Tuesday, 26 February 2013

New Commonside pub crawl launched.

I say launched....

      only really "launched" in the same way as I unveiled my evening meal an hour ago. That's not a euphemism. The meal wasn't a unique combination of ingredients never before thrown together, nor was it something I planned to invite a number of people to join me in eating. It didn't come with informative literature, an interactive map or a forum for comments. However, the link between my tea and the New Commonside pub crawl is that they are both a great way to enjoy a few things that you like. Reassuringly pleasant, if not groundbreaking.

The crawl officially starts where I didn't. I hadn't definitely decided to do the inaugural run last night, so I hadn't thought about where it might start. For info, and hitherto after set in stone, the starting point, or pub, is the Cobden View in Crookes. Like I say, I didn't start there though. Much like I didn't entertain having an appetiser or amuse bouche....

I did start with the main course, my second visit to the newly reopened Closed Shop. Mr Stephens was on hand to divulge facts for me to forget or misremember, and Megan was behind the bar to be bemused by our rambling conversation, and to help with the dispense of excellent beers. I very nearly started on a pint of the Townhouse Brewery Flowerdew, a hoppy Summery ale (yer know, coz its Summer...) but the lure of the Dancing Duck Dark Drake, an admirable (or admiral, as Alan Shearer would say) 4.5% rich oatmeal stout that was £2.85 a pint, was irresistible.
It was excellent of course, indeed so much so that I had to have three pints of it, whilst I was joined briefly by Ianfromtshop, and set about finding out the latest largely unsubstantiated information, AKA gossip, from the world of pubs.
Linked to which is Andy's explanation for this week's reopening and then closing hobby, for which you will need a weak lemon drink (apologies for quoting obscure mid nineties BBC2 comedy).

Luckily I definitely remember what he told me, which my brain reckons sounds like this : if the pub lease had been taken on after the refurb had been planned and funds sought to pay for it, there would have had to have been an interim manager in the pub before it was taken over by Andy and his business partner. Better then to get in, keep trading, increase trade, and make money prior to the refurbishment.
Please note, this is pint 3 information. If you inconveniently require facts, you are probably better off visiting the pub and asking a member of staff what I should have written. Bang goes my investigative journalism career....

Anyhoo having run out of physical funds I went to the Hallamshire House which was heaving. I knew I could pay on card here, and a double whammy of brilliance played out - not only was the Thornbridge Imperial Oatmeal Stout still on, but also, I could get cash back. I win! So I got a half of that and an "ironic" half of Wild Swan along with a glass of water and headed off to find seating. It was then that I bumped into Simon from the Manchester trip, and long lost relative Keith. Not Wee Keefy, and not demonstrably an actual relative. But still, it mattered more that these were now my pub crawl testers.
As soon as we had finished our beers we all went over the road to the Closed Shop - and straight onto pints of the excellent Dark Drake. We had a good chat and a sense of being sightly more drunk, before making the decision to wander down to the Blake. Its worth pointing out that before the coffee at the end which is the Blake, you could pop in a cheeky pudding - i.e the Springvale. Ianfromtshop tells me it serves a very palatable and cheap pint of Bass. Surely worth investigation?

We didn't have enough time to fanny about with that though, and went straight to The Blake where they had Great Yorkshire Brewery Blackout on. It was excellent basically, so we had a couple of pints each, gleefully watching the time of the last bus pass by whilst supping and chatting about life. And pubs. What else?
The crawl officially finished here - but if you are attempting it yourself, there's no reason to shy away from The Hillsborough Hotel, Gardeners, New Barrack and every other pub on the Don Valley Ale Trail. It's just that we didn't really have the time or flexibility to achieve that having reached the Blake at 22.45. Still, none of this should dissuade you from embarking on any version of this exciting new pub crawl. Apart from the Closed Shop being shut in April. Regarding which, they are on Twatter and Friendface so you should be able to find out when that event will happen.
Here's to many more night's in the Crookes Valley of beer!
(think I need to work on the slogan...)
Wee Beefy


Sunday, 24 February 2013

A Friday night in Sheffield


      Its been a quiet weekend, this one. Granted, it hasn't finished, but I have delighted in planning to do precisely nothing except a bit of shopping, a soupçon of social media gubbins, uploading some pics and watching telly. No beer. No public transport. No problem.

Part of the reason for this sabbatical from excess is the effects of Friday night. An absolutely great demonstration of how to end the week on a high. It wasn't an orgiastic spasm of gulping ale however, just a great night out with a friend, accompanied by astonishingly good beer. A bit like this....

We met after work, myself and fledgling pale ale drinker Middlemarch, and headed through the throngs of directionless dawdling folk around the markets to get to the Rutland Arms. We had come for food. It was just after 5. There wasn't a table to be had. The specials board had taken a hammering already as well, but we decided to get beer first, and then worry about a lack of seating. I ordered a pint of Welbeck Abbey Portland Black for me, and a pint of a Greene King beer, the shock of which' appearance made me forget what it was called.

Interestingly, a browse around their website searching for the beer's name indicated that Hardy and Hansons Dark Mild is available only in keg, (probably old news) and also, shows the pump clip for the Bitter next to it! I know that by owning a sizable chunk of Britain's regional breweries poor old Greedy King have a job keeping track, but given that their own XX Mild is only referred to as "other great beers" its surprising just how little interest the brewery has its low strength darker beers. Shameful.

Anyhoo, whilst discussing setting up a tab new guy (sorry new guy) informed us there was a table upstairs. So with tumultuous excitement we headed to a large empty room. It felt like we'd be sent upstairs in disgrace, but as it got ever more rammed downstairs other people joined us.

The food was beef and ale pie for me, which came with tremendous buttery almost sweet pastry, and a chorizo burger for Middlemarch. Both were fantastic, and really hit the spot. I also had another pint of the excellent Portland Black, before we headed off, via not spotting members of the Uni real ale society, AKA stalkers#1....

The Sheffield Tap was our next port of call and although also busy it was possible to sit in the brewery room. Middlemarch has never been in and was suitably impressed, and we set about catching up and admiring the architecture, watching a random mentalist shout at a door, and supping excellent beer. I was on a pint of Marble Stout, she on a ladies drink. Now, before you rise in uproar, I am even handedly including three possibilities in that category - soft drink; spirit and mixer, or fruit beer. Not being a research night I neglected to note which.

