if you have ever been lucky enough to visit the Hand & Heart in Peterborough or the Golden Ball in York you will have some understanding, and hopefully appreciation, of what a back street boozer is and can be. Often plain but with a number of rooms,usually a tap and a lounge and snug, mainly selling real ale and almost always full of characters, and, in the case of the above, possessing nationally noteworthy interior features.
Luckily, although we are only blessed with one National Inventory pub here in Sheffield (itself a back street boozer, albeit on a corner) we do have other notable survivals. Here are details of two I have recently visited.
The first is the Grapes on Trippet Lane. Granted, a back street boozer is often part of a row of houses or similar, but the Grapes stands alone only by virtue of driveways and demolitions nearby. Inside is where it really stands out as a back street boozer however. Trippet Lane is behind West Street and has 4 pubs on it, with the Grapes being owned, as the sign on the side proclaims, by the Flynn family. For years they leased the Grapes and ran the nearby Dog and Partridge until the pub company increased the rent to the extent where it was more profitable to take their own pub back under their control. Fixtures fittings staff and regulars alike moved a few doors up and we now have the Grapes in its current guise, showing its considerable original features off.
There are three rooms in the Grapes, plus the loos, and three real ales. There is also a decoratively tiled drinking corridor with a TV, and a beautiful patio to sit on and soak up the sunshine. Or the rain. The beers are Tetley Bitter, Stancil Bitter and Abbeydale Moonshine. The Moonshine is perhaps the best I have tasted (apart from at Daves beer shop, granted) and is served just cool enough to be refreshing without losing any of its flavour. The pub also sells the new Guinness Dublin Porter and Golden ale on keg, and the full range of new Guinness beers in bottle should the fancy take you.
The pub can get very busy and crowded especially if there is a wake on, and when busy there are often drinkers spilling out onto the street. The rooms inside are small but the pub is clean and well run and homely, just like a back street hostelry should be.
The other pub I visited recently is the hostelry known locally as Fanny's on the corner of Earl Street and Arundel Lane. The pub stands alone as the only residential building on a street of factories and industrial units. The Lord Nelson as it is now known is a compact pub which, although slightly opened out inside still retains its three room layout, and in rare moments of clement weather, there are seats and tables outside for drinkers.
For years it was a Kimberly brewery pub (and possibly a Stones House previously?) and now owned by Greedy King. In the mid noughties I used to go in and have Kimberly or Hardy Hanson Olde Trip, but on a couple of occasions this was on its last legs. Since then, the beer range has improved significantly, as has the beer quality.
Of the 4 beers available on Monday we all had pints of the Toolmakers Die Sage Bier, a hoppy pale lager malted ale at 4.2% (ish) and £2.80 a pint. The beer was in perfect nick and although I don't remember what else was on, it was well worth three pints for each of us. More importantly, it was lovely to sit in the tiny room on the right and watch the world pass by, listening to conversations or the football on the telly and generally relaxing.
In years gone by both of these pubs used to be in the Good Beer Guide, and although maybe overtaken by other pubs in Sheffield regarding ale, their stoic unchanging attitude, mainly in respect of their interior features, makes them well worth a visit.
Lets hope I can try out some other similar pubs in Sheffield as well.