Monday, 31 December 2012

Breweries of note


    now I know I sort of already did my Golden Pint awards spiel but I have, not accidentally, been mentioning my favourite, most impressive and consistent breweries in various posts throughout the year. So, with only tomorrow left of 2012, I have decided to compile my top ten breweries list, off the top of my head, without referring back to any previous posts. After all, if you rate a brewery, that shouldn't be necessary. Here's the shining stars, for your delectation..

1. Well, its got to be Mallinsons, not only because I already said that in my Golden Pints list, which is carved into a stone tablet and can never be changed (much how some breweries appear to regard their website), but because am still waiting for that first bad Mallinsons, beer, and can't see it arriving.
2. Revolutions Brew : once, and only once, I had a beer from this brewery that I didn't like. But that's a rare thing, and most of the time its a pleasure to sample their beer - even if I don't like or haven't heard of the band! Doing a collaboration with Brass Castle also earns them points, as does their impeccable unfined beer.
3. Magic Rock : not difficult to find, and despite a bit of a wobble where I had a few lacklustre pints (possibly a hop supply chain problem) its been another year where theirs have been the stand out beers - and they are only 18 months old. Still one of the few breweries whose beers aren't disappointing on KeyKeg, and whose Bearded Lady is my beer of the year.
4. Dark Star : If Bearded Lady hadn't redefined my feelings about Keykeg then 2012 would still have been memorable, mainly for the Dark Star Saison, and Revelation. The Saison was easily the most quaffable beer ever! The only thing that could have made it more perfect would have been a Summer to enjoy it in.
5. Black Iris : I hope this isn't influenced by their pumpclips but this is another go to producer for me - the Peregrine Pale and the Intergalactic IPA are two regularly faultless beers, along with their darker offerings.
6. Thornbridge : I might mock their position as "the new Ember Inns" and scoff at their fear of UK brewed KeyKeg beer but Halcyon, Pollards, McConnells, Yule, Evenlode and Thorny Goat simply can't be matched - and almost make up for how dire Kipling, Marples, St Petersburg and Jaipur have become. See, am at it again! Their inclusion in this list is also out of admiration for their incredible bottled beers, especially those that I have aged. 
7. Steel City : their 666 IBU festival alone warrants their inclusion, but when I see a Steel City beer I always find myself buying it. If they could just do a mild and a porter without too many hops they'd be much further up the list.
8. Blue Bee : Lustin For Stout, apart from a minor wobble, is consistently one of the best dark beers in Sheffield. And anyone who brews a black bitter,without any sense of irony is going to brewers heaven. The Shake Rattle and Roll was fairly awesome as well.
9. Blue Monkey : Love it! Great pumpclips and great beers which never disappoint, and now I can get there stuff in bottles as well its happy days. BG Sips is almost as faultlessly quaffable as Dark Star Saison.
10. Summer Wine : A huge range of bottles covering many styles is one reason why I like Summer Wine, even if they sometimes get a bit silly with hops. Their run of beers in Shakespeares and other Sheffield pubs earlier this year means I had plenty of their offerings to become enamoured with them - their red ale and Teleporter standing out.
11. You can't have a top 11, that's just silly. And besides, eleven comprises seven nearly's : Abbeydale, Fyne Ales, Acorn, Welbeck Abbey, Little Ale Cart, Hop Studio and Red Willow. All excellent breweries with a lot to offer. And heres a link to the list I compiled in April, just for comparison.
So that wraps up the list and the year for me, I have about a pint of Deception left which am saving for New Years Day, and then its back to the search for unspoilt pubs and amazing beers that has defined much of 2012.
Happy New Year!
Wee Beefy

Friday, 28 December 2012

How to follow a tipsy boxing day


    the answer, of course, is get back on the ale. No point putting yourself through the achy pain of sobriety when New Years eve is just round the corner. And then its Drinkuary of course....

Alas, the pong of work hung over my calendar so I had to take my foot off the bottle for another day before beginning three days of Christmas relaxation starting today. In order to soften the impact of this needless distraction, I arranged to meet up with friends after work for, ahem "a couple of pints". Whilst you struggle to guess what may have actually happened in relation to that description, I'll fill you in on the important details....

We started around 4 at Shakespeares. Not too busy, but that's often the curse of the days between Christmas and New Year - no-one seems able to work out whether to expect a working day or weekend trade. Which was good, because we were able to grab a large table in the left hand room and settle down for a few pints.

I was joined by Jazz and Dave, Mr C, Maureen and Suzie Wish and started on a pint of Axholme Dark Lager. It was a very nice dark mild. It wasn't a schwarzbier or anything similar though! From here I moved onto pints (3 or so) of the excellent Welbeck Abbey Brewery Coco Noel, a fantastic chocolate stout with just the right balance of sweetness and crisp bitterness. This really loosened up those drinking it and put us in good spirits for our next stop.

DAda was atypical in its exclusivity so we also got a decent spot to sit in here. I had another enjoyable pint of Dancing Duck Gold, J9 alas missed out on the Rauchbier because she was distracted by a fruity offering (stop it..) and overall the drinks on offer were good, although Wish and C didn't rate the Bernard, so we (I, grumpily) decided to move on.

The Red Deer was our final stop, which makes a nice change for me, and it was here from a choice of two guests (there are about 5 or 6 regulars) I finally made the acquaintance of a beer that lots of people rate highly - the incredibly tasty and satisfying Santa Baby, a 5.9% IPA from Welbeck Abbey Brewery. This is another excellent Christmas ale from Welbeck, (although its festive relevance isn't exactly apparent in the taste! I'll let the brewery explain...) and one which, I confess, pretty much finished me off. I don't know how many glasses of the glorious brew passed my lips but it was a fantastic way to end a great night out with good friends.

By the way, Welbeck have even gone and got themselves a website so you can follow this link to see what has replaced their blog - and read a little about Santa Baby into the process.

So, that rounds up the details of  my proper works night out, a tale that serves as an illustration of why you shouldn't drink almost exclusively beers of 5.0% and higher all night, as well as highlighting the money saving benefits of keeping ones underlying levels up throughout Christmas.

Which reminds me, that Abbeydale Deception isn't going to drink itself....


Wee Beefy

Tuesday, 25 December 2012

Yo Ho glow


hope you are all having a fab Christmas  day.

Not Stupid Blogger though, whose "amazing" new post editor causes my computer to have 20 kinds of fit, thus exponentially increasing the time taken to write to almost absurd levels. I think I need a beer...

Which is fine actually because my Abbeydale Deception polypin is giving up its goods regularly, even though to get at the grapefruit and melon rich flavours I have to put up with a slow tap. Humph.

Anyhoo, this is just a quick (surprise) post to wish the folks and customers at DAda all the very best.

Having forsworn to avoid any pubs on Christmas Eve, I decided to head in for a last couple (before the 27th at any rate!) to set me up for the enforced merriment and expected gluttony to come. Initially I was a little concerned - firstly on passing a brace of outdoor cider enthusiasts brawling on Campo Lane, and then because I worried that propping up the bar, by myself, on Christmas Eve, was perhaps the very epitome of sadness.

 I needn't have worried though. I was made to feel fantastically welcome by James and Steph, and after having a pint of Dancing Duck Gold and a bottle of Brewfist Fear I bumped into a BadPanda who very kindly invited me to join his friends Dunc, Amy, a man from far away, the Bobs and Mrs Panda for a few drinks and a chat.