Next up it all got a bit silly. Middlemarch had a can of Maui coconut porter, which I had a bit of, and I got a half of Magic Rock Bearded Lady. Because it's amazing. Much like the price of the Maui.... I finished on a pint of Oakham JHB because I wanted something easy to drink, and it was once again on fine form.

I had to bade fare well to Middlemarch at this point and headed up to town. I popped in the Church House to address a need and found it, erm, exclusive. It was 22.00 on a Friday night and I think there may have been less than 20 people in. Much worse was there was no Caledonian Double Dark - in a move that the barman shared my surprise at, there was some other Caledonian guest, even though the Double Dark had been popular. I had a half of the XPA Gold, and retired to an empty corner to sigh.

My penultimate stop was the Bath Hotel. Here I was very sensible - apparently, if you have halves, then no matter how many they number nor how strong the beer they contain, that's responsible drinking. Putting this theory to the test, during an enjoyable chat with Ed and some people who adopted me later on, I had halves of Saltaire Hazelnut Coffee Porter and New World Red, and Thornbridge Juvenia and Halcyon.

The Halcyon was terrific, in that it tasted how it should, the Juvenia wasn't hoppy enough to call it a hoppy porter, but that's a trifling complaint as it was very tasty. Meanwhile the New World Red was really enjoyable, and the Hazelnut Coffee Porter was really a chocolate porter with hazelnut in. But hey, you can't win them all.

My final stop was at DAda where, in a relaxed frame of mind, I opted to not have another beer, but instead a cool and refreshing beer cocktail, Jive Juice with Chiron being the obvious choice, thus allowing me to quickly and easily sup a refreshing beer, and to be noticed by stalkers#2, Dronfield CAMRA.

This lengthy tale may perhaps serve as an illustration of why I need a couple of days of rest. A more positive message though, is that it shows the value of a great friend, and having great pubs to drink great beer in with them. AKA a Friday night in Sheffield.


Wee Beefy

Thursday, 21 February 2013

Reopened Closed Shop brings period of closure to a close


Petty much. Just that. The central tenet of my statement is already clear, but there are subtleties to reveal, and details to unmask.

The Closed Shop used to be quite good. It stood opposite venerable establishment the Hallamshire House, run for approximately 125 years by Les, with its unfailingly traditional, down to earth "pubinness", atmosphere, charm and interesting internal features made it a worthy competitor for the custom of locals. The Closed Shop was a Tetley House with a different cientele, it seemed.

Whilst I always used to feel like I was welcome in the Hallamshire, the Closed Shop may as well have been called the Closed world.

I ventured in the 'shop whilst Les was still at the helm of the Hallamshire and was annoyed by grumpy arsed service from behind the bar. An admirable choice of beers was available, possibly better than the Hallamshire, including a fantastic pale ale from the Darley Brewery. But the arsey mein host stuck in my craw, and the next time I visited a few years later the pub was standing at the top of a slippery slope. With an admirable and valiant lass behind the bar trying to run a pub single handedly with two week old Taylors, insufficient stock, and training. Then it closed.

Am not sure when; it was certainly closed at the end of January and possibly at New Year. Now its got a new lease of life.

Mr Stevens, from the Death Star Canteen sketch (also the Rutland, for lovers of facts) has taken it on. I won't venture to say bought because they seem to still have the "hilarious" idiosyncrasies of pub vampires Punch's lease to deal with. But hey, its trading again. So much easier to visit.

It reopened 17.00 yesterday 20th February, and had a decent if by Rutland standards tame line up of beers. To be fair to Andy, and his co-conspirator who may be called Chris, its really not fair to compare the two. The Rutland is a freehouse. The Closed Shop is not. Its likely that he has simply bought or signed up to run the premises and buy the stock from Punch. Tribute to which is that they only have one guest pump of choice at the mo.

Beer range was Tetley Dark Mild, Castle Rock Pale Ale, Kelham Easy Rider, Leeds Pale, Adnams Broadside, Black Sheep and guest ale Acorn Old Moor Porter. The Tetley was surprisingly ace, and , since I hadn't managed to find it in Leeds (although, is that surprising now?) was a welcome return tasting for me. £2.40 a pint and the ideal starter or session beer. I had two so that's virtually a session. And, for added irony, a Leeds Pale. I went to 2 of their breweries pubs and had none of the beer in Leeds....

Decor wise it seems little changed. A man repaired the Jukebox, Paultous used his teenage powers of optimistic youth to blow a light bulb, people played Pool, Brewer Rich and the Author K E Page drank beer, and me, Wee Keefy and Jambon sat in a bay window which may as well have been open - it was chuffin perishing...

Still, its going to be closed again in 8  weeks to receive a proper refurbishment and a kitchen, after which there will be 4 guest ale pumps. Assumedly Punch insist you have to spend thousands of pounds of your own money to secure more freedom of ale choice.....

It will be interesting, say 3 months down the line, to see how this development affects the Hallamshire House. The man of Ash keeps a fine pint but it aint arf expensive in the Thornbridge Boozer. They aren't going to start serving food, so it seems inevitable there will be an effect. Mr Ash had a quite optimistic outlook, and not without a modicum of merit. If Commonside (extending to the Blake, which it doesn't, but in terms of real ale pubs may as well) has potentially 4 pubs with a maximum 21 real ales on, that can only be good for the local beer scene. I think he may be right - now there's even more reason to travel to the area.

Finally, talking of which, after half an excellent Leeds Pale, I headed over the road to the Hallamshire and to my unbridled delight discovered Thornbridge Imperial Oatmeal Stout on draught - on cask. Oh. My. God. I told Wee Keefy and Jambon at once.

Despite the price (eek! Can't even bear to admit to it...) I had 2 halves of the monstrously easy to drink mega stout. Probably the best cask of the year bar none, but also the most night shortening. Luckily my former colleague Ian from the ARBS was in to direct me to a much needed chippy, before I popped down to the University Arms for  half of Titanic Mild (very nice) and finally two halves of Saltaire, Pacific Red (or similar!) and South Island Pale, and a chat with a guy called Bleddyn, who was a man of science, and a thoroughly decent chap.

