Wednesday, 29 May 2013

Old Stagers


      Sam Smiths. The Royal Cottage pub. The Fat Cat, Alma Street, Sheffield. Three great examples of  redoubtable institutions that I can rely on to deliver, in their own inimitable way. Thus.

Tuesday night I had rashly organised to visit the pub with a friend. Having confirmed my intention only Monday afternoon it was almost impressive that I hadn't remembered until telling a mate what I had lined up for the evening "I'm going straight home to make my tea, because I don't want to..oh sh*t! I'm going to the chuffing pub!" I swear no-one gets my pain. Sarcasm abounded.

So it was I escaped at a sensible time and went to the Fat Cat. Whilst the Heavygate may have been the birthplace of my pub visiting, the Cat is the birthplace of my drinking pints of real ale. It became so at a momentous time.

In one weekend in 1993, I left home, I drank my first ever Kelham Island brewery beer, bought two bottles of Thomas Hardy Ale, visited the Wellington and drank Hanby Black Magic Mild and Ryburn Coiners, and led my mates on a dubiously ill thought out ramble through back streets to the Fat cat (studiously avoiding the White Hart, with its "reputation"....)

It was rammed inside, bloody boiling, and the only seat left was by the fire. I had a pint of Buffy's something or other (this was 20 years ago, go easy on me!) and a pint of Youngs Winter Warmer - pints six and seven of the night. As the roaring furnace burnt my skin I moved to get some fresh air - I went outside and the cold felled me like a tree.

Like any mature sensible adult, I sought solace and respite from the warmth by laying against the wall outside with my head pressed on some lovely cold bricks. I figured someone in the party would be concerned about my absence, and then, after about twenty minutes, I got up and walked back inside to reassure people I was OK. Sarcasm and a lack of concern is a response I have encountered for some time now it seems....

Back to 2013 and I had a pint of Salopian Divine Comedy, a fruity 3.9% mild. It was very tasty, and I followed it with a pork pie and a pint of Derby Brewing Co Back to Black, with a further half of the Salopian brew. My companion, Mr M, was onto soft drinks alas, but that this was the first time he'd visited since we worked together years ago probably meant it didn't matter.

Cue reminiscing about our weird employment experiences at the NEAB - a sort of rest home for the unusual, the unemployable, the not easily understandable and the drunk - plus a gaggle of young uns and students and some genuinely great people like George and Howard. This may have only been a short session in the Fat Cat, about 90 minutes, but it was, and inevitably continues to be, one to enjoy.

And now to where it all began - in terms of drinking this weekend.

I was nearly home, awaiting a booze free night in preparation for overtime when Wee Keefy rang. Did I want to go the Royal Cottage? Well, yes, come to think of it I did. I spent a goodly amount of time thinking about how I was letting myself down after nearly a week of abstinence, mind. But eventually reassured him I'd attend. That quandary took about 2 seconds.

We picked up Wee Fatha en route, to join us and, as WK succinctly put it  "yer having a bloody drink" since he was on driving duties. WF is strictly a washback or evaporation drinker. A pint can last days. Its an  impressively stoic undertaking.....

Cliff was pleased to see us, as was Jesse the Rottweiler, who had an injury that was largely restricting her to sitting by the fire indoors and fussing and being fussed by customers. Must have been a bloody nightmare for her! There was one guy in already when we arrived but I think we spooked him so it was business as usual - updating Cliff on Sheffield news, me and WK on Old Speckled Hen, and WF, for a change, on Newky Brown. One assumes this choice is as ironic as my buying a Greedy King beer.

Pretty soon the place was rammed - with the arrival of regular visitor Sam meaning there was 5 of us. We can never work out how he gets to the pub - there's never lights or the sound of a vehicle pulling up outside, yet he wears proper smart dress shoes. Surely he doesn't walk? Straight away the conversation got onto the topic of the moment. I assumed the Woolwich subject would hasten an orgy of bar theologist protestations but I learned something about the Royal Cottage. Its not an angry man's pub.

We sat and drank, and discussed, with a mixture of resignation, bewilderment, thoughtful questions and reassuring flights of fancy, just about everything and anything, for what seemed ages. No one lost the plot. No one tried to counter anger with anger. It was just 5 blokes talking about a subject that was too vast to cover but too poignant to ignore.

Before we knew it, half eleven came and went. Normally we would have sloped off to find real ale at the Quiet Woman or Packhorse but this time WF had wanted to stay, and although I confess to having the titty lip on at first, I'm glad we heeded his request. Because that was my first, and for so many reasons perhaps my only, session in the Royal Cottage.

Meanwhile I've just cracked open a bottle of Sam Smiths Imperial Stout. This completes a trio of old stagers in my drinking world, especially since I used to buy lots of Sams bottles in the nineties. It may be full of crystal malt or overtly "bretty" for all I know, but it tastes exactly like the strong beers that every regional brewery  seemed to produce when I stated supping. You know, when you could still find dusty bottles of Courage Imperial Russian Stout on bar shelves that were brewed in 1991.

The combination of which unchanging emblems paints a reassuring picture for me. Of friends and family, and pubs and beers of character.

Wee Beefy.

Tuesday, 28 May 2013

How to constructively utilise the bank holiday weekend.


          well, so finishes another refreshing bank holiday where I laboured under the laughable delusion that I might not end up using it as a massive 72 hour alcoholic sponge, but instead an opportunity to do something constructive. To be fair, I did - I cut the hedge (and the hedge trimmer wires, like a bellend), I did some cleaning and I worked overtime. I also hosted a friend for a night of offal and alcohol and took some photographs. In reality though, these were just supporting turns to the unfolding acts of libation.

Official relaxation begin Friday night but that's a separate post. Saturday, in a move that made people think it was in fact Friday, I was at work doing something I hear people describe as "overtime". No idea why I chose such a lovely weekend to spend 6 hours indoors but at least it made me ready for a pint afterwards. Luckily, there was no shortage  of potential venues.

Shakespeares has a beer yard and around 14.00 it gets the sun. So I popped in, bought a pint of Revolutions Brew Severin Mild and sat outside delighting in remembering what sitting in hot sun feels like. Alas the Severin didn't stick round long so I headed back to the bar to replenish - returning with a half of something from Wansum Brewery, and a half of Ommegang Hennepin saison, at a not terribly practical 7.7%. I needed to be back for 5ish to start prepping the meal. This had the potential to get messy.

I got chatting to a couple with an large friendly dog (sorry couple with a large friendly dog, but in not having tattooed your names on my arms I'm afraid they escape me...) and this preempted another round of Wansum and Ommegang, before finally finishing on a half of Black Iris Top Hard. Nice to see the Iris about, but the felt-tip pump clip was never going to match up to their usual output.

Sunday dawned sunny so I did a bit of hedge (and other) cutting before heading off to town about 15.00. My rewarding trip out was annoyingly stalled by my realising I forgot my wallet, just as I got of the bus in town. When, after going home and back, I finally arrived at the Sheffield Tap, it had been a pointless 2 hour trip. Time to catch up...

Here I had a pint of Tapped Brewing Co Growler Citra Pale ale and a half of the Tapped and Thornbridge collaboration Lady Grey (I think) unfiltered IPA. A stonking strong pale ale with an odd but not unpleasant aftertaste that went down well, even better when mixed with the Growler. I got another round of this just to robustly test the theory then had a pint of Magic Rock High Wire and half a Tapped Brew Co Miami Weiss whilst sitting in the sunshine, chatting to Dada Ems about the important things in life. Like beer, for instance.

The Closed Shop welcomed me next via the worst portion of chips imaginable from the grumpy Chinese nearby. Here I caught up with Dave on her quiz reading debut, and had a lovely pint of something which the overwhelming fear of having to listen to a quiz at all completely erased. I would have stopped to talk to various fine folk and drank more had I not been desirous of running away. Jim at the Alma at Mosborough set the tone for pub quizzes. Its really not worth competing.

My final stop was the Bath Hotel where I sat in dusky seclusion in the lovely snug with the cold blue night of the set sun falling beautifully onto the blue upholstered seating and scrubbed tables. Accompanying me was a rather splendid pint of Hawkshead Windemere Pale Ale.

Monday was an even later start as I finished hedge pushing (with  my spare but blunt hedge trimmer which is about as effective as stroking the foliage with a spoon) before finally escaping at 6PM for a late one. I started at Shakespeares with a pint of Steel City Walpurgis Nacht. This hefty hoppy dark wheat beer was a pleasing if slightly OTT starter so I went for something pale and had a pint of the Sheffield brewing Co EFA IPA. Usually their IPA series beers are pretty good but this was really disappointing.

