Saturday, 28 December 2013

Crookes Ale House joins Crookes Valley Crawl


     yesterday I was meeting up with Carlos for our Christmas drink. My initial plan was to meet him at Toyne Towers and then whisk him away to the Closed Shop, but as you may have heard already there was a new kid in town. A pop up ale house was opening on Crookes at 12.30. It would have been rude not to have gone, so I started there.

The Crookes Ale House is part pub, part market research exercise to see if there is enough of a call for opening a micro pub in Sheffield, most likely in the Crookes or Walkley area. Personally I think Crookes has fared pretty well having only lost two pubs (assuming you count Matlock Road as Crookes) in the last 20 years whereas as Walkley as been somewhat decimated. So that suggests Walkley maybe in more need of such a venue. That said, I'd prefer a micro pub in Handsworth. Where I live. Irrespective of any research or potential for "success". But I digress...

The Crookes Ale House is at 170 Crookes Road near the Ball and is housed in the former Mr Ben's fancy dress ship. It has an eye catching pink frontage with a large window showing the name Crookes Ale House so that you know its a pub. It has a yellow painted interior with a tiny bar at the back where three casks are stillaged, and tables set out across the front part of the shop. There were three real ales on, Sheffield Brewing Co Porter, First Gold and Magic Rock Ringmaster NZ, which I am reliably informed is the new name for their Curious pale ale. All real ales are £2.50 a pint and mulled cider, which I understand has "other ingredients" in it, is £3.00 a mug. There are a small range of bottles including Ampleforth Abbey Belgian ale and Franziskaner,along with Brooklyn and Budvar Dark lager.

Alas this is not a permanent fixture on the crawl but it is an enjoyable addition. Two and a half pints of eminently quaffable Ringmaster were supped, and, in an event that I'm welling up just thinking about, I can report that I was the FIRST CUSTOMER to use the toilet.

This, is journalism, ladies and gentleman. Journalism at its most raw. Defined by firsts...

Up the road and down Sackville and the Jennel you come to the Cobden View. Arriving at about 15.00 on a Friday there was absolutely no-one in - so me and Carlos set about playing pool, the lack of customers affording us the kind of time two rusty players need to complete a few games whilst lacking the requisite skill to bring them to a close. In the end, as Carlos noted, pool won. To accompany our potting I had a pint of the Sheffield Brew Co First Gold and Carlos some Stella in a glass egg cup. And having got settled and realised they took card payments, we stopped for another - more egg lager for Carlos and a delicious pint of Bradfield Belgian Blue for me.

Out onto School road the crawl took on a familiar look and we arrived at The Closed Shop in need of food. Alas their card machine was broken so it was only ever going to be chip butties - but they are rather fab in the shop. To accompany the nosh I had a reckless but delicious pint of the excellent Acorn Gorlovka, and noticing that we'd done nothing but sup Carlos sensibly invested in another chip butty. It was quiet in the shop but the days between Boxing Day and New Years Eve are a puzzling enigma where no-one seems to want to venture out and you can't expect to take much.

Across the road the Hallamshire House had the Thornbridge Kacho rum porter on so it was a given that I would have that. Sat in the main room we were soon joined by some of my colleagues from work but had already decided we needed a walk to sober up. The Kacho was very tasty but a little more rummy that I had hoped for but was nevertheless enjoyable.

We decided against going to the Blake only because it was nowhere near a bus home for either of us, and our early start was contributing to our feeling a trifle refreshed. So we walked down past Shamesbury's who have now opened their "vital" new supermarket at the expense of the Hadfield pub,  in a frankly embarrassing charade where the pubco pretended that after having received an offer from the supermarket, they were ever going to do anything but sell the pub off.

Onto West Street we headed for the Bath Hotel where there was, given this was our last stop, a frustratingly good range of beers to be had. Burning Sky Aurora, as recommended by Mr Ed, was indeed rather brilliant, but had I had more time I could easily have supped a pint of their Saison. Also available, on cask, was an aged Thornbridge Raven (note it wasn't wild raven...) which I had to have a half of. Both beers were in excellent nick and it was just a shame that my mind was wandering to thoughts of home and cheese on toast.

As well as being a great catch up with Carlos this was an enjoyable take on the Crookes Valley Crawl and it will be interesting to see what the research at the Crookes Ale House tells them about the potential for opening a micro pub permanently in the area. Does Sheffield need a micro pub? Why not. Could it be sighted in Crookes or Walkley. No. It needs to be in Handsworth like I said...

For now though, its a great starting point on  a crawl that throws up a handful of traditional pubs with a varied range of real ales along the way.


Wee Beefy.

Friday, 27 December 2013

We're on the road to go-where?

