Thursday, 29 March 2012

And, relax....

Hello,

   a quick report to inform you that I have escaped from my sick house shackles and gotten out into the pubs for a change. Details below.

Shakespeares

I got in after work for a quick one early; rumour had it that erstwhile riffsmith Mr H was due in for a chin wag with friends but I didn't spot him before I left. The pub was quite busy when I arrived, with a few folks in fancy dress at the bar. Before I'd been served a whole troupe of costumed folk dancer types had arrived, so it was looking pretty busy.


I grabbed a pint of the excellent Dark Star Hophead and settled down in the bar room with my pint and a a newspaper for company. Pat from Abbeydale was in for a chat but I didn't get chance to collar him - suffice to say he and his team were all steadfastly on the Deception, which was likely the second of two renowned pale beers on offer - there was also a Salamander dark beer, but I did not stick around to try it alas.

Harrisons 1854

Off next up to the 54 via an arduous bus journey full of time oblivious young types on the 52 to Crookes or Broomhill. On entering Harrisons resident DJ DBH had a very good selection of tunes on, and following a reported earlier visit by the Abbeydale "crew" I was surprised by a lack of Deception. Moonshine however was suggested, and it was a decent pint of the golden Sheffield favourite. I stopped for another half whilst planning far off escapades in ale for us both.


Deer Deer

Into the Red Deer next I was bowled over by an inescapable smell of chorizo. Thing is, I love chorizo - tis the food of heaven. Alas I couldn't see what on the menu featured it and besides had my eye on a decent piece of fish in the fridge at home, so stopped only for a half amidst some salacious disappointment. I had half a Broadside from Adnams, which was thicker and more nutty than I remember. I'm sure the sparkler ruins the more subtle nutty flavours in this beer!

Dada

The regulars were in here, that being the bar staff of course. Brother Rabbit, Ashford, Jaipur and Brock made up an equally drab/exciting roster of Thornbridge ales, of which I had the Brock. The pumpclip declares a smooth creamy stout - it was admittedly smooth but there was almost no creaminess and far too much dry hops in this beer to allow it to fulfil the tastes promised. Unfortunately, a tight schedule meant I did not have time to taste the Jaipur, which I'd been hoping to. The Kipling is the new key keg for now. Jamie reports more Magic Rock on the way, potentially cask Dark Arts. That would be a real coup if it shows up.


Cavells

A new venue for me was the last of the night's stopping points, mainly as I needed the loo and wanted somewhere quieter than the Spoons to buy a half and head for the facilities. The one real ale (Bombardier was off) was the Taylor's Landlord. I had a half, at £1.50, and it was very very much stronger in nutty malt than I remember. Nothing about the beer was horrible, it was just overpowering and unsubtle. I don't think Cavell's are pretending to be a new real ale venue, and its good that you now have an option of drinking something with a bit of flavour for the first time in years, but its a shame that the Landlord was a rather odd version of itself, rather than a well kept example. It seems a little work is required of this new real ale venue.

That's all the news i have for now, hopefully more to come over the next week.

Wee Beefy.

Saturday, 24 March 2012

More beer gen revalations

Now then,

    You may have guessed that I haven't been out much lately - this would be down to my having caught the lurg, and housemaids knee, all at the same time. I was supposed to be going for a walk out near Midhopestones today (in the morning, not now!) but have cancelled as I continue aching, shaking, coughing and refusing food. Thank God the con-dem alliance gave me something to cover....

Mind you, I have now arisen from my bedly catacomb

And, I have been cheered up by a positive response to my Sheffield blogger post. Thanks to those commenting I now have another Sheffield blog to follow in the form of studentdrinker and this has spurred me on, too late some would argue, to find out about other Sheffield blogs or websites about pubs.

I discovered a pub food review site called whatsonupnorth which despite making me shiver on reading that the reviewer had ordered a lime and soda at the Broadfield and used a picture from before it reopened, is still an interesting read (it does also include authors observations on the pubs themselves depending on who contributes). I also found a very short lived but now seemingly abandoned one called aleblog.co.uk which had a few posts around February and March 2011, and one about the Blake that was, erm, password protected? I also know you can find stuff out on Sheffield forum, and Steel City Kitchen here also features reviews of pub food if that's your bag.

One that I think is particularly interesting and well worth a look is Sheffield Pub Guide here. Its good, firstly,  because it gives details of the establishments owners. Who knew that the Red Deer, which has demonstrated a refreshing amount of independence in terms of decor, beer range and music, in the last 18 months, is owned by Punch Taverns?

Also, in addition to a brief description (optional), there are a criteria of questions set out, with answers provided by the relevant licensees/owners/landlords/tenants/managers (etc). Now, as with all that is Internet, you can't bet your life on it, but its an interesting steer towards the type of pub you are going to find if you plan on visiting one for the first time (and of course, haven't found a review on here first) . And they are updated, as the home page demonstrates.

Obviously my approach, as a blogger, is to provide opinion - I do like facts, and detailed information, but its mainly subjective (and I quite often rely on remembered statements which may be very much open to interpretation). With the exception of one or two of the questions answered, the responses to the questions on the Sheffieldpub site are simply yes, no, or at what time.

I think its worth a look, especially if you were going somewhere for the first time with one of those strange folks for whom beer range, cost, styles usually sold, and from which brewery, isn't important. More especially if you wish to fanny about "eating" whilst you are out.

All we need now are a few more actual blogs in Sheff and the picture will be nearer complete.

Wee Beefy

Friday, 23 March 2012

40 pence per soundbite

Hello,

  it seems like harvesting the above tax could raise the treasury some much needed money if it had thought to impose this duty from 11.00AM this morning. Mind you, I am not very good at harvesting soundbites, much like the HMRC are pretty rubbish at collecting taxes, most especially from the twats at the top who have most to gain from them not doing so.

I was still digesting the details of the ghost 5% tax rise that many fell for, of course the beer duty escalator was already running prior to budget day allowing Osborne the chance to pretend nothing was happening. Then, having got nowhere with understanding how much this would add to the price of a pint over the bar (any figure rarely reflects the cost at the pumps, for no doubt innumerable reasons), I heard that the Government had announced in Parliament sleepy time that they were going to be proposing, as part of its alcohol strategy, a 40 pence minimum price per unit on alcohol.

Now, I get that you already know the above, but remembering that I can't be arsed finding quotes, this is what struck me :

1. Recently, I've noted stories about the drinking habits of the middle class and the go-getters in the employment market, letting go of all their day's stress by binging after work. As Professor Sir Ian Gilmore points out reassuringly from his bubble, this (minmum unit price) won't affect the cost of beer in a pub, or the cost of a bottle of wine in a restaurant. (UNQ) Does this mean the above sector isn't that much of a problem? If so, where is the problem drinking sector then? If its not the above, it must be the poorest in society? If, even, there is a specific problem sector? (clearly its too easy to generalise when patching together a strategy.....)

2. Cameron said it was ridiculous that you could get a can of lager for 25p and a large bottle of super strength cider for £2.00. (UNQ)

And that is quite shocking. I mean, what goes in to drinks like that to be that cheap? (just skip past "Indian cola" and cheap Chinese soy sauce). The thing that's worrying here is that at no stage has he considered why someone would be buying such products, especially if they were off out later?

Perhaps, the fact that in the pub across from this made up supermarket its £3.50 a pint for cider (if you're lucky), over £3.00 for a pint of lager. No-one wants the pubs in town centres and elsewhere to be filled up with more out of control drinkers,  (I can see this is a tightrope!)  but unsupervised drinking can only be achived by off sales purchases. In some cases, you'd have to argue that City Centres would be Ghost towns without the opportunity to preload - surely they can't be after the affluent City Centre money pots as well?

3. The home Secretary said :
that just under the cheapest fifth of all alcohol sold would be affected by introducing a 40p minimum.

"Too many people think it's a great night out to get really drunk and have a fight in our streets," she told BBC Breakfast.

"What we need to do is to set a price that is actually going to ensure that we don't damage responsible drinkers. People who like a drink or two, who like going down their local pub, have nothing to fear from this policy."

Erm.....?

Coming on the back of HSBD, the smoking ban, a failure to act on pub companies, and two days after the year on year tax rises bequeathed by the tax escalator, one wonders where these pubs are?

They still exist, but there are many less local pubs than when we had less disposable income. So something is making our pubs die, which is unconnected to the unit price of alcohol. Ironically, when the above factors serve to erode away the core traditional trade in such establishments, many can only remain open as late night venues with attractive one price entry promotions and cheap shots. (its childish, I know, but I mis-typed this as cheap shits. And then chuckled to myself. I am 5.)

Also, re the above statement, who is it that the experts think is directly responsible for a person's assumption or belief that its alright to go out and get drunk and have a fight in the streets? Erm, individuals? Is it that setting the limit at 39p wouldn't change the decision structure of people unable to control their urge to fight but 40p would?

I have seen many reformed alcoholics today interviewed about the minimum price declaring that it would have made no difference at all to them in their previous situation. So if the Government think that almost all of us abuse alcohol, that would maybe still apply - all of us would still strive to find booze no matter what the price ( I realise this is a lightly absurd notion but you have to apply these ideas rigidly otherwise they lose credibility....)