Amid the crescendo of noise form the loudest and most overbearing people on earth in the bar, I finished on a pint of Little Valley Stoodley Stout, which was excellent, before heading for the Wellington. Here I had a pint of their rather brilliant Little Ale Cart Sorachi, a Sorachi Ace and Citra pale ale late hopped with Herkules. I also found time for a half of their mild, which was very enjoyable, if not strictly really a mild at all.

Next I ill advisedly struggled skywards on Upperthorpe before popping out at Commonside and heading to the Hallamshire House. I only had a quick half of Jaipur here because for some reason the Thornbridge beers I like never seem to have been on when I pop in, and this was another such occasion. Across the road at the Closed Shop it was dark beers all round with my having a couple of pints of the Lincoln Green Tuck Porter, nd a refreshing half of Whittlebury Amarillo, before Chris persuaded me (a bit) to try an absurdly strong yet  rounded 46 year old whisky from, erm, a distillery. I had a pint and a half of water with that double, which seemed scarily large, and i think this may have been what got me home. An excellent end to the session but probably a very bad idea.

Luckily for my liver its 3 months til the next bank holiday, so for now I'll just have to remember how much I've enjoyed these last three sunny days, whilst staring out of the rain lashed window at work, or struggling through icy stair rods on the way there and back, until the next one.


Wee Beefy.

Sunday, 26 May 2013

Oh dear God, he's on about old pubs again...

I know, I know.

     however, I have something to reflect, about how an overheard conversation about a lost boozer (that's a building, not a sot) can stand out strikingly in the hub-ub of bar room noise.

The other night in the Closed Shop I overheard a bloke who seemed to be describing his impending move into or ongoing conversion of, the former Old Heavygate Inn, at nearby Crookes. A subtle nod from a member of staff that perhaps former customers may be in this pub and not share in his weird self congratulatory pleasure made no odds, and instead  elicited the response "perhaps if some of those customers had gone to the pub it would still be open".


I can't really tell you how I felt about that blithe remark.

Because I hadn't ever expected to encounter someone not only taking joy in destroying hundreds of years of history, but even admitting to converting a pub intro a house, (or worse still developing the property into flats for profit). Yet here was a man who as well as having the dubious honour of confirming the above, also combined a glaringly simplistic assessment of the malaise affecting the urban pub, with a distasteful lack of awareness of the magnitude of the act he was talking about performing.

I cut short my conversation with Dave to hear the rest of the raconteur's musings but alas he slipped away with his drink and I never saw him again.

Maybe I can be prone to a slight case of over romanticising when it comes to old buildings, pubs especially, and the role they play. But in my defence, I really think it's rare to find someone not even slightly sympathetic toward those whose memories he, even in a small way, has played a part in trampling over, or that isn't attuned to the feelings that they might have. Especially when I find myself being one of that group of people.

Its a curious sensation. And quite frankly, one I'd rather not experience again.

How strange our race, who love bricks and mortar,
Near as much as hops and malt, and water.

Wee Beefy

Thursday, 23 May 2013

Greater Pubchester

Ay up

    on Sunday I met Wee Fatha out Abbeydale Road way to be picked up and whisked off to Manchester to meet up with Dimpled Mug (DM) and to visit a rather impressive list of pubs, not least the Racecourse Hotel in Salford, and the Queens Arms in Patricroft that DM himself had recommended.

WF as always chose a crow flies (drunkenly though) route down minor roads all the way to the Snake before following a familiar if busy route onto the motorway heading for Eccles. We arrived just gone 14.00 but it was near half past by the time we got parked - albeit next to the pub we were heading for, The Lamb              which is on the National Inventory of Unspoilt Pub Interiors (N.I).Once inside, I quickly remembered that I didn't actually know, with any certainty, what DM looked like. Cue much confusion when a bloke came up and said "Hello Iain" and started telling WF how to sort out the car parking problem.

WF piped up "have you found your mate then" and spooked by this I asked the guy if he was Dimpled Mug, then quickly made the situation worse by saying I was meeting a bloke in the pub but didn't know what he looked like. Luckily I added the caveat that he was interested in pubs, but the bloke had walked off by then.

DM found we finished our pint and a half of Holts Bitter and Mild and headed for Patricroft. En route we mentioned that I hadn't been in the N.I listed Stanley Arms nearby so we made an impromptu stop there, me and DM with pints of Holts Bitter, WF on tomato juice, poor lad. The Stanley Arms is a fantastic street corner local, and despite the large ostentatious excesses of the Lamb, the Grapes and the Royal Oak, I think this is perhaps my favourite Eccles pub. A small, busy vault at the front plus a lounge on the left, a small bar and corridor (with a 3rd room being all but domestic) this is a cracking little pub that I'll visit again.

Next we arrived at the Queens Arms Patricroft. What an astonishing boozer. Up a road cum track that goes back on itself as you head from Eccles, I can't imagine anyone would ever find this place by accident. Granted, being one of, if not the first purpose built railway pubs, passengers at Patricroft Station would have known all about it but I doubt even Wee Fatha remembers it being open.

Its relative isolation and non-existent passing trade have perhaps contributed to its unspoilt features - and there are many. A lounge, in the more literal sense is on the right, with a long front vault and the bar in the middle. An unusual standing lobby style area is separated by a wall - this was probably the off sales. The floor is covered in fantastic black and white tiling which leads to a room on the back right and another longish room on the left, with the entrance slightly enlarged (in fact the back room is just that now - it would have been two). A long corridor with half height paneling and another serving hatch and entrance to the vault runs the length of the pub beside the bar, at the end of which are toilets which even include a baffle.

Beer wise in here we had pints of Thwaites Best since the Blonde that they usually sell had run out. The combo of large fireplaces, old brewery mirrors, snob screens, original doors and windows made for an intoxicating mix. Many thanks to DM for this excellent recommendation.

Next off for a contrasting pub, the Racecourse Hotel in Salford. A ginormous dull grey warehouse of a building but of admirable mock Tudor inspiration, fantastic internal features and innumerable internal rooms. The huge gantry-less bar with the spirits housed on stands reminded me of a poorer version of that in the Central Bar Leith, and the large paneled rooms to the right and back left were austere (in their size versus furniture), but this was accentuated by the movement of tables and chairs in preparation for an upcoming 50th.

The Oakwell Mild was alas run out so it was pints of Bitter for me and DM, whilst we spent time exploring this |N.I giant, including the huge "vault", bigger than some pubs on their own, and with a separate entrance, that was hired out to clubs and groups. As I mentioned on Tuesday the pub will close on Sunday 26th May so I'd highly recommend you go and take a look. A real shame.

I had never been to Higher Broughton before. To be honest, except for the roads leading to  the Racecourse, my only previous experience of Salford was Chapel Street and the area round the Crescent. So I didn't expect anything but derelict buildings, flats and wide dual carriage ways as we headed to the Star on Back Hope Street. WF and DM however were already assuring me of Higher Broughton's finer points and reputation. Even then I was surprised and impressed as we trundled up a cobbled tree lined lane and parked behind Back Hope Street.

Walking down there is in fact another pub bang opposite our destination with some fantastic tiling advertising Openshaw Brewery ales and stouts on the side. Alas the Horseshoe may have been closed for a while, though its in good nick. Luckily the excellent Star Inn has been brought by a community co-operative. It has a brewery, an unspoilt interior and is a focal point in Higher Broughton. It's brilliant, to be quite honest.

Architecture wise there is a tiny bar as you enter to the right with seating for all of about 10 people, then a small joining corridor to a long lounge with a fireplace at the end. Through the door on the right is the loos and a back room on the left which used to have a pool table but is now more empty and better suited to  revealing interesting period furniture and features. Fully deserving of its place on part 2 of the N.I, there are up to 3 real ales served, but we were all on the Star Inn brewery Starry Night, a very palatable pint.

Sadly DM had to meet some mates elsewhere so left us at this point, whilst we trekked on towards Bury to become discombobulated trying to find the Irwell Works, a building advertised by only a banner across the top floor, it seems. Once inside however we found a range of about 8 beers on, WF having some of my pint of Irwell Works Tin Plate Mild, after which I moved onto a pint of their excellent Eldorado pale ale. Great views of the area through the windows and a friendly atmosphere wiped away some of our frustration at not being able to locate it.

Back into Manchester next we had food on the mind and headed to Pi at Chorlton. My first visit to the area was a pleasant one, with the bar reminding me very much of the Treacle Tap in Macclesfield, to the point where I have to assume they are owned by the same company?

We had inexpensive pie and mash in here (my beef and chorizo with beer gravy was incredibly satisfying) and drinks wise WF had his sought after Tatton Blonde, and me a pint of their Penny-less pale ale. Afterwards, I also tried a half of Millstone Vale Mild and a very enjoyable Red Willow Witless, which even I concede is better on Keykeg. The end is nigh....

