Sunday, 9 October 2011

Wee Beefy's beer bites

Now then browsers,

A few more spoonfuls of wholesome beer news to digest and maintain a healthy diet of bibulous information, in no particular order.

The Railway Wadsley Bridge.

The inimitable Jean continues to single handedly steer this previously neglected ship along the treacherous waterways of the beer and pubs business, seemingly with consummate ease. On my recent visit there were only two beers on, Bradfield Blonde and Acorn Barnsley Bitter, and a decent number of punters in. I would have preferred a stronger beer option but I have to say that the Acorn was in cracking nick, and duly warranted a second pint. This pub has restricted opening hours of Friday Saturday and Sunday only, with the pub open all day Sunday and on the other two from 5 onwards, so ringing ahead may be advisable if making a trip, but its well worth a look.


Recent ales seen on the bar include an incredibly bitter Three Swords from Kirkstall, Blue Bee Lustin For Stout (the brewery of which now have their own website at ), a couple of underwhelming Geeves Brewery offerings (alas not found a good one yet!) Summer Wine Brewery Dark Mild, and 2 from Hornbeam brewery Manchester. On a recent visit one of theirs that i tried, the White Swan, was very, very strange, even though I should have read the description on the board (although poor eyesight makes this near impossible), I was really unhappy with the bubble bath taste.

I returned to the bar and asked if, given that i knew that the beer was not off, they would be kind enough to replace it anyhow since it was so affrontingly vile. They duly did, cautioning that no-one else had complained and replaced it with the Hornbeam bitter which was a much better beer altogether. Well done to Shakespeares for their admirable focus on customer satisfaction.

Ship Inn Shalesmoor

You know how it is, you don't know what it is you've missed until its gone. I have had that dread feeling many times and often rued my decision making and priorities in not getting to visit pubs that have been swallowed up by progress or disappeared altogether. Luckily, this has not happened to me regarding a pub I have passed many times without popping in, the Ship at Shalesmoor.

You can't miss it. Every time you drive from West bar past the Shakespeare (erm, you probably can't do this in a car any more, but you get my drift ), or swing round the corner to Shalesmoor tram stop on the tram, you can see this fine tiled building, proclaimimg proudly its Truswells Ales, standing steadfastly on its own on a road previously blessed with at least 5 pubs, I am told.

Its not like I haven't been in either. I went in with Chala years ago, and took a handpicked selection of the Gloystarne lads there on an epic chrisrtmas pub crawl in the late nineties, amongst other visits. The problem is, I was never totally sold on Kimberly ales, and then when the pub and Kimberly brand became owned by Greene King, I kind of lost my inspiration to go, and missed the chance to appreciate what a refreshingly traditional local this was.

I tried to pop in a couple of Sundays ago but alas it closes during the day Sunday I think, but remedied this on Friday night. Inside to my surprise there wasn't a Grim King beer in site, instead 3 guest beers, Bradfield Blonde, Thornbridge Sequoia, and the one I had, Spire Dark Side of the Moon, at £2.60 a pint. I picked a table near the door with a draught repelling snob screen to my right and sat down to take in the hub of conversation and the stream of regulars (based on their being addressed by name) to the bar to order beer.

It dawned on me that Grim King through their objectionable megalomania had previously deprived me of a great pub experience. So now I have the opportunity to make up for lost time, I strongly recommend you do the same, and give the Ship a try.

P.S - don't forget the 50p a go pool!

Double H

Earlier that same evening I had been in the Hillsborough Hotel. Always a handy stop after a slake in the Blake, especially since they serve food til 21.00. Alas I chose the wrong night for a visit. Unfortunately the manager had been in an accident and wasn't in and, whether related or not, there was only a third of the cheffing staff and it seemed, an occurrence of beermageddon.

My first pint the Crown HPA was on its last legs, but not enough that i would take it back. I knew there was a wait for food so decided to drink it quickly and move onto my favourite, the Stannington Stout. Alas, this had run out so I had a try of the Cottage - I can't recall its name, but it wasn't Golden Arrow, and to be fair their beers are usually very samey - i.e all incredibly poor. It was true to form so I got a pint of Blue Bee Bees Knees. Not my favourite Blue Bee beer, but it sufficed.

