Saturday, 28 February 2015

Saturday night in North Staffordshire

Now then,

       at the end of January Wee Fatha and Wee Keefy and Tash and me were set to go to the folk night at the Royal Cottage. Alas, a surfeit of snow and potentially treacherous moorland conditions between Buxton and Leek meant we were denied the opportunity. Instead, a few weeks ago we decided to visit on a Saturday night.

We left Crookes with snow on the ground - not much, just a smattering, but enough to warn of potential issues further ahead. As it was, the only issues were not directly weather related, as we later found out. The snow was thick but piled high alongside the road from Longnor to Royal Cottage. There was that eerie blue white haze that lightens the countryside when it should be dark, that you only find when all is awhite.

We arrived at Cliff;s at 20.15 and found the light was not on. The upstairs light was though, and as we and another customer pulled our cars off the front we noticed Cliff stood at the window. We decided he would probably open later and so headed to a new pub for us, just down the road.

The Olde Rock Inn at Upper Hulme is an old but I suspect much extended pub just off the A53. We parked in the car park avoiding snow and pools of icy water, and walked tentatively down the road and over a small roadside stream into the brightly lit pub. There were two real ales on the bar, Bombardier, and Peregrine pale from Peakstones Rock Brewery. All of us had a pint, except WF who stuck to a half.

We sat at a large table in the bar room and watched a steady stream of punters turn up and sit down before moving to the tables for eating to do just that. The food looked like it was served in massive portions, and smelled lovely. We didn't want to stay though as the Royal Cottage awaited.

Except it didn't. Cliff was still upstairs and the lights weren't on downstairs. And despite the obvious arrival of two other cars, the situation did not change. So we headed off to Earl Sterndale.

The Quiet Woman pub was softly lit and Ken had cleared the snow outside the front porch. All we had to do was safely deliver WF with his walking stick to the porch. This was quite a lengthy process but we were soon inside. As we arrived a customer said to Ken "right you've got customers, I'd better get off". Its not clear what impediment we posed, or what indeed he and Ken were discussing, but as soon as the two pool players in the back room left about 21.30 there was only us in the pub.

WF, Keefy and Tash all had pints of Jennings Dark Mild (WF a half of course) and I supped rather quickly a pint of Brakspear Oxford Gold. So nice was this beer that I was up for another long before anyone else, as well as buying a Wrights pork pie. Ken often says that he is only busy the first weekend of a month but I was surprised how quiet the pub was for a Saturday. Admittedly people ay have thronged in earlier but it was closed as soon as we left around 23.00. Having written about two favourite pubs closing this month, I hope I won't have to write another post about the Quiet Woman. Get out there and use it is what I say.

We had at least one more round of drinks, Ken lit the fire and we chatted amongst ourselves, and in total I dispatched 4 pints of the Oxford Gold which was on good form. As ever, the Quiet Woman reminded me of the value of unspoilt traditional pubs in that area, many of which have been lost. Am sure the Royal Cottage will be open when the weather improves, and we can do the whole trip again soon, and get to both pubs.

Heres to another Saturday night in North Staffordshire.

Wee Beefy

Pints of cold baffler


         recently I have had a cold. But wait...there's more. Some of Sheffield's finer pubs have, also recently,  managed  to offer me pints that I could actually taste through the film of lung butter and various mucas that inhabited my throat and mouth. Yum.....

It all started about a fortnight ago in Shakespeares. Myself and Tash had already been in the Three Tuns supping Sunny Republic Hop Dog, a 5.5% IPA, and afterwards we headed the short distance to Shakespeares. And there it was. Buxton Wyoming Sheep Ranch Double IPA at 8.4%. Wow. Goodness in a glass. Class in a pot. Love in a dimpled mug.

The Buxton, having been brewed by them and being a whole percent above the HSBD level, was a trifle expensive. However, it was also a trifle strong, as I said. And it tasted superb. Some of you I know will balk at this, but I didn't mind paying £4.80 a pint for what was an impeccable, and worryingly suppable IPA. It was packed with hops but no overwhelmingly bitter, had smooth malt in the background and a sensational, lingering, bitter finish.

Later that week myself and Tash found ourselves in the Bath. Hotel. On the bar was a delightful Anarchy Brew Co Blonde at a sessionable strength. As my nose streamed and voice fought not to disappear, I was drinking the Blonde in readiness for a pint of Bad Seed IPA at 7%. Being a Thornbridge pub, the Bath is a little less able to offer beer cheaply, so this was £4.60 a pint. However, once again, it was well worth it. The IPA was also, very easy, in fact far easier than the Buxton, to drink.