I wish the Closed Shop all the very best and look forward to many nights sat in there, preferably once double glazed, supping decently priced ale, and, without promising, possibly using it as the starting point of a brilliant new Commonside Crawl.


Wee Beefy

Sunday, 17 February 2013

Leodis ii

     well its taken a while but I finally made it back to Leeds, this time with dear friend Christingpher in tow. The plan was to start at Friends of Ham, therefore impressing my companion early on, and take him to a mix of ultra traditional and rather more achingly modern bars within tolerable walking distance.

Initially, having read about Clare at Feast and Glory venturing out to some of the suburbs to sample the pubs there, I thought about doing the same, but, truth be told, there's too much to see and too many good pubs not to be missed in and around the centre.

Starting in the Sheffield Tap, we sat in the new room with a half of Oakham Citra for Christingpher  and a rather unwise pint of Oakham Green Devil IPA for me. Not unwise because it wasn't nice - it was absolutely excellent. But I only had 20 minutes to drink it, and hadn't sobered up fully from the night before. A case of getting straight back on the horse I suppose....

Once in Leeds Friends Of Ham was our first stop, where Christingpher toyed with the idea of having a Brodies London Sour, but went for a half of the Ilkley Chocolate Chipotle Porter, which was a spicy but tasty dark beer that nicely hit the spot. I tried the Kernel Table Beer and quickly decided against having a half - essentially a cold fizzy blob of hops, about as subtle as a brick. Much better was the Wild Beer Co Stalker, Scotch ale, which was a 7% deep red if not black ultra smooth drinking strong beer that cut through the food flavours brilliantly.

Talking of which, we had a combo of 3 meats and 3 cheeses. I chose the Carne Salata Malenca, a cured and lightly smoked pink coloured beef, the Salchichon De Vic, cured leg and pancetta salami, and the incredible Lardo. Christingpher chose the unpasteurised Brie de Meaux, the hard golden Mayfield Farmhouse and the Garlic Leaf wrapped Cornish Yarg. This was the real star of the cheeses, especially since you can eat the rind, such as it is, being garlic leaf. This also came with insanely orange chilli jam, chutney and oatmeal biscuits. As always it was superb. Christingpher loved the designs of the menus and beer mats and the nice touches of furnishings and assorted tableware; I just kept mmming and oohing about the meat.

We moved onto Whitelocks next as I had a cunning plan - going at around 15.00 it would be quieter than later on. Of course, I was wrong. It was heaving, so we sat outside, and supped very good halves of Wilson Potter Making Progress. Christingpher was especially impressed by the antiquity of the pub and its amazing copper bar tops.

On to the Ship off Briggate next but a paucity of interesting ale versus our long list of venues meant we didn't stop for a beer. We did however at the White Swan, next to the City Varieties. A large modern Leeds Brewery pub it was busy and offering about 9 real ales, including 3 guests. From these we chose the impeccable Marble Dobber. Kept in tip top condition this was one of the best beers of the day.

Next we headed to North Bar. Nice to see it in daylight (and to appreciate the brilliant sign) Christingpher switched to coffee and I had a painfully disappointing beer. Having heard plenty of buzz about Hand Drawn Monkey and Quantum breweries, I couldn't resist buying a half of their 6.0% collaboration beer - perhaps I should have asked for a taste first. An unpleasant, poorly balanced ascorbic bitter ale with a slightly metallic harshness. We didn't have time to choose another, and this was treally hard to drink. Must choose more carefully next time!

The Templar is a pub I haven't been to since about 1998. Its a fantastic long, tiled pub, previously being staunchly Tetley only but now branching out into guest beers. I had a pint and Christingpher a half of the Two Roses Chinook, which was very refreshing and crucially, a well balanced beer.

We got sat down at the far end and got chatting to a local about the now closed City of Mabgate pub, and also found out that our later destination, the Duck and Drake on Kirkgate, used to be called the Broughms, after a type of carriage (he insisted it was spelled like that - so presumably not Broughams?). There had been news of the Templar being closed, which would be a terrific shame. Hopefully the draw of guest ales and quality of the interior can sustain it.

We walked a cross the back next to the Town Hall and popped in the Victoria and Commercial for halves of Black Cat mild for Christingpher and half of a Ridgeside Blonde beer for me. It was totally heaving, which is a pleasing and equally frustrating feature of Leeds hostelries, and alas this made it difficult to appreciate the fine interior details. A fruitless search for the bar "Nation of Shopkeepers" followed (we think its now a bar named after a bookshop, but aren't sure) before we made the long walk down to Kirkgate.

Via a much needed snaffle from the German sausage stall we arrived at the Duck and Drake to find a great range of beers. We both had halves of the Liverpool Organic Jade and I also had a brilliant half of porter from a brewery I can't recall - which is a shame since it was really very good. One of the things I like about the DnD is that its unpretentious, a little rough round the edges, and seems to attract a varied crowd. Much less facial hair and knitwear than North, but also featuring some truly austere outside loos!

Further down Kirkgate we made our first visit to the Palace. A large Nicholsons pub selling a decent range of beers, we both had halves of Petersfield Porter from Nethergate, along with a half of California, a delightfully dark reddish ale from Bristol Beer factory. Both beers were in good condition.

The Adelphi was its usual vision of splendour when we arrived and there was quite a scrum at the bar to order. Christingpher finally caved in and tried the Kirkstall Three Swords, a beer that we had seen on in many pubs that day, and which he described as "alright", and me a tasty half of Revolutions Atomic Blonde.

A wander along main tributaries followed, down to what is described as Holbeck Urban Village, and the Grove. Well worth the walk, this is a traditional boozer incongruously situated amidst grim  modern buildings on a dead end street off Water Lane. Probably the joint best pub of the night, I had a pint of Wharfebank Aramis, which had their signature flavour, and Christingpher a half of Old Moor Porter from Acorn, before I also had a half of the Black Cat Mild. This traditional multi roomed pub was full of great features and nooks and crannies and was as unspoilt as The Adelphi and Whitelocks, but in a more restrained and functional way. A must revisit pub.

Our penultimate stop off was at the Midnight Bell a few minutes walk away. We had a half and a pint of the excellent Geeves Smokey Joe Stout, another astonishingly tasty dark beer from this brewery, which we supped whilst keeping an eye on the time. I only ever went to the Midnight Bell once before and it didn't seem anything like I remembered! Mind you that was after a crawl of Huddersfield so maybe that explains he fuzzy uncertainty.

