Sunday, 31 March 2013

A proper Winter beer festival

Good afternoon,

      yesterday I was out in that Derbyshire with my friend Miss M to wander about on hills, and accidentally roll up at a pub beer festival or two. Inevitably this meant that the initial "walk" element didn't go to plan, since we opted to eat and drink. Lots. And lots. Of food and drink. Instead of walking the last bit of the walk.

The festival in question was the Barley Mow at Bonsall. An ever popular stop at any time, nestled against the hillside overlooking the hen racing circuit, or car park, this is a great place to pop in for a pint and a warm when on a winter walk. Except, it's not supposed to be Winter, it's meant to be Easter. And whilst the snow had clearly disappeared from the roads in Bonsall, up on Bonsall moor it was like another world.

Someone had obviously cut through the 3 foot of snow covering Bonsall Moor Lane with a tractor, because there were gouge marks all down the sides, never mind the huge piles of snow created by scooping out the mass that filled in the space afforded by the lane. We only saw 4 cars on our walk from Winster, one which was heading down an ominous snow covered track to Slaley, only identifiable as a road by the sign, the others large 4 wheel drive vehicles which came up behind us on a section of road where the snow was piled so high at the sides that we couldn't even have climbed out, so had to jog to the nearest low bit to let them pass.

We tried valiantly to cross Bonsall Moor but at every field edge was a 5 foot wave of drifted snow, often obscuring the small gaps in the wall which denoted where the path actually went. After missing one such opening and then retracing our steps before finally losing site of the path altogether, knee deep in drifts that were solid enough in places to take even my weight, we admitted defeat and walked, well, fell and swam through a tumult of ridged snow back onto the road. Suffice to say on arriving at the pub we were ready for a pint. Handy then, that there were over 20 to choose from at their Bank Holiday beer festival.

The pub gets the sun til mid afternoon at this time of year and after slogging and toiling we were briefly tempted to sit outside but instead we got a table near the door and sat drinking our beers. Miss M had a pint of Dark Star APA, myself a pint of TSA Rok IPA. The Rok was nice enough, but I think I had the poorer of the two choices.

Next up was half a something frightening made with apples for my companion, and a pint of the APA for me. Granted,a beer festival is supposed to be a great opportunity to drink new beers but not all the range was available and the APA was on fantastic form.

The beers seemed to be stillaged somewhere in the back so that left the maximum amount of room for a succession of walkers, most with dogs, locals and curious sightseers to throng around the bar and the fire at the end making their way through the ales on offer. We soon needed food, and luckily managed to order just in time - sausage and mash with peas and mushroom and onion gravy. Probably one of the largest plates of food I've seen in a while. And all that filling matter inspired us to have quite a few more drinks. This was a farewell to walking, and an introduction to rural taxi provision.

Between eating and leaving we also tried pints of Abbeydale Dark Side of the Moonshine, Upham Punter, Salopian Rhapsody and Blue Monkey Sanctuary which is far far better on draught that it is in bottle - much better balanced. The beer list for the festival, which runs until Monday, can be found here although that is a link to a Facebook photo - if it doesn't work, other detail are on their website .

I heartily recommend a visit to the Barley Mow, even if there isn't a festival on. Its a real community hub which sells tasty pub food and real ales, and has quirky events like the World Hen Racing championships to keep things interesting. Friendly hosts and a good mix of customers is a great recipe for a good pub. So it's well worth an alpine hike across Bonsall Moor, or, as we neglected to remember, there is a bus service up until about 17.30ish. We passed the bus leaving in a taxi...

More news of Easter/Winter pub visits coming soon.


Wee Beefy

Friday, 29 March 2013

Shamesburys and the Hadfield


   a short post this, via expectation and assumption of inevitability  I had assumed a dire outcome for the  following pub. But it seems, I was wrong...

Walking down from the Hallamshire House I walked past the doomed Hadfield. I stopped to take some pics as it was inevitably, as reported in Beer Matters, the end of the pub as a pub; the end of the building as a pub at least. Shitty multinational conglomerate Sainsbury's planned to turn this pub into another morally baseless cash cow unit. The locals thought otherwise.

So it was I spotted a light on photographing the pub, and people behind he bar. So I went in. Inside was the buzz of opening a new venue. Three bands were ready to play a gig. And the man behind the bar confirmed, it was a reopening gig. Until Sainsbury's won the battle,  the pub company had set them the task of making a go of it.

You'll remember of course the failure of the Meadow Street Hotel  - the pubco offered them the chance to keep the pub if they made a success of it, then they took it off them even though they made the profit. Ultimately they wanted the building for flats - am not sure if they want this building for retail however......

So make sure you go to the Hadfield. It may only have one real ale, Hobgoblin at £3.00 a pint (and Westons cider at £3.45)  but under Jeff at the Red House I'm sure it can work. And showing this to Shamesbury's means they will understand that its a viable pub, and this may influence the council, whom ultimately give the go ahead for change of use.

Use it or lose it then Sheffield folk.

Wee Beefy.


Now then,

     Easter is a jolly time for me. I get 4 days off work and get to fill it with just about anything. Astute readers wil be able to quickly surmise what anything actually means. It means beer. Pubs. Travel. Hangovers. It's tremendously good fun and tremendously bad for the body, and probably the mind. Fish tank. Wibble.

Anyway, Easter, henceforth known rather less catchily as Ebrioster, isn't something one can tackle as a first stab. One must practise and train hard before locking the front door on Good Friday and setting forth to partake of potvaliant potations. One must know what it is to drink. What it means to travel across one city for an old beer, what it takes to get from West Street to the Sheffield Tap in 15 minutes, and what time they start selling hot roast pork sandwiches in the Bath Hotel. This is hard won knowledge. And this is no newby quest. This is a serious undertaking.

Tuesday night myself and Mr P went on a slightly abridged Wanderiains crawl. Somehow the arctic wasteland around work didn't tempt us to walk for miles and when Mr P suggested the Kelham Island Tavern I agreed. I was quite looking forward to it as well, since I haven't really been for a while. The first surprise was that there was no Nutty Black on. Perhaps this will identify the length of my absence, but there were plenty of other beers to compensate.

Mr P had a pint of Abbey Bellringer, and I had a pint of Yorkshire Dales brewery something with Saaz on the front, which was very nice indeed. The second surprise was that it was so quiet - usually its standing room only but we ended up sat in the back room by ourselves. It can't have been the beer putting people off because the range was excellent, so next Mr P had the Yorkshire Dales  and I had a Bobs Brewing White Lion, a well balanced pale hoppy ale that went down well.

We finished in Shakespeares where I discovered that the delicious Raw Empire Ghost pale ale was in fact 5.9%. Not 3.9%. Which, in some ways explains why I nodded off in the Bath Hotel some 4 hours after finishing my third pint of it on Saturday. So this time, I sensibly only had two, with Mr P on a pint of the Axholme Mild. Price fans may be interested to note that the Raw was only £3.00 a pint, AKA bloody good value.

Yesterday I was fearful that a two day break before Ebrioster may prove too much of a gulf, so I gamely headed all the way to the University Arms to keep in touch with drinking, and try made up imaginary beer Blue Bee aged Tangled Up IPA. Obviously it wasn't on, because it doesn't exist. Luckily I had the excellent Nethergate Porter to placate me, and that was on good form.

I walked round to the Bath Hotel next where I got to try Thornbridge's collaboration brew with The Man of Ash. Baize, is a mint chocolate Stout. I shit you not. It came on whilst I was there, drinking a commendably bitter pint of Mallinsons Chinook, which was excellent as always. I waited for Ed to taste it and watched his facial expression carefully. Sadly he ducked out of commenting on his colleague's effort by saying that he hadn't pulled enough through. Seems I will have to bare that responsibility.

Baize isn't green, thank Christ. It pours a classic black with a lovely white head and looks great. It smells of chocolate mint ice cream, and promises lovely creamy minty flavours with chocolate and roasted malt.

