Sunday, 28 December 2014

Beer. Twixt Christmas and New Year....

Ay up,

    well, having finally gone mad after 3 or 4 days virtually exclusively in the house, today I ventured out to collect a prescription from town. Despite this well meaning intent, that is not what predominated my trip out. or, indeed, what happened. Here's what did.....

I met up with Angie instead. Myself and Angie have known each other for many years and today was a great chance to catch up for the first time in months and have some drinks.

Meeting on High Street we negotiated slippy slopes down to Bank Street, along Queen Street and then eventually up to the Three Tuns. They aren't normally open on a Sunday* but I'd seen a pic on Faceache which suggested they were - I'd already found out the Bath wasn't, so this was an ideal starting point.

On arrival Dave welcomed us and we opted for a coffee for Miss H and a pint of Cliffhanger for me, and we began supping and catching up. The Brass Castle cliffhanger was possibly the most bitter beer on despite being only 3.9%, and was a perfect starter. As the conversation continued we repeated the round and also bought a portion of chips and cheese, before we left the pub which, having been the only punters on arrival, was now filing up.

A treacherous tiptoe across the ice landed us at Shakespeares where things were a little busier. I had a pint of the Arbor Transatlantic Pale ale and Miss H a half of Cherry beer, and we retired to the clockroom to continue catching up. Peace was temporarily disturbed by a pub crawl of folk who virtually blocked access to the toilets - ample indication that they hadn't yet been - but otherwise even as other crowds joined, this was ideal.

My penultimate pint was the excellent Siren Craft Brew 10 finger discount IPA at 7.2% on keg, whilst Angie stuck to the fruit beer, and we finished our evening of refreshment with another pint of the same for me and a coke for her.

Overall, it was a quiet but enjoyable evening, and great to see that, as expected, despite the pressures of Christmas, there was still a range of excellent beers available to those braving the ice and cold.


Wee Beefy

*David informs me, just now, that nowadays they are. So there! Pop down......

Saturday, 27 December 2014

Two hours in Retford.

Now then,

              on the way back from Cropton Wee Keefy diverted down the A1 to visit his friends in Retford. I was asked if I fancied getting a train back, and discovered I had two hours to wait for it. The question was - what would I do?

Regular readers may assume I went shopping, or to a religious retreat to meditate, or a vegan cafe. Yet, in a surprising move, I opted instead to go to some pubs. I didn't have a GBG with me and I haven't really looked up Retford before but I remembered one pub which was OK and WK recommended the Turks Head. Armed with this and no other info, I set off....

Walking into the town centre wasn't difficult. I soon arrived at a road near Asda and saw the Rum Runner - this was the pub I remembered being OK. Inside it has two rooms at the front, the left one seemingly for games, and a large one up steps at the back. They were serving food (twas a Sunday) and had five or more beers on. This included Hopback Summer Lightning, so I opted for a quick pint of that.

The pub has Batemans signage and carried two of their beers including one from the Salem Brewery which sounds like it might be a Batemans micro plant? Meanwhile there was Castle Rock and Deuchars, so I think the Hopback was the best choice.

Heading into town next I eventually gave up guessing where the pub was and asked a stranger - who wasn't from Retford, but he stopped a passer by who gave me directions to the pub. The Turks Head is a rather fine old pub on a road leading off the square and inside has some pleasant original features, perhaps 1920's or earlier, and not with the austerity of 1930's fittings. There were 4 beers on the bar, an Everards seasonal, Landlord, Black Sheep and St Austell Tribute, so I had a pint of this.

The pub was warm, not too busy, friendly and comfortable, and if I'd had more time, and, to be fair, if they'd had a better range of real ales, I would have stopped longer. I have to say I liked the design of the high ceiling toilets - perhaps my increasing age is represented by how much importance I place on pub toilets....

Back into the square and round the next corner to a church - the pub nearby didn't advertise real ales but the Sun Inn did. This was an old building which seemed half way through a refurbishment, with an old dark area on your right with families in and the rest of the pub in an L to the left. Only one real ale was on, Adnams Explorer at £3.00 a pint, so I had a half and carried on.

Nearly back at Asda I headed down West Street to visit the White Lion,a free house. Inside, the bar, which had quite modern fittings and plenty of space, there were two real ales, Doom Bar and something I couldn't read which I was assured was local. I tasted it and it was incredibly light, although not in colour. So I opted, with time running out, to try this.

