Wednesday, 27 November 2013

Birra To' welco meto


     alas, not a "cool" new uber expensive Greek or Spanish nano brewery with their own kooky yet modernist bar in a tourist host spot. Oh no. Instead, the above is my proposed name for a beer brewed at Shakespeares ale and cider house. Not that they have a brewery. Or presumably any intention of installing one. However regular visitors to the pub may well recognise the inspiration behind my continental sounding concoction...

Anyhoo, over the past week, despite commitments to family and fannying around in the Manchestershire, I have found time to pop into Shakespeares for a pint or two. First up was a late night at work last week. Having successfully clawed back some flexi I found myself stood outside in the cold with Miss N, tired and in need of urgent obviation. Luckily, there was a pub only a few minutes away that we could visit. How perfectly pleasant!

We were soon in Shakespeares and started with pints of Thwaites Phelan fine, a tasty hoppy stout from Thwaites ickle brewery what makes better beers. A very pleasant start to the evening, but we soon moved onto stronger stuff - Miss N choosing a pint of Abbeydale Speculation (OK so that isn't stronger...) and I waded into a beer with an expertly hand-drawn pumpclip. That being the Arbor and Brew Dog Pirate Badger Attack imperial brown coconut black IPA saison with unfined English hops grown underground. OK, maybe not all of that description is correct, but most of it is.

Our final jars were of Brooklyn Smash IPA, which was distinctly disappointing, and the rather excellent Muirhouse Mango IPA which was excellent. Only nonsense like having work the next day prevented us sinking  a raft of these.

On Saturday we were in for a last couple of the night. Obviously that is only sort of what happened. On the bar were a couple of ales from the rather lovely Art Brew who seem to have a knack, starting with their delicious orange IPA, of consistently producing interesting beers. We both had pints of their Snerge Bergusson (my notes say cuddy summat but I saw this name on the board so it must be right...) which was a brown ale. It takes a damn good brewery to produce a brown ale that I want to drink (Brooklyn Brown being an example of a good brewery with a bad brown) and this 6% beauty was exactly what I was after.

Later we discovered there was a cloudy Art Brew ready-ish in the cellar, which Robin claimed was called Art Now, was 6.5% and was an IPA.  So naturally we had pints of this before more of the excellent brown again. All in all, in consideration of a hard day featuring some fairly unpleasant news, this cosy riposte in the behind the bar snug with Miss N and Origami Tom and Dave for company, was exactly the tonic we needed. So relaxing was it in fact, that we left our bag hanging on the coat rack....

Sunday inevitably saw us return to locate said item. and having got back to town for 20.00 we wandered round in the icy cold to find a warm and welcoming pub with a Dave W and a space at the back of the bar where we could sit on bar stools like cool kids. There was also a coat rack boasting a plastic bag with gloves and a bottle of pink grapefruit juice and 2 get well cards in. Two pints of celebratory Art brew purchased, we set about admiring the till messages and trying not to distract young Robin form his important work.

We also tried a half of the Allgates Blue Tea Pale which may have been "an joke" but tasted, mainly, like Allgates, and we finished off with yet more excellent and tasty Art Brew, on account of it being fantastic. Evidence, if any were required, that Shakespeares is a needful haven and hideaway from crap when you most need it. Sniff....

Finally a quick mention of the Andrew Inns pub empire's latest addition the Three Tuns. Firstly, I have cunningly worked out their roadmap for domination. If your local has a bar on one level with the majority of the pumps on, then another bit of bar on another higher level with a couple of pumps on, expect it to be Andrewfied soon - coz Mr Stephens luuuurves that split level thang. Think about it - Closed Shop? Yup. Three Tuns? Yup. Rutland? Um... well, anyway, this only applies to new acquisitions obviously...

Beer wise there was a decent range as always including two fab beers from Welbeck Abbey Brewery. Miss N sampled a pint of the Portland Black and me a lovely hoppy pint of Cavendish, before we both had a pint of the Portland. The pub has a fascinating design and is very pleasing on the eye and  now serves (although it has for a while) excellent real ales at reasonable for town prices. Well worth popping in for a look, unless you fancy a Sunday pint Since they don't open Sundays. Probably....

More news coming soon!

Wee beefy

Monday, 25 November 2013

Alec ale-full


        I was recently awaah over the Pennines to see Pixies in Manchester. Not the mischievous sprites from the land of make believe, but a popular beat combo who were playing at the Manchester Apollo. Of course, being a modern band, the gig was to start quite late and so it was necessary to stay overnight in Manchester. And it would have been rude not to have had a beer or two in the 30 hours we were there....

Staying on Portland Street our first two pre gig stops were fairly obvious. About 6 doors up from our accommodation  is the Grey Horse. At some point in the last 2 years it seems to have had a bit of a revamp, and now looks rather nice, selling most of the Hydes range including their seasonal beers and output from their new small run "craft" (coughs) brewery, The Beer Studio. It was this we went for, sampling a pint of Venetian Red which uses, among other things, black and concerto malt to create a smooth biscuity flavour. I know some of you may recoil in horror at the idea of black malt but as a first beer on a cold night this was a good start.

A few doors down the Circus looks a thousand times better these days with bare wooden paneling replacing the sea of pictures, and the table service only adds to the atmosphere. They also had two beers on for the first time I can remember. Not that their Tetley was shoddy before, but we decided to try the Robinsons Dizzy Blonde at £3.00 a pint - just so I could be certain I definitely don't like it. Which I don't. Its saying something when I crave Tetley over a guest beer....