Our penultimate stop was for Wee Fatha as he wanted to visit the Cheshire Line. Its something of a large Marstons eatery more than a pub now and was painfully quiet, but the halves of Ringwood 49er and Marstons Empire were decent enough, though the Marstons was in fact by far the better.

We rolled up finally at our last stop in Woodford and visited traditional Robbies house the Thief's Neck, AKA the Davenport Arms. I think this pub suffered in my estimation from having seemed by description a really unspoilt pub, which via a combination of tiredness, being busy, and light free loos made me slightly less able than expected to appreciate the place.

That said, in terms of traditional features, outside loos is a sure sign of a good pub. And the friendly staff laughed off my rather mardy complaints (they hadn't turned the lights on see, but I thought there was a sensor or light switch which...ah well...) and the beer was enjoyable - WF had a single atom of his Unicorn best and I had the rest plus a pint of Robinsons Seasonal Uncle Sam.

Before long we'd got back in the car to set off home and I awoke about two minutes later, nearly home. I never realised Woodford was so near...

Thanks to WF for driving me to the corners of Greater Manchester, and to DM for his company and knowledge. A fantastic trip that was the perfect end to my two weeks of sottish excess.

Wee Beefy.

Wednesday, 22 May 2013

A crapulence of Wanderiains

Hello again,

               as previously mentioned (possibly?), the primary reason for my self enforced abstinence this week is recognition that I have somewhat overdone May so far. Having been out almost every night for two weeks even I had the remaining brain power to surmise that actually I'd been very silly. Not that I hadn't enjoyed  being very silly. Its rather fun, I tend to find.

Anyhoo, this shaky procession of dry hours gives me the chance to catch up on some news about said events, which I hope to accurately convey hereafter.

Wednesday (not today, keep up!) was Wanderiains day, and since it was switching between sunshine and pouring rain so it seemed only sensible to walk to the Gardeners Rest. This time we broke with tradition and settled in the snug on the left, taking with us pints of Long Itch Light relief for me and a weaker offering of theirs for Mr P. Neither were exactly accomplished beers, but were refreshing, so we quickly dispatched them and moved onto a pint of Pennine Test match for Mr P and a pint of Blue Bee Brown Ball for me. And yes, it really is the bitterest brown beer in Sheffield.

A quick walk round to the Ship followed but in our haste we had arrived early so decamped to the Wellington for halves of Little Ale Cart Sir William something with an A in it (my notes offer Blake, Sage and Gage - chances are its none). Then we nipped back over the road to find the footy on in the Ship, where I had a pint and a half of the Deception and Mr P a surprisingly palatable Bradfield Rhubarb bitter. It was nice to sit in the left hand side watching the sun stream through the windows, and it was a shame to leave to be honest.

I finished in Shakespeares where I chatted to Keith and big Ron about pubs and supped a pint of Rat Brewery Light Mild and Hop Studio Black IPA, both of which were in good nick.

Thursday was supposed to be my "day off" but a wall of brain achingly complex work and a weird text from Christingpher about 16.00 heralded another reckless night of refreshments. We met at Shakespeares and I started with a pint of Mallinsons Bramling, which was every bit as good as I'd expected, and went to sit with Christingpher in the beer yard. Alas, the warm sunshine had deserted the area hours ago and before long it was raining so we headed inside, where we both had pints of the same.

Next we traveled to Commonside to visit the Closed Shop where we bumped into Mr Stephens (hardly surprising) and also Dave, AKA Closed Shop Kate. As you know, I;m a big fan of humour by repetition, so in only two years I'll definitely have tired of referring to Dave as Dave. Instead of Kate....

Here there was more glorious beer talk as well as a decent smattering of noise on the jukebox. Christingpher was very sensibly on the Raw Majjic Mild whilst I had two pints of the also excellent Welbeck Abbey Cavendish, before we undertook the rather lengthy but downhill walk to the Ship at Shalesmoor.

So began my second ever proper session in here, ensconced near the jukebox and putting away an ominous number of pints of the Bradfield Rhubarb Bitter. Three hours passed with conversation ranging from random events from our childhood, to classic arguments we'd had with friends. In some ways, a drinking session with some one you've known 35  years is hard to beat. In the end, it was only my ongoing employment that brought this festival of slaking to an end.

Friday I was going out with my dear friend Middlemarch but alas she caught a debilitating illness that meant she didn't even want to go out drinking. So, instead of leaving early for pints I diligently stayed at work til late - then caved in and ran away to the Closed Shop for beer and solace. Luckily, I bumped into Vinnie and Daniel who I'd met at Pete Green's birthday the other day and so ended up gatecrashing their get together.

Here I was on a mixture of Raw Dark Peak Stout, and Blue Bee Blue Ball (not in the same glass you understand) as we got through many hours of chat and numerous pints. It was great getting to know Vinnie and Daniel, along with Mark, Leila, and Steve, and catching up with Father O'Matic and Kiri, but eventually, and unfortunately, it became something past one and I had to go home.

My last night out of this post (there will be a separate one about another Manchester area crawl to come) saw me out for the unofficial Carlos' birthday night out. To be quite honest  by this time I was starting to sense that I was pushing my luck living-wise so decreed to meet as late as possible and leave at a sensible time. In the end everyone was late, as befits a Carlos do, and I made the last bus.

We started in the Hop and I had a pint of Green Jack Trawler Boys, which tasted fine but by the end had developed a detectable compost bin nose, so I moved onto Abbeydale Devotion next. We sat upstairs with Jambon (for a bit), Carlos, Mole, Angie, Wee Keefy and Toastie, before the band started playing, and the situation with the blocked men's urinal started to tell. One final pint was supped in here, Ossett Challenger, which was the best so far, before we headed to the Washington.

The Washington is the default later on destination of virtually everyone my age. Its always had a place in my heart and I've had many fab nights there. Plus, the eclectic crowd and somehow always palatable cloudy Moonshine wins it many plaudits. However, it seems to be fast securing a place in my mind as one of the stranger pubs in Sheffield. Its like it was 50 when I first visited 20 years ago (it actually opened in 1839, but lets not confuse my metaphor) and now its a much loved, slightly doddery place where flashbacks and confusion abound.

On Saturday we got in about 22.00 and it was not too busy (I mean, no-one goes in before midnight, right?) and having secured our pint of surprisingly ace Moonshine we ventured into the "Deep End" i.e the two rooms to the right with the glitter balls and DJ in. The room was virtually empty and it was easy to imagine why.

It smelled like urine and cat food. A man who thought he was Bez shambled ambidextrously between the bar and an imaginary cliff edge near the seating, while a selection of weird but oft enjoyable surf rock and other poorly recorded oddities blasted distortedly out of the straining speakers. Yep. This was to be our night mapped out. Significantly more Moonshine would be required....

Wherein lies, of course, the trick, since before I knew it I was having a bloody great time as I should have remembered I always do in the Washie. Great friends, great beer and the amusing irregularity of its disheveled features made this, and continues to make this, an excellent venue.

So concludes my round up of a thirsty week. Not a plan of action I recommend you try and copy, but on the other hand, if you are going to take 5 days off the grog, it may as well be for a good reason.

Your very best health


Tuesday, 21 May 2013

Going, gone, definitely gone.


      yesterday's post focused mainly on the closure of the Hadfield in Sheffield. Not only because it was entirely topical, but also because I had quite a few other examples of closed and threatened pubs which were different from the Hadfield  in that they have or had certain classic, unspoilt characteristics.

I'm not suggesting that the Hadfield was in anyway the opposite - but I only went in when it was still really a pub when I was 17, and don't remember very much about it, apart from feeling simultaneously daring and conspicuous. In contrast, tonight's post is about pubs that I either knew, know, or you need to know about. All either closed for good, or under threat.

On Sunday I was in Salford visiting an unfathomably giant edifice of a pub. Monstrously dramatic in scale, built for an almost unimaginable heyday of buoyant patronage, with hoards of visitors thirsty for refreshment and entertainment of every kind, high on the drama of race days and gambling, and where all their identified leisure needs were met (I've rewritten this 3 times and it still sounds like I'm describing a brothel. That is absolutely not my intention!)

The Racecourse Hotel in Salford will close on Sunday 26th May. Admittedly its not guaranteed to be forever, but even putting on my most optimistic face, I just can't see anyone with the cash, the time, the dedication and sheer stubbornness to turn such a place round. It would be quite an undertaking to attempt to steer the pub away from the rocks - but if it goes, as seems inevitable since the pub is not listed, we will lose another great architectural accomplishment, and another National Inventory classic .

As an aside, the situation of its closing is complicated by the obfuscate business behavior of current owners Oakwell Brewery. All sorts of rumours have have surfaced re what is happening, but am not going to share them - because the only key factor here is their decision to close the Racecourse Hotel.