I even got to try a new beer - Thorny Peter. A specially blended (erm, roughly a third of each, in guesstimeasures) of Thorny Goat and St Petersburg. It was better than the now peaty dry St Petersburg. But then, so is Thorny Goat. Pointless, but enjoyable science.

Alas, after a few hours, and numerous loops of the 80's Christmas music mix I had to awaah to Thangors for roast pork sarnies and wine, but my last visit to Dada before Christmas was a real feel good pub experience, just like a proper pub visit should be.

Its also one which I look forward to repeating throughout 2013.

Wee Beefy

Sunday, 23 December 2012

Final flourish, and best wishes

Now then,

           one of the usual gripes about Christmas drinking is that pubs are "filled up wi twats oo dornt drink normle-h". Well, thats sort of true. Half slurping, G&ampT snorting, table hogging bores who get shit faced on a pint and a half and then ruin everyones night by puking and groggily stumbling about before being ejected, arrested or left to die in the street. An all too familiar blight, but one avoided by A: drinking in real ale pubs away from the town centre, and B: not going out Christmas or New Years Eve.

Against that backdrop, this year I intend to follow my own advice and so am now officially "done" for Christmas. The house is full of booze (more details to follow), the polypin of Deception has settled clear in 24 hours, the decorations are up, the warm lighting is set, and the food is bought in readiness. The last thing I want to be doing is fannying around in a pub.

However, to keep me from going insane without its social interaction, here's a round up of my pub visits and other booze news from the last week.

Wednesday saw me and Mr P meet for our last sup before the festival of lies. We headed straight for the Rutland where, mercifully, the excellent Raw/Steel City collaborations were still on the bar - not that we were tempted to risk our sobriety on them, as we had bigger plans ahead.

We opted instead for a pint of Blue Bee Nectar for Mr P and a pint of the excellent Foxfield Dark Mild for me. The mild is a decent strength at around 4.2% and was very roasty and smooth and malty, always a good sign in a dark mild. Unfortunately, a distinct but not unsurprising lack of relaxing space (although we did get a table) meant we opted to only stay for one. So erm, Merry Christmas to the Rutland, who is a person. Hope to see you before the new year....

Our next final Christmas stop was at the Sheffield Tap, although I had planned to return, but things didn't pan out. The Internet had told me that Oakham Green Devil IPA, seemingly a large number of peoples fave beer of 2012, was on the bar. Perhaps unsurprisingly, it had run out long before we got there. So I had a pint of the Ilkley licorice porter, which was excellent, and Mr P an Oakham JHB.

Despite knowing that people also rate JHB, I was surprised at just how fruity and bitter this was - perhaps its widespread availability has led to some less than careful stewardship because its been fairly disappointing whenever I've tried it recently - but this was tremendous. Mr P opted to stick with the JHB for the next round whilst I went for the big one. One whole half, at £4.20, of Magic Rock Bearded Lady. I also had a mitigating refresher - of Sunny Republic 5 malt hibiscus pale ale, which was, interesting, but needfully refreshing.

The Bearded Lady was just as extravagantly glorious in its sheer mass of flavour and alcoholic strength, and still, thankfully, as well balanced and rewarding as the bourbon aged epiphany that was the highlight of my birthday weekend. It still took 50 minutes to sup, but was pleasing and satisfying to the last drop. A spectacular beer.

We parted ways at this point and after refuelling I found time to have a quick half of Thornbridge Yule in DAda, a warming pagan potation that finished off the night nicely.

Yesterday was me and Wee Keefy's trip out to Derbyshire to buy a couple of last presents. After stopping in a ludicrously packed Bakewell to purchase whisky for Wee Fatha we headed for the Three Stags Heads at Wardlow Mires so that WK could pick up some bottles of Abbeydale Black Lurcher. This turned out to be a fantastic visit, not least because it was quiet and so allowing me to get a few pics of this excellent pub, which is on the national inventory of unspoilt pub interiors, but also because we got chatting to the barman and the landlord and a couple who had come to see his renowned pottery.

Coupled with being sat in flickering dim light opposite the open fire drinking excellent beer this was a great way to fill in an hour. And on the subject of ale, it was just a half for delicate flower WK, of Deception, and two pints (in the end!) for me - Brimstone at £2.60, and a very well kept Absolution at £3.00. Nicely dispelling the myth that the Three Stags is expensive into the bargain.

Alas we had to get on because we were off to Archer Road Beer Stop to pick up my Christmas polypin of Abbeydale Deception, and some bottles. Highlights included a bottle of bottle conditioned Ilkley Cranberry milk stout, 2 bottles of the legendary Fantome saison, a Thornbridge Thorny Goat, a Blue Monkey Fat Ape and Durham Temptation, which is now a firmly established Wee Beefy tradition.

Dave very kindly invited us in for a pint but we'd arrived at a busy purple patch so try as we might we couldn't make our respective pint and half of Bradfield Belgian Blue last long enough for him to get to talk to us. Still, it was nice to sample the Belgian Blue and briefly see Dave into the bargain.

So, that's its folks! Barring an amazing nugget of info or a life changing bottle crossing my path I won't be updating the blog now until after Christmas.

So I hope you have a fantastic festive period, and in case I am otherwise engaged in between times, a fantastic new year.


Wee Beefy.

Saturday, 22 December 2012

Showing them the best


     its an unavoidable side effect of being known as a beer blogger that acquaintances and work colleagues either demand information from you about every facet of beer and pubs, or simply assume that you would be willing to lead them on a wide ranging tour of hostelries and highlights of the local beer scene. Presumptuous as this may be, I actually like showing people what Sheffield has to offer, and a chance arrangement to meet with a friend gave me the ideal opportunity to show someone what, as an irregular beer drinker, they might be missing.

I was due to meet up with Miss M for a pint or two after work, and intended, what with it being Black Friday, to avoid nobhead rich aggro warehouses on West Street in favour of my regular haunts nearby. As with all good plans, things went a little askew as Miss M was delayed, so having put up with work as long as was tolerable I headed for Shakespeares to meet up with Wee Keefy, Steve Prewash, Bob, Bill, Bob, Bob, Bob, Bob, Bob and Kevin, from the NGH.

I fancied a half of Arbor something I couldn't read but it was 10%, so in the absence of Revolutions or Hop Studio or other guaranteed excellent brewers offerings I went for an old reliable - a pint of Deception, which may have been only £2.30 a pint. It was very quaffable - the perfect start. It was busy in Shakespeares, but not as rammed as it would have been had the pub been nearer town. Hence, my theory was proved to be correct.

Being as I had more than an hour to fill before meeting my intended companion I stuck with the team to the next pub, the Three Tuns. I don't often get in here so despite my fears about its busyness (and it was rammed) I opted to pop in for a pint. Bradfield Farmers Blonde was my choice in here - but only because the Absolution was a tad too strong.

Off to the Three Cranes next where there were three beers on and plenty of happy customers soaking up the excellent atmosphere. I started with half a Blue Bee Tangled Up IPA on the basis I would be heading off to meet Miss M, but she joined us in the pub after all, so I quickly ordered another two. A very easy drinking beer for its strength, the Tangled Up was back to its best, and selling at around £3.30 a pint.

Soon we were off to DAda, and I was determined to give my companion a taste of a wide range of tastes and styles from the excellent beers on offer. We started with a pint of th Dancing Duck Abduction IPA at 5.5%, which was a gentle starter for Miss M, who usually drinks stronger but more lager malted beers. I then decided to to buy a couple of slightly more off the wall drinks.

