Saturday, 31 October 2015

Portland House Micropub


      on Wednesday I was invited to the soft launch of the new Micropub in Sheffield on Ecclesall Road. I was invited by Tom who worked at the University Arms for six years - I claim to have only just fund out that he is called Tom. This is a recurrent theme in this and most other posts.

The Portland House micropub is at 288 Ecclesall Road in a former Cooplands shop just up from the Nursery Tavern. I can tell you from personal experience that its a good ten minute walk up Ecclesall Road to the Beer House, Sheffield's second Micropub. The Portland has a more modern interior and settees at one end, with benches and chairs and modern tables - one thing I was asked to point out was that the table we sat at was wonky - I hope that's not the floor!

On the first night they Had Henrietta, Portland Black, Red Feather and Harley on from Welbeck Abbey and Saltaire Citra, and Arbor Half Day IPA on as guests on cask, with Wild Fresh on keg at £4.50 a pint. Tom tells me there's a keg of magic Rock in the cellar and other delights awaiting, which is good for me, since I do like a hoppy beer. However, what I do like about the pub is that it admits that not everyone likes a strenuously hoppy beer, so the Welbeck are the more traditional beers with the guests providing the hops.

The first pint was Henrietta for me and this was interesting - I personally think Welbeck are much less hoppy and punchy with their beers now, and this was a great example - a pleasant soft pale with little hop bite - is not how I remember Henrietta. The second pint was of Arbor Half Day IPA - this was more of a red ale than a pale but was very pleasant, if not actually very IPA-y, which is a word.

The pub will also serve food and at the moment they have pork pies and pork and black pudding pies from Wateralls as well as meats and cheese and breads from Welbeck Abbey producers. The olives and sour dough and olive bread on the first night were excellent - I can, assuming these are from the same, see myself popping in for a bite to eat once the food gets off the ground.

I bumped into Nick Wheat and Andy C whilst there - Nick is someone I have known, but never met, for a few years. He was there with his Dad who runs an architects firm nearby - it was he who asked me to mention the table. It was interesting to meet and talk to Wheaty and his Dad and to Andy and Tom - good to catch up with Sheffield beer news.

Bt comparison, after my visit I went up to the Beer House. It was rammed, with Mr Hough doing the quiz. I had a few pints of a lovely hoppy ale which has unfortunately slipped form my memory, and I got sat with Ben and Paula who I impeded in the completion of the quiz. Two thoroughly lovely people who kindly paid off the tab I accidentally created when I discovered the Beer House doesn't have a card machine - the Portland House does!

Sheffield now has three micropubs and all are different in subtle ways. Am looking forward to revisiting all of them, including Walkley Beer Co, sometime in November. Best of luck to Tom and his team and Welbeck Abbey Brewery with Portland House as well.


Wee Beefy

Sunday, 25 October 2015

Red House. Dead House.


          about this time last week, maybe an hour later, I had sent a tweet to the Red House Sheffield's new and largely unfindable Twitter account. In it, I asked them what times they opened on a Saturday, as I had been there at 19.00 last Saturday and found no signs of life. I did not receive a reply, and discussed this on Monday with W's K and F. When I returned that night, I received a message from Andy C telling me that he had been emailed by the pub. They had closed after three weeks, and the pub was now back in the hands of Punch.

This is not a surprise. Not at all. So what went wrong?

Well, here's a tip. If you are going to reopen a former live music and DJ venue in a hard to find back street area of Sheffield as a quiet, traditional back street boozer, you should advertise. Not simply put a piece of paper on the door (that is how I found out it was reopening) and let Sheffield CAMRA know, and then a week or so after opening create the worlds least informative Twitter account. No, you need to advertise and publicise the fact via as many mediums as possible.

