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A Pub Crawl Round Sheffield – Part 5

This blog carries on from where I left off here.

The Shakespeare

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.

The Wellington

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.

The Gardner’s Rest bar

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.

Bored mannikin

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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Posted by on 28 August, 2012 in Cask Ale, Pubs, Scooping


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Bir e Fud, Rome

My recent sojourn in Rome has already been mentioned in two previous blogs. One about bottled beers bought in a local  Spar shop and one about the fabulous Ma Che Siete Venuti. In my short trip, another couple of places stood out for me as beer drinking venues. The first is a pub/restaurant literally on the opposite side of the tiny Via Benedetta from Ma Che Siete Venuti. This is Bir e Fud.

Bir & Fud

Bir e Fud is famous for its pizzas and, of course, its beer. Located in a bit of a corner, Bir e Fud has annexed a small part of the street as an outside drinking area. Slightly chill as it was at the time of our visit, we proceeded inside.

Bir & Fud bar

The bar has a long copper pipe all along it, punctuated with taps. This unusual piece of bar furniture is placed at just the right height that you have to duck down under it or stand on tippy toes to order your drinks over it. That doesn’t matter, because the beer is fantastic. Bir & Fud prides itself in serving a wide range of Italian artisanal beer, and the large beer menu on the wall testifies to this.

Lady A and I found a table at the back of the dining room and ordered food. The menu is in Italian and has no English translations, so what you get is anybody’s guess if your Italian is as bad as mine. Anyway, when it turned up, it was beautifully prepared and very tasty. Whatever it was. Lady A asked for a fruit juice, but was told, politely, that if she didn’t want beer, she could have water. Those are the only choices.

My first beer from the extensive menu was Borgo Ketoreporter, a wonderfully black 5.2% porter. It is beautifully rich and creamy in the mouth. The flavours are predominantly of dark fruits and liquorice with a clever and distinct overlay of hoppy bitterness. A lovely porter, and bang on what I would expect a good porter to taste like.

Next was another Borgo ale, Hoppy Cat, a 5.8% Black IPA. It’s not quite black, but is a very dark red. It pours with a clean white head. The smell is strongly hoppy with just the right amount of citrus to balance it out. The dominant themes of the smell carry through into the taste, and I was reminded very strongly of Toccalmatto B Space Invader, another artisanal Italian Black IPA that I had tasted over the road in Ma Che Siete Venuti just a couple of nights before. Hops are strong and dominant throughout, with a hint of liquorice at the end.

Feeling confident in the beer menu now, I ordered a Ducato Golden Ale. At 4.5%, this was lighter in every sense of the word than the last two drinks. Sadly, I felt a little let down by this beer. It wasn’t bad, but not up to the standard set by the first two. Golden Ale has a bright white head and is yellow and cloudy. The taste was somewhat ashy. Overall rather thin with not much to it.

I determined to give the Ducato brewery another chance, so next I opted for a Ducato Verdi, and 8.3% Imperial Stout. This beer truly is black, with a dark brown head. From the first sip, Ducato redeemed themselves. I am a great fan of Imperial Stouts, or imps, and this is a proper imp. Dark roasty malt flavours mingle with bitter black coffee and a slightly spirituous overtaste, reminding you of its significant ABV. Verdi is beautiful but very bitter. Superb.

Ducato Verdi

Unfortunately, I was only able to make one trip to Bir e Fud during this trip. Like Ma Che Siete Venuti across the road, it’s a popular haunt with Romans, and once again we were the only non-Italians in the place. The staff, of mostly young people, were friendly and helpful. Certainly the young man who served us was quite proficient in English, and knew a lot about the beers he was serving. It’s odd that probably the two best places for drinking artisanal beer in Rome are within a few yards of each other, but you can easily visit both in an evening. It has to be said though, that both these places deserve more than a flying visit. My next trip to Rome will certainly have good amounts of time allotted to these pubs. Next time, though, I’m going to have learned a little Italian, so I know what I’m ordering.

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Posted by on 15 June, 2012 in Cask Ale, Pubs, Scooping


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A Pub Crawl Round Sheffield – Part 4

When we left off last time, I was crawling back to my hotel for our second night in Sheffield. The following morning, we started off, not too early, with breakfast at the Benjamin Huntsman, a city centre Wetherspoons. From there we made our way, in a genteel manner, to the Sheffield Tap, one of Sheffield’s best known pubs.

