its been a busy 6 days and have learnt lots and seen lots in the world of beer, here are some of the salient details :
Dada for Dee-daa's
With the Dog and Partridge left behind to die by a feckless Pubco, recently the only refreshments to be had on Trippet Lane were in the New Dog, or the Grapes to give it the proper title. This was down to a refurb and significant name change for redoubtable Sheffield boozing institution Trippets, once a wine bar with bands on, then a real ale pub with a little less live entertainment and now....
Well, I should clarify that I made the mistake of reading up on the transformation on the Sheffield Forum before visiting. Not that the Forum is a bad place to gain info and opinion, but it can rather taint ones expectations. Despite this I reckoned I could still manage an honest appraisal and ventured in a couple of times this last week. The outside is changed significantly by its dark grey and black colour scheme, inside the decor is also radically different but the layout is the same. Notable changes are afoot in the furniture, the beer range, and, ultimately, the name. Below is a last lingering look at Trippets from "back in the old days ", i.e about May 2011.
Dada is not, lets be fair, an artistic movement notably connected with Sheffield. Neither is it one that's instantly identifiable or is readily summarised by the average Joe or recognised by a global signature. In essence, the name reflects a movement as undefined and non specific as the decor, and at this early stage, the apparent direction of the venue.
This may not be a bad thing of course. Themes, especially those in licensed or dining premises, are usually soul destroyingly mediocre, sanitised or downright desperate, but are primarily oft repeated ad nauseum so that they lose all semblance of impact or ultimately identity. The "theme" of Dada, as far as that's even what it is, can at least be heralded for being unusual, unlikely to have been yet tried in the UK ( I think there is one in the US of overseas) and in taking a stylistic cause so ambiguous to all but die hard art fanatics, affords itself a freedom that say a Munch or Monet bar would be nakedly and recognisably restricted by. So when you enter and blink in the strange brightness of the left hand room, or rub your eyes uncomfortably at the headache tempting kaleidoscope of posters framing the back room, its probably worth remembering that in the event that this is not a Dada approved thematic statement, it is at least unique to Sheffield, and certainly an entirely new concept for the building and the real ale and continental beers scene.
Because that's the other change of course. There are less cask ales and much much more Thornbridge to choose from. In total there are now 4 real ales, on my two visits 3 Thornbridge offerings plus a Buxton guest, this was the excellent Buxton Pale both times, and the Thornbridge range included Brother Rabbit and Lord Marples. The prices are reasonable, being £2.70 for the guest so thats not bad for the city centre and there is an improved range of continental bottled beers, although, regrettably the pricing policy of the above is a bit Dali absurd rather than say Lowry down to earth.
One major gripe though is the placing of the bank of keg beers on the bar as you enter. No (legally required) price list jumps out to warn you of the keggy costs and only those who have visited before would definitely think to venture round the corner to find the cask ales. The advantage of key-kegs is plain, in that you can maintain an astounding range of Thornbridge products including some I don't think have made it to cask yet, but as many of you will know key-keg beer is about a pound a pint dearer than cask and the lack of clarity on this impedes customer choice.
Overall I think its an exciting, mildly frustrating, puzzle of a venue which, crucially, serves damn good cask beer at sensible prices. I look forward to seeing how Dada evolves, if only to see if they encompass the popular suggested name change to Dee-daa's in honour of its Sheffield location.
Hallamshire House, Commonside.
Being slow off the mark as usual I had contrived to miss the fact that the above venue, run by Thornbridge for Enterprise Inns, had reopened. I popped in late Saturday afternoon for a glim. Outside there was a worrying grey board and grey paintwork and signage which reminded me of Dada but that was really where comparisons end.
Inside the room on the right has lost its pool table and this makes it a great room for a quiet pint. On the left, the snug was quite dark and with a roaring fire going, and nothing appears to ave changed, what with it still being the most sought after seats in the house. Down the corridor the snooker room I am told is unchanged but I did not look in, the major difference seems to be the very high ceillinged back room, now resembling a small beer hall, and sporting a slightly disjointed banquet-cum-Edwardian town house look.
The other principle difference concerns the beer range. Once again you are spoilt for choice if you like Thornbridge, but disappointingly no non Thornbridge guests were available from the range of 8, albeit excellent real ales. The cask is supplemented with a few key-kegs, with the price disparity clearly shown on two beer blackboards. I tried what is unfortunately undoubtedly a rebadge, the Les's Best at 4.0%, and £2.60 a pint. Not having been a regular I don't know what the renowned former landlord would have made of the tipple, but I noted with childish amusement that said out loud it either suggested that same sex female relationships were best, or, that Les himself was the best, which whilst no doubt a deserved compliment, threw open to question Thornbridge's appreciation of their own management! Alas it just means the best bitter that is named after Les.......
Before departing I had time for an expensive (£3.50 a pint, but 6.2%) half of the Everlade porter, which was worryingly easy to quaff for its strength, and the perfect starter to my evening of porterly appreciation with a well known consumer organisation.
CAMRA new members beer crawl.