Irrespective of price, if I go out and have quite a lot to drink I may become argumentative. In the sort of pubs I frequent that stimulates debate. I don't hit people. I don't fight or start fights. I might be pedantic about pronunciation of certain words, and I concede, publicly, that this is quite annoying. I may also shout at train or bus timetables, but fighting is for idiots. So can I be exempt from  minimum pricing? Surely nothing I do is a taxable crime as defined in the rambling remit of this rashly rushed proposal?

Finally, results seem to show that disposable income is up and beer is cheaper now as a percentage of average income compared to 1980. Well that's great. But I'd be more interested to be shown evidence of how the price of a pint in a pub has risen against the cost in a supermarket and how those two, I suspect radically different figures measure up against a percentage of household income. If, and I dearly hope this stat is correct, we are paying 40% of all the beer duty in Europe but consuming only 13% of all the beer drunk in Europe, then that would show that successive Governments have allowed tax over the bar to escalate, and tax for alcohol at the checkout stay low or maybe become lower.Which is their fault! Ha Ha!

In which case, we're back to why not make social supervised drinking affordable? Wibble?


The above quotes were sort of in some cases taken from the BBC News website here . I had to half remember Professor Sir Ian Gilmore's quote from 3 different interviews, hence its an unquote.

If this post has made you depressed, why not compare the different news channels envisaged cost increases on a variety of "popular alcoholic products"?

Or just pour yourself a bottle of slightly chilled Bottle conditioned IPA and stay indoors where its safe.

Wee Beefy

Wednesday, 21 March 2012

Why so shy Steel City?

Good evening (night sounds like a bad start...)

    I am going to begin with a caveat. Not unusual in my posts, but not usually at the beginning. I worry perhaps too much that I will tripped up, discombobulated, fooled, misinformed, or worse still wrong. And I genuinely don't like people to get the wrong idea about what I am saying. Hence, perhaps, the lenght f my posts.  Anyway, to my excuse in waiting....

I follow 2 Sheffield blogs via this site, Barl Fire and Mike Grice.com. Both are very good, well written blogs packed full of information, which is something I am keen on. The content of both is, as far as I can see, exclusively bottled beer. I also tried to follow on Word Press "Get to the pub dot com" which alas is now updated only very occasionally. Interestingly, this blog, shared its focus, unequally, between pub visits and music (more the pubs). This is also a very well written blog by someone with a great turn of phrase and endearing writing style of which I am quite envious.

OK, so against the above backdrop, that makes me

the only Sheffield blogger posting about Sheffield pubs
(and real ales and bottled beers).

That sounds good, but, barring any sudden comments posted by hurt, overlooked Sheffield pub bloggers it is truly a puzzling state of affairs.

Recently, in fact for many years now, Sheffield has been tussling with the likes of Derby and Norwich to be crowned beer capital of Britain, and achieved it numerous times. It may have few late night real ale venues, and not many pubs have adopted the trend for selling a range of key-keg beers from the UK and beyond, but its still a stonking good place to drink in.

I myself have taken people on a few pub crawls of Sheffield already this year (and rashly promised a couple more) and that doesn't cover half of the best that's on offer. So why does no-one in Sheffield seem to love their pubs enough to write about them?

Over the Pennines, I know of and follow some of 7 real ale blogs in Manchester and Merseyside, many of which, for what it matters, appear to be highly ranked on various blog rating sites. West Yorkshire likewise seems positively awash with beery or rather pub paeans and similar bibulous writings. Since this in no way aims or serves to suggest one region is better than the other in terms of quality of pubs, it makes you wonder why those North and West of here are so much more vocal?

If you are a Sheffield blogger and wish to contest my claim of being the only Sheffield blogger posting about Sheffield pubs I would genuinely like to hear from you. I think that Steel City solidarity is good news, since one of the features of blogging that I am currently enjoying is the shared following of blogs, which brings their content to a wider audience.

Surely there's more of us out there?

Wee Beefy

N.B - Steve, am afraid you don't count mate, sorry - Sheffield bloggers have to be at the very least Sheffield based! Nae mind.

Sunday, 18 March 2012

Wee Beefy's weekend wandering

Good evening,

     yesterday I had my dear friend Christingpher over for a meal and some wine and beer, so I decided a daytime yomp around part of Sheffield sampling pubs along the way would be a good "practice" before the feasting started. Despite the fact that it was St Patricks day, so pubs were likely to be full of wearying behatted hobby drinkers, I was determined not to let this put me off my quest.

Union

I started at Nether Edge, getting off the bus at the terminus, its just a minutes walk to my first pub. The Union was open, allaying fears I may have been harbouring about its long term prospects, and just to confirm how erroneous some of my assumptions had been, the barman clarified that they didn't open until 17.30 each night (except Sundays) for their evening session. So 10 to 5, which is when I am usually at Union Road, was never going to enable a pub visit.


On the bar were 5 beers, GK IPA, Taylor's Landlord, something else, and Abbeydale Moonshine and Absolution. I decided it was probably a little early at 1PM for an Absolution so opted for Moonshine. This was a well kept pint which I enjoyed sitting secluded in the right hand corner of the pub near the back entrance. Saturday really wanted to be warm and sunny, and the sunlight streaming in across my table kept urging me outside, but I remained where I was, appreciating another of the pubs many nooks and  crannies.

Stagger from Stage to Stag

I couldn't hang around as, having planned my route on the tinterweb I wasn't completely sure of how long my walk was going to take. So I carried on next past the Union and up past the Merlin theatre (sort of) and then up Cherry Tree Lane to Psalter Lane. My next port of call was a 100 yards or so on the right, The Stag.

I have only been to the Stag once before. It was 1994 and I had been to see Oliver Stone's "Nixon" at the Showroom. The film was, if I recall accurately, about 7 hours long. We were exhausted and damaged internally by the length of time we had postponed taking a trip to the loo. Having said all this, I am not sure if this in any way affected my experience then, but I don't remember liking it much.


These days the Stag looks much like it probably did in the nineties, and quite modern inside. There was a strong influence (both olfactorily and as advertised) on food, and there were plenty of people sat in the conservatory enjoying a spot of lunch. It was quite warm inside, which is good when you are eating, but after my walk I decided I wanted to enjoy my beer outside. The range of 3 real ales was Courage Directors, something national, and Thornbridge Wild Swan. I had the swan, and this proved to be an interesting choice - I usually only see it in Thornbridge pubs where their range inevitably draws me to something a little stronger, so I rarely have it. Sat outside in the fresh air this was a very drinkable well kept pint which I devoured quickly.

Banner Cross

Next I waked along Psalter Lane to Ecclesall Road South. Along the way I spotted a pub that filled me with a quite unexpected determination to not even cross the road to take a look. To try and put this irrational disgust into some sort of context, I think it ,must have been the Psalter Tavern's wearisome pastel greys, creams and dirty white colour scheme coupled with its chain restaurant appearance and the ugly buildings it was housed in. Not an especially balanced reason to avoid a pub but one which I suspect won't turn out to have denied me a memorable pub experience.

On reaching Eccy road I turned right downhill and made my first (unplanned originally) visit to the Banner Cross Hotel. I opted for the lounge on the left having never been in before - which is a bit weird since the bar is usually the most unspoilt part of any pub, nut there you go.

Inside was a bery large room, one assumes it would have previously been two with bar service in the right corner in the left hand of the two rooms. The unnatural size of this room makes it an ideal spot to sit and watch live sport, and being an important 6 Nations weekend there was a large contingent in to watch the rugby. However, the most notable feature of the pub was the bar.

It was quite large and central and served both sides, with a dram shop hatch in the centre facing the door. Something about it reminded me of the one at the Commercial in Wheelock, or in some of the Holts houses in Manchester. I have no idea if this is an original bar structure but I would like to go back and see it from the bar room to perhaps get a clearer idea.


Beer wise the choice was Tetley, Doom Bar and Kelham Island Easy Rider. Having picked Kelham's least hoppy ale there was a clear malt bias in the range, but an Easy Rider suited my needs perfectly, not too strong, not too heavy. I was only stopping for a half, but to be fair, the pub was very warm, so had I not been mid trek I think I may have stopped for a pint at least.

Greystones

Off next towards Greystones road, via Glenalmond, Dobbin Hill and Greystones drive (there seems to be no convenient roads across so I had to gain height to walk down to the pub without exerting too much effort). The Greystones was bathed in sparkling, erm, grey cloud whenever I got my camera out - the sun was playing hide and seek throughout the day so my Greystones pics are decidedly and appropriately grey.


Inside there was a range of 7 or 8 Thornbridge beers of all strengths to choose from, including Marples, Jaipur and Pica Pica. However, unlike on my first visit, there was no guest beer. Given the many collaborations and tie ups and therefore one presumes business relationships Thornbridge have with other brewers, its strange that they seem so reticent to let them get their products on their bars (and yes, in order to validate this point, am going to have to ask you to believe that this is a Thornbridge pub, even thought its not).

I opted for a refreshing pint of the Black Harry mild, which I noticed, for the first time, has a rather weird and not entirely nice aroma. Still, it watered me well as I sat near the Backroom venue surveying the bar and decor in fitful sunshine.