The first tatste is just that - creamy mint, yummy chocolate, then roasted malt. Then bitterness. Then more bitterness. then, alas, it tastes of Rennie. Oh dear.

I only had a half because I didn't want to taste indigestion tablets for the rest of the night, but in it's defence its a bold idea and I'd like to think they would try and brew it again with a few subtle adjustments, like the removal of indigestion remedies. Still, there's Ed's offering to taste yet. Sometimes playing last puts you under more pressure...

Off down to the Tap in just 12 minutes next and I was there to see Fluffy and meet Dave, truly the finest of beer drinker's names, for a quick pint before they were off to Fluff towers for Easter. Dave very kindly bought me and Fluff a pint of the excellent Magic Rock Dark Arts (on cask), and we supped these in seemingly the only available place in front of the fireplace. Alas this was only a short visit as I needed food and Fluff and Dave had a home to go to.

In the Rutland next I spotted Mr N H Rodgers from the world of being younger than me, and once I'd got my long sought after pint of Blue Bee aged Tangled Up IPA we managed to grab a table and I sat down to await my large bacon sandwich. Said snap was truly excellent, as was the delicious Tangled Up, but this was unfortunately also a short visit since I wanted to very quickly get to Shakespeares. At this point I found out that there was almost no info at the Interchange, and that basically, but for 2 infrequent buses, First don't run services to Hillsborough. How very integrated of the public Transport shambles.

Having wasted nearly half an hour achieving nothing I walked to catch the 52 and ended up at the Closed Shop, just before 22.00, which was a bit later than I wanted. Here I had a pint of the Maypole Flannagans Stout at £2.80, a tasty dark beer that was just what I was after. I also bumped into Robin from Shakespeares and we snook across the road for pints of something Thornbridgey, before it all got very late and confusing and I finished on a half of Halcyon.

Now I feel fully trained up for the reckless abandon ahead. Hopefully everyone else who is out this Easter will have had the same level of training. Learner drinkers are a danger to themselves and others, after all.

Wee Beefy 

Monday, 25 March 2013


Now then,

   OK, I know, its been 10 below freezing in the wind and icicles have fallen from the sky and cleft our skulls in two as we flail helplessly between car, wall, pavement and gutter in an orgy of calamity and despair. I get all that. However, I have a refined Saturday routine. No amount of silly white fluff sheet ice and howling misery was keeping me from the fine public houses of the Sheff.

Mr Protest was at work in town Saturday so I arranged to meet him for refreshments. Having arrived early I went to the Harlequin  first, one because I don;t seem to go there very often these days, and two, because I heard they had a special beer on. Regular attendees will no doubt take some persuading that this is unusual, but I wasn't complaining sat listening to an admirable compilation of  Lightnin Hopkins, Blind Boy Fuller and Sonny Terry and brownie McGee whilst supping a Brew Co porter called Muddy Waters.

I also noticed their rather swanky hand written and bound menu's, including all their spirits and bottled beers. Assuming the range is updated regularly (by hand of course) its a stellar line up. Perhaps I need to spend an hour or two more in the Harlequin.

Round the swoop of the ring road next to Shakespeares where initially I had  half of Axholme Mild, a pleasant enough dark beer which lacked a little life. Next up was a half of the Blue Bee something about Bees and erm, something. It was a handwritten pumpclip - and chalk board. It was also a black IPA but I don't think gravity dispense worked for it. Shame.

I also had a pint of the Raw Empire Ghost IPA, a ludicrously hoppy but well balanced beer that went down alarmingly well. Three times. I was joined by Protest, who was on Deception, but I saw no reason to stray from the Raw.

After he left I wended my way up to - West Street. Due to Crookes road being the only main road in Sheffield remaining uncleared I was intending to disembark as near as possible and walk u to, Commonside, but I was dropped off at he top of West Street to spend £1.40 on a 51 to Broomhill some 5 stops away. Disgraceful. From here I walked through uncleared streets in biting wind to meet Jambon in the Closed Shop.

Here I had a delicious but regrettably not aged pint of the Blue Bee Tangled Up IPA. This was on sensational form and was disconcertingly easy to drink. Me and Jambon got chatting and supping before we made the "treacherous" 20 yard jaunt across the 3 foot of visible road to the Hallamshire House.

Here we sat in the snug enjoying pints of beer which alas the photograph forgets to record. I know I didn't try the Baize as I want to review that separately, but I genuinely don't recall what I had. Besides, the roaring fire was the winning feature on this occasion.

Because by now, the roads and pavements were frozen, and the temperatures plummeting. So we trod almost carefully down the alley at the side of the pub and on down Winter Street to the University Arms. I had a pint of Abbeydale Matins. a beer so ideally suited to long sessions and Summer (whatever that is) I can't understand why it was discontinued, and Jambon had the Acorn Thirst Degree. How tremendously sensible of us.

Alas on arriving at the Bath Hotel things were starting to be vaguely somnambulistic for Beefy. Reports of my nodding off slightly are corroborated by Mr J and it seems that the delicious pint of Mallinsons Chinook finished me off.

Still, at least this haziness provided the threadbare excuse to pop back in tonight, when frankly, going home would have made more sense, to try and find out what I had. This time the Chinook was the only disappointment, its end of the barrel froth accentuating the brutal bitterness at the expense of the balancing malt. Not so their excellent Tammie Norrie, a 3.9% beer named after a puffin and sold at £2.80a pint, which was the beer of the night. I also had a pint of the Thornbridge Sequoia, a rare taste for me, and one which nicely balanced out the bitterness of the waning pint.

All in all, meteorological mayhem has provided no obstacle to thirsty lad, and will continue ever thus. Am out for a few tomorrow with Mr P before a Good Friday wander in Sheffield, so it looks like Jack Frost will have to stick to lending his name to fizzy apple loopy juice....

Wee Beefy

Friday, 22 March 2013

Hello old friend


    I've been relaxing tonight. I dallied with the idea of popping to DAda to try some of their impressive looking bottled beers but I don't have much cash and also it was perishing, with biting cold winds blowing in icy powder that turned to slippery foam under the warmth of each footstep. I opted instead to get home, cook a curry, and drink some bottled beers. Right now I've arrived at a beer long absent from my stash.

Guinness Foreign Extra Stout is a very inexpensive beer for it's strength. It's 7.5% so probably attracts HSBD, although am unsure about this. It comes in an iconic bottle with a more enticing warming design that Guinness omits from its frozen tar branded fonts and cans, and it looks lovely and appetising in it's 330ml bottle.

I opened it to be wowed by a great aroma. Creamy malt and a Belgian yeast with hints of toffee (not too much mind, it isn't skunked). There's also a strong whiff of alcohol that sits atop the subtler scents. It pours with what is initially a muddy almost caramel head, although that has settled down now to a pleasing coffee cream. It looks delectable. It tastes...interesting.

Hold on there though, it doesn't taste unpleasant, it just has a surprisingly bitter background and an initial tartness in the bite. It settles down to be creamy with a slight molasses, and satisfying big beer mouthfeel en route. The more I drink of it the more flavours I'm picking out - burnt malt, brown sugar, bitter fruit and possibly raisin, although the more I drink the more the slightly ascorbic finish intensifies, but it quickly subsides and seems to harangue your palate into experiencing some more..

It mystifies me why I don't drink this masterpiece more often. Its interesting, aesthetically pleasing, robust and tantalising, in that, there's one more taste just before the aftertaste that is eluding me.

Earlier I had a couple more dark beers so this is a nice contrast. Tatton Brewery Ruck and Maul porter is a soft slightly bitter but well rounded dark brew with their signature Cheshire yeast flavours, whereas Rudgate York Chocolate stout was an interesting and pleasant surprise, being only vaguely chocolaty and having a backbone of malt and surprising bitterness to both counteract and balance the beer.

After this am cracking open a Thornbridge Heather Honey Stout. I expect to really enjoy it, which is a compliment since I don't really rate honey in beer. In the meantime, I'm glad to have reinstated my relationship with Guinness FES after a very long time. A pleasant end to the working week.