We finished back at Friends of Ham, this time with me on the Ikley Chocolate Chipotle Porter and a third of the Redchurch IPA, and Christingpher on a half of the porter as well. A fitting place to end our lengthy stumble around Leeds, and another great advert for going back again.


Wee Beefy

Wednesday, 13 February 2013

Spoilt, by unspoiled beer


    its been a good week in Sheff for the discerning slaker. A few fine pubs have excelled themselves in terms of choice. And a new pub is set to open very soon. I say a new pub; a previously open pub that was on its last legs, and dealt a final death knell by well kept if slightly pricey Thornbridge beers in Commonside. But more of that in my next post.

I was in The Bath Hotel (I snigger if I say  "in the Bath" but then, I am slightly immature..) on Tuesday, and was tempted, having tried one of the excellent beers in particular, to stay there all night. I could easily have, had it not been for the allure of lamb chops, and no hangover. I managed to eat the lamb chops, at least.

I arrived around 19.00 and got myself a warming pint of the Dark Star Espresso Stout. It was ace. Everything that a coffee stout should be, roasty, heavy, thick yet drinkable, creamy, and it managed to be all of these. It also wasn't a bad price (not that I have dallied with triviality like what that was) and was served in a lined glass. I looked this time, see.

Next,. I tried the highly recommended Red Willow Sleepless Amber Ale. Usually a second pint lacks the pace of the first, as the body has had its much needed initial hit, but this lasted me about 4 minutes. It was simply incredible.

Two more pints followed, admittedly a little slower (it was 5.4%), and they confirmed that this was an amazingly well balanced tasty beer. Hoppy, but not daft. Malty, in an ingeniously smooth way, with a hint of sweetness that somehow blended in so well it didn't have a sweet aftertaste or overall flavour. It was quintessentially astounding. I believe they have another barrel, so you should get down and buy some. Plenty more Red Willow and Dark Star on the way as well.

After I left and purchased supplies I needed to nip in a hostelry for the facilities and did so in the Wick at Both Ends. Three real ales were available, including to my surprise, the newly re released Matins from Abbeydale. A swift half followed, plus a look at their Beer Menu. I can't claim they heeded my advice on this subject, but its a good idea. Alas no Brewdog at the mo but plenty of decent ale, including Saison Dupont. If only the toilets didn't reek so badly of urine this pub could be the shit, as the young folk might remark.

My final stop was DAda. Jamie was holding the fort and was overseeing an admirable range of ales. No Pollards alas but that was coming on - so I had a pint of the Dark Star Espresso again. I also had two pints (against my better judgement) of the excellent Marble Lagonda. A perfect blend of hops sitting on a fabulously complimentary malt background made this tasty and refreshing and pleasingly hoppy.

I finished on half of dear old friend Thornbridge Halcyon. Just as lychee peach and melon like as I craved, and still best supped in halves. A fantastic end to the evening.

A few things made me think after this - firstly, the Lagonda. Its £3.00 a pint on cask at DAda. Its £5.20 a pint on Keykeg at the Sheffield Tap. Now, there is a slim possibility that it's a stronger version on at the Tap, but that doesn't explain the £2.20 difference. Both beers are below the HSBD levee and, I think, the traditional excise standard (who knows if that means anything nowadays!).

I can't see the Keykeg version competing with, let alone being better than, the cask version. So why is it so expensive, comparatively? I suspect we'll never know, but am open to suggestions that the fault lies with more than one party in this respect.

In other news, I have contacted Thornbridge, and they are to brew a 3.1% mild with lots of caramalt and chocolate malt and only Target Hops. Its to be called"Madness" and will be served in specially rebranded John Smith oversized WMC pots that hold about 700ml to accommodate foam.

Obviously the above isn't true, but it made me laugh.

Finally, one year ago today we had to have our cat Bruin put down. In tribute to him that day I opened a bottle of Durham Temptation. Alas the beer failed to deliver the joy I expected, as I wrote here so tonight I have opened a three year old version to try and pay my respects. This version is much better carbonated and despite that weird, possibly bretty molasses aroma, and a disconcerting flavour of cheap cola, it has a very pleasing leather and coffee and treacle taste that reminds me of Courage Imperial Russian Stout.

A fitting tribute to the wee hairy boy.


Wee Beefy

Monday, 11 February 2013

Pics and pubs and pints o' Pollards


     I set out on Wednesday for a trip round Neepsend taking photographs with Maureen. He is mad keen and takes it all very seriously, whereas I am frustrated with my little snapper (insert euphemism here) and take hundreds more photo's to compensate. Given that it was chuffing freezing, this trip also required warm rooms, and so morphed into yet another predictably threadbare excuse for a sup.

En route, having photographed some gloriously grim seventies tiles on the side of the Cannon brewery, and a building on the corner of Harvest Lane and Neepsend Lane which proclaims Bottled Beers above its doorway*, we popped into the Gardeners Rest. Maureen alas was pre vehicular so opted for  a girls drink, whilst I enjoyed a very drinkable and tasty Vale Red Kite.

Its good to see a wide range of the Vale beers getting in here especially since the Hadda's seasonals are rarely seen, and beyond that its nowt. Drinking my beer I was a little sad for Maure, but he quickly showed how deserving he was of his purgatory by saying he find the Gardeners amazing because "its so ful of random shit and junk". A comment, under minimal duress, he tried to pass off as being made in admiration. Bad Maureen, back in your car.

We headed off for the Ship next, not to go in as it was only half 5, but to photograph it and steer a course up the hill at teh side of the dual carriageway along Upper Allen and Beet Street to Portobello to photograph the church and the surrounding floodlit buildings. Unfortunately, after nearly 2 hours in the cold and wind our hands were unresponsive and there were needs to meet so we headed to DAda for a drink and a warm.

The excellent Pollards was back on, and also what may be the last of the Thorny Goat, so there was much to enjoy, and Maureen seemed quite taken with the Pollards, as any decent person would be. This proved to be the catalyst for a rapid improvement in beer choice at DAda and The Bath nearby, which I will catalogue further on.

After waving Maureen off I nipped into Henry's for an excellent half of Great Heck porter and Crouch vale Yakima Gold. I don't know why but having tasted it on gravity and hand pulled I don't like this beer anywhere near as much as my senses tell me I should!