The Greystones scores well on having a good beer range and I admit that this was a bit of a quandary. I didn't want to get drunk, but I did want to fit in another pub at least. In the end, I decided to get the bus down to the end of Eccy road and pop in the ex Pomona, now renamed the Ecclesall. At least, that's what I wanted to do.... However, a 35 minute wait for a missing bus meant it was gone half three before I set off so I changed my plans. I decided to get off in town and walk to the Sheffield Tap. Since I had to go to the shops for some booze supplies for the night ahead I thought that if nothing else, I could get some draught beer to take out from there.

Sheffield Tap - land of the Stouts

It was quite busy at the Tap but not unpleasantly so, and I didn't have to wait too long to get served. The problem was, there was just too much nice beer to choose from. U opted for a half each of the Dark Star Sussex Extra Stout and Hardknott Atomic Narcicuss. The problem was, I also wanted to try the Dark Star Dark Lager, the Cromarty brewing co coffee infused stout and the Dark Star Revelation IPA that I had heard so much about. Why so many good beers The Tap?!?

The Hardknott was the first of their beers that I have tried, and had all the dry possibly Simcoe or Nelson Sauvin hop bitterness that I was expecting. That said however, it wasn't quite as dynamic as i though it would be, but it was still an enjoyable beer. The Dark Star also missed a few expectation markers by being slightly less full bodied than I had expected (although it is only 4.87%). It did though have a lovely creamy and roasted malt flavour that I liked, not dissimilar to some aspects of the aftertaste in a milk stout.

Alas, by this stage, I had recognised that as well as costing me extra money for a container, my take away beer idea was also based on me trying another, and then carting the beer to the supermarket (Sheffield Tap don't sell potatoes and mushrooms; come on lads, make an effort). So I tore myself disappointedly away from the cavalcade of beer and promised myself I would get back tomorrow (which is today, and I haven't).

Overall this was a pleasant 4 hours or so wandering round Nether Edge and Greystones, and one which I would do again, and can highly recommend. Some of the beer range may have been a bit safe and reliant on stalwart brews but that doesn't matter when the beer is well kept, and across the board, prices were generally £2.80 - £3.00 a pint.

And most importantly of all, I didn't encounter a twat in a hat all day....

Cheers!

Wee Beefy.

Saturday, 17 March 2012

Anonymous e-mentalist comment posters

Hello,

  I realise you are probably rightly questioning the title - how a poster, a printed and framed medium of communication or advertising, manages to be anonymous?

But I am talking about blogs.

To post a comment on mine, as anyone but anonymous, you have to have a google account. Which is not a problem necessarily, since most people I know sign their name. And as long as its not enabling offensive or defamatory material, it can be good. Especially since now and again a person posts something odd and fairly incongruous under such a moniker.

Now, when assessing if someone is posting a legitimate campaign of comments or links, I admit that I don't get many problems to assess. I have spam referrals but rarely have cause to worry about my comments ( I only got spam comments twice - both by signed in bloggers with adverts!). In my experience most anon comments are likely real - I know that iphone apps and similar hand held Internet devices fail to work properly on blogger. Therefore I can usually see when something is in fact a comment posted by someone on a phone, instead of by a machine.

But, as per recently, that doesn't help identify whether or not a post is from someone wishing to remain unknown...


You see, my reason for mentioning this is the emergence (if we concede that both persons are the same) of a "poster" (of comments) on Curmudgeon's blog. Since its not mine I am not commenting on the blog management, only its published public interaction.(Caveat1.)

Being the observer rather than recipient of such content, it doesn't bother me, but its unusual to see an anonymous commenter that changes their identity, whilst seemingly being the same person, more especially if you find their content interesting. Now, I realise that Curmudgeon may know this person, (though I doubt it - caveat2.) but I have seen their like nowhere else. And their odd prose style is at least recognisable on each post, even if, really, it makes no sense!

Here are a few choice lines :

"Loathesome are the sad prats ,humming with
soiled Y Fronts and festering armpits not forgetting the forlorn femmes some with worn out
sanitation,festering in early evening pseudo pubs.
Eternal Optimist
Good riddance to a "Judas" rag,pity the other
Quisling organs have'nt joined it yet.
Such as the Pub chains (you know who),most brewers,the various luke warm campaigns including the Whiskers Guild and not forgetting
the cringing regiments of KeyboardKommandos.
,the remaining half wits who stand outside near empty pubs muttering 1 decibel anger.
One day reality and democracy will emerge from
their coma,but I for one will not be holding my
breath,we have to many in"reserved occuptions"
Asphalt Fusilier"

Apologies if this is a "blogosphere" in joke that I have missed, but it seems that the blog sites settings encourage the phenomena of the rogue poster through making it so difficult to attach an identity to a comment. You could argue that the anonymous option in fact supports the emergence of such "involved" writing.

Signing in as anonymous and attaching a new moniker per post is surely easier than fannying around setting up a a new email address every time, so surely we should only be allowed to post by signing in using our email address, and then attributing a (traceable) name?

That said, the above material, rightly or wrongly, I secretly don't mind.....

Wee Beefy

N.B - Curmudgeon - I hope you don't object to my copying comments from your blog. Y (WB)

And.... who is Luke Warm, and what are occuptions?

Friday, 16 March 2012

Bitterly contested

Hello,

      earlier in the week I read a post on Adrian Tierney Jones' site about brown bitter. It was an engaging traverse through memories of such beer, and a refreshing change from more bitter negative (whether ironic or outwardly hostile) blog prose over the last year.

Slow as ever I missed commenting on his blog but mine on Boak and Bailey's post, specifically the quote about bitter appreciation being an example of a "quiet beer counter-revolution"  was this :

"Quiet revolution I think is perhaps an exaggeration; regaining perspective and honest appreciation seem more prevalent in gently reminding us blog-folk that a beer can be good irrespective of its percentage of coverage".

Am pleased with the syllable count, grammatical integrity (ish) and tempo of my phrase but I thought afterwards, what am I actually saying?

Is it that beer bloggers and trend followers outside of the opinionated grumblesphere are in fact somehow deluded into thinking all that is new and all that is blogged about is good, and all that went before is inferior?

Well, to some extent yes. Its important to clarify though, I have had many beers recently which, in fact I had read about, sometines more than once, on different blogs, and absolutely loved. However, I am aware of a growing fractious element in beer appreciation.

First of all there is a retro nod towards "many is good" beer ranges in pubs. Driven maybe by constant references to amazing new breweries, or perhaps "range lust", it all seems a bit like the more beers we know are good the more pubs need to increase their choice. Whereas, surely, 2 good new micro beers and one excellent example of a classic beer well kept would be manna from heaven?

.As a case in point, recently, in the NBT festival, I heard some CAMRA types bemoan Dada changing its name (not unreasonable!) and more vociferously, their decision to reduce the number of hand pumps. They then drew comparisons with other "Thornbridge pubs" (whatever that means)  also following this trend and declared that Dada would never make the GBG, and others would fall from grace in it, because there were less real ale handpumps. Surely quality over quantity counts?

Meanwhile, and more pertinent to this post, I note that almost every beer review or event analysis I read focuses on the output of hop forward beers produced by microbreweries.

And that's fine.

But are we in a position where any pale beer not pushing 100IBU will now be automatically considered dull, pedestrian or unworthy? I love hops. I lu-u-urve hops. Always have. But I also drink maltier beers. A quick glance at 20 or so blogs on my reading list suggests that I am living in a world of forgotten dreams and archaic doctrine. Is this true?

I ask only because aside from my posting and reading as above, tonight I tried a bottle of Dunham Massey Cheshire IPA.

This is in no way an Alpha hop beer. Oh no. Its firmly within the Dunham Massey portfolio, in being very malty, with a soft yeast, and a moderately, rather than lager like, pale appearance. Having been weened onto hophead fodder and seen almost only hop festival beers praised of late, I was wondering wether my unfailing belief in the quality of Dunham bottle beers would be tested by a hopless cheshire malt frenzy. But that was wide of the mark....

It was a very very nice beer. Lots of hops, yes, but they were actually a second wave of flavours in this 4.7% amber coloured ale. The initial hit was an unapologetic Dunham staple of malt, mellow fruits and yeast, and some delightful beery notes that suggest it was time to slow down and breathe in the flavour.

It didn't though, have the hop wince. It did not make me go "woah, Jeezus Christ thats hoppy!" It didn't need to.

Because despite its slightly more conservative level of hopping, it was a fantastic, bitter rounded beer of great quality. Interestingly, the fact that it purports to be "Inspired by the English IPA's of old" may be an ironic nod to current moves to dispel long held beer myths. In the latest edition of Beer after all, Ron Pattinson contributes to an article clearly suggesting that the high hopped high alcohol IPA is not what would have travelled to India. Does beer writing reflect this?

Perhapps now we can relax a little and enjoy a beer for its rounded flavour, irrespective of IBU, and even, god forbid, even if it doesn't seem to confirm our erroneous assumptions about a particular style.

Wee Beefy.

Tuesday, 13 March 2012

Wee Beefy's pubs round-up (and some bottle news)

Ay up,

    its going to be a slightly shorter post than normal (who am I kidding? Every time I start a post like that its still a minimum 5 paragraphs long....) as it pertains to some brief pub visits over the past week, which I have lumped together into cumbersome slabs of gen.