Wee Beefy

Thursday, 21 March 2013

The misuse of pugil sticks, and the difference between rats and hamsters.....


      I was out last night with folks from the internetesphere. Real people, in real life, who also exist online. It seems implausible I know, but there is a world outside of social media. Its just as annoying, with infuriating delays or loss of service, exposure to information and imagery you neither covet nor can necessarily stomach, idle threats, confusion and spam. It is also significantly colder, but on the plus side, the beer is more refreshing.

Meeting me at the Riverside were Clare, Gav, Jane and Neil. We no longer have to communicate in twitter identities, so am afraid the cat's out of the bag. I mean, there can't be that many people with those names, who all know other people with one of those same names, minus their own, in the Sheffield and Rotherham area...

First up was a pint of Empire True Blonde for me and Jane, a pint of Brew Co Krakken for Gav, a Budvar Dark for Neil and a pint of Beechams for Clare, who had a troublesome ailment. Nowt worse. We got ourselves a table and another round of drinks and set about ordering food. At this point the reality of eating real food in real life became less appealing.

There was a limited menu available alas, but they did have their pies which sounded delicious on the website, as well as a range of burgers ribs and similar with chips and veg or salad. Without going in to immense detail, the ribs were OK, ish, but didn't cut the mustard with rib-o-phile Neil, mine and Jane's beef and mushroom pies had ale in them which sadly, when warmed, makes the gravy taste a bit, erm, soil-y, and Clare's veggie burger was a disaster. The next 20 minutes (it felt,) was spent making honest recommendations to the guy behind the bar about what could be done to improve the food. I think I'll stick to drinks for now myself.

Off round the corner to the Fat Cat and to Clare's delight the charity pie and a pint night was on. For considerably less than what we paid earlier, she got a pint of a Kelham beer (I think) a piece of pie, marrowfat peas, tatties and gravy. It looked fab. As so often with the Cat, it quietly and reassuringly reminds you that you could have had just as much or more enjoyment eating there. Shame on us.

I was drinking the rather excellent Welbeck Abbey Calypso in here, and apart from a disappointing Dunkel from Kelham the beers seemed to be in great nick, including the Two Roses Full Nelson which Neil and Jane were on. Soon, as the beer tally mounted, the conversation took a rather alarming turn and after a charity inspired game of Eastern European bingo, Gav introduced the subject of bizarre objects recovered from humans.

In short, we got to discussing the Illinois enema bandit, and it got steadily more disturbing from there on, although, at least I now have a handy rhyme with which to remember the difference between a hamster and a rat. Now how did it go...

Having shaken a fearsome image of pugil sticks from our collective consciousness, our night finished in the ever reliable Shakespeares, where, still feeling sheepish after missing my first Shakespeares fest, I was keen to make amends by buying lots of beer. Gav had the Brooklyn erm strong dark thing, Neil a pint of their Lager, Jane a Privateer Dark Revenge, as did I, and Clare had, erm, a cold. Bless.

We started to wander off home from here although I made a sterling effort by having another cheeky pint of the excellent Privateer, after the others had gone home to the warmth and clean upstanding tone of the Internet. The Privateer beer I tried in the Gardeners was not quite what I was expecting, but the self same malty edge that made their Blonde fall short of what I wanted previously was now the leading flavour that pulled their dark beer together brilliantly. I only stopped short of another because I had to miss my bus....

More Reallife-ups are planned for the future, and who knows we may even manage something reckless like a weekend night out where we can indulge in a few more pints. For now though, it was just nice to get out with great company to sup excellent beer.

Here's to plenty more of the same.

Wee Beefy

Tuesday, 19 March 2013

Beers not drunk at festivals


     after my refreshing beer festival visits and a mildly unimpressive fortnight of stress inspired over indulgence, I can finally take a breather and tell you about what happened when I visited pubs recently.

The day of my fretful job interview saw me "relaxing" (I was unexpectedly very thirsty afterwards) in Shakespeares, who recently and unfairly planned a beer fest to coincide with SIBA BeerX, having some fine pints. Most notable amongst those on offer was the rather unfortunately named Uranus from Mallinsons. Having not spotted it on Pumpclip Parade yet I'd like to think it shows a planet. And no black hole. Etceterra.

Luckily despite the potential for groansome despondence the beer was unsurprisingly brilliant, zesty but well balanced and very moreish. Before Wee Keefy came down to wish me well, I also tried a pint of Salamander Zulu Bride which was no doubt a porter, and against my better judgement, a Rat Brewery beer, their collaboration with Brew Co, Brewtown Rats, which is a wheat beer. Erm, probably. It was ages ago.....

After my jaunts on Tuesday and Thursday I was meeting Angie at The Bath Hotel for pints on Friday afternoon, yer know, practising for the beer fest and all that. As I was off that day this occurred at 14.00 and I arrived to an empty pub. Frustratingly other people arrived but I suppose Friday is a bad day for an exclusive pint. As is one when you invite a friend.

Steff was on hand to dispense beers and exciting news about Thornbridge collaborations with their staff. Two new beers are soon (well, May-ish) to hit the bars, with the names a complete secret. One is a pineapple and marmite gueze called Agadon't, and will be brewed by the Man of Ash, the other an ice cream and paracetamol mild called Nurofun Light, brewed with Ed and Steff at the Bath. Both promise to have real names, and exist.

On the bar here I tried a pint of the Saltaire Cascade to ease me into things followed by something very enjoyable from Dark Star which I can't possibly remember. I also had, amongst crisps and halves of Thornbridge Colorado Red, which is far better this time round, a fantastic roast pork sandwich to guard against sudden sleep or lack of cohesion later. It didn't completely work, but tasted lovely as always.

Sunday was supposed to be a day of rest but I had reluctantly agreed to go on a walk with Chala. Having run into monetary confusions (i.e. where the hell has it gone?) I opted to take enough change for a warm drink and a snack and we headed off to meander, a plan postponed slightly by the dumplings at Wirst Mainline running the 17 15 minutes late. Well done.

We alighted at Norton Church and walked into Graves park, and soon arrived at the Rose Garden Cafe. Cracking bacon sarnies in here, and my coffee was nice, but one thing that struck me was they sell bottled beers. A range of small Thornbridge offerings including Jaipur, and larger Wentworth  bottles. Not sure what restrictions apply (if any) but it would be a great place to sit in the summer with a cool beer looking out over the park.

A longish circular walk followed before we came out onto Derbyshire Lane and into the Mount Pleasant. Landlord Stuart doesn't yet know the dates of his next beer festival but expect a Summer one to be announced soon. Five beers were on, the Tetley Rebadge Mount Pleasant, Milestone Sherwood Stag, Greene King IPA, Kelham Easy Rider and Adnams American IPA. I had the latter whilst Chala had a pint of the Easy Rider, both were sensibly priced at under £3.00.

Seeing as how we were walking down to Chesterfield Road next, it seemed churlish not to pop in the Cross Scythes, since they erm, take cards. I quickly bought a pint of Halcyon on cask, alas this was, as I suppose I should have guessed given its run out most other places, a little tired, but still a great drink. Chala meanwhile had the Craft Union, a beer she took quite a shine to, having decided against Black Harry.

As time passed we accidentally had more beer - me a pint of the surprisingly sweet Dark Star Festival, Chala plenty more Craft Union, whilst I also tried the Hopfweizen Dunkel and a pint of Jaipur, before heading back to the safety of Halcyon. Deliciously decadent afternoon removal.

One last stop beckoned, that being the White Lion where we saw Mandy, John, a bloke in a tiger suit and Aussie John, whilst supping Jaipur and something called Celtic Dark. I got some great pics sat in the snug, and it was a really nice way to finish a lazy Sunday.

So its been a boozy old time of late, but nice to get in some rarely visited venues as ever, and to be reassured by the commendable reliability of old friends like Shakespeares and Mallinsons.


Wee Beefy  

Monday, 18 March 2013

SIBA BeerX Sheffield 2013

Now then,

      I managed to get to the inaugural national SIBA event twice in my home city and thought I might share my observations about it.