A wander to the Joshua Brookes followed via hunting for a cash machine with less than twenty people queuing at it. Arriving at the J.B I anticipated easily solving our cash dilemma by buying some beers on card and getting cash back. The first hurdle I encountered was their minimum limit for card payments was £10.00! Since we were popping in for a swift one before the gig, this presented a slight problem, but I figured a round of stronger beers and keykegs would meet the target. Frustratingly (and simultaneously impressively) the beer was incredibly good value... Gah! To add insult to injury they didn't even do cash back either, even though its the 21st century, and they are quite a modern pub. How perplexing!

Anyway, I can't complain at the beer range which was excellent - we had a pint and two halves of Anarchy Sublime Chaos Breakfast Stout (7.0% at least) at an excellent £2.70 a pint, a pint of Black Edge Treacle Stout at slightly less strong, and a half of Weird Beard Fade to Black on Keykeg. The Fade to Black was not as good chilled as it had been on cask at the Sheffield Tap, but was still a nice drop, and the Sublime Chaos was very much sublime. All we had to do now was get a taxi to the gig.

The gig was fantastic by the way. Afterwards we walked back into town to go for a last one - past an ever increasing range of renowned ale venues that shut before 23.30. I know it was a Thursday but I was quite surprised by this. Luckily, despite their absurd payment policies (there was also a "comedy" broken cash machine to mock us) the Joshua Brookes does at least open until 01.00. So more Sublime Chaos and Treacle Stout was had - after trying a Thornbridge McConnells that actually, honestly, didn't taste of anything but the bitter aftertaste of stout. After midnight the prices appear to go up - but the Sublime Chaos was still at least £1.00 cheaper than in the Sheffield Tap.

Friday saw us up late and failing to go for breakfast in the Paramount so we figured a beer would help bring us round. We opted for halves of the Howard Town Snake Ale in the sumptuous environs of the Briton's Protection. Miss N had never visited so was blown away by the decor but if truth were told we were already thinking about having a big meal. ASAP.

Moving onto Knott Bar and having secured half a Marble Ginger for Miss N and a pint of impeccable Buxton Moor Top for myself, we picked up the menu and quickly decided we were staying for a hearty meal. Excellent beef bourguignon for me and Irish stew for |Miss N really filled a gap and set us up nicely for the day ahead.

We walked up Deansgate next and joined a familiar pub trail, starting in the Gas Lamp. Another first for Miss N, this was an impressive venue in which she had a half of Blackjack Honeytrap Porter on cask and I a half of Arbor Oyster Stout on Keykeg - just because I have a bit of an Arbor fixation at present. The prices in here aren't cheap - it was £4.00 for the two halves and neither is a strong beer, but both were on good form.

Over the Irwell past the museum of ordinary things we visited the Mark Addy to admire the harsh white Winter sunlight setting over the footbridge and making the scene almost monochrome. Beers here were halves of Dunham Massey Cherry Mild and Deeply Vale DV8 stout. Its great to see Dunham on a bar but the Addy was our second most expensive stop (taking Keykeg out of the equation) with two medium strength halves totaling £3.70.

The New Oxford is now at the limits of how far the accomplished beer taster wants to venture along Chapel Street based on dire reports of the health and quality of the Crescent. Luckily, the New Oxford also happens to be very good. From an excellent range of about 12 beers we had halves of Welbeck Henrietta and Red Willow Heartless chocolate stout for Miss N and Foxfield Golden Ale and Mallinsons the Count for me. We then moved onto half a Black Edge Treacle Stout and I had a pint of something else from Red Willow - no doubt it will have been fantastic but alas my notes have let me down regarding its identity. We also got chatting to Jean who was behind the bar when we arrived. She very kindly showed is the way to the bus stop and the buses we should catch to our next destination, and was great company to boot. Before leaving she introduced us to the owners/ managers of the pub who were likewise friendly and extended a warm welcome. Once again, the New Oxford proved a highlight in a Manchester and Salford crawl.

We hopped on the bus for a gold plated trip to Shudehill Interchange and then headed for the recently reopened Lower Turks Head on Shudehill itself. Arriving at 17.30 on a Friday means seats are at a premium but we managed to find a gap and sat down in the heat to enjoy halves of Mouselow Farm Under the Influence, another pricey do at £3.60 for two. I know there has been significant investment in the pub but the Mouselow was the only unusual or micro brewery beer on offer, and I would have been even less happy paying £3.35 upwards for Black Sheep or Landlord.

We headed to the Marble Arch next for some expensive (are you seeing a theme?) food which to be fair was absolutely excellent, and some rather good beer. First round beers were pints of Marble Ginger for Miss N and Dobber for me before I had a further half of delicious Lagonda IPA. Beer prices in here were a little more realistic at just over £3.00 for the stronger beers and they accompanied the beautiful food perfectly..

A penultimate stop (and yet another first time for Miss N) was a visit to the Crown and Kettle. By now the pubs were filling up but we still found space to sit down and had a HDM Joyous Pale for me and a half of Partners working class hero mild for Miss N. The HDM was underwhelming as they often can be, and the Partners insipid - I think it was simply a case of choosing badly rather than a reflection on the pub though.

