Sunday, 28 April 2013

The Bath, a bash and the Ship.

Now then,

     A friend's birthday meant I was out and about around West Street on a Saturday night, which although I did the same for Wee Keefy's birthday a few weeks ago, is still a rarity for me. As it turned out, an unplanned turn of events meant I also ended up having another enjoyable session in a fantastic pub.

I met Fluff at the Bath Hotel for a few warm up pints. It was nice to bump in to Steff fir the first time in a a while and when Fluff arrived just as I was buying my beer it was the start of a night of good timings and fortuitous outcomes. We both had pints of Bristol Beer Factory Seven, a surprisingly refreshing copper coloured beer with a lot of quite heavy but perfectly balanced malts in the mix. We sat in the main room, struggling to hear ourselves over the loudest blokes in the world, supping and talking beer.

We also had time for a pint each of the Hawkshead Brodies Prime.I only tried this once before, at the Sheffield Tap, on the day that Brodie Clark resigned. Who he you may ask? Well, its not that important, but noteworthy that in the clamour to discover who he really was when he hit the headlines, I found that top of the first page of search results on Google, was his entry on the " a c*nt" website! Clearly a top bloke....

The beer, luckily, shares none of his attributed or alleged characteristics, being a full flavoured dark brew with a pleasing hoppy edge, that set us on our way nicely.

Next we caught up with the throng in the Frog and Parrot. Its always been an odd pub for me, its certainly conveniently placed, always rammed, but has never really seemed to make much of an effort on beers, although back in the mid noughties I did find them selling a pint of Itchen Valley Fagans from a range of about five. Things seem to have fallen off a bit since then (possibly due to it being owned by Greedy King?).

There were 4 beers on, 3 Greedy King and a guest, which promptly went off (Kelham Island Pride of Sheffield) when I ordered it, so I ordered me and Fluff pints of Twisted Wheel ( a"guest" no less) which was a Greedy King-ish beer with lemon in it. Not too bad actually, especially given the other options of weakened OSH and their IPA.

We stayed for another in here with the birthday girl, Miss Wish, with some decent music playing and a procession of trips to the beer garden for the smokers, whilst me and Fluff caught up with friends in the group. Alas the parties diverged at this point with the revelers, wearing a variety of excellent apparel, headed for the Green Room. Me and Fluff bade our farewell and headed to the Ship at Shalesmoor.

I hadn't actually planned to do this so it was a pleasant surprise, and when we got there it was packed. Considering, as I've mentioned before, there really aren't any local clientele  it was impressive just how busy the pub was. One thing I have noticed before is that I am usually one of the youngest customers - and since Fluff is slightly older than me that didn't change this time!

On the bar were the usual 3 real ales, Kelham Pale Rider, Abbeydale Moonshine and Welbeck Ernest George. I wasn't sure I'd had that one before, and being a fan of Welbeck beer I opted for a pint of that. A fantastic well rounded quaffable dark beer was what I found. And once we got a table, it was clear that we would be in for the rest of the night.

Unusually I stuck with the same beer - there seemed no point changing when the Welbeck was so damned good. Fluff was likely on the same, Col on Pale Rider, and Sue on lager. A few good tunes came on the juke box (which I had only previously admired for its retro qualities, instead of attempting to use it) and we relaxed (some more), talked and soaked up the atmosphere.

Its true to say that there are a dwindling number of pubs like the Ship. A long standing landlord, a good deal with a Pubco (actually, to be fair, its Greedy King that he has some sort of tie in with, not sure on the details though...) a dedicated troupe of regulars, pool and other pub games teams, 1970's furnishings abound, inexpensive well kept real ale is on sale and its probably, in terms of Sheffield, the epitome of a "proper pub".

Fitting then that we should have been in for a proper session  drinking great beer, before stumbling outside to clamber in a beer chariot home. You don't get many nights that just remain great from the start, but this was one of them. Thanks to my companions as well for making it a good night all round.

If you haven't made it in yet, I strongly suggest you make the effort to visit the Ship.

Wee Beefy

Beer in South West Sheffield and beyond

Eh up,

     this weekend has seen me visit a few venues not usually on my radar. It wouldn't be a day with a letter A in it if I hadn't been to at least one of my regular haunts but it was nice to get out and sample something a bit different.

On Friday I had to have some important documents signed and witnessed, as did Chala, so we traipsed over to the wilds of Woodseats to have Davefromtshop perform this noble task. Obviously being an alcoholic,. sorry, genius, this important legal process also afforded us the opportunity to have a beer or two.

There were three real ales on at Archer Road Beer Stop, Concertina One Eyed Jack,  Howard Town Wrens Nest and Cross Bay Zenith. I started with a pint of the Howard Town, which I haven't seen for a long time, and it was sufficiently crisp and bitter to taste to meet my expectations. Chala meanwhile was disappointed not to find any dark beers on draught, despite the tally of such a beer type being on the bar in the shop being about 2 in 30 years, so she opted for a bottle of Beowulf Smokestack Lightning Stout. A decision she admitted was based largely on the label...

The stout was bottled conditioned but didn't turn into a fountain on opening and was as smokey and roasty a stout as you could hope for. After the paperwork was dealt with, I had a quick catch up with Das Beer Man (his name's not Darren, which suggests he's missing a trick....) about London brewers and the new fashion for German Brewers to make American style IPA's and super strength Imperial Stouts. It was then time to replenish and I went for a pint of the admirable Cross Bay Zenith, which was on top form. I didn't take note of the prices but the Archer Road beer Stop has been consistently a good 50p a pint cheaper than most pubs so I expect this is still the case.

We had hoped to head for the Broadfeld next but we wanted to eat and they advised they were fully booked  so we headed for the Robin Hood. However, we cleverly worked out that we could buy an inexpensive, or morally dubious, fast food product, and use the money saved on beer instead.

So we took the vile conglomerate's egast on board and afterwards went to cleanse our palates, and souls, in the Ale House on Fraser Road. Slightly contradicting my claim that its always shut, by not being, it was quite busy in the left hand side with people presumably planning on doing the quiz. Having had the questions read to me as a test before now, I considered hat even free entry was a price not worth paying. It was probably likely we wouldn't have made it to double figures. Best not to risk that ignominy.

Chala had a half of Lancaster Black, not a beer I've seen in these parts before, and I had a pint of Dark Star Hophead which was, if I remember correctly (i.e. not) a very reasonable £2.70 a pint. We got chatting to a couple doing the picture quiz and tried to help them out with answers, which am not sure is strictly the plan but no-one seemed to mind, before I went back for a half of Chantry Iron and Steel, which was very agreeable.

We headed back into town after this and Chala had to get back so I walked to Shakespeares for a last couple. I had a Half of the Grantham Dark and a pint of the Arbor "Its brown, dammit " which I had high hopes for - it was described as a traditional brown bitter coloured beer with the addition of high alpha hops. Unfortunately, having bought a pint, I realised that they had also added a slightly old nectarine and some brown fruit. It wasn't off, it wasn't unpleasant, that much, but it wasn't good. I'd have preferred a traditional brown bitter to be honest...

I finished on a pint of Otley O3 which had gone up in my estimations since I'd last had it, and was a great antidote to the fruity weirdness of the Abor.

Today I have been even further South West and attended the Ridgeway Farmers Market. Wee Fatha had invited me on the promise of their advertised real ale, which I admit I found a little surprising since its not mentioned in their online advert, but still, I figured it would make a nice change from lounging around doing nowt.

It was quite busy featuring plenty of stalls with varying degrees of desirable products, including some rather ace sausages and bacon from Moss Valley Meat, some rather tasty jerk chicken from a stall also serving fried dumplings and roast sweet potatoes, not to mention the apostrophe-gate gourmet snack makers at Kevin's Pies. Strangely there was no real ale though. There is a bar in the village hall but it just sells keg Tetley and mass produced lagers, which was a shame, since they could easily have got hold of a pin or mini keg from one of the Derbyshire breweries to pop on the bar.

What we did find though was a stall selling Welbeck Abbey Brewery products, cheaper than at the farm shop they claimed. I grabbed a Henrietta since I don't think I've ever had it, whilst WF and WK both bought a selection of 4 bottles - not bad at £2.50 a go.