Its my own fault I didn't get Thursday - a bit annoying it was ticket only but I'd have missed the Maharojah if I'd gone so it all evens out. Friday I got a ticket but I could have paid on the door. Entry fee covers a very large programme and a glass. Which, as I quickly worked out, is replaced with a fresh one (unless you helpfully offer to reuse, as we did when the glass washer broke) for every beer. An unusual idea, slightly wasteful on the face of it although it was incredibly thin glass - does that make it easier to recycle?

The programme was, well, quantity over quality am afraid. Being set out by region was a fine idea, but the beer rotation scheme meant you had no way of knowing when anything that took your fancy would be available, so was more of a reference point for where the brewery was based rather than a useful way of locating the ales you wanted. And the alleged regional split on the bar was not rigorously adhered to. That said, the cyclops ratings were interesting, and I enjoyed the challenge of identifying which county every single brewery location was in. Its a geography nerd thing.

Beers? Well, Christ, if you're going to showcase British beer its nailed on that getting on for 500 brews is going the right way about doing so. New, old, micro, nano, piko, mega and medium breweries from all over the UK were on offer, all at the same price.

Given recent understandable debate about piss taking prices of craft beers (whatever they are) and the absurd premiums attributed to Keykeg beers the festival's flat £3.00 per pint price  was a fantastic opportunity to try a mixture of strengths and dispense methods without paying any extra. I was going to take this as a rallying call for pubs to take less liberties with the single use keg costs but someone, indeed manyone, mentioned that the beer was donated to the festival. So that kind of wipes out that argument if it's true. I genuinely don't know if it is, but it would also help explain the great value of some of the stronger beers.....

Selecting from a mix of cask bottle and Keykeg also gave me the chance to follow a heavy cask beer with a palate cleansing lager or wheat beer. The Hawkshead Lakeland Lager and Hop Studio Pilsner were two of the most quaffable beers I've had in years, but packed with flavour, and from a decent range of lagers. British brewers have learned that simply adding lager malt and some German hops to a cask beer does not a lager make, and that it can stand a little chill. And that was another bonus - drinkable Keykeg! No asking for a warm glass form the glass washer like in Thornbridge pubs.

However, back to the slightly less positive, and the need for cold drinks number two - it was boiling. Given the abject fiasco of the Sheffield Fest in 2011 when the place was like a sauna, you'd think that the organisers would have stipulated a cold venue - if they did, and Ponds Forge (or whatever the distasteful corporate insignia is) failed to deliver, you'd have to ask whether they are really up to the job.

Meanwhile, I got back in Saturday having cashed my tickets in Friday night, and although you still have to pay a fiver (so its £10.00 for two visits, arithmetic fans) the fact that it was quickly becoming my favourite festival of the last decade meant I managed to let this go. On reflection now, I admit that this was actually quite an expensive festival

Plus there was some absolutely brilliant beer on.

Beers of the festival for me were the impeccable Oakham Green Devil IPA, Fyne Sublime Stout, Anarchy Sublime Chaos Breakfast Stout, Art Brew Orange IPA, Hop Studio Pilsner, Allendale APA, Marble Dobber and Pin Up Milk Stout. The only beer I didn't like was one that I love - Dark Star Revelation. Having had it on gravity as well as handpumped dispense, it was nice to get a chance to find out that handpumped cask was it's best and Keykeg it's worst dispense, without being shafted for the privilege.

And of course, there were 3rds. Brilliant. An ideal solution for the long festival visit - owt over 5.5% have it in a 3rd. Owt below, have a half. Easy. A great way to try more beers without necessarily getting more pissed.

Finally - the rotation. A logistical nightmare as some said, and a bit puzzling to the casual visitor, since you walked up at times to sections of the bar with 10 handpumps turned round. I later discovered that some beers were taken off before they ran out and put back on later, so if you went to one session and saw a beer go off, you might still try it at the next. The main and most impressive feature of this system was there was absolutely loads of beer still on sale when I left around 20.00. Not even Magna managed that. Great for late arriving customers.

So, SIBA Beerx made a big and very good impression. It offered choice of beers styles and dispense method but all at the same price. It offered third or half pint measures, and a greater chance of trying beers that you had your eye on. It was funny watching the tweets coming up on the screen above the band on Friday (not so for them maybe) and it was great bumping into folks from the world of beer, as it always is. And without starting a debate all over again, I didn't have my bag searched, twice. Just saying....

Please can we have a cool venue next year though, that's all I ask.

Wee beefy

Friday, 15 March 2013

Walkley Talkie


     yesterday I received some rather annoying news and decided to turn to poetry to soothe my bruised soul. Luckily, I made up the following rhyming recipe - "bitter for bitterness, ales for ailments". Jesus wept. I don't know why my self justification for supping needs to be so damned convoluted, but anyway, we can pretend this was my reason for heading out on the trundle tractor after work to Crookes. Apologies in advance that none of the information in this post directly pertains to Walkley....

I alighted at Crookes to walk down School Road because I intended to do the Commonside Crawl. Like all good plans however, not everything I intended to do happened. Here's what did.

I started at the Cobden View. It was pretty quiet, apart from a couple in the left hand bar and a small group watching the footy. I got myself a very palatable pint of Copper Dragon Bitter and sat in the room on the right, beneath the impending beam of doom, by myself, so I could be annoyed in exclusive seclusion. A quick read through Beer Matters made me adjust my plans slightly. I coveted an aged Blue Bee Tangled Up so decided after the next two pubs on the crawl I'd go to the University Arms.

I walked down to Commonside to find the Closed Shop bathed in darkness. Probably an oxymoron I realise, but it still conveys that no lights were on. The ever helpful A board on the street claimed it was closed due to unforeseen circumstances. Well, it was dark...

Across the road in the Hallamshire House, where I'd been going anyway, I bumped in to the Man of Ash and ended up with a decent pint of Jaipur. As the later events would attest, most people still agree that Jaipur isn't what it used to be, and certainly isn't back there yet, but the wet hop version was a welcome tease about just how good it could be again. Incidentally, I understand The Closed Shop is shut because they had their electricity cut off - something to do with Punch forgetting that they had to tell the utility supplier that the property was no longer empty. If that's the case, that's just poor.

Having missed a pub I felt it was only right that I popped into one on the crawl not yet visited. The Springvale was lauded by Ianfromtshop for its cheap Bass. Not an obviously complimentary statement, I decided to see for myself.

After a recent refurb the pub is less grim than it was previously, and they do at least sell Bass - now from one of 2 hand pumps, having perhaps sensibly admitted that they couldn't sustain the throughput before. That shouldn't be an issue anymore I think, with Bass on at £2.10 and Hobgoblin slightly less tempting at £2.50. Indeed, I think all the beers were a maximum £2.50. A great way to get the punters in, but the downside is there seems to be a correlation between cheap booze, big screens, loud music and really loud people. Not my most relaxing half - but one of my recently least expensive.

Walking down the hill I noticed the Hadfield was closed - this may be the end of the pub, although there is either still to be or just has been, a last gig in there, but Sainsbury's are determined that the area needs a third expensive supermarket. Alas the shameless way the pubco made little attempt to support the business (and allowed it to lurch embarrassingly from one defunct and unsutainable theme to another) makes the counter argument difficult to win. So no one does.

I popped in the Star and Garter on Winter Street next because I noticed a cask marque sign - never an indication of interesting beer choice but at least the suggestion that real ale was on sale. From 4 handpumps only two had clips and the Doom Bar was off, so I had a half of Tetley, which sells for £2.00 a pint. Am not blinkered enough to claim that the appearance of real ale alone will turn the pubs fortunes around but the pub was busy and friendly, and worth another visit.

Arriving at the University Arms I noticed flyers everywhere for the Roger Protz talk and beer tasting. Its clash with the first night of the SIBA BeerX appears to have slightly impacted uptake so I was able to get a late entry and join in the evening with two beers left to try - although, I was so late, I sat drinking the Gorlovka I bought at the bar whilst everyone drank and discussed the Jaipur! This subject prompted many comments, most alluding to the fact that its sweeter and less bitter now, and less well balanced. We can't all be wrong Thornbridge...