I heard that Craig and Marie had been successful tenants of the Peaks Hotel in Castleton and the Castle at Bradway. I thought I remembers hearing that the peaks had started selling local real ales, which is a bonus for Castleton (although that is based on my last visit, about 8 years ago) and the Castle has always seemingly had a good reputation for food and real ales. Imagine my surprise then at finding the three real ales they had on their delayed opening night did not change two weeks in. I say did not change - am not suggesting they were the same casks - although the moonshine tasted like it was the first sold that week.

You see, their promises were not that watertight it turned out. For instance, on their advertisement, they claimed to sell local craft and real ales. The range never changed, as above, from Moonshine, York Guzzler and Castle Rock Harvest Pale. Myself and Mr P were in two weeks or more ago, and Marie showed us the Punch finest cask list she could choose beers from, and to be fair there were some that I have never tired, and some I would really like to. She said originally that they wanted to get onto the SIBA guest beers list but two weeks after opening, she said the pub co had confirmed that this was not going to happen. They also claimed to do food and high quality coffee, there is a sign up about food but I don't know if this ever got going. I never asked about a coffee, but I assume the machine required was also not delivered. Or not ordered.

When I last went in with Mr P Marie said she was fed up with it being so quiet - and as I was about to point out the lack of publicity, she said "but what do you expect wi' no advertising". I agreed, but found this a very strange statement. She ran the pub with Craig. Both of them should have been promoting it. It's almost like they opened it and assumed passers by, you know, mainly the Chinese student population would simply pop in and make it their go to place for a drink. Guess what? That didn't happen.

I thought Craig and Marie were friendly, knowledgeable and good hosts. And I only visited their pub three or four times. I can't for the life of me think why they took the pub on though, and did nothing to make it a success. And something that Mr P said, after, as a respected poet and performer of poetry, he offered to put on a poetry night and received no contact about doing so, stuck in my mind. Perhaps the pub company offered them the chance to run the pub badly for three or four weeks, and then agreed that they could leave - so that the pub could be deemed non-viable and turned into flats, like almost every other building of that age locally.

I understand a successful local firm on Upper Allen street have been offered vast sums to vacate their premises so they could be turned into student flats. Am sure that the Red House represents a great opportunity for conversion. If this is the case, and such plans are afoot, that is hugely disappointing.

I don't want to be writing a post six or twelve months down the line about another lost boozer in Sheffield. Granted the Red House has been more of a venue for some years now, but I think it could be turned into the pub promised last month - but not without extensive coverage and advertising, determination positivity and crucially, the right support from Punch. It wouldn't be competing directly with any of their pubs - because there are no pubs locally that aren't independent.

If anyone has any knowledge of the plans for th Red House do feel free to let me know. And if it does reopen as a pub, I would encourage you to visit it in huge numbers to prove it is viable.


Wee Beefy

Sunday, 18 October 2015

This week, I have been mostly.....


    once again, not exactly a revelation, but an appropriate back story to a week or more of libations that I hope to record some details of here.

Recently myself and Matty and Tash have found ourselves in the Harlequin more often than usual. Its not that I have anything against the Harlequin, more that in the beginning of the month when I have actual money I tend to travel or go to my usual haunts. By this week, I largely pay for my beer on card. Its cash only at the Quin. Despite this on recent visits I found sufficient funds to invest in pints of Five Towns and North Riding Golden Years IPA, which we all had several pints of, along with Exit 3 IPA, and on my last visit, a very palatable pint of Blue Bee Motueka Pale Ale. Motueka is not a hop I encounter that often but there was a definite and interesting tang to this beer, which I assume is a   Motueka characteristic. Decent value as well at £3.00 a pint for a 5% beer.

I haven't been to Shakespeares that much of late. I was in last night after the Ship, not partaking in but observing with interest the punters at, their inaugural gin festival. There have been a couple in Gatsby's and the Harlequin over the last year but I have never been tempted to go. Had Tash been better this last week I think we could have snook in for a taster or two. Last night I started with a pint of Brodies Steam, a half of North Riding Citra and a half of Blue Bee Ginger beer. Good to see that during the gin fest the beers were still top notch.