We had a glass of GluhKriek between us, along with a beer cocktail made with Thornbridge Chiron, which I can't recall the name of. I am ashamed, dear readers, to admit, that the cocktail was simply fantastic. More interestingly though was the fact that we couldn't quite detect the beer element in the mix but noting it had Chiron it it I ordered two halves of this immediately after and we could recognise it straight away. It feels wrong to champion the idea of a beer cocktail, but given how bloody boiling it can get in DAda, its a highly recommended way to cool off and enjoy an easy drinking, erm, beer. Cocktail. 

We finished with halves of the excellent Schlenkerla Rauchbier before the frustrating passage of time harried us out and back yto the bus stops to escape home - on returning to which I had one of my stash of Dunham Massey bottles, this being their porter.

As well as being an enjoyable trip round some great pubs, this proved to be a great example of the breadth and quality of beers available in Sheffield today. With two locally brewed Pale session beers, 2 locally brewed IPA's, a German smoked beer, a warm Belgian ale, a Derbyshire fruity pale Keykeg beer and a beer cocktail, I had the opportunity to try wildly contrasting styles, all served in excellent condition, at decent prices. And all withing about 10 minutes walk of where I work. A joyous microcosm of beer brilliance to render any nights drinking a success.


Wee Beefy

Thursday, 20 December 2012

Eeh, responsible drinking

Now then,

     before walking off some of my hangover and then reinstating it, I was off art Friday and Saturday with folks, round my local and not so regular haunts. Old friends, family and pubs followed, with a reckless strong ale theme flowing throughout, thus....

Tuesday was a good night out after work, starting at DAda, wherever that is. I had a pint of the Fullers Bengal Lancer and a half of the Thornbridge Yule, which mysteriously became a second half of the same whilst chatting with bar stranger Steph, who has run away to be immersed in bubbles and surrounded by shampoo. Good catching up with Ems and James, TYMITW as well.

The Rutland Arms offered a fab range as usual and I had a pint of the Magic Rock Rapture and for the first  of the week's themed beers partook of a half of the excellent Raw/Steel City Responsibly at 7.3%. Do you see what they did? Yep, they called a beer Responsibly. Its clever see, coz yer might drink a pint, or even 3 halves, neither of which would be "drinking responsibly" yet conversely responsible in intent. Good.

The Sheffield Tap was my last refuge and I had a pint of Kirkstall Bogus Official and the excellent Marble Decadence. A fab way to relax, perhaps more than was justifiable, with an excellent brace of ales.

On Friday I met members of the Crookes Crew (Respeck, word, etcetera) in the Rutland to start on a pint of delicious Potbelly Beijing Black and finish, not literally, on two halves of the excellent Raw/Steel City Irresponsibly. Mr Stephens, from the Eddie Izzard Death Star Canteen sketch, was quick to point out the fallacy of a responsible half (as I had two) of the Irresponsible, but these were just words, and besides socialising was ahead, hence my second.

At DAda next, Angie was bought a Gluhkriek by Jambon whilst me and him followed an oft trodden pattern by having the Bengal Lancer in pints and the Yule in halves. Good to see the DA busy, even if we only popped in for one or two. Off to Crookes therafter and we met Jack and Wee Keefy in the heaving Cobden, where I had two pints of the Bradfield Bitter for something like £2.80 a pint, before heading to the Ball for a rather slowly consumed Kelham Island Christmas beer and much revelry.

Saturday saw me and Chala at the newly reopened and not as good as its predecessor Marmaduke's (AKA 22a) before we headed to the Church House for a pint and a half of the Double Dark and Caledonian XPA. The XPA, which was not all that pale in colour, nicely demonstrated both the yawning gap between the pale hoppy output of smaller brewers and larger concerns, plus the not unlikeable familiar malt photofit of the average Caledonian beer. I enjoyed both by the way.

Back in the Rutland yet again and this time I had a half each of the Raw/Steel City Ir and Responsibly to compare flavours. The Ir probably edged it, perhaps the additional fermentation in rum casks (which I may have imagined) helped to contribute.

On to the Sheffield Tap once more and a half of Kirkstall Contemplation at 7.0%  and a pint of the Red Willow Mirthless plus chorizo crisps was the order of the day, although at £6.00 nearly, one of the ales had to be overpriced. The Mirthless was OK but uninteresting whilst the Contemplation was aptly named.

I finished my Saturday excursion in DAda (where else!?) supping a half of the Thornbridge Chiron, at least a pint of the excellent Yule and a bottle of the wincingly expensive but joyously excellent Brewfist Fear Milk Chocolate Stout, which did everything it said on the bottle, and was extremely enjoyable. A perfect pleasing creamy end to a night.

And that's not a euphemism....


Wee Beefy

Tuesday, 18 December 2012

Dronfield and Barlow pub crawl

I dunno readers,

     if am socialising theres no time to blog; if am not socialising there's nowt to blog about; if am blogging theres no time to socialise. A tawdry, ruddy nosed cycle of face drying monitor rays and nose reddening toxins that ends in RSI and liver damage. Merry Christmas!

Still, its not all bad you know, and one of the perks missing from that seemingly perpetual flowchart is those days when I get to do something new, in this case as a direct result of a tip off form other folk in the world of beer. Last month Dronfield CAMRA mentioned a pub that I ought to visit in Barlow Commonside, given my interest in unspoilt pubs. I thought I might have been before but if I had that would still have been ten years ago so it seemed prudent to construct a walk with it in the middle and head off into the countryside.

Christingpher and I arrived in Dronfield dan walked up to Hill Top, over the bypass and down towards Barlow Lees. Only 20 minutes from Dronfield you are in fantastic unspoilt countryside stretching for miles ahead with only the faintest echoes of the bypass in the background. We strode on through fields and woodland down ancient green lanes to Barlow Brook then up onto the road the Barlow Brewery is on, and finally into Barlow Commonside to our fist stop, the Hare and Hounds on Commonside Lane.

Despite my suspicions this was my first visit and it was perhaps better than I'd been expecting. With the greatest of respect tp Dronfield CAMRA, most people recommend "unspoilt" pubs to me that are simply old but which have been ripped out, expanded or had their age overemphasised. The Hare and Hounds is not such a pub.

I didn't get much sense for how old it was but the tap room on the right is very traditional, if only because of its small size, and the small snug that sits to the right of the bar. There are two further rooms to the left, front and back. The seating and tables are basic and, I mean this in a complimentary way, it seems to have been refurbished and furnished mainly in the 1960's or 70's, giving it a pleasing careworn feel.

There are two real ales on the bar (it may have been three, possibly I misunderstood). On this occasion we ha on pints of the Barlow Heath Robinson, £2.60 a pint and a great session beer to start. We were then kindly given free sandwiches (much appreciated!) before we went back for a pint each  of the Barlow IPA, which I think is the Three Valleys one at 5.0%, £3.00 a pint.

The pub was very busy when we arrived around 12.30 but was quieter by the time we left an hour later, and was a fantastic place to people watch, sup great beer and soak up the warmth and atmosphere. You'd especially appreciate this if you a dog lover, as there were nearly as many of them as humans. The beer was well kept, and no doubt had we wanted we could have sat in the back room and admired the views across towards Holmesfield - it must be a great spot in summer. Here's a link to their website .

We cracked on down past the puzzling shut Trout next and then off up Far Lane, in crisp wintry sunshine before heading across to Johnnygate Lane on dwindling quality paths before joining a path that was actually a stream, into Millthorpe. The Royal Oak was open and warm and welcoming and we got sat down chatting with the manager and a regular whilst supping pints of Gales Seafarers (£3.00). We were kindly given a lot of information about the pub - that it was a Berry's House, that Berry's only owned 6 pubs, how it was extended and what formed the original parts of the 17th C building, and lots more. To be honest, the rather basic style of the above detail reflects how unclear my recollections are, and since they don't have a website I recommend you pop along and find the facts out for yourself.

