks!?) , a finely balanced stout with a pleasing smoothness that tasted stronger than its ABV suggested. Also on last night was their Blonde.

This is a 3.5% (unsurprisingly) blond coloured beer with a fantastic dry hoppy bitterness. Incredibly easy to drink but packing in as much hops as a much stronger beer that I would drink later on, this was a session beer at its best. I "only" had three pints, but it was, once again, a beer at Shakespeares that I could happily have drank until I fell asleep. Wonderful.

Meanwhile, one of Octobers star beers for me was the Abbeydale Abbey Ale, dry hopped and weighing in at 5.5%. Having tried it at Archer Road Beer Stop at the end of September I have spotted it in quite a few other pubs including twice recently at DAda. Dave's shop kept version was virtually unbeatable but the DAda offering was up there with that in terms of juicy citrussy bite. An incredibly well balanced dry hopped, but not dry tasting, fruity pale ale.

Talking of DAda for a change, and unfortunately it has been decided that the bar will not open during the day, likely opening at 16.00 but potentially still opening all day Friday and Saturday. This caveat laden reporting reflects the fact that I only found out last night and it doesn't seem like the finer points have been agreed. My suggestion would be to retain the current arrangements until after Christmas, then change them in January when far less people are likely to visit, thereby maximising the potential of the Christmas party season. But what do I know...

Recent, albeit evening or night visits, have provided an unrivalled range of Dark Star and Abbeydale and Marble brewery beers, including the amazing Dobber, as well as current Thornbridge favourites Evenlode and Halcyon. All have been on impeccable form of late.

That's all I have for now, more beer and pub news coming soon.


Wee Beefy.