We headed to old haunt the Swan next for a pint and were pleasantly surprised to find more than one real ale on offer. For years it was strictly Bass only at something astronomic. Now all 3 Handpumps are in use, 1 for Cider (Gwynt Yr Draig Happy Daze) and Courage Best and Kelham Easy Rider, at £3.20 a pint.

The "Best" was Wee Keefy's choice but am not sure even his delicate tastebuds could have found much flavour in the uber bland Courage, but the Easy Rider was fresh and and in good nick, so, whether because of the contrast or not, it was a very enjoyable pint indeed.

The pub is very old and retains quite a lot of interesting features and even though I'd guess the right hand room is extended, it does still have separate rooms, with one comprising seating in front of the bar. If it turns out the Queens Head up the road (which I've still never been in) does real ale as well, it may be worth a walk around the area sometime. You know, for the exercise. Or something.

All in all this was an enjoyable trip out which demonstrates that you can still get good beer in great pubs even if you leave the Don or Crookes Valley of beer.


Wee Beefy    

Thursday, 25 April 2013

Always read the label...


  I was out Monday night (I know, I know, call the AA, etc..) with the assembled Rotherhamia in the Rutland Arms, a pub you may remember from much more posts in 2012. Its nothing personal of course, just that now that eminent overseer Mr Stephens has left the Death Star Canteen to be in the Death Star Canteen but elsewhere, I have been in other pubs instead. Anyhoo.....

Neil texted me as I waited for the twat tractor from work and advised that him and Jane were in the Rutty for an hour, and that I may wish to join them. Well, loving standing in the open sewer of Waingate though I was, I opted to hot foot it to the Rutland and join in. First up was a half of the West Weizen, and a pint of Revolutions Brew Sid and Nancy, because its from Revolutions. It also had a rather pleasing pump clip.

I nibbled some food, supped my delightful hoppy ale and talked with good friends. Only after I started my second pint, having finished a decent if underwhelming West, did I realise, or rather, find out, that the Sid and Nancy was 6.9%! Because yer see, the thing about pumpclips is that amongst other things, they almost always confirm the beer's strength. Whereas my pumpclip espying is a more brewery identification based assessment....

Throughout the night I did go on to sample other beers, one of which was clearly black, but considering that Neil was demolishing a procession of pints of Magic Rock High Wire, which I also tried a half of, its difficult to explain how I managed to become so very tired. Unless I had several more Sid and Nancy that is.....

Finally recovered tonight, I popped briefly in the Shakespeares for a few. I started on a very quaffable and enjoyable pint of Oldershaw Grantham Dark, before I had two halves of Brew Co Topaz, and halves of Otley O3 and Welbeck Cavendish. The Otley was surprisingly low on flavour, and the Cavendish a bit biscuity wheat, but the Topaz was excellent. So I had a (second) pint of that as well.

Obviously, I could have partaken of a beer from the cellar - or, indeed, a pint of Revolutions Brew Sid and Nancy at 6.9%. But who the hell is going to do that?

In all honesty, I would have stayed for a session but a man ordered curry from West Bar Tandoori so I had to go home and eat. Despite this disruption,  the above is once again, a fine example of two more impeccable Sheffield pub sessions.


Wee Beefy.

Wednesday, 24 April 2013

Heavyhearted at lost local.


      almost all credit, at least in terms of inspiration, must go to Pete Green from the world of writing. His post  yesterday about his nearest boozer the Olde Heavygate Inn, and its conversion into housing, against the backdrop of its venerable age, struck a real chord with me. I have written about the pub before, but I feel I need to contribute to the story further since it was my first ever, proper, local.

I should start by saying I think it closed in 2011. I posted about it in February 2012 after reading in Beer Matters that it would not reopen.

I also recall the start of 2011 saw endless upheaval and changes of managers, some of whom couldn't seem to sell beer, some of whom couldn't settle, some of whom were hired hands brought in to keep a pub open without any other long term benefits. Either way it was a sorry procession of empty promises, desperation and mismanagement on the part of the Pubco, Greedy King. Ultimately they will have made a tidy sum on the sale of the building. And pissed away a huge irreplaceable body of history into the bargain.

I went to school with a lass called Louise Parkes and she lived at the pub when her Dad Ron, ran it for absolutely years. It was a very popular pub around 1991, which is when I first started regularly going in, and continued to be so until Ron left, and for a while afterwards. Yet, its rate of decline was breathtaking, especially when you consider it could have been avoided had Pubco greed and shortsighted meddling not been allowed to prevail.

The nearest pub then was the Florist, probably 10 minutes walk, The Prinny, maybe less actually, or down to one of the South Road boozers, one of which has now gone the way of the Heavygate. So it was in a good position, surrounded by housing and virtually on one of the busiest bus routes in the city, with car parking on the front. It had history, it had character, and it had no right being neglected.

It also had the distinction of being central to several benchmarks in my drinking career.

First of all, I supped in there when I was perhaps, technically, a little bit too young to do so. I got the impression that the opinion of the landlord was, if you looked about the right age, and you didn't cause trouble that was OK. I think that is ostensibly a very sensible approach (although that may be undermined by some of what I have written later on!). The only time I ever pushed my luck was when I was 19 and brought in "younger folks" and bought them drinks. This rightly attracted a reprimand. I took it on board, and never repeated the trick.

The Heavygate was a regular venue for huge bonfires on, well, bonfire night, and so was one of the first pubs I ever remember going to as a child. I'm sure plenty of kids from my school were taken to the pub by their parents to watch that same spectacle.

There always seemed to be a good atmosphere, whether it was a celebration, public holiday or a damp Tuesday in January. It was usually busy (more so later on), the pints were served in maseev glasses that held 650ml (it seemed) and in direct contrast to the rather demure atmosphere and advanced years of some of the regulars, the jukebox featured Firestarter by Prodigy. I remember some old guy looking up from his paper when me and a mate put it on for the the 3rd time in a row, and him saying"I quite like this. Its got a very good pace to it". I swear to this day he wasn't being sarcastic.

The Heavygate was also the only pub I ever took my Canadian cousin Graham to, and advised him not to give the landlord a tip unless it was sage advice, and the first place I chose to take a lady on a date. I'm sure Catherine Skidmore was blown away by the brown decor and smell of fags and a jukebox with all of four decent tunes on, whilst I supped pints of Kimberley Classic, then in a piece de resistance, after 7 or 8 pints, threw up on my para boots whilst she waited for a taxi....

The Heavygate is also the first place I tried Sheep Dip whisky, the last place I bought a pint of Snakebite, the only place a man in his late fifties asked me for a fight (or indeed a person of any age or gender), the first place I had a lengthy session, the first place I broke a glass (when "helpfully" tidying up whilst a bit drunk) and the first pub I ever actually suggested to anyone that we went in for a few pints.

My final memory is going in one night about 21.45 with Carlos, and finding the lounge (which the CAMRA Good beer guide unfailingly stated for all of its 15 or something years of entries "features potted plants" ) was being used for a private party. There weren't many folks in the right hand side but the jukebox was working and it was no doubt about £1.40 for a pint of the Kimberley Classic, so we settled down with drinks and set about supping.

As it got late we were still getting served, not by the landlord I recall but by new staff, but by now the other right hand folks had left. Having reached a natural physical barrier (Kimberley was very bloaty I recall) we dawdled through our last drinks for an hour before the landlord came through and said "I didn't realise you two were still here!". It was about 3am. It appeared we had been served by other party guests who assumed we were friends of the family so hadn't mentioned we were there...

With such a useful training role in my drinking experience, its really sad to see it being vandalised now, after serving so many pints and customers. I don't think it had to close. I think it maybe had to change, but not in the way it did prior to finally shutting down.

My last memory, probably from April 2011, was of being in with davefromtshop, sat in the chasm of loneliness that was the sad pastel coloured modernity of the newer right hand room, staring out at an unkempt car park whilst really crap music blared out of the radio to precisely nobody, and the barman stood outside smoking. I knew then that things were not looking promising. I wasn't even surprised when it was sold for housing. Just disappointed and annoyed.

Shame on you Greedy King.