We slogged up Cartledge Lane into Holmesfield next and went straight to the Horns Inn. Three beers were on, Greedy King IPA, Bradfield Farmers Blonde and Ossett Nervous Turkey - my pint of the latter was £2.70. This was a busy pub with a warm welcome and well kept beer that was one of the unexpected stars (based on previous form) of the Three Valleys beer festival 2012. Well worth a visit at other times I'd suggest.

Along the slightly dangerous dark lanes to Northern Common next and the Hearty Oak. A slightly depressing sight to see only 2 out of 5 handpumps in use, even if it was a Sunday, and more so to spot more Greedy King, but the Sheffield Brewery Co NZPA 2 was a nice pint at around the £3.00 mark. There was also possibly another real ale about to come on.

Off down Carr Lane to the Talbot we caught the bus to the Coach and Horses for our penultimate stop. Great to see Buxton guest beers here, we had a pint of Buxton English Pale Ale and  a half of their American Red Rye Ale, plus a half of Halcyon - well - you had to. To finish we had another half of Halcyon, for Christingpher, and a bottle of Urthel Saisonairre, but not before I'd laboured to have the member of staff find or agree to the existence of said bottle. That said it was an exemplary range and all tasted fantastic, most notably the Buxton Rye.

Back in Sheffield we alighted the bus near the Rutland Arms so it would have been churlish not to have gone in. In true Beefy day out finishing style I had a whole damn pint of the Raw/Steel City Irresponsibly - it would have been irresponsible to have drunk it responsibly after all. It may not have been my finest decision though, given my rather lengthy sleep inspired trip home...

So this was a great trip out round some new and rarely visited pubs, coupled with some conveniently fantastic weather. Its well worth trying the walk for yourself and visiting some of the other pubs along the way - the Old Pump in Barlow, Rutland and Miners in Holmesfield and Victoria and Three Tuns in Dronfield for example.

Thanks to Dronfield CAMRA for the tip.


Wee Beefy

Thursday, 13 December 2012

Missing Logo Festival (AKA Golden Pint Awards 2012)

                                                      The Golden Pint Awards 2012 "LOGO"

     after 3 and a half years blogging, initially just for me and Davefromtshop and the dubious benefit of my friends, usually under duress, I have decided to contribute to the Golden Pint Awards 2012. Its tremendously exciting, since it appears that this is what real bloggers do.

That said, Stupid Blogger (for it is they) have still failed to offer me the chance to upload images, so this is no doubt going to be the only Golden Pint Awards post in 2012 with no chuffing logo. So, erm, not like a real blogger after all then....

Anyhoo, that's enough fannying about with caveats and explanations, here's some cold hard listing :

1. Best UK Draught (Cask or Keg) Beer : Magic Rock Bearded Lady Bourbon Cask (Keykeg...) - the end is nigh basically. Liking a Keykeg beer is not something that sits comfortably with a miserable old caskard like me, but I can't get past how incredible a drinking experience it was. Fifty matchless minutes sat in the Sheffield Tap, drinking one half.

2. Best UK Bottled or canned beer : Thornbridge Highland Reserve Imperial Stout (2006). Does this count? Only, I opened it a couple of months back, so despite being brewed in the black and white era, its a beer I opened in 2012. It was my penultimate bottle of six from the batch I purchased at some cost. Not had a bad one yet. Not had any that were less than "wow" beers to be fair.

3. Best Overseas draught beer. Maui Coconut Porter, again at the Sheffield Tap. Took 10 minutes (seemingly) to pour, but was worth the wait, and the price.

4.Best Overseas bottled or canned beer : Mikkeller Beer Geek Breakfast. Sorry, I know this is a bit like saying that happiness is one of my favourite feelings but BGB is a very rare thing. I really wanted to pick unusual or off the wall choices on the whole but am afraid that having tried this its impossible to pick anything else really. A not bad wallet lightening agent.

5. Best Overall Beer : Thornbridge Halcyon. Because I enjoy it on cask, on Keykeg and even in bottles. That's some crossover.

6. Best Pumpclip or label : Anything by Stroud brewery. Old school ultra traditional and not a lurid colour in sight.

7. Best UK Brewery : Mallinsons. From a shortlist of 5, because everything of theirs I drink I like. And helpfully, some of it is actually incredibly, not just pretty damn, brilliant.

8.Best Overseas Brewery : Nogne. Because I like the sound of everything they do, even if I have only tried about 4 of their beers (and loved every one).

9. Pub/Bar of the Year : well, according to blog mentions/tag cloud numbers, and with one having only being open a year, its a dead heat between Shakespeares Sheffield, and DAda bar. My dream Tuesday line up.

10. Beer Festival of the Year : New Inn Cropton Great Yorkshire Brewery 2012. Just a fantastic occasion.

11. Supermarket of the Year : A question much like "who's your favourite dictator?" See below....

12. Independent Retailer of the year : Always go independent. Try Archer Road Beer Stop for starters.

15. Best beer blog : I like the comments on Boak and Bailey. Am not sure if this is a compliment or not. Also, Timbo at "A Swift One" is concise, like what I want to be.

16.  Best Beer Twitterer : @sparklepete - because he writes about pubs. Although mainly on his blog, less so on Twitter. Maybe should have skipped this category in the absence of a relevant answer....

17. Best Online Brewery Presence : Revolutions Brew. Lots and lots and lots of UP TO DATE information. The indecipherable note readers best friend, and nicely themed.

18. Food and beer pairing of the year : A pork pie in the Blake, Sheffield, with any beer they have on.

19. In 2013 I'd most like to : Upload pics to my blog again.

20. Best Tegestological undertaking by a brewery : Brampton's. Beermats that wouldn't look out of place in the 1930's. As all such cardboard advertisements should be.

So that's it then, my first exciting foray into writing down 20/18 things that are good, with a beer theme. I look forward to rubbing shoulders with the beer prose aristocracy as a direct result. Or a few stats. Or just a stat. Please help me....

Wee Beefy

Monday, 10 December 2012

The Wee men celebrate Christmas


    before me and Wee Fatha buggered off round half of Cheshire on Saturday (its worth pointing out at this late stage that I had to dissuade him from heading to Chester for the last few pubs!) we joined Wee Keefy for the annual spectacle of our Christmas meal, always, unfailingly, held in a pub, and featuring plenty of beer. Just like a Christmas meal should.

Previous years have found us at the Crispin in Ashover, the Butchers at Marsh Lane and the Old Poets Corner, also in Ashover. This year it was the turn of the Packhorse Inn at Crowdecote, on the Staffordshire/Derbyshire border.

Nestling in beautiful Dovedale on a bend in the road its an idyllic place to pop in for a pint or a bite to eat, which makes it all the more surprising that its taken so damned long for the place to gain plaudits, and to put decent real ales on the bar. Luckily our new found hobby of visiting the Royal Cottage means we are regularly in the area seeking refreshment, so we decided to make this the venue for the admittedly very early Christmas meal for the menfolk of the clan.

Being a beer blog of course irrelevances such as food aren't really high up on the reprting agenda. Which is ironic because, as it turned out, despite my excited anticipation and Fatha and Keefy enjoying theirs my meal was really disappointing. That said, its cost was taken off the bill without fuss, and apologies forthcoming without question. Its a shame I didn't enjoy my food so much, but I appreciated the pubs approach to sorting the matter out, and better still the beer. Of which we had plenty.

