Tuesday, 23 January 2018

Third pub victim of Sheffield Retail Quarter demolitions


      I don't want to become a Faceache beer blogger - that's my pet name for Facebook by the way, in case you had already decided faceache was a good description of my style. I say this because a post on the same is my inspiration for this article - apparently the Tap and Tankard pub is set to close in February after what may be four years in its current guise.

I have heard (also on Faceache, I kid you not) that the pub was on a short term lease, to be open only until the demolition work reached it. That can't be too far away now, since Henrys was demolished months ago and the bottom part of Cambridge street and Charles Street are now blocked off. This makes my original draught slightly wrong, since I tried to explain what might have led to the pub not making enough money to survive. That is clearly not why its closing, based on the above.

I hadn't looked at the proposals for the Retail Quarter development before, so was interested to look today at the wide reaching plans. One of the first links I found was the Hallamshire Historic Buildings website, including a section on proposed demolitions and a letter to the council from Historic England which opposed the planned scheme due to the demolition and loss of much of Sheffield's metal industry architectural heritage, shown  here. As highlighted, the protests of Historic England have been ignored, despite solid basis  including potential damage to and isolation of existing Grade 2 and Grade 2 star listed buildings on Cambridge street,  such as Leahs Yard, just up from the Tap and T. Sheffield council's previous disregard for protecting or retaining industrial era architecture in the city is well reported, so their rejection of the opposal of  Historic England comes as a sad, rueful but not remotely surprising outcome.

The plans do make mention of new cafes and bars but thus far we have lost two real ale venues (am counting Henrys and the Brewery bar as two by the way) and a brewery (albeit which never brewed) , with the Tap and Tankard going next. There are therefore three licenced premises lost to the redevelopment. The building replacing the Grosvenor Hotel is said to house HSBC staff, whom are expected to shop in town and eat and drink after working hours, but there are already less places to do that.

It is also possible that the Cutlers was never reopened as a pub given potential nearby demolition - this has now reopened as an art space and programming centre run as a not for profit community space called Dina. Am not going to say I liked the Cutlers, and I don't know why it closed, but could it not have reopened as a decent venue had it not been threatened?

The letter from Historic England to the council is included in pdf viewing format on the Hallamshire Historic Buildings website link above, and makes for interesting reading. Its well worth using the buttons in the bottom left to view the document as a whole. Much is made of the responsibility of the local council/plan submitters to consider the preservation of historic buildings in relation to their importance. Given the unbending desire to build this new and intrusive development and previous poor form regarding historic buildings, am fairly satisfied that little importance was attached to the grade 2 listed structures, and they were therefore considered with appropriate care and rigour in regards to proposals that could affect them once development had taken place. Historic England's suggestions for developing Leahs yard as a museum or heritage feature are much more appealing than being made into a tunnel of turgid , no doubt replicated eateries, as seems fearfully inevitable.

There is a link here to the list of buildings and features proposed to be demolished when Fargate is extended to become Upper Fargate. I have to say I am concerned by the scope and area of the demolition. Not least since, as previously reported, John Lewis had not agreed to their relocation when the plan was submitted, so the proposals at that point seem mainly to benefit HSBC who will have a brand new building. The only others to benefit may be the multitudinous puddle of coffee shops and takeaways that will pepper the numerous units created in this decimation.

Am sure there is the potential for this development to out perform the combined takings of the numerous trading businesses threatened by the proposed Retail Quarter. However, I can't imagine any new multi retailer development on such a grand scale being much different to any other similar sized sump of standardised shopping selections in other cities. And am similarly unconvinced that the development will afford the construction or establishing of the type of bar or traditional pub that I like to drink in. Demolishing three such venues will of course make the latter even harder to achieve.

It is of course important to be honest about the Tap and Tankard. Although there were some high points and features to savour, it is interesting for me to reflect that the period the Tap and T was open mirrors the changes to my tastebuds. I now drink less cask, much more keg and far more canned ale. One member of staff who may have worked for Kelham Island brewery did strive to get hoppy real ales on there, at my kind of strength and at a competitive price, but he didn't work there long and after a while the beer range became quite timid and disappointing. As my focus shifted to the Tuns and Shakespeares I ended up being less attracted to Kelham beers, and the less exciting guests the Tap and T had on, and drunk in the area less often.

However, against the background of knowing it was to be flattened under a new road am actually quite impressed with what Kelham did with the Tap and T. Despite my beer choice gripes this was a great example of a traditional back street boozer in the city centre, along with the Bath and Red Deer, and was a great place to go during the day to have a quiet relaxing pint and an excellent pork pie.