Friday

After my Kelham visit on Friday evening I embarked on a tour of a few more local hostelries with Mr Robbery. First stop was the FAT CAT where we had an essential and excellent pork pie, and a half each of the Thornbridge Pica Pica stout. Mores the shame that I seem to have missed this years run of the Bete Noire, my favourite Kelham beer.


This was followed by a walk round to the SHIP INN (see wonkily lined up door plaque pic right) for a fantastic pint each of the Abbeydale Dark Angel. There was a distinct Sheffield slant to the beers but there was still a dark offering, which is a mark of thoughtful beer choosing, given the dominance of pale hoppy beers in Sheffield's Breweries output. Also of note, myself and Mr Robbery both like dark beers, which is a convenient situation when there is such a good range on offer in Steel City pubs. I have now taken 3 people to visit the Ship, and have yet to hear a word of criticism.


Next was a jaunt on the tram up to the UNIVERSITY ARMS. It was busy but not rammed and we again  chose the same beer (this may be open to question!). We both had pints of a Revolutions Brewery offering that could have been Beat Red or Devolution. To be fair, it could have been one of about 10 of their beers since my "innate" journalistic eye recorded the beer as "45". A quick look at their website proves the folly of this notation....

We also had time to pop in HARRISONS 1854 to sit in the beer garden with pints of Abbeydale Deception. It was getting late and I know we weren't in long. Mr R had designs on going to a number of places, but I was set on another dark brew....

Our final stop was in THE OLD HOUSE, for, you guessed it, Bradfield Farmers Stout (in unspecified quantities). This really was my last venue of the night. Reports of my having been "ready for bed" appear to have been greatly accurate, and it was therefore a night beer waggon for me at just gone 01.00.

Disgraceful...

Monday

Talking of disgraceful, its hard to be able to put a spin on going out for a goodly session on a Monday, especially if you have partaken of a "refreshing" weekend. However, this time I had the excellent excuse of taking Chala with me for an enjoyable riposte in a couple of venues. This involved ending up back in THE OLD HOUSE again for some Bradfield Farmers Stout, which was a bit tired, and some refreshing, pale, Spotland Gold from Phoenix Brewery. A few good wines were also sampled here, leading us to embark on a rash second venue...

So it was we ended up in DAda (daDA?) where the Pica Pica was once again available, and some excellent Magic Rock. Chala settled down on the comfy leather seat with an ominously large Pinotage and I had a pint of the excellent Magic Rock Curious. We Finished with a bottle of the Trappist Rochefort 6, principally as I had never seen it anywhere before (only their tiring 8 and their stupendous 11), and also because it was  meant to be a shared finisher. Not that Chala exactly partook, but it was a nice find, even though regrettably its carbonation and lighter flavour made it less god than the similar strength Westmalle Dubbel.

And finally some over the off counter news...

The ARCHER ROAD BEER STOP is selling some Dunham Massey bottled beers. Among those offered are Cheshire IPA (review coming soon) Cherry Stout and a new beer, Obelisk. Personally I rate the Dunham bottled beers very highly, I would recommend you give them a try (but remember that they aren't hop forward, all their beers to date have been traditional and more malty affairs - hopheads can always peruse the offerings from the likes of Summer Wine Brewery though...).

See. That wasn't too long.....

Wee Beefy

Lasting memorial

Hello,

  am afraid my blog tonight (this morning) is really no more than a link. I spotted a link to the blog in question on Curmudgeon's site earlier, and had been on Brew Wales, the destination, a few times in the past.

Many many years ago, late into the early hours, I saw a "new short film makers" programme on Channel 4. I wasn't really paying attention as I was thinking of going to bed. Even though I had never visited it, from photo's and a fantastic book called Britain's Heritage Pubs (or similar) by Geoff Brandwood and Mick Slaughter, I recognised, at least I think, the Dyffryn Arms at Pontfaen, covered already on my blog.

I didn't really "get" the film nor did I enjoy it, but it was significant as a visual record of an unspoilt pub. Years later comedian John Sparks paid a visit in a TV programme he did, I think for  S4C. In my experience, much is written about the traditional basic pub; little is committed to film.

Anyway, what I am coming to is this link : Brew Wales pub short film .

It seems surprising that the film maker is only 18, but what really makes this short film about a village pub a treasure is how detailed, reverent and touching a homage it is. I dearly hope the pub, The Railway at Nantgaredig, finds a new and sympathetic owner, but if  that does not transpire, I think you will agree that this film serves as an excellent appreciation of the role of a community local.

I hope you enjoy the film - for more info see the following links Jamie Wright - and I also understand Boak and Bailey are seeking pub footage at Boak and Bailey want pubs on film - perhaps you may wish to bring the two sources together.

Wee Beefy

Monday, 12 March 2012

New Barrack and Kelham Island Tavern's beer festivals

Evening,

    I must start by clarifying a few points from my last post. Firstly, the outside bar at the Kelham is covered, also the beer from Ascot Ales was their "standard" Anastasia stout, which means their imperial version may well be pretty awesome. Also, I kind of took it as read that the decade beer festival related to the Tavern's first CAMRA award or beer guide entry. Speaking to Trevor Saturday night it appears its a decade since the pub reopened. I honestly thought it had been open far longer than that!

So to business, I had intended to get myself to the New Barrack Tavern for midday to have a good go at the ales on offer. As it turned out, I woke up in the afternoon. So started a day of "flexible" arrangements....

Shakespeares

  I chose to start proceedings at my regular haunt since I needed to get some change for the bus. Even at this late stage in the afternoon I wasn't completely convinced that I was in the mood for more beer. From the range available I ummed and aahed about having a low gravity starter, but when I spotted the Hornbeam Black Coral Stout my mind was made up. I have seen this beer in here a few times and its never let me down. I took the opportunity to escape the throngs of visiting CAMRA types in the front rooms and sit in the "school room" in contemplative peace before stirring myself for the next part of my trip out.

New Barrack Tavern

I have to admit that I rarely get to the NBT. Even though its not that far from the Double H it seems too much of an undertaking for some reason. Hence I have visited only once in the last 12 months, one evening in the summer en route to the Blake. It was dead, although the beer was nice.


The extremes of business and quiet are nowhere better illustrated than the Barrack Tavern. There was a beer fest on, it was a pleasant almost warm Saturday, and there were 3 people in, plus 4 in the beer garden. I took the opportunity to take a few pics whilst I supped a half of the Prescott Seasons Best, described as a winter warmer and a ruby stout and somehow being neither. As I was getting my snaps the barman commented that this would be a good time since it would be rammed in 10 minutes - a fact reiterated by Mr M in the beer fest snug.


And so it was that at 17.00 the pub was flooded with football fans and 3 extra bar staff appeared behind the bar! One minor problem was that the bar in the snug selling the festival beers was accessible only from that room. So in the initial rush no-one could be spared to work on the festival bar for quite some time. Ironically when someone did arrive, I had already got a beer from the other bar and said barman was distinctly under utilised.

My second beer was the Harbour Brewing Co Harbour Amber at 4.0%. Having rashly started on two stouts I wanted to calm things down a little. I knew that I should expect a sweetish malty Cornish beer and that's what I got. It was described by Mr M as  "not unpleasant" and by myself as "inoffensive". Their weaker Harbour Light was still in the cellar, perhaps one best enjoyed in its locality.

I also had a half of the Andwell Porter from Hampshire which was very easy to drink, but surprisingly dry for a porter - the flavour was more suited to a dry stout but it was a nice drink and a beer from a brewery I've never tried before. New and unusual brewery offerings was going to be a feature of today. Next halves drunk were Woodlands Red Squirrel, a 3.9% beer that didn't suit being served by gravity, and a tasty Bristol Beer Factory Number 7, which was memorable mainly for some interesting fruit notes in the initial taste.


Interspersed between 2 excellent pork pies was my favourite beer of the festival the Craddocks Stout, which had just the right level of balance and strong roasted flavours I was after. My final beer was a half of the Triple F Comfortably Numb, which was a pleasant enough ale which could have done with a few more hops.

This was my first New Barrack Tavern beer festival and overall  it was an enjoyable way to spend a couple of hours. Its interesting to compare the range there with that at the Kelham. Broadly the NBT had a much more adventurous beer order but apart from the eggy Ashover I didn't find a bad beer at the Kelham. That said there seemed to be a few beers at the Barracks that were very competitively priced. If I am really lucky I may be able to pop in in the next few days to to try the Castle Rock Hebridean stout.

Back to the Kelham next and I had only a couple in here. A half of the Yorkshire Dales Colt Park Wood couldn't match the brilliance of the Bleak House, but I really enjoyed my half of the 5.5% American Blonde from Brewshed in the outside bar. Alas this was quite a brief visit and when I left about half 6 the place was rammed. I had to leave, since I had a dream about salami bites at the Fat Cat.....

The Cat

Alas on arriving it transpired that the dreamlike promise of salami bites was likely to remain so as they had not sold them for a year or two now. So I had another excellent pork pie and a very interesting Kelham beer called Big Black Blue Sound, Kelham's take on a Black IPA. This was a very satisfying beer, but not as hoppy as I was expecting. I didn't mind though, and it was a nice accompaniment to my snack as I sat outside in the beer garden.

