Sheffield pubs recent visits.
When not traipsing around Derbyshire or the rest of the UK I am very lucky that here in Sheffield we have some excellent pubs, selling fantastic beer, and some retaining interesting original features.
Since December I have visited a few new ones, seen one close down and visited some old favourites. Here are a few that should appeal to real ale and real pub fans...
The Hallamshire House, Commonside.
This is a former Wards pub selling 3 or 4 real ales, with two large games rooms, an old fashioned snug and lounge, all laid out in different rooms, just like they should be. If you visit on a match day then its fair to say you may only have the corridor or the snug to sit in, but overall its always been possible to grab a seat and be in your own world.
I went in on a December Saturday and was pleasantly surprised to find that the Sheffield brew Co beers were £1.60 a pint. There was a good range, two Sheffield BC, 1 Kelham Island and another.
We got sat down in the snug and noticed just how cosy the size of the rom made it. Looking at the fittings we admired the tiled fireplace and he old Wards leaded windows and the bar, which is a traditional design, quite long and open on 3 sides. We soon got chatting to a couple sat under the window, and discovered that they had been visiting for decades - always a good sign, since this often indicates that rash changes have been avoided.
There was an FA cup match on featuring one of the minnows, and people were thronged in the back rooms, but we were ensconced in this tiny room and enjoying its comfort and the friendliness of the regulars.
We only had time for a few pints but it was a nice haven away from the busier student orientated pubs on Crookes where we had just been. I don't know if beer is always such good value but even if not, I would warmly recommend a visit. The important retention of traditional separate room layout means that if a quiet cosy pint does not attract you and you want to be in front of the TV watching a match, you can also do that. And if you got bored, you could always try the closed Shop just opposite.
The University Arms, Brook Hill.
I have been visiting this pub ever since it opened to the public a few years ago, having previously been the 192 Club owned by or certainly open for, the University. Inside is a gleaming dark wood fitted bar which looks like it may have been there ever since it opened.
There are snob screens to break up the main seating area, with a tiny semi-private seating area next to the far side of the bar, along with a conservatory and beer garden. There are 4 real ales and foreign draught beers and bottles, as well as inexpensive light meals at dinner and evenings.
The pub has bands on at weekends form time to time, and also has a rather eclectic collection of blues played in the background. Thornbridge Brewery seem to be the main payers - their Wild Swan ids a mainstay, along with guests from local breweries.
The toilets are located off a corridor on your right as you enter - it’s quirky that they are housed in a very large high ceilinged room, where old tables and chairs go to retire, and reminds me of school toilets for some reason. This adds to the feeling that you are in a private venue that hasn't altered very much over the years, although it’s worth pointing out that it would appear to have been refurbished quite recently and is clean and bright throughout. Don’t forget that they don't open Sundays.
The Sportsman, Main Road, Darnall.
I read abut this pub in Beer Matters, having passed it a couple of times and noted that it and its next door neighbour boozer the Albert were now the only ones of 5 or possible many more pubs on main road heading to Darnall.
It’s fair to say that it doesn't look like a palace; there's no up and coming or large brewery bank rolling this pub, but then there's none of the annoying preoccupation with gimmicks and branding that come with it. The other plus point is the fact that the landlord has made an effort to get a varied range of beers and lagers and other drinks at sensible prices, making this probably the cheapest place to drink for miles.
On a recent visit they had Harviestoun Engine Oil (4.5%) and a light Springhead beer of similar strength, for £1.80 a pint. There was Leffe and Hoegarden for Chala, at nearer supermarket prices, and pool at 50p a game. Had it been a Marston's or Greene King pub it would be £2.50 or more a pint, £1.00 a game of pool, a corporate jukebox at 2 songs for a pound, and there would be a raised floor for the pool table, upstairs toilets and faux olde-worlde bar fronts and seating.
The pub has a central entrance into the bar with a door on the left leading to the games room. There is a side entrance on the left now disused, that would have taken you straight into the games room - although this may have been the bar or Tap room, with the room on the right originally being the lounge. The gents are entered from both rooms, so there are two ladies loos, one on each side. The pub therefore retains a classic traditional two room layout, which is good to see.
It’s quite difficult to ignore the fact that this is a proper working men's pub where people don't mince their words - I think if you were of a nervous disposition or allergic to swearing you might not like it. However, the fact that it survives and appears to do well relies on the regulars and latecomers like us going in day in day out and spending cash.
The mark up on the ale might be a little less than in other pubs but its competitive pricing encourages you to drink more - or at least that's my excuse.
The Masons Arms, Carson Road, Crookes.
I only visited this pub for the first time last week - having grown up in Crookes and been there of drinking age ( ish ) for 3 years, and visiting regularly.
The Masons is off the main road and seems to have fluctuating fortunes based on info supplied by my Brother and other friends living in Crookes. I heard discouraging things about it being unfriendly and a boring old mans pub when I was 18 ( put me right off then, but wouldn't so much now ), and decided that I owed it to myself to go have a look and a few games of pool.
We went in the room on the right which houses the pool table and the darts, it sounds like there’s a telly in the other room and that seemed a bit noisier later on, but we didn't go in. The loos are along a passage running behind a bar, and there’s some space on the front for outdoor refreshments.
On the bar there were 3 handpumps, with Black Sheep Best, Copper Dragon Golden Pippin and another more ubiquitous option. We all wanted the Pippin but unfortunately it ran out, but the landlord was at pains to make sure we got a replacement, which is good to see.
We enjoyed a few games of pool and a rather, ahem epic game of darts (none of us can play, and we took an hour to get from 301), along with several pints of very well kept Black Sheep.
The pub was quiet but Sunday nights are awkward to call, we were allowed to finish our game of pool and sup up at a sensible speed before we had to leave. Its difficult to get a sense of a pub in a couple of hours on a Sunday night but I saw enough to convince me that I should go back and try the Pippin and maybe even learn how to play darts.
With the possible exception of the University Arms, these pubs might not be familiar to readers of this blog, but it shows that in addition to established high quality award winning pubs, Sheffield has traditional back street boozers and quirky watering holes to suit a wide range of people.
And just to somewhat devalue that statement, my next posts should be from Wales, Bradfield, Cheshire and Staffordshire and the Peak District.