I sat in the back room and met Tracey and Tom, Phoebe and Tom and Sarah and Tom. This isn't, despite appearances, a bizarre four way, instead three couples. These lovely folks were at Shakespeares to see a man playing upstairs whose three names probably included Steven and Adams. Its always nice to meet new people and this was no different, hopefully all six enjoyed the gig. I went back afterwards  for another half of the excellent Blue Bee Ginger beer, and to pay my tab - another excellent Shakesperian visit.

Talking of Gatsby, sort of, on Sunday after our jaunt to Ull and a coffee in Tamper Sellers Wheel, we went up to the Double G. Its never been my favourite venue but they usually sell two real ales and we fancied a change. They appear now to be permanently selling cask Saltaire Cascadian Black and Roosters YPA. Am not really a fan of either but ordered a half of YPA each for me and Tash. I assumed the cloudiness was a chill haze but even when they warmed up they were still hazy. I think it might have been the end of the barrel - at least I hope so, because £3.60 a pint is a lot for a duff beer.

After this we went and ate two portions of Kumara fries each in the Red Deer. They were having a bit of a Stancil fest, but there was a Brewsters and a Welbeck beer on as well. So me and Tash both had a pint or two of Welbeck Cubits Voyage, a 3.5% session ale using New Zealand Hops. I also tried a half of the Brewsters hopped Porter which was delicious. Am not a Stancil fan however so didn't have any of theirs, apart from a taste of the unfined Blonde.

We finished the night having several pints of Blue Bee in the Three Tuns Silver Street Head. The food menu has again reduced and Jamie was wearing his chef's hat, am not sure if this means another chef has left or not! Once again the ale was excellent, as were the pork scratchings, am just struggling to remember which Blue Bee pale we had. More of the same in terms of quality, when we popped in Wednesday to see Matty off to London with his friends Stuart and Phil.

By the way, Welbeck Abbey Brewery are opening their first Sheffield venue, a micropub on Ecclesall Road called Portland House. Their Facebook page described the venue, opening a week on Thursday 29 October, as a pub, brewery and cafe. Am not sure of the brewery details but I heard about their potential opening some time ago from one of the guys behind the project. Its tag line is a "Micropub without the gimmicks" so it will be interesting to see the results.

Bath Hotel news now - was in the redoubtable boozer Monday or Tuesday drinking one of the beers of the year. The Cloudwater 6.7% Autumn IPA on keg is a revelation - citrus, resinous, spicy hops on a warming malt background is my half arsed attempt at a description - either way it was a fantastic pint which me and Tash had one of each. We found out earlier in the day the pub had some trouble from drug and alcohol abusing molluscs who threatened the two female staff and generally caused havoc. Whilst I was walking down with Tash there was a massive argument going on across the road, and at one stage the front door was locked as a maniac was outside with a knife and a block of wood. Credit to the staff at the pub for working under this kind of pressure. Such a lot to deal with as well as meeting profit and sales targets.

A couple of visits to the Bankers Draft have shown some interesting ales including a mild, Purity UBU amber ale and Fatheads Yakima Sun, part of their ale festival. The Bankers is not my favourite place by a long stretch but is somewhere worth popping on for a coffee or soft drink or an ale, as I have done a few times of late.

Finally, the Sheffield Tap continues to offer some decent real ales. I popped in on Friday with Tash as she wasn't well and needed to sit down somewhere for a coffee - an extra large Cappuccino was £3.50 but am assured was delicious. I thought I would have a Fyne Ales Highlander, but at £4.00 a pint for a 4.5% cask beer said no - a similar strength Bad Seed Brewing Comet (I think!) was much better value at £3.40 a pint so i had a couple of pints of that. Always worth popping in to sample the real ales - just check the prices first.

That's all the news I have for now, am hoping to have a Sheffield beer festival write up next week!