Its the first time I've done this sort of thing and I found it really interesting. Mr Prose (do you see what I did there?) clearly knows his stuff and regaled us with a manageable mix of facts and anecdotes about the styles we were drinking, and encouraged questions from the audience. He even managed to remain professional and inclusive in the face of two chattering attendees who seemed a little the worse for wear, and came "from 9 miles darnt road in Chesterfield", as one of them told us only 67 times.

The final beer to taste was Gorlovka Stout from Acorn, which all but one of us seemed to really like. More debate and questions followed about oyster stout and imperial Russian stout and the ingredients in the beer. Much of the talk was held together by landlord Tom who is a very good speaker himself. All in all, despite the brevity of my attendance, I thoroughly enjoyed the talk and would consider going on one again.

After it officially finished I got chatting to the fine gents from the Sheffield Real Ale Trails, and a guy called Julian who writes about city centres and urban communities. We sat with the Maharojah for a while discussing yet more beer related topics before Tom joined us and very generously sent up a huge bowl of the crunchiest and most delectable chips I've ever tasted.

After the bar closed I opted to pop in the Red Deer for a last one - and found it deserted. The two blokes behind the bar were very accommodating as I ordered a pint whilst they cleaned up, and commented that the emptiness of the pub was due to it being half term - only this morning did I consider that it was more likely influenced by the SIBA fest, which I would have been at had procrastination not robbed me of a a ticket. The beer in here was a pint of Chantry Black Diamond, a great pint and a surprising fixture in this Punch pub, although the gents inform me that they are on the better Punch guest beer scheme, so can get beers from SIBA direct delivery, which is great news.

So ended a great night with some surprising venues and beers along the way that I don't usually drink. Its good to have a change every now and again and do something a bit different. Lets hope tonight's BeerX visit continues the theme of rarely tried ales.

Wee Beefy

Wednesday, 13 March 2013

Cheshire Choice

Good evening,

     yesterday Wee Fatha was my guide as we took a follow up tour of the Cheshire, its pubs and breweries. We once again traversed a snow capped Snake pass (3 month after the last trip, perhaps confirming what a long cold winter we've had) but this time headed straight for Dunham Massey Brewery. More to come on that visit, but it was an enjoyable stop off.

We drove on through the lanes, stopping briefly in Lymm at the Dam for our lunch then into Warrington. The pharmaceutical, rugby and brewing capital of Cheshire is a first visit for me and I had two places I wanted to visit - the Lower Angel on Buttermarket, and the Tavern, on Church Street.

The first was relatively easy to find as we parked at the bottom of Buttermarket. The Lower Angel is an attractive looking Walkers livery boasting boozer with a traditional partition bar, and a door on each side. And the doors boast exceptional Walkers of Warrington leaded glass windows, matching the beautiful maroon tiling and leaded windows.. Inside is a bar running the length of most of the room on the left, and a strange stanchion or frame on the bar which I have only previously seen in the Kings Arms, Bloom Street Salford - like a king of single booth, but with no sides. Probably best you go and see for yourself! Although there are some pics coming on Flickr...

Beers wise there were two from the on site Tipsy Angel Brewery and a range of guests. WF had a half of Tipsy Angel Angel's Tipple, and I halves of their 200little angels and By The Horns bobby on the Wheat. Both were nice, the house beer perhaps best, and the 3 drinks came to £3.81. Great value.

All too soon we heading fr the tavern. Unfortunately, none of the 5 people we asked knew of either the Tavern or Church Street, one confusing it with Mersey Street (sigh) nut luckily a bobby on the street knew and we were soon walking to the pub, which we could see from the car park. The Tavern is  large pub slightly above the road with 8 beers on offer. The three beers tried were Hapax Ruby for WF, Cheshire Brewhouse DBA (the only "dark" beer, which was, erm, brown) and 4T's Return of the Citra Hop.

I may be mistaken but I swear this all came to £3.61. A very reasonable price for a trio of ales. Luckily I got to finish most of WF's as he was rationing himself. Shame.

We made a brief detour to the thoroughly nice folk at Tatton brewery next. Alas they only took cash - luckily me and WF between us managed to generate the £49.75 required for two crates in real cash - with about 38p to spare.

A quick trip to a post office was required, and heralded an encounter with a well to do yoot. Seeing I was leaving, he continued to push past into the shop. Granted I pushed past into the road, neither of us was right here, but he mardily plummed out the phrase "its always the person entering who has right of way". Having helpfully responded "thanks retard" its only when I got outside (and surmised he was likely in the sports car) that I thought about how nonsensical his claim was - how would you get off the bus using this rule? And why, leaving the shop presumably laden with shopping, would you hold open the door for someone free of such constraints to enter? Mentalist....

Anyhoo, I digress, Mobberley beckoned next and the Bulls Head was our destination. Not that WF was certain. He had it down as a completely different pub, in fact, all we knew was we weren't going to the Railway. Ten minutes following endless pretty lanes followed until WF finally admitted he had no idea where the Bulls Head was. As with all trips out, this was my cue to recall the conversation we had before we left "Is there anything else you want to check before I turn the computer off Dad?" "No, I've got all the info I need". Whatevs....

We found the pub after a phone call and got another trio - halves of Mobberley Wobbly, Woodlands Birthday, brewed for the pub, and Tatton Gold. All were in decent form, though the long sought out Mobberley beer was a little sweet, but it was nice sat near the fire listening to the chatter. The prices were the highest of the day - perhaps reflective of the area. Although the Bull's Head isn't the sort of pub I usually go for, it was an enjoyable visit.

Another memory fuddled search followed so WF could take an admittedly pleasing pic of Bowden Parish Church before we popped onto Goose Green (via an incongruous cobbled route) in Altrincham, to visit Costello's. I rarely get to try Dunham Massey beer on draught and here it was absolutely superb. The stout, which I now know is brewed with a modicum of porridge oats for body, was delectable, WF enjoyed half a Stamford Bitter and I also had their strong East India IPA. Brewed with British hops, just like brewer John likes. The stout was so excellent I also had to have another half.

Through the dark lanes next we ended up in the Harrington Arms at Gawsworth. Packed to the rafters, this pub seems to have changed slightly, if nothing else in its customer demographic, since my last visit about 7 years ago. A lot of tables were now set for food, and the ancient tables and fixtures were so brazenly rustic as to be almost too basic. I haven't been enough times to comment on what the first room on the left used to be like, but if any food inspired stage management had taken place it was still a glorious layout with a fantastic black and red tiled floor. Beers in here were halves of Robinsons 1892 for WF and a pint of Hoptimus for me, not a bad beer as well.

Hunger was setting in now so we opted to go to the pub of the two we wanted to visit in Macclesfield that did food. Despite knowing where Sunderland Street is, we must have driven past the Treacle Tap at least twice, but called them and managed to find them, and parked down a nearby cobbled street. To our huge relief they were serving food - so I had a steak and Red Willow ale pie, WF a chicken and mushroom. Both came with mash and mushy peas - the gloriously satisfying starchy food that lines a drinkers stomach.

There were 3 cask beers on, Buxton Rednik Stout and Spa (which was a replacement for something I forget), I had a pint of that, and WF a half of teh Red Willow Wreckless. In the end, because the friendly lass behind the bar asked us to move tables to accommodate a large party, I ended up with another half as recompense. Thank you very much! One other great quality that the Tap possesses is a great range of imported bottled beers - at sensible prices. Most between £3.20 and £4.50. One of the more inexpensive venues to carry the name Tap, it seems.

Our penultimate stop was a bit of a hunt but we eventually found the Wharf on Brooke Street. A fine free house sporting 5 handpumps and some interesting keg taps, I contrived to forget entirely what I had. All I know is one of the halves was dark. WF had a pint of the Wharf Best or similar of which landlord Chris was unwilling to divulge the makers identity - I like his explanation that he tells persistent query posters the answer is West Yorkshire brewery Goodall Brookes.....