Our final hurrah was to have been in the Port Street Beer House. We went in with beers in mind and I was rewarded with two halves of Saison - a barrel aged from Buxton, which was enjoyable but not quite what I was after - and an impeccable one from Burning Sky Brewery based at Firle in Sussex, brewed by Mark Tranter ex of Dark Star. Given that the Dark Star saison was one of my beers of 2012 I can't say I was surprised. The only downside was the price - I'm sure the saisons, although hovering around 6% and on needlessly expensive Keykeg, were about £3.00 a half, but to an extent this was mitigated by the fact that we were expecting a bit of a hit and also neither would probably have worked on cask.

In the end we also fitted in a half each at the venerable Jolly Angler on Ducie Street,  after we missed our train by 30 seconds and had an hour to wait for the next one. The Hydes Bitter was well below £3.00 a pint and in good nick and this was a pleasing antidote to the crush and costliness of the Port Street.

So an oft expensive but undoubtedly varied trip round Manchester and Salford pubs featured some memorable beers and people at some fantastic venues.Only one beer required replacing and there were some astoundingly good value beers at the Joshua Brookes, cancelling out the rather more "eclectic" pricing strategies at other venues. It was great to be able to show Miss N some of the pubs that I know, since she hadn't been drinking in Manchester or Salford for 20 years, and also to know that there is at least another full day of pubs to come back and visit next time.


Wee beefy.

Wednesday, 20 November 2013

I don't get bored, get bored, in the Broad field


       with recent rounds up of linked venues and breweries it's time to reprise my 2012 visit to the Forum Bars Broadfield Ale House on Abbeydale Road - conveniently situated next to the Hop Hideout, which you may remember from being a new specialist beer shop, and everything. My initial two visits heralded good and bad impressions but apart from a spate of visits later that year I've been a bit of s stranger. Lately, a flurry of visits have afforded me the chance of a re-review, thus...

back in the warm late September Miss N and myself had a day boozing in the Tap, grabbing a  coffee in coffee shop-cum-restaurant-cakery-cum-off license Sellers Wheel, before heading to the Broadfield for a beer in the garden. On that occasion the first two beers we spotted were ours for the session. Miss N waded in recklessly to several pint of the Hardknott Infrared and I switched between that and Ilkley Norseman. Both beers were well kept although they could perhaps have been a bit cheaper, and were perfect for the third quarter of our session. It was nice to sit outside and enjoy ale in the sunshine and there is a reasonable amount of space to do so.

The other Saturday was Nat's 40th - and we had "prepared" for it with a session in the Rutland as I reported last time. Reaching Abbeydale Road and hoping to catch the party of revelers as they headed down from Woodseats we nipped in the Broadfield for a beer and started texting the throng. Finding a space at the right hand side bar in the incredibly busy pub I caught the barman's eye and asked what other beers were on offer. Initially I was contemplating a Bradfield Pale but as soon as he said On The Edge Berliner my mind was set on that!

The former Sheffield beer festival award winner was every bit as good as I had hoped - eminently quaffable and utterly refreshing this ale was not to enjoy a lengthy life - probably lasting twenty minutes, and then only because we were searching for a seat instead of drinking. So good was it that, even having established that the party were not that far away, we had to stay for another to make sure. This visit showed up the minor downside to the Broady - that being that its undoubted popularity makes it claustrophobicly busy at times.

This weekend I was at a loose end twice whilst in the vicinity. After my drink at te Rising Sun Friday I was dropped off on Sheldon Road and popped into Vintedge for a sneak preview of Hop Hideout. Since they weren't officially open it seemed cheeky to hang around so I made my excuses and escaped to the Broadfield for a beer or two.  Finding a spare seat on a Friday night is a bit of a problem - but I managed it, and set about assessing my options. I opted for a pint of the Black Iris stout at 5.0% - alas I couldn't tell what the name was but it had a picture of a mans face on. So it was that one. And it tasted good. Next up I had a pint of Magic Rock Curious, and a half of Blackjack Dunkel on Keykeg. The Magic Rock offering was on good form and the Dunkel a nice chewy half to slow down my earlier rapacious intake.

Saturday I was back at Hop Hideout for the pzazz of the opening day, and hoping to be committed to celluloid as well - alas that leap into stardom never came about but I still found my way round to the Broadfield for an earlier and quieter visit. This time the Bradfield Pale was my starter of choice, which stood up well to the free taster of Northern Monk Imperial Stout that I'd had at the shop. It was also good value at £3.00 a pint. I then moved onto another half of the Blackjack Dunkel, along with half of their Texas Holdem on cask, a well rounded feisty bitter which came to £3.40 for the two. Both were once again in good nick, especially the Bradfield.

This shows that after an initially perhaps cautious start the Broadfield, not least because its an outlet for On The Edge beers, has adopted a policy of featuring interesting and varied guests which showcases some of the better upcoming and established microbreweries in the UK. Obviously as a drinker I'd prefer less space to be allocated to eating but that's the only gripe really, which means its always worth popping in if you are up at that end of town.


Wee Beefy.

Monday, 18 November 2013

Older boys

Oh aye,

            we can all fanny about cavorting with the new starlets on the Sheffield beer scene and sampling the output of camelopardelic jesters with donkey themed beers, but yer know, that's not  a long term plan. Sometimes you gotta go with what yer know. Luckily what yer know is often what yer like in Sheffield. Wherein another 40th and a few nights socialising near work have seen me enjoy a celebratory roll call of established Sheffield beer stalwarts.