Now then,

        my recent trips to and from the Northern General Hospital have shown a familiar but  unfortunate picture of pub life in the S4 and S9 areas of Sheffield. The areas along the route present an increasing roll call of closed and demolished pubs which have either been put to alternative use, struggle on in defiance of their circumstances. or worse still have been bulldozed.

The route starts in Darnall where The Industry, still showing obvious pub tiling, and the Ball, further down Main Road, are notable losses from the last two decades. The route taken doesn't go down Main Road or indeed York Road in Darnall, but York Road has two boozers worth a mention. The Duke Of York has been closed for many years now, having undergone a name change (possibly, and very ironically to "Goldmine"...) and succumbed to a theme makeover, before succumbing to  a rather more pernicious theme. Of pub closures. Across the road the Terminus Tavern, previously called the Bradley Well, still survives and I even heard once that it sold real ale. I haven't been in to find out, but its notable for being the only open pub in that part of Darnall.

On the corner of Prince of Wales and Staniforth roads is the Wellington, still for sale through Colliers CRE and once mooted as the siting of a new medical centre. This has been closed for nearly as long as the Duke, 2008 potentially, but before I moved to the area was the winner of the Community pub of the year in the late nineties. Diagonally across, the Rose and Crown, a former Wards Irish themed pub closed its doors sometime after being renamed Connells and is currently a community centro and post office. Most depressing though is the site of the former Halfway House.

This was off Senior Road  near the allotments on a dead end beside Greenland Road. It was closed, its bowling green grew over and it was left to lose its windows and large amounts of roof before it was flattened in about 2009. The question is...why? The site remains unused and there is no evidence that anyone plans to do anything with it. A pub of the month winner in the nineties, if memory serves, which sold Glentworth beer at one stage, it seems to have been easy to flatten the pub but having taken that drastic step, harder to use the space it left behind.

After Greenland Road things start to improve - but only slightly. Broughton Lane comes next and towards where it joins Attercliffe Common the Bing maps for the area fails to mention the surviving Noose and Gibbet but rather optimistically notes the Enfield Arms. This pub was built in 1825 but was likewise demolished, in 2008 to make way for....nothing. Except they left about a foot of tiled walls as an outline. I went in the Enfield a couple of times and it seemed to be a decent honest boozer with three real ales. Once again, someone seems to have prioritised flattening it without having any firm ideas (or possibly firm finances) to do anything afterwards.

Crossing Attercliffe Common there is an old and new pub combo of the Arena Square and the Wentworth House. The Wentworth was doing really well when I went a few times in 2007 and 2008 although it hasn't sold real ale for years. Its new build neighbour sells one or two real ales but is ostensibly a large restaurant. The positive thing is both are still open. With the senseless loss of the regional inventory listed Stumble Inn to an Indian Restaurant just up the road, and the demolition of the Commercial  at the junction with Weedon Street, its good to see that there is still a traditional pub to go drinking in round there.

Down Hawke Street you pass the site of the Wellington which had stopped trading but was still standing in the late nineties, and joining Upwell Street there are further tales of woe. The Sheffield Arms seems to have closed down although I understand it was open recently, but the Ball, a sturdy looking pub which appears to inhabit half of a much larger red brick building, with a decent Bentleys sign on the Page Hall end, is certainly open. Alas the Firth Park Hotel a little further on is now a community centre - although I suspect the banner advertising bed and breakfast, function room and bar meals is a legacy from its days as a pub. Finally, as you come out onto Barnsley Road you are nearly at the hospital -  and slightly up hill on your left is the site of the former Cannon Hall pub, which I remember being Whitbread, and which I recall drinking Castle Eden in around 1994....

In essence there are three areas which have seen some sort of change, and a decline in pubs as a result. Certainly Darnall and Fir Vale/Page Hall have seen what would best be described as a change in their cultural make up. Darnall perhaps less so, but no less bereft of pubs for also having an increasingly tee total population. Sandwiched in between which is Attercliffe Common, a hub of heavy industry which surprisingly isn't a beer desert but is a pale shadow of its former self in terms of boozers.

However, don't be disheartened. Because, even against this backdrop of increasing depletion of pub stock, its pleasing to find out that in addition to the already admirable selection of pubs to be found elsewhere in Sheffield, there is to be a new pub.

A "pop up" micro pub is to open at number 170 Crookes Road in what used to be Mr Ben's fancy dress shop. Called the Crookes Ale House, it opens at 12.30 on 27th December (today) and is open until 22.00 and keeps those hours everyday until it closes on 30 December. There isn't a website but as you find so often these days they have a "social media presence" - here is  a link to their Facebook page, and they are on Twitter as well.

Given the tales of decline and closure above, its nice to see a pub spring into life and close in a positive way. Magic Rock and Sheffield brewery Co beers are to be on sale and bottles form Europe and America, so get up there for a look whilst you can.