Wee Keefy likes a malty slightly sweet pint as we know, and was smitten with the Cottage, erm, something with an "e" in it. The letter E that is. Meanwhile driver Wee Fatha was on a half or two of the pleasant Titanic Night to Remember. And drinking for two (for WF, am not pregnant) I dispensed with many pints of the fearsomely excellent Bottlebrook Mellow Yellow. Which, I only noticed on getting home, was 5.7%....

Bottlebrook is a brewery I don't come across too often and I have only previously encountered their offerings at beer festivals - which is maybe why I don't usually rate them. This offering overturned that opinion in some style. Meanwhile, Tetley made up the range along with a real cider so there was something for everyone, unless you wanted a stout or porter I suppose. In short the quality of this line up more than matched that which we found on our last visit, and will hope to find on our next.

A real bonus is that the pub is very handily situated nearly opposite a lane that runs into Earl Sterndale, so it seemed churlish not to pop up the hill for a pint or two at the Quiet Woman. Parking on a lake of ice outside we somehow contrived to avoid falling on our arses en route inside, where we got chatting to Ken and the regulars. Sat by the fire, we enjoyed supping Jennings Dark Mild (for WF and WK), and a pint and a half of the very enjoyable and quaffable Wincle Brewery Rambler for me.

I also got to take home an excellent Quiet Woman pork pie for Saturday's exploring, which I am pleased to report came in very handy, as did mixed packs of the Quiet Woman themed bottles that the other two purchased. One surprising note though was that the Quiet Woman is now selling guests from Pins. I can't be certain, but I reckon they must have had a decent throughput in the past (Mansfield Mild (?), Marstons Bitter, Pedigree and Old Rodger being sold on my first visit in 1994) and despite it being dreadful weather, it seemed quiet enough to make buying in pins sound like a necessity.

I don't think for a moment that this classic old pub is teetering on the brink, but it was sobering to consider how much trade seems to have declined. All the more reason to venture out more often then...

So, thus passed an enjoyable annual event featuring great company and fantastic beers on the edge of the Staffordshire Moorlands. Which I'm happy to report is becoming a bit of a habit these days.


Wee Beefy.   

Sunday, 9 December 2012

A tour of Cheshire pubs and breweries


       yesterday me and Wee Fatha drove over to Dunham Massey for him to pick up his extensive Christmas beer supplies, and to visit a crematorium nearby. What with the crematorium opening early and the Dunham Brewery shop opening at 11.00 he could have done everything on his list by midday; but where would the fun have been in that? Sensibly I was invited along to provide suggestions for elongating the days activities, thus.....

We set off across the Snake in glorious sunshine, admiring the snowy peaks and hazy vistas over  Glossop before we descended into fog, murk, and cloud, as we entered Manchester. First stop for WF was to be a personal one so he suggested I might wish to jump out near the Railway in Broadheath. That's not really a question to be honest! Of course I wanted to...

I took a few pics of the exterior on arriving and waited at the bar behind a guy who after being served with a pint of Holts Mild, which was my tipple of choice, asked if it was alright if he took some pictures - I turned to him and said "Oh I;m here to do the same thing". It quickly transpired that we were both fans of National Inventory pubs, and the photographing of them, and that he'd read my blog, which makes him a thoroughly nice chap. The landlady was quite amused about us arriving at the same time having never met, ordering the same drink and then setting off, me first, photographing a different room to one another all the way round this fantastic multi-roomed pub.

A couple of regulars arrived but it was quite quiet, allowing ample opportunity to photograph the interior (I'll put some pics on Flickr, with a link to follow), and it was nice to talk to the landlord about Holts, whose Christmas beer he will be putting on next week, and also of course fellow "Inventory-head" Martin. A great start to the day.

Soon I was back in the beer chariot and we were loading up oodles of lovely bottle conditioned beer (and I mean that literally - none of the sour piss that sometimes passes for BCA, from Dunham Massey brewery) before heading off to pick up a mixed case of bottles from Blakemere/Northern Brewing. Vehicle laden with bottles we clinked our way to our next stop, the Boot Inn at Boothsdale near Kelsall.

Thanks to Mudgie for finding the link to the interesting (if outdated) Olde World Cheshire pubs website from where I found out about the Boot. That its an old pub that WF has never been to in Cheshire is quite a coup - and despite the fact that it must do a roaring food trade, it was still warm and comfortable and selling 4 real ales from the Weetwood Brewery, which can't be more than a mile away. WF had a half (most of a half, since he's driving, and this will be the case, in lesser and lesser quantities, as we go through the day) of Cheshire Cat, and I the Old Dog, whilst we sat in the window near the fire.

We headed to the excellent Travellers Rest at Alpraham next, which is on the National Inventory of Unspoilt pub Interiors. You may recall my having mentioned this before.

I have only been in once, and t was dark, so it was nice to see the place in daylight, and better still that they replaced Deuchars IPA with Weetwood Eastgate Ale on the bar. A pint for me and a tomato juice for WF, we sat in the first room as you enter, warmed by a racing hot erm, electric fire, admiring the sadly slightly obscured 1930's style Allsopp Brewery mirror, and listening in on the lively conversation in the small bar room where, it seemed, everyone was playing dominoes.

Nantwich was our next stop, via their interminable one way system and lack of parking, we got to the Woodlands Brewery owned Globe. There was a huge range of beers in here but alas every table but for one in the bar with high stools that WF can't sit on, was reserved for Christmas meals, so we had to stand at the bar on the left. I had halves of Woodlands Generals Tipple and Oak Beauty, WF had a quantum of the Red Squirrel. That being the lighter opting it was fairly lacking in flavour compared with the others but the ales were nice enough - but no dark beers! It was annoying that so many empty tables were left awaiting diners, and although the staff were very friendly, helpful and apologetic, this could have been a far better pub visit.

Crewe beckoned next, and despite WF confusing a road or two from his childhood visits we found the Borough Arms quite easily. It was very busy with a range of about 7 real ales on, including First Rays, a strong orangey tasting pale beer from their own brewery, which WF had, whilst I had half an Abbeydale Bah Humbug. As with many pubs we visited, Thornbridge, Abbeydale and Welbeck beers were delighting the locals, but we wanted something from nearby! The First Rays satisfied that requirement and was excellent into the bargain, as was this popular town centre pub.

It was getting late and I was starting to feel peckish so when we arrived at the Hawk in nearby Haslington and smelled food, we decided to eat there. This is a fantastic old pub, selling Robinson's beers, and a decent traditional food menu at very competitive prices - mainly £4.95 or £5.95. Better still, we got sat in the real gem of this establishment, the Oak Room at the back. Sitting in this magnificent location eating hearty food is the perfect way to visit the Hawk I reckon. And it was topped off spectacularly by my ordering a pint of Grandma. A gorgeous fruit and toffee flavoured, caramel coloured 6% mix that went down far too easily.

Replete we headed for what was the best beer pub of the day, the Lower Chequers in Sandbach. We had to queue to get in but found space that seemingly no-one had noticed round the other side, and got sat down to drink halves of Joules Pale for WF, and the excellent Merlin Brewery Dragonslayer and Cheshire Brewhouse Squires XB for me. Hoping to add them to my list of on-line "followees", a quick chat with the landlord (who's name I knew I'd forget....) revealed that they steadfastly avoid social media - not that they need any more punters if this visit was anything to go by. This warm friendly busy pub sold impeccably kept beer and had it been at all possible we would have probably stayed all night.

