Thursday, 8 December 2016

twobeergeeks` Beers of the Year 2016

Hands up! Beer of the year is a bit daft but we @twobeergeeks do try. We are trying, very. With the vast number of styles out there and the vast quantity of pubs (especially in our city of steel) and bottle shops, great beer really is situational. If Bradfield Blue in t' local after a hilly plod hits your b-spot, who can really disagree!?
As per usual, we try to keep things relatively local and we've somehow narrowed it down to a top five, in no particular order:-
Green Man IPA - Drone Valley Brewery
Members of the Drone Valley Brewery cooperative planted their own hops (Prima Donna) in their suburban S18 gardens and harvested them to produce this autumnal brew. Pungent and flavour full, this is a great example of what is possible without paying top dollar for transatlantic tastes. 5.7%. And their Dronetsk stout weren't bad either. Encore.
Custard porter (red wine barrel-aged) - Cloudwater
From Hop Hideout. After a cheeky monthly 5k run with the Mikkeller Running Club, you need to refuel and this ticked all the boxes. Amazing. Think vanilla on top of balanced burgundy barrel-aged beer (Shiraz next please!). Strong % but don't recall what, for some reason... Our Abbeydale road heroes, Jules and Will, sagely select the best in beer and this was the real deal, leftovers from a MTB a few days before. Lucky us. You need to run and / or have a half herein at HH HQ.
Modus Operandi - Wild Beer
The Brothers Arms has been through a bit of a transitional period this year after arriving on the scene with a big bang but it still is a great spot for summertime sups. After a play in the park, kicking back on the city's best beer terrace, you expect a reasonable pint to accompany you but this old ale (ok, it was a half ) went above and beyond. Strong % but don't recall what for some reason. ... I had to go back for another . .
Love Among The Ruins - Thornbridge
Neither of us are big on drinking bottles at home, preferring a pub pint , but this needs, no it demands, a mention. I got to try this as soon as it was released thanks to James,  pub presidente at el Coach & Horses in delightful Dronfield and it exceeded expectations. After below-par dalliances into the world of sours (remember that ok Wild one, `Tart`?), but this was buckets better. Pucker up.
Rhubarb and Rosehip Gose by Sentinel
Both of us are fans of this super sour. At only 3.4%, RRG still offers lots of taste. I first sampled the beer at their Brewery's family fun day in August having heard good things about it from those in the know. Tough to beat a Summer sour, especially when its this good and great to see it available in bottles all year too. Love all the info that Sentinel offer the beer geeks at their Tap or on their bottles.
 Soooo, no space for Bradfield Blue this year, eh? We`re always interested to hear your choices, answers to the usual address pint pickers. Cheers.

In case you have forgotten  --Our  Beers of 2015

Friday, 2 December 2016

twobergeeks` Brewery of the Year 2016


So, twobeergeeks' Brewery of the Year 2016 was not an easy one to decide. In fact, we couldn't decide and so settled for a split decision, like a dodgy boxing match.... 
Following in the footsteps of Magic Rock, our pick for 2014, we have seen our 2015 selection of noobs Neepsend go from strength to strength this year and 2016 has seen a whole posse of new local producers brewing some stand-out ales right from the get go.
                                              Danny's pick - Hop Jacker
Great name and great beers. Since getting out of The Bath, Edd Entwistle has seamlessly shifted into the role of 'Edd' Brewer at the Dronfield Arms, the tap house for Hop Jacker. Their ales are very solid but not predictable. We both enjoyed their IPA types and their darker brews with the Roobarb and Custard porter being a real big time brew. Like many of their's , this collaboration (with the wonderful White Lion of Heeley) is a must on any beer hunter's list.
Think Hop Jacker, think unfined!
                                                          Mike's pick - Lost Industry.
The standard expectation in the industry is to start safe with a core range of 4 or 5 brews in traditional styles, nailing them, and then tentatively venture into slightly stronger brews or different styles. The Seaton brainstrust don't subscribe to that school of thought though and jumped straight in with a maverick abandon citing yoghurt sours early in their brewing timeline. Sure, the packaging is clearly on the d.i.y. lines with occasional local references but the best art is usually on the inside of their bottles. Lost Industry have recently done some real works with their Black Heart coffee porter one and their wonderfully weird Foraged, using locally sourced berries and whatnot, I kid you not!
Pic borrowed from rate beer. Ta.
 OK. So we know that these two operations are not the finished article but such strong starts need recognition and so we are pleased and proud to select Lost Industry and Hop Jacker as our joint winners of the twobeergeeks Brewery of 2016. Cheers chaps!

