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

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