The Sheffield Tap

Only recently restored, this building was originally the refreshment room on Sheffield Midland Station’s platform 1b. It had been disgracefully neglected by British Rail and was in a state of partial collapse when renovations began in 2008. Today it is a beacon of hope, demonstrating just what can be done with determination and hard work. In a word, the place is beautiful. In the bar room (right onto the station platform) is a superb long wooden bar topped with a very impressive array of taps.

Sheffield Tap bar

There are plenty of Thornbridge beers available at the tap, and I started with Thornbridge Frank as Apollo, a 4.6% bitter. Frank as Apollo was the winner of the Thornbridge Great British Home Brew Challenge, and was brewed by Paul Carruthers. It’s a nice brew, bitter and hoppy, refreshing and easily drinkable. Hops are very evident at the finish and are quite sharp.

I followed up with another Thornbridge brew, Black Harry, a 3.9% mild. Malt is the major taste sensation in this beer, though not strongly so. Not unpleasant.

Spotting a Magic Rock brew, Dark Arts, I couldn’t resist. Magic Rock is currently making waves in the beer world, and the opportunity to try one of their beers cannot be missed. Dark Arts is described as a ‘surreal stout’ and weighs in at a respectable 6.0%. The taste is very dark, bitter and malty. There’s also a touch of smoke deep down in the flavour. The finish adds a pleasant dash of coffee. There’s a good hop character throughout. Very good.

Another Thornbridge beer on the bar was Versa, a 5.0% keg wheat beer. Now I’ve mentioned before that I’m not overfond of this style, but I do keep trying. What can I say about Versa? It’s wheat beery. There is, however, a distinct sherbet taste in there too. Well, I tried.

Finally, I spotted a Redwillow brew (one of my top new breweries). Faithless XI is a 7.4% Strong Ale, dark red in colour. There are bags full of flavour in here. The smell is very fruity and this carries on into the taste along with vanilla and toffee and plenty of bitter hops. A massive mouthful of complex flavours.

The Harlequin in its industrial context

We considered that we had dawdled long enough in the Sheffield Tap (it’s easy to do), so we set off again, this time to The Harlequin, quite a hike from the Tap. The Harlequin is a lovely, comfortable Victorian street corner pub with up to 14 real ales on the bar at a time. It also serves very good food and we settled in here for our lunch. The Brew Company, a nearby brewer, provides a monthly special exclusively for the Harlequin.

The bar in the Harlequin

I had three beers here, with mixed results. Firstly, I went for an Ascot Penguin Porter, 4.5% and quite black. The taste is dark with a good deal of bitterness – malty bitterness, not hoppy. There’s also a hint of smoke. Lady Alebagger tasted chocolate biscuits in the flavour, but I couldn’t find them.

Secondly, I plumped for a Black Iris Great Eastern Transatlantic Porter. 4.6% and quite black, I reckon it was made from Atlantic water. Salty, salty, salty! Eew!

Finally, I had to try one of the Brew Company’s brews – Atomic, a 4% golden ale. An attractive bright yellow colour with a distinctly orange smell, the taste is pithy and hoppy. Cleaned my mouth out nicely. Refreshing and bitter.

Kelham Island Brewery

Lunch finished, we strode purposefully out into the cold Sheffield air, crossing the stinky River Don and on towards the area of Sheffield called Kelham Island. We couldn’t resist stopping in at the Kelham Island Brewery Shop, where I bought a nifty Fat Cat tee-shirt. Handy, as that was our next destination.

The Fat Cat

The Fat Cat opened as a real ale pub in 1981 and really kick started the real ale scene in Sheffield. 11 real ale pumps were on the bar at the time of our visit. The main bar area is small and somewhat cramped, but there is another, spacier room next door. Our itinerary didn’t leave us much time here, so I just had two beers.

The Fat Cat bar

My first was the excellent Newsome Trial Porter, 4.9% and very black. Very smooth, dark roasted malt flavour with hints of bitterish smoke towards the end. A fine porter.

My second choice disappointed. From the Kelham Island brewery, which we passed on our walk here, I had their Best, a 3.8% bitter. Frankly, it’s not terribly nice, but I don’t condemn a beer on a single tasting. I’ll have to try it again some time.