Wee Beefy

Tuesday, 24 December 2013

The first beer of Christmas

Now then.

            firstly: I know, I know. Its supposed to be the first beer of Christmas on December the 1st. Yet, its Christmas Eve. What is wrong with this man, you ask? Why is he reviewing a "Christmas" beer on day 24?

Well the simple answer is, because I can.

Also, my Christmas 2013 beer stash wasn't collected until last night and its only now that I have started to tap into it. There are 18 pints of sedimented Abbeydale Absolution and 12 bottles of rather excellent and at times expensive beer to get through. Not that my supplier, Archer Road Beer Stop is expensive - its just I bought a couple of strong Durham beers and a bottle of Fantome Saison. Which is approximately a million pounds....

So, after an hour of festively moshing to Cathedral and Acid Reign, what better way to cool off than in a spare room chilled to below room temperature (although arguably am in said room and erm...well, its the temperature that it is?....) with a cold-ish bottle of excellent beer.

The first of my box, part of a series of potentially two reviews of the 12, is Blue Monkey Bludolph. Its 5% and an orange hued golden colour and it smells rather fab. Dave told me  in the shop that its three lots of three types of hops which are chosen by the brewer every year. It's been a very long 24 hours since yesterday however so you may be better off looking at the link here from real ale store - since he brewery are. um, too busy to update their website....

It has a lovely tangerine kick with some dry bitterness, a hint of lemon  and a pleasing soft malt in the background which means the bitterness settles back into the beer rather than jarring at the forefront throughout; although the aftertaste is lingeringly bitter, after the more calming malt has dissipated.

Obviously better than your average brown spiced nonsense, it wins plaudits foe being umpologetically  hoppy and not remotely interested in Christmas pudding or berry fruit.

In conclusion, a great example of a Christmas beer that doesn't taste of sherry and rum and raisin chocolate with treacle, like so many of the ilk have a tendency to do. And it was so good that I didn't take a picture.

This is virtually anti blogging.....

Merry Merry Christmas!


Monday, 23 December 2013

The good and the bad on the weekend of the mad


         against my better judgement and infused with a decent amount of surprise I found myself out on black Friday and Twaturday. I hadn't planned to do either, mot properly anyway. However, much like I "definitely" wasn't going out last Christmas Eve (I was in DAda for 3 hours) I seemed to inexorably gravitate to the pub - and in doing so waded through the sea of crapulent chaos that somewhat inevitably raged around it.

I'll start with the good stuff. I was hoping to meet a refreshed Miss N in some undecided venue after a visit to the hospital but found she was orf home to recover, so ended up meeting Wee Keefy and his mates for some pints in the Dog and Partridge. 

Slowly getting back to the kind of melee of punters that used to define any Christmas or New Year trip to the Dog, the pub is winning back drinkers who drifted away in the dark days when real ale disappeared and the developers got interested. A good range of local and further afield micro brewery guests along with Black Sheep are available, and the first beer I tried was the Okells St Nick. A pint of which was bought for me by Connor, who I'm not sure if I should describe as the landlord or manager (along with Sarah, who knows her bloggers....), to replace a tired half of some Cross Bay I'd had a few weeks ago. I said then on being offered a replacement that unfortunately I hadn't time for a replacement half on that occasion, so this was a pleasant surprise.

Wee Keefy and Mr Pre-wash were in residence along with other of WK's colleagues and we got sat down to continue making a dent in the real ale . Halves of Blackjack Ginger Stout and Tring Moongazer followed - I had been on the latter at the Three Tuns earlier. The stout was impressive if sightly overpowering and he Moongazer was a very enjoyable drop. So much so that further pints of it followed, and I should point out in the interests of honest and fair reporting, that I didn't pay for many of them, along with a whole pint of the fearsome but impressive stout. 

As well as focusing on real ales, the Dog aims to be more of a locals pub, a move that quite apart from the geographical separation, would show it to be different from the throngs of West Street boozers that are as homely as a cactus settee. I can see a few more trips will be called for over the coming months to test out this claim...

The other plus point was my unexpected Saturday sojourn. Having been out for a cracking meal at the Sportsman at Crosspool we had repaired with Miss N to Wee Keefy's for some entertainment. At the Sportsman, beer of choice was Top of the Hops (which I thought was a Great Yorkshire Brewery beer?) but would, had it come on an hour earlier, have been Fullers and Steel City Steel. When I asked when it would come on the manager said "its still a bit cloudy" which elicited a wry smile and the word over-hopping from myself...

Later, having been persuaded to go out "just for one" we needed up in the maelstrom which is the Bee Hive with WK, Miss N, Carlos, Alison, Paddy, Jambon, Half Pint and Jack, and after an epic struggle made it to the bar to buy a pint of Bee Hive bitter, AKA Bees Knees. Despite this not being exactly my favourite venue I stayed for another, mainly because WK very kindly paid for it - after, it was suggested that we went for a pint in the Bath Hotel. So it was settled. The night was not yet finished...

