This blog carries on from where I left off here.
Last time, I left my epic pub crawl round Sheffield at the famous Kelham Island Tavern. We now stretched our legs a little bit to get to the Shakespeare on Gibraltar Street. This pub has the sort of story behind it that just warms the heart. It was a noted live music venue, owned by Punch Taverns, who closed it early in 2010. After a period of 18 months, the pub was re-opened in July 2011 again as a live music venue and more importantly (for me, at least) as a true real ale pub. The man you should thank for this is William Wagstaff, the Shakespeare’s landlord.
To be honest, the Shakespeare is in a bit of a run-down area, and has a frontage that imposes rather than invites. Nevertheless, it is an impressive building (an 1820s coaching inn). Inside, it’s all wooden floors, wood panelling and a real feel of how pubs used to be. The rooms have been nicely refurbished and are full of interesting items. The seating consists of benches and stools. The bar is very impressive, with nine handpumps in use at the time of our visit.
We liked the Shakespeare, and so stayed for three rounds. I started with Craddock’s Saxon Gold. Craddock’s is a new brewer to me, they’ve only been brewing for about a year and are based in Stourbridge in the Midlands. If Saxon Gold is anything to go by, then I predict that they’ll be making big waves pretty soon. Saxon Gold is 4% golden ale, light and highly refreshing. The finish is excellent, hoppy and yet somehow almost sweet. Lovely stuff.
Next up was a brew from the local Steel City brewery, a 5.7% dark ale called A Slight Chance of Overhopping. I’ve had a number of these hoppy dark ales now, and I’m growing to like them very much. This one is dark in flavour with strong roasted maltiness coming out in the initial taste which then morphs into a good strong hoppy finish. It’s jolly good, but not, I think, overhopped.
The final offering from the Shakespeare was Rudgate Fuggle Trouble, a 3.6% bitter. This is where it all went a bit flat. Just not enough flavour. A bit of malt, a bit of hop. Big deal.
Onwards then. The next pub was the Wellington, a traditional Victorian end-terrace street-corner boozer, and what a little gem. It has its own in-house brewery, Little Ale Cart, and the bar positively bristles with ten handpumps. The landlord clearly supports small breweries, and I got to sample beer from more new-to-me brewers.
First was Newman’s Creative Cat. Newman’s is a joint enterprise with Celt Experience brewery of Caerphilly. Creative Cat is a mid-yellow coloured 4.3% bitter. It’s nicely hopped with a touch of graininess to the mouthfeel.
Essex brewer Mighty Oak provided the next jar, Enter the Dragon, a 4.5% porter. It packs a mouthful of roasted malt with a very pleasing smooth sweetness. I wanted another, but more curiosities awaited me on the bar.
The on-site brewery Little Ale Cart was represented by two beers on the bar. The first one I had was Gay Crusader (yes, really!), a 5% strong bitter. This is a smooth, full-bodied beer with a slight spirituous overtaste. Very nice – my list of beers to session on at a later date was growing steadily.
Little Ale Cart Lumley Castle was next, a 4.3% bitter. Quite a contrast to the previous bitter, this one was very mild flavoured. That is not to say it lacked flavour, because it didn’t. The hopping at the end was light and gentle.
For my last beer at the Wellington, I tried Millstone Vale Mill, another bitter, slightly lighter this time at 3.9% – session ale strength. Vale Mill is light, fruity and refreshing. The taste turns gently to hops providing a light, creamy finish. Three bitters, all quite different from each other.
Our next port of call (some distance away) was the superb Gardner’s Rest, on the wonderfully named Neepsend Lane. The main bar area is light and airy and there are comfortable seating areas to the rear of the pub. A mannikin sits, looking rather bored, at one of the tables. The bar is well stocked, with eight handpumps and three fizz dispensers. The Gardner’s Rest is the brewery tap for the Sheffield Brewery, and four of its beers – Porter, Five Rivers, Crucible Best and Seven Hills were on offer. Being something of a contrarian, and because I was a bit cold after the hike through the chilly streets of Sheffield, I opted for a Bingham’s Hot Dog, a 5% chilli stout. Just what the doctor ordered. It is rich and malty with a strong chilli flavour to put a bit of fire into the coldest of bellies. Great stuff.
Hunger gripped us at this stage, and we repaired to the Hillsborough Hotel on Langsett Road for food. After a very satisfying meal, we caught a tram for the seven thousand mile trip back to our hotel.
Coming next… the final three pubs!
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