Its old news but I have not been a Kammrurr member for a long time now, but also worth considering that I support their aims, patronise their festivals (although, I wonder if patronise is correct, since it seems like I am patting the festival on the head and telling it that it would not understand my concerns about beer prices versus ABV); and that a goodly number of my best friends are also members of the campaign. So its against this backdrop that I accepted an invite from Rich at Blue Bee to join him on a tour of several local hostelries, and hopefully taste quite a lot of his delicious new porter brewed in aid of Movember and for the Technophobia organisation.
Hardy souls had started at somewhere before Noon at the Blue Bee brewery for a tour, then I know they had visited the Rutland Arms for lunch, and then a few more pubs, and I was hoping to see them in the Three Cranes on Queen Street at somewhere between 4 and 6PM. Having diverted all the way to Commonside it was surprise enough that I made it for 17.30, but alas they were long gone. So my 3 Cranes visit was a brief one, as I wolfed down an extremely quaffable porter, the Blue Bee Techmophobeer (see Techmophobeer). I did not check the beer's strength at first but assumed that this was about 4%, so easy was it to slake, and the pumpclip of the same that I recently acquired (quite legally mind) confirmed my suspicions about this porter, which went down like velvet and tasted like everything a good porter should.
Alas I had to meet the group a mile or two away at the Gardeners Rest at Neepsend so had no time to linger, but grabbing a bus straight away I had time to pop in the Cask and Welly (or Wellington) at Shalesmoor, for a half of Steel City Brewing "Its better Oop North", an unsurprisingly uncompromising throat punch of hops in an almost warming haze of dry citrus bitterness, with a hint of fruit that tried and failed to provide balance. Not that this was a bad thing taste wise, it was, despite my wording a most enjoyable drink, but I noticed a Little Ale Cart stout on the bar that I would have also tried had I not been on a mission...
The Gardeners Rest was busy when I arrived and I quickly spotted Rich and Kath, who as crawl leaders had to be quizzed about the location of the hundreds of new members I had anticipated seeing. Alas it seemed that 7 hours or more in, we were down to just one, and a gaggle (suggestion for the correct collective noun of CAMRA members welcome) of stalwart and newer members alike sampling the excellent wares. It goes without saying, that despite the excellent range on offer as always, this occasion warranted a pint of Techmophobeer, which was likewise delicious and well kept, but all too soon we were off again and headed from here to the tram stop and onto our first pub beer festival.
University Arms Celtic Beer Festival
The above promised a yummy selection of Welsh Scottish and Irish beers to tempt the curious drinker, and did not disappoint, despite the teasing details in the programme of food until 20.00, which was clearly not available when we arrived prior to that deadline. The Purple Moose beers were obviously very popular as they had all disappeared along with a smattering of most of the others, leaving four on stillage in the conservatory and 6 on the bar. Of the range available I tried Strathven Old Mortality, packed with a little too much Scottish malt for me but enjoyable if tired, Gertie Sweet New World Pale (which, with the greatest respect, seemed a misnomer owing to a lack of pale colour or hopiness), Tryst Cannamore which was a very refreshing Scottish hoppy ale, Vale of Glamorgan Cwrw Dewi, an ale about which through no fault of the brewer I remember precisely nothing, and Otley O7 Weissen, which was essentally Rich's choice, but I still had a taste and it was very palatable. We had a goodly stop here but eventually had to move on elsewhere, which was a shame considering i had failed to attend any of the other days of the festival.
Common Room beer festival
Next we headed down through West One and onto Devonshire Street for more casks. On my first visit to the most packed pub on Black Friday 2010 I was met with a bar with four handpumps with the clips turned round, but a whole stillage of casks awaiting me at the end of the room. Despite seeming like the most unlikely venue for a beer festival, this was also our chosen food stop, to help us soak up some of the days excess. We also of course took the opportunity to sample some beers - I had a pint of Blue Bee Nectar Pale (which was also not particularly pale, something Rich attributed to late season malts turning slightly darker) as well as a swift half of Autumn fruits, which, due to some minor addlement on my part was either from Steel City Brewing, or Sheffield Brewing Co. I really couldn't tell you which! It was an enjoyable drink though.
Beehive beer behaviours
My final stop on the crawl, and possibly that of the whole group, was the Beehive on West Street. I had reservations about the suitability of such a haunt on a Saturday night after an England match but to be fair it wasn't overwhelmingly busy, and there was a good choice of beers - almost inevitably, I finished up enjoying a pint of Techmophobeer, which I drank slowly and appreciatively from a handled beer mug, which is a method of holding beer for drinking which is starting to be more common than straight pints in some venues. According to my photos, much revelry was had, and I left at gone 22.00 for a (not actually my) last one in Harrisons, which was Bradfield Farmers Blonde. Below is a photograph to illustrate the depth of our bibulous badinage, and is of myself and a gentleman who I am assured came for the whole day out, and despite not being able to remember his name, was undoubtedly a harmless CAMRA member as opposed to an opportunistic serial killer of drunks. Modesty prevents me from identifying which one is myself.....
After visiting the 1854, I had an awkward half (lone drinker at gone 23.00 in Dada = not cool ) of Buxton Pale on Trippet lane. I then utilised the fab new night bus service to get home, thus saving me a good 6 or 7 quid in the process, and rounding off an excellent evening of beer tasting travel and socialising.
More beer news as it comes, and who knows, I may even face down the demon of writing up my trips away! Meanwhile stay thirsty and drink real ale wherever you find it.