Thornbridge Pollards was on the bar along with a few other tempting treats but as soon as I spotted the Burning Sky Saison I knew it was a no-brainer. It was going to be an enjoyable but rather expensive end to the night. We were probably in the pub for three hours, catching up and sharing great company and supping, in mine and Miss N's case, copious quantities of saison. This was a fantastic night with good friends which may even have got me into the Christmas spirit.

Alas there are two sides to black weekend or whatever its called. And so as not to ruin the joyous tales before it, I'll summarize the downside in a few lines :

A fight outside at least two pubs and inside one.

The already widely reported but no less horrendous damage to the last remaining full size Wards window at Shakespeares.

And  a pint of 5.9% beer costing £4.60 at the Sheffield Tap, coupled with my not having looked at the price (or been warned of it) before asking for it. Not attributable to any particular event of course, just an unpleasant surprise for customers enjoying finishing their weekend with a couple of drinks.


Anyway, there is a lot coming up over the next week or two so hopefully I can finally finish work for the year and get some blogging done, but in the event that I don't make to the keyboard, then I would like to wish everyone a very happy Christmas.


Wee Beefy

Thursday, 19 December 2013

Simian and ape thought procesess in beer rating


          a few weeks a go me and Davefromtshop had our biannual beer tasting - this time it was at Chez Boeuf, and comprised an odd mixture of aged beers, beers bought in pubs, beers shipped across Europe, beers from Supermarkets and beers form specialist beer shops. This time, to ensure a fair reviewing and reporting process, we recorded everything we said and slurred, about the beers, on video. What follows is the *potentially* choice excerpts form he untranscribable nonsense we uttered, along with salient points about which beers were best...

I described the first four beers, noting that Santorini Yellow Donkey was unfiltered and refreshing. Ilkely Dinner Ale was  a hoppy and refreshing low gravity beer which was very very hoppy...Geeves Presidents Ale was very nice actually, pleasingly hoppy, but probably could have done with being a but stronger, and Shepherd Neame Mainbrace IPA was in effect, a bit poor. It didn't really have an aftertaste, and was not really an IPA, whatever an IPA is....

Dave reckoned the Santorini Red Donkey was very fruity and very satisfying. It followed on well form their Yellow Donkey but the IPA crowned the whole set (see later). Tatton Obscure was really interesting with lots of licorice flavours which provably shouldn't have been there but tasted all the better for it. Dave would have liked to try a fresher beer to compare. He also liked the Blue Monkey Marmoset, considering it a valuable addition to their range. Its low gravity emphasised the hop nature of the beer, and it was totally different to anything else they brew. Meanwhile 
Shepherd Neame IPA (6%) was a great contrast to the Mainbrace, as there was nice hoppiness, good aroma, and it balances well. Lastly, we both thought Santorini Crazy Donkey was a very interesting beer in a nice way, with  prickly hoppiness, and fruitiness to support it. It had good texture, and was really a good classic beer.

Nogne imperial Brown was reviewed by us both at some stage but "somebody" forgot to video almost all of our reviews - I thought it was very strong but smooth with quite intense flavours but Dave felt it didn't go anywhere, dropping away towards the end. Meanwhile Dave reviewed 60 Degrees North lager from the Hebrides  a lager that "wasn't necessarily complex but is remarkably clean and does a good job of cleansing the palate but it does stop right dead there. It was a worthy beer however. 

On next to the big hitter - Thornbridge and Dark Star Coalition Old Ale, a beer which was no doubt about £10.00 a bottle and which I had been preciously refusing to open for years on account of nobody else I knew owning one. Here are the "highlights" of our increasingly tangential musings on a much anticipated drink:

Beefy:  its not that dark...
Dave: lots of carbonation which is always a good sign, 
Beefy: ooh God it smells nice! (note, this is a professional beer sommelieres phrase). 
Dave: ooh! That's not bad at all. 
Beefy: orange as well, in a really really good way, that's good its ever so slightly ascorbic which is brilliant, because its actually quite sweet. There's definitely orange in there. 

(I think this is why no-one writes blogs entirely from transcribed reviews. I mean, who is this guy?)