Wee Beefy

Sunday, 21 April 2013

Single Pub Of Contact


    I'm noticing a bit of a trend to my drinking patterns lately. Not just obvious markers such as "to excess" and "recklessly" but more subtle patterns are emerging. I seem to be finding myself wanting to stay put once I get to a good pub.

This isn't exactly a groundbreaking outlook of course, but one of the things that has happened as a result of this blog is that I sometimes visit quite a few pubs in one "session" so that I have stuff to report. It's not like the blog owns me - because I enjoy tasting different beers, and soaking up different atmospheres in venues. And also, the walking between pubs probably does me good.

However over the last week the concept of a session, in its traditional sense of staying in one pub, has become more prominent. Staying put is the new crawl. I think it may catch on, much like other recent inventions, such as the wheel....

If you want to try out my new hobby,  you will need the following:
A : a good pub
B : a few good beers to choose from
C : some money
D : plenty of time

Last night I followed the above recipe with some success, as below...

I was heading to the Closed Shop and was meeting Wee Keefy for a few drinks. I knew he was only coming out for a couple, after which he'd likely be off home so I planned to wander down to the Uni Arms or the Bath afterwards. There was an exemplary range of beer on again at the Shop, and it was really busy when I arrived at about half 7. I got a grammatically accurate pork pie and a pint of the excellent Dancing Duck Dark Drake and awaited the arrival of the brother of mine.

The Dark Drake was on excellent form so when he arrived, and, as everyone does, went to the upper part of the bar to look at the beers on the top two pumps instead of reading the sign, I recommended it to him, and got another pint for myself. In the end he had a half of Robinsons Unicorn and half a Drake. We were soon ensconced with good beers surrounded by people enjoying good beers. This is a heady and largely irresistible cocktail.

I had half of the Welbeck Dark Horse next (two dark beers out of 6 - spoilt!) and half a blue Bee Tangled Up IPA, as did WK, and we continued chatting. At some point Father O-matic arrived with Pete Green from the world of writing. It transpired he was having some sort of birthday so once WK had sloped off home like a good lad I joined the party and spent a very agreeable few hours talking beer and pubs and, erm, other things. I also accidentally had numerous pints of Tangled Up IPA. I think this made me sleepy.

Alas the throng departed around 23.00 and I had to find the cash for another half to last me until I had to leave for the night bus. I'd been sat in the Closed Shop for about 4 hours and enjoyed every minute of it. And to be honest, once I was in, I never gave the idea of moving on a second thought.

A similar thing happened on Friday, although for reasons of mastication I did venture on from pub number one in the end. I'd headed for Shakespeares after work with Mr Howard from the world of music, and we sat in the beer garden, in defiance of common sense,  enjoying the echoes of sunlight that were imprinted on the scene from earlier. We were both on pints of the rather smashing Raw Mount Adam, a zingily hoppy, fruity, pale beer cramming in loads of flavour at 3.6%.

We were soon joined by Steve who went for old reliable Deception  whilst I had another Raw. As our conversation turned to that Woman the atmosphere became more charged and passionate and it was only right that my next pint was of Steel City Brewing Metal Fatigue, with just the right amount of bitterness to represent the feelings of the brewers toward the subject figure, and just enough hops to make its drinking  enjoyable and valedictory at the same time. A very good beer.

More Raw followed but alas Dave and Stave were off to get smashed on Buckfast and play gin rummy (have I remembered this right?!) so I stopped for a last one before heading on to eat. That last beer was a pint of the strong Arbor and Bristol beer factory English IPA, a surprisingly soupy but not unenjoyable concoction that may have been brewed with British hops.

My final and thus non session stop off was in the Bath Hotel, where I had one of their legendary hot roast pork sarnies, a half of Raw Pacific Gem and a pint of the Bristol Beer Factory Bitter Californian. There's been plenty of Brizzle stuff up in Sheffield lately and quite frankly that can only be a good thing.

So it seems that I have used the above recipe to end up in two cracking pubs drinking great  beer. Although, having left to go to the Bath, I think I've not completely nailed this new hobby. Here's to my getting plenty more practice at staying in pubs for a long time.....

Wee Beefy

Wednesday, 17 April 2013

The Shakespeares sessions.

Now then,

      alas the above is not a musical reference, just an indication that this week, I have been mostly in.... Shakespeares. And why not? Lots of people rightly recognise it as a fantastic pub. Heres a few fine details that support that theory.

Friday after work I was in need of a cheer up. I had been suffering with dropsy and malaria, and was desperate to go out on the ran tan, as absolutely no-one says anymore. Tempted as I was by a trundle to Commonside, the option of walking for just 5 minutes to a pub won me over, and I slipped away to Shakespeares.

It was fairly busy and there was an impressive array of beers on. I started with a pint of Blackjack Double Bluee, a gloriously tasty, well balanced bitter beer that demanded two goes. I have heard great things about Blackjack but not always tasted great things. This was a brilliant example of a night beer. A beer that defines, and is drunk throughout the whole of the, night. However, other delights would tempt me.

I bought a pint of Ascot Anastasia stout next, which I loved at the Kelham Decade fest but which was surprisingly smokey and not that well balanced - which was a shame. So I decided to "go cellar" and was rewarded by a very enjoyable pint of Hopcraft Abrek black IPA. I think. The things is, even having kindly been passed the pump clip, my mind wasn't willing to accept that the beer wasn't called something easy like Jeff, or brick or cat. So please forgive me if I get the name wrong. Whatever it was called it was an enjoyably bitter and hoppy (they're different, see) black IPA that did everything I expected. My first Hopcraft beer, and one that makes me think I'll try more if spotted.

Another Bluee followed (not a fit, but a pint of beer) before I ambled up to DAda to get the whole bottled beer offer wrong (it even bloody says on my bottle club card "Monday to Thursday" but in my optimism I bought one on a Friday. Dumpling). I also had a very enjoyable half of Acer from Bristol Beer factory but this was overshadowed by my regretting the purchase of the bottle and basically wanting to go home. Alas I didn't get back to sample the Brizzle bur. Curses.

My next Shakespeares session was preceded by a trip to the Gardeners Rest with J9. An almost pleasant walk through the Don's adjoining industrial wastelands brought us into, and then outside of, the Gardeners, me with a pint of Chantry Saxonia, J9 with a half of St Loius Kriek. Sat in gale force winds, I tried to make out it was springily warm by sitting there in a T-shirt whilst our crisps and my jacket blew onto the floor. By pint 2, a chunky and not unhelpfully cloudy Monster IPA from Celt Experience, the jacket was back on.

A second amble had us arrive at Shakespeares and looking forward to cooling back down in the sheltered beer garden. I had a pint of the excellent North Riding Aspiration Nation - feel free to laugh, but my phone says I drank Patanpo! A lovely refreshing bitter at under 4%, this really hit the spot, and I had two pints just to make sure. J9 meanwhile was on the Kriek. That's not an ailment.

After this a minor blot appeared on the Shakespeares copy book. They had run out of saison! Ye Gads! I instantly thought about decamping to the Wellington to sort out this situation but luckily renowned saison fan Dave U was on hand to direct me to his Steel City Brewing Metal Fatigue beer, brewed, in, erm, celebration of Maggie Thatcher. 'sdeath. This was very very nice and I had several glasses of it, before I became unable to type anything legible. Luckily I remember J9 had a bottle of Orval. And no doubt, Scasa means something, to somebody, somewhere...

I am sure it was sensibly priced and very tasty as well.

So ended our Shakespeares sojourn, and we walked into town for J9 to wend her way home, although we had to decamp from the bus stop in the face of a worrying crying man. Once we reached the Rutland Arms, which you may remember from being the pub of the month, I bade my drinking companion farewell, then popped in for a very delicious bacon butty, plus a pint of Arbor Snuffy Jam, and, one hopes, only a half of heir superb Yakima IPA.

All we need now is for Shakespeares to organise another of their excellent beer fests and their name could be synonymous with superlatives evermore.


