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.