Sunday, 23 October 2016

The 42nd Steel City Beer Festival

Quick one. I think it's now the third year that the Steel City beer festival had been held at the impressive Kelham Island Industrial Museum and the third year that twobeergeeks has been involved in the judging.

The event seems to grow year on year and, even at the Wednesday afternoon opening session there was a decent turnout of ale enthusiasts.
I stumbled upon four different bars during my visit. Having done no research before hand to speak of, strangely hazy memories of previous visits and being too tight to buy a programme (and guaranteed to lose it within twenty minutes), it was lucky dip.
The pub bit (Millowners Arms) seemed to be all Bradfield this year and just a bit further down from it was the keg bar. When I popped in I was impressed with the selection but gas issues meant nothing was available. There's the long marquee bar downstairs again and the upstairs bar next to where judging takes place.
After last year's luck where I happened upon brilliant brews from North Riding and Crafty Devil and got to rate the speciality ales category, this year yielded a mega crop of Golden Ales. Suffice to say that, after sampling 20 of the blighters, this is not my preferred beer style..... On a positive note, good to see CAMRA criteria now allowing for unfined ales (surely the way forward) and for the fact that there was a keg bar this year (although I suspect an old school twiggy beer type might have sabotaged it on Wednesday?! ).
However , I did get to redress this somewhat between judicial sittings and enjoyed beers from newbs Beer Ink (formerly Hand Drawn Monkey, I believe) and Steel City before departing.
Best bit for me was chatting to lots of nice beery folk and hearing the results next evening:-
Beer of Sheffield -
1st. Rollabout Stout by Neepsend
2nd. C Monster by Little Critters
3rd.   Azimuth by On The Edge
Not saying we told you so but Neepsend was our Brewery of the Year for 2015 and this week's deserved award heralds the progress that they have made this year, particularly with the darker ales. Competition was tougher than ever too and Little Critters have arrived with a bang and a solid range of core ales. A silver for Critters must make the switch from Bakewell well worth it. Also great for On the Edge`s Tom who combines teaching art with brewing craft. Well done chaps. Take a bow, (and ask for a pay rise). And a big thanks to all of the people involved with this year's festival - Pride of Sheffield. x

Saturday, 17 September 2016

Mitchell`s Hop House Brewing - Independent

The recently crowned Real Ale Capital of Britain has a new brewery. Hot on the heels of potent pairing Sentinel and Little Critters comes Mitchell's Hop House Brewing.
The Meadowhead maestros of all things alcohol have now branched out and started their own micro brewery. The little Italian restaurant next door has been replaced by a shiny new brew kit aswell as an ale museum and the long term aim apparently is to of have a gin distillery too. Look out Locksley?!
The last twelve months or so have seen Mitchell's wholeheartedly jump on board the craft ale revolution with an impressively expanded range including a sizeable beer fridge with ale from near and far (from Tadcaster to Tokyo), bottled and canned. This place is on my route home from work so the visits have become increasingly frequent and inevitable. Staff at Mitchell's are friendly and knowledgeable, the range of spirits and wines is vast but what's the beer like?
The test batch of bottles disappeared crazily quickly so I missed them unfortunately but I grabbed a blonde at the first opportunity, so to speak. The brews have Mitchell's-related names and this one was named 'Independent' appropriately and offered ample reason to support local businesses if a reminder was ever needed. Stay local!
We twobeergeeks are not ordinarily blonde fans but needs must and, with this one on the shelves at well under two quid for a 500ml bottle, it was a no-brainer to add to my basket alongside the 'fruit-based' drink for the lady.
The initial aroma is nice enough; fresh and grassy. Thankfully Independent is not overly-carbonated as some new-to-bottle brewers seem to do and the late summer golden haze is topped by a thin off-white head.