Our final stop was a new one for WF and a long awaited return for me. The Old Hall at Whitehough was chosen ahead of the Roebuck in Chapel or the Cheshire Cheese at Hope, and didn't disappoint. I had halves of Happy Valley 5 rings and the excellent Ilkley Wit Marie, with WF on a small amount of a half of Hambleton Sweet Chariot. We sat at the bar supping our ales and talking to a couple about beers and BeerX. Contrary to your natural expectations, they were able to run away. Eventually.

So, another great day out in the Cheshire, featuring a good mix of pubs and some great local Cheshire beers. In the next couple of months we expect to be making a trip out to try the new Dunham Massey Brewing Co venture - a brewpub in Lymm called the Old Post Office. Watch this space for news.

Wee Beefy.  

Sunday, 10 March 2013

Varsity Brewing Challange 2013.


    I coined it thus since I think a positive note about the brewing challenge is that it could maybe  happen again. With a different commercial brewery perhaps. For now I'll just quickly tell you about the two beers I tried. Plus divulging some other info....

First up, Karha was brewed by the Polytechnic. Do you see what I did there? I pretended it was the 1980's! Oh, how we laughed about higher education reform as our families lost their jobs under Thatcher, etc...

Anyhoo, so as I was saying, Hallam Uni brewed Karha with Thornbridge. Points are deserved for it being in a similar vein name wise (Thornbridge often use gods goddesses saints and deities for their beer names, although I reckon that I'd mischievously suggest Anemoi as a name for a beer.....) and in some ways, in not being particularly pale, it was slightly bolder.

As I said before, I don't rate non dark (it wasn't dark) spiced beers, but the spice wasn't too intrusive. It was easy enough to drink, and seemed to be stimulating debate when it was on the bar in the Bath Hotel next to Brearley, which is sort of a backhanded compliment.

Brearley was brewed by Sheffield Uni Real Ale Society also at Thornbridge, this was a pale hoppy ale. It wins the prize for its name simply because its named after such an influential Sheffielder. It perhaps looked a little more appetising than Karha, and its description was better, but...

I didn't really like it. I am guessing it had Nelson Sauvin or Simcoe in, because it had that familiar BrewDog style cat pee aroma. In the mouthfeel it was a bit thin, but also had a strange unbalanced wet hop sort of flavour, but not in a good way. It lacked carbonation, but to its credit, and this applies to both beers, you could see what was trying to be achieved.

So as not to look like a completely miserable old twat, I'd sum up by saying that both were good first efforts and frankly, in brewing anything at all whatsoever, both sets of students demonstrated that they knew more about brewing than me.

So, on next to a quick round up of pubs and beers.

At the Bath that same night I had some of the last of the Halcyon. I was a trifle miffed because it was on sale in a nearby Thornbridge pub for £3.80 a pint. It was near its retirement here, not off, but not enjoyable enough to finish, so I swapped it for half of the Dark Star Hophead.

Prior to this I'd been in the Closed Shop chatting to Paultous, Chris and Nathan, and managing to somehow make every beer I wanted to try go off. I started with a Bees Knees Biter, possibly also brewed with help from the Uni real ale society, then a Broadside, my second choice after I looked at the Blue Bee Lustin For Stout the wrong way. The broadside was a nice change, but when it was realised that the Stout hadn't run out I found it was bitter and slightly burnt and not how it should taste. Humph.

I was off straight to the Bath from here but bumped into Adam from the C&H so decided to pop in the Hallamshire House with him for one. Here as alluded to earlier I also had tired old (but cheaper) Halcyon. He made a better choice in having the excellent Imperial Oatmeal Stout, but I didn't want to be trolleyed and avoided it. In essence I was on an unlucky run, and didn't really enjoy any of my beers. Shit happens, it seems.

Last night I was out watching a man. He was from elsewhere and he said things that made you laugh. Prior to that I was in DAda enjoying pints of Acorn Blonde and Acorn Bullseye, and would have had a Dark Star Porter - had that not also gone off the minute I coveted it. We also played an entertaining game of "shutting the 'kin door hobby" which involved me moaning a lot about the door being left open by young uns, or generally not closing. I live a fast paced and heady life....

After the gig we went to the Rutland - I had a pint of a dark beer that has escaped me, Mr Cain a pint of Becks. Great music on the jukebox as always and the beer was in good condition - it may have been a Raw beer come to think of it.

We finished for a last one on the Sheffield Tap where I had a pint of an aggressively bitter but pleasant drinking Buxton Moor top and Mr Cain a pint of Bernard Light. We got to sit in the brewery room on a surprisingly quiet sessoin, before wending our way home.

So, I have reached the end of a week where beer wise, not everything was good. But never mind, there's always Tuesday to redress the balance. And Thursday at BeerX. Friday maybe. Saturday....


Wee Beefy

Wednesday, 6 March 2013

Pints with Fluff

Me: "This is my mate Fluff"
Fluff: "Scott"
Me: "Fluff"
Fluff: "Scott"
Me: "You are called Fluff. Geoff needs to know your name"
Fluff: "I think he'd rather call me Scott..."

So went the chat in the Sheffield Tap brewery room last night. Given the obvious annoyance that Fluff (for short, Fluffy in formal company) feels towards his nickname, it's important for me, as a mate, to give a mature and proportionate response to his preference not to not be called Fluff. The post title is that response....

We were catching up on a pub crawl starting at the Sheffield Tap, since we'd not met at the Hop. I was first to arrive, and Geoff was stood at the bar whilst the barman was serving a bloke, who's every choice of beer, of which he wanted 3 pints, ran out, so it was taking quite a while to serve him. There was another member of staff, but she had prioritised cleaning up over the 10 customers not getting served, and when she abandoned that to serve someone, she went straight to a bloke who'd just arrived at the bar at the other end. Well done.

Anyhoo I finally got to buy something - two halves. One was Tapped Brew Co Bullet, which due to my amazing eyesight I'd misread as buffet (I suspect there isn't a buffet hop, but it is brewed in a former dining room so its not as daft as you think!). The other was a half of the Karha, a beer brewed at Thornbridge by Sheffield Hallam University real ale society and brewer Ben Wood. This is the first of the Varsity Brewing Challenge beers I've tried, the other being Brearley from the Sheffield University folks.

Am not usually a fan of spiced beers, and so was disappointed that the brew was going to have bite - I loved Ilkley Chipotle Chocolate Porter, because heat in dark beers can be complimentary - as proved by chilli chocolate. Heat or spice in light coloured beer is rarely successful though. Against which backdrop I can report that it was actually OK. Not setting the world alight, but an enjoyable drink. What I will say is, Brearley best not be spiced.....

Next up I had a pint of the Tapped Brew Co Bramling, which I'd enjoyed at the Hop beer fest. It was just as good now, and nice to see a beer showcasing a British Hop, and also about £2.80 a pint which isn't bad at all. And don't forget, there's a beer launch for a Magic Rock (innovative) and Kissmeyer (overpriced) collaboration brew on Tuesday. Alas I will be fannying about in the West all day, so will miss it, but it sounds like a good do.

Off to the Rutland next, where I haven't been for a while, and straight onto halves of Magic 8 Ball from Magic Rock for me, and Brewdog 5AM Saint for Fluff. The 8 Ball was £5.50 a pint, and even being a 7.0% Keykeg that is a little steep (I initially thought it was good because I thought it was 8%, thus over the HSBD), but the Brew Dog was virtually the same price, and nowhere near as strong. Outrageous! The 8 Ball was OK, but it seems to have never matched its early quality and balance, although it improved on warming.

We were joined by Commonside Crawler Simon (although that sounds like a criminal nickname!) and he went straight onto the Double Top Brewery Madness Porter at 5.2%, £3.20 odd, and worth every penny. I had the porter next as well, and found that by adding its silky smooth richness to the remaining 8 Ball I got a far better beer! Like I said, 8 Ball lacks the balance of its early appearances.