Straight of to the Rutland Arms next for a sandwich, which had become smaller but cost less, and some great beer, which was nice but not deemed worthy of recording (slack of me), followed by a very enjoyable half of Magic Rock Human Cannonball. Which was tremendous, of course.

On Thursday I popped in Shakespeares after work for pints of Steel City Brewing Nuclear bomb, an excellent hoppy pale ale highlighting the almost cereal like characteristics of Cluster Hops (in a good way, despite that description), along with Oldershaw Grantham Stout. I also had time for a couple of halves, of Toolmakers Brewery Apprentice, at £1.25 a half, and the excellent Raw Endeavour, at £1.30. It seems it doesn't have to break the bank to sup in Sheffield after all.

My final ports of call over the last week were a couple of visits to the Bath Hotel, where the brilliant Marble Stouter Stout was on, and the Thornbridge Pollards, both of which I enjoyed, along with pints of the Dark Star Espresso Stout and a Red Willow beer that ended in "less" and had red malt in in it, and which I forgot the name of.

Finally it was DAda's turn to welcome me and I noted with joy unbounded that Halcyon was back on as well as Pollards, I also had the Dark Star in here, although, being approaching 1am when I left you'll forgive me for forgetting whether or not it was the stout.

This is a great recent show from my two regular haunts, and long may it continue. And what a great advert for beer choice in Sheffield.


Wee Beefy 

*UPDATE: I have found via the rather excellent Lost pubs Project website that this pub used to be the Britannia Inn. However, further down the page is information and a photo of it purporting to be the sawmakers . If the Britannia closed in the 1940's it maybe was on the left hand side in the photo. Allegedly, the Sawmakers didn't close until the 1990's.

Sunday, 10 February 2013



     I heard on the grapevine (the very best source of obvious or long out of date news) that the Thornbridge, well known brewers of hoppy porter Juvenia, have decided to stop using lined glasses.

This is a bit of a surprise, but to be honest, when it was mentioned to me, I immediately looked at my glass of Thornbridge beer, and saw that its a traditional size with a line not too far below the lip. They don't use the huge Trophy and John Smiths club pint pots that could fit an extra quarter pint of foam in, they just use what I would consider ordinary glasses with a line.

Having said that, I don't even know if that applies to the whole estate, because I rarely have reason to ask for a top up, so rarely pay much attention.

It will be interesting to see the reaction of drinkers to this change. Brim measure glasses will inevitably save Thornbridge, the struggling millionaire backed brewery, money, as less liquid will go into the pints. Yet Thornbridge beers have never been about billowing heads. The vast range of styles means there isn't really a core "trad" bitter with a similar clientele keen to hold onto their frothy beer culture.

Also, they only have 12 premises (who knew Graze Inn and Relish were theirs!) and that means that the number of customers affected is comparatively small. Comparative, say, to the last pub owning business to make a similar decision - Wetherspoons.

Its weird because one of 'Spoons gripes was that they were wasting too much beer and selling over measures all the time. Obviously there's quite an issue surrounding training and staff knowledge. Thornbridge are near a hundred times smaller than JDW  and also have, as I understand, high expectations of their staff and their knowledge and service.

If this decision is due to them not trusting staff to serve an "acceptable measure" it surely wouldn't be a huge feat to simply issue guidance and monitor that its being followed?

The clear downsides I can see are that since Thornbridge sell to a large number of free trade accounts, only drinkers in its pubs will be drinking less liquid when they buy a pint. If its an annoyance, then drinkers can still get larger measures of their Thornbridge beer elsewhere. There will also be real impact on the guest beers - and a perceived lack of liquid will only show up customers concerns about the prices.

The main thing is, having owned/rented/leased/run pubs for many years, changing the ethos now not only rankles regulars but makes one question, why it wasn't done at the start?

 It will be interesting to see if the wide range of venue types in the Thornbridge estate will disburse the impact, or whether the negative aspects listed above will simply sour the Thornbridge-customer relationship further. It seems a big risk for little perceivable gain

And it would also be great to find out what the reasons are behind the decision.

Wee Beefy


Now then,

  having grown up on the main road in Crookes, and earned my drinking stripes in the now sadly lost Olde Heavygate Inn, its nice to get back over there to catch up with Wee Keefy and others, and to go drinking  in "the old places". Here's what I've found on a couple of visits of late.

Me and Wee Keefy went to the Sportsman in Crosspool for a meal yesterday, and, erm, due to my legendary memory, a fruitless anticipation of a meal on Friday.

We walked over to Crosspool, and within 15 minutes were at the Sportsman. The Sportsman is now an Ember Inns pub, but used to be a traditional watering hole, in the sense of being a pub selling real ale as well as food, the beer being Stones, Bass and at some point I probably spotted a guest.

The thing is Crosspool is an area that basically doesn't do, and never did, wet led boozers. The Crosspool Tavern is somewhere that used to sell Bass, but I haven't graced its doors for twenty years. The Kings Head was a more regular destination for family meals (possibly a Beefeater?) but that was demolished, to much anger, many years ago and the spot is now residential buildings.

The Hallamshire on Lydgate Lane was also flattened in the last few years (and still hasn't been replaced, although work is ongoing) and the Bell Hagg was abandoned around the turn of the century. So against that backdrop, the Sportsman is the only pub in the area. And it pains me to say this about an Ember Inns pub - it isn't that bad.

Obviously there is the irritation of branding and needlessly chunky furniture in the internal decor, but overcome that and there are treats. There is a range of real ales, up to 6, consisting of a core of Tetleys and Abbeydale Moonshine. Confusingly those handpumps facing you when you walk in are beers that are on - but the other 6 round the other side are merely advertising whats to come on. To be fair the staff seem to be keen on making that clear, so that removes potential annoyance.

I had a pint of Green Jack Trawler Boys and WK a pint of Itchen Valley Dana. I think this came to £4.80. To be honest, any pub selling two unusual for the area real ales at under a fiver has really got the right idea. And, on both visits, the beer was in excellent condition, accompanied by Taylor Landlord, and the Tetley and Abbeydale Moonshine. The food aint bad as well.