Shakespeares again...

I also popped back to Shakespeares, this time for a half of the Summer Wine Brewery Zenith IPA. This was one of the best beers of the night so far. Even though it was served a trifle cloudy, it was fresh tasting and bursting with all the hops and critrussy zest I was hoping for.

Harrisons 1854

I ended up at the 1854 much earlier than I had planned. In fact, I was going to go from there to Nether Edge to try out a few pubs but that really wasn't feasible since it was getting late, and also, my chosen attire of a T-shirt and shirt was not having the insulating effect that I was expecting. Here, with the bar busy with a private party, as is often the case on a Saturday, I ended up having the best beer of the night. The Abbeydale Deception was bursting with flavour and served in perfect condition. Had I not been a trifle tired by this stage, I reckon I would have sunk another (few).

My final port of call was the Bee Hive. The Blue Bee beers were on sale as always, as was Sequoia from Thornbridge, but I had a pint of Abbeydale Dark Angel, 4.7% and, I think, £2.60 a pint. Granted the Hive is not exactly a great place to sit drinking by yourself in but the beer is very good value and on my 3 visits has always been well kept. A great way to bring the days wandering to a close!

Wee Beefy

Saturday, 10 March 2012

Kelham Island Tavern 1st Decade beer festival

Good afternoon imbibers

    the Kelham Tav festival started Thursday night and runs til Sunday. I was in after work for a few hours sampling some of the beers and enjoying the atmosphere. Its slightly different from their usual midsummer festival in that there's no no need to buy a glass, but there is a bar where the large table is outside (not covered this year - optimistic!) and you can get served from there just like you were in the pub.


I had popped in Shakespeares beforehand for an opener, in the form of halves of the Osset JIPA, which was a hoppy and refreshing starter for the evening, and the slightly stronger Muirhouse brewery Stumbling About, 5.2%, which was a dark malty bitter with some pleasant fruit flavours.

Once at the Kelham I was relieved to see that there was the potential for securing a seat, and quickly found Allie and Malc in the back room with some friends. I had started with an essential combo of a packet off Seabrooks Beefy crisps, (always eat your own brand I say), and a pleasant half of the Flipside Dark Denominating mild, a delicious starter at 4.0% with good roasted flavours that was dispatched quickly.

Next I venured outside, and tried a half of the Double Top Brewery Nelson Dark Mild, which was a great improvement on their Magna beer festival offering - I think they are based at the Mallard pub at Worksop Railway station, and their pumpclips are easy to spot seemingly all coloured in with felt-tips!  I also had a taste of the Ashover Damson porter, which lacked the rounded fruit and roast malt to make it stand out, and alas, smelled of eggs. Heave.

My next beer was the excellent Yorkshire Dales Bleak House, a refreshing pale bitter with a St Peters Grapefruit beer-esque citrus flavour, which made it really refreshing. I asked for a taste first and was so impressed I took the reckless decision to have an entire pint instead of a half. Thats a real sign of an ale's excellence. I followed this with a half of the North Riding Brewery C.R.I.P IPA at 4.6% which was nearly as good as their Neilsons Sauvin.  My penultimate beer was the Abbeydale Dr Mortons offering Sauce of the Nile which was another fruity beer, and very easy to quaff at 3.9 %.

My final festival beer (although its on the bar and not on the list) was the excellent Ascot Ales Anastasia's imperial stout (this will need checking, as their website says its an imperial version of their stout, and it didn't taste 8.0% to me....). This was an incredibly rounded creamy stout with plenty of dry roasted bitterness, not unlike the excellent Red Willow Black IPA in terms of how well the flavours melded together.

I am hoping to pop back later today to try some more beers so may have an update tomorrow, but if you get chance to, I would thoroughly recommend a visit between now and tomorrow night.

Wee Beefy

Friday, 9 March 2012

More positive news perhaps?

Hello,

  last month I reported that the fantastic but slightly dishevelled New Inn at Hadlow Down in Sussex appeared to be destined for some dreadful enforced "renaissance" from pub and defunct hotel to a restaurant with swanky new hotel and crappy landscaping thrown in. Regrettably in the world of unspoilt pubs, this is not exactly unusual.

Buildings, ignoring the inconvenience of the pub within them, are often seen as piles of cash rather than  redoubtable retainers of atmosphere and shared history who's preservation serves to remind future visitors of the stories once told and played out in their walls. The Horse and Trumpet in Medbourne, Rutland ,sadly a pub I never got to visit, was a good example of the worth of the location and the mass of building creating a price tag so high as to render any suggestion of continuing its use as a basic public house unfeasible. I understand the hours were restrictive and trade had diminished, and the owners (or owners family) decided to call it a day.

Admittedly from the photo's in the article on its closure it was a large building, of which the pub was a small part - literally, and in terms of financial contribution -  but once it went on the market there was only ever going to be one outcome. (in fact it made the transition to an up-market restaurant, but just like the Crooked Billet in Stoke Row Oxfordshire, thats still a travesty. I understand the restaurant has now closed as well.)

General repairs?

However, sometimes a pub does not have to simply slip into oblivion. My good friend Steve lives in Hastings, approximately 1000 miles South in "Sussex" or similar, and he reports a new lease of life for a listed pub on the National Inventory here.

The Havelock, or the General Havelock, is in Hastings and it would appear from different sources, has previously garnered a rather dubious reputation as a place you wouldn't go to read a paper and sup an IPA from a handled beer mug; or for any other reason (and I am not saying that any of those constituent parts are essential in making a pub good).  The photo on the Heritage Pubs site Have a look supports this slightly in that it shows the outside to be quite unprepossessing but the interior, particularly the tiled murals, looks amazing.

It appears that delays have befallen a refurbishment of said pub due to its historical legacy. I think this could be seen as a positive development, and is no doubt linked to its English Heritage listing, if nothing else. Steve suggests that on reopening the pub will be selling real ale, which is always good in an unspoilt pub, and always assuming the essential character and layout is not lost, whilst the magnificent tiling is retained, this could be a real bonus for the people of Hastings, and the UK's pub heritage stock.

I have asked Steve to send me photo's when it reopens.....

And finally...

I have at last found out who RWC, author of the excellent "Classic basic unspoilt pubs of Great Britain" is. Now, all you unspoilt pub aficionados and obsessives will no doubt already know this, but I never knew more than his initials. They stand for Rodney Wolfe Coe (sorry, no idea if hyphen required). This little nugget of info enabled me to find a few more interesting links on the internet (where everything is true remember) and is a satisfying final piece in the jigsaw of understanding who the author was, and whether or not he is still traveling around Britain's best pubs.

I have to credit both Curmudgeon, for a post mentioning the Hop Pole at Risbury (which I was Googling) which led to one respondent mentioning RWC, and the person whom posted that comment, Paul Bailey, who has a beer blog himself. Thanks to both for helping me unravel the mystery.

And crucially, thanks to RWC himself for helping  inspire me and many others to seek out traditional unspoilt pubs in the UK.

Wee Beefy

Thursday, 8 March 2012

Wee Beefy's (March of the) beer bites

Good evening,

    my first news regards some recent and planned ale related openings.

Spoon fed

News via a reliable sources comes of a Wetherspoons discount grog warehouse opening at Handsworth, near the Asda. There is a lot of work going on creating what I understood was to be a retail park. One wonders how this would fit into the area's drinking options, especially if it was offering much cheaper alcohol than its nearest neighbours?

Handsworth is blessed with four pubs; (I am not including the White Rose, although it is 200 yards inside the boundary, because its not really part of the original Handsworth village).

These include some older more traditional ones; The Old Crown, Cross Keys and Turf, and two of those sell real ale. And there is also the New Crown, which sold real ale last year, and is admittedly a newer (looking at least) pub, which is why it differs slightly (and perhaps because it has suffered from being the first choice port of call for the local tweenies).

Its safe to say that any new build pub would struggle to match the atmosphere of a venerabl;e haunt (no pun) like the Keys, but in these hard times that counts for little. And that's pertinent, because one thing that does link the Handsworth establishments is that irrespective of ownership, prices are roughly the same in each - i.e. normal. In isolation this is no cause for concern, but Wetherspoons of course sell real ale and other drinks at a consistently lower price than the "normal" rate. I remember baulking at a £2.00 pint in a Wetherspoons last year, but then thought, wait a minute, this is still a good 50p a pint less than anywhere else (in town, not to mention the suburbs).

So if we accept that retail park (if even that is what its to be) visitors are likely to lap up discounted ales and lager, and that a Wetherspoons will open up, what impact would this have on the pubs of Handsworth ?

In my recent experience The Cross Keys struggled during its change of ownership but on my last visit seemed steady if not soaring, The Old Crown has a recent CAMRA award to its name and a good range of beers food and clientele, The New Crown is potentially popular but not necessarily for the right reasons, and the Turf Tavern is almost always rammed, no doubt credit to being managed successfully by Aidy.

I can imagine that your "floating voter" imbiber would quickly ditch any of the above, but the Old crown and Turf seem to have a loyal following. If we interpret that to mean the other two fail, then no matter how good the Spoons spoon fed offerings are, I consider that would be bad news.

The first off license to sell own beer wholesale to the on licensed trade?

