I first went into the Old Queens Head in 1994. Or 3. Or before. Myself and Rob Noble were about to head out on a public transport omnibus to Yorkshire Bridge to scale the hill and walk down into Hope and we nipped in for a quick drink. It was old. The pub that is. The beer was probably Stones or similar (am sure they sold the cask version of Bass Light during Euro 1996) and the pub did not present much else to remember.
Since then I had nipped in a few times and found the pub OK but not prepossessing, serving better beers since Thwaites took it over, and previously having enjoyed bottles of the 9% Gales Old Queens Head Celebration Ale when the refurbishment was completed in 1994 when I went in with Mark. You know Mark. Yorkshire lad. Works in St Albans. Knew Suooz.....
Anyhoo, two or three years ago the lease or management of the pub was taken over for Thwaites bewery by Czechs. They did a rather fab job of cleaning it up, introduced better kept cask ale, and guests from outside Thwaites range (am thinking Bowland Hen Harrier) and as well as generally running the pub well also introduced traditional Czech food on Mondays. I have never eaten Czech food anywhere else so can't vouch for its authenticity but having eaten there three times now I can vouch for its quality. Matty took us all for a meal on his pay day last month - I had goulash with onion and potato dumplings and it was divine. The dumplings look like thick cut bread but as well as being incredibly filling are also the lightest I have ever tasted.
The main angle on this post is what I supped with that food, and on numerous other recent occasions. The Old Queens Head is now able to source and sell local real ales. Its always sold good quality Thwaites and excellent Pilsner Urqell but as well as a Blue Bee Chinook Red (to be pronounced in credibility leaching East Lancashire accent) they have concentrated on beers from Abbeydale brewery.
Abbeydale Hopfenweiss was the first I know of, which is a bold style for a new brewery to them, and was followed by the impeccable Black Mass and the delicious Abbeydale Absolution. The Old Queens Head now serves an excellent and ever changing range of quality cask ales to add to its already impressive portfolio. I understand they are chuffed to bits to be able to do this. In my opinion the freedom to source locally has been hard won and deservedly awarded.
In terms of details of the pub, I would suggest you go in and get a pint of quality Sheffield cask ale and look around the numerous pictures for information. One thing I can remember is there was alleged to be a tunnel all the way to the pub from Sheffield castle wide enough to drive a horse and cart down, which was used to transport Mary Queen of Scots. That, however, is about all I have. This is principally due to gaps in my memory about the age of the pub. These gaps start at the beginning of the building's life and end about three years ago. In that time the pub has become a regular stopping off point for myself and Tash and Matty and we go there to relax and chat and now to eat. Mention must go, I insist, to the traditional garlic soup. I love garlic, and so does the writer of the recipe. Its immense.
I hope the current team continue their management of this boozer for a long time to come, and that the original sections of this ancient building, though altered, can be kept as preserved as they currently are. Most crucially, I hope they can continue to source local real ales, making this another excellent and convenient pub of choice.