First up is ickle babbeh DAda. Soon about to or having just had its second birthday, the oddly themed ale destination continues to be a favourite of mine with a winning combo of great beers and likeable staff. Relishing the prospect of a DJ (he spins rekkids, for our younger readers...) on Saturday we set about drinking quite a bit of good quality ale, including Red Willow. We started on the impeccable Smokeless smoked porter on cask, before moving onto the rather stronger Soulless black IPA on Keykeg. Further rounds included bottles of Hardknott Infra Red and some of their Azimuth on Keg before we finished on Halcyon. Plenty of thoroughly excellent beer to be had  as there is so often.

Next up is another slightly longer established haunt - but not by much. It's Shakespeares, who are barely two and  a half years old. Last week I "had" to attend several amber conferences with persons from work, and it seemed daft not to nip into the nearby award winner. First up on Tuesday was my friend Mr Marsh. He and I used to "work" at the exams board and much japery was had - for reasons of libel, I can't really name the individuals who made our tenure there so amusing but Frenjamine John, Mrs  Christine and Terry outer-organs were villains and pantomime fools in equal measure.

Pints of Arbor Tasmanian Devil IPA were my companion until Miss N joined us and I moved on to the Mallinsons Citra - also tasted was a rather excellent pint of Ascot Anastasia stout, although the Arbor probably shaded it . We also bought a bottle of Nogne Global Pale at about £4.00 - not their strongest beer but at least almost sensibly priced for a bottle in a pub.

Wednesday saw me catch up with Christingpher where I moved onto pints of the excellent hoppy Mallinsons Kahatu. Myself and Miss N also partook of a bottle of the  Emmelise espresso stout and a half or two of the Arbor Down Deeperest, now on at £5.00 a pint and still tasting rather fab even though its been " a while" since it was tapped.

Finally, Thursday saw Miss H accompany me for the first time in a year or so and it was Mallinsons all the way again, along with some Arbor when Miss N joined me after an epic shift at Chez gulag. All in all a great line up of beers from the venerable bard and a great venue to boot.

Friday saw me in town at the Rutland Arms, which is now nearly 4 and 5th years old, for some much needed food and some rather less important real ale. Miss N was steadfastly on the Gorlovka where as I was taking it a little easier on a beer which hasn't been named yet - we both finished on halves of excellent Magic Rock High Wire after I had a fantastic chorizo burger. We were also there on Saturday the week before last. Heading to meet Miss N at the Tap I found myself early in town and had to use up the time afforded to retrieve my scarf from the Rutland where I had drunkenly left it the night before. Such was the exhausting magnitude of this event I had to stop for a pint of Hop Studio XS and a half of the Acorn Bishops IPA.

A swift detour to see Matt and Miss N in the Tap heralded a taste of Tiny Rebel Fubar and a pint of the excellent Ilkley Black before we returned to the Rutland to be a little reckless. Despite the seemingly laudable undertaking of a steak and ale pie and chips (which was fantastic) this sensible layer of protection against crapulence was undermined in no uncertain terms by Magic Rock Human Cannonball. At 9.2%, even 4 halves of this beer, I can confirm, makes one a trifle drunk. And so it was to be. But it was damned good fun doing it.

The final stager is Abdeydale brewery. Now officially very old, I was visiting there the other day to catch up with Dan and was given a tour of the brewery, now about 5 times larger than when I first visited in the late nineties. Most of the rooms contained equipment, merchandising and casks apart from one which was surprising. Faced with a range of large stainless steel vessels spanning its length, Dan told me this was "where the magic happens". No wonder he doesn't do much brewing these days - quite how he has time to fanny around performing card tricks and rabbit out the hat deceits when he should be mashing is beyond me...

A quick trip to the breweries only pub, The Rising Sun at Nether Green followed. For reasons of journalistic independence I went for a non Abbeydale beer - Magic Rock Clown Juice, which was rather ace. Cadence forbids me from reporting what young Daniel had to drink however....

A good catch up followed along with a taster of the Four Yorkshiremen of the Apocalypse which I  understand was inspired by Ali Capper the well known British hop campaigner and grower, and which is a brew featuring exclusively British hops. Slightly tamer in taste than I expected it did however have a lovely aroma which I recognised straight away.

Abbeydale are a great example of an expanding and diversifying Sheffield beer success story - and they don't look out of place with quality like the Rutland, Shakespeares and DAda one bit. A resounding indictment of the quality of real ale in Sheffield.


Wee Beefy

Saturday, 16 November 2013

Three newcomers


     amidst the debris of a roller-coaster week of wild excesses and celebrations, some notable green shoots have appeared. As happened around this time last year, Sheffield is once more to gain a few additions. As have I....

First on the register is a specialist beer shop opening on Abbeydale Road called Hop Hideout. The Vintedge building at number 444 houses an antiques and collect-ables shop, in which is a small unit, as well as a shop on the side next to the Broadfield pub which is to be a pop up cafe. The beer business is the brainchild of Jules and Will, who have assembled  a fairly impressive rosta of bottles to sell to a public which they hope, and I suspect will be, thirsty for interesting bottled beers.