According to essential brewery info site Quaffale (see : off license to brew own beer by Quaffale ) the Real Ale Corner in Chesterfield is brewing its own beer, albeit at Raw (an on premises brewery would make the above novelty headline all the longer). I think there may previously have been a tie up between an offie and a Brew pub in Newcastle but certainly this would have to be the only off license I know of retailing its own brewed products.

In my time working at Archer Road Beer Stop customers often came in expecting us either to sell home brew supplies, which wasn't exactly outlandish, or, not recognising the beers on the pumpclips (especially those written in marker pen on white paper) expected that we brewed our own.

Dave was always very modest about his brewers potential and reassured enquirers that he had neither the ability or intention to do so, but it happened enough times for me to think that the Real Ale Corner have happened upon a really canny idea.

In the past, Threshers, Booths supermarket in the North West and Wine Cellar (and other brands owned by Parisa Group) have all had beer brewed for them or been involved in the ownership of a separate brewing arm (I think Parisa fits that bill) but I can't recall hearing of an off license brewing its own. More details can be found at Real ale corner, and everything  .

Pub News

Just a quick note about pubs and beer this time!

Shakespeares number beers

I was in the above recently and sampled two excellent beers. The first was from the cask, and was the excellent Steel City Brewing "9" (based on Xiberia). This was easily as good as the aforementioned ale, and again I think its gravity dispense takes an edge off some of the less conciliatory hop flavours that sometimes arise in their brews. I also think it was a little hoppier than the Xiberia, and perhaps better for it. Maybe the alcohol being 4.8% also helps calm down the flavour. Either way its a cracking pint.


I also tried a pint that i had read about in the world of beer blogging. I had never come across any Five Towns beers before except at Oakwood so seeing their "65" beer I thought I would give it a go. I had read about it on the following blog earlier in the week so was keen to try it for myself  (see a review at Timbo writes about Five Towns beer ). I think his review covers all of the taste features but I would mention that I was surprised by the sweetness on display. It crept into the taste after every mouthful and if it hadn't been riding the crest of a hoppy wave it would have ended up tasting like a far less appetising beer.

As it was this ws a really enjoyable (worryingly) easy to drink 6.5% pale beer which wins my praise for having the potential to be ascorbicly dry yet ending up being almost unsettling mellow and of course quaffable as a result. Hopefully there are a few other Five Towns Brewery ales in the cellar so I can get to try some more of their output.

Upcoming Events

There are two beer fests this week in Sheffield pubs - the Kelham Island Tavern one starts tonight I think, and there is one at the New Barrack Tavern. This is a little confusing however since K-cott reports the festival beers in the left hand snug room were available on Tuesday night prior to the Wednesday match. If this is so, I would assume the festival runs all week? Their website says it starts tonight though and runs til Thursday so will head down Saturday for a peak I hope.

That's all the news I have for now, happy slaking!

Wee beefy

Tuesday, 6 March 2012

Erm, what exactly?

Hello,

  am afraid I just had to share this with you all.

I was having a vainglorious look at my stats and wondering why I had so many today - now this isn't an egotistical plug, its a real concern. Often a slew of page views means a troll or spam site has flooded me with referrals that in no way represent people's intended destination or interests.

I have to say though, there is a "searched keywords" section that tickled me.

This week's favourite I think has to be "men with hairy pubs".

The mind boggles.....


Wee Beefy*

*(this is my sign off, not the intention to identify me as the above)

Wee Beefy's weekend pub bites

Greetings once again,

  as promised here are a few details of my weekend boozers and boozings....

As already (sort of) covered yesterday, one of my weekend destinations was the Old House. Having commented in some detail already all I can really add is a reminder of how good the Farmers Stout is - just think, its not just a late opening venue that serves any real ale, but a range of 5 always including a dark. We are truly spoilt....

Kelham Island Tavern

No photo am afraid as for whatever reason I don't seem to have any photo's of this boozer apart from 1 I used before. Since I strive not to use a pic twice am going to remember to get a snap next time, but leave this segment text only for now. In around 22.00 on Saturday there was a good selection of ales on offer as always. Mind you, I was surprised to see an Adnams offering (alas not tried) and a Greedy King? {Perhaps I imagined the latter)

Arriving after a modicum of earlier refreshment our first drinks were perhaps an unsuitable choice. Me and Mr Robbery had both decided to have a pint of quaffable low gravity Thwaites Nutty Black but caved in and had  Derby Brewing Co Porter (there was also Old Moor and Gorlovka from Acorn, but we erroneously assumed tey'd be too strong). For whatever reason we both found the Derby beer hard work.

Mr R didn't help his cause by switching to a Nutty Black afterwards, and I caved in and had a pale beer. Mr Williams recommended Abbeydale Deception, which in fact fitted the bill perfectly, and demonstrated some unusual perfumed notes that I hadn't previously noted. Mr R then moved onto the Deception as well after that, and I the Pictish Brewers Gold which I haven't had for years. It didn't taste as I remembered, much drier and less rounded, but still enjoyable. In the end I finished on another Deception.

It's still notable that the Kelham has a fantastic range of beers even if there seemed to be a Derby and Acorn theme that night, and its a great place for a late-ish pint of a weekend. We ended up going form here to Bungalows and Bears. One downside, out of the pubs control, was the fact that some idiots had turned up intent on causing an argument. I didn't get to see how the disagreement unfolded but it was clear that someone or maybe more than one had seriously lost the plot. Considering that the parting shot of one of the hysterical group was that the beer was shit, I think its safe to say these were untypical as well as unwelcome visitors to the Kelham Tav....

Bungalows and still real Beers

We had headed for the Old House initially but the venue was completely rammed and we weren't allowed, in, so having ignored the B&B for months I suggested we popped in. Inside it was loud and busy but not unpleasantly so and we were able to get a seat at a table affording some interesting people watching on the street catwalk outside. The York Terrier was still available so have to consider this the regular beer. Also available was Moonshine, which I had a pint of. It was kept in good condition as well. Its a shame if they have decided not to pursue a guest beer policy such as when they had the Hopleaf beer on but it was still nice to get a proper pint.

Sunday sleepy pints - Sheffield Tap

The next day Fluffy, who I had been out to meet on Saturday, was off home. He had met up with SMS and John his Dad at the Rutland about 13.00 but was finding it hard going after a weekend of excess - join the club mate! I met him in a refreshingly empty Sheffield Tap around 2PM for a restorative tincture.


Although not clarified previously, it was at te Tap that I had the brilliant Brodies Citra. Not only that, but it formed part of probably the best beer range I have encounterd in a pub this year. I had a pint of the excellent Moorhouses Pendle Porter next, whilst John was on the Black Harry from Thornbridge and Fluff sampled  many of the offerings as well.

My next pint was the Kirkstall Dissolution, which was  a pleasant pale beer but not up to the standard of some of their recent excellent ales. I also had a half of the Thornbridge Galaxia which was a refreshing but less hoppy than expected pale ale, and then to finish, the truly fantastic Red Willow Brewery Faithless Black IPA at 7.2%.


It had all the astringent hoppiness and necessary bite of its style but was brilliantly rounded with warming and creamy malt flavours, making a strong velvety bitter dark beer that was in the peak of condition. It was also very easy to drink for such a strong beer, and even the stronger flavours didn't jar. Notwithstanding that there were also two Magic Rock beers and 3 other Thornbridge to choose from, I think this was essentially a beer lovers heaven. Full marks to the team at the Sheffield Tap for allowing me to escape from my hangover alive and providing me with two of the best beer experiences I have had in 2012.

Wee Beefy. 

Wee Beefy's midweek pub bites

Hello,
  
having fallen gratefully into the welcoming bosom of payday my drinking and socialising has received a timely boost. So here are a few details of some of the Sheffield pubs I've visited in the last week.

Shakespeares

I popped in here on Tuesday to buy a beer festival ticket for Thursday night at Magna.  Naturally it would have been tremendously rude not to stop for a half at least. I tried a half of a beer that (yes, I have forgotten, duh) was almost certainly called chocolate malt stout, which tasted only vaguely of chocolate, and a lot more of malt. Not quite what I was expecting, or it seems, remembering.

Interestingly I also noted a first 2.8% real ale. I was fairly confident that I would like it but a quick sniff and a taste persuaded me otherwise. Straight furrow from Wincle, a brewery who's beers have been very nice whenever I have sampled them, was just not right. Not off, but tasting of malt and biscuits and some sort of unidentifiable sweetness, with little hoppiness. I am anxious to try some more sub 3% beers but didn't venture to purchase a whole half of this one alas.

Three Cranes

As promised the Welbeck offerings were making their debut on the bar at the venerable Cranes. It seems I missed the Blue Bee Tangled Up IPA but the Welbeck Abbey Brewery Cavendish and Dark Horse were on offer when I popped in on Wednesday.


I only had time for one so having tried neither before I opted for the Dark Horse. This was served in good condition and was a well rounded bitter dark ale, probably half way between a porter and a dry stout. At 4.8% it was slightly weaker than the Cavendish but it was a substantial starter to the evenings drinking. Blue Bee Rugbee Rugbee Rugbee  may be coming soon as well.