My final stop was round the corner in the Rum Runner again, this time once more having the Summer Lightning and sitting down bear the bar soaking up the atmosphere and appreciating the warmth. A brisk walk back to the station nearly resulted in my missing the train as I didn't valise it was so far to Platform 3 from the main station. Once back at Woodhouse I nipped in the Junction.

I hoped it would still sell real ale - it did when me and Davefromtshop visited in 2010 - but alas there were two signs on the pumps stating the real ales were settling in the cellar. Still despite this, I got a bottle of Pedigree and supped that. The Junction still looks similar and still appears to be a family pub, although a lack of lights on the way to the gents means its either short of cash for light bulbs or discourages those who want a wee! It still seems like a good community pub though, and I will pop back soon to find out what real ale they sell.

This is obviously not an exhaustive exploration of Retford's pubs but was a nice change and showed that even with little info you can find real ale somewhere you have never been before.


Wee Beefy

Friday, 26 December 2014

Two different beer festivals


        after "Dryvember" (coughs) was a relative failure, I have striven to make up for the at least expected lack of bowze in December. Hence, unsurprisingly, I have had little time to remain sober. Sorry, to write. My review of a beer festival a month and slightly over a month ago therefore appears now. Soz un all.....

The New Inn at Cropton is famous for having two breweries - or, at least, two brewing companies based there. Cropton Brewery is the longer established outfit and produces mainly cask ales and bottles. The new fella is The Great Yorkshire Brewery, who produce cask and keg with potentially more emphasis on keg, as well as bottles. For 20 odd years now the New Inn has held a beer festival to not only promote its wares, but also treat pub=goers to a wider range of UK real ales and to provide camping and live music.

Last year as you may recall the weekend of the Cropton beer festival, starting on the 22nd November, was when Wee Fatha was rushed into hospital so we didn't go. This year, although Jambon and Jo pulled out late on, me and Wee Keefy decided to travel oop North as a kind of pilgrimage to WF - we even rang him Saturday morning, to receive a ten minute moan about his Doctors - so we knew he was well.

Arriving around Midday we got parked behind the pub and set up camp in the field opposite. By 13.00 we were in the marquee drinking.  I started with a half of Hopcraft "whose been sleeping in my brain" and we had other beers from Banks and Taylors and Gyle 59. If I have a criticism of Cropton festival, and its a small one, its that you, as well as the staff don;t know where the beers are, or indeed which ones are on. And the names on the signs are often wrong. But hey, that's a minor issue. It makes things more fun....

After 2 pints we went for a walk in the village, along a muddy track and then back as we lost track of the path, before returning to the tent after seeing the sun for 20 minutes break through the heavy fog, to eat dinner before returning to the festival. It was far busier now and we got sat near the food area and started trying beers, more from Gyle 59 and Moor, invluding So Hop and Dark Alliance, and chatting to persons from bike clubs and Sheffield band Kingfisher Blue. We also ate, and the food was lovely, and went for a walk in the black fog to find "phone signal" - we failed. On returning we eventually moved into the pool room and I began my 3rd of 5 pints of the Art Brew Double IPA at 7.2% - and a bargain £3.20 a pint.

This is a great festival with a good and varied range of ales, decent food, and, if you are still "young" enough to like camping, fantastic free accommodation! We both hope to be returning next year.

The next week was Shakespeares 2014 Autumn beer festival. Having acquired funds me and Tash went Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday and thoroughly enjoyed the range of beers, perhaps excepting the odd Wild beer co ones which were um....odd?

One of the great things about Shakespeares festivals of late was the availability of good quality and well priced keg beers from small UK and other breweries - a highlight of which included Radler from Burning Sky, a distinct lemony ale with lost of subtle hops to unsweeten it, as well as an excellent IPA from Kernel.

Alas, in th intervening month since the festival I have contrived to mis-file all my copies of the beer list. Luckily, my erstwhile drinking companions Mike and Danny write their own beer blog, so I have borrowed some details of the beers they tried to fill out my own piece. I haven't asked their permission, but assume they don't mind....

So, the beers I tried definitely, were:

Five Towns V2 Schneider Dunkel
Weird beard K**ntish Town
Loch Lomond Simcoe
Moor Dark Alliance
Brewsmith Oatmeal Stout
Waen Avalanche Pale
George Wright Yorkshire Brown Ale
Siren Ryseing Tides IPA
Arbor NZ Amber
Siren Calypso
Bridestones/Steel City Brewing So Craft It Hurts (vanilla aged stout)
Kernel Pale ale Citra Mosaic
To Ol Fuck Art this is religion (barrel aged double)

Beers of the festival were the Burning Sky New Gods Radler, the Waen Avalanche and my most drunk favourite, the Siren Ryseing Tides, a "tidy" 7.4% pal ale that drank like a far lower strength ale, but was packed with complimentary rye and tangy hops.