With Stanmore Boss opening soon in Sharrow and Beer Central in the Moor markets hot on its heels, and with stalwarts the Archer Road Beer Stop and the Dram Shop clocking up several decades trading between them, Sheffield consumers could well find themselves spoilt for choice by the range of ales on offer, and soon, by the different places they can purchase them. And why not, since with the exception of the Sainsbury's beer hunt (assuming all the ales are stocked in the Sheffield branches, which they never seem to be), plus a handful of curios from Tesco and Waitrose, the supermarkets haven't shown much interest in having evolving ranges or selling something a bit unusual.

Whcih is good news since most micro breweries can't produce enough for the behemothic bully boys so that ought to leave the market open for them to produce and sell small quantities of quality bottled products to equally small independent retailers.

And Hop Hideout is certainly small. Perfectly filling the tiny room in Vintedge the hideout boasts shelving for what I estimate would be 100 bottles, with understated and (gleefully for me) black decor, featuring iconic Magic Rock advertisements, which make it seem cosy and, well, hidden. The shop officially opens today from 12.00 - here is a link to their blog which also has links to all their social media, for further details.

One thing that will be interesting about this new clutch of beer shop babies will be the prices. Its too early to comment on Hop Hideout's pricing policies as they were still formulating them last night but thinking of established specialist beer shops outside Sheffield, and the bottled beer range in places like the Tap and DAda and the Old House, there seems to be rather distasteful love of overcharging. I understand the gamble - that the sheer uniqueness or rarity will persuade customers to dutch their usual price expectations - but this rouse is very misleading and could, indeed should, result in retailers being bitten on the bum. Not literally...

Which subject nicely leads me to another clutch of newcomers - this time in the form of some other Bokkuls. Of bowze. Which came by magic flying elephant all the way from the island of Santorini.

At the invitation of Chala I was offered the chance to buy half a mixed case of donkey beers form the island's Santorini Brewing Company. Initial interest was sparked by the idea that the beer was actually made by donkeys but alas this was a fanciful flight from sense. Of course it wasn't. It was made by men on an island with almost no natural soutce of almost all the ingredients required to make beer. Cue costs...

Without immersing you in the sordid details its fair to say the initial price quoted by Santorini Brewing Company, which I agreed to "against my better judgement" was, in reality, even higher. The main sticking point was the shipping, which added a very hefty charge onto the tab, not helped by our having such a small order. Oh, and there was the cost in worry - because I'd never drunk a donkey beer in my life. In any sense of the words.

To her credit Chala correctly identified the beers as being very nice indeed - the Yellow Donkey reminds me of the almost unfindable Columba wheat beer which I love - but they chuffing want to be nice considering the cost....

 The beers are unfiltered and unpasteurised and frighteningly easy to drink - but unlike old style Greek beers, they are packed full of ingredients and flavours. I have tried the Yellow and Red Donkey and have one of each left to share with Davefromtshop along with a 750ml bottle of Crazy Donkey which is a 6.5% IPA. On the basis of the other beers tried and the excellent produce of Septem and Volkan I'm expecting a very tasty brew - its just a shame that, irrespective of shipping costs, the Donkey Brewery appear to be having a giraffe....

Mt third trio is just one. This will make sense I promise. Mr Stephens, the multi millionaire pub magnate, has now added a preposterous third venue to his unstoppable, ever growing, pub monopoly. Three! I ask you! Three pubs in Sheffield...he virtually runs all of them...(see "Thornbridge"). The latest boozer to get the Mr Andrew treatment is the Three Tuns on Silver Street Head in the city centre.

An iconic building featuring an interesting internal layout and which seemingly has always sold eal ale, the Tuns is a Sheffield institution. Not in a mental hospital way you understand, but in that it seems to have a place in the hearts of plenty of drinkers in the Steel city. Great news then that the place has received a tidy up and started selling brownies (I realise the sale of brownies alone is not the only prerequisite to a pub being good...) and has continued selling real ales.

Last night's secret reopening (?) featured some fine ales including two from Raw Brewery. Myself and Miss N both opted for the Dark Peak Stout which was on excellent form and decent value for the centre at £3.00 a pint. Plans afoot which I have secured access to via torture and surveillance include not changing very much really, and continuing to sell things that are already sold.

Knowing from first hand experience how excellent the Closed Shop has become and the Rutland has remained it looks like a positive development that the Three Tuns is to be an Andrew-inn. However, for once, not as a direct result of too much beer, I actually don't have many details about this development. So  heartily recommend you pop down and take a look at the pub for yourself.


Wee Beefy

Saturday, 9 November 2013

Beer - perfect for "when I jetmjnh aidus. (Hijjs)"

Beer text.

        A message that makes perfect sense to the sender, despite a distinct lack of co-ordination between their brain, fingers and eyesight. The kind of message which is always of the utmost importance, delivered with the highest expediency, and which will always read back just fine  the next day.

But, I hear you ask,  what sequence of events might make one  clamber aboard the magic beer typewriter? What manner of tavern haunting and amber research could warrant such an action? Here's a few details of my thirst for knowledge over the last few days to put you in the picture....

Wednesday was Wanderians day so we headed up into town with the intention of having a change - and visiting the Sportsman on Cambridge Street. On entering there were two handpumps turned round. Journalistic rigor meant I had to ask if the beer was on, even though it clearly wasn't - and the nice man informed me that Trooper and another real ale would be on tomorrow. Still, that represents a hundred percent increase in the number of real ales in the Sportsman, should it happen.

