yesterday I was meeting up with Carlos for our Christmas drink. My initial plan was to meet him at Toyne Towers and then whisk him away to the Closed Shop, but as you may have heard already there was a new kid in town. A pop up ale house was opening on Crookes at 12.30. It would have been rude not to have gone, so I started there.
The Crookes Ale House is part pub, part market research exercise to see if there is enough of a call for opening a micro pub in Sheffield, most likely in the Crookes or Walkley area. Personally I think Crookes has fared pretty well having only lost two pubs (assuming you count Matlock Road as Crookes) in the last 20 years whereas as Walkley as been somewhat decimated. So that suggests Walkley maybe in more need of such a venue. That said, I'd prefer a micro pub in Handsworth. Where I live. Irrespective of any research or potential for "success". But I digress...
The Crookes Ale House is at 170 Crookes Road near the Ball and is housed in the former Mr Ben's fancy dress ship. It has an eye catching pink frontage with a large window showing the name Crookes Ale House so that you know its a pub. It has a yellow painted interior with a tiny bar at the back where three casks are stillaged, and tables set out across the front part of the shop. There were three real ales on, Sheffield Brewing Co Porter, First Gold and Magic Rock Ringmaster NZ, which I am reliably informed is the new name for their Curious pale ale. All real ales are £2.50 a pint and mulled cider, which I understand has "other ingredients" in it, is £3.00 a mug. There are a small range of bottles including Ampleforth Abbey Belgian ale and Franziskaner,along with Brooklyn and Budvar Dark lager.
Alas this is not a permanent fixture on the crawl but it is an enjoyable addition. Two and a half pints of eminently quaffable Ringmaster were supped, and, in an event that I'm welling up just thinking about, I can report that I was the FIRST CUSTOMER to use the toilet.
This, is journalism, ladies and gentleman. Journalism at its most raw. Defined by firsts...
Up the road and down Sackville and the Jennel you come to the Cobden View. Arriving at about 15.00 on a Friday there was absolutely no-one in - so me and Carlos set about playing pool, the lack of customers affording us the kind of time two rusty players need to complete a few games whilst lacking the requisite skill to bring them to a close. In the end, as Carlos noted, pool won. To accompany our potting I had a pint of the Sheffield Brew Co First Gold and Carlos some Stella in a glass egg cup. And having got settled and realised they took card payments, we stopped for another - more egg lager for Carlos and a delicious pint of Bradfield Belgian Blue for me.
Out onto School road the crawl took on a familiar look and we arrived at The Closed Shop in need of food. Alas their card machine was broken so it was only ever going to be chip butties - but they are rather fab in the shop. To accompany the nosh I had a reckless but delicious pint of the excellent Acorn Gorlovka, and noticing that we'd done nothing but sup Carlos sensibly invested in another chip butty. It was quiet in the shop but the days between Boxing Day and New Years Eve are a puzzling enigma where no-one seems to want to venture out and you can't expect to take much.
Across the road the Hallamshire House had the Thornbridge Kacho rum porter on so it was a given that I would have that. Sat in the main room we were soon joined by some of my colleagues from work but had already decided we needed a walk to sober up. The Kacho was very tasty but a little more rummy that I had hoped for but was nevertheless enjoyable.
We decided against going to the Blake only because it was nowhere near a bus home for either of us, and our early start was contributing to our feeling a trifle refreshed. So we walked down past Shamesbury's who have now opened their "vital" new supermarket at the expense of the Hadfield pub, in a frankly embarrassing charade where the pubco pretended that after having received an offer from the supermarket, they were ever going to do anything but sell the pub off.
Onto West Street we headed for the Bath Hotel where there was, given this was our last stop, a frustratingly good range of beers to be had. Burning Sky Aurora, as recommended by Mr Ed, was indeed rather brilliant, but had I had more time I could easily have supped a pint of their Saison. Also available, on cask, was an aged Thornbridge Raven (note it wasn't wild raven...) which I had to have a half of. Both beers were in excellent nick and it was just a shame that my mind was wandering to thoughts of home and cheese on toast.
As well as being a great catch up with Carlos this was an enjoyable take on the Crookes Valley Crawl and it will be interesting to see what the research at the Crookes Ale House tells them about the potential for opening a micro pub permanently in the area. Does Sheffield need a micro pub? Why not. Could it be sighted in Crookes or Walkley. No. It needs to be in Handsworth like I said...
For now though, its a great starting point on a crawl that throws up a handful of traditional pubs with a varied range of real ales along the way.