Dave: very floral, quite well balanced, for its strength you'd expect some sort of punch there. It is very mellow and I suppose that's what the brewer would want to achieve with an aged beer. Ooh with a bit of a candy follow through,. 
Beefy: its a really accomplished mix of sort of orange and then there's a kind of candy sort of a flavour and also a little dry bitterness but thats not as strong as you would expect.....
Dave:  its got good depth, its got a deal of fruit to it, I would have expected a bit more but nevertheless its a good beer, 
Beefy: I think that you expect it to be dark for a start, and expecting more kind of dark malt and you think of Harveys old ale from the same county as Dark Star - its more like a Belgian to me
Dave: It probably epitomises the expectation versus delivery point. It does seem to have altered a little bit,  there are notes there that weren't there before but nevertheless its not the full package.
Beefy : I like it but like you say its not what I was expecting it to be,  its expected to be a smooth malty dark beer and its not, but its still good.

And finally, with increasingly ponderous assessments - the conclusions!

Dave: Its between Crazy Donkey and the Nogne Brown 
Beefy: its a tie between Red Donkey and Crazy donkey and Marmoset.
Dave: Marmoset, on a  blow for blow account because it delivers much more than you expect.... 
Beefy: Crazy Donkey has a lot to it, its incredibly impressive but does tail off to the end a little, the Red Donkey I could drink all night basically and Marmoset is just a victory of delivery over expectation; and expectation is the key.
Dave: tonight has been exceptionally good because there are no beers there that are bad but there are some that deliver more than the others and I think given the range that we've tried that  is where we will get a winner and.......
Beefy:  Marmoset could be the winner....?
Dave: it gets my vote!
Beefy: in which case I go for that; Marmoset beer of the day, donkeys red and silver and Nogne imperial brown and Coalition all brilliant but actually Marmoset is more ballsy, it does more than you expect it to do, it confounds your expectations and therefore, Marmoset is the winner.

For reference, prior to tasting the last two beers here are our top four beers.
1. Santorini Red Donkey
2. Blue MonkeyMarmoset
3. Ilkley Dinner ale
4. Santorini Crazy Donkey

Dave :
1. Santorini Crazy Donkey 
Equal 2nd: Shepherd Neame IPA/Blue Monkey Marmoset
Equal 3rd: Red donkey/Tatton Obscure
4. Santorini Yellow Donkey

I'm not sure whet this tells us, apart from suggesting that the limbic brain which is possibly more prevalent in simian and ape thought processes (I'm making this up by the way but it sound convincing...) helps us to identify beers named after monkeys as the best...?

Or, alternatively, it might not....

Wee Beefy 

Monday, 16 December 2013


Good heavening

        am going to share a story that happened back in February. Those that know me will probably twig what event I am about to describe, if nothing else based on how much I wittered about it since. I think there is also a small chance that this post may potentially become a confession. But we're all friends on the blog aren't we? We can share....

One night in February I had ended up in the Bath Hotel and they had made me drink beer. Obviously, every single action I perform thereafter is their fault. And the Ball on Crookes. And the Sportsman at Crosspool. Just so we know I'm innocent...

Anyhoo, in the good old days there was an N52 night bus which, for a small fee, would magically transport me from West Street to near my home (or much further on than my home depending on snoozing) around 20 past the hour, and having just missed such a chariot, I opted to wander into which is part of a group, and opens late, the name of which you can never ever guess.

 It was rammed as it usually is around midnight on a Friday and since I needed my real money for the ale tractor set up a tab and purchased a delicious pint of Bradfield Stout. Having failed to find a seat and being in urgent need of a trip to the facilities, in desperation, I placed my full pint of real ale in, erm... a rather large pot. Containing a small tree or similar.

Now, I realise this sounds daft. It was. So to ensure that even if the location of my pint seemed perplexing, said drink could be identified as belonging to someone, I wrapped my scarf round it, and placed the other end in the top of my work bag, and asked the youngsters on the nearest table to watch my drink. And there is no way you can guess what happened....

For those unused to the vociferous enthusiasm of glass collectors, and/or random ale thieves, someone unwrapped the scarf and waltzed off with my pint in the 90 seconds it was out of my sight. I asked the people nearby if they had seen what happened and they suggested someone had probably collected it, and it didn't seem like they'd nicked it. So I went to the bar to pay my tab, even though I had in essence purchased nothing more than the concept of a pint. This was a deliberate set up on my part to prompt them to tell me I was below the limit for a card payment, so that I could then moan endlessly that someone, possibly a member of their staff, had snaffled my ale. It worked a treat.

Except it was very loud and I had to raise my voice. This alerted the staff to my perhaps being pissed and so the manager stepped in to have the same conversation all over again. If I'm honest, this wasn't making me feel any better, especially when he suggested that I simply buy another pint. A quick chat with a colleague meant he turned his back on me for a while and my limbic brain was quick to note that I was now being ignored. So I raised my voice. A lot. In a Yorkshire accent that I don't possess.