I toyed after this with the idea of a Crown bitter but after trying another grim offering I had a half of the Derby 30 hop which went off straight after, and then a half of the Cottage Golden Arrow, mainly in desperation at the lack of available options. The HPA soon disappeared and it was quite late into the evening before any beers were replaced.

I have been going to the Double H for yonks so won't be making plans to avoid it on this showing when there was a clear explanation - and significant sympathy and apologies from the staff - for this poor display. It just means I'll have to go back sometime when all is working well again and secure a pint of the fantastic Stannington Stout.

Harrisons 1854

Just a quick note about the above, to remind you if nothing else that they continue to sell two real ales from Abbeydale, at £3.00 a pint which is reasonable for West Street. Make sure you pop in for one of their DJ nights or other events - find them on Facebook (I am told this is a public page! - please ignore the Harrisons link posted yesterday, twas raang am afraid, sorry for any confusion.)

Ay up duck! A pub crawl with a difference

On a recent trip out with Mr Ashman, I happened across a great new idea that is being promoted in fairest Sheffield. A local artist is (with the agreement of the premises involved!) spray painting pictures of ducks on a number of Sheffield's best hostelries from the City Centre right out to the fringes of the city.

The idea is that participants will strive to find pubs emblazoned with the painted canards (the Latin name for the genus duck is Anas, so I have helpfully sidestepped that for the French instead......) and visit them to sample their unique atmosphere, appearance, music, beer garden, or hopefully decent ale, (although am not sure that everyone is guaranteed to be a real ale stockist). Each duck will carry an archetypal Sheffield phrase, and participants are encouraged to visit as many as possible to get the best drinking and pub experiences, as well as scoring points along the way.

The anticipation is that "duck hunters" will find their way to all of the duck emblazoned hostelries, and in doing so, drink some Sheffield beer and discover some pubs they may not have done before. There are prizes on offer to those who visit every venue and for other achievements in the field. To find out more details, visit Facebook and search Ay up ducks (spelling important) or follow the link (note, i am unsure if this is public) on Facebook at!/ayupducks .

On the Slake in S6

The above meeting happened at my regular after work destination the Blake at Walkley. As ever the pub strives to provide a range of excellent beers on its 6 hand pulls, along with real cider and an impressive range of continental draught and bottled beers. Not forgetting of course, the fabulous pork pies. On my last visit a notable choice available on the bar was an excellent West Coast Brewery California Pale Ale. This is a beer from a new brewery from North Wales who I understand are brewing using the Conwy brewery kit at present. For (not much more) info see .

This news serves as an introduction to a recent trip round Walkley to see how the ever changing scene there is progressing. Across the park from the Blake both the Firwood and Belle Vue appear to still be trading. Try as I might, I have never been tempted to go in the Vue but note changes afoot at the Cottage.

On South Road the Freedom House has just reopened its doors, its first night was Friday 7th October. On my visit I found there was no real ale but was assured it was being delivered Tuesday and would be on by Friday. I seem to recall its only Bombadier (which I subconsiously just mis-spelled as Bombadire) but its a start, and hopefully this will be the nub of a revival. The Firwood connection is that according to Beer Matters, the new licensee is a former Firwood Cottage landlord, although am not sure if they have moved directly from there.

Further down towards Hillsborough, and on Walkley Bank the Florist had no real ale on when I visited, but I was told that they usually do, and that the Farmers Blonde was being substituted by the Bitter.

37th Sheffield Beer Festival

This year I was at two sessions of the fest, alas this is a rather expensive way of doing things, but I had hoped to see some people there on the Friday. Normally I would never go Friday, instead Saturday all day only, or maybe Thursday as well at a push. Much as I enjoyed the festival overall, I think I'd have rather used my normal plan.