Wee Beefy

Monday, 15 April 2013

Crookes Valley of Beer


       Over the weekend I undertook a short Crookes Valley area crawl, starting by popping into the Closed Shop. I had set off with the intention of trying out the beer garden with the sudden arrival of spring, but I was by ,myself and it was quite blustery - the thought of nursing a pint in the cold with too much of a gale blowing to be able to read wasn't particularly appetising, so I consoled myself with some beers. The range of brilliant beer was strong, including the SURAS version of Blue Bee Bees Knees,  their new beer Shriek!,  Wincle Rambler and Revolutions Brew Manifesto.

My first pint, the Wincle Rambler is a beer I shouldn't like. Its sweet and brown. For some reason it seems very refreshing and though subtle, the hopping is cleverly matched to work with as opposed to against the malts. Normally if I'm rambling (outside physically, as opposed to on here) I covet a pale refreshing beer but Rambler somehow met the requirements of such a beer without pale malt or new world hops to be seen. I had to have two pints just to deal with the surprise.

Up next was a half of the Blue Bee Shriek! an interesting well balanced drink with a robust hoppiness and a biscuity malt that worked really well. Not quite brandishing the monstrous bite of parenthesis, it was still an enjoyable beer. and one which worked better than it did on gravity at Shakespeares - definitely needs a head.

The Manifesto was up next, as was a rather disastrous trip to use the world's slowest jukebox, which instantly loses points for not having Alec Eiffel by Pixies on it, like all good Jukebox's should. Mind you, in competing with the box at the Rutland, few stand a chance. The Manifesto was strangely thick. I know its a strong stout but this was really more heavy than particularly strong tasting. Still, once I'd adjusted to its might I quite liked it and had two pints before wandering onwards.

My next stop was the Star and Garter. Having only been in for the first time in years a few weeks ago I was surprised to hear it had closed. When I noticed the lights on I popped in and found one of the guys from the Hadfield opening night sat at the bar, having just taken it over and reopened it. No No No by Dawn Penn blasted out of the speakers, followed by some fairly chunky dub so I was happy with the music, but not so much with the £2.15 a pint Tetley being £1.35 a half, although I did successfully argue my way down to a more realistic price. Plans are to take suggestions form customers about what they want to see at the pub, which may include the beer range. One to keep an eye on.

My next pub was a new on on me. Literally in the Crookes Valley now, I was in the park of the same name visiting the Dam House. Having had a rather odd possibly even chequered history, I had always been told that it didn't serve real ale, and that the drinks were really expensive. It had never been anything but a restaurant in recent years, to my mind.

Positive coverage arrived last year on Pete Green's blog here, and that pricked my interest. And since it was slightly more sheltered than the Shop it was tempting to put the theory of it being the best beer garden in Sheffield to the test.

The bar is on your right against the back wall as you come in. There is loads of space and light, and there are two large terraces outside on which to take in the rather splendid view. The real vista of note however was the bar - Belhaven IPA, summat else from Greedy King and Kelham Island Pale Rider. I ordered half of that and waited for the punch in the guts. "That's £1.25 please" came the response. Bloody ell! One of the best views in Sheffield and beer at a more than reasonable price! I think I'll be popping in again.

Leaving the Crookes Valley I headed down to the Bath Hotel for a last one, where I had a chat with Ed and a pint (or more) that no-one thought to write down for me. I remember it being rather good. I bet it was stoutish, whatever it was....

My final point concerns the construct of the crawl itself. It seems my claims to have created and marketed (!) the Cobden, Closed Shop, Hallamshire House Springvale and Blake crawl (and other versions, like the one above) were on unsteady ground from the start. Not that mine was a serious claim, and the fact that it's simply a list of similar pubs in a given area, which strictly speaking doesn't all fall in the Crookes Valley, means that apportioning any credit or creative  kudos for linking the boozers together would be difficult.

And besides, since my post on February 26th this year the CAMRA have earmarked or embarked on just such a route, it has been written up in the Sheffield Telegraph, and by sheer co-incidence of location I'd be willing to bet that plenty of people had already done it. And the telling revelation came last night - I remembered that the links between the pubs had previously been established, and advertised, by the Closed Shop.

 I am continuing to trawl the archive of beer matters on-line but I suspect the ad predates October 2009, which is the oldest copy I could find on the website. As I remember, essentially the Closed Shop marketed itself, one assumes with the Hallamshire House, as part of a beer triangle with the Cobden. Without a copy of the advert I can't work out the 3rd point (it would be a funny shape if that were the Hallamshire House...)  but think it may be the Notty House? This was presumably a bid to drum up trade which I suspect was the wish of the Closed Shop rather than the others - both the Hallamshire House and Cobden always advertised in Beer matters through 2010 and 11 (and still do) and have an established trade, so it seemed a strange union. If anyone has a copy of the ad or remembers it please get in touch - knowing my luck it won't even have been a triangle....

Wee Beefy

Saturday, 13 April 2013

Cask-less wonders

Now then,

  it struck me writing about cask only pubs that as an aficionado of unspoilt boozers it was actually harder to think of those selling just real ale. Whether you like t or not, in pubs with restricted hours or that are well out of the way, a cask is a slightly dumb idea. Wastage. Disappointment. Ullage. Not good.

The thing is, many in the beer blogging fraternity consider that one of the central, if not the primary considerations for a pub being good, is that it sells the fine drink. Whilst I conceded there is a mix of criteria for greatness, I increasingly find myself visiting truly amazing pubs, both interior and atmosphere wise, that haven't a drop (I'd like) to drink.

Before I continue I must add the long closed Hop Pole at Risbury in Herefordshire to my list of none keg pubs. There was only room at the bar for the landlord. I saw bottles of cider, but his cask was kept in a pin under the stairs as you came in. Woods Parish Bitter, at £1.10 a pint. Very agreeable!

So here is a list of some cracking unmissable pubs that don't sell real ale. I think if you can get over that, you will be warmly rewarded.

The Royal Cottage Inn, A53 Leek Road,  near Upper Hulme. According to Ken at the Quiet Woman, Cliff's Dad used to serve Worthington from the barrel (more likely the jug) in this isolated moorland pub, where it is claimed that anyone in their 50's to 70's now would certainly have earned their drinking stripes. Cliff senior apparently used to be up and down the stairs to the cellar non stop fetching ale for throngs of customers. Now the restrictive opening hours means that even smooth flow Tetleys is a gamble - if it's not sold at the popular music nights on the last Friday of every month. Well worth a visit despite all of the above - Friday and Saturday, 20.00 til no-ones in.

The Duke Of York Leysters Herefordshire. A quintessential unspoilt pub with two rooms and an ancient bar, with just Bass Toby Ale for drinking, plus bottles. One of the longest established family pub ownerships in the UK, the unchanging pace and appearance of life here is something rare these days. Not too restricted opening hours, and always part of community events, its well worth popping in, especially if you are visiting the excellent Talbot at Knightwick for heady freshly hopped ales followed by the Sun at Leintwardine.

Railway Tavern, Kincardine, Scotland. An amazing pub the size of a matchbox, one doorway in with a room at each side (but mainly only the left hand used), with a tiny bar and a long table in the window. Room for about 16 in the main room. An amazing surviving small wet led pub that is well worth a visit, if nothing else to note the natural ebb and flow of conversation between regulars who I imagine have been drinking together for decades. Tennents Ale and Heavy  plus lager on here, plus a limited spirits choice. A full review from 2011 is here.

The Seven Stars, Halfway House, Shropshire (now closed). This is, or really, this was, a very unusual set up of a public bar adjoining a hotel in a separate building. Am not sure why the hotel would not have had a bar, but wonder if maybe the Seven Stars was the destination for a more down at heel traveler - maybe the hotel bar was ostentatiously exclusive?

Me and Wee Fatha visited in 2003 and it was one of a kind. The landlord and landlady were in the kitchen behind a closed door. We sat on giant settles just to the side of the fireplace and the door to the toilets to our right (a tiled bit of wall on the detached house next door, with a screen to hide you from the road, but no provision for sitting down!), and we listened in on the radio for a good few minutes before Wee Fatha went to order our drinks.