The pub is set to close on Saturday night February 3rd and they are inviting customers old and new to go along and have a final rink before it closes.

I will be there for a slake myself, cursing as I do the council planners and the international language of banking, in the same hoarse, bitter, breath.

In sadness

Wee Beefy

Sunday, 21 January 2018

Little Critters Brewing Co


   I think its fair to say I was underwhelmed by my first taste of Little Critters beer. I may even have referenced the "full mash" brewing style beloved of Whitbread's regiment of brewpubs in the 80's and 90s. I was pleased to see that it was well priced, but it wasn't until they brewed their Hazelnut Milk porter at 6.0% that I started to take any serious notice. This has been joined in their range by the 6.5% C Monster, which, their website tells us, features Columbus, Centennial, Chinook and Cascade hops in the mix. Regular readers my realise that this combination of hops and strength makes me a happy chap.

I may be wrong but am sure there has been more than one version of C monster with different hops - there are certainly two pumpclips. If anyone can confirm that would be much appreciated. On Saturday I was meeting Wees K and F, Tash, Mumraah, Meathouse and Martin for a birthday celebration for my Mum and Tash at long time haunt the Ball on Crookes. The C Monster was on cask at £3.40 a pint at 6.5%. I had three pints, and it was excellent.

I had found recently that every time I went into Shakespeares, with few exceptions, I had looked at the keg line up first. The last time I was in they had the Kernel pale on at 7.0% or similar for £5.40 a pint. This has been the standard Kernel price for a couple of years now and represents  good value for money. Alas I cannot recall which hops were in the mix, although there may be a piccy on Faceache..... (update, their post says Mosaic, Simcoe and Ekuanot. It was absolutely ace, I can confirm).

The point is, there are in fact excellent cask hoppy ales, but less so than on keg and in can or bottle, which does not have a k in it. Northern Monk Heathen and Neepsend Double Centennial (or century) are notable exceptions but am drawn to cask less than I used to be. This means that the C monster, with a decent level of IBU and wonderful hops list, is a reliable fall back when in pubs of um...less stature. That regards beer choice I hasten to add, before anyone gets knicker-twisty.

For years we have had many small micro and nano breweries in Sheffield but apart from Blue Bee, Steel City and Abbeydale, very hoppy strong pale ales have been hard to come by in many pubs. Recently however the scope and reach of the three previously mentioned brewers has extended, as has that of Little Critters, meaning a hophead like myself now has a choice of decent quaffable lupilous pints in many more boozers.

Lets hope this trend continues, so that I am able to go out to different pubs once in a while and still come home hop sated every time.


Wee Beefy

Saturday, 13 January 2018

New Year's new beers

Good evening,

  I haven't been out that often this year so far. No Dryanuary nonsense or dark artistry at work here, just restricted by  lack of funds. I have however, tried lots of lovely new beers on those two nights out, thus.

I picked up the other half of the humongous box of beers I had bought from Beer Central last week and headed to the Rutland Arms. I hadn't gone in specifically to see their new bar fonts but I have to admit I was impressed. New bar, same pub, great pub. Despite the longer length of the keg font displayeriser I was assured that they had exactly the same number of keg beer on, but now they would be easier to spot and choose. The handpumps are also more together. No problems with the beer range either, I had halves of the Northern Monk Patrons Project something point numbery which I recall was a citra lager. Facts aside it was excellent. The other half was better still - the Buxton Centennial IPA at 7.0%. Its the first of these single hop IPA's I have seen (I think they have Simcoe on at the mo) and since I love Centennial this was understandably a fabulous hoppy pale ale. All good at the Rutland it seems.

Not too far away I went to the Old Queens Head, partly based on info they posted on Faceache about a beer they had on. It was reasonably busy and I got the last table in the back, looking at the fine Christmas tree and over to the fireplace and sat down with some crisps to enjoy my pint. Hopjacker Medved is an imperial stout with a hint of chilli and weighs in at 7% but is troublingly easy to drink. So much so that I had two pints.

As any fule kno, Medved is Czech for bear, hence the ursine beasty on the pumpclip. Matty (who with Tash share the name of the beer, although Nedved is slang for bear am led to believe) was worried about the chilli as he doesn't like it in beer but he needn't have been. The roasted malt and creamy texture were simply tickled by an underlying subtle heat, finishing this excellent beer off perfectly.