Kelham Island Tavern

Our next choice of pub was obvious, twice CAMRA champion pub of Britain, the Kelham Island Tavern was just a stone’s throw away. The Kelham Island Tavern sits in a rather sterile area of town, little around it and facing a large car park. Inside, it is pleasant, with tiled floors and a carved wooden bar, on which were eight handpumps, though not all in use when I was there. At the back is a small but attractive beer garden, where we sat to drink our beer. It’s sheltered, and despite it being only the 3rd March, it was warm enough to sit out, with coats on. There was only time for two here, but it seems I chose well. Derby Penny’s Porter is a very dark red, 4.7% porter which is smooth and sweet and extremely drinkable.

Kelham Island Tavern bar

Castle Rock Urban Fox is a seasonal ruby ale at 4.5%. It is smooth and has a lovely caramel taste. It’s quite sweetish.

The afternoon was drawing to a close, so we left the Kelham Island Tavern behind as we continued our exploration of the pubs of Sheffield. Thanks for sticking with me, more to follow…

To continue with the pub crawl, click here.

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Posted by on 8 June, 2012 in Cask Ale, Pubs, Scooping


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The Best Little Pub in Rome, Probably

Rome is not a hugely pubby town. There are pubs, mostly of the type that serve both types of beer – Moretti and Peroni, but hidden away in quiet corners there are also a few that are real oases for the discerning beer drinker.

And so it was that on my first night in Rome, I followed my nose down the Via di Torre Argentina, the Via Arenula, and zigzagging a bit to cross the Tiber at the Ponte Sisto. Over the river and you’re into the cobbled mediaeval streets of the Trastavere, a bit of a nightlife centre. On reaching the Via Benedetta I spotted my target. It looks like nothing from outside, a door through a scruffy, graffitti-laden wall.

The sign over the door reads ‘Ma Che Siete Venuti a Fa’, a curious phrase that defies sensible translation. The words literally mean ‘but that makes you come to’, which doesn’t make a lot of sense. I’ve seen it translated into ‘What the hell are you doing here?’ but that can’t be right. I am informed by one of my contacts (thank you) that the phrase is a chant used by supporters of Lazio. The pub’s other name is the Football Pub, so this makes some sort of sense. Beneath the main sign is another, which I fully understand – ‘Domus Birrae’, house of beer.

What was it about this little, two-roomed pub three-quarters of a mile away from my apartment that drew me, tired and weary as I was, through the dark, rainy streets of an unfamiliar city? Well, it’s probably the best pub in Rome. The bar room opens directly onto the street, so much so that bar stools spill out onto the road. The whole interior is wood-panelled, and the walls are covered with the sort of eclectic ephemera that line the walls of pubs all over the world. There’s a football shirt signed by the team members of Sheffield United, and four football scarves, a number of framed awards and a large beer menu.

The bar area has seating for maybe a dozen people, and through a door opposite the main entrance is another room with seating for perhaps a dozen more. On a busy night, this place can be very cheek-by-jowl.

The back room

On the bar are thirteen uniform beer pumps dispensing artisanal beer from all over Europe. You can only drink beer here, there are no other options. I stood at the bar and surveyed the pumps. I didn’t know any of the beers. Excellent! The pub has two storage rooms, one at 12°C and the other at 6°C, so you can be sure of getting your beer at the right temperature.

The barman walked over to me and addressed me in English (how did he know?). ‘Hello, how are you?’ he asked. I replied that I was well, and had travelled a very long way to sample his beer. His face broke into a broad grin and he offered his hand ‘Hi,’ he said, ‘I’m Fabio.’

It’s quite something to see the barstaff here pour beer. You are warned that it may take several minutes to get your beer. They are careful not to overfill the glass with foam, and have special little scrapers to scrape foam from the top of the glass. Beer is served in two sizes, 200ml and 400ml. The 400ml glass they call a pint, though a pint is actually 568ml, so beware. 400ml generally costs 5 or 6 euros, so it’s not cheap.

Gaenstaller Affumicator

My first beer was an Italian Black IPA, Toccalmatto B Space Invader at 6.3%. There’s a very strong hop smell. The taste is massive hops with underlying black treacle and some smoke. There is also bitter espresso coffee. This is a massive mouthful and a great start to my Roman beer drinking experience.