Dada

After the unbridled joy of Pollards I am still awaiting the arrival of the much vaunted Magic Rock beers at the Da (Christ on a bike, I hope no-one calls it that). Despite claims as yet and likely to be forever unsubstantiated, by Jamie, that Cannonball was on its way, it now seems that Curious and another strong ale are the likely offerings from this excellent micro.

On my visit I had alas missed the McConnells, so had a choice of Brother Rabbit, Sequoia and Kipling. Despite its strength, from that range, Kipling was the obvious choice. Along with a good selection of Fleetwood Mac (Peter Green era, obviously) and other blues this was a good preparation for our meal out later.

Old House

I have somehow contrived to visit the Old House 3 times in less than a week. On my first visit I had a pint of the True North (I checked the pumpclip just to be sure) First Born, and a half of the Bradfield Farmers Stout. On the other two occasions, slightly later on in the evening, I had pints of the Bradfield Stout only. The stout was in good condition both times (but running out on one visit, although thankfully we were spared that trauma) and being late visits this afforded me chance to confirm that they open until 01.00 on a Thursday (so, maybe every "early" week night) and 02.00 on Saturday.

Mind you, I think they should take a look at their drinking up policy. I thought twenty minutes was your entitlement not a favour? I fully appreciate that staff want to get home but I would be surprised if there was more than about 12 minutes available on Saturday. A minor but annoying blemish.

Great Gatsby

Briefly, nothing much has changed in the overall set up here but notably there is no longer a Blue Bee beer on the bar. They now in fact have two handpumps, on my visit selling a Kelham Island beer (also spotted in the Old House) with a record label theme, and Thornbridge Sequoia. I tried the Kelham, it was a little tired but on the plus side, the change in ales offered does perhaps suggest that the range may alter more regularly.

That's all the pub news for now, as I have a separate weekend pub news update to come later in the week.

Wee Beefy

Sunday, 4 March 2012

Fully fledged?

Good evening,

    as a relative newcomer to the wider world of blogging, I note that patterns and trends abound. Themes reverberate, topics are addressed, readdressed, shared and dissected, favourites emerge across multiple posts and authors, buzz words come and go, soundbites ebb and flow and sometimes, it seems, at some point during the year any blogger worth his salt must post about one of a set menu of gold standard subjects.

Well, finally, I am pleased to announce that I have now reached the nirvana of writing experience in the world of beer. I am writing a post about having tried a Brodies beer in a pub.

Brodie Marvellous (pun no.3 of 79 that you could make up yourself if required)

The best thing of all is, not only have I tasted a beer produced by one of the "most improved new breweries" (can't remember where I read this, perhaps Boak and Bailey?) for the first time, but its one of their best; flavoured with rave reviews, Google tags and beer writer's barely concealed love.

I have tried their Citra.

Funnily enough, despite the tone of my piece suggesting there may be little more than bombast and hyperbole keeping the reputation of the beer going, its nothing of the sort. It is, in fact, truly a fantastic beer. And I don't even require the caveat "for its strength" because although it may be nearer the duty rebate than HSBD, its a cracking all round hoppy beer with oodles of delicious refreshing Citra hop at its centre. I reckon at a blind tasting it would more than match its rivals at 4 - 4.5%. It was my first beer of the day earlier on, and almost the very best beer of 2012 (the eulogistic nature of this post is alas somewhat undermined by their being an even more amazing beer on sale, ironically from a similarly legendary new "buzz" brewery, Red Willow).

But I digress. The main cause for celebration is that I have now tried a beer that almost everyone who has ever typed a word on a blog about beer has written about. Not only does that provide a great sense of relief, its also an appropriate situation for Brodies Citra to find itself in.

To the King William 1V in that London!


Wee Beefy

Rotherham real ale festival - return journey

Now then,

     just a quick update on my return visit to Rotherham Real Ale festival (Baa's of steel) which I went to Saturday afternoon for a last few.

Firstly, the beer range was still quite extensive when I arrived at 13.00, and some of the better ones from Thursday were surprisingly still on sale - particularly the excellent Brass Castle offerings. There was also a lot more people there by about 17.00 as would be expected. One real boon this year was the decision to keep the bars open, which made more sense, at least from a punters point of view.

This time I made the effort to get to the North East bar, but alas I have to confirm that I found little to my taste. Notwithstanding that I didin't try the Mordue offerings as I had them before, and the Yard of Ale and Cullercoats ones because there was too much of a queue, the only beer that I enjoyed sampling in this room was the Stable Brewery Silver Buckles IPA, a well rounded 4.4% beer that couldn't really claim to be an IPA but was enjoyable nonetheless.

One of the good things that this shows is that you were very unlikely to buy a bad beer if you exercised your right to try first - in the North East room I tried 7 before I got one I liked, but that was very nice. This supports the try before you buy ethos fully. And given the rather generous leanings of the excellent volunteer bar staff, I was getting nearly a quarter of a pint per taste! Alas this laissez faire approach to festival going did not extend to the food prices as bemoaned previously, although I have included a picture of a man masticating, to help in someway illustrate that the food was nice, just overpriced..


On a similar note, this was also to be a social occasion and I was meeting up with Allie and Malc, Aidibobs, Tim n Jim, Matt and his family, and others, as well as a slightly hungover Mr Robbery who had accompanied me on the Thursday. The different locations of the groups made it easier to move round the different bars and catch up with people on the way round instead of being tied to one location and moving en masse. This did mean I spent a fair amount of time wandering around by myself though....

The downside to a Saturday afternoon trip is that, as well as the inevitable rubbish public transport links (an hour from Handsworth, perhaps 5 miles away?) as the day draws on, there is a reduction in the choice of beers. This was highlighted starkly by my having waited to have two of the Elland 1872 porter, for my last beers, only to find it had gawn nrunnart.


Still, despite this obvious disappointment, I made an effort to enjoy myself, (as did the other festival goers as above) and I managed to sample the following beers on my afternoon peregrination:

Great Newsome - Marvellously Poetic Porter
North Riding - Neilsons Sauvin (I couldn't resist a third half of what was my runner up best festival beer)
Treboom Drum Beat
Stables Silver Buckles
Kinver Khyber
Tempest Cresta Black
Thorne Lighter
Youngs London Porter
Owenshaw Mill Katy's Blonde
Saltaire Cascadian Black
Saltaire Cream Stout

Of the above the Kinver Khyber and the Thorne Lighter were perhaps the standout ales, and as suggested above, I had the Neilsons Sauvin again because it was so good.

My festival Top 3 beers were therefore :

3. Brass Castle Cliffhanger/Bad Kitty (tied)
2. North Riding Neilsons Sauvin
1. Elland 1872 Porter.

Notable praise should also be aimed at the fact that I could use my Thursday glass again, and the fact that the two Thursday beer tokens I found in my wallet could be exchanged for 2 valid Saturday ones at no extra cost - and, as mentioned earlier, the fact that the festival opened throughout the day.

All in all this was a fantastic festival which, despite many concerns about the cost, delivers a thoroughly enjoyable festival experience, at a unique venue, with a fantastic selection of beers.

Wee Beefy.

Friday, 2 March 2012

Knowledge gap

Hello again,

    you know when you read up on a topic, and its one you know a fair bit about (lets say, erm, I dunno, beer?) but there is one aspect that you can't really advise on? And you think, I really ought to know about this, everyone else seems to, but I can't add anything to this discussion?

That's what happens to me when the subject is London pubs.

I was reading my good friend Steve's blog and he has been to a few London boozers of late (he is from that neck of the woods for a start, even if not living in the capital at present), here is a snippet at the following link ( Its Steve's blog, and its about London pubs. ) I also saw Tandleman earlier mentioning his need for suggestions on where to go for a decent pint whilst down in London. It seems to have such a varied range of all types of pub, but its all alien to me.

Psycho analysis

The thing is, you'd think, if I was to claim (as I do) that I love unspoilt pub interiors and enjoy travelling to them and other pubs around the UK, that I would have been to London loads of times. Where better to try out a pub than in the capital city - and a city with so large a resource of unspoilt pubs? Not only that but as a lover of micro brewery beers, I'd likely be spoilt for choice if I wanted to find a load of new beers to taste.

Yet for some reason I just don't ever seem to want to go to the pub in, or indeed to, London. Oh to understand my reticence....

I have been drinking for 20 years and I reckon I have gone to less than that number of London's pubs. In brief, my pub experience in the capital of England thus far is as follows :

I went to.....
1. the Bag of Nails near Westminster Abbey. It was immensely rubbish.
2. The Sultan in Wimbledon and really enjoyed it.
3. The George at Southwark (the only N.I pub I ever managed) and had some Bishops brewery beer which was nice, but it was very foody.
4. a pub called the Unicorn about 20 minutes away which sold Rebellion Blonde or similar.
5. a mews pub in Paddington which was expensive.
6. a Youngs pub in Richmond which was OK.
7. The White Horse in Parsons Green which was excellent
8. a local in Deptford or similar that sold Fullers and a real ale from the Republic of Ireland (in about 1997?!), it was really friendly and cosy, but I have no idea what it was called.
9. The Orange brewery tap in Pimlico. It was depressing.
10. The William the 4th, now home of Brodies beers, but then selling Sweet William beer (we picked up a cask for the Hillsborough Hotel).
11. The Jerusalem Tavern in Clerkenwell a long time ago - it was very good.
12. a pub in Petty France that had a drinking corridor, but was fairly uninspiring otherwise.
13. an Adnams pub on the edge of Greenwich park which was expensive but had good beer.
14. another Greenwich pub, which I disliked.
15. The Flowerpot in Walthamstow which had some really interesting beer and a good atmosphere
16 and 17 : The only 2 pubs I went to more than once were essentially given the kiss of death!
The Crystal Palace Tavern in New Cross seemed to disappear from the GBG after I last visited, and the Wenlock Arms at Hoxton is set for demolition (or already has been).

