Tuesday, 31 May 2016

Unspoilt country pubs - a Sunday tour by car


        on Sunday myself and Tash were taken out for the day by Wee Fatha on a tour of some classic unspoilt pubs in Derbyshire and Staffordshire. We started our journey travelling to Beauchief Abbey in Sheffield to meet WF who gave us a quick tour. We then got into the car in bright sunshine and set off.

We were soon heading through Chatsworth out on to the A6 and then down to Darley Dale, through Wensley and Winster via some absurd driving by fellow visitors, to arrive at Elton, and the Duke of York. It was shut. It only opens during the day on a Sunday but arriving at 13.55 it was firmly closed. Despite the maniac actions of drivers in Winster nearby we returned there and got parked to visit the Old Bowling Green pub.

I haven't been here for some time and was glad to find that not only was it open but the bar was open all day. We sat outside in bright sunshine supping a pint each of Peak Ales Chatsworth Gold for me and Tash and a half, of which he had less then half, of Abbeydale Daily Bread for WF. The pub serves food and three real ales, the other being Abbeydale Moonshine, and claims on its sign to be from the 15th century - I think it said 1472. Its slightly modernised inside, mainly to extend the amount of seating, but is still a pleasing old style inn.

Off next on a perplexing ramble via Newhaven, Biggin and Hartington to the Manifold Valley. A beautiful drive along the road and up brought us to Grindon and then finally to Wetton, followed by a trip down into Milldale and up onto the main road before finally heading through Thorpe for Ilam. here we took the beautiful road cum track to Throwley and on into Calton before arriving at Cauldon and the Yew Tree.

I can't remember how long it is since I last visited, maybe three or four years ago, and although the pub still retains its collection of amazing antiques, and still sells there real ales, some things have changed. For a start, although landlord Alan East is still on the premises the bar work is mainly carried out now by his son in law and, one assumes, Alan's daughter. They also now have a card machine - which made our visit longer and more thirsty and of course, more excellent.

I started with a pint of fresh on Burton Bridge Bitter, and bought halves of Rudgate Ruby Mild for Tash and WF.  I then went to buy another pint along with a large for WF and a small for me, pork pie. This took quite some time to eat and both were lovely, as was the Bitter. Having been for a wander round and nipped outside for a look at the garden, I then came back to use my card for a further two pints of the Burton Bridge, one of which I shared with Tash. It was good to spot Alan, standing almost transfixed by his ancient polyphon playing in the entrance. Be it bank holiday Sunday or not, the pub was packed throughout.

Our next stop was in Hanley a 40 minute of so drive away. The Coachmakers was threatened with demolition many years ago, despite its listing by English Heritage and CAMRA as a pub with a historically important interior. Since then the new bus station that its clearance was to bring about has been built, yet the pub remains standing. On our visit many locals were sat on the benches outside the pub and inside the beer range was reduced considerably, being just Bass and Black Hole Black rising or similar, a strong dark mild. I had a pint of Bass , Tash a half and Wee Fatha some of a half of the Black Hole.

We were sat on our own in the front bar room with the gentle hub-ub of conversation in the background and the sound of the barmaid serving customers to keep us occupied. It was good to relax in here, although disappointingly the wall of beer mats seems to have been changed into one painted dark grey. Despite this, little else has changed in this National Inventory pub - including the threat of demolition. Still well worth a look if you have or haven't visited already.

We had been planning on visiting the Quiet Woman but decide instead to return to Elton and made our way back to Alstonefield, then the same way from Milldale and then headed to Parwich. As I had a pressing need we stopped there at the Sycamore. This traditional Robinson's house is still very much part of the village and we had a half for me and Tash, one being Robinson's Double Hop, and a tomato juice for WF.

The pub has three or four rooms and serves fod and real ales, and Parwich is a great place to start or finish a walk in the area. I first went about twenty or more years ago and still enjoy a visit - alas we were heading off for our last stop so did not stay around long.