Wee Beefy

Punchbowl, Red House and Ship - one month in.


         yesterday I went on a pub crawl. Shock news, as am sure you would agree, but there was a point. Starting in Crookes at the Punchbowl (or Reet Pizza at the Punchbowl) I was heading for the Red House and then the Ship on Shalesmoor to see how the three recently reopened pubs were faring. This is what I found.

The Punchbowl was busy when I arrived. After talking to the guy from Sheffield's newest micropub - details to follow in next post - I went inside to find dancers and a photographer. The dancers were the Sheffield Steel Tappers or similar - I have seen them in Shakespeares and the Bath Hotel and other venues, they wear red sashes and black and are a friendly and sometimes thirsty bunch. They do traditional dancing, but don't ask me what style. They were also on a pub crawl heading for Shakespeares as it later transpired.....

I went to the bar and bought myself, using a card, two pints - one of Hopcraft Napoleon Complex, and one of their Passage of Least Resistance. I sat down in the left hand side and awaited Wee Keefy.

The Napoleon Complex did not last long and Wee Keefy arrived to find me supping the very easy drinking "POLR" surrounded by families eating. No nauseating screaming bairns I should point out, just groups quietly enjoying the pizza whilst the parents supped. Christingpher joined us later and the pub was getting busier with 30 or 40 customers in. I went to the bar and tried the Reet Pale - for the third consecutive time I have tried it the beer was flat and lacked life or balance and had almost no hoppiness. Does anyone know why Reet Pale is suddenly crap? Instead I had a half of the Tempest Stout, which was lovely.

WK kindly bought us a cider pig pizza to share and this was as delicious as I remember. I know Mt Stephens was worried about the size of this pub and filling it but on every visit so far that has been achieved. I have been in four times now and the pub has always been busy. Looking good for the bowl....

A 32 minute wait for a First Bus 52 followed - to add to the 23 minutes I waited earlier, reminding me that having a First only bus pass adds hours to my weekly wait. A short trip later I got off near the University and headed down Broad Lane, Sidall Street and right down Solly Street to the Red House. Except, I was at the Red House, but it wasn't open. I waited patiently until gone 19.00 but there was no sign of life, just a light on in the entrance behind the locked door.

I'm not going to leap to any conclusions but for a pub so out of the way which had undertaken so little advertising and publicity, being closed on a Saturday night is, at the very least, bizarre. I finally found their Twitter page and tweeted them, only about an hour ago, to ask for their opening times - they haven't even posted any tweets yet, and don't have a description of their pub. The last time I went in, about ten days ago, we were once again the only customrs, and the beer tasted like it had been on for a week or more.  I will let you know what, or if, I receive as a reply to my query, soon.

Cutting down the less salubrious back streets of Snow Lane, Smithfield and Allen Street I was soon on the main road and heading for the Ship. Not as brightly lit as it was on its opening weekend the pub was still busy, thronged with punters of all ages and types, soaking up the atmosphere and the ales and kegs and wines. It was, in what is my sixth visit, a busy, popular venue.

There were three cask ales on - Monkeytown Mild from Phoenix,, a Lytham Witch Wood, and Golden Boots from Jolly Sailor. An interesting range, granted, but still not as good as that offered before (and more expensive). I tried and had a pint of the Lytham which reminded me slightly of Taylors Golden Best, a hoppy amber mild in style. It was actually very enjoyable, but the beer range brings me to a comment by Dave Unpro. He said he hadn't been, but the main complaint he had heard was it was described and marketed as a Craft Ale House but did not sell any Craft. I think he is right.

The bottled range is underwhelming in comparison to other local real ale boozers, i.e Shakespeares and the Kelham for starters. The real ale range is sometimes interesting, often uninspiring, and with the exception of the now much less punchy Punk IPA on keg, there hasn't been a strong pale hoppy beer on yet. Sheffield, as ye fules kno, is a pale ale city. Pale ales are surely the popular pint....?