An old lady opened the door and said "Yes?" and WF responded that he would like a couple of beers. The landlady agreed but he wanted to know what the beer was. This was not a good question. Without a flicker of sarcasm or irony of the lack of information that repeating the same information provided, she reiterated that it was "beer". Three times. Only, it wasn't strictly beer. Like an odd under-mixed beer concentrate  it was hardly recognisable as the Burtonwood they served next door. And it didn't bloody matter. The place was completely unique.

Goat,  Llanfihangel Yng Ngwynfa, near Welshpool Wales. Recently a venue for Dimpled Mug, if anything the interior in the bar seems more modern than when me and Wee Fatha and Wee Keefy visited in 2001. The first room is unmistakably domestic, the second, now with a rashly installed bar (about 30 years ago?) is still barely a pub room. We only got to visit because when we called them the lady who answered the phone said that her cousin was coming in specially on the Saturday lunch to clean the pub, so even though they didn't usually open she would leave the door unlocked so we could come and visit. Bottles of Marstons with not a hand pump to be seen. And only one sign, on the right hand wall, proclaiming the word "Goat". Brilliant.

Vine, Tunstall ,Staffordshire. An amazing back street local in the Pitts Hill area, very hard to find if you are expecting to see it from the road, since its tucked away round a corner. A dwindling army of regulars attends mainly in the right hand bar room; sadly the older female customers have now passed away and the lounge on the left, which in 2001 was just that, is more prosaic in its appearance, whereas before it had table cloths,  doilies, cushion covers, curtains and tea pots.

So as this eulogy doesn't run forever I must also briefly make mention of the Fiddichside Inn at Craigallachie, near Abelour Aberdeenshire,  the now sadly long closed Colliers Arms at Mossley, the Lion Royal Hotel at Rhayader, Wales, The Mawson , Brunswick, Manchester, the Cornewall Arms, Clodock, Herefordshire, and in a cheeky move, am going to once again include the Cider House, Defford, Worcestershire. Coz it dunt sell beer at all.

All are stunning examples of pubs that stand out for being unusual, isolated, ultra traditional and interesting in equal measure. Anyone who knows me can vouch for my love of real ale, but these are venues that encapsulate the better features of pubs gone by. They are unswervingly tilling a course that means they remind people of what pubs used to be like, and indeed what they can be like.

A last special mention should go to the Red Lion in Wensley, Derbyshire. Now closed (as far as I can ascertain, although its been difficult to tell for years) the Red Lion was a unique pub. And that's borderline euphemistic. I went in once with Chala, and Wee Keefy has been in twice with Ralphus. When we went there was no draught beer (even the keg fonts were covered with towels, al-a the Station Hotel on the Wicker Sheffield) and the only canned beer other than Guinness seemed to be Youngers Tartan Special.

We walked in muddy from a climb down the dale and were immediately greeted with a sign insisting we removed our footwear and placed plastic bags round our feet. Once inside there were possibly two rooms plus toilets. The Ladies had no running water so having fallen on her arse down the hill Chala had to wash her hands behind the bar. The gents did at least have cold water.

A couple sat to our right with a pot of tea and a plate of sandwiches, every flavour of which had beetroot in. There were formica tables and hollow cylinder chairs (made of bent metal pipe) and an old Mackeson sign, plus the smell of soup. And tea. And fear of photographs, as we discovered.  The pub struggled on until the last year or two, gaining notoriety for its "special" - half a pint of milk mixed with a can of Guinness, which, apparently, you had only 30 seconds to drink before it congealed. Ralphus was a fan. I cannot realistically explain why.

Irrespective of the odd tale above, I would still strongly urge you to seek out interesting and unspoilt pubs, even if they don't sell real ale. After all, you can always have a decent pint somewhere nearby afterwards. Though, chances are, you'll not find a glass of special....

Happy wandering

Wee Beefy

Thursday, 11 April 2013

Kegless curios


       credit for the inspiration for this post must go to former Sheffield drinker Steve C, AKA the beer-meister. He had mused, as had I, on pubs that did not sell keg beers, (or even lager), when the Mailtro published a story about the Queens Arms in Cowden Pound, Kent, doing precisely that.

Steve asked readers for suggestions of other kegless pubs and instead of helping him out like a good mate, purely, you understand because it would take up too much space in the comments box, I have decided to cobble together a list based on fuzzy memories and guess work. Much like more or less everything I write then...

First up, and am confident about this, would certainly be the Three Stags Heads, Wardlow Mires. The famous "do not ask for lager as a smack in the mouth often offends" sign has long been undermined by bottles of the same, but am convinced in the last 18 years they haven't sold anything on keg.

Next up, and a bit of a cheat I suppose, but the Cider House,  Defford, only sold cider, and possibly only from the barrel or bottle. I say sold - I really hope the place is still going, but its future has been in the balance for a few years since the landlord passed away. Its a bit of a trek to pop down on the off chance that they're open.

Meanwhile, the redoubtable Luppitt Inn, at Luppitt near Honiton in Devon almost certainly didn't, not least because beer comes from a polypin (from the Otter brewery up the road) and cider came out of the same, or possibly even a bottle.

The Barley Mow at Kirk Ireton in Derbyshire used to have lager on gravity, I swear. Probably. It, indeed any font, would have looked fairly out of place on the bar if it had been. Likewise, but this is much more guesswork based on a single visit in 2001,  the Tuckers Grave Inn at Faulkland in Somerset, with it's unusual bay window bar surely didn't have keg beer. And on a similar note, the Red Lion at Ampney St Peter likely had little room, or time for, fonts to dispense keg.  

More recent contenders may include the new breed of Micro Pubs. I may only have been in a week ago, but I'm not convinced the Little Chester Ale House sold any keg beers, its likely not part of the ethos. And the Bedlam Bar at the Black Bulls Head Openwoodgate definitely doesn't. A final roll call of maybe's includes the threatened (with substantial aesthetic change at least) New Inn at Hadlow Down, Sussex, the Bridge inn at Topsham, Devon, the Harrow at Steep in Hampshire, and the Sun Inn, Leintwardine, Herefordshire.

One thing that stands out in this list, even if it transpires that I am wrong on a few of them, is that it comprises almost exclusively pubs on the National Inventory of Unspoilt Pub Interiors. This reinforces  to some degree, the idea that the least altered beer houses  consider keg to be a modern and unwelcome development.  However, some of the finest unspoilt pubs not on that list only sell keg beer. So its clearly not that black and white.

The thread that does seem to link the venues is that the further south one travels the more examples there are. Perhaps simply indicative of the lack of real ale history in Scotland, and to an extent Wales, but nevertheless, I reckon Yorkshire is probably the cut off point for keg free establishments  That some of them just so happen to also be the best pubs in the UK is pleasingly co-incidental.

I'll see you in the Barley Mow, Steve, followed by Halcyon on Keykeg in The Bath Hotel.


Wee Beefy

Cancel the beer! There is illness here...

Good evening,

    I was supposed to be catching up with good friend J9 tomorrow, alas both f us have contracted housemaids knee, a debilitating ailment which makes us sniffle in a fog of malodorous germs whilst our faces run and our heads pound. Okay, its a cold, I admit. But I, for one, am at the losing my tastebuds stage. So I spent the beer money on vitamin C instead  Prescient then, that I invested so heavily in birthday inspired refreshment s last weekend, the last installment of which is finally here.

Wee Keefy became a year older than he'd  on April 9th 2012 yesterday. Every year he tries it on in attempting to be older than me, which is wearying,  especially since you consider that every June I myself ratchet up another score. The benefits though are plentiful. At least one night out, and sometimes a pub meal.

We met in the Beehive which, not least because its on West Street, the official capital of twats, is going slightly off the boil. Only two beers on, the Honeypot which I assume is still a Blue Bee re-badge, and the Sheffield Brewery Five Rivers. Or it might have been Seven Hills. *clears throat...*

Still, at £2.50 a pop it wasn't bad and served at a sensible temperature, to boot, when we convened in the former shop side to catch up - myself, Jack, Carlos, Half Pint, Paddington, Lauren and, um, you know, her friend, and of course Wee Keefy, with his mate Adam. Bob. Dave? Jesus. It was a long night (not that I'm suggesting Jesus was an attendee, for various ideological reasons). Anyway, all of whoever us was were having a few in here before heading for a presumably larger range at the Hop.

