yesterday I was playing host to the A.A, scribe extraordinaire with the "A Swift One" blog. Having kindly profiled me the other week I think I should introduce you to my visitor's work.
Many of you are probably already aware of the A swift One blog. Its been going since February 2007 (that's me all out of research am afraid) and has 4 contributors - Will, Timbo, Ale Ambler and Spurn Pint. Timbo is currently exiled in the North East so Ale Ambler (the aforesaid A.A) and Will have recently taken over most of the posting duties on the mostly Huddersfield area pubs and beer website.
As Mr Ambler is a Sheffield lad, and with him having taken me on a whistle stop tour of Huddersfield last month, we decided I should take him on a bit of a tour of some Sheffield pubs he may not have been to before. Here's where we went.
We met in the Sheffield Tap, and both had the Tapped Brew Co Mojo, which is £2.70 a pint (see how my formula works!) and 3.7%. Its a very bitter but refreshing starter, and to set the tone for the rest of the day I was on a pint and the A.A on a half. Depending on your interpretation, this is either incredibly sensible or a sign of insecurity. Bearing in mind that I was in bed by 22.30, I think its the first one....
A quick ride on the 52 brought us to Crookes and the Princess Royal. I'd never been in when it was empty before, and the lack of customers helped to highlight what a wealth of fantastic unspoilt features the pub has. The Layout is two rooms and arguably it may originally have been 4, with three at the front, but there are still plenty of original features, like the hatch in the snooker room, the corridor behind the bar and the doors, which appear to be of some age. Drinks wise I had a half of Bradfield Blonde, which is £1.50 and Mr A a half of Easy Rider.
We walked down towards Walkley next, past the vandalised shell of the Old Heavygate, the first of a dispiriting troupe of closed boozers on the crawl. Whilst Crookes hasn't lost a boozer in my lifetime, Walkley has been shedding them year on year - the Crown, Sportsman, Freedom View, Freedom House, Royal, Bath and Belle Vue had all disappeared, and there was rumours the Florist was to close for good that day. It looked like visiting two pubs would mean we'd made it to half of the remaining stock.
Out onto South Road and I was mentioning how it was years since I'd been in the Rose House, since they didn't sell real ale - just as I spotted a sign advertising just that. We went in the right hand side and found there was a choice of Spitfire and Black Sheep - we both had Spitfire. The Rose House has an unusual layout with three bars and a small room at the back on a lower level. The beer was well kept and at a sensible price, and after a brief check that we weren't Burnley fans was complete, we had chance for a chat. One thing we did discuss was the Florist - and were told that the Florist definitely wasn't closing for good, just for a short period to allow a clean up and for new tenants to settle in.
The good news continued even after we passed the sorry edifice of the former Freedom House, when we got to the Palm. Palm Street and the Palm Tree pub get their name from the area leading down from Walkley to Neepsend being known as Palmers Hill - at least, that's what the Internet says. The Palm now has two real ales to choose from, Bass and Tetleys, and is another pub awash with old even if not original features, and, as was becoming a Walkley pub feature, it has a three quarter size snooker table.
Mr A is a fan of pub sport so was pinging out questions in a rather more journalistic way than myself, as I snapped the cosy front room. The landlord told us that most of the pubs in the area had a 3 quarter size snooker table, and that there was a strong local 3 quarter league. He also pointed out that the pubs in the area weren't purpose built, and so couldn't fit full size snooker tables in. By this time we'd visited 3 pubs and seen 3 tables with another expected at the Hallamshire. We both had halves of the bass and spent time taking a few pics before heading off for our first guaranteed snooker table free pub of the day.
This involved a winding walk past the Closed Belle Vue and the miraculously open Firwood Cottage, before we headed up Industry Street and along Walkley Lane, past the closed Royal, and down to the Blake. The bar was heaving with a full basket of pork pies so the first of two mission objectives was completed. The next was satisfied with a half of Grafters Dark side of the Moon for Mr A and a pint of the excellent Ilkley Mary Jane for myself. We repaired to the beer garden to take in the views and enjoy the best beers of the day so far.
We slogged up Fulton Road next and round to the Closed Shop on Commonside. The SIBA list that Andy can choose from is showcasing SIBA champion beers at the moment, so expect to see some quite unusual ones over the coming weeks. I had a pint of the Doncaster First Aviator Ale and Mr A a half of the Highland Breweries Pale, all the way from the windy Orkneys. We enjoyed both sat in the beer garden, planning our next move.
The Hallamshire House was reached via an uneventful walk and we both tried different beers - Mr A gambled on the Les' best and I the Jaywick. The latter is an enjoyable hoppy beer but I think the Les's was underwhelming - it is after all, rebadged Marples (I think...). Still, our disappointment was reigned in slightly by the excellent beer garden, which Mr A was quite taken by.
The circular aspect of our trek was making more sense next as we headed up hill to the Cobden View. Its rare these days to be able to do a crawl and find 3 back street locals (at least in terms of their being in suburban areas). On the bar were the usual suspects with Raw as the "unusual" guest - so I had a pint and Mr A a half of the JS Best Bitter. We supped this in the beer garden, with lepidopterist Mr A spotting a rare spargled Granny Blue or similar, whilst we soaking up our first sun of the day. Another excellent stop off.
We descended Conduit next and walked along the main road to the University Arms. The excellent Dark Star Espresso Stout was on, from a reduced range of 3 beers. We both went for halves of that, along with excellent chorizo crisps, before I caved in and had a further half, despite being rather hungry, and a little tipsy. Once again we were sat out in the garden - if nothing else this was also a crawl of excellent beer gardens.
The Bath Hotel beckoned but in here we took a break from cask and cooled down with a half of Thornbridge Chiron each. I think Mr A may have let slip a sharp intake of breath at the price (Thornbridge + Keykeg = expense) but it was a good Keg to try on a long slog, and it being cold and fizzy nicely slowed us down on our high speed tour.
We headed off to look at Jessops next, prior to any upcoming senseless destruction by academics, before we nipped in the Red Deer to find an excellent range of beers once more - from offerings including the Highland Pale we both plumped for halves of the Glastonbury stout, a fine looking and finer tasting dark beer at £3.00 a pint.
At this point food became a necessity so we got ourselves some sustenance and then rejoined the route at DAda. A good range of real ales saw us both trying halves of the earthy Indian Head from Bridestones, and sharing a half of the Thornbridge Rattlesnake, brewed by staff at the Greystones - and very nice it was too.
Next up was our penultimate stop, the Dog and Partridge. We both opted for a half of Blue Bee Octothorpe in here, as well as two very sensible halves of water, in preparation for our last stop. Unfortunately it became obvious as we got down the beers that the Blue Bee was a little bit orf - but it was well down the glass before we were certain. I mentioned it to he lass behind the bar on the way out and she gave us some money back to make up for it. That's good customer service, since we were definitely not wanting a replacement, having nearly reached the limits of what we could safely drink in one session.
Finally we crawled wearily into the welcoming bosom of Shakespeares (if, indeed, one can crawl into a bsom?) to sample the delights of the Arbor Mosaic, which I had been wittering on to Mr A about for most of the day. It didn't disappoint - although, I wonder if my decision to have a pint was maybe a little reckless. Here it looks like we took a lot of photographs, before Mr A finished his half and headed off for the train home, leaving me to dream of sleep, and the route of our next crawl of Sheffield pubs. Pub of the day for me was a dead heat between the Palm, Blake and Princess Royal (a bit of my Crookes upbringing making me biased maybe?) and beer of the day was without doubt, the Arbor. Here's to the next crawl, and another festival of fine ale and beer gardens to come....
Watch this space.