Both these festivals were excellent but really quite different. The main thing linking em, however, was hard work and dedication by the venues involved, and absolutely cracking real ale and keg beer. Looking forward to the next ones.


Wee Beefy

Wednesday, 24 December 2014

New pubs in Sheffield


            for the title of this post, it maybe worth thinking of phrases such as selling coal to Newcastle (mow maybe Eastern Europe), ice to the Eskimo's, and new bottled beer to Asda at Handsworth - all of course, seemingly pointless exercises. However, despite already having a burgeoning throng of frankly excellent and often Nationally renowned boozers, there is, of course, nothing better about real ale than choice. So, why not extend that choice further with some new venues?

Lets start with not a new pub. Yup. It was previously the Sportsman. So why is it in you may ask? Well, to fulfill a journalistic intent. And also because it has changed hands and owners. The pub, on Cambridge Street just off Barkers Pool, gas been reopened following a sensitive but limited refurbishment, as the Tap and Tankard. I haven't checked, but the bar and rumour suggests that Kelham Island Brewery are the new owners.

Visiting a pub for the first time, on a Saturday night before Christmas, is perhaps not the best idea, since it will likely be full of drunk persons and fans of association football, with short tempers. That said, it stood out quite well. On my first visit I was only in for 15 minutes, supping a delicious pint of Pale Rider at £2.90 a pint. My second visit the day after, was less successful. Myself and Miss N went in and she had her all time favourite real ale Pedigree, and I had something from Harthill Village brewery that I liked. The Pedigree, when I finally tried it, was odd. Very odd. Very sweet and thick, like beer concentrate, with none of the sulfurous tones it should display.

I wondered if, since I haven't had any Ped for ages, they had changed the recipe or brewing methods, but I also thought that the sweetness, almost caramelised in taste, was probably a sign of an infection. By this time the pint was almost finished so when we left I mentioned that it didn't taste right. The staff didn't seem confident in defending it, but opted to keep it in, saying I had obviously drunk more Pedigree than them - which I think I have - but then saying that they thought it should taste like that. It shouldn't. This is a new venture and likely just finding its feet but I think I will try it again in the new year to see how things are going.

Next up is an actual new pub. A building that wasn't previously a pub but now is. Its The Beer House, Sheffield's first permanently open micro pub. Its on 635 Ecclesall Road and sells beer. And cider, and some spirits and soft drinks, and Space Raider crisps. Its really quite good.

The former e-cigarettes store has two small rooms, the first housing the small bar with 6 handpumps and a couple of kegs including Stancil Lager, and the second is through a wide opening behind. Admittedly there is also a cellar and access to the toilets. If you want to be precise, you could drink in these. But you wouldn't....

There were four beers on when we arrived, and unfortunately the Marble Pint had run out, but in a rather lengthy wait to get served we spotted the Orchard Gold from Sheffield brewery Fuggle Bunny and had a pint each of that at £3.20. We crammed onto chairs next to a large table at the back and started to look at the pictures, old photographs, and soak up the atmosphere - which is conversation based. And enhanced. Entirely.

Next up we had a half of the FB Russian Rarebit, a stout made with pale malt which was lovely, another half of the Orchard Gold which is made with honey and spice but subtly, and a fantastic pint of wheat beer from Harthill Village Brewery. Hirsche Hugel Bier has a lovely refreshing flavour of, well, wheat malt but also banana and subtle spices. It was very easy to drink and had a lovely smooth but not overly velvety taste. It was so good we had two more pints to finish.

Overall we stayed a couple of hours in the pub and really enjoyed it. I heard rumours they were doing cocktails, and, admittedly that seems non-micropub-ish, but then its not set in stone _ I think - and crucially, I didn't see any evidence. Keep up the good work!

Finally a new pub that might nor exist. You may remember, or I may remember intending to tell you, that the Bell Jar on London Road appeared to have closed. After a few weeks without signs of ;life a large banner has appeared over the door stating "Free House The Albion Real Ales". I don't know any more to be honest, nut it seems a bit too ironic to be a tribute to what, in terms of the Albion, I understood was a resolutely keg only Stones pub for many years. Obviously, when I hear any more I will let you know.

All that remains for me to say is do go and try the new and potentially new pubs out, and more importantly, have a fantastic Christmas and a very happy 2015.


Wee Beefy