Now, you may know that I find the Hop a bit like a slipper with a bit of grit in. It looks inviting enough but there's something nigglingly wrong about it. We entered to find the place 4 thick at the bar, and I opted for a pint of the Ascot Alligator Ale, and others variously had choices including Excelsior, and Abbeydale Prophecy. Alas the prophecy had not come to fruition, in fact, more likely it had finished altogether, and that was swapped, with no fuss from the staff, for half an Ascot for my mate, whilst I had a pint of the excellent Riverhead Deer Hill porter. It was fantastic, and a bit over £3.00 a pint.

Later as the glasses mounted up more of us headed Ascot and Ossett way and I had more Deer Hill, but then finished on the glorious Fernandes West Coast IPA, at 6.something percent. An excellent choice, promising and delivering everything I required.

A quick change here as we headed up to Crookes for the last pub, with Jack leaving and Martim replacing her. In the Ball on Crookes I had a very nice pint of the Kelham Island Gentleman Death Baltic Porter, in fact, so good was it, I had a few. Alas, the Kelham 20th century boy tasted like that was when it was brewed, but, in stark contrast to the customer service farce I suffered in the pub 3 years ago, it was replaced without fuss, and I had yet another pint of Gentleman Death. Still eh.

On Sunday, I knew we were going to a food pub, in the countryside, where beer is often an afterthought. Lucily I was rolling up in the Closed Shop at 2 for a chinwag so was able to stock up on great beer. I say stock up. I mean sup, obviously. Here, the Muirhouse Coffee Porter started promisingly but went a bit mental on my second pint, so I consoled myself with at least two pints of Blue Bee Tangled Up IPA, at 6.0%. I;m seeing a pattern here to be honest - and it's not supporting the theory that you drink less quantities of stronger beer. Probably time to remind myself that 6.0% is not, I repeat not, session beer.

Once in the beer wagon we headed out into the Peak District to the Yorkshire Bridge Inn. Rumour, or more likely confusion, suggests I've never actually drunk there of drinking age, so affronted was I by the price of Old Peculiar. Whether I did or didn't, the pub is no longer £1.20 a pint dearer than many around it, although still a little steep.

Inside the rooms on the right are kind of more bar like than the restauranty bits, but it's silly to think that this is a quiet haven for a pint. That said, there was a decent selection of cask ale available.

Here Wee Fatha had a half of Peak ales Bakewell Bitter which I think was a shade over £3.00 a pint, whilst Wee Keefy had a birthday pint of the same and a half of Buxton Moor Top, at a slightly painful £3.40 a pint (it's 3.5% or something). Given that the other local ales (Bradfield Bitter and blonde, Abbeydale Moonshine) are stronger and cheaper, it makes me wonder maybe the cost is being insisted upon by the brewery more than the retailed. Granted it wipes the floor with the others in terms of taste, but it's an uneasy equation.
Mind you, I had another pint or two with my absolutely ginormous ham hock. A stupendous mass of food.

The final Birthday fling came about not with Wee Keefy himself, but as a result of delivering his somewhat last minute gift. Having already popped in the Church House, seemingly even darker than before, but selling a decent Caledonian Dry Dock Stout, I found the inspiration somehow, to pop back in the Closed Shop.

Here I had a  half of the Maypole Midge, a commendably hoppy pale light beer at around 3.5%, as well as a half of the Sheffield Brew Co Rustless, which was much more underwhelming than the Staybrite at the Woodside Inn. Across the road I settled on a half of Jaipur which was OK, before heading to the University Arms. Here two impeccable halves were consumed, Nethergate Umbel Ale, and, showing Muirhouse how it should be done, Dark Star Espresso, the cost of both coming to less than £3.00.

My final stop was in the Bath Hotel where I spotted the DAda folk along with other bar luminaries, and supped a pint of Whim Flower Power IPA (always an excellent choice) and a half of the Bristol Beer factory Milk Stout.

All of which means I can now safely send a few days off the ale without forgetting what it tastes like, whilst the fever rages in my joints and my eyes hurt.

Woe is me...

Wee Beefy.

Monday, 8 April 2013

Before the crawl, cometh the session

Now then,

        It's been a busy old few days in Sheffield pubs, for me. I am off work today because I had been expecting a mate over for a boozy 4 days. That never panned out, but I think that's probably for the best. Whilst I love the cramps, hot sweats and shaking, sometimes I get the feeling its probably time to hang up my tankard for a few days. Which is a shame, because I'll miss the pub of the month celebration at the Rutland. Here are just some of the many reasons that have contributed to my requiring a 3 day detox :

As I was going out Friday, travelling around the wilds of Derbyshire, I decided it would be silly not to pop out for a few post work drinks by way of preparation. I started in Shakespeares, which you may remember from the world of being that best at pubs, where I bumped into Andy M and Dave Unpro. I was once again supping the Steel City Alestorm, and chatting to Mr U about hoppy versus bitter, since the brew seemed a little more ascorbic than it had on Wednesday.

Dave being a brewer its reassuring that he knows a lot about hops, but that knowledge is rather lost in this post by the fact that I didn't, indeed almost never, take notes. So it was that I stumbled through a jumble of brewers jargon to a conversation about perceived bitterness, which I quite accurately compared to wind chill, before I got lost somewhere around the IBU explanation. And I still didn't understand the change in bitterness! This can be listed as reason number 58 why I'll never own a brewery. There are too many scientific terms and processes to understand. Unless you are Corvedale, or Restalrig, or.......

I had a pint of the Welbeck Calypso next, since the excellent Mallinsons had run out; this was again on good form, as it had been in the Cat. Alas, whilst I was enjoying standing at the bar in Sheffield's finest pub, I was determined that this shouldn't be too epic a session, so I wandered off next to DAda to have a bottle or two.

DAda was not too busy, but there was a band on, which meant when I bumped into Rupert at the bar we didn't last long discussing the finer points of drinking before we had to head off to a table round the corner so we could hear each other. I had half a Sequoia first as I waited for the Whim IPA to replace the Thornbridge Costello's which I have contrived to miss twice. The Sequoia was OK, but the Whim was far better, lots of dry bitterness and soft malt for it to sit on. However, now that I had my DAda bottled beer club card, I decided to try out the bottles.

Kernel Export Stout was first, at something approaching £5.20 a bottle. Its 7.2% and 330ml. So it seems on face value to be a rip off, but that makes it about the same price or cheaper as it is in the Dram Shop, so I don't think the breathtaking sum is the result of the legendary Thornbridge greed. I think this may instead be a Kissmeyer style situation where Kernel simply think that they are so good that their beers have to be twice as expensive as others at the same strength.

Obviously people like myself buying the product doesn't exactly undermine that rather odious outlook, but what I will say is I've had this bottle before and I know its brilliant  so I don't mind so much. Having tried their woeful table beer on keg in Leeds I can be reassured that if I only buy one of the three of their beers I like I won't be disappointed. In the end, to put this theory to the test, I bought three bottles. It was a very very good beer indeed.

I also had a Wild Beer Co Madness IPA at something around the £4.00 mark, which went down well between the dark mass of the Kernel stouts, although I can't help thinking I should have tried this in isolation. I couldn't be sure if it was merely enjoyable because it was comparatively refreshing, or whether it had some admirable body and depth. One to try again I think. I headed off soon after, knowing that I had to be up at a sensible hour the next day. So ended a great Thursday night out in Sheffield, with a good range of beer styles and strengths.

To put that statement into some context, yesterday I was telling a lady from the world of writing what it was I liked so much about a particular pub. I think, on reflection, the fact that any one pub might stand out from the list of about 10 I was originally going to nominate, is quite an accolade. Especially when you consider the excellent choice and quality of beers found in just two pubs in one night.

Wee Beefy

Saturday, 6 April 2013

Debauchery and Job-sharing in Hertfordshire


      yesterday I was out in the Derbyshire, a name which, perhaps unfairly, not only does the spell checker on here not recognise but also invariably insists should instead be debauchery. Or jobshare. Or Hertfordshire. Ouch. Luckily, the county can proudly claim to be better than those labels, as its packed full of damn fine pubs. And perhaps, none finer than some of those I had a warm in yesterday.