Heading back along Lydgate Lane brings you to the Grindstone in Crookes. Previously a traditional Wards pub with an interesting history regarding its beer, long ago opened out but for many years retaining a separate snooker room, this pub has seen quite a lot of changes. An ill thought through stint as a Sports Bar nearly resulted in its closure but its reopened as a pub selling real ale and food, and it was busy, when we visited on Friday.

Last time I was in the interesting Brains and Nottingham Brewery guests were not ready, but at least there was the chance of a guest beer. Now, I wonder if it might have changed hands again, although still in the grip of Greedy King, as it sells three real ales form them - IPA, Abbot and St Edmunds. We went for the latter since its not that often you see it, but even then its not that different from any other Greedy King beers - as bemoaned by Wee Keefy.

Its strange to consider that the two pubs on that side of Crookes Road are both large Greene King pubs selling food, yet only one has guests. Is the lack of choice harming one pub or the other? Well , next stop, the Ball was a good illustration of which might be the case. On both Friday and Saturday night it was heaving. The food side at the Ball seems to be quite a new thing so it was an admirably wet led boozer for many many years. The branch out to nosh doesn't seemed to have impacted on its beer sales.

There's three handpumps of Greedy King beers as you enter then 4 handpumps of guests round the corner. WK, with his maltier palate, was on pints of Hooky best both times, and both times I was on the excellent Abbeydale Ships Biscuits.  Both times we managed to find a seat (tip - there is a love of perpendicular drinking in the Ball, so always try and go past the swathes round the bar, you usually find a space) and enjoyed a couple of well kept pints in a busy but not overly crushed pub.

Crookes is an interesting contrast to Crosspool, not only because very few pubs have closed, but also that many still thrive on wet sales - The Cobden and Princess Royal being great examples (as well as great pubs). Its a shame that just a mile away in the leafier suburbs you have to drink in an eatery, or not at all, when Crookes has such a lot of drinking pubs, but that mainly serves as a great advert for drinking in Crookes.


Wee Beefy

Thursday, 7 February 2013

Room with a phew.


     last night I got to the new brewery room at the Sheffield Tap (formerly a dining room, situated to the far left as you look from the outside). Having become convinced it was a fairytale or trick to frustrate me, I was relieved to discover that you really could just walk in, sit down, soak up the fab vistas, and, one assumes had I arrived earlier, watch beer being made.

 Meanwhile I had two fab beers to keep me company - half a Marble Stout, which was excellent, like almost all Marble beer is, and a Junionaire (most probably not the name, but Sheff Tap FB page deactivated so no idea what is on!) from Thornbridge, brewed by young people. Somewhere. Admittedly this paucity of detail is a reporting failure, but I assure you I was too mesmerised by the grandeur of the brewery room to care.

Interestingly, it was surprising how many people seemed to arrive and then immediately walk out - but then, yer can't ignore the fact that there's nowt as queer as folk.

One slight downside to my visit was the much vaunted arrival of Kissmeyer beer in keg, and a forthcoming meet the brewer event. Not that meeting a fermenty spargey chap is a bad thing, just that the beer from said brewery took the piss in terms of price.

Of course, one could suggest that the fault of the heinous over pricing should lay fairly and squarely with the retailer, but am not so sure. In a pub where people wee themselves at the chance to buy the "latest" and most talked about (dear God, trending?) beer, no matter what the price, you can't blame the Tap for putting on something unusual even if its cost is astronomic. However, I wonder how much of the eye watering cost is profit, especially if the producer is taking the piss?

Lets face it Denmark's craft beer isn't cheap - but the argument for buying Mikkeller is that its renownedly  excellent. So it could be a country thing. I realise Carlsberg isn't expensive, but then, the likelihood is, any you buy in the UK is brewed in the UK.

I like to think that Thornbridge and Magic Rock are a great example of brewers setting the bar higher than most of us would like to jump. Recent excellence in a bottle has made me less begrudging of that ethos regarding Thornbridge; likewise the stupendous Bearded Lady and Human Cannonball offerings from Magic Rock have done the same. Thornbridge in particular though seem to trade on an "our beer is simply excellent so you should pay more than the going rate for it" business outlook. So maybe Kissmeyer think they are likewise uber fantastic?

I say they, but the blurb on the Tinternet is all about one guy, Anders Kissmeyer. He could still be incredibly certain of his own brilliance though.....

The final puzzle is that being keg, I don't think there is an expected extra cost that would come with a Keykeg. I don't think continental kegs are single use, yet, I don't know for certain that this was in a conventional continental keg.

For info, the beer was called (I wrote it down as  "f*ck that" but sense I may have been having a giraffe), was 7.%, and was £4.40 a half. Making it as, or possibly more, expensive than Magic Rock Bearded Lady - yet being 3.5% weaker, and below the HSB duty limit,  and not definitely being in a single use container.

Lastly, Mikkeller and Magic Rock and Thornbridge have a really good reputation. I am willing to be wrong here, but I suspect Kissmeyer doesn't have the same enigma. Perhaps if it did (bearing in mind no tasters were available), I might have been willing to fork out for a half.

Wee Beefy 

Tuesday, 5 February 2013

Man walks into a pub. Then another. Then...


      over the past week I have been all over the shop, as they say, drinking in different counties, the throes of a Twissup and CAMRA award winning rural pubs, like the concept of Sheffield as the beer capital was long forgotten. Aside from any CAMRA rivalry of course, its not forgotten. Its just that other locations have took my fancy. By way of illustration, here's a (brief as possible) who's got what of local hostelries over the past 8 days.

Firstly, The Riverside. I only ever seem to get here on busy Friday evenings after work and have never really taken to the pub. Perhaps my usual demarcation to a corner of he bar before spewing out onto the patio when its packed has skewed my appreciation, but I gained a little the other night. I had an excellent pint of Blue Bee Parenthesis, a great hoppy dry bitter which did everything it didn't say by being named parenthesis, but crucially tasted fab.

I sat down on a comfy sofa in a cosily lit part of the bar near the opened out fireplace, admiring the lights outside and listening to some fairly excellent dub. Sometimes music in pubs can be a blight, but its untypical of the traditional boozer and its slightly cafe bar intentions are well suited to decent tunes. Especially when they really are. Another pint of the Blue Bee followed, as well as a tour of the upstairs before I headed off to sample a few other boozers.