We walked up to the Bath Hotel for our final pints, and in here it was really a no contest as to what we'd drink - pints of Halcyon all round! Fluff may well be a new convert, but to be fair, if anyone had any other beers later on I have absolutely no idea what they were because the Halcyon finished us all off. Even at over £4.00 a pint (which is steep for cask below HSBD) we weren't willing to miss out on Halcyon. It really is the ferret's fingers. Or something.

So ended a great night out with good friends, great beers and not so great nicknames. Ideal preparation for next weeks SIBA BeerX.

See You all there!

Wee beefy

Sunday, 3 March 2013

Celebration crawl


      myself and Mr P finally got out on our Wanderians on Wednesday, the day I found out I'd got a job interview. Not quite as tankard clinking and boisterous a piece of news as getting the bugger, but reason enough to celebrate. Because, you know. Normally I lead a virtually dry Methodist existence, with alcohol only passing my lips under duress. Di blah.

I had hoped for a Commonside jaunt as The Closed Shop is rapidly becoming my new favourite pub - more to come on that subject no doubt over the next month. One thing I'll quickly say is that its testament to the hard work of Mr Stephens from the death star canteen, to access the widest possible range of beers within the terms of his lease, that he has so consistently put on exceptional beer. Not every micro brewery is good, is kind of what I'm saying.

Anyhoo, this wander started after a brisk yomp through the unpromising territory of Neepsend, and up to Rutland Street, and the Woodside Inn. Landlord Gary was on hand to dispense warm greetings and cool beer. Better still, he had the Toolmakers Razmataz on. The former Forest pub, is the nearest licensed premises to the brewery.

I was a little confused when he said they'd only been in a week; not knowing much about the rapidly changing licensing history of the pub I didn't want to seem like I knew nothing, when in reality that is the case. I thought it reopened before Christmas, sorry, I know it reopened before Christmas, but that the incumbents then were still there now. Either way it didn't matter. Because the beer was good, and it was only £2.50 a pint. Or similar....

We stopped for two in the end, I had a brief chat with Gary about ales and his intention to regularly stock Toolmakers products. He actually had two Wood Street beers on as well, and I was offered a try of the Golden Larch. It wasn't in bad condition, but it was an odd mix of sweet malt with a bitter bite in the aftertaste. Interestingly, talking to Shakespeare Martin (no relation to the pub) at Magna yesterday, he said their beers had been on top form at The Hillsborough. Perhaps I should pop down to try them. And get over myself.

Off to the Gardeners Rest next and back on familiar Wanderians territory. Here I had a pint of Mulberry Duck brewery Wildfowler Mild, alas I forget what Mr P had but it was a pleasant pale ale. The Wildfowler was, erm, interesting. It probably comes under the category twiggy, but there was no crystal malt lurking in the mix - there was just too much mix.  Not unpleasant though. Far better was my half of Early Dawn from Hayrake brewery, which was very enjoyable.

Our final, Mr P's anyway, stop was the Ship. As always 3 excellent beers were on, and we both had pints of Chantry Brewery Iron and Steel, a 4.0% darkish bitter at £2.65 a pint. As always there was an enjoyable mix of catchy, fiendishly catchy and achingly uncool tunes from the past to keep us amused, and a decent number of customers to drown out my somewhat late toasts.

After Mr P had headed home I popped in the Wellington across the roundabout and had an excellent half of the Little Ale Cart Darlington and what might have been their latest single hopped ale - in fact, it was, but I cleverly deleted the text containing this information in a bid to free up space on my creakily slow phone. For precisely no benefit.

I jumped off the tram at the University next and went to the Bath Hotel for a pint of Dark Star Festival and the brilliant 1910 Porter, which I topped off with a sneaky Halcyon, possibly on cask, but am not sure (last night it was on Keykeg and cask). It was nice to get to try some new (to me) Dark Star beers, and equally enjoyable to slake some Halcyon. Talking of which, as above, I was also in last night supping a couple of pints of that fantastic haze maker. It was great to finish on such an epic beer, and to catch up with Geoff, and John, from the now disbanded Sheffield beer board. A scheme or concept that none of you know anything about, because, erm, we never set it up, and I never mentioned it...

Business ideas eh!

Wee Beefy 


Now then,

     after my annoying experiences at the Magna Rotherham Real ale and music festival 2013 on Thursday, I'd already thought of phrases like Baa Humbug, Baa'sil's gone West, Baa'sil gets worse, etcetera, to use in this second report. But would I need them?

Despite my misgivings, I had my glass, washed and intact, and I hadn't seen Matt for a year. So what better plan than to head back to the festival and see how things were shaping up.

It was a glorious sunny day, almost warm, (in my three layers), and I got there quickly, which cheered me up, and the first pleasant surprise on entering the North and East Yorkshire Bar was that there was plenty of beer left. I've been on a Thursday and seen more beers ran out. As it turned out, of the 5 beers I definitely wanted to try, 4 were still on.

I started on a half of the Yorkshire Brewing Co True North, a pale hoppy session beer, and went for a wander. Nothing really took my fancy in the Cheshire room, so I wandered into Lancashire to find it empty. The bloke behind the bar explained that there was loads of beer left because they'd ordered much more this year. Seemed perfectly plausible. Here I had a rather astonishing half of Thwaites 13 Guns. Hopped similar to BrewDog but with that characteristic soft malt background, I was impressed.

I visited the West Yorkshire bar; obviously it was freezing, and bought a half of Mallinsons Centennial, which I was surprised to discover was still on, and headed for the big hall, where I bumped into Liz and Ernie, and eventually Jen and Matt and his family. In here I tried the Dronfield Amber, which had a crisp taste with a cereal like body. I was told by someone else later on that it wasn't supposed to taste like that, but I don't think thats a big problem since it was enjoyable.

I also got to try a drinkable Raw Citra Black - and as predicted both it, and the Citra Pale, were on gravity - winner! This was probably one of the beers of the day to be honest, with a fruity hop bite and served with a light billowy head - ironically more lively than some hand pumped beers.

In no particular order, here are the other beers I tried :

Treboom Baron Saturday
Arbor Hoptical Illusion
Arbor Triple Hop (Citra Motueka and?)
Chantry Diamond Black
Harthill Village Brewery Harts Desire
Little Valley Python IPA
Elland 1872 Porter
Mallinsons Motueka

The Chantry and Arbor offerings were very good, and once again, the beers I drank were all in very good condition. There was also a plus in there being roast pork shoulder sandwiches on offer - which I seemed to have missed on Thursday. A generous portion, with apple sauce to keep it moist, and it was £3.00. They also didn't run out, or at least, not when I left about 20.00. A really good filling snack to keep you going as the beers continued going down.

So a marked improvement from the last visit, although, am still unsure about the whole glasses in toilets malarkey, and I noted with concern that Mr Robbery's half of Geeves Smokey Joe still tasted vaguely of paint. I think the positive developement is the increased beer order, and a goodly range still being available as the festival drew to a close. Plenty of people were still coming in when I left.

Still don't think its an 8 or 10 quid festival though. Siba BeerX is only a fiver. It will be interesting to see how that compares.

Wee beefy

How to recover from a beer festival


  it's not particularly scientific but the answer to the above is - go to another one! And then return to the first, but more on that later.

On Friday The Hop in Sheffield hosted it's Sheffield Showcase beer festival, with an extra bar jimmied into the small offshoot to the right of the entrance. I was looking forward to meeting Fluffy in the Bath Hotel first, and we were going to spend a few hours trying the beers but Fluffy, alas, was indisposed. So I went alone, on the assumption I'd bump into someone from the world of drinking along the way.

I started by having a pint in a nearby hostelry - erm, the Closed Shop, at Commonside. It wasn't overly tortuous getting there for once, and I arrived to find a good range of ales, and plenty of customers. I had a pint of Brampton Mild, and it was excellent. A really complex rich dark beer at 4.5%, and selling for £2.90 a pint. In fact, it was so damned nice that I "had" to have two more pints, although I was tempted by the Dukeries Gold on the other end of the bar.