For your puzzlement, here's a link to their website "our pubs" section. You have to admire their unfussy process of removing the photo's of pubs they've given up on. Whilst simultaneously being baffled by the sheer grimness of so many of their acquisitions . (with thanks to Curmudgeon and Tyson and Dimpled Mug for links and info).

Next up is the Drovers Inn at Dallowgill near Ripon. Up on the moors and undoubtedly a welcome sight for winter walkers, I have been a couple of times only, but found its cosy traditional layout and friendly atmosphere highly enjoyable. It did occur to me that its isolated location on a quiet road meant it would struggle but it regularly appeared in the GBG so I figured it must have been getting by OK. And besides, even though only twice, it was rammed each time I visited, and Wee Fatha said he same on his visits. When I read in Whats Brewing that it had been deleted from the beer guide, closed I immediately raced to the conclusion it had been converted to a house or closed awaiting change of use consent.

In fact, a change of use had indeed taken place. It was now a burnt down pub. Luckily no-one was injured in the blaze, but its a tragedy nonetheless to see a great pub like the "little drovers"wiped off the map. Its quite a blow for local pub-goers as well, since the other Drovers at nearby Bishop Thornton is also all but destroyed itself.

Moving into West Yorkshire and you may have heard about the unfortunate state, and ongoing campaign to save, the Cock and Bottle in Bradford. Its fair to say this Grade 2 listed National Inventory pub has had a chequered and at times inglorious history, but the fact that its currently closed and appears to be having unapproved work done on its interior is a real cause for concern.

As fans of Tommy Ducks in Manchester will know, the punishment meted out for knocking down pubs when you haven't the authority to do so is a pittance, so God only knows what type of mild slap on the wrist the desecration of the rare interior of the Cock and Bottle will entail. The lack of any website for the campaign (so far) is a shame but for the twits among you there are updates, albeit in a slightly odd pub as human perspective, from the following account @ajheyes50.

Other recent examples have included the formerly village owned Drewe Arms in Drewesteington, Devon.  I visited in 2004 and it was probably about 10 years too late to appreciate at as a truly unspoilt country boozer but it was still interesting and aesthetically pleasing, and importantly, busy. The fact that Enterprise are looking for new tenants after the previous ones left after a rent price hike does not bode well - I don't have much faith in their selling it to an interested party at a reasonable price, but we'll see.

Closer to home and Sheffield encapsulates many different pub styles and designs in its now much reduced stock, and quite a few sad closures have happened in the last few years. Yet in contrast to blazing country pubs and unloved inner city boozers , almost all of Sheffield's pub losses of late have been squarely down to conversion into dwellings.

The Robin Hood in Little Matlock, Stannington, closed at the end of August 2011, after the owners tried to market it as a pub with high quality food and accommodation. Such a scheme would have been beautifully romantic had it come off, with the pub hiding at the end of a long tree lined lane, but it was alas, a bad judgement call. Once the owners realised their dream of making the huge building pay its way it was closed as a pub, and the plan was to convert it to apartments.

Interestingly, on my later visits I still considered it to be a traditional pub, with its huge central beam in the top bar and the downstairs bar linked by stairs, gloriously cool with its high ceilings. However, I recently discovered that as well as having changed its name at some point (clearly to capitalise on the nearby Loxley legend) having been called the Rock, it also previously had two rooms in the small top floor area with the back bar for darts above the fireplace. It seems likely the bottom bar would therefore have been domestic rooms, with the cellar beneath (given that he drop was on a steep slope running down into the valley, a very long way from the bar at the top).

Its lucky that I started walking in the Loxley valley area again or I might have never rediscovered the pub - I used to go there throughout the summer holidays with my parents for an al fresco coke (for me) and a clamber on the rocks on the bank which the path to the pub descends.

Another childhood pub that my Mum and Dad would take me and my brother to, usually whenever there was a promising sunset, was the Bell Hagg Inn, on Manchester Road. Although a fair walk from nearby housing it should really have been a success, based on its location alone (even if it did change its name to the John Thomas when it was acquired by Banks'....)

The other day I discovered this explanation for its closure on the rather excellent Lost pubs website. Its puzzling that Banks' Brewery seem to have no interest in securing the now perilously derelict building, even if they don't intend to reopen it as a pub. A sorry tale all round. Admittedly this is slightly off the theme having not been converted into flats, but its still a woeful fate to befall a good pub.

The final crop concerns both of the Freedoms in Walkley - most lately the House, converted into, um, flats  with the View having been cruelly sacrificed for crap student flats early in the century. Add to that the Albion, not exactly an unspoilt gem, but noted as selling more Stones than any other pub in Sheffield, if not the UK, which was "offloaded" by the pub-co and became, well, yet more student flats, likewise the Springfield on Broomspring lane, the Crown on Walkley Bank, and of course, the dear old Heavygate.

However, against this backdrop its nice to hear some good news! And its my public duty to share it with you pub lovers so you don't end up psychologically damaged by this post.

Firstly, the Commercial at Wheelock, according to Dimpled Mug, has reopened. Possibly one of the least prepossessing pubs from the outside, it didn't look exactly in rude health trade wise when I visited a few years ago, but it has an outstanding unspoilt interior. Make sure you go visit it and maybe it will stay open.

And finally  though this may be unsubstantiated, but I hear the Lower Turks Head on Shudehill in Manchester really really is going to open! A quick Google search leads to numerous similar claims and worries about its conversion over the years, but aside from all of that, if nothing else, this fantastic picture shows that the building appears to be in good nick (though am not sure about its neighbour...).

Having walked past its glorious frontage many times en route to the Hare and Hounds, I've always thought what a brilliant sight it would be to see the pub reopen. Lets hope the sun actually rises on this project, finally, and the pub is once more open to the public.


Wee Beefy

A quick addition - have a butchers at this post on a similar theme from Alan Burnett. He's a big fan of traditional Yorkshire pubs, and now he's back blogging after a significant break you might like to give his site a look. WB

Monday, 20 May 2013

RIP The Hadfield


    plenty has been written about the reason behind the decline in pub visiting, and it's inevitable side effect,  pub closures. Drinking and social trends have been analysed, reasons for change of use explored, possible explanations and solutions sought, and much has been said about the general malaise, the wider picture.

Meanwhile, whereas the writers have written and the observers stroked their chins, another Sheffield pub has given up its fight and has closed. And it got me thinking. I can't pretend to know all the reasons for pubs closing but this one, is fairly clear cut.

You may remember my post here about the last chance saloon situation that the Hadfield  found itself in. Initially my surprise at finding it open was topped with cautious optimism - after all, any open pub is more viable than an already closed pub. However, as the weeks passed and I simultaneously discovered a bit more, and found the pub open a bit less, i.e. not at all, it seemed the comparisons I drew then with the Meadow Street Hotel were valid - except, the Meadow really did have a regular band of customers, and, was pretty much always open. Small differences, and ultimately in no way having an influence on the final outcome.

I heard on Friday night that the fight for the Hadfield was lost, and they used their Facebook page to announce the same earlier today - below is their statement :

Friends, supporters, workers, bands, DJ’s, performers, and promoters; the people of Sheffield and further afield whose lives have been touched by the pub nestled within the small diverse community on the corner of Barber Road. It is with a heavy heart that the sad news must be told of the demise of the once grand drinking establishment; its fate, one which has befallen many a fellow institution in these times of austerity, is to be a transformation into yet another “little shop of horrors”.

Sainsbury’s, the orange behemoth, that demon from the very pits of corporate hell has felled yet another comrade and invaded its very thresholds. And we, the so called free people, stood and stared powerless to prevent the travesty that on this day has been committed.

So we salute you Hadfield Hotel. We stand in testament to the good you brought to all who have shared in your chequered and varied past. We will not forget you in living memory, there’s some corner of our beating hearts that is forever Hadfield. A pub whom England bore, shaped, made aware. A pub of England's, serving English fare, blest by suns of home.

We shall regale our friends with tales of laughter and frivolity, of good times (and bad); matches made, drinks drank, games won and lost. Rest easy that the passing of the years and of times been and gone will be celebrated in age old fashion and will dress the lips of all who knew and played within your hallowed walls.

The above is obviously a passionate and slightly tongue in cheek response, and one which doesn't really shed any light on the underlying problems that the pub faced. I am not naive enough to think that there aren't multiple reasons why the pub reached a state where a supermarket thought it was cheap enough to buy and then convert into another of their stores. Pubcos, drinking trends, fads, mismanagement, beer duty, smoking bans, predatory retailers, you name it, any of those could have contributed to this sorry state of affairs. It would be very difficult to pinpoint just one factor.

That this outcome came about alas is hardly surprising, in fact it may even seem inevitable. One thing that is surprising though is the slew of recent closures of pubs in Sheffield and further beyond, for a multitude of different reasons. And the link between them? Well, almost exclusively, with the exception of the above, these appear to be traditional, unspoilt and even listed pubs.