One such was the Woodside Inn. This was only my second visit, and it didn't seem much busier, but there was a steady stream of arrivees to play in a darts match. Alas, no-one but me seemed to be supping real ale,m but the halves of Sheffield Brew Co Stainless went down really well, and still on at a decent price. Also disappointing was another poor Wood Street brew, although I opted for a taste first. I understand the pubs reinvention has seen the "original" owners return - am unsure if this is true but I hope they can recapture whatever it was the losing off made them depart.

The Gardeners rest was having a quiet night, but was enchanting visitors with excellent beers as always, and another plus was that I got a chance to catch up with Pat who I've not talked to for a while.

Here I had a half of Privateer Beers Dainty Blonde, plus another half of the Parenthesis, at which point I bumped into Brewer Rich. We did have quite a detailed discussion about the punctuation theme of his beers, the details of which I would suggest neither of us could remember. I also had a half pint of the Black Swan from Vale, which was nice, but there was a hint of sweetness in the Privateer which I wasn't keen on.

The Wellington is still sort of an irregular haunt so it was nice to pop in and have a pint - despite a darkish beer being on I went for a Little Ale Cart Eldorado, specially brewed with the hop of the same name. This was a really well balanced bitter beer, which, if only I went more often and the beers didn't change every day or so, I'd like to try again.

The Ship on Shalesmoor was selling my favourite Kelham Island beer Bette Noire so that's what I had in there, which was on great form and a decent price at £2.80 a pint, before I headed off to Shakespeares, via some dubious late night scran.

On this visit I had a rather odd but not unenjoyable half of Julian Church Brewery Martyr, and a rather ill advised half of Flying Dog K9, which was easier to drink than its high strength suggested, and didn't have too much of that odd Belgerican yeast.

I was also in on Friday with Mr G, supping the last of a barrel of Raw Pacific Gem, which was nice enough, as well as a further pint of Revolutions Clash London Porter for me. Nice to see the Porter again, just a shame the Gem was so very tired.

Prior to this I had been in DAda, enjoying a couple of pints of the reasonable Lumford (now now DAda, a lack of non Thornbridge beers doesn't suit you and you know it), yet so un-tempting was the cask range (after Lumford ran out) that myself and Mr G retired to a comfy spot to very slowly drink Thornbridge Chiron and Thorny Goat. Chiron did not disappoint, but the Keykeg Goat is a poor relative of the much better cask. Bring it back dammit!

The final bit of news is not about Sheffield pubs but about Bottle Conditioned Ale. Following on from my post about the CAMRA says this is real ale logo, I discovered to my horror more sour yeasty soup masquerading as a drinkable bottle of beer. Despite Wee Fatha's astonishing claim that he would drink it because it seemed a shame to pour it away, which is heroically disingenuous, we replaced it instantly with a much safer none BCA option.

I am going to have to contact the brewery concerned to make them aware of the problem, and hopefully arrange recompense, but in a producer, retailer, promoter(logo), customer, arrangement, I'd argue that having also bought the product from the brewer the two parties looking most shoddy from this situation are the brewery and the logo owning promoters; CAMRA. I can see this issue will be long in the resolution....

So, that's all for now, hopefully I will have more news in the coming days.


Wee Beefy

Sunday, 3 February 2013

Three counties pub crawl revisited


         back in August me and Barraharri set off on a rather long drive around Derbyshire, Staffordshire and Cheshire, taking us through fantastic scenery to pubs in villages, Market towns and in rural seclusion. A chance meeting with a friend on Friday led to a plan to go out and visit some pubs he'd never been to - and what better way than to reprise the route from last year.

It was particularly pertinent since Barraharri was having his leaving do the same day - but not until midnight. So that meant I could spend the day retracing the long steps of the journey we took on a cloudy day in Summer, now on a sunny day in Winter.

We drove through Chesterfield, down to Two Dales and up through Wensley and Winster over Bonsall moor to Uppertown and down into Bonsall for our first stop, the Barley Mow. Being Saturday it was open, so we parked up and popped in, Mr Grant opting for a soft drink, and myself a pint of Dark Star Darkness.

We settled down in front of an open door (hardy souls them Bonsalians) and listened in on a cameo stand up performance from the barman. The pint didn't last long - the first of the day/visit never does, but I think there was surprise at us leaving after only 15 minutes. If we hadn't got a long way to go I reckon I'd have loved to stay and sample the Whim Arbor Light or the Blue Monkey Infinity , but we did. So we didn't.

A quick trip up the Via Gellia then down to Milldale and Hopedale, and the first directions mishap - I didn't see the road off to Stanhope where I wanted to be going and so we ended up in Wetton.

Knowing I wanted to get to Ilam, and vaguely where it was, I directed us left from Wetton only to find us driving up a path. A quick SatNav (it was me who got us there!) enquiry suggested we head down Walditch, another unsurfaced rocky track, so we headed back into Wetton and following new directions finally spotted the turn for Stanhope. A scenic trundle to Ilam, then over Throwley Hill followed, bringing us out in Waterhouses, from where we went to the Yew Tree at Cauldon. We'd rung to check they were open, and the place was really busy.

A decent pint of Burton bridge Bitter for me and a half of Rudgate Ruby Mild for Mr Grant followed., whilst we soaked up the atmosphere and surveyed the bric-a-brac, paraphernalia, accouterments and assembled collect-ables in this fantastic old pub. Decent priced beer as well - our pint and a half came to £3.38, so assuming both bers were the same price that's very inexpensive for the area.

Off next to Waterfall, a short drive away, and we found the Red Lion busy, but only on one side, leaving us the lounge on the left to, erm, lounge in. That took a bit longer than planned since no-one was behind the bar. A good few minutes passed before someone reappeared, which is annoying, but the pint and a half of Bass (more than a pound dearer than our last round) perked us up, as did the real fire.

We headed into Leek next and the SatNav helped us out well, locating and showing a route to both intended pub stops. Having got parked we went straight to the Wilkes Head, which was also busy, and I had a pint of the Whim Flower Power and Mr G a half of the Hartington Best. The Flower Power was exceptional, as it was the last time I tried it, and the Bitter was good as well. Unfortunately the Ruby Bitter I had a half of next was off, so I swapped this for a half of the Hartington IPA. Their beers may have changed a little over the years but I think the Flower Power amply demonstrates they still brew great beer.

