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 ".....is 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.