More to come in my next post on this, but for now, lets all have strike a frown and release a disheartened sigh and have a think about  the ethics and community ethos of Sainsburys. The Hadfield may not have been a classic in my drinking years, but as I know well, each pub means something, potentially very much, to someone.

Shamesburys indeed.

Wee Beefy

Saturday, 18 May 2013

Out o'ert Pennines

Now then,

    last year you may remember I went to the Manchester (you've seen the Manchester) with Fluff, Col, Gone John, John, Next Door John, Si, Nat, Donny and others, for a very long and thirsty four days in the capital of Greater Manchester, as well as a trundle on the rail ale trail. This year I had prior arrangements to keep to but was free, if not entirely sober, on the Sunday, so popped over to meet Fluff, Col, Next Door John and briefly Duncan, for a few beers.

We met at Piccadilly at noon then walked to the Port Street Beer House. It was nice to see the place in daylight, and to get some semblance of an idea of where it was. I started on a pint of the Wild Brewing Co's red, which had a name and everything, a lovely tasty dark brown ale with the distinctive red malt characteristics found in Rapture and other examples. This was swiftly followed by a rather heavy pint of Dark Star Espresso, and another half of the Wild. We had to leave Duncan here (oh the horror for him!) and head off, as he had a train to catch.

I tried my best to take us to the Mark Addy, knowing that if I could hit Deansagte it would be easy to find the Sawyers Arms and thus Bridge Street. A few minor direction changes took place until we found the end of Deansgate and headed Sawyer-ward, but my looking at the map twice spooked Fluff and Col and before you could say "The Museum of ordinary life" we were passing the gas lamp and were dropped off over the Irwell at the Mark Addy.

Just as last time it was banging it down but this time inside the pub was also completely rammed with fans of association football team Newton heath, or whatever. It was hot, loud and difficult to get served but at least I managed a pint of Old School Brewery Blackboard, which was very nice,  but Col and John seemed to be enjoying their Red Willow wheat beer even more.

Next we walked (they trusted me with the bit I'd done before) to the New Oxford. The plan was to stay here until 5ish and then for the others to head back to Manchester and for me to meet Dimpled Mug and head of to the Racecourse Hotel. Alas this plan went awry. I somehow managed to console myself with pints in the New Oxford instead....

I started on a pint of Brewhouse Java and moved onto a pint of Blackjack Mild as we put a modest 30 songs on the jukebox. Col and John were on the Java and loving it, but I moved onto Townhouse Mai bock (a couple) before finishing on a palate cleansing Budvar Yeast, which was every bit as tasty and refreshing as I'd hoped.

We hopped in a taxi back to the Port Street Beer House next where despite having been offered a taste of the 10% Kernel Imperial Brown Stout, (it was £8.00 a pint, but no Pivovar penny pinching here) we decided it was probably a very bad idea, and opted for rather more sensible beers.  A pint of Magic Rock Curious woke my palate back up before I paid a not inconsiderable amount of cash for a bottle of Green Flash/St Feuillien Friendship Brew, a 6.0% Black Saison.

I can't say that I completely get the black saison concept especially since the St Feuillien saison is supposed to be a classic (according to them!) but it was an interesting taste experience. After this my companions headed back over the Pennines and I set about getting lost.

I remembered where there was a dodgy burger joint and got just that in there before I headed off on a somewhat mazey hazy walk - all the way back to the Gas Lamp, near the Mark Addy. Here there were two Red Willow beers on and it was easily the quietest venue I encountered all day. The Red Willow Heartless was very nice though.

A mysterious memory gap appeared next, one which doesn't just affect my memories of the day now, but affected my already rather crap memory of where to walk to find Thomas Street. Luckily I happened across some kind folks who pointed me in the right direction - as I was about 5 minutes away.

At 57 Thomas Street there were only two casks of Marble on so I had what was one of the best pints of, um, "pint" I've ever had. Unfortunately, I became Wee Sleepy in here, despite the cunning plan of drinking halves of water, and had to sup up and escape in shame after the barmaid came to see why my head was lolling to one side.

Moving on, and via a series of confusing turns and guesswork I mysteriously arrived at the Smithfield, so at least I knew where I was. Not that I particularly fancied going in after last time. So I headed for my final Manchester pub the Crown and Kettle, where I had a half of beer which was beer coloured, and stared in admiration at the ceiling and the deepening blue dusk light, highlighted by the tall windows at the front.

After a long sleep on the bed on wheels, it was off to the Sheffield Tap, almost refreshed, for a packet of needlessly spicy chorizo flavoured crisps and two halves, of Hawkshead Windemere pale and dry stout respectively  Both were in excellent condition, although I would have preferred the dry stone to have been a little less dry.

So ended a boozy Sunday in sort of the North West, heralding great pubs, beers and company, and serving as a rather neat practice for tomorrow - when Wee Fatha and I are off to the Racecourse Hotel in Salford, plus a few other gems. Please note - the Racecourse is due to close a week tomorrow - so if you want to experience the promised magnificence of this giant mock Tudor road house I suggest you expedite your  plans.


Wee Beefy

Thursday, 16 May 2013

Celebrated Sheffield pub celebrates celebrated status with celebration

Or waaah

      Shakespeares Ale and Cider House on Gibraltar street, is the recipient of this years Sheffield CAMRA  Kelham Island Tavern of the year award, in an astonishing and wholly deserved triumph. As many of you may know from an earlier post here, there were plaudits and congratulations a plenty back when it was announced, but the affirmation of that status was officially celebrated on Tuesday, and I was there.

I arrived on a high and in celebratory mood myself, following having my boiler fixed and securing some important legal paperwork, and had therefore figured it was a no brainer to head out to Sheffield's best pub to rejoice. On arriving I bumped into T_I_B, AKA Tom,. from the world of the Internet. He was down for the same reason as myself and seemingly countless others, to congratulate the team. I had a pint of the Black Iris Wit, and he the Mallinsons Epicurion, an astringently bitter but well rounded pale ale with bags of citrus hops that I drank plenty of throughout the evening.

Various luminaries arrived; KE Page from the world of writing, Where's Andy C, Rich from Blue Bee, Alan Gibbons from the CAMRA, J.B, Dave U from the world of brewing, Malc, Ally and Rob, Andy T, Robin, William the owner, Martin, Nathan "Nate Rawg" Naterawg, Closed Shop Kate, Dan Abbeydale, Josh Kelham and Dave Williams. A throng of chattering aficionados and fans amassed whilst we talked, and I made several trips to the bar to buy more pints.

And more pints still. Many more Mallinsons followed for me, plus an excellent if heavy pint of the Hop Studio XS (alas I missed their Citra). Mercifully, given my unslakable thirst, Shakespeares had kindly laid on a vast spread in the school room. There were also free beer tokens , which was a generous and warmly appreciated touch. A speech and scrum followed, before orgiastic mastication began, and more Mallinsons was supped.

There was also the chance to network and chat to people about blogs (whatever they are, disappointingly just a list of pubs visited  that one may not like, and beers drunk it seems), which included some very interesting discussions. Predominantly though it was memorable as a vibrant coming together of people who appreciate the efforts of Chris, Robin, Keisha, Linda and the team, the determination of William and others, and the overall increasing excellence of Shakespeares.

As the hours went by another Mallinsons passed my lips, and finally I finished on a pint of refreshing Deception, a Shakespeares mainstay, to cleanse my palate and refresh me. Eventually, and before anyone could put a chair upside down on a table, I jumped in an ale tractor home and according to disparate and inconclusive strewn evidence, ate something.

Congratulations once again to the team at Shakespeares for their hospitality and hard work, and who knows, I may visit again some day.

Wee Beefy

Tuesday, 14 May 2013

Beer tasting, with Davefromtshop.


         this time last Tuesday I was out and about waking up my palate at Shakespeares in anticipation of Davefromtshop arriving to sample some bottled beers. This is our second beer tasting of the year, if nothing else organised in recognition of my having quite a few aged beers that needed sharing, and also the fact that last time we made exactly no notes. This time we had the camera and  took pictures and videos throughout.

We started on Dunham Massey Mildly Ginger  a 3.8% BCA (bottle conditioned ale), probably not chilled enough  due to bad planning on my part, but this was still a really good beer to wake the palate (not that mine needed waking...), with just enough ginger to make it zesty but not overpowering. It became a much softer slug with the yeast in.

Derwent Parsons Pledge 4.0% was our next bottle. Hmmm. Derwent Eh. I had one of their stronger beers once and it was OK. Just OK, you understand. This was a glass of toffee with no discernible bitterness. Not as woeful as their Carlisle State Bitter, which was an exercise in redefining the word flavour, but in a bad way, this was very much like a West Country bottled light brown, except it was 4.0%. And it had a label that would make Jeff Pickthall fume. And any right minded person.