Along with the B Space Invader, I ordered a Rurale Seta, a 5.0% Italian wheat beer. There’s a slightly unpleasant urinal-type smell to this one. Not too terrible, and the taste is better. The start has frankfurters, the middle citrus and a growing spiciness towards the end. It’s complex and warming, and well worth getting over the initial smell.

Next I had a beer which was brewed as a collaborative effort of the Toccalmatto and Extraomnes breweries. Called Tainted Love, it’s a 4.7% dark saison. Really dark, it’s quite black. The taste is also very dark. This is a really unusual beer. There are definitely malt and hops, but there is also a certain sourness that somehow contrives to be almost sweet. There is also smoke in the smell, but not so much in the taste. A fascinating beer.

Reinaert Grand Cru and Rurale Seta

I visited Ma Che Siete Venuti a Fa three times during my eight days in Rome. Other beers drunk there were:

Brewfist Fear, a 5.2% milk stout, also from Italy. I found it to be smooth and sweet. Very drinkable and remarkably light tasting for a 5.2% beer. There actually is a milky flavour to it, which I presume comes from lactose.

Another Italian, Elav Belfast Blues, a 4.1% bitter. It’s dark orange in colour and is nice and smooth with an upfront orangey flavour. Bitter, but not too much so. Back home this would make a nice session ale.

Gaenstaller Affumicator, a 9.0% rauchbier from Germany. OK, this was pretty horrible. Smoked beers are all right if there’s something else besides smoke. In this beer, there’s darkness, bitterness (lots of it) and smoke (bucketsful of it). Too smoky, didn’t like it.

Reinart Grand Cru, a Belgian Tripel weighing in at 8.0%. Dark brown in colour, this was one of those beers that I had to wait for. It was extremely foamy. It is sweet, fruity and rich with thick spirituous overtones. It is very smooth and pleasant, and the presence of bittering hops is evident.

Back to Italian beers, Birrificio Tipopils is a 5.2% Pils. Typically yellow, it has a bright, clean, hoppy taste. There is a slight hint of soap. Very good and very refreshing. It was served quite cold, evidently from the 6°C room.

Birrifico Tripopils

Despite its small size, this is a very comfortable place to be. The staff and the customers are friendly and forgiving of poor Italian. Lady A and I were the only non-Italians in the place, but we felt right at home. It’s no wonder this little gem of a pub has won so many awards. If I had awards to give, I’d give one to them!

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Posted by on 1 June, 2012 in Beer Styles, Cask Ale, Pubs


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A Pub Crawl Round Sheffield – Part 3

This blog continues from Part 2 of my pub crawl round Sheffield, which can be found here.

The Bath Hotel, sadly too full for a visit

Leaving The Hop, we ventured out into the night, initially making for the Bath Hotel on Victoria Street. This pub has been sympathetically restored to its 1930s splendour, and has won a place on CAMRA’s National Inventory of historic pub interiors. Sadly, on this occasion, it was very crowded and we were unable to sit, and standing was quite a jostly affair, so we moved on to our next target, a long walk to the University Arms on Brook Hill. This pub is owned by Sheffield University and is cosy with a well-preserved interior with the bar filling one end of the long main room. Six handpumps were in operation, offering a good range of beers and styles.

The University Arms

Straight away, I spotted a Milton brew on the bar – Saturnalia. Having been impressed with Milton during a visit to their native Cambridgeshire last year (see here), I ordered myself a jar of that. I’m not quite sure what this is classified as, but it ticked all the boxes for an IPA in my book. It’s pale yellow in colour and has an ABV of 5.3%. The taste is superb, lots of hoppy bitterness with an excellent citrussy pithiness. A first class IPA.

Next, I ordered half a pint of the unappetising sounding Acorn Ancient Grease. This is a dark beer, very deep red in colour, with a comfortably quaffable 4.1% ABV. There is a clear ginger aroma to this brew, and the ginger continues into the taste, where I also found a nice, smooth, chocolate flavour. It’s a curious combination, but it works surprisingly well, and I found myself enjoying it more than I expected from the name.

The bar in the University Arms

There followed a couple of rather disappointing beers. Derby Masterplan, a 4% bitter(?) failed to raise any interest in its dull, boring taste, and Kelham Island Bohemian Rhapsody, a 4.7% bitter fared little better, being somewhat hoppy, but not terribly interesting. Time to move on to our last pub of the first day.