My other foray was to home number two, Shakespeares. I had arranged to meet Davefromtshop there already, so was pleased to see on Faceache that they had the excellent Deya Falling into Place DIPA at 8.3% on keg. Arriving late, and as Adam noticed at pretty good speed, I was asked at the bar by a gent I didn't know if he could buy me a pint. Being short of funds I agreed and so started on a pint of the Abbeydale Voyager IPA. I started on a cloudy hop packed beer, and continued thus. Dave was somehow persuaded to buy me a further pint of the Deya and I may have had a third before moved onto bottles.

I tried the Basqueland and Lervig Nor Jose pale ale on Adam's recommendation, and it didn't disappoint, and we finished by sharing a can of the Evil Twin Even More Jesus imperial stout at 12% or whatever sledgehammer strength it is. A fab finisher, although I would suggest the emphasis should be on finish, since the amalgam of ale and cold air combined with my unsteadiness resulted in not one but four falls onto the ground in the short distance from Shakepeares to taxi and taxi to house....

So, Tryanuary despite its restrictions is underway, and I have already tried five new beers from a total of seven consumed. Don't give up the fight pub drinkers!


Wee Beefy  

Sunday, 7 January 2018

Once a year drinkers?

Good moaning,

       in a moment of lucid mollification earlier, an event which occurred in the twenty minute fight for warmth twixt waking and rising, I realised that I have been labouring under a delusion, or had fallen into the comfortable armchair of a pub conversation trap. Not subject to any malice you understand, but I had started agreeing with the claim that the worst people to find in a pub at Christmas and New Year are the much vaunted "once a year drinkers".

Firstly, the time of year I am thinking about this phenomena occurring is between Mad Friday and New Year's Eve. The three worst days in that period are Mad Friday, Christmas Eve, and New Years Eve. Straight away therefore, the phrase "once a year drinkers" seems awry. Unless these fearful of bowze roustabouts congregate in such mass that there are sufficient in their group to individually affront us on each of the above three days?

I spoke in my last post about the unpleasant nature and behavior of large groups of imbibers near Christmas, or in what am now going to called the new year era, or new yeara. The unpleasantness unleashed mainly on bar staff but often other customers (who may or may not be reguluzz) is widely thought to stem from once a year or novice drinkers.

Now I know a fairly large number of folks from different backgrounds, and with different levels of supping experience. I can only think of one who maybe only goes out in the New Yeara. They might fall foul of over indulgence, and perhaps also bail early upon that realisation, but the deplorable characteristics displayed in this period are not theirs.

When I was 19, so had been drinking regularly for two years (this is a fact, but not a boast I should point out) I used to go on a lengthy pub crawl on Christmas and new Years eve with  my regular drinking buddies. Did we get drunk? Yes. Was this because it was Christmas or New Year? Yes. We saw it as our duty to consume an insensible amount of alcohol because of religious doctrine and public holidays. We often screang (screamed and sang that is) loudly, although mostly in tune, in pubs and on streets (sorry if you lived in Crookes in the nineties and heard someone screaming Nirvana songs in the early hours, that was me....). We talked loudly, staggered and swayed, and made unprovable claims of our abilities in numerous areas of life, including insobriety. That was, however, the limit of our trespass.

I know time makes ones memories rosier, but I don't remember us ever getting into a fight, only once being asked to leave, and never being abusive to staff. Well, there was one time in the Springfield, but that was our regular spot and this in no way mitigates our behaviour, but there were ongoing issues. What am saying is, the New Yeara made us drink differently, but we were no booze babies, we had already become insufferably thirsty folk by this point, and crucially, the excess of New Yeara alcohol didn't turn us into aggressive, confrontational, twats.

I heard that prior to this Christmas a person I wrote a song about had been physically assaulted behind the bar. Having seen friends in the industry withstand absolutely unjustifiable amounts of personal abuse from revellers enjoying the immoral freedoms they wrongly assume they are entitled to, its a mark of respect to all that they haven't lamped a number of exceptionally rude customers. The thing is, to behave in such a reprehensible manner requires practice. Therefore, the mumblous miscreants I loathe are far from once a year slakers. They are, instead, regular drinkers but also, full time aggressive simpletons.

I think once a year drinkers, should they exist, should in fact be encouraged to come out, and find out what parts of our lives they are missing. I think more importantly than that, seasoned drinkers need to remember that whilst their drinking habits can change in the New Yeara, their behaviour should comprise respect, and forethought of speech. Its one of the things I absolutely don't miss about working behind a bar, and every year swathes of rude and abusive drinkers remind me of that fact.

Here's to a new year, and a new era of calmer, less rude drinkers.

Wee Beefy