This one is quaffable at 4% whilst having enough taste to keep the palate interested and the hoppy bitterness is pleasant and quite long-lasting. A good effort and it seems to improve further down the glass, or maybe I over-chilled it a touch. Possibly that could be an area to improve at HH: add some more information to the label like serving instructions, hops used or even IBUs, us geeks like that stuff. Anyways, a promising start and we look forward to seeing how Mitchell's Hop House develops up at the head of the Meadow.
The future is bright.  Maybe this place could be the first to offer a beer and cigar pairing? Now we`re talking!

Wednesday, 7 September 2016

Sentinel Brewhouse revisited

We are very fortunate to have many fantastic pubs in Sheffield. We are also lucky to have a few places that have been taken over by visionary bosses and improved massively. Now in Sentinel Brewhouse we have something quite different to add to our city's ale armoury.
Head honcho Alex Barlow has an impressive and extensive CV and here on (inner) Shoreham Street his vision is coming into fruition fantastically. We first visited back in March at the back end of Sheffield Beer Week and the place was still more carpet clearance than brewery base but the space and location looked to have potential, to us, at least. The floorspace is sizeable but now six months on, with the brew kit now in place, it sits comfortably and the place has a great look overall.
The recent August bank holiday family day at Sentinel Brewhouse utilized the weather and space to full effect. Glorious. Films on a big screen indoors, in case of a downpour, and inflatables on the car park, a rare and welcomed consideration to families with a Dad / parent / carer with a discerning palette. (The bossman Barlow was here himself with a happy clan in tow too #proofinpudding ).
First visit had worried us a tad with the 'top end' beer pricing but now the range is expanded and improved (Magic Rock on keg, 'nearly ready', but for gas issues, and an array of bottles). Sentinel's own Rhubarb and Rosehip gose was beer of the (bank holi) day (and week) achieving that rarity of a big bold taste at a lovely low ABV (3.something % ), ideal sunny bank holiday fodder.
Lots of geeky beery info herein too on the above-bar boards (colour, IBUs, etc. ) plus the oft-ommited price and even glass options. Nice. Needed more in our city!? Service was suitably 'top end' too and appreciated as was the fantastic food which not many Sheffield places can match (think Beer Engine or Rutland). We are not a food blog though so.... try ... and let us know....!
In summary post-Summer - Sentinel Brewhouse? P`raps the most promising appearance on Shoreham Street since Brian Deane first arrived in a taxi from Donnie in 1988.  Give them a try.  x

Saturday, 27 August 2016

Abbeydale Brewery ; On the up!