Mr P was unswayed by the suggestion of Henrys and reluctant to trek to the Bath so we adjournment to DAda. DAda have recently introduced a new concept - comfortable seating. Which means that no matter how hip, pretentious or genuine you are, you needn't sup your ale sat on a fold-able metal chair. Which is nice. To celebrate, we had pints of the rather  excellent Thornbridge Otters Tears, brewed for the Indy Man beer conference that everyone but me went to. A perfect hoppy citrus bite and a very drinkable body made for an excellent drink. Mr P moved down a percentage to sup a pint of the Red Willow Headless, whilst I stuck with the tears. I finished on two halves - one of Hardknott Azimuth, which was fantastic, and one of the ever excellent Thornbridge Halcyon.

I say "finished" but in reality Mr P was sensible enough to go home whilst I, labouring under the self delusion of needing to "go sopping" headed to West Street where I accidentally went to the Bath Hotel. Here I had an excellent pint of Pictish Chinook, which was on good form, if steep at £3.40 a go.

Last night as an end of week reward for our having had housemaids knee for 5 days we were supposed to be going to the Tap. Arriving we noticed a party of students carrying massive models of buildings had made passage to the bar almost impossible and there was a bad smell and an even worse atmosphere. So we decamped to the Rutland Arms. We had pints of the excellent Brew Company Oat Stout and sat outside in the beer garden for a chat and some restorative fresh air.

Back inside we noted the Hopcraft New Dawn Fades we'd had our eye on had faded altogether so we had pints of Acorn Bishop IPA. Another Excellent single hop IPA (I imagine Bishop is a hop?) which didn't seem to last very long. So we had another pint, this time accompanied by a half of Magic Rock High Wire which was £2.16 a half on the Keykeg. This 5.5% beer was on top form and not served too cold, so didn't really last very long. So much so in fact that we had to order another half, along with some food -  a plate of Italian cheese, meat, olives and bread which was much needed.

We had been sat upstairs but as the pub was less busy we headed down to commandeer the juke box and to buy several more pints of High Wire. For our final rounds, Miss N stayed on the High Wire and I moved onto Hop Studio XS which was also on fine form. It was nice to bump into the Sheffield Sound Collective (Pete, Dan, Mark, Daniel and Vinnie) and friends who were back from seeing seminal 90's band Cud. We hooked up with them for the last hour before having a final round of drinks and getting a rather inexpensive taxi home.

And yes, as you may have guessed, somebody did make the mistake of trying to send a text. As you do when you've had about 7 pints. And it was every bit as nonsensical as the words in the post title. In fact, it virtually was the post title....


Wee Beefy

Note - if you can suggest 3 English words that I might have been attempting to text then you, and indeed I, could win the prize of knowledge......

Wednesday, 6 November 2013

An ale amble from Commonside to town and some pubs inbetween.

Ay up

           it's not all festivals and epic county wide beer crawls here in the Beefosphere. Oh no. There's also, um, returning to beer festivals. And meeting folks from the far North. Near Barnsley.

The AA was in Sheffield on Saturday to come and try some ales at Shakespeares beer festival, which you may recall my mentioning previously. Like any sensible chap he intended getting food before imbibing too much and had come to know the nosh at the Closed Shop, where I met up with him. A fine range of ales was on offer from which I chose the Otley - I think it was their wheat beer (Dave? Any idea?!) ad I ordered my first shaky pint of the day to accompany my meal.

As befits his want the AA was studiously on halves - in this case of the same. So both of us failed to record the beer's name. How errant we bloggers can be...

A fantastic steak and ale pie and chips wit roasted veg was my choice (£6.95) and the AA was on an impressively large burger and chips. This was a very tasty meal which lined my stomach nicely for my festival reprise. It also helped me sup a half of the Ilkley Mary Jane IPA, far stronger than ordinary Mary Jane at 6.0%. Slightly heavy it packed a punch in terms of flavours and wasn't swamped by bitterness, although there was plenty there - a more traditional but no less enjoyable IPA.

From here we walked down to Shakespeares in a siling swirling downpour before settling down for a few beers. This time I was trying some new breweries. At least, after I had tried the Five Towns again. Now on hand pump it seemed a little drier and less enjoyable which was a shame. Meanwhile the AA was on a half of Cornish Crown 1 Hop 11 Grains. At least, that's what my beer list says, but my memory claims it was from Coastal. Either way it was very nice.

We were going to try the Geeves HIPA but it had run out since our arrival so I had a half of the Wild Boar Mad Pig, a very weak and not particularly accomplished beer, whilst the AA tried a half of the Pumpkin porter - which he liked but was adamant he wouldn't want a lot of. Ironic considering our finisher....

Our penultimate round saw me on Mithril Clocks Back and the AA a half of the Arbor Single Hop which he liked, before we both had a half of the Arbor Down Deeperst Black Saison. Suffice to say we weren't having another after this and soon the AA was heading North whilst I wandered up to DAda. Its important to clarify that, in no way is my inability to recall what I had in there, related to Arbor. It is (probably) entirely the result of my only being in for a short period before I headed off to meet Miss N and Matt in the Tap.

En route to which I ventured in the Dog and Partridge for a swift half. I spotted the Cross Bay seasonal and went for that but it was a little tired. I mentioned it to one of the staff and he offered me a free replacement which was good customer service (I had more or less finished it) - except I had to head off! In fairness they offer a try before you buy policy as far as I know so I could have done that and despite this being a third tired or off beer I've had there in a year I think that whilst a bit more checking is required, their willingness to remedy such issues is a positive feature.