Next up I finally got to visit Den Engel. Literally two minutes away, its some surprise that I have managed to miss this pub on my previous ten visits. Four real ales and 10 or so taps plus a decent bottle range makes this s great place to relax in a bar which, as far as is possible, does really seem to be reminiscent of a continental, if not Belgian bar. Here I had a bottle of the De Ranke Saison De Dottignies and Mr G a soft drink. The saison was very palatable, and more like the Fantome, which I suspect is a good thing, and was also easy to drink despite the carbonation and chilly serving temperature. A great place to drink.

Off into Cheshire next and we popped in the Vale Inn Bollington to eat and of course drink. We both had Bollington Brewery Oat Mill stout, a half for the driver of course, and that was on decent form, and I also tried half a Bollington Goldenhall, which was a tasty slightly sweet amber ale. The food was a sensible price and the place was heaving, although much annoyance ensued following finding lots of reserved tables. Nothing says piss off better than a table you can't sit at .

Following on with that theme, the White Swan at Kettleshume is fast becoming a restaurant. Very few diners but every table set out for eating, and the snug, which must hold all of eight people, the only place you could simply sit and drink. That said, no-one objected to us sitting at a table set for dining, so that's a plus, but its not really conducive to a relaxing pint. I had a half of the 4.0% Copper Dragon Silver Myst, which was very nice.

Off through the dark lanes now to Lamaload, then past the Cat and Fiddle to Dale Head and into Earl Sterndale. The Quiet Woman was almost the quiet pub, as the couple leaving as we got there turned out to have been the only customers. No sign of Ken (perhaps enjoying his evening nap, although someone in the back was reading the paper) and nothing to distract us sat in the relaxing calm of the bar. I was on a pint of Jennings Dark Mild in the absence of a guest beer, Mr G on a soft drink once again, and despite the unusual emptiness of the pub it was still a nice stop off on our hectic route.

Our penultimate stop was at the Royal Cottage. Arriving as the first customers of the night we had a good chat with Cliff and I supped a bottle of Old Speckled Hen. It was unusual to hear Cliff bemoan his lot in terms of the pub not making money but its obvious after our chat that the folk night is pivotal. It was cancelled on the 26th due to snow and with its high isolated position the pub couldn't open Saturday either. I've never visited the pub late on before but I got the impression that its usually closed by 22.30, so trading is very restricted. Luckily, on this occasion, other customers were coming in when we left near ten.

A final run into Bakewell put the tiny back lanes behind us, but not before we headed out to Wardlow Mires to visit the Three Stags Heads. A decent range of Abbeydale beers were available as always, and I got a pint of Absolution an Mr G a soft drink (poor lad!).

A great deal of dogs were present, and a varied conversation about anything and everything played out in front of the warming fire as we sat against the left hand wall surveying the scene. Its good to see that nothing has changed here, so Mr Grant got to see the pub as it usually is, chaotic, eclectic, traditional and unique. And the beers was pretty good as well.

So concluded a fantastic yomp round the countryside, with all the pubs being open when they should have, and the trip serving as a rather unsuitable precursor to my attending Barraharri's leaving do. At least he got to visit the Royal Cottage back in August. Just a shame he missed the Yew Tree. Seems you sometimes need two goes at getting a pub crawl right, and this three counties drive manages that perfectly.

Thanks to Mr Grant for tirelessly ferrying me around - thanks to Barraharri for showing it was possible.

Wee Beefy

My first Twissup, by Wee Beefy, aged 38 and a half

Hello boys and girls

    when I first joined Twitter I quickly noticed that Twit-savvy folks were organising meetings, almost exclusively to drink, via Twitter. Being a man of letters (in so far as the postman delivers em and I read em), I was quick to understand that this was a popular phenomena. People were Twissing up left right and centre.

With my recent MeetIRL hobby coming along slowly, and fearing I may have missed out on the rapacious expansion of this practice, I was delighted to be invited to a Twissup with folks from the Internet. So it was I met in the Rutland Arms (where else?) with redpola, nimrod777, FeastAndGlory, and malv173 for a meal, a chat, and beer. Lots of beer.

Having got there a minute early and found everyone seated and slaking, I quickly got myself a pint of actual OnTheEdge brewery beer. For real! It even had a pumpclip and everyuthing, like what actual beer not for sale in a school does. . It was called Sovereign Gold and it was fantastic. I had a good few pints just to make sure. Meanwhile irregular beer slaker F&G was on Ilkley Chief, and some poor soul had bought a metallic tasting thing that I think was returned.

Food was scoffed (although the menu items were being picked off one by one...) and then we went on to far stronger beers - F&G insisted she didn't want anything too strong so malv bought her a Magic Rock Human Cannonball (I think! It was strong that's for certain) and I know that others had the Chief, and me the Raw/Steel City Responsibly, which was on cracking form.

As we neared half ten the Twissup split (is this a twiss out?) and myself, nimrod and redpola went to the Sheffield Tap whilst the others probably had cocktails in the Great Gatsby, I never did find out...

The Tap was once again teasing me with the rumoured "big room" being in existence. I was told on a Friday that it didn't open Friday or Saturday, but then my boss was drinking in there the following Friday, this time, on a Thursday, it was steadfastly closed again. I'm starting to think its not actually there.

I started sensibly with halves of Sheffield Toolmakers Ripsaw, which was weak and watery,  and a refreshing Scottish beer, whilst red and nimrod supped Bernard and Magic Rock Magic 8 ball. This became our combined tipple of choice for the final round, and it still seems to not live up to my expectations. I've never seen it on cask so its not a Keykeg thing, but it seems to lack the balance of that first brew and remains a slightly askew beer fighting to balance its strong flavours out. Still a nice int though despite all that.

Off next to find a pub open late, which isn';t that easy in fine old Sheffield. The Rutland, Henry's and other venues were shut but hats off to the Old House for serving til 01.00. I had a couple of pints of True North(Welbeck Abbey) First Porter in here , and I can confirm that I have precisely no idea what my companions were supping.

What I do know is that this was a great night out, notable because I knew all but malv173 prior to my joining Twitter. Definitely something I'd like to do again, and as long as, like we did, you pick cracking folks to go supping with, I can highly recommend the idea.


Wee Beefy (@WBeefy)