I have worked behind a bar so I know that there is nobody who enjoys being shouted at by drunks but the response was (and I quote) "No-one screams at me. Take your card and get the fuck out of my pub". Now, that's quite rude. And it is owned by a large company, so if we want to be factual it is also not his pub. However, the shock brought me back into a more sensible state and on being passed my card back having not paid for my stolen pint I said "oh brilliant! and smiled, before a very large person ( a professionally trained very large person) gently escorted me to the street outside.

On my ale tractor home I thought about my experience and decided this wasn't me. I don't scream and shout and I don't say Naaaa-then unless I am having a laugh. Well, apart from that night, obviously. So upon returning home more or less sober, I emailed the "pub in question" with some precise details and caveats and apologised. I also pointed out I'd like to pop in the next night to do so in person and to draw a line under the matter. Inevitably the very large person on the door had been pre-warned about me and refused me entry. I explained about the email which I considered quite a polite manner of behavior but to no avail. I was told I had to wait for the manager to tell me I wasn't barred.

And this is where I'm confused. You may, having become used to my bleary and inaccurate recollections, think that I mis-remembered an important slice of discourse but I assure you I was never told I was barred. Not only that, but I never received a reply to my impeccably drafted email. Nor any written, verbal or otherwise communicated disbarring notice. So I boycotted them. For like, months. And then gave up and went in the other night to find that no-one cared.

The point of this is -  does this sound like your experience (not that I dare to suggest you've had any) of being barred? Only I spoke to a few upstanding citizens in the months after and found some who had been barred twice in the same night from said establishment. So with all this being new to me I couldn't figure out if this was normal?

Oh, and of course the other perhaps more important point is that this serves as a cathartic exploration of my errant ways one night. So I consider the whole episode, having enjoyed  a lovely pint of dark ale in there last night, closed.

And I also reckon I win....

Sir Beefalot

Monday, 9 December 2013

Drunken spells with a slight chance of twats later

Yo ho humbug!

        yes kids its that time of year again. Twat O Clock! Fancy a pint in a normally decent pub now full of twats? You can! For every night between now and Christmas guarantees nailed on twattishness at every turn. Even quiet pubs have decked out the halls with twats of all shades of festive cheer! Vomit, urine, WKD....

OK, I admit, the above is a bit cynical really because having managed to attend three Christmas "do's" on  two consecutive nights I can confirm that its still possible to have a decent night, at this time of year, even if few of the people you are sharing the occasion with are bothered about the fine drop. Thus .....

Friday I read with a heavy heart that our team Christmas do, which was otherwise admirable for featuring a scheduled five and a half hours of drinking prior to the meal, was to begin in Yates. Early considerations included - why would you drink in Yates whilst sober? In fact, why would you drink in Yates at all? Well, because not everyone is so mardy about ale as  I am and some people for reasons that I can't fathom like to dance and drink coloured shit with spirits in. And it pains me to admit that I probably should get over it. I still think starting at Yates is like having a kebab and then going out however...

In the end I only wandered in as the group were leaving so alas cannot report on the ale situation. Meanwhile, over the road is Lloyds Number One. I know its a Wetherspoons type of thing but it does sell real ale and so I was straight on to a couple of pints of Bradfield Belgian Blue. A seasonal favourite of mine, which makes me think I may be going soft, it was probably £3.00 a pint or something (I wasn't researching, although I concede this is no worse than my usual level of reportage) and went down very well.

Up next was Revolution De Cuba, whose high prices seemed to have kept the place tolerably busy, and whose drinks list kept the cocktail guzzlers happy. Beer wise they had Anchor Steam Ale in bottles so it wasn't all that bad. From here I switched do's and headed to meet Miss N in All Bar One. Granted they had Doom Bar on but I went for the Meantime Pilsner at £4.30 or similar instead. It had more hops in....

Members of Miss N's entourage wandered off to the Bessemer across the road, and against our better judgement we followed suit. Alas we missed the Moonshine but I had a half of Directors out of curiosity and Miss N a half of Hobgoblin from the remaining three beers. I'm not going to pretend its my kind of place but it sold real ale and people seemed to be happy. Not that I advocate such things, but if being happy is what they like then I suppose that's fine....

Off to DAda next, albeit having shaken off the do, and it was solid. I mean, I know the building is, but in a bar queuing sense. Here was my first wall of customers of the festive season. Luckily a pint of Thornbridge Christmas ale on Cask for Miss N and a pint of Chiron for me were purchased, and we found a space to have a chat before heading off once more in true Xmas do style.

The Three Tuns once again had some good Raw beers on and the lovely Dave behind the bar. Young Patrick was also in attendance and we stopped in there for a couple of pints of the Raw porter, which I think was Anubis but am unsure. It was bloody nice whatever it was. We ended the night at Shakespeares where we both had pints of late hopped Steel City All Hallowes which had hops in it and everything, and was also quite nice. And I definitely didn't fall asleep...