I have to admit to being a little beer-weary by this point in the evening. I wasn’t drunk, just full. Imagine, then, my despair when we arrived at the Rutland Arms on Brown Street and found a bar positively bristling with handpumps dispensing beers from the Dark Star brewery. They must have had a Dark Star festival or something. It was, as I’m sure you will concur, not possible to pass up on such an opportunity, and before I could say ‘Slap me with a wet fish, Mother,’* there was a pint of Dark Star’s superb 4.2% Espresso Stout sitting on the table in front of me. Dark Star brewery, from Brighton, is one of my favourite brewers. Over the years I have sampled 32 different beers from this brewery. One disappointed and two I found to be average. That leaves 29 fabulous ales. The Espresso Stout was on top form, rich and malty with a huge wallop of coffee flavour.

Not content with just one sample of Dark Star’s art, I followed the Espresso Stout with a Sussex Extra Stout, marginally stronger than Espresso at 4.5%, the taste is much more restrained. It is mildly malty with some hops present, but definitely not to the fore. The overwhelming taste is sweetness. A very drinkable stout.

By this time, I really could face no more, and Lady A and I left our by now very happy friends with the Dark Stars and made our way back to our hotel (uphill all the way!)

I slept soundly that night, and awoke the following morning keen to resume the crawl.

More later…

To continue with the crawl, go here.

* I have no idea why I might have considered uttering these words, and you may be relieved to know that in fact, I did not.

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Posted by on 11 May, 2012 in Cask Ale, Pubs, Scooping


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A Pub Crawl Round Sheffield – Part 2

This blog follows on directly from Part 1 of my Sheffield pub crawl here.

The Frog & Parrot

As we left the last blog, I was in the Waterworks, a ‘Spoons. Leaving there, we walked along to Devonshire Street for our next two pubs. The first was the invitingly named Frog & Parrot. At first glance, it doesn’t look like a pub from the outside and perhaps aware that the name does not immediately shout ‘Pub!’, the owners have helpfully added the words ‘the pub’ to their signage.

The bar in the Frog & Parrot

Inside, the pub is attractively laid out with tables on different levels. The bar sported beers from Greene King and St Austell. Being something of a contrarian, I opted for the beer with the oddest name, Lord Parrot by ‘Domo Cervesia’, which I suppose just means ‘house beer’. I have no idea who actually brews this, but I realised that I wouldn’t be able to get it anywhere else (at least under that name) so I duly bought myself a jar of it. It’s a 3.8% bitter, orange coloured and slightly cloudy. It has a fairly ‘modern’ taste, not really like a traditional bitter. It’s smooth with hints of grain and cream, and it actually slid down quite nicely. I’d be happy with it for a session.

The Old House

Back to warp speed, no time to waste, we headed off to the next bar, just across the road. The Old House has a rather grand frontage, and inside is surprisingly roomy. The tables are mostly against the walls, leaving a large open space between them. The atmosphere is friendly and comfortable, and importantly, there is a well-stocked bar. Somewhere on the pub premises there is also a proto-brewery, True North. Their very first beer was on offer that day, so I had to go for it. First Born (also the name I coined for my first ever beer brew 20 or so years ago) is a 4.3% bitter (similar to my own Firstborn). It’s a nice pale yellow in colour. The hops are present more in flavour than in bitterness. It’s smooth and really quite a pleasant beer.

Inside The Old House

I next opted for another local Sheffield brew, Kelham Island 45rpm (I’m old enough that 45rpm means something to me! Try telling a kid these days ‘You sound like a broken record’ – ‘A what?’). 45rpm is a 4.5% bitter (hence the name, I guess), with a nice orange colour. My first thought was that this beer was distinctly odd. It was bitter, but there was a strange rough edge to the taste that I couldn’t identify.

Finally for the Old House, I went off at an obtuse angle and plumped for a Franziskaner Weissbier. This is a traditional Bavarian wheat beer, cloudy white with an ABV of 5%. Frankly, I’m no expert on wheat beers, but this had all the flavours I would expect, but seemed rather sweeter than most examples of the style that I’ve tasted, and was very good. A nice palate freshener.