However, putting aside a nonsensical debate on what the chuff is Craft anyway (its is a word, that is all) the pub seems to be doing rather marvelously despite this obvious shortcomig. In fact, I think that Artisan have been quite clever. In introducing a range of less hoppy but sometimes pale, and sometimes unusual real ales with more standard fare, and reinvigorating the decor inside, the pub has managed it seems to retain the regular customers, as well as attracting new ones. It may not sate the desires of the hoppy independent cask and keg ales drinkers, and its cask range for me is quite disappointing, but it has managed to change its identity and retain it customer base. That, readers, is a difficult trick to pull off.

The other issue is that all but  the Wellington locally offer an astounding range of changing independent real ales. It would be overly optimistic using four handpumps, to try and compete with that sort of range and availability. I say well done then, to the Ship, for making a successful if mis-marketed transition into the drinking venue, and pub, it has now become.

Overall, assuming the Red House is in fact still open, we have seen three very different pubs reopen since mid September and two at least, have been very successful. The difference between the two that are and the one that isn't is plain and simple - advertising, publicity and promotion. Attracting new customers whilst not, it would seem, alienating regulars. Yes, a couple of blokes walked in the Punchbowl on its first weekend and asked for smoothflow John Smiths and were disappointed not to have it on offer. This doesn't seem to have affected it popularity overall.  Meanwhile, am sure some of the Ship's regulars baulk at the higher prices, and miss the Chinese food late on a Friday night, but the pub isn't noticeably suffering a loss of trade. In fact, it has improved.

Its just a shame that the same could not be said of the Red House. Its a cause for concern how little effort was made to attract customers to this traditional back street boozer. I sincerely hope this isn't a false dawn, and that the pub becomes a success in its current form, as opposed to a set of yet more student flats.


Wee Beefy

Friday, 16 October 2015


     "its spelt Hull, burrits prunarnst Ull, thats what everyone rand ere sez" said Kev, as we sat in a circle of red leather chairs, with classic album covers on the walls whilst music played loudly in the background. We were, in Ull. We we here to celebrate Jobi's birthday. Gawd love her, this involved going on the worlds shortest pub crawl in Ull's Old Town. Here is what happened.

Wee Keefy had picked me and Tash and Matty up and drove us to Ull to meet Jobi and Jambon, and we then went to the William Wilberforce Spoons to meet Kev, Sue, who's birthday celebration it also was, and her friends Lynda and her other half, who alas I have forgotten the name of. Como siempre.

The Double W sells quite inexpensive ales and food and is set in a glorious old building. The beer list was well out o date but I had a pint of the Caledonian and some American brewery Amber ale and Tash some Zulu Pale - both pints came to about £3.45. Upstairs we ordered food for us all, and a few holes started to appear - I thought I had dabs of sour cream on my bowl but they were in fact three missing chunks, and Jobi had a cold cooked chicken burger - which they replaced with 2 pints. Downstairs, I was asked if I had been served, so said yes and turned to the guy next to me to ask if he had been and the person asking ran off! I had to wait five minutes to get two pints of Rhymney Export...

About 10 yards away is the Olde White Hart pub. Accessed down an alley way and through a large courtyard, this is a very old pub which I think is, or at least was, on the National Inventory. In the bar its Theakstons and Caledonian, granted, but the Flying Scotsman as on good form. Most of us had that as we sat in the room on the left near the second of two giant fireplaces. We were joined here by three or four of Jobi's Ull friends - to be honest, I really can't remember their names. I can remember they were great company though. This was a feature of the Old Town boozers.

Another couple of yards away is a modern pub called Walters, named I understand after Walter Wilberforce who ran a barbers there. It has a long narrow layout with loos at the end and about eight handpumps and some kegs and a range of bottles and cocktails. I had a delicious pint of Brass Castle Loco and Tash tried some local Atom Brewery Chamomile, whilst Jambon picked the best ale of the night with a punchy IPA which might have been called Nightflower.

We were sat in the booth as mentioned earlier with most of the party stood up,  mingling and chatting and supping the excellent range of ales. At this point the older part of the group (sorry Kev et al!) moved on to the next pub early as they had a train to catch, and we followed on behind after anther half.