The next night we started at a rammed Sheffield Tap and were spoilt for choice. Pints in here were Hardknott Katalyst, a lower gravity extra hoppy pale, Buxton Rednik Stout (many) and the excellent Magic Rock Dark Arts (at least two). Understandably, despite queues in the heaving bar, I was reluctant to leave this beer utopia behind.

Yet we did as we headed for the Dove and Rainbow to see a friend's band play. The range is always a little underwhelming here but does usually feature at least one local beer with  hops in it - so I had a few pints of the Abbeydale Absolution in the three hours we were there. Not a regular haunt as I have noted before but I actually had to admit that it was far and away the least intolerable pub in terms of sheer overcrowding that I experienced over the two nights.

Our final stop was DAda once again where I laughed at signs on the walls and tables on the left stating "reserved from 19.00" for an area comprising six empty tables and with four people sat at one table. Mind you, it was nearly midnight. Here I had two pints from the promising new Burning Sky brewery based in the south. Aurora was an intensely bitter pale ale and probably only let down by the dryness of the bittering hops, whilst Plateau was also a beer, which I drank about 01.20. That serves as my excuse for having no memories more specific than "I liked it".

All of the above suggests that once you have attuned yourself to the sheer volume of punters and the real possibility but not guarantee of extreme twattishness, it is possible to have a pretty decent night out at Christmas. And in Sheffield at least, you can expect to find some decent real ales in the majority of the venues you visit.


Wee Beefy.

Sunday, 8 December 2013



       we are quite spoiled in Sheffield in having so many great pubs - not just the nationally known and renowned valley of beer destinations, but also some classic country boozers on the outskirts and a good mixture of traditional and more modern venues in and around the centre.

When choosing where to rest my hat, I'm an after work kind of person when it come to pubs - because with Shakespeares, the Kelham and Cat, and the Harlequin and Riverside only minutes away, going home first just seems daft. However, one of the problems with this is that unlike a couple of years ago, I now don't seem to go anywhere local in Handsworth for a pint.

Don't get me wrong there isn't exactly a lot of choice - as an example, I almost popped in the White Rose earlier out of curiosity, to see if the latest landlord was selling real ale, knowing if it was it would be Tetleys, but I really couldn't be arsed. Up the road the new Sword dancer pub is the proud purveyor of perhaps the worst selection of drinks in South Sheffield, with a reported (albeit a couple pf months ago) range of Guinness, a.n.other lager and Strongbow. The Turf has been resolutely non real ale for yonks and despite its rebranding am not sure if the advertised real ales at the Handsworth Inn were a token gesture. There are however, two stalwarts still flying the flag. The Old Crown, and the Cross Keys.

Miss N had never been for a drink in Handsworth and I was telling her about the dearth of venues one day when we realised that our expedition to fetch ingredients for a dish of lemon potatoes and roast veg had been missing one product - potatoes. So we walked up to the shop at Handsworth top and having secured our important goods decided to pop in the Cross Keys.

As well as being interesting for having part of the building situated in a graveyard and therefore assunedly being on consecrated ground, as well as the unusual mish-mash of different ages of building that comprise the pub, not to mention its inclusion on the regional inventory, the Keys also serves real ales. I've written before about the peaks and troughs of its fortunes since I first drank in Handsworth in the late nineties, but unless I'm mistaken the present incumbents seem to have been in charge of the Keys for a while now, bringing some much needed continuity.

It was warm and very busy when we arrived. I'd hoped to show Miss N the paralleled room at the back but it was completely packed so we sat in the main bar and got ourselves some beer. The Golden Pippin had run out - this has been on sale numerous times over the last five years at the Keys, so is presumably popular. The Old Peculier seemed a bit heavy for a starter so we had pints of Tom Woods Gold at 4% and £2.90 a pint.

There were plenty of groups of locals of all ages drinking in the Keys and the pub was reassuringly abuzz with conversation, and seemingly free of half nursing wash-back sippers - everyone seemed admirably thirsty. We drank our beers in keeping with the preferred speed of he locals and went to get more pints. The Tom Woods ran out but the landlady very kindly gave us what must have been at least two thirds of a pint for free, whilst we moved onto the OP.

Despite growing up hundreds of miles apart, somehow myself and Miss N seem to have both had teenage real ale initiations on Old Peculier. I don't drink it very often but it doesn't seem to have changed. It was about £3.20 a pint (I didn't check) and was the ideal tipple to protect us against the biting winds on Handsworth Top.

It was a pleasant change to sit in a traditional locals pub supping real ales on a Sunday evening, when each beer seems to taste all the better for being the last thing you treat yourself to after or before your Sunday meal. It was free of tickers and cocktail orderers and oak aged raspberry stouts.  It was busy and full of people who knew each other and enjoyed the company of others. It was warm and comfortable and friendly. And evidence that despite Sheffield's riches in the Valley of beer and beyond,  I don't think my drinking life could be considered complete without a quality pub within walking distance, with a warm welcome and decent real ale.