According to their website the beer features Cascade, Columbus and Chinook hops. Not being that good at picking out those, except maybe Cascade, what I can confirm is hat the blend is so eloquent as to render them as one, a tumult of oily, fragrant citrussy hoppiness to tingle your taste buds. We had several pints, of course, just to make sure.

The Rutland Arms is somewhere I don;t visit as often as I used to. There is no particular reason, its just how it is. Two recent trips towards the end of my sniffling revealed exceptional Blue Bee Into the Abyss, a hulking but subtle (if that makes sense) Black IPA at 6.0%. The malt used must be quite soft , by which I mean it allows the beer to slide easily down your throat but without being the worst of beer styles, creamy. The hops are punchy as they should be, and as a Black IPA its noticably, erm, stoutish, which is a good thing. Accompanied by excellent Magic Rock High Wire NZ , the Rutland has reawakened my leaden tastebuds successfully.

The final cold baffler came once again, on Thursday night, in Shakespeares. We only went in for 1 - we only had 1 Although it came in two rounds of halves. On the keg section, was an oft favourite brewery Beavertown, and their Blood Orange IPA called Bloody Ell.

Any points lost for subtlety of name were regained with the exquisite blood orange flavours complementing and sitting with the hops so perfectly. As the only keg beer of the bunch this was also the most expensive at £5.50 a pint but once again its flavour and sensational aroma made it stand out. I understand from fellow "blogger" (clears throat) Mr Bamford, that they had sold half the keg by Thursday - so am afraid I doubt there will be any left! Even so you should definitely head along there today and try and get some.

All the above beers have been excellently hoppy but vastly different in style. They have been strong, sometimes expensive, but always of impeccable quality. What a fantastic advert for the cellar work and beer choosing skills of some of Sheffield's finest boozers.


Wee Beefy

Wednesday, 25 February 2015

Ship aground


         today I had some shocking news about the closure of another Sheffield real ale pub. On Saturday I did overtime and wanted a pint around 15.00 - en route I stopped by the pub and found a security sign in the window and no sign of life - as it was, I went on to the Wellington to enjoy two of the most relaxing quiet pints of my recent years. And I did mean to discuss the pub with someone but never did...

The Ship at Shalesmoor, I heard tonight, has closed, as the landlord has got into financial difficulties. The security signs therefore, were genuine, and the pub has ceased trading. I understand the family from which the current landlord came, had run the pub for three generations. This is no longer the case

What I liked most about the Ship was its quiet, and the ebb and flow of customers. Having been in a few times on Saturday afternoon there were always regulars in and football was on the telly. This did not override the ancient jukebox when it was on, although that became very rare I understand. On the bar were three, then four real ales, none of which were from owners Greene King. The landlord was stoic in his support for local, and guest beers, almost all regardless of strength, were sold for £2.70 a pint.

On Fridays and perhaps Saturdays, if you stayed long you could hear the landlady walking round and asking about who wanted a Chinese (meal) around 23.30. This was then delivered, and anyone was welcome to order. The doors seemed t look late and service went on lat most nights.

The landlord was knowledgeabe and friendly and crucially, knew what he and his customers liked. It is a great shame that he will no longer be behind that great bar to pull delicious pints of real ale. Lets hope, now, that the pub remains open.


Wee Beefy

Saturday, 14 February 2015

Give a sausage to someone cho love


         its the yearly orgy of fake messages of love, over priced cards and horrendous meals in places that normally might offer a decent service, but for this weekend, become incapable of doing so. There is schmaltzy cheese music playing, couples in their later years squeezed into clothes they loved when they met decades earlier, fake hearts everywhere you look, and everyone is ordering stuff to eat ans drink like their lives depend on it. If only there was a more agreeable way to spend Valentines day?

Well, luckily, there is. The Three Tuns, Silver Street Head, Sheffield, is until Sunday having Sausage Fest 2015. I did ask if this was the 2015th consecutive festival they had run but this was deemed to be a "joke" so I can't confirm, but it does at least take place in 2015, so points there for accuracy. I have to say however, am annoyed that they didn't realise this enquiry was representative of my renowned journalistic rigour....