Heading towards Stoke next we stopped at The Lodge in Alsager. This pub has its own brewery, Goodalls, and a range of about 5 real ales. Its a very large pub with rooms on both side, the right hand one containing the bar. It was absolutely rammed, with every chair and table taken up by punters or pints. It reminded me slightly of a canteen - a perfunctory area for a single purpose - they must sell a hell of a lot of real ale in here, and thats got to be good news. Talking of which, WF had a half of Mallinsons Station Bitter, whilst I had an enjoyable half of Goodalls Red Herring. A cracking pub.

Our penultimate stop saw us visiting the now to be demolished Coachmakers in Hanley. Much has been written about the decision to flatten the listed pub for what seems like very little palpable benefit, by the local council, so I won't go over old ground. But you can't escape from the fact that this is a fantastic multi-roomed pub selling great beer and retaining many interesting and important internal features. I suggest any fans of unspoilt town pubs make a visit ASAP, although I can't recall for certain when, next year, its set to be demolished.

Meanwhile we sat in the cosy back room supping halves of Titanic Mild and their delicious Plum Porter. Both were on excellent form and the porter was particularly well suited to fighting off the winter chill.

Our last stop was to have been the Royal Cottage, but possibly due to the ridiculous weather (fog so thick you couldn't see more than a few feet ahead), it looked like Cliff had decided that no-one else would be coming in and so was shut. Instead we headed to the Packhorse at Crowdecote, again (details in next post of previous visit) for a last drink; a tomato juice for Wee Fatha and a pint of the fantastic 5.7% Bottlebrook Yellow Mellow Pale Ale for me.

So, there ends a long but hugely enjoyable 200 odd mile trip around Cheshire and Staffordshire visiting some exceptional pubs along the way. Beers of the day were the Merlin Dragonslayer, Borough Arms First Rays and Bottlebrook Mellow Yellow, but we didn't find a bad one all day.


Wee Beefy

Wednesday, 5 December 2012

Church House update, and other stories

Hello again,

         firstly, can I make clear that his isn't actual an update concerning the observations and experiences gleaned from another visit, its more a round up of other info that pertains to the pub. Interestingly, if some of the below information could have been found prior to its opening I would have been none the wiser - on the other hand if some of that info was in my hands I may never have ventured in!

The first thing to note relates to the building's listed status. As I mentioned before, its listed Grade 2, and has been since 1973. This would have made me take note straight away since I am interested in listed buildings, especially those in the City centre - its amazing how many gems are hidden away down back streets, but slightly less encouraging when you consider how many were unlisted when flattened to make way for embarrassing 70's pre fabs. In this case, the excellent exterior of number 4 St James Street does not seem to be adversely affected by the venue's change of name, which is good news.
Furthermore, in being a listed City centre building, The Church House is in the following company; Maggie Mays, The Bankers Draft, The Brown Bear, Cutlers, Crystal Bar, The Viper Rooms, Graduate, The Howard, Old Monk, Old Queens Head, Lloyds No.1, Three Tuns, Walkabout, and at a push, the bar in the Lyceum Theatre and Cutlers Hall, and perhaps the Sheffield Tap being in Sheffield Midland Station, since those buildings are listed.

Its interesting that perhaps only 5 of the above could really be considered traditional, and that many don't sell real ale. Prior to owning a copy of the GBG, whenever I found myself looking for real ale in a far off place I'd always go for older and/or Regional Brewery pubs, preferring a combo of both. I can't say that this criteria would yield many decent ales or venues if I used it in Sheffield. Perhaps the notion that old buildings are best (or only) suited to the provision of traditional environs to an older clientele is finally dispelled? Well.....

I found a rather alarming document online here relating to the proposed refurbishment of the Church House (although it describes the images as an illustration of potential refurbishment). Hosted by, the new name for S&N pub company, this is essentially a puff piece cum business plan highlighting sinister Daddy-Heineken's brands, strategies, business framework and customer segmentation. Now, I realise that to earthlings like you and I, this seems like, erm, bullshit. Yet, in an ironic twist, it turns out to be exactly that! (note, this is intentionally and ironically non-ironic).
Parts of the document contain depressing/dubious claims like (The Best Brands) "Britain's most popular draught beers and ciders, John Smiths, Fosters and Strongbow, as well as packaged beers" (that's bottled Newky Brown based on their annotation), which is drawn from data collated in October and November 2009.

More pertinent however, and more bizarre, are their definitions of customer "segments". Confusing punters with crustacea is weird enough, but what in the name of Satan does "Young and Edgy Pubs are similar to A Bit Of Style Pubs but with a younger clientele and an offer to the lower end of the market" mean?
Further in, the customer expectations and behaviour (oooh, the gaunt spectre of expectation, one of my fascinations) section is possibly my favourite: a general guide to refurbishing a pub to meet the needs of certain customer, erm, segments. Seemingly "Me & My Pint - older customers enjoying a quiet drink alone in traditional surroundings " can be catered for with a range of real ales and "refurbished fixed seating in the bar area". Lets hope those same drinkers don't expect any "Pub Play" though, as this requires different wiring, and is intended for younger males....

The document is almost as hilarious as it is depressing - after all, you can't, despite their claims, meet the expectations of customers no matter what they may be (per type pf pub) by pigeon holing them. It would be worth a re-read in 6 months time as well, irrespective of the pub's success - and once again, I genuinely hope they do well despite their potential exposure to this report.
Moving on, and DAda nearby has Fullers Bengal Lancer and the yummy 7.4% Thornbridge Yule on cask at the mo, along with what I believe is a barrel aged General Sherman on Keykeg. As I am not 100% sure of the details surrounding this particular beer, I suggest you pop into find out for yourself.
Finally, news from the beer pricing battlefront.I was in vile retail behemoth Tesco tonight, lured in by memories of their interesting beer and wine range. Tesco to their credit seem to have dedicated a section to lower alcohol beers (all but the Fullers offering at a pound), whereas my local Supermarket Asda still only carries Manns Brown Ale - they also only update their range as regularly as an Easter cactus flowers.

Last time Tesco had a quite good range of bottled beers (sorry, packaged beers), if small, and now they had indeed changed it since I visited earlier in the year. Unfortunately they'd got rid of some of the stouts and most frustratingly the American Double IPA, AKA Brewdog Hardcore in disguise. The Brains Stout looks interesting though, and they are also selling a Carribbean lager called Banks, so its not all run of the mill, but surely a retailer like Tesco could carry some BCA's? Maybe this is the work of the same person that made their wine list so safe and uninspiring....
Of course, the Supermarket's loss is the independent retailers gain, so thankfully I will be purchasing my Christmas bottles from Archer Road Beer Stop once more. Am hoping someone will buy me a bottle of the excellent Brasserie Fantôme Saison for Christmas.
So that rounds up stuff for now, hopefully I will be back with some info soon after a Friday night meal at a country pub, and a day out in the wilds of Cheshire on Saturday, weather permitting......
Wee Beefy

Monday, 3 December 2012

Day of rest

Hello again,

     firstly can I just point out that owing to not finding it fixed, I don't foresee photo's making it onto this post yet again. On-line techno sleuth and fellow blogger Clare is on to it, but the immovable force of Blogger stands in our way. Obviously, as soon as the problem's fixed there'll be pics a plenty on here (and if its sorted already I'll have to come back and delete this bit. Or perhaps I'll leave it in as a kooky little window on my pre-pic solution mindset...).