So given that I have had many good pub experiences, (ignoring my kibosh on the Wenlock) and that only 3 of the listed pub visits have taken place this century, I can't understand, what with the wealth of info on other folks blogs, why I don't just trot off dahn to that London and go visit some pubs! Whats wrong with me, pub Doctor?

And, assuming I get over this capital-phobia, would any kind readers like to give me some really good tips for pubs to visit? I think I need to get this problem tamed....

Wee Beefy

Is it an age thing?

Evening,

   regrettably this is not actually a new post. I did one on Wednesday about the differing styles of barkeeping and customer service across different age groups. I have however, now deleted that post, since I got bored of tweaking it, and also, because of a regrettable surfeit of sense in it. Now I will attempt, not necessarily successfully, to broach the subject again.

Contrasting styles behind the bar

Recent experiences drinking in pubs has highlighted a mixture of different approaches to the job, calling or art ,of working behind a bar and serving customers. Allow me to provide you with three different experiences in 2012, to help demonstrate how the little touches that make a visit to a drinking venue special, are handled or approached  by younger and older bar staff alike.

Pub  1. I am in a traditional boozer in a small village, the barman is in his 60 's and chats to me at length (no-one else is at the bar mind) about beer and pubs and drinking. He is not inconveniently slow, but its a good 5 minutes before I am finished being served. Mind you, his calm sensible pace allows him to note that the beer is under measure, and top me up before I head back to the table with my beer. So really he has saved me time by taking time. I feel  "served", and welcome. And happy

Pub 2: I am in a city centre haunt. Chala has asked for a cognac, (don't worry, its firmly real ale for me every time in this pub) and the barman, in his early twenties, shows Chala the bottles on the dark bar back - she hasn't got her glasses so asks him for his advice on whats available, and which is best. He says there are two options (one Chala doesn't like) so she picks the other, but the barman doesn't really seem to know anything about it. Alas its also not really very nice.

I return to the bar to query the drinks odd flavour (dry and bitter, no rounded warming flavours at all), I end up talking to the manager since the original member of staff is short on cognac expertise. The manager is not much older, but seems to know his stuff. He tells me I have been charged twice, and suggests having the same drink again without any ice*. I would prefer my money back, and on querying the options available I find there is a 3rd choice which is much nicer. I pay for this with the fiver I get back. So the outcome is satisfactory but its taken ages, 3 members of staff and negotiating skills to resolve.

Pub 3: its full of cocktail swiggers (I apologise, but there is real ale), I order a pint, and advise the barman, who is about my age, that Chala is deciding what cocktail to order. I want to pay on card so its better that she has a cocktail. The barman acknowledges this and keeps the "tab" open. Chala meanwhile opts for a half a Staropramen, which she does like, but isn't the purchase that will enable me to pay on card. And I know this is not what she really wants. When Chala does choose and orders a cocktail, she indicates (to me) that the Staropramen is surplus to requirements. Sensing that this is a problem, to our surprise the barman kindly knocks off the expense of the lager half. Happy days! We both have a drink we want and have seen a kind hearted sensible publican acting in our best interests.

On each occasion the staff used their knowledge and experience to make sure we ended up happy. All of the experiences were good in the end, but the satisfactory outcomes were reached using three very different approaches.

So would you say that one of the three approaches used by the staff is better, and if so, what is the defining factor?

Is it an age thing?

Wee Beefy.

*its worth noting that we are both aware that ice is hardly the best accompaniment to a complex drink like cognac, but it was very warm at the bar, and anticipating that the drink would be similar in strength of flavour to a Metaxa private reserve, Chala opted for ice to take some of the bite out of the taste. I really don't want anyone thinking we put ice in everything we drink....

Rotherham beer festival Magna 2012 - Baa's of steel

Hello,

  this week saw the 20th Rotherham real ale and music festival take place at the Magna science adventure centre at Templeborough in Rotherham. Wednesday 29th February was the first official day of trading, although puzzlingly there is no mention of this in the programme. 

The festival opened at 18.00 last night and we got in at about 18.20. We would have been there earlier, but there is only one bus route that serves the festival, run by Wirst South Yorkshire. We were catching the 17.25 number 69 which was inevitably 15 minutes late. So well done for that.

I had got my ticket earlier in the week from Shakespeares but even then, Magna, or Rotherham or White Rose festival is still an expensive do. No doubt the cost covers the rental of the enormous and unique festival venue, plus the large numbers of bands. Its not really explained in the programme but either way its been expensive for many many years now so its not a surprise. So buying in advance, £8.00 gets you a festival glass (which then secures free entry on Saturday day, which I think is to be applauded), entrance to the festival and a decent sized programme, listing the 230+ beers, 20 odd ciders and perrys, world bottled beers and wines available. Its worth remembering that the festival is also a Charity event, as the various Bluebell Wood staff behind the bars attests.


As with previous years the bars are split regionally. The first bar in the large entrance hall is the North and East Yorkshire bar, adjoining this in the incredibly tall room (really hangar is the only viable description) is a stage, the Clark's bar and the West Yorkshire bar. There are also the North East, Scottish and West Midlands bars centred around the main corridor, and a Raw brewery bar in the dining room. Down the corridor on the right is the large South Yorkshire bar, with another stage, the foreign bottled beers and wine, the Cider and Perry bar and the Bombardier bus.

The range of beers present is very impressive, a good mix of established and brand new breweries, large regionals and micro's alike. Breweries new to me were plentiful, and included Treboom from near York, Brass Castle from Pocklington which I erroneously thought was based in a hotel in the lake District (perhaps it being on the North and East Yorkshire bar should have suggested my error), Owenshaw Mill from West Yorkshire, Birds from the West Midlands and Barneys, currently brewed of the Old Egglesbrech plant at the Behind The Wall pub in Falkirk.

Notable this year was the fact that my first pint in the Baa's of Steel themed event was one of the best - the fantastic 3.8% Ciffhanger from Brass Castle was a wonderfully refreshing well balanced hoppy ale which started me off nicely - and was a popular choice with many of the others in our party. Me and Mr Robbery had been joined by Dave, Ian, Dave B, Malcolm and Allie, for our tour of the bars. Its always nice to go with a group so that you can each find the best beers in the different locations - or forewarn each other of the worst on offer.....


The beers I tried last night, in no particular order were :

Brass Castle Cliffhanger and Bad Kitty vanilla porter
Brown Cow Thriller in Vanilla porter
North Riding Neilsons Sauvin
Birds Black Widow
Barney's Porter
Strathven Craignill Mild
Williams Black
Geeves Tunnel Mouth
Oakwell Dark Mild
Youngs London Porter
Golcar Dark Mild
Elland Beyond the pale, and their 1872 Porter
Revolutions Milk and Alcohol, milk stout

Beer highlights were both the Brass Castle beers, the Revolutions milk stout, the North Riding Neilsons Sauvin, and our finisher on the night, the Elland 1872 porter which was fantastic. The only disappointing beers were from Barneys and the rather lamentable Golcar Mild - tasted too much of a Selby Brewery beer, but without the alcohol. Too earthy for me.


Alas, despite being a great festival there are a few areas where improvement is required. For a start, given how much you have paid to get in, almost all the food sold is £5.00 upwards - it may well be a very nice handcrafted steak and ale pie but a fiver for a pie and gravy is steep, although ut did seem to be a large portion.

The transport was problematic - they did sensibly provide plenty of "last buses" to Meadowhall but we were catching the First South Yorks 69 at 20 past 11. We could not get hold of any timetable information from the venue, which seems daft, and when we needed directions they fell well short. On leaving the venue, we were disorientated; trying to walk in a hurry across the car park is confusing because on the long path in you skirt the edge of the building and don't really go in the car park - it looked like we were crossing a road into the venue, which we weren't. And the beer wouldn't have helped....

We asked a volunteer in a high-vis vest which way to walk to the bus and he sent us all the way down the mile long slip road out onto Sheffield Road at Ickles, so we missed the last bus by about 5 minutes. Had we thought about his woeful suggestion we would have realised that we had only to carry on the way we'd been going and take a left down the side of the building to get out onto the main road. Luckily we found a couple of lads heading to Crookes who had also been misdirected, so organised a taxi for the four of us via town which didn't cost too much in the end.

Anyway, back to the positives, having successfully ferried my glass home I am hopeful of a quick return visit tomorrow, to try some of the other new brews that I missed. I can also confirm that there is more heating thos year - coupled with a sudden temperature rise of late this makes for a much more comfortable visit.

The festival is open tonight from 18.00 (£10.00 on the door) and all day from 12.00 tomorrow (£8.00 on the door) - generous discounts available for CAMRA members.

I highly recommend you give it a try.

Wee beefy