WM Hawkes seems like the oldest pub but am guessing its not - I think the amount of old worlde decoration suggests its trying to be older than it actually is. I had another pint of Atom in here as did Tash but we weren't keeping notes, as its no doubt abundently obvious! Got chatting to a local briefly in here and he was pleased that we had come from Sheffield, which was also part of Yorkshire - neither  of us had any time for Humberside.  We stayed in here for a while soaking up the excellent atmosphere and surroundings - although, one gripe, having been told about its wonderful spirit selection, the two staff didn't seem to know what was on, and there was no spirit list. A missed opportunity methinks....

Virtually over the road is the Lion and Key. Our much smaller paty struggled to sueeze in to this rammed pub. Wee Keefy had the Cathead Brewery mild whilst me and Tash had the Leanside Alexandria IPA and something else form a local brewery. To be honest, the Leamside was lovley, but I also tried the Cathead Blonde and it was dire! Here we sat out the back with a good mix of drinkers and enjoyed people watching, and listening to stories of imbibing.

Our final pub was the Old Black Boy, also a National Inventory candidate, with an interesting long layout of two rooms downstairs and one up, with a terrace upstairs. The beer range was less good in here and I had a very average pint of Oakham JHB, and stood downstairs with Wee Keefy and Jobi and others, whilst Jambon Tash and Matty sat upstairs "enlivening" or potentially ruining some couple's date. The Black |Boy is keen on closing time, and we were outside before midnight.

Getting home via a drugged up paranoid mentalist in a burger joint and a long queue at the station taxi rank really didn't dampen our spirits. In fact, it was just another part in a wonderful jigsaw of experiences and ale and ale houses and people in the Est Yorkshire city. A thoroughly enjoyable and highly recommended destination.


Wee Beefy

Wednesday, 14 October 2015

Indy Man Beer Con 2015


                  this year I was once again offered the chance to attend the Independent Manchester Beer Convention (or Conference?) in, surprisingly, Manchester. Here are some memories of what I, and Tash, found.

Firstly, lets make this clear - I bumped into, on the train, two gents from the Australian state of Lougabarougah, or Loughborough in Leicestershire, as its more commonly known. I'd seen one take a bottle of porter out of his bag for a pre festival snaffle, and asked if they were going to Indy Man. They were, Rob and Justin one of whom runs the Hoptimism beer shop. So I offered to let them share a taxi with  me and Tash since I had been before. It would, I said, cost about £6.50. Arriving at Chorlton Baths, it transpired I should have asked for Victoria baths. In Chorlton on Medlock. On Hathersage Road. A quick trip through Moss Side later with taxi driver Daniel, and we were 40 minutes and £15.00 down. Sorry Rob, Justin, Tash, and myself.

Once in things improved. I took Tash into the main room to buy some tickets - £1.00 each and in my experience between £1.50 and £2.00 a third. This meant that most, indeed almost all, of the beer, was expensive. However, most, indeed almost all, was keg, strong, and unique.

We started at the Quantum brewery stand. Our first two beers were their Gose for Tash and a beer for me called Gin and Juice, a 6.5% sour orange peel and I think elderflower gin flavoured wheat beer. These two thirds came to £3.50. The tone was set. Mainly, if not exclusively, because both beers were excellent. We enjoyed them outside amonsgt the tents and food stalls in warm sunshine.

Inside next we tried an IMBC collab with Northern Monk called Quinceessential. This was a quince IPA at 6.0% and was very easy drinking. So far, I had tasted two beers at 6.0% or more. This, I was to learn, was far from unusual at IMBC.

A trip into the far bar followed including a taste of and a third of the Tilquin Draft Gueze. It was here that we bumped into Rob and Justin and their friend, still talking to us, and supping a third of the bottled Grande Gueze at an eye watering £5.00 a third. I also tried or rather supped a third of Hawkshead Sundown red ale at a "meager" 4.5% and some Chorlton Farmhouse IPA at 7.0%. We sat down with a photographer and a guy from Lancashire called Mike who was really enthusiastic about the styles on offer. Tash also went to try a third of the strong Thistly Cross dry cider, and talked to the who ran the firm.