I got the train to Derby, and had a quick half of Dashingly Dark at the Derby Brewery tap, before catching the bus towards Belper, and alighting at Openwoodgate. I had never been there before, but had heard good things about its 2 pubs.

I went into the Hop Inn first since the bus stops outside. There were 7 hand pumps with 2 beers coming soon so I ordered a pint and sat down near the welcoming fire to sup a pint if Bumpmill Drops of Jupiter. It was a little tired, but not unpleasant, and I think that all beers are £2.70 a pint - so maybe the stronger offerings, like Abbeydale Black Mass which I studiously avoided, sell quicker? This was my first of the day so was a short sup, and a short stop. I think the pub is still finding its feet - it seems an odd mish mash of young drinkers and family pub and real ale house.

Across the road is the Black Bulls Head in Openwoodgate. Its bloody brilliant basically. A fantastic 30's interior, but with  modern furnishings, a big comfy red leather sofa, onion and cheese cobs at a £1.00, (there's a slice of onion as thick as your finger with a similar slab of cheese) warming fires in each room, 8 real ales, and a bar in a former slaughterhouse at the back. What more could you want?

Having sensibly passed on the Black Mass at the Hop, I rather less sensibly went straight for the excellent Whim Flower Power in here, about 5.4% and £3.00 a pint - excellent value. This from a range that also included Phoenix Wobbly Bob, Marble Pint, Hand Drawn Monkey Monkeys Love Hops and Titanic Cappuccino stout.

Having a tour of the Bedlam Bar out the back with the Landlord I noted there were also 5 beers on in there as well. The problem was, it didn't open til Three. Well over an hour off. And I wanted to be at the Dead Poets in Holbrook for half 4, and, well, the Flower Power was being supped too easily. I could see the day getting messy.

So I dropped down an ABV and had half of the Hand Drawn monkey beer, which was quite nice, a darker bitter and far more palatable than their clumsy keg collaboration with Quantum. I then noticed the bus to Belper go past. I abandoned my Belper idea and instead walked to the village of Bargate nearby to go the White Hart.

Another first for me, this old stone pub is run by the guy who had the Holly Bush at Makeney for years. A slightly cleaner looking joint, serving meals ( although possibly the Holly Bush did?)   but still with real fires and real ales. From a range of 4 I had halves of the Tower IPA, and Navigation Lepus, which came to £2.90. The Lepus was a surprisingly malty beer, a bit like a brown ale, and the Tower IPA had that Tower taste which I can never nail. Enjoyable though, as was my quick visit.

I went back to Openwoodgate next and I popped in the Hop again. I got chatting to Amy and Jamie who run the joint, and had a pint of Dukeries beer, not sure which one alas. They seem to be doing the right things in trying to get the pub back on its feet and it is cheaper than the Black Bulls Head, and they do hearty food,  but I think they have quite a task to compete. Having said that, the 7.1 bus route features two pubs on Chapel Street Holbrook, the White Hart at Bargate as well Belper's hostelries at the other end and the Little Chester Ale House on its way out of Derby, so the competition should create quite a bit of interest in visiting the pubs along the route.

Back at the Black Bulls Head I went straight onto Bedlam bar. What a gem. A big wood burner, a high dark wood bar down one side with pint and half pint dimpled mugs hung in the inside of it, and barrels and cider boxes stillaged behind. The choice on gravity is Bass, Pedigree Taylor Landlord and a couple of guests - Everards Original, and Leadmill Imperial Russian Stout at £3.10. Pretty good value at 8%.

Much trade seemed to be take out with people coming to fill up jugs and containers. I think the seating probably dissuades long visits (cut down logs) but if you are a vertical drinker perhaps that doesn't matter. I loved it personally, with its uneven brick floor and troughs for draining the blood now flanking the stack of chopped wood, and the smell - oh the smell! Heady wood smoke, absolutely lovely. Add to this the inexpensive beer and free cheese and biscuits and this is a must visit bar that simply improves what is already a truly excellent pub. I had 3 halves, Bass, Taylors and the Imperial Stout. Well it would be silly not to...

I also bumped into Yvonne and Helena from Nottingham  who were out warming up (not really!) for Yvonne's birthday party later that day. They had already been to the Dead Poets which was where I was heading, and they were both straight onto the Leadmill in the Bedlam bar. They also had my eye for timing - "How long we got? 7 Minutes? I'll just have a quick half... " This is classic Wee Beefy reasoning. Admirably done.

I bade them farewell as I was off to the Dead Poets next. Unchanging, traditional, welcoming and popular nicely sums the pub up, and I was quickly served with a pint of the Navigation Stout, a far better beer than their offering earlier. It was also very tasty and warming, supped as I sat in a big leather chair surveying the bar, listening to the hub-ub of conversation, and watching a steady stream of drinkers come away from the bar with lovely enticing pints of real ale. A classic pub.

Next I had to compete the "catching the 138" challenge, for which you will need a weak lemon drink. And a bit of local knowledge - since there's no bus stop. You just stand opposite the Post Office, and wait.......

This took me to Kilburn and I was able to go to the Hunters Arms, another pub offering free nibbles, this time sarnies pork pie and sausage roll. I did go back for a few helpings because, having somewhat rashly chose to drink Blue Monkey Infinity and the Dark Star Revelation, I noticed I was becoming a trifle refreshed. Great beer and atmosphere in the Hunters, and the beer was about £3.00 a pint.

I was soon back in Derby and looking to walk up Mansfield Road to Chester Green. Unfortunately, in a state of mild befuddlement, I kind of lost track of how to get over the dual carriage way (literally, not in terms of dealing with its departure from my life) and ended up accidentally sort of walking up it a bit. Ooops. Luckily I came out near the Flowerpot, and went in for a half that has mysteriously not been recorded and to jibber tediously at some poor bloke about getting lost and how I'd get to Chester Green. The patient gent very kindly gave me the directions I needed. Even after I asked him to repeat them for the 5th time...

The walk probably did me good and I arrived in good time, to find Little Chester Ale House rammed. Not that this is an unusual scenario am guessing - its very small. Its Derby's first Micropub. And its brilliant.

I started on something pale and hoppy from a range of four real ales and got chatting to the folks behind the bar and some blokes stood drinking at the right hand side. There somehow manages to be two rooms and a drinking corridor (and a loo, obviously) and every available stool and chair was utilised by drinkers. I got to take some pics as well, and got one of the lady behind the bar serving me a pint of Wentwell Barrel Organ Blues which was a pleasant dark bitter.

There's something incredibly prosaic about a small pub that sells nothing but real ale. Its excellent enough for being so cosy and simply furnished and for being made in the image of great real ale bars around the country, but the sheer brilliant simplicity of the concept makes it a must visit venue. Am looking forward to doing just that.

I walked back into Derby and just had chance for a last pint - inevitably Bass from the jug, at the Station on midland Road, nicely topping off a great day. Overall this trip showed me that there are still many excellent pubs in Derbyshire to be discovered. And someone has to travel out and report on that. I take up that challenge, with all the pressure and weight of responsibility it comes with.


Wee Beefy

Friday, 5 April 2013

*Shakes hand*


     on Tuesday night, The CAMRA (you've seen the CAMRA), Sheffield corps, wrest free from a tradition of only awarding pub of the year to pubs in one square 50 meters of each other - and recklessly and without warning, only done gone did award it there to them nearby. Or something.

In short, the cabal was broken up. And a  new pub was to grab the accolade.

And so it was that a pub that never seemed it would reopen, struggling via pipe theft and sinking expectation prior to Tramlines 2011, opened, and then steadily grew in stature and within the affections of many Sheffield folk. So was born the Shakesperes Ale and Cider House  Far far too long a name for a blogger to reference frequently. Far too accurate a moniker for a purveyor of the best of all the above.

(Its probably worth glancing at my original post on the pub, to see if I gauged its revival right. There's easily too much mumping over a window, but maybe am not far off here....?)