Moving on, Geeves Brewery No.1, 3.8% was an inoffensive (I have been swotting up on euphemisms for "poor") malty sort of brew that cries out "Brown Bitter". This time the novelty addition of hops gave it an edge over the Derwent but it was quite a standard beer with a mahogany colour to it.

We switched to Germany for Hainhauser Schlok-weisse Dunkel, 4.8%, probably illegal in not being 5.2% like what Dunkels are, it was a very agreeable beer not dissimilar to the Geeves but having a far greater depth of flavour and biscuity wheaty malt at the end, which also made it quite refreshing. Dunkel in colour, this was a move towards more distinct flavours on the night.

Dunham Massey Porter 5.2% BCA was our fourth beer. One of the bottles I received in compensation for the rather disappointing purchases in December, all had been great so far (although the light orange coloured stout was, if nothing else "a surprise"). This was also a surprise, but in a comprehensively bad way. It had 11 months date on it and had been stood for 6 weeks yet was decidedly undrinkable. I know that not every beer with live yeast in it can be perfect but this was just bad.

Nearby (erm, in the sense that they are in the same county) Tatton Brewery's Obscure, 5.7% was up next. A dark bitter beer with plenty of body and chocolate malt notes, and a big bunch of hops in the aftertaste that reminded me of those distinct New World flavours one comes across. Was this the obscure element? It was in essence a subtle black IPA, and perhaps all the better for it.

Dunham Massey East India Pale Ale, a 6.0% BCA came next. I had three of these in my box and this was the last one so I was fairly confident, and it didn't disappoint. As far as I know its an IPA made with all English malt and hops, and, I suppose, irrespective of arguments over strength, it at least makes sense that its brewed with those ingredients. Bitter, but quite floral with lemon and orange predominating in the long aftertaste. A good effort.

Kernel Export Stout London 1890, at 7.2%, (and a BCA?) is a big favourite of mine and Davefromtshop had the opportunity to fall for it now as well. There was oatmeal in a luxuriously thick body, with Dave identifying coconut after we'd added the yeast, as well as chocolate. In the end we decided it was a kind of dark chocolate Bounty with coffee, and worryingly easy to drink. Much better served at room temperature as well, having bought it from the fridge in a licensed premises.

Kapplerbrau Altomunster Export Hell was a bit of a break from the stronger ales and a palate cleanser before the monsters that lay ahead. This was perhaps the maltiest beer I ever tasted yet it still managed to be refreshing on the palate, no doubt an ingenious by product of the lager malts used (although it was a Hell(es?) in style, so am not sure which malt they use?). However it reached its flavour balance, it was a good beer to have when we did.

Thornbridge Alliance Strong Ale Reserve 2007, at 11%, was the first of the two finishers. The Strong ale, which is unoaked, is matured for 18 months before bottling. It didn't seem plausible,  as we tasted the heady whisky tinged notes, that it hadn't been in a spirit barrel but whatever and however that edge was achieved  it was a stupendous creation. Sweet, still noticeably hoppy, honeyed but not cloying and very easy to drink.

Its a conundrum of flavours really, because you end up thinking of rich vinous and sticky tastes like Christmas pudding yet it drinks like a 5% honey beer.  Best summed up by Dave - "its multi-layered but nothing is jarring, its well rounded and a great argument for aging beers". Adding the yeast made it a little easier to drink, if that was even possible, but added another dimension, with hints of marmalade coming through. A faultlessly executed beer, and only one bottle left now. A crying shame!

Goose Island Bourbon County 2012, at 15% was our last bottled beer, for obvious reasons. Subtle only in the sense that it didn't knock you out, it inhabited a region in the taste-buds between beer and bourbon. Not a subtle background tang or Islay aged phenols, just a massive chunk of alcohol.

At one stage during our final wobbly angled video summary (where I helpfully covered the microphone, like a pissed up genius) we concluded it was "not unpleasant" and "drinking it is a bit like running into a brick wall". Dave advised he didn't fancy an entire evening on it - I wholeheartedly agree. With the time getting on and a taxi required we opted to down the last bit just to get that burning cheek, fuzzy headed  thwack that the alcohol and thickness promised. It did not disappoint.

So, a fantastic five hours of drinking and listening to Tom Waits and Frank Black (note - this is not a collaboration album before you go hunting for it) was had by both.  Possibly a more gradual climb to the stronger beers would have been beneficial, but the two we finished on were magnificent. Overall though, the Alliance won by some margin. A beer that you simply could not improve upon.

Other notable entrants were two of the three Dunham beers, the Kernel and Tatton Obscure. Overall it was a varied and mostly enjoyable meander through multiple beer styles.


Wee Beefy

Monday, 13 May 2013

What Beefy did.

Good afternoon,

              I am unexpectedly off work (due to the sodding boiler having died) so thought I might use my waiting time carefully by writing this. In between Bank holiday stumbling and Ploughmans nights and other fun and games, I have carefully set aside time to have a pint or two. Here's some details thereof.

Tuesday saw me sat in the sunshine (the what already?) in the beer garden at Shakespeares supping ale with my mate Abz. First up was a pint of Harthill V.B Ace of Harts, which was a pleasant, pale, bitter session ale, followed by a rather more robust Porter from Salamander, Tree Hugger. This was followed by a very hoppy pint of Hopcraft Test Brew 9 "The Beast", a trifle reckless at 6.7%, before I finished on half of Anchor Flying Cloud No.3 San Francisco stout from the keg. A tasty, but not overly heavy beer, despite its 7.4% strength.

A rather protracted trip to the Blake followed, since a road was shut somewhere along the route the bus helpfully went down Fox Road and popped out near the Hillsborough Hotel instead of going up Daniel Hill. Cue a sweaty breathless stomp through sheltered housing and across Rutland Park uphill. Humph. Here I had a much needed pork pie and a delicious Great Heck Powerhouse 5% IPA, sat in the sunny beer garden, before heading home for food and beer tasting (more to come on that in another post).

Friday was Carlos' birthday, so we all met up in Crookes to celebrate. I started off by having a pint en route in the University Arms, a tasty Welbeck Abbey Brewery Cavendish pale ale. It was completely rammed throughout, but I did get sat on a bench for 20 minutes before hot footing it for the bus.

We met up in the Ball on Crookes, where I had  a very palatable pint of Hopback Crop Circle, a beer I haven't seen for ages. Its light but not weak, if you see what I mean, and was a good quick pint to sup whilst we caught up.

After the meal we decamped to the Punch Bowl. I was never  a fan of this pub when I lived on Crookes, perhaps only going in once or twice for Tetley in my teens. When it became Mr Q's it was a definite no go but since last year I have been in a few times and am warming to it. I think credit for its gradual improvement should go to the couple running the pub, who have put a few interesting events on, including regular live music, and seem to have attracted a core of regulars.

There are two real ales, usually Kelham Easy Rider and a guest, often from Everards. They won't in any awards for beer choice but its well kept and about average price (£3.10 a pint) for the area. Its crucial draw is that it feels like a proper pub, despite its rather ill thought through decor and modern furnishings, and  seems friendlier than the Ball or Masons nearby.

We were in for a couple of hours having, in my case, several pints of Easy Rider until we decamped to Wee Keefy's for something in a bottle, so I'm told.

The next day I was back in Crookes - to pick up my bag! Having collected my stuff I got down to the Closed Shop at gone 18.00 for a late-ish session. I decided to eschew the delights of Blue Bee Tangled Up IPA, in favour of something a little less strong. My pint of Ashover Butts Pale ale was delicious, although, I had developed a taste for it by the time I realised it was 5.5%.  Oops.

I had 4 pints of the Butts, a brilliant hoppy pale ale, whilst chatting to Paultous and Georgina, before I figured it was time to head for town. En route I popped in the Dram Shop for a couple of bottles, only to find their selection of small un's a little, ahem, smaller than I anticipated (although I did pick up a bottle of Sam Smiths Imperial Stout).

My penultimate stop was at DAda, which you may remember from 2012, where I had a pint of Bitter Californian from Bristol Beer Factory, as well as a half of our old friend Halcyon. I did not linger long though, since there was a "do" on with free champagne. And I'd forgotten my dicky bow....

I popped in the revitalised Dog and Partridge for my last pint, a decent Abbeydale Alchemy which I supped in what somehow seems to be a shorter back room (?!) soaking up the atmosphere and watching a steady flow of customers arrive. After my doom laden posts in late 2011 about the pub's future its great to see it back on its feet again, and the addition of Street Food Chef burritos and the like is a real winner of a partnership. I shall return soon.

So, that rounds up my recent adventures, in the next couple of days there will be a beer tasting post, and details of yesterdays Manchester and Salford wander.


