Having somehow contrived to more or less run out of cash half way through the month (its always a bad sign when you need to start adding the number of weeks left before your pay allows you to live again) I was going to spend the weekend of July 17th doing nothing and resting my hole ridden foot in my cumbersome Herman Munster boot that the hospital had insisted I wear.
That was until I got a text from Fluffy.
Yep, that’s right. I have a friend called fluffy (although he amusingly tries to pretend that it’s actually his name for me which clearly, it isn’t).
Luckily, I am not in SMS contact with a feline or silkily pelted dog, instead Scott is his more drinker friendly name and he lives in that London so we see each other rarely, although more recently since a chance conversation with a mutual friend. Anyhoo, his invite to join him at the 3 Valleys festival proved too strong to resist, especially when I saw the beers that might be on.
The idea is simple. Twelve (or perhaps ten) pubs put on special events and or special beers like they are having a beer festival of their own, all of the pubs are in the S18 and 19 area (according to the website) and you travel for free between them all by a festival bus paid for by the pubs.
So, on Saturday me and Chala headed into town and dawdled unhelpfully down to the train station - the idea was that rather than catch the 15.05 train with Scott et al, we would catch the earlier one (which I guessed left at 14.05 but hadn't checked) so we could go to the Coach and Horses in Dronfield and steal an hours drinking on them, on the assumption that we would be home early like good kids and them lot would be out all-night like rapscallions.
Alas, strolling into the station at the exact time the train left we quickly had a rethink and bumped into Scott en route to check bus times. We realised there was probably no point trying for a bus so filled in time before meeting everyone in the Sheffield Tap by buying tickets and gawping at a monsoon downpour whilst chatting to a bloke from Moss Side about his love of multiculturalism and ultra violence.
The Sheffield Tap was busy as usual, with a selection of some beers from the festival (the Coach and Horses is their sister pub) in addition to the usual Thornbridge range. Chala opted to avoid alcohol at this stage and I had a Pollards milk coffee stout, served in a European style strong ale glass and tasting of, well, milky coffee and stout, and ludicrously drinkable at 5%.
In no time we were on the train and then in Dronfield walking to the Coach. There was a blues singer on outside in the marquee along with an extra bar and, somewhat revolutionarily, a real till accepting real money. Plastic glasses mind you.
With it having poured down with rain on and off there was one large table free outside of the protection of the canvas so we dried that off and caught up and got to know each other, whilst sampling the ales. I started with a pint of Williams Bros Grozet, a gooseberry wheat beer which was intentionally and correctly cloudy and refreshing. Chala opted for a demure half of the Hawkshead organic stout which is a fantastic beer.
After a quick Fyne ales beer that escapes me, I recklessly embarked on the first of two halves of Brewdog Hardcore IPA, which is 9, or possibly 9.2%, packed with hops and almost criminally easy to drink. In between I had a Williams Joker IPA to calm things down a little, but my logic - that we would be out for only a couple of hours so could drink like a mentalist - was flawed, as the unfolding events would demonstrate.
Scott and the others ( John, Steve, Trudy, Simon and Amy - just proving that I can recall names ) headed off on the last clockwise free bus to the Hearts of Oak at Dronfield Moor, whilst cannily, realising we had probably reached the best beer pub of the festival route, we opted to stay for an extra 40 minutes to sample more delights.
Chala finished our Coach drinking as another shower enveloped us with a half of Maredsous from the pub bar, whilst I had a fantastic pint of Murmansk Baltic Porter at 7.2%. Leaving for a bus back to the station and then a bus back out to join the gang at the Rutland in Holmsfield, chaos reigned as no-one could agree where the bus would stop.
We saw it pull up outside but there were plenty of people on both sides of the road, so we ran over and made sure the bus was going to turn round at the roundabout and come back past the pub to the station, which it did. What we weren't expecting was that no-one would join us, and that the bus driver, admittedly following his instructions but flying in the face of logic, fair play and a desire to help, simply drove straight past the waving and shouting crowd on the basis that he did not pick up after the pub-side stop.
That may be the case, but the confusion of having 2 clockwise busses leave the station and drive past the pub along with 8 or 9 that only pick up at the same stop and take you back to the start meant that no-one was likely to understand the logistics, and as we boarded the tiny minibus which was to be the next vehicle picking up at the C+H in 50 minutes time, it was clear that guests were going to be dischuffed.
Anyhoo, putting these concerns behind us we set off again past the Miners to the Rutland at Holmsfield, where the others already were, having given up on the Oak on account of it having run out of festival beer and worse ( I realise nothing could be worse, but cant recall the exact details clearly enough to report the problem ).
The Rutland is somewhere I have been many times although not so much in the last 5 years and it was serving a good range of regional brewer’s beers along with Wharfeside Tether and Bays Gold. Perhaps only for reasons of the festival spirit I went for the Bays Gold (although I was given a taste first) when actually I probably from the taste I had after, preferred the Tether. Either way, an unusual beer from furthest Torquay making a nice change.
We moved on next to the Horns where a festival slump befell us once more, the sign outside and the website promised a few guest festival beers but there was only one, a Kelham beer which was off. We all took ours back and swapped it for John Smiths, and retired to the back room to catch up and listen to some music, but it was a shame that with 4 hours to go on the first day of the two day festival they seemed to have run out of festival beer (although they may well have been topped up on Sunday, am unsure how it works).
From here we headed up the hill to the George and Dragon, bathed in bright sunshine as he dark rainclouds moved away for a spell. Inside it is small and the bar was packed. They had two Peak ales and another and I had their Summer Sovereign which was very nice.
On discovering we had 8 minutes spare we opted to have a swift half in the Angel over the road where some of the party had gone earlier, where we found two Abbeydale beers on and a fortuitous fiver on the floor. Alas, as soon as we were served 3 halves of Absolution the bus turned up and, leaving Chala in the loo in the mayhem, we had to neck the lovely beer and run across the road to the bus.
Once on board the passengers regaled the no doubt grateful driver with a series of half remembered quarter length versions of popular songs, most notably show me the way to Amarillo. This wiled away what seemed a surprisingly long jaunt to Totley, whilst simultaneously making the driver pull a Dairylea advert bus driver face. It would have made my day f he'd grumpily said " ther Tony Christie mad them kids ", but alas he did not.
Eschewing the promise or horror of the Cross Scythes ( I don't think I’ve ever been in, but can’t find a single person with anything good to say about it ), we crossed he road and visited the Fleur de Lys, where there was a band on, and I definitely had a pint of Old Peculier. Or maybe more.
By this time its reasonable to point out that I was a trifle refreshed, which meant after a while spent lolling around outside and at the bus stop across the road we finally finished our festival crawl about 21.00 and caught the bus into town.
The group somehow summoned up the energy ad desire to head to the Rutland so we parted and me and Chala headed home on the 52 where, bearing in mind our slightly sozzled state, we were alarmed to find ourselves sat with an even drunker person who was remonstrating with her other half and various items of fixed seating and bus interior fittings all the way to Handsworth.
Overall a great festival idea, enabling us to try excellent Scottish beers too rarely seen in Sheffield, to try some new pubs and revisit some favourites, and not have to pay an entry fee to get in.
Roll on next year!
Wee Beefy and our lass.