Over the past few years, Steel City have consistently been our favoured brewery in Britain's real ale capital but this year it's certainly not as clear cut. Last year we went for Neepsend as best brewery after their superb start we they continue to build upon and more recently we have some new kids on the block in the shape of Little Critters, Sentinel and the excellent Lost Industry. Now then, add to that the improvement at the likes of Abbeydale and things just got interesting....
Pops vs Steel City @ Sheaf
 The signs were on the wall literally and metaphorically with the huge improvement at the Devonshire Cat since the S8 maestros took it over (have a look at their new `what beers are on` boards btw) and it now actually deserves its place in the Good Beer Guide. Signings from the likes of Shakespeare's mega pub, Blue Monkey and Buxton Brewery have heralded a more modern, crafty wave of Abbeydale ales.
Abbeydale? On keg? Beginning of the end?!
Having missed the (apparently excellent) 20th birthday celebrations for Moonshine (Sheffield`s most supped real ale, still) on the Friday night, I made sure that I was at Hop Hideout next morning, OK early afternoon, for the (kind of) launch of Abbeydale's first sour beer Mango Rango. A month or two earlier I had sampled (several) of what I'd rate as Abbeydale's best ever beer Hop Smash and Jim Rangley`s signature sour brew could be up in that league too. Jim is conscious of the current `craft ale` hop demands, but also of the fact that Abbeydale are well-connected and well-established in the market.  Jim reckons lagers and fruity pales are likely avenues along Abbeydale Road`s progressive beery pathway. Watch this space...
Mango pulp reality. YUIM.
                                                                                                       <(Filter `n `fine that beauty!)>
 For £3 a pint this was a real mango fest reminding me of the Great Alphonso (Magic Rock) and, more recently and closer to home,  Fruit Machine that Beer Central / Steel City produced last year (our beer of 2015 probably ) but here you get more sour elements too resulting in a quaffable yet thirst-quenching taste at about 4% ish.  Oh, yes.
Xmas past.
This `meet the brewer` event was a part of Hop Hideout's sour showcase, a canny idea from the brains-trust at 448 Abbeydale Road for the August Bank Holiday weekend. Great work all round.
Abbeydale on the UP!  

Wednesday, 24 August 2016

Sheffield city pub review (rolling the dice with sheffieldalepubs!)

Different one this. First in what will hopefully be a series of collaborative blog bits. Representing twobeergeeks we have Mike up against Pete off of the esteemed sheffieldalepubs. Plan is to draw up our own separate six pub short lists of establishments we would consider putting in our respective top ten for 2016, ones on the cusp as it were, at least this was my intention. Pete meanwhile did a canny mix; a couple of his favoured boozers, a couple that he wanted our opinion of and a couple from the leftfield. We then roll the dice (or is it die in the singular?) and see what pub the number indicates, pop in, have a half, peruse and pontificate.

twobeergeeks` selection
Now sheffieldalepubs is the ideal ally in this endeavour as, since starting his webpage in January 2015, Pete has visited 198 Sheffield ale houses, most of them repeatedly and regularly in order to keep his page's information right up to date. Recently Pete launched his `weekly news` which keeps the ale city abreast of all things beery every seven days and he`s about to launch a series of pub walks which will be available to access as PDFs.
sheffieldalepubs` choices
Meeting at the Tap and Tankard over a half of Ilkley stout (me) and Pale Rider (Pete ) we set out our plan, looked at our lists and rolled a 2 meaning the Old House as my choice and the still spanking new Head of Steam as Pete's, both a conveniently short stroll away. The first two places impressed us in different ways; the smiley service at the Old House reasserted the fact that this city chain (True North) seem to have a happy knack of recruiting well. The beer range here these days has come a long way from when they used to have just a couple of handpulls and a clutch of bottles. Similar with the Head of Steam in that there was a pleasing choice of seven plus keg and my Anarchy Blonde was as good as I could of hoped in a beer style that I don`t favour from a brewery that I do. Pete was happy enough with his beer from the ever-present Cameron`s stable.

 Next up the die took us to my wildcard Gatsby and then the Red Deer, now free of ties to Stancil. My Roosters YPA was not right so the kind barman refunded my money and replaced it free of charge with the steady Saltaire Pride, the only available ale here today.  After a wrong turn or two we found the Red Deer nice and busy for a Monday but two beers down from its usual array. However my Blue Bee Reet was er,  reyt as was Pete`s Sadler`s. Good to see so many folk in there too.
The final rolls indicated The Bath Hotel and The Hop. Now, I`d cunningly added the former as one of my choices as it `might not` make the 2BG`s Top 10 if standards drop with the manager Stef having left and of course this beautiful bar barely scraped into Sheffield CAMRA`s top 20, < cough,cough >.