Wee Beefy

Thursday, 9 May 2013

Ploughmen at the pub with pals.


       the Closed Shop at Commonside held a "Ploughmans" evening last night. I was invited by people from the real world and decided it would be a nice change to attend. I say a change. Going to the Closed Shop is hardly an unusual step for me. Neither is drinking beer. Or eating a bit of pork pie. Or becoming a trifle refreshed and boarding a late night bus. Or drinking Blue Bee tangled Up IPA. So, admittedly none of that was a change. The cheese and crackers was though. Except, I had them at Bedlam bar last month. So, erm...

Anyway, the regularity of its constituent parts matters not. It was £6.00 a go, you got delicious food from local suppliers and a free pint. It was all tremendously exciting, and done with friends. In fact it was rather good.

Snap wise, Urban Pantry supplied 3 cheeses, oak smoked Wensleydale, Colton Basset Stilton (or Cropwell Bishop, I confess I don't know which one of the two I had) and Dewley Farm Lancashire. Also provided were spiced apple chutney from Just Preserves and chicken liver pate from Findlaters Fine Foods, as well as pickled onions from a jar, which were, like the Seabrooks cheese and onion crisps, of unspecified origin. There was also pork pie and a steak slice (or veggie alternative) from legendary apostrophe experts Kevin's pies, and finally, an ice cream free Cornetto and a wowipob, as Doctor Hibbert would say.

It all came in plastic containers like a lunchbox, and the sight of loads of people crowded together (a little) opening boxes and taking out their food and chattering away was reminiscent of a school lunch time. Except the food was nice. And no-one had semolina.

The free pint was a good deal when you consider you could use it to get Blue Bee Tangled Up IPA, which at £3.30 a pint makes your Ploughmans £2.70. Please note, Neil, that I don't consider an apostrophe is necessary as the food does not belong to a ploughman that I own, or indeed any ploughman, and also is the name of the assembled ingredients, thus can be a straight forward plural. So nerr...

Anyway, I had arrived before seven to "check out the scene" and demolished a rather tasty pint of Blue Bee Nectar Pale whilst awaiting my troughing and slaking companions, Gav, Clare, Neil and Jane. All too soon however, the drink had mysteriously disappeared so I had to have a pint of Blue Bee Tangled Up. When all had arrived we got to grips with the ticket system.

Now, working as I do for a dysfunctional entity where even the simplest processes are rendered needlessly complicated, I was amused at the idea of buying a ticket, to exchange for your Ploughmans, and two further tickets, one for each half to which you were entitled. Especially since, prior to being given their tickets, plenty of people wanted their first half of beer to be paid for with one of said tickets, whilst others in their group, paying together, wanted to use both of them, and others none. Cue a dizzying yo yo of paper stubs and a wry smile from me.

To be fair though the staff needed to keep track so the idea was along the right lines. As was mine, which included drinking more Tangled Up, and the Titanic Cappuccino stout which was very pleasant.

The food was a hearty snack (as promised), and although it could have done with a few more crackers it was still very tasty (and lets face it, had it come with a surfeit of crackers and almost no cheese, that would have been far worse). And the cheese was very nice. Especially the Stilton, with just the right amount of shoe in summer on the nose...

Thanks to my friends for great company and to the Closed Shop for putting on something a bit different. I look forward to attending the next themed night, the "Tavern Haunter Night", in which I arrive at the pub, and drink lots of beer. Entrance free. The next one is at some point on Saturday 12th May....

Wee Beefy  

Wednesday, 8 May 2013

A pub crawl in sunny Sheff

Good afternoon,

     usually on bank Holiday Monday, certain things almost inevitably happen. It pisses it down with rain. We arrange to go somewhere miles from home full of people united in their abject disappointment at how crap everything has turned out to be. There is very rarely much in the way of good beer. Tensions are laid bare. It would almost be better being at work. So this year I had a change.

The venue? Some good pubs in Sheffield. Who with? Whoever from my extended drinking family I came across en route. The plan? Refreshing beer. Yummy, tasty, refreshing beer, that tasted yummy and was refreshing.

I started in the Sheffield Tap. It was gloriously sunny and I was able to grab a spot at one of the tables outside watching a tumult of vehicles and pedestrians missing out on the beery delights I had before me. That was Outlaw Low Life (wow, catchy name..) and half of Tapped Brew Co Bramling Cross. The Low Life was a 2.8% beer. After the Government's "sensational" plan to cut duty on lower gravity beers, literally tens of them have been brewed to almost nobody's knowledge or delight.

This was the 4th such beer I've tasted. It was actually quite good - none of the cask versions have lacked flavour but this managed to have enough body to carry it. The Bramling Cross meanwhile was a really enjoyable beer with lots or aromatic British hops to tingle the taste-buds.

I popped in the Showroom cafe bar next upon rumours a bit ago that they were serving more than one beer, and not always the same one. There was a real cider from Westons, and Thornbridge Sequoia and Abbeydale Now Then. It seemed rude to miss out on the Now Then beer so I supped a half (£1.60) whilst siting slightly jealously watching people walking outside in the sunshine. Only a hardy few, myself included, stuck it out in the heavy heat indoors.

Soon after I arrived at the Rutland Arms to find much talked about Arbor/Dark Star (I think) collaboration beer  Bock Star on. As it was 6.7% I started with a much more sensible Mallinsons Nelson Chinook. This ticked all the right boxes, although it lacked some of the balancing fruitiness that Mallinsons brews often have. I also gave in and the Bock Star anyway, despite its strength, on the premise that I was going to eat.

They had a home cured bacon sandwich made with homemade bread on the menu. Straight away I had to think about my reputation for only eating bacon sandwiches, which keeps Stu awake at night. In an act of wanton rebellion, I opted for a Blue Bee Lustin for Stout steak pie and chips. In your face familiarity! I then repaired to the beer garden to bag the last bit of sun by hoiking the table further up the slope towards the entrance ( a feat which would prove pointless as the sun naturally moved higher and thus over the rest of the table, meaning I ad to jolly well hoik it back again!).

I finished off with a Steel City beer which I struggled to read the name of but knowing the recent popular theme of the demise of the milk snatcher, I surmised that it might have been Walpurgis Nacht. But it could have been another version of Metal Fatigue.. or just original Metal Fatigue. Clearly some sort of fatigue was encountered...

After I left I had to nip in the Roebuck to avail myself of a resource and ended up buying a half of Yellow wood IPA from Wood Street Brewery. A strong, malty, orangey brown beer with a smattering of hops in the end of the taste which doesn't really sell itself as an IPA. Luckily I know not to raise my expectations too much re the Roebuck and Wood Street beers so this was a pleasant enough diversion.

An unexpected stop came about as I snook across Tudor Square where everyone was watching the snooker. A cry of "Wee Beefy!" rang out and I quickly spotted some blobs and a waving stick. As I neared it turned out these were humans  waving their hands, and I knew them. Carlos and Jambon were settled, albeit slightly uncomfortably on the paving stones, soaking up the atmosphere. Sensing I was becoming a trifle refreshed I wasn't expecting to have a drink but Jambon kindly bought me a pint of the excellent Blue Bee Brown Ball from the Old Monk. The "bitterest brown beer ever" was just as reassuringly brutal as I'd hoped.

My penultimate stop was the Closed Shop at Commonside. I had hoped to experience the wonder of the legendary beer garden, but once again I arrived too late (although, to be fair, they didn't open til 16.00 so the only way I could have enjoyed its sunny glory would have been to have sat in it when the pub was shut...)

Here I had a Raw Majjik Mild, which alas had died a death, so replaced it with a pint of Titanic Chocolate and Vanilla Stout. Hardly a subtle affair, but far more beer like and enjoyable than the Plum Porter drink. I had a couple of pints of this whilst chatting with Nate Rawg in da house (not literally, we were still in the pub) and Mr Stephens, before moving onto a half of Blue Bee Tangled Up IPA. Having only a half was a sensible move since, against all my expectations and all that I previously understood about drinking, as the day wore on I was mysteriously feeling less sober. Mind boggling...

Next, for the information of Nathan and Andy, I DID NOT go to the Hallamshire House as alleged, but instead went to fail to buy anything from the closed Dram Shop and headed into town on the bus to visit the Bath Hotel. 

Here Trooperstar Steff was at hand (along with other bar lady whose name I forget - sorry, other bar lady whose name I forget) to recommend I had a wildly insensible pint of Dark Star Six Hop (only 6.5%!) at £4.00 a pint, and to chat with me about stuff not to mention things. The Six Hop was very nice, but a slightly unrealistic challenge so late in the day. It was enjoyable nonetheless.

So, no rain, no crowds, no disappointment and no discord. I look forward to following this formula at the end of the month as well!