From this pint on, its probably best if I try and remember enough of the beers I tried to list them. So, with that in mind, other beers tried included:

Zapato and the Beak - Little Leeds Pale, and Raspberry sour
A Bilberry saison which isn't obviously on the list
Cloudwater IPA
Almasty Imperial Stout (10%)
Tuatar NUI (BIG) IPA

Whilst supping and wandering we saw a few Sheffielders - the guy with the name and his friend from the Bath hotel, Sean Clarke from Beer Central, the lass form Mashtun and meow who might be called Chloe (but probably isn't!), Stuart from Magic Rock Brewing (who is at least a Sheffielder by association, and the manager of the Sheffield Tap. We also met up with Jules and Will from Hop Hideout, who were my friendly and supportive hosts last year.

We also went for a sit down on a green-bag in the dark end room and listened to a DJ set whilst snaffling our pork pies and sarnies, and supping amazing LSD (Little Sour Delight, a young sour at 6.8% from Lervig in Norway, along with their Lucky Jack IPA. This was a lovely space and a great opportunity to wind down from the pressure of trying to sample as many beers as we could before 16.30.

At a point after that, things became a little less good. With two tokens left I discovered the bars weren't serving and so I headed to the ticket booth to get my money back, and was told they couldn't do that. I have never come across that at a beer festival before. When I protested I was advised to go and get a canned beer to take out - they, admirably, canned draught beer for supping that day but it was 4 tokens. I was going to give my tokens, which I had paid for, to the guy from Zapato but someone mentioned I could use them next year - so still have them. I don't, however, understand why I couldn't exchange them for cash.

That was the main downside if am honest, along with a lack of cask beers. A guy behind the cask bar said that not enough was sold the year before so they had to give it away. Whilst I understand this is not a viable sales pitch, its still a shame to see so few (10 I think) cask beers on sale from such an extensive list - the link to which is here.

Despite the above this was another excellent showcase of a wide range of UK and International beers - whether you define them as Craft or otherwise. The beer is expensive, but pushes the boundaries of taste and your expectations in a wonderful and excellent quality way -  we didn't try a bad one. The venue, as mentioned last time, is outstanding, and the atmosphere was great.

A thoroughly enjoyable festival!


Wee Beefy

Saturday, 3 October 2015

Up the Locals


           I was going to write this post on Wednesday, however, I accidentally went to the pub instead. Gah! Damn those hostelries. Whilst the three I visited then were well regarded locally and nationally, its not always the case for local pubs - by which, I mean, any pub that is a half mile or more out of town. During the end of my homelidays me and Tash visited three local pubs. Heres what we found.

The Forest is an unusual pub. It seems isolated, yet is on a main road. Its on Rutland Road at the end of Rutland Street which leads to Woodside Lane - in recent years, the street which goes under the railway to join Platt Street (which may be Woodside Lane) has been an open air dumping ground for broken rotting furniture and bags of rubbish. There is little evidence of occupied buildings except for a couple of industrial units and a factory across the road which may still trade. On the other side of Rutland Road is an empty space for sale for development. Behind the pub, sort of, is Toolmakers and Stancil Breweries - I'm told. In fact, I have never been past the pub. The Forest is to my eyes, therefore, an oasis of ale  in an area of industrial and urban depreciation. Good for them!

I only went in for the first time about three years ago when it reopened as the Woodside Inn - see my blog post.. It was previously, and a small sign still attests, a show bar, rented out as a whole for parties. Prior to that, it was , I understand,. the last pub in Sheffield to get a spirits license. I imagine back then there was far more industrial activity going on nearby.