Wee Beefy

Sunday, 1 December 2013

Bars and kegs and coffee - for beer lovers.

Good afternoon,

     as well as having a thoroughly enjoyable night out at Shakespeares, whom you may have noticed me refer to previously, this week I have also gone off the rails and recklessly ended up in places where I don't normally get to. Including, shock horror, two bars with NO REAL ALES...! Despite that I have survived virtually unscathed and am here to tell you the details.

Friday I met Miss N along with Rach and Ade in the Dove and Rainbow. There was some decent music playing and I didn't look too out of place despite having come from work via the hospital, but I wasn't encouraged to find ale drinkers Rach and Ade on Guinness - "the beer's a bit crap now that stout's gone off so we are on emergency beer" they explained. Looking down the bar there were the usual suspects from national and local breweries (Trooper and Hobgoblin) so in the end I plumped for  Blue Bee Nectar Pale. It was £3.00 a pint and looked fab but tasted a little, um...burnt? Still, it was drinkable enough and it was nice catching up with the R and A.

Saturday saw us in Sellers Wheel. Initially I thought they'd gone mad and put a beer on handpump but it was just the angle of the sign on one of the cakes - had I been able to see better am sure that the confectionery's identity may have made it obvious there wasn't a beer on of that name...

As it was we had excellent coffee (as was the idea) along with Lemington (Lemonton?) Squares which are rich coconut covered slabs of delicious cake that are enjoyably filling. Feeling a bit sugar laden after, we had halves of Hop Studio Pilsner and Thornbridge Versa to cleanse the palate. The Pilsner does just that but the Versa was perhaps the better of the two, being both refreshing and strongly flavoured. There is also a decent range of bottled beers from quality breweries to choose from.

Heading back into town we popped in a new venue - or a newly renamed one. The Jaipur Arms is the bar at the Best Western Hotel between Arundel Gate and High Street. Proclaiming food and Thornbridge beer it seemed like a great idea, with four beers listed on the board. Alas, this is a rather optimistic listing since there are only two keg fonts - and no hand pumps. Granted the Tsara was nice, and the decor OK for a hotel bar, but I think they've missed a trick in not having any of the real stuff on. Although, I hadn't heard anywhere that they had taken over what I imagine was the existing hotel bar so maybe its a bit too low key to risk a live product.

From here I took Miss N to the Church House. When it first opened there were 5 or 6 handpumps and they admirably strove to always have a dark beer on from the Caledonian range. Now goodness knows how many managers down the line, there are 4 handpumps, and there were three beers to choose from - Deuchars, Caledonian XPA and Autumn Red. The Red was pleasant enough but it was such a long wait at the bar that the seasons may have changed during it.

One member of staff suddenly appeared to assist the two who were rushed off their feet serving a customer next to me with the longest and most complex order ever and a large number of people at the other end of the bar - but he just went to the first person he saw in the larger group, except that group had formed after I'd got there. The two staff there at the beginning them both went to attend to the same group at the opposite end of the bar before both remembering at the same time that I was there for a drink.  I know its Saturday night but ten minutes is a long time to wait for two halves.

Meanwhile, the decor remains the same and there was a mixed clientele savouring the food aromas and relaxing in comfy seats. I can't see that anything has changed in a way that will attract more customers or that has improved the experience of the customer in terms of service or choice, so I expect the pub to struggle on with no-one knowing where it is. In their favour (from my point of view) there appears to always be a seasonal beer on so maybe one of Caley's excellent stouts will make an appearance soon. However, a year and one day after it reopened its still a place to nurse a half in and remains traceable on the internet mainly via some blokes beer blog, as opposed to their FB page or fairly out of date barbook page....  

Our final stop of the night was in a strangely quiet DAda, where all four of the handpumps were dispensing some of Thornbridge's poorer cask offerings - Kipling, Marples and Wild Swan. Luckily the excellent Saint Petersburg was flying the flag for the good old days. I had a half of that and Miss N a half of the excellent Chiron, before she moved onto a pint and I a half and a half of Halcyon. To be fair, one reliably excellent feature of the Thornbridge portfolio is Halcyon - and it was damned excellent as always.

DAda my be a regular haunt of mine but its slowly metamorphosing from its original incarnation two years ago into a reliable source of excellent Keykeg and bottled beers, and when Daddy T allows, a decent guest cask ale or two. Plus there is the promise of Gluhkriek for Winter. And, whilst not a beer related bonus, it does have a rather fabulous big red leather sofa to snuggle up on and listen to some music. Simple pleasures but ones that help to make it worth going back.


Wee Beefy.