Finally I arrived at the Sheffield Tap, none the worse far having downed at ;least 2 thirds of my last Arbor half in Shakespeares. It seemed only sensible to have a pint and a ha;f of the Magic Rock Dark Arts on cask, which I did. It was on impeccable form as Magic Rock beers seem to have been of late. And it also provided both the perfect end to a Sheffield pub crawl and the necessary encouragement to head home to bed.


Wee Beefy

Monday, 4 November 2013

Some unspoilt Staffordshire pubs


      this weekend saw Wee Fatha celebrate his birthday. For reasons which make us,  his passengers,  seem like we have enslaved him in automobile ferrying servitude, he came up with a plan to visit some of the best unspoilt pubs in Staffordshire, and one in Cheshire, on a day long escapade that promised up to 11 pubs. Given this level of self sacrifice, it would have been rude not to attend and sample some excellent boozers along the way.

We set off in a howling maelstrom and consoled ourselves that there were really only views from car windows and the inside of buildings awaiting us - as it was there were sunny spells all day - along with ferocious showers. Luckily more time was spent inside pubs than walking to them.

We started in the wilds beyond Eccleshall down a network of lanes that once were tracks and lanes that had since returned to being tracks, to arrive at the Anchor at High Offley. This two roomed canal-side pub has a fantastic setting up a flagstone path from the waterway near a bridge affording views along the Shropshire Union. There are outside toilets, one real ale, and conversation prevails in the bar, which comprises two giant settles, an open fire and a quarry tiled floor. WF and WK were on halves (and once again, please remember WF has no more than a quarter of every half), whilst myself and Miss N were on pints of the Wadworth 6X.

The only minor shame from a photographic point of view at least, was that the pub was still quite brilliantly and painstakingly decked out in Halloween decorations. That didn't make the company or the surroundings any less enjoyable though, and we were there for nearly an hour in the end. Pub 2 and pub 6 were studiously removed from the itinerary to accommodate this reckless but wholly necessary extra long stop.

We parked up at Norbury junction for our dinner then headed onto the Swan at Whiston. Set in acres of land and bathed in bright winter sunshine this long white pained building is not really in Whiston at all - its just the nearest group of buildings find-able on the map on the isolated road the pub stands beside. Included on the basis of it having long been a Holdens outlet, here I had a pint of the mild at £2.35, Miss N a Harvest Pale at £2.90 and there were also halves of Enville Ale and Holdens best to try. The mild was perhaps the best of the bunch, although the Harvest was in good nick.

Into Cannock next and the Crystal Fountain is owned by Black Country Ales (or at least run by them) and is on the National Inventory of unspoilt pub interiors. An unusual high wall forms the frontage with entrances at both ends linking and giving access to the main bar and snug with access to the lounge and function room from the left. A good range of beers included 3 from the Black Country Ales fold - WK had the BFG and WF the Pig on the Wall - whilst myself and Miss N opted for pints of the excellent Great Heck Citra. The Pig on the Wall was great but the BFG a tired and disappointing brew - which is surprising as the session bitter in that breweries pub.

Despite that this was a cracking boozer, the interior of which is, to my mind, 1950's - lots of austere lines and frugal yet elegant fittings. For more info on the interior, here is a link to the Heritage pubs website.

Into Stone next and a chance to visit the ever popular Swan in daylight. This pub sells Coach house and Joules (are they not the same?) beers plus guests in a  large multi-roomed pub wit real fires and stone floors. We chose halves of Coach-house Wizards Wonder, Rudgate Thunder Flash, Coach house Gunpowder Mild and Blythe Bridge Ridware Pale. It was telling that the non Halloween themed beer was far and away the best - but this was an enjoyable visit to a comfy, welcoming, busy pub nonetheless.

Outside Stone a couple of miles away lies Oulton. Curmudgeon profiled the Brushmakers here back in July, but visiting now in the dead of winter the photo on the blog was of limited use - since the sign had been lost. Luckily, blind boy here spotted an illuminated Bass sign and insisted we went back for a look - and sure enough there it was. The Brushmakers is a one room (I think!) drinkers pub selling three beers - two from Thwaites and a guest. On this occasion we all went for the Coach House Dick Turpin which was a pleasant drop, and settled in the corner to talk and soak up the scene. There was sport on the telly and plenty of customers, and nearly as many dogs, with a refreshing mixture of ages chatting convivially in the warmth. Well worth  a visit.

Food came next as we broke our own rule and visited Cheshire - just over the border at Scholar Green to visit another National Inventory pub, the Bleeding Wolf. An impressive interior of dark wood and leaded glass windows on the bar along with impressive heavy wood doors to the loos in a style similar to the Racecourse in Salford awaits - along with three real ales. We all went for Trooper and ate from a menu that was somewhat more expensive than your usual Robbies fare - not that it mattered because the food was excellent. On the way out I noticed some Robinsons bottled ales stained glass features in the glass either side of the entrance door - a nice subtle and more easily photograph-able touch.