It was a visit that heralded new information as well - it turns out that multi-instrumentalist Beck was in fact the founder of the brewery that make inoffensive fizzy drinks like Vier. This fact, which is made up, stemmed from a conversation about apostrophes - why aren't there any on pump clips? A case in point was J W Lees Bitter. Surely Lees'? Robinson's? Thwaite's?

I don't know why this doesn't apply, or whether indeed its needed (the only explanation I could come up with was "its different for beers", but I had nothing to back that up). None of this would have arisen as a subject if The Closed Shop hadn't elected to sell a product with an amusing superfluous apostrophe, thus "Kevin's Pie's hand made in Sheffield". As far as I can tell, that slogan informs the consumer that the hand that belongs to Kevin's pie is made in Sheffield. Am over it now though, obviously....

Anyway, off to the Hop next and it was rammed as always. I quickly spotted Mr and Mrs Greg Robbery and sat down with them supping a very quaffable pint of the 4.2% Bramling, a collaboration between The Hop and Tapped Brewing Company. Although delicious, it soon became clear that some of the other specials and collaborations were somewhat lacking.

I had a pint of Oatmeal Stout from On The edge, which was surprisingly heavy on the vanilla, which perhaps let down an other wise excellent beer. The Blue Bee and The Hop collaboration Ideal Mash was pleasant enough, but to my surprise, the Steel City Corrosion of Conformity was grim - although I suppose a pale beer with rum and raisins in has a lot of work to do to be enjoyable.

I got my final pint as the Robbery's were leaving, an excellent Dark Hart from Harthill Village Brewery, who seem to have hit the ground running. Alas this coincided with the band starting playing, and sat on he fringe of the infuriatingly large crowd of punters stood at the bar, I suddenly remembered why I can't get on with the Hop. Not least, because Dark Hart was misspelled Dark Heart. Disgraceful!

I finished the night in the Bath Hotel, where I was pleased to spot the rare visitor Steff, and even more pleased, having first had a pint of the Espresso Stout from Dark Star, to spot the Thornbridge Halcyon. On cask. Oh. My. God. Even better than I remembered it on cask, having more body to it than on Keykeg, and served drinkably cool rather than cold, it was an absolutely amazing beer.

I drained my glass whilst catching up with Sparklepete, who is that much easier to spot now I know what he looks like. However, I only spotted him because I thought I recognised someone from Shakespeares sat near the door - and having rather drunkenly established he wasn't who I thought he should be, I discovered he was sat with Pete. Recognised by proxy, as the young man commented.

So, a mixed bag regarding the Hop festival really. Ironically, I'd heard someone in the pub earlier in the week suggesting that rather than go to a beer festival, even one in a pub, I should just go to some great pubs. I did. And as it panned out, they were better.


Wee Beefy

Friday, 1 March 2013

Magna - smegma?


                    am just recovering from the drinkathon of last night's Rotherham real ale and music festival at Magna. Its been a fixture in my life for about the last 12 years, during which time I've only missed one. To be honest, I've long been aware that its overpriced, but I usually see my mate Matt and his family on the Saturday and that's a tradition I don't want to break.

Am saying all this because last night's session was one of the worst I've been to. Some reasons for this were entirely self inflicted by the organisers; others were out of their hands. Both of these factors are cold comfort.

I went straight from work with my £8.00 advance ticket, and before I even got in, having walked round from the bus stop in near darkness (put a light on for God's sake!) I was immediately stopped and told I had to have my bag searched. I don't know if this happens at other beer festivals, its been a while since Sheffield but its not really a good way to welcome anyone. Immediately one of the three bouncers spotted my "illegal" lucozade bottle, which had water in. "You can't bring that in, its against licensing law, because the seal's broken - you can either sup it or throw it away". Being just water I didn't care and gave it them to dispose of.

I don't pretend to know licensing law but the idea that an unsealed container cannot be taken into the premises seems frankly implausible. Thank God my half pint of milk that I was taking home from work was in a sandwich bag in case it leaked - I'd have been most dischuffed waking up this morning to drink black tea....

Once inside I bought tickets and grabbed my glass, and headed for the Yorkshire bar. I tried a taste of the Whalebone Brewery Diana Mild - it was a bit Selby-ish - it tasted of under cleaned pipes and must. It wasn't unpleasant, but at the same time it wasn't good. The bloke next to me laughed at my description and despite of it, bought himself a half. He took a sip, mused, then turned to me and said "hmmm, very pipey". We both laughed, little knowing how prescient this phrase would become.

I wandered on through the rooms, nothing with disbelief the signs everywhere banning festival glasses from the toilets. Is this another licensing law? And where, if you'll excuse my French, the fuck am I going to put my glass, essentially my ticket for Saturday, whilst I''m in the loo? Some one, perhaps in jest, noted that there was to be a table where everyone could leave them - nut they are all identical. The epic retardation of this concept riled me further. And worse was to come.

I spotted Shakespeares Robin and Aunty Colleen from CAMRA in the main hall, and bad news was afoot regarding some mucky pipes. It seemed handpumps loaned from CAMRA hadn't been washed. The Raw Citra tasted of stale Laphroaigh. Tasted straight from the cask it was fine. I was drinking a very palatable and enjoyable Harthill village Dark Hart, and when I'd finished went to try the Raw Citra Black. It tasted of antiseptic. It was quickly established that this line wasn't clean either.

I moved onto the Thornbridge bar because I figured the delights of Halcyon would soothe my damaged palate - it didn't. It tasted of glue. Jesus wept. This time the man behind the bar insisted it was fine, as he just had done to the customer before me who suggested it might be wrong.

I gently pushed him towards admitting that Halcyon doesn't taste of glue, then went to give poor old Robin yet another taster of phenolic/adhesive/paint based beer. He pointed me in the direction of one of the bar managers and I got my token and 50p back. The organisers were as annoyed as the punters, and were trying valliantly to replace the offending pumps. Maybe some gravity beers will appear....

Next up was Geeves Smokey Joe. I had it a week or so ago in Leeds and it was excellent. This had that "pipey"taste that the Whalebone had. Smokey Joe does not. Luckily I was saved by a half of Doncaster Brewery Mucky Bucket Black IPA. Finally I had some clean tasting hops.

By now I'd caught up with Greg Robbery, Ally and Malc and Mrs Greg. We were sat on the Bombardier bus with two blokes who were hammered an hour after the festival had opened - seems the armies of security staff had been too busy rewriting the licensing lawas to spot that these entrants were hammered. Still, at least I had some company, and the chance to try some other beers.

So as to not make this the longest post in history, I'll quickly list the rest of the ales supped :

2 East Coast brewery beers that I can't recall the names of; 1 pale and 1 porter, both excellent;
Treboom Baron Saturday;
Offbeat Kilter;
Red Willow Smokeless;
Arbor Oyster Stout;
Bristol Milk Stout;
Harbour Pale Ale;
I tried the Yeovil Stout Hearted but that was pipey;
Elland 1872 Porter.

The Elland and East Coast beers were probably the stars, although the Bristol and Arbor ones scored highly as well. There were really no bad beers in the ones I bought, and plenty I still want to try. Magic Rock were listed but their beer did not arrive, which is a shame, and once you got over the puzzle of Cheshire Brewery Robinsons being in the Lancashire room, not the, erm, Cheshire room, there was an admirable line up of great beers. Well, potentially great beers....

Finally, the food was cheerlessly dry. I never expect good food at a beer festival but the cheese burger was so cynically onion free and served on dry hard breadcakes you needed another half for your mouth to recover. Poor.

So, am back tomorrow to meet my friends, and hopefully to try the 15 or so beers I didn't manage to yesterday, I will not be carrying a bag so won't have to have an intimate search of my internal storage, and my friends will look after my glass when I need the loo (last night, the deciet of the bag was my saviour).

I will however, be taking a step back and wondering whether this is a one off glitch, or whether its just going to become more annoying, and have more rules than Grindleford Cafe, in future.

Basically, if you run a festival that is very expensive to attend, you need to make sure its shit hot. It wasn't. By a country mile.

Wee Beefy