Meanwhile I heard this news on the Internet, which is a person  and arranged to meet my friend Mr Marsh, from the world of the past. Once there, on the crest of a wave of celebration, I first had a pint of Mallinsons Anna Perenna, which was ace, followed by a pint of Sheffield's own Steel City brew Alestorm. The addition of a female touch made this otherwise admirably bitter hop fest of a beer a well rounded triumph,  and I was quick to recognise this. So much so that after Mr Marsh had left I joined Brewers Dave Unpro and Shazz and set about having rather a lot of pints to celebrate.

Not just that but Dave was having his 20,000th (tasted, ever) beer that night. And it was his. I don't go in for obsessive trying of new beers myself, but this seemed like a great example of it's merits, and I extend a hearty well done to Dave for his accomplishing such a feat.

Later, Unpro and Shazz were having a curry from across the road in the best pub ever, so I joined in and had a blob of snap myself. In between times, I had halves of Great Newsome Jem Stout, which was excellent, a pint of Welbeck Calypso, plus further halves of Mallinsons and Steel City, with the latter winning as I drank three of them.

We were joined by Mrs Aunty Colleen from the CAMRA, who also partook of some curry and ale, and as I spent ages finishing my curry, supping my beer and putting 50's tracks on the Jukebox, I was able to remind myself, as if I needed, why the Shakespeares was such a worthy winner. Great beer. Sensible prices. Great facilities. Fantastic Staff. I realise though, honestly, that I knew this forever ago Which is an actual period of time. And everything.....

A thoroughly well deserved award for a fine pub.

Wee Beefy

Monday, 1 April 2013

Amber worship.

Hello again,

     Friday was a good Good Friday.

Socialising, drinking, not being at work, trying a new beer, all things that brighten one's outlook. One hing struck me though, awaking this morning to the resonating clink of bottles in blue bins and having seen the usual crowds heading into town, it seems the socialising element of the long weekend features as heavily as it does over Christmas. Mainly the alcohol related socialising.

Personally I think this is a good thing, what with pubs struggling at the moment, but the fact that the "good" element of Good Friday is unlikely to reflect the practice of having the day off and going out to drink lots of beer, suggests the church is missing a trick. After all, there's nowt as thirst inducing as an hour or two of salvation seeking. So I'm told...

Growing up in Crookes the Princess Royal and St Timothy's church just up the road seemed, to an outsider at least, inexorably linked, being the default post service destination of much of the congregation. Further afield, the village of Dale Abbey had a single building supporting both such vital institutions, with the pub on one side joined to or more likely kept separate from the church, by a locked door, and I'm sure that across the country almost every village church had or still has a pub next door or across the road. Ale and church are not, therefore, so odd a couple.

This revelation, no pun intended, thus nicely fits in with my 172 part series "convoluted justifications for going out drinking", keeping which in mind I'd like to dedicate the below described outing to the practice of pilgrimage, and the search for reward through knowledge. Jesus wept, so to speak.....

My first stop on this beer theophany was the Closed Shop. Inside it appeared that nobody had caught on to the fact that the pub was open, whilst they weren't at work. Mr N H Rodgers from the world of studies was at the bar, and Mr Stephens was behind it, dispensing ales and stories as always, so this was a good start, although initially my heart sank when I spotted no dark beer. Luckily I discovered that Brass Castle Bad Kitty was coming on. I immediately revised my expected time of arrival at the next place of worship.

Bad Kitty vanilla porter is a very fine beer indeed. I first tried Brass Castle brewery beers at Magna 2012 and considered both to be some of the best beers there, so I was excited to be trying a sip. Although, I had substantially more than a sip.

Being a fan of quiet pubs this lightly populated scene suited me just fine, and but for a spot of photography, to record the interior as is before the refurbishment, it was just supping and talking, exactly how a pub visit ought to be. Obviously, spoilsports like Mr Stephens and business partner Chris would no doubt have preferred if the equilibrium of our drinking had been interrupted by "more customers" but for an hour at least it was mainly ours.

Alas eventually other people finished home for the day and came out, and after 3 and a half pints of Brass Castle I tried to pretend I wasn't going over the road to that pub, the whatever it is.

In the Hallamshire House where I didn't go, I sat in the snug with a lovely and much needed roaring fire, to sup a pint of Jaipur and a half of Juvenia. That Thornbridge beer has something of a reputation for being costly is true, but the extra pennies did at least help me reach the £5.00 minimum card limit and thus avoid another hunt for a cash machine. And, like the night before, the Juvenia was on very good form, as was the Jaipur.

As you may know my next stop was an unplanned one, at the Hadfield, after which I headed into town to DAda for its "First pour" amazing new beer launch. Disappointingly, Coalition was just another pale beer brewed with a well respected brewery across the sea, this time Terrapin Beer Co, (probably, we all remember what happened the last time I only glanced at a collaborative brewery name...) and served on Keykeg. Had it been the stupendous Old Ale of the same name, brewed with Dark Star, I'd have bought a couple of pints. Although that would have cost considerably more, so its swings and roundabouts.

I did have another pint in here as well but unfortunately I have left DAda since then, the very act of doing which has emptied my head of all memories, so we'll just have to assume it was a tasty guest beer, which they usually are in DAda.

And so endeth my search for salvation, but definitely not redemption. Eight times over.

Wee Beefy

The elsewheres

Good afternoon,

      here are the details of the elsewheres on my yomp on Saturday, when we walked from Birchover to Bonsall (and not a metre further!).

The Miners Standard at Winster is a fine old 17th century pub selling 4 real ales,including, to my surprise, a beer I'd never heard of - Pentrich Revolution Best Bitter. I suppose it could be a house beer, but either way it was very nice and refreshing.

Mind you, if it hadn't taken me nearly 15 minutes to get served behind a blob of indecisive Mavis types ordering and reordering meals along with a shameless selection of fiddly drinks, I might have been slightly less thirsty, even despite having slogged it uphill to the pub. The bargain £2.40 price did go some way to offsetting the annoyance but the indecisive amnesiac in front of me could have looked round after 10 minutes hogging the bar to see if anyone was about to pass out - as indeed, could the landlord. Poor.

In Matlock Bath we went to the Temple Hotel, and discovered to our surprise that it was dead. I know its up a very steep hill (climbed up for he first time since we got a taxi from Bonsall) but there was only 2 other customers for the first 20 minutes, plus another who arrived as we and the other two were leaving. I hope this is a seasonal anomaly, because its a cracking pub. And it still sells the impeccable Blue Monkey BG Sips, which we both had a pint of.

Our next stop was a new one on us both. The Fishpond is the kind of place that has a judgeable cover. I have never felt remotely inclined to go in, but two separate people recommended it to me at the Barley Mow beer fest so we ventured in. There are three distinct areas, including an off shot room with restaurant looking seating, a comfortable lounge area at the end and some long tables near the bar. On which, are 8 handpumps selling amongst more super regional offerings, some interesting regional ales, including Blue Monkey BG Sips.

We were on halves in here so I had a blue Monkey Marmoset which was an easy drinking hoppy session ale, and Miss M had a half of Dancing Duck nice weather for ducks. Both were in good form, and it was good to see what is ostensibly a quite modern stylish venue not only selling real ale but also allowing dogs. This had been a  recurring theme of the day.

Our penultimate stop of the crawl followed a tiring charge to Matlock after we narrowly missed the bus. Moca bar was having a beer festival, with up to 20 beers stillaged opposite the bar, and well priced snacks on sale to soak up the alcohol. Although we were really pushed for time I had time for half a Titanic Cappuccino stout, and an excellent Black Hole Super Nova, a brilliantly zesty pale ale with lots of well balanced hops.

Once in Derby, we headed for the Station and inevitably quaffed pints (well, I did) of the excellent Bass from the jug. I think I may have made a new convert of the gravity dispensed Bass in here.

When we finally arrived back in Sheffield we parted company, and I had a pint of the Ilkley Lotus IPA in the Sheffield Tap, which was exceptional. Sat in the brewery room, I watched whilst 2 couples sitting nearby played out a rather amusing game of "we'll go for the next one" as successive train options passed them by, and numerous pints of the Titanic Plum Porter passed their lips. Good humoured, happy and slightly drunk, this was a great example of the positive social side of drinking.

So its been a very, ahem, "busy" four days, but now I am in a position to relax, compose myself, and plan next week's outings in the death throes of winter.


Wee Beefy