Anyhoo, talking of mindsets, Sunday is normally a day when the excesses of Friday and Saturday are washed out of my system by a lie in, a scan of some websites and something cooked long and slow in the oven. Normally by about 17.00 the bouts of shaking and breathless perspiration have lessened, some of the words I say are recognisable as English, and I don't list to one side when I walk round the edge of the settee. In essence, I've been a good boy and am ready for work on Wednesday. I do work Mondays and Tuesdays mind, its just that they don't really count. They tend to be more of a subconscious automatic action than a professional undertaking.

This Sunday however, I had just been paid. So it seemed silly to fanny around in the house, most likely doing cleaning or shopping or other necessities. So I jolly well pissed off to the pub around 14.30, for no other reason than I could.

First stop was the Rutland Arms, for reasons including proving that I wasn't in fact mentally unbalanced, and also, that I didn't care about ordering food after all. Although, after buying a delicious and sensible half pint of Jarrow Brewery Isis Blonde at 5%, I remembered that I actually did need and desire food, so I had one of the Rutland's fab bacon butties.

I also had halves of Blue Bee Bees Knees (with added students), my weakest beer of the day, but no less enjoyable, along with Magic Rock Highwire NZ on the inexcusable Keykeg (and at a decent price as well, less than £4.00 a pint if I recall), along with the excellent Dark Star and Magic Rock collaboration Rock Star, which was a very enjoyable Black IPA. Clearly Sunday was going to be a day not of rest, but rapacious consumption. Still eh.

Over to the Sheffield Tap next and I had halves again - there was just so much damn good beer around yesterday it would have been dangerous to attempt anything else, so I bought Tempest Cresta Black, Fyne Avalanche and the Fyne IPA series Ruvaal Blonde IPA. Drunk in that order, this quickly guided me back towards the 5 or 6% beers that would ultimately be my ruin. Oops. The Avalanche was excellent as always.

A surprise stop next at the recently taken over by Wood Street Brewery Roebuck. Nothing immediately obvious decor wise but there were as you'd expect, Wood Street ales on the bar. Here I was tempted to partake in a hot snack - the inexpensive garlic bread was filling and very tasty, just what I needed. The only thing that let the experience down was the rather poor Wood Street Pale Ale. Another sigh of disappointment in a glass.

Off next on the 53 omnibus to a new pub for me. The Forest, which used to be rented out for parties and before that was notable for being the last pub in Sheffield to get a spirits license, has reopened as a traditional pub selling real ales, called the Woodside Inn. The ad in Beer Matters proclaims 6 real ales and there are indeed 6 pumps. Last night one had cider, one is a permanent Black Sheep font/pump thing which I always think is keg, and there were three guests on the remaining handpumps - I went for a half of the RCH PG Steam, at £2.00 a pint. Not a beer to set the world alight but in decent condition and a good price. Certainly a venue to revisit I think, if nothing else to herald the arrival of a new sign.

From here I headed to the Gardeners Rest for a couple more halves, including one of the best of the night, against a fairly exemplary line up. The Ramsbottom Bitter was OK if a little sweet for my taste, but the Hackney Cluster was incredible. Whether intentionally or not, it tasted very much of cereal, but had an orangey zesty bitterness and very warming malts balanced perfectly in what was a very enjoyable beer. Certainly those Hackney chaps seem to know what they are doing.

My penultimate stop was to have been the Brooklyn Steak place round the corner but alas that closes early Sunday so I didn't even get to see if they sell real ale, so I headed on for the Kelham Island Tavern, which I don't seem to get to very often. From a great range, and perhaps wisely eschewing the stronger, darker ales on offer, I had a very pleasant half of the Ascot Ales Single Hop, which unfortunately did not confirm the identity of said bittering ingredient, but was enjoyable all the same.

My last stop was in Shakespeares, and here I found, in a close contest, the absolute winner, the very best beer of the day. Due to unfortunate instances of sleep I can't be sure how many I had, but 1 pint is a safe bet, and 2 pints would be reckless, but not inconceivable. Led to my choice by Robin leaning on the pump it was on, there was no contest when I saw Raw Chinook IPA, 6.2% (and £3.20 a pint) was on sale. An absolutely tremendous beer packed full of immense flavour, but  somehow contriving to have a very accomplished and rounded finish. In a November of quite frankly astonishing beer quality, this welcomed in December (ignoring the fact I'd been supping on the 1st!) in some style.

If only one Sunday evening amble is spent drinking beers that good in the coming weeks then 2012 could end up being a benchmark year for beer quality.

Your very best health

Wee Beefy.

Sunday, 2 December 2012

Not everything is new.


    you might be forgiven for thinking what with the tone of recent posts that my Sheffield drinking life is an endless Merry-go-round of new breweries and new pubs. Well, I occasionally go to pubs and drink beer that I have been too and tried before! This new fangled trend for not drinking only unheard of brews and visiting pubs over and over again will surely never catch on, but if it does, I've already coined a handy phrase to encapsulate the idiosyncrasies of the phenomenon - "just going out for a pint". You heard it here first...

Friday was just such an example. Although we did attend the, ahem, "launch" of the Church House, we first met up with people from the slave mill in Lloyds No.1 in town. Not perhaps a venue to set the pulse racing but there were 5 handpumps for real ale and one for real cider, and every one was utilised.

Highlights included Bradfield Belgian Blue, Cotleigh Kookaburra and Avery brewing from Boulder Colorado's 3.5% session beer, brewed in the UK. I had a pint of the Cotleigh at £2.09 and a half of the Avery. This was a really enjoyable American hoppy ale, probably brewed in a Burton regional (?) based on a light sulphury edge, and packing in a lot of hoppy flavour for its low strength. Perhaps this explains why I don't get on with the stronger American IPA's - the stronger they are the more the odd ascorbic dryness and ill suited Belgian sweetness seem prominent. Either way it was very good.

Off to the Old House next for the first time in ages. From a range of Moonshine, Kelham Bitter and two from the Fulstow Brewery, who's beers am not keen on, I went for a pint of the True North First Blonde. Given that its probably still brewed at Welbeck, it did seem faintly reminiscent, in flavour at least, of their Bay Middleton. And was thus very quaffable. Its good to get reacquainted with the Old House having been mysteriously absent over the last few months.

After our Church House assessment we went onto DAda. The music was good, Ems and Annie were manning the bar, and I was feeling a little reckless. So much so that after having a delicious pint of Evenlode Porter (becoming one of my beers of 2012) I splashed out an eye watering and obscene amount of cash on the Mikkeller Beer Geek breakfast. Chala then also lost her mind and bought a pile of food and we had a sumptuous and ostentatious feast in convivial surroundings, before leaving to get the bus (and returning for my scarf, the second thing I had left behind in one night!).

Yesterday, I set out in the afternoon to try and sample the Blue Bee/Real Ale Society beer that I'd heard so much about. The Rutland Arms, who is a person, had stated that it was on the bar there so I thought I'd pop out and try it. Except, I got to town near the end of the Football Association cup fixture so decided to head down later. Instead I popped in the Church House, which now no longer counts as a new pub, thus fitting in with the theme of this post.

I can provide you with a few minor clarifications whilst were here. Firstly, the Caledonian Double Dark which I had on this visit is only £2.85 a pint. A good price for any real ale in the centre these days where the norm is £3.00 for average strength, and this is about 4.6% I think. Also, the food menu comprises one side of actual meals, standard pub fare but sensibly priced. The tapas element I had remembered is actually called the Deli section and comprises various cold platters that you can combine yourself, again at a decent price.