The pub is in effect the Toolmakers brewery Tap and sells four or five real ales, mainly from them. We had a pint each of the Philips Driver, a 4.2% Amber ale which I understand is brewed wit European hops. We sat outside in the last of the sunshine and stared out over the railway and watched the traffic,  and an interesting mix of locals past the pub. Despite its location the pub is usually quite busy - I understand they hold darts matches and there is a small band of regulars every time I have visited.

The beer went down far too easily so I went back in for another couple pf pints (£2.80 I think) and a pack of pork scratchings at 70p and returned to sit with Tash. The scenery may not be inspiring but the pub, I think, is. Long may it continue to offer a pint to passers by and locals.

On Monday we went to Crystal Peaks for a shop and headed out to the Alma at Mosborough. I used to go in the Alma back in the 90's with Wee Fatha every other Tuesday for quiz night, read in his own inimitable style by Jim, supported by Jean his wife, who also provided free food. Jim, I think, left soon after Wards Brewery closed and the pub was immediately given a clumsy and unwanted "upgrade". Gone were the trinkets and bric-a-brac that adorned the shelves and ledges, gone was the faded cream paint in the Bar room,  and gone of course was the cask Wards and Vaux Samson.

Since them I have visited infrequently, but not for about four years or so. Walking up from Westfield near where the Mill pub used to be, it seems a long way to walk to a pub hidden away down a back street. Once on the main road in Mosborough you head up past the Royal Oak and the flats and bear left, past some now older buildings, and eventually onto South Street which is a couple of corners away. There, as we did, you will see the lit sign of the pub.

On this visit we sat in the Lounge. For reasons unclear, myself and Wee Fatha always sat in the bar. I have perhaps only ever previously been in the Lounge once, when Jim told us he didn't sell hand pulled ale during the day because the older clientele didn't buy it, so the cask was sold on electric pump. Now, years later, the odd fakeness of the refurb is still evident - although there is still a, potentially unused, 1980's or older jukebox protruding at the head of the fixed seating. Other than that its not obvious how old the pub is, apart from the low ceiling and small windows.

There is one cask ale on and one cider. Which is not on the pump - its in the cellar. On the Monday this was Doom Bar. Regular readers will know how little I like the malty mediocre concoction, but it was well kept and was crucially the only real ale. Since it was popular and selling well it would have been daft not to have a pint.

The pub became busy quite quickly with a games night taking place. Darts was being played in the Tap room and dominoes cards and other games in the Lounge. Its a strange mix to see predominantly older customers playing traditional pub games, whilst horrendous recent chart music plays - I think me and Tash were the youngest clientele.

Two further pints and a pack of Space Raiders crisps - correctly sold for the 20p pack price, were consumed, before we headed off from the pub down into Mosborough. Here I got some funds and we headed up the road to the George and Dragon.

My last visit had been in the mid nineties. Myself and WF had crawled round all the local pubs in one night, and had struggled to get a full pint of Wards here despite several requests to top up. As I recall, the barmaid had said that pressing the button dispensed a whole pint - she was right. Mostly of froth. To our astonishment locals were seemingly happy to take what was at best three quarters of pint -  but we weren't. Cue a rather long period with no visit. I read in Beer Matters or similar a few years ago that they were now selling real ales, so that night we ventured into found out what.

 A range of ales was advertised but there was only two pumpclips, one turned round. Wadworth 6X was the sole beer on so we had a pint each of this. It was quiz night so very busy, but we found a seat in the back of the room on the left and listened in on whet were mediumly difficult questions, and then to the bizarre method of reading the answers out - if you got five of the first five read out at random you won the quiz...

Free food was laid on when it had finished and the atmosphere was friendly and there was a good mix of drinkers sat with us. It was good to visit two busy pubs on one Monday night, especially given the location of the Alma.

All too soon we had to get off, and headed down School Street. I suggested we nip in the Vine for a half - and entered to find it was now an Indian Restaurant (don't ask me how I missed that on the sign!). Interestingly, the large space was completely empty. It was gone 22.30 and they had no customers. Perhaps the pub would have been busier.....


Wee Beefy