I went on Thursday night to find Reet Pale on the bar from Blue Bee, their Tempest Stout and also Blue Bee Sausage Fest 2015, a dry hopped 5.0% IPA. This was deliciously hoppy, pale (obviously) and surprisingly easy to drink, so myself and the musician Mr David Howard had numerous pints of this beer. To be fair, and with the greatest respect to The Tuns, who is a person, the first night was slightly chaotic.

We definitely needed to drink a number of pints in the time we waited for our food. Well, my food. I'm not convinced that young David actually eats, instead subsisting on tobacco and alcohol. Issues with delays in food times included missing catering staff and a table of gluttons who, I was told by David, had ordered approximately 1 thousand courses of sausage, piled high on their table.

Whatever the reason for the delay, I am happy to confirm that the lovely Dave behind the bar apologised and recompensed us, and the three sausages and chips I had were delicious. And according to Faceache, many people have visited since and really enjoyed the food and beer on offer.

For those interested, I chose a chorizo, a game and venison and a pork and apple sausage. All were cooked to perfection and incredibly tasty. The range includes ones made with Blue Bee Brewery beer, with Sheffield Honey Co honey, steak and Guinness, smokey BBQ, caramelised onion and balsamic vinegar, a gluten free, 3 vegetarian sausage types, and many more. There is also a trio of Sheffeld sausages, and sausage and cider casserole. Its a porcine (or tofu) dream. The link to the pub on Twatter is here, for details, and their website is here.

So, if you have a loved one, an elderly relative, child or pet, or someone you care about at all, please take them to Sausage Fest today. Show them how you really feel with tubes of flavoured meat. It makes "porkfect"* sense.

*Clears throat.

Wee Beefy

Saturday, 7 February 2015

Ta-ra, DaDa


       I am informed by a number of reliable sources (hoping not to be hoist by my own petard here!) that tonight will be the last night of trading at DaDa on Trippet Lane Sheffield. I understand the business and therefore assumedly the building (?) has been sold and therefore, of course, DaDa will be no more.

This is disappointing, but not entirely surprising news. I used to like DaDa especially because it was quiet. I was well aware that this was not good for the business, and so it proved. This, even against the backdrop of numerous managers and excellent members of staff, many of whom have gone onto manage other Thornbridge pubs. On that basis, the renowned quietness and inability to attract drinkers other than on Friday and Saturday nights is somewhat a puzzle. Or is it?

My first impressions of DAda or DaDa or similar weren't all that positive. Here is my blog post from November 2011 which sets out my concerns about its decor and lack of prominence for cask ales. Although I came to love Dada (no use fannying around with extra capital letters now eh?) I think some of my initial observations rang true when I last visited om January and had a half of pale ale before meeting Tash. Its not comfortable. Its noisy. It lacks atmosphere.

The strange thing is, Thornbridge has won national awards as a pub owning brewery. Like its brands or venues or not, its hardly unsuccessful in respect of running bars and boozers. The problem with Dada was, nobody really got what it was about. In fact, Dada never really got what it was about.

I understand the design was the brainchild or dream of the directors of Thornbridge. And it shows. Its not really the kind of place someone not in their middle age would want to go. It is pleasingly unconventional, but not enough to woo those seeking an unusual night out, whilst not being sufficiently traditional to win over many of the CAMRA crowd. It is and was a beer bar where people were for the most part, not there for the beer. The concept didn't work and it seems Thornbridge, possibly out of blind determination to stick with their vision of the bar and its themes, didn't want to change it.

On Thursday I was in the Bath Hotel drinking the rather amazing Jaipur X, a special keg 10% version of the excellent pale ale. I was with former Dada regulars Mike, Josh, Amy and Ben. As Mike summarised, the final straw was the two absurd huge frozen Heineken posts that were installed on the bar to absolutely no-ones rejoice. That, and long term staff like James, Emily, Steff and Jamie having left, started, or rather accelerated, what had been  a slow decline. The music got louder. The gas ran out more often than it should. They stopped serving bar snacks. They bought near out of date keg beer to sell cheap. It was a venue that needed to do one thing to change which it couldn't. It needed to not be Dada.

Its important to point out that I have had some cracking nights in Dada. I have also drunk some amazing beers. I have met friends in there, and supped til closing time, I have reveled in the Halcyon, the Chiron, the Schlenkerla and the Melba and others. I have enjoyed its silence, its lack of customers, and its ska. Unfortunately, not enough other people did.

So long, ta-ra and it was good knowing you Dada.

Wee Beefy