Back into Staffordshire and  despite getting lost, which is customary, we did eventually find our way to the Vine at Tunstall. A quiz was on in the darts room in this unspoilt back street boozer, also on the National Inventory and which boasts outside gents, a long drinking corridor, lounge, and a redoubtably old gas fire in the narrow bar. Our round of J2O for WF, bottled Guinness for WK and halves of Walkers something unreadable on keg for myself and Miss N came in at under a fiver. Although, arguably, the Walkers was sufficiently dire to make that total about right. Alas this was a short visit as time was getting on, nut its good to see the Vine still quietly and unassumingly getting on with being a proper boozer.

Time was literally getting on for our penultimate stop - the Coachmakers at Hanley. The bus station across the road has been built and despite opposition from a  mixed brigade of concerned and passionate supporters plus people who know what they are talking about when it comes to pub preservation, the powers that be have confirmed demolition will go ahead to make way for a car park.

Despite this the locals remain upbeat, unified by an understandable  dislike of the municipal overlords who seem to have ploughed on with the decision to show that they were right all along rather than for any claimed benefit. They also seem convinced that the demolition is a long way off, but I'd still get there sooner rather than later before its too late. On our visit, halves of Black Sheep Ruddy Ram, plus a half and a pint for me of the Bass from the cask in the cellar were ordered. We sat in the right hand room warmed by the fire listening in on the conversation and plotting our next move. Lets hope this wasn't our last visit.

Our final stop was to have been the One Legged Shunter - a pub seemingly with no phone number or website, attached to a heritage railway and situated down a dark lane. The GBG claims it opens 18.00 til 23.00 weekends in winter but the fact that the station isn't on Caverswall Lane and we had reached it without spotting signs of life suggested our search was fruitless. We did turn down a few lanes initially before returning to the station to spot a pub open sign behind the locked gates. Perhaps they don't open Sundays in winter anymore, and no doubt its run by volunteers and is not exactly likely to attract passing trade on a chilly Sunday, but its surely not impossible to announce such a  decision or confirm such an arrangement via the tinterweb. To be fair, a search on the web in the comfort of my home identifies a phone number but it still says they open 12-23.00 on Sundays. A case perhaps, with this being their FB page, of getting but not utilising social media. Humph.

Unperturbed we pushed on to Cheadle where the Hunstman was holding its quiz. A range of about 7 beers heralded some LocALEs including Joules but I went for the Lymestone Einstein - an overly sweet beer that I probably should have had a taste of first. Initially the loud music round was a bit annoying but once we'd found a corner to sit in and guessed a few of the answers, along with listening to Fawlty Towers and Blackadder in the loos, I think we all rather warmed to this pub.

So started a long punt home and ended a tiring day out for all concerned. Stand out pubs were probably the Anchor, The Swan and the Brushmakers but there wasn't a bad pub in the ones we visited. A great advert for unspoilt pubs in Staffordshire, and the existence of the National Inventory.


Wee Beefy.

Saturday, 2 November 2013

Shakespeares Autumn Beer Festival 2013


            This week I've had the pleasure of a couple of nights at Shakespeares sampling the delights of their latest beer festival. It seems like its been ages since they had one - I missed the one in March because I was fannying around at SIBA Beer X and I don't think they've had one since - perhaps I've been too addled to remember...

The festival once again boasts a LocALE and festival bar, the latter being upstairs on your left. There were sandwiches a plenty (alas no pork pies - tut)  and throughout there has been a programme of music in th Bard's Bar for those wanting to combine tunes with supping. Obviously, no such interference in the vital work of research would be allowed. I'd read the list, I'd picked out te beers from my favourite breweries to ensure I enjoyed everything I bought, and I was ready to go.

I could write at length about the individual flavours and aromas in, and distinctions between, all the beers I have tried so far. However, I can't recall a large percentage of those subtle minutiae in most cases, and also a large section of my memory, and likely my liver, was erased by having a half of the Arbor Down Deperest Black Saison - at 13%. Apparently, we got home. Whatevs.....

Instead here is a list of beers what I did drunk:

Five Towns Baby Blue 4.5%
Squawk IPA 5.5%
Hopcraft Bikini Atol 4.5%
Axholme Pumpkin Porter 4.3%
Art Brew Anarchy Party 7.2%
Art Brew Baby Anarchist 3.2%
Arbor Triple Hop  13, 4%
Arbor Down Deeperest 13%
New Bristol Angry Tom 5.9%
Steel City All Hallowes Eve 5.2%
North Riding Screaming Bedlam 4.2%

All the above were sampled over two sessions in pints - with the somewhat obvious exception of the Black Saison, of which a having pint, though comparatively inexpensive at £6.00, would have been a very unwise move. I also got to try the Bradfield Bristol Cream Stout, the New Bristol Beer Du Jour, and the Brown Cow Concorde Pale.

Pick of the bunch is a tie three ways between Arbor Triple Hop 13, Five Towns Baby Blue and Steel City All Hallowes Eve - as a first of the festival, the Five Towns was a cracking start, but there wasn't a bad beer in the bunch.

I am going down again today to try some of the new breweries offerings so will probably switch to halves but in the end, I won't want to miss out on the Art, Arbor and New Bristol beers - alas the Steel City and, I think, the Five Towns, have run out.

Congratulations to Shakespeares and their tireless for once again putting on a spectacular range of well kept beers, at sensible prices in convivial surroundings. And special mention must go to Chris Bamford, AKA Mister Christopher, who although not working at the time, spotted myself and Miss N sat in the dark on the tiny bench seat in the alcove at the back of the bar, and fetched us a light bulb on demand. Well done that man !


Wee Beefy