Finally, with thanks to the keen eye of the writer K E Page, the impressive circular windows in the entrance show evidence that the pub did used to be called the Ferret and Trouserleg. So anything has to be an improvement! I also noted on the back of their menu that they have a website - of sorts. In keeping with their mysterious unfindable business theme, the website address is for a host site/blog(?) called barbook, and can be found here. The only thing that inks to the pub in Sheffield is the spiel about the food which is that which appears on the pubs menu's, and also the sign on the front of said pamphlets. The whole thing is incredibly light on detail, much like their Facebook page! You can probably find more out by visiting the pub...

I popped into DAda next and straight away started supping pints of the Evenlode which, unbelievably, still hadn't run out. It was good catching up again with Ems and Jamie, but I had other sights in mind so kidnapped Ems and we trooped off up to Harrisons 1854, which I don't go to as often as I used to. Here, as promised, the Belgian Blue was available on cask, so I had a pint, Ems sensibly a half. However, my one gripe was the price! A whopping £3.80 a pint, making it 60p a pint more expensive than the far stronger Evenlode back at DAda. Had I been more cogent and in less of a rush I would have asked Bob why the beer was quite so expensive, but on this occasion I concentrated on enjoying it. It is, after all, a very tasty beer.

Off to the Bath next where there was beer. Ems went for the General Sherman because she's hardcore, I went for something else entirely. Unfortunately, its identity escapes me. I was already unsettled by a desire for food and obviously wasn't paying attention.

Finally we were off to the Rutland hoping to eat (for me) and try the Blue Bee beer I mentioned earlier. Unfortunately, the stupid bus broke down on West Street, and this extra delay in getting to the pub meant I arrived at 20.58 (but not by the clock in the pub, humph). Racked by hunger I pleaded to be fed but the stone cold face of the mighty Rutland was unmoved. So not only did I not get to try the beer but I also had to rush back home before the supermarket shut - if I had stopped for a half, I would have missed the shops as well. Damn you the progression of time! Most annoying (and slightly embarrassing given my desperation).

So that wraps up a couple of trips around some of Sheffield's better and for me less frequently visited outlets. No doubt December will find me in many more venues that get overlooked the rest of the year.


Wee Beefy

Saturday, 1 December 2012

The Church House, 4 St James Street Sheffield


*ADDITION!* Stupid Blogger spellcheck is broken. Apologies for any errors, proofreading whilst hungover is tricky!

      last night, I ventured to the Church House on St James  Street. You know, St  James Street. Everyone knows where St James street is surely? Well, erm, no, and I found it difficult enough to get people to imagine its location even using massive local landmarks. Luckily everyone has heard of the Cathedral; far fewer have heard of Sanctuary Bar though....

Anyway,  I was there last night for the opening night. Except, that was Thursday. The sign had the right date but the wrong day, so I missed out on free stuff, which is a tragedy of immeasurable proportions. Humph.

Despite that, it was nice to see a range of six real ales on the bar, including some you rarely see in Sheffield. Being a Scottish and Newcastle pub (under the dirty umbrella of Heineken, alas) they had dipped into their dwindling portfolio of available cask beers, and colluded with Greedy King to bring a choice of Caledonian Deuchars IPA, Church House Bitter, Flying Scotsman, Elf Esteem and Double Dark Oatmeal Stout, plus Greedy King Olde Trip. Beer was averagely priced (due to a mix up with crisps it was unlcear in round one but I think my second pint, of Deuchars, was £3.00 - get me with me research!), and Bacon Fries were on sale at the going rate, i.e 80p a pack. Crucial info...

There's a decent wine list with a few bottles I'd like to try plus a few fillers that are easily affordable - a good mix of prices means if you take the whole thing a bit seriously as I sometimes do you can choose with confidence, but if you want wines to taste of wine and have alcohol in them you don't have to fork out a fortune only to be disappointed. The food menu looks to be bar snacks-cum-Tapas, with lots of fairly standard fare which I didn't pay a tremendous amount of attention to, but it didn't look too expensive.

Meanwhile, with thanks to Anne Greaves from Twitter for finding it, they have gone and got a Facebook page which doesn't carry much info I have to say. Puzzlingly their cover pic also appears to be a rack of thirds (although, there seems to be 4 - are these 142ml measures then?!). I didn't see or get offered any thirds whilst pondering my choice so am not sure if this is meant to be a literal representation or just a popular ale related image.

On a similar subject, when I asked about the lack of social media coverage and promotion of the reopening, the lass behind the bar said they had been handing out leaflets locally, presumably to business, but there are a lot of ecclesiastical buildings and offices nearby, so this seems a weird target audience. And also, leaflets! Why not stone tablets, telegrams or carrier pigeons? I know I was a late, reluctant convert to Twatter et al but its positively improved the numbers of people reading this blog, so I admit to being a fan of it as a promotional tool.

On a completely different subject the decor is quite good - a useful opposite to the themes most regularly encountered in similar venues like Browns (light and dark sitting awkwardly with ultra modern) and Henrys (light airy open spaces with wood and steel). The theme is quite clearly "old", but not in a gratingly twee or clumsy way, but in a homely, comfortable and quite striking in some parts, way. I particularly like the bar, a bit like what the West End have done but with more assurance and subtelty. Chala was very much wooed by the comfy chairs we were relaxing in - so much was I that I left my bag on the chair when we left!

Oh and the last important detail is about beers - Barman Jared (thats not his full name) informs me that the Deuchars, Church House Bitter and Flying Scotsman are likely to be regulars with the other three pumps changing, although the Elf Esteem, being a festive brew, should be on until Christmas. Me and chala both had the excellent Double Dark oatmeal stout, which was a very enjoyable, quite complex stout with a very pleasant aftertaste. I also tried a pint of Deuchars - now a sad facsimilie of a previously good beer.

Despite this, I think the Church House deserves credit for opening with a dark beer, which even in these enlightened times is still a woefully under represented beer style on the bars of Sheffield.

So in conclusion, it was an enjoyable visit. The beer was good, the food and wine list was OK, the decor looked good, it smelled of new pubs (I love that smell!) and the clientel was mixed, and bar staff helpful.

But will it succeed? Well, based on info from Andy Lonsdale (again from Twitter) and others, it seems to have had numerous incarnations, which always points to instability and a lack of business acumen or forward planning. It was previously Sanctuary which, it was suggested, used to be a not very successful gay bar - no idea if they sold real ale. Prior to that when my friend Sheeps Head Paul used to work behind the bar, it was called Gladstones, and did sell real ale, but he used to say it was mental Friday nights and quiet the rest of the time (and the ale was often awful). Someone also suggested it had a novelty name as well over the years; and before that it was definitely offices.

I see Heineken as a regressive influence, especially where the real ales are concerned (and for the record there is nothing of even the remotest interest in bottles or on keg). As a company they don't exactly seem to push the boundaries with products or indeed their attitude towards acquisitoin and management of companies, so it could suffer from their depressing mass market, lowest common denominator outlook. On the other hand, its a beautiful building, its in a very interesting location, it sells real ales unusual to Sheffield (well some) and is possibly just shielded from Church Street enough to be a place for a comfortable drink or meal prior to a night out in rowdier haunts.

So I really can't predict if it will succeed, but I hope it does well, because if nothing else, it can now be added to my after work pub crawl of Shakespeares, Three cranes and DAda. And extra choice is what we all strive for, surely?

Wee Beefy