The Hop

We’d dawdled long enough in the pleasant environs of The Old House and so we moved on to a far more modern looking pub, The Hop, a very fashionable venue for fine ale and live music which still somehow manages to maintain the comfortable atmosphere of a traditional pub. The bar is long and sports an impressive array of handpumps. To the left is a large, semicircular room with a completely glass exterior wall. At one side there’s a small stage where the bands perform. The beers on offer were quite varied. There’s a good range of beers from Ossett brewery and from Ossett’s offshoot, the Rat Brewery. Ossett Brewery’s other offshoots are Fernandes and Riverhead. I also noted beers from Hawkshead and Fullers.

The bar in The Hop

As Rat is fairly new (it only started operating in September 2011), I went for a Brown Rat, a traditional 3.8% brown ale. It was surprisingly smooth, with clear notes of malt and treacle, though quite sweet, just as a brown ale should be.

As we sat by the great glass wall of The Hop, darkness descended on the city of Sheffield, and we prepared ourselves for our first night in the Steel City…

Go straight to Part 3

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Posted by on 13 April, 2012 in Cask Ale, Pubs, Scooping


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A Pub Crawl Round Sheffield – Part 1

Recently, some good friends and I went on a three-day pub crawl around the city of Sheffield. They were familiar with the city and its plentiful watering holes, but this was a new experience for me. And what an eye-opener it turned out to be. In the three-day long weekend, we managed to visit twenty fine pubs, and got to taste a lot of very good beer. Now a review of twenty pubs and all the beers contained therein would be unimaginably dull, so I’m just going to concentrate on the first three we visited.


We arrived in Sheffield at lunchtime on Friday, and our first target was Henry’s, a converted cafe that sits on a prominent corner of Cambridge Street. The pub is large, open-plan and spacious, with the bar filling one side. The two walls facing onto the street are glass, giving the place a very light and airy feel. The wooden floor and unfussy decor add to the feel of spaciousness. It still feels like a cafe, in a way.

Henry’s Bar

The beer options are impressive, with eleven handpumps in operation that day. Unfortunately, we only had time for one, and I settled for an Elland Eden, a pale yellow 4.2% bitter. For a first beer of a session, this served very well. It’s light and refreshing with a sweetish start and a good hoppy follow through. The finish is long, bitter and satisfying.

The Devonshire Cat

We then moved on the area of the city dominated by student accommodation. The students here are served very well with many fine pubs in and around their lodgings, and the first one of these we visited was the Devonshire Cat on Wellington Street. Although clearly serving the student community, the ‘Dev Cat’ does not look like a student pub. It’s far too clean and tidy for that. The bar is impressive, with up to twelve handpumps in operation. We decided to stop here for our lunch. There is a good menu of honest pub food. Whilst waiting for my food to arrive, I ordered a pint of Thornbridge McConnells, a 5% vanilla stout. I found it to be smooth with a dark, malty flavour and a subtle underlying vanilla taste. It’s very nice, though I found the vanilla to be less obvious than I expected.

Inside the Devonshire Cat

The food was very good, and duly fortified, we had another round. This time I picked Thorne Pale Ale, attracted by the fact that Thorne is a relatively local brewer. The beer looks great, a very pale yellow in colour. At 4.2%, it would pass as a session beer, and I would certainly be happy to drink it all night. It is light and refreshing with a distinct caramel flavour. The finish is clean and hoppy, but not bitter.

Moving on, we next stopped at the Sheffield Waterworks, a Wetherspoon’s pub in a converted… er… waterworks. A slightly unusual layout inside, but given the familiar ‘Spoons treatment.

The Waterworks

I started here with a Grafton Lady Mary. Grafton is a relatively new brewery, having started production in 2007 in Worksop in Nottinghamshire. The Lady Mary is a 5% mid-orange coloured bitter. I have to admit that for a 5% ale, I found this rather disappointing. There simply isn’t very much flavour. It isn’t unpleasant, but just rather insipid.

My next jar was a Milestone Colonial Stout. A very dark red, Colonial weighs in at a respectable 6%. There’s a tempting caramel smell which carries through into the taste where coffee also appears. It’s very smooth and very nice.

So that’s the first three pubs on my mega-three-day pub crawl. Only seventeen more to go. Keep tuned!

Go straight to Part 2

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Posted by on 16 March, 2012 in Cask Ale, Pubs, Scooping


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