only really "launched" in the same way as I unveiled my evening meal an hour ago. That's not a euphemism. The meal wasn't a unique combination of ingredients never before thrown together, nor was it something I planned to invite a number of people to join me in eating. It didn't come with informative literature, an interactive map or a forum for comments. However, the link between my tea and the New Commonside pub crawl is that they are both a great way to enjoy a few things that you like. Reassuringly pleasant, if not groundbreaking.
The crawl officially starts where I didn't. I hadn't definitely decided to do the inaugural run last night, so I hadn't thought about where it might start. For info, and hitherto after set in stone, the starting point, or pub, is the Cobden View in Crookes. Like I say, I didn't start there though. Much like I didn't entertain having an appetiser or amuse bouche....
I did start with the main course, my second visit to the newly reopened Closed Shop. Mr Stephens was on hand to divulge facts for me to forget or misremember, and Megan was behind the bar to be bemused by our rambling conversation, and to help with the dispense of excellent beers. I very nearly started on a pint of the Townhouse Brewery Flowerdew, a hoppy Summery ale (yer know, coz its Summer...) but the lure of the Dancing Duck Dark Drake, an admirable (or admiral, as Alan Shearer would say) 4.5% rich oatmeal stout that was £2.85 a pint, was irresistible.
It was excellent of course, indeed so much so that I had to have three pints of it, whilst I was joined briefly by Ianfromtshop, and set about finding out the latest largely unsubstantiated information, AKA gossip, from the world of pubs.
Luckily I definitely remember what he told me, which my brain reckons sounds like this : if the pub lease had been taken on after the refurb had been planned and funds sought to pay for it, there would have had to have been an interim manager in the pub before it was taken over by Andy and his business partner. Better then to get in, keep trading, increase trade, and make money prior to the refurbishment.Please note, this is pint 3 information. If you inconveniently require facts, you are probably better off visiting the pub and asking a member of staff what I should have written. Bang goes my investigative journalism career....
Anyhoo having run out of physical funds I went to the Hallamshire House which was heaving. I knew I could pay on card here, and a double whammy of brilliance played out - not only was the Thornbridge Imperial Oatmeal Stout still on, but also, I could get cash back. I win! So I got a half of that and an "ironic" half of Wild Swan along with a glass of water and headed off to find seating. It was then that I bumped into Simon from the Manchester trip, and long lost relative Keith. Not Wee Keefy, and not demonstrably an actual relative. But still, it mattered more that these were now my pub crawl testers.
As soon as we had finished our beers we all went over the road to the Closed Shop - and straight onto pints of the excellent Dark Drake. We had a good chat and a sense of being sightly more drunk, before making the decision to wander down to the Blake. Its worth pointing out that before the coffee at the end which is the Blake, you could pop in a cheeky pudding - i.e the Springvale. Ianfromtshop tells me it serves a very palatable and cheap pint of Bass. Surely worth investigation?
We didn't have enough time to fanny about with that though, and went straight to The Blake where they had Great Yorkshire Brewery Blackout on. It was excellent basically, so we had a couple of pints each, gleefully watching the time of the last bus pass by whilst supping and chatting about life. And pubs. What else?
The crawl officially finished here - but if you are attempting it yourself, there's no reason to shy away from The Hillsborough Hotel, Gardeners, New Barrack and every other pub on the Don Valley Ale Trail. It's just that we didn't really have the time or flexibility to achieve that having reached the Blake at 22.45. Still, none of this should dissuade you from embarking on any version of this exciting new pub crawl. Apart from the Closed Shop being shut in April. Regarding which, they are on Twatter and Friendface so you should be able to find out when that event will happen.
Here's to many more night's in the Crookes Valley of beer!
(think I need to work on the slogan...)