Friday was a very hot day as you all know, so its important to note how impossible it would have been to predict the record breaking temperatures that week. That said, the sports hall at Ponds Forge was boiling. The beer was warmer at the cider bar end than the other (cooler beer stopped around the letter H?) and no one seemed to have thought of opening a door at each end of the hall to create a through draught, like they do in Crete for example.

That said the Hummingbirds were good, if a little quiet for such a large space, and there were some notably good beers on. Saturday was less sweaty and being a quieter session it was easier to get sat down, and near to a door at that. The quiz was as tough as always (I failed miserably again) but it was nice being there for the afternoon and still able to sample a decent range of beers, with plenty available when I left at 18.30.

The only puzzle not solved was the prices. Some lower gravity beers were well above town prices - for example a half of the Blackedge Pike which is a 3.8% session beer was £1.70. One member of the bar staff alluded to the fact that some casks had come by courier, and I also heard that some beers were as low as £2.20 a pint (Acorn perhaps?), but there were far too many beers that should have been affordable at sensible strengths that topped £3.20 a pint and some of the stronger ones, which are naturally more expensive, were over £4.00 and thus a pound more than nearby pubs. In summary - a welcome return indoors, the venue size and location are perfect, but sort out the prices!

Forum 3 - or the York at Broomhill.

Now kids, don't get all up in arms, am not sure for definite that the forum own the York and the Old House, but if they do, then visiting the three establishments shows an interesting transition, from hit and miss beer to beer heaven, but without a traditional boozer in sight.

Have not been in the forum for a couple of month but noted a reduced emphasis on the real stuff, and a friend informed me that last week there was no ale to be had at all. Up the road the Old House is also one I have missed of late but last time I went it was still serving decent beer and great food. The York, all the way out at Broomhill, is an interesting addition. The pub interior boasts a mish mash of classic and modern pub interior styles, with emphasis on food, and a good range of beer, including the Anvil Porter brewed for them by brew Company. The interior is warm and comforting and the bar is reassuringly classic looking.

Having only been on a Sunday I haven't had chance to see what the food side entails regarding seating. The impression I get is that the right hand seating is for drinkers and the left and to the back is for diners. I don't mind this per se - its no doubt essential to have dining as part of the set up given the money laid out in its transformation (the bar has moved a third time since the early nineties) but I would like to think that the drinking area is not encroached when it gets busy - I will have to come back soon and see for myself.

Drinks wise, there are 5 or 6 real ale pumps including the porter, and one or two used for real cider and perry, along with a decent range of continental bottled beers (too few darks though!) and a very impressive wine list, coupled with cocktails, softails, spirits and even speciality teas. So do give it a try, preferably to compare and contrast it with the Old house and Forum.....

Aaagh! Not the Nottingham House....

I was to have had a third trip to the above featured pub, the York, but en route my mate Carlos told me it was rammed and so we decamped to the Notty House. What a travesty this turned out to be! The pub was quiet for a Saturday night, and the plain white walls hinted at the fact that it may only have just reopened. On the bar were four handpumps, with none serving real ale. The staff were inattentive and seemingly inexperienced, more interested in the fact that me and my mate both had soft drinks (as he was taking it easy and there was no decent beer) than anything else.

I made a trip to the loo and found 7 empty toilet roll holders and some piles of hopefully unused bog roll on the floor, away from the cubicle there were no hand towels with the holders left open (assumedly by desperate blokes in the cubicles?) and along with the lack of hot water, I also had no opportunity to make my hands clean as there was also no soap or handwash.

I found Carlos in the beer garden where we paused very briefly to drink our soft drinks before heading off for a professional and enjoyable pub experience down the road at the University Arms. I don't normally rate a pub on toilet cleanliness alone, and am not going to now, but i have to say the Notty House was memorable for just how gross its facilities were, coupled with its apparent lack of management and of anything worth drinking. The fact that anyone was drinking in there at all I think says a lot about its former qualities and maybe a little about the fact that some students it seems will drink anywhere. 1 out of 10 - for having an outside space.

So that ends a beer bites that was really a beer 3 courses, hope to to be back soon with some more info and details of trips away from sunny Sheff.

Wee Beefy.

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