Wee Beefy

Sunday, 5 May 2013

Bank holiday sessions


     the Bank Holiday weekend started in earnest on Friday night with pints in the White Lion at Heeley. Partners Brewery Mungo Mild was a surprise find so I supped a couple of pints of that before moving onto Thornbridge Jaipur, which I was disappointed to find was a little bit bit more expensive even than the Hallamshire House. Despite this obvious financial discomfort, I consoled myself with a couple before heading back down the ABV again and finishing on a mild, prior to a boozy meal at Parthenonas for some Greek celebrations.

That meant Saturday was a day to do proper bank holiday things - namely yomp round the Peak District, sup ale and get rained on. All of which were enjoyably achieved.

I met Miss M in town and we caught the bus to a rain soaked Chezvegas and onto Matlock. Or Madlot, which is a much better name on bank holiday. Stood in drizzle at the bus stop muttering about crowds the full horror of tourist-mageddon was laid before us. Why, we wanted to know, are all these people here?

Its a precarious moral position to inhabit when bemoaning the fact that loads of people have come to Matlock and you can't see why, whilst you are also in Matlock, but in our defence, we were on a mission. Matlock was nowt but a stepping stone. We were off to Bonsall, on public transport.

We jumped off the M2 bus at the bottom of the dale and walked the short distance up to the Barley Mow in bright sunshine. It was chilly, and changeable, and whilst sitting outside looked like a good idea, it soon ominously clouded over again. Not that we minded, ensconced inside, supping hoppy ale and eyeing up some mountainous portions of food.

There were four beers on, Kelham Island Best, Black Hole Cosmic, Bumpmill Thunder Road and Blue Monkey Infinity. I started on the Infinity  as did Miss M, and we started to think about how we could possibly have exerted enough energy to tackle a lasagna having done nothing more strenuous than walk uphill for 5 minutes. Our concerns were justified. The lasagna portions were ginormous.

Miss M had sourced us some more drinks and to be honest the Blue Monkey Infinity was so good it seemed pointless moving onto something else just yet, so I had another pint of that to help wash down an hours worth of food. We were then joined unexpectedly by Wee Keefy who had ridden over on his bike, arriving just in time to help finish off my meal. Now we were really in bank holiday mode. It even warmed up enough for us to sit outside.

We sat looking down the dale in the sunshine and continued supping, WK on coke and then Bumpmill, Miss M on Infinity and the Black Hole, and me on more pints of Infinity.A perfectly balanced orange tinged hoppy pale ale made for sunshine, and possibly from it.

The Barley Mow is the sort of pub you always seem to arrive at with a fixed timetable, and very quickly decide that you don't want to leave. Certain pubs sometimes just grab you and won't let go. Sat in the Clock room in Shakespeares with its heavy tick-tocking the only sound in the pub; stood next to the fire in the Duke of York at Elton; sitting on the banks of the Severn supping Salopian beers outside the Royal Hill at Edgerley. All moments which I wanted to continue well beyond the point at which was practical for them to do so. (The Duke of York at Elton is especially un-leavable....)

Against which backdrop, five pints of Infinity down and with our bus to Matlock approaching, I thought about the practicalities of catching a later bus. Or in fact, just moving to Bonsall. No practicalities were found.

Back in Matlock, with WK off to the Sheffield Student Union beer fest, we popped in MoCa Bar for a pint of Abbeydale Dark Congregation  which we drank whilst sat outside on the terrace/balcony thing, watching the less than salubrious scene in front of us. I don't think Moca's beer terrace will win any awards for the view but it was nice to still be out in the fresh air.

Before we left I grabbed a quick half of Oakham Hare and the Hedgehog, a delightfully punchy, fruity, hop fest at 3.9% which was dispatched quickly.  Alas, we couldn't hang around (always a feature of Moca bar) as we had to head off to the bus station to escape back to Sheffield.

Once back in the beer capital I went straight to the White Lion to undertake an even more epic session whilst celebrating Chala's 40th. We had the right hand snug to ourselves, all decorated for the occasion, and to my and many others joy, Raw Dark Peak Stout was on.  Chala was on shandy to begin with, perhaps sensibly plotting to remain mostly compus mentus until the end of the night. I, on the other hand, was past the point where switching to soft drinks or lower gravity beer was going to make any difference, having put away numerous lovely pints before I arrived.

The solution to this was technical and very scientific. What one does, is to drink a very large quantity of the same beer, thus mysteriously not getting drunk! That's an actual fact. That I made up.

Several hours and pints of Dark Peak and a couple of pints of water later, I was being given a lift home by Thangor, and a fantastic sunny bank holiday Saturday featuring three brilliant pubs was over.

What a tremendously pleasing start to May. Things can only get worse.....!

Wee Beefy

Thursday, 2 May 2013

Mysterious paper in wallet hastens appearance of liquids


    payday is fun isn't it. Money falls into your bank account (hopefully, not intending to alienate anyone) and there are bills to pay, shopping to buy and chores to perform. Me? I just go to the pub. I mean Jesus, I've earned it. I hadn't been out since Sunday. It was Tuesday....

I started by bussing it to the Closed Shop which you may remember from the world cheese matching championships. It was surprisingly busy for a Tuesday at 7ish, although, despite my having had a bath, many people mysteriously jumped ship after I arrived. A thinner skinned, and indeed, thinner, man, could take this badly. I, on the other hand, had eyed up some Blue Bee Lustin for Stout.

One thing I will say is that' its confusingly bitter these days. Ascorbic sometimes, which is strange since I always used to find it too heavy, but in a robust creamy sort of way. That night it was almost like the sheer magnitude of flavour has been inched out by a blob of extra dry hops. Its a shame because I really rate the stout, but I suppose with the best will in the world, not every brew can be the same.

Next up was a pint from the cellar. Paultous disappeared to fetch it, based on my waiting time from a cellar in Crookes, and I quickly realised that the much loved Titanic Plum Porter was a bit one dimensional. You see, I like plum, and I like porter. However, Plum Porter isn't both of these things. Its plum cordial with a drop of bitter. I kind of liked it. I was almost impressed. However, I couldn't help thinking it might have needed to remember it was a beer.

It was at this point that I played "an hilarious" gag on myself. Having divested my leather jacket on the nearest bar front hook, I became annoyed by my work bag, so passed it to Paultous and said "here's a great gag - you put this behind the bar for me, and we can both be amused when I get home at midnight and remember that you still have it". We both laughed. Well, it was a quiet night....

The silence was broken by the arrival of Tony Kennick from the past. I used to know Tony when we were both in CAMRA, around the time of the Crimea. Tony was good at shouting and was the only man in all of CAMRA to own a computer. He was basically in charge. That is not, I hasten to add, connected to my leaving.

He was on something reasonable whilst I next had a pint of the Blue Bee Pink Ball, which is fab, but somehow tasted ever so slightly of sandalwood incense, or perfume. The other brewer who is not Rich (sorry, other brewer who is not Rich, I have had a sleep since then) was at a loss to explain this unique feature, but that hardly mattered since in fact, the beer was still bloody excellent.

I had a couple of pints of the pink ball and a catch up with TK before I headed off for pastures new. En route I noticed the Hadfield wasn't exactly open. I managed through sheer determination tonight to find some details for them (on the Facebook, you've seen the Facebook), but am unsure as to the "plan". On 7th March they stated they had only 12 wees to survive - if they reopened at the end of March then that's not long off.

OK, so Tuesday night isn't a winner but some opening times info would be helpful. I'd take a pub called the Hadfield over a Shamesburys any day but its a bit incongruous me urging readers to use it or lose it when its not, erm, open? Feel free to tell me the opening hours The Hadfield, who is a person...

I headed off toward the next pub before I realised just how funny my bag-gag had been - the chuffer was still behind the bar. Cue a breathless sweaty rampage uphill back to the Closed Shop to deliver the punchline, and head back off again in the direction of the University Arms.

Here I was pleased to see a beer on gravity. Kelham Island (good God, don't tell them like The Devonshire Cat did, or they'll come and demand you serve it through handpump, if we believe the implausible reason for not selling Pale Rider on gravity provided by the Dev Cat is true), sorry where was I? Oh yes on gravity, Doctor Death, a rather smashing dark ale from Kelham.

I had a half of that and a pint of the also excellent Citra from Great Heck brewery, fast becoming a reliable and indeed desirable brewery choice on the bar. I'd only intended to stay for one pint but its so rare to see gravity dispensed beer in Sheff these days it was worth an extra sup.

My final port of call was the venerable Bath Hotel. I opted for a pint of the ascorbic, bitter and tantalisingly hoppy Mallinsons Tammie Norrie, which was just as boisterously challenging but ultimately rewarding as I remembered. A great finisher at such a low strength.

With a whopping extended weekend of liquid ahead it was probably best I got my money-shock drinking out of the way early in the week. Because there are some huge sessions ahead over the holiday.  Not a task for a man who still has the pre payday drink monkey on his shoulder, I can assure you...

Wee Beefy