At gone 22.00 we arrived in Elton to find the Duke of York open. Whilst Tash and WF locked the car and got coats on I ran into the pub to order a pint and two halves of the only real ale on which was Marstons Bitter at £2.75 a pint. As is unsurprising, nothing has changed in the Duke of York since I first visited last century - apart form the main bar duties are now carried out by Mary's Nephew.

I discovered whilst there that at present the were not open Sunday lunchtimes because Mary had been very ll in hospital - there are no plans at this time to reopen Sunday lunchtimes, so its 20.30 til 22.30 (or later) most nights of the week.

The beer was also fresh on here and tasted lovely, so much so that I had another pint, and took Tash outside up the old sloping steps to see the toilets - an unusual feature to have outdoor toilets these days. Inside the fire was lit and the locals were chatting to each other about all sorts of things, and the barman as well. Lets hope Mary gets better soon and we see her behind the bar once more at this fantastic old boozer.

So ended a lengthy drive round five brilliant unspoilt or at the very least old pubs in Derbyshire and Staffordshire. Its difficult to pick out a favourite as all have distinctive characteristics but I think as a group we probably liked the Yew Tree at Cauldon best of all -  a cracking traditional pub that has managed to adapt to modern times whilst losing none of its considerable character.


Wee Beefy

Wednesday, 25 May 2016

Head of steam, Garrison and Sword dancer

Hello strangers,

        what have the three venues in the title all got in common? The answer is, as well as them all selling real ale, I have visited them for the first time in the last few weeks. Here is what I found.

I was in the Head of Steam, which I keep calling Smoke Barbecue, last week. I met Tash and Matty and bumped into Phil Vintin, who I used to work with. Lovely to see Vimto, who is a very nice chap. I also met Uncle Mo. I had a pint of tea beer which was a little underwhelming and although there were 5 casks to choose from (and I hadn't seen four of them before) I decided to move quickly on to the Chimay Red on keg. Its £3.75 a half so pretty expensive, but I have never seen it on keg before, and really really enjoyed it.

The pub does barbecue food from Longhorns smokehouse or similar but I did not try any - maybe another day. They also do American keg beers and a range of bottles. It appears that the Head of Steam chain is owned or operated by Camerons Brewery. I don't dislike Camerons, but am surprised at this being their work.

The venue has been done out really well and, although its not difficult, is many times better than the dreadful Old Monk that preceded it. I know that Head of Steam is a chain, but it seems like a nice place to stop off for a pint or two, potentially does good food, and if they could charge slightly less for their keg and sell pork scratchings I could get to quite like it.

Friday night I was at Micheal and Lauren's evening do for their wedding at the Garrison Hotel in Hillsborough. This was my first visit, and luckily I saw Jambon outside when I arrived, a little late admittedly, at about 21.30. He told me there were two bars, and that one sold real ale. Naturally I went there.

There were three handpumps, maybe two, and they were serving Bombardier and Moonshine. My choice was the latter, naturally. It was £3.30 a pint, which isn't bad for a wedding venue, likewise the fact that they serve real ale at all. The venue itself is open to the public as a bar, if desired, or as a function suite, and I think it sells food. The bar is, as I found out, open until midnight. I probably had six or seven pints in the three hours I was there, and the beer seemed well kept. They also sold some bottles from around the world, not all of which I had heard of, and Caledonian triple hop on keg.

Its not the sort of place I would choose to go for a night out normally but I have to say, a least they are making an effort, and at least they, or some marketing department somewhere, recognize that people may not only want to drink Carling Fosters or Strongbow.

My final first is the Sword dancer on Handsworth. Rumours were around before this was built that the pub would be a Wetherspoon, but instead it opened as a Greedy King Hungry Hippo or similarly named outlet. My mate Christingpher went and described it as one of the worst pubs he had ever been in, wit no real ale or any other drinks of note and terrible food. Mr Shape, a nearby resident, also went in only once to find it very disappointing.

The other night I was in the Old Crown enjoying a pint of something pale and hoppy and decided to pop in. Mainly, having checked the tinterweb to discover they sold real ale. Could this be true? I had to find out. On arriving at gone half eleven the pub wasn't too busy and the customers were mainly sat in the right hand side surrounded by TV screens. That side of the bar has three or four handpumps selling Greene King Abbot, Old Speckled Hen and Belhaven Golden Bay. I ordered a half of that, having never tried it. but alas it was running out, so had a half of the Abbot instead.

I sat outside, in the beer garden, with my half an inexpensive but not unpleasant bottle of wine. No-one bothered me, and no trouble was witnessed. Obviously I did not try the food but I have to say the place was OK. Given that the Turf is currently sadly closed, this now means that as far as I know every pub in Handsworth sells real ale. I may only occasionally go out locally but this is great news.

None of the above pubs are going to compete with the likes of the Bath or Shakespeares but I wish them all the very best of luck. Its refreshing to find venues making an effort and selling in some cases, beers you don't usually find anywhere else, and catering for the needs of the numerous real ale drinkers.

Sheffield once again stands out as a great place to go almost anywhere and enjoy a decent pint.


Wee Beefy

Tuesday, 10 May 2016

On the Edge nine pin 4 and nearby boozers

Hello folks,

     myself and Matty went to the event in the title on Friday, in some ways as preparation for spending most of Saturday moving furniture. On the Edge Nine Pin 4 once again took place in the Old Junior School Nether Edge and this was Matty's first visit. We started on halves of the IPA which began with A, (which I now know is called Atlanta)  and the saisons IPA. Both were in excellent nick, the saisons an interesting mix which was tasty but not predominantly either style of beer. The IPA was hoppy and well rounded and an excellent, if nearly the strongest, beer to start on.

Next up were halves of the Cry Havoc steam beer and a half of the Strawberry wheat for Matty. He did not really enjoy it, but the steam beer was interesting. I followed this with another half of the strong IPA Atlanta and a half of the Davenport wheat which was a lovely refreshing wheat beer, along with  the strong Abbey IPA made with Belgian Yeast. We finished on the two Black IPA's, Cascadian Black and a weaker one. The Cascadian Black is, in my opinion, a regular On the Edge brew, and tasted very good indeed. Alas we could not hang around longer,  as we had other pubs to visit. Best of luck to Tom and Luisa with their next event in September.

Just down the road is the Beer Engine so this seemed like a good place to go. For info, we had started the evening at the Harlequin to try the Silly brewery Pink Grapefruit wheat beer called Pink Killer. I have to admit we were a little underwhelmed, mainly because it was too sweet - the yeast and malts used nullified the bite that you get from Pink Grapefruit. Shame.

At the Beer engine there was a fantastic Wiper and True Red IPA on keg and the Wild Ninkasi saison style  wild yeast ale, along with Lost Industry Chilli Sorachi pale on cask. I had a half of that and a half of Wiper and True and Matty a half of the latter and of the Ninkasi. We sat in the beer garden in the fading sunshine thoroughly enjoying the beers on offer. The chilli beer was thankfully not too hot so worked well with the Sorachi, and the Ninkasi is a fantastic saison style beer (its difficult to say that its a saison only...so here is a link  to their website!) . The Wiper and True was, unsurprisingly, the pick of the bunch.

Down the road a little we came to the Sentinel Brew Co. I warned Matty about the prices but we once again enjoyed the beers, mainly the EU IPA. We also had another of their range, the identity of which seems to have escaped me. The venue seems to be getting busier and is a good place to bump into persons from the world of Sheffield beer.

We finished the night in the Rutland Arms. The Rutland eh...whats it all about? We will never know. We had a pint of something tasty on keg and I tried a pint of Reet Pale but alas it tasted of paracetamol! It was swapped straight away for something else which was Amarillo from Crouch Vale. Or another beer. It was good to stay for a couple and listen to some excellent tunes on the jukebox before heading back to Chestnut Towers, on the last bus. When we got in I put on some tunes and poured us some beer and Matty fell asleep - bless him.

The above is one of a few crawls I have done so far this thirsty month of May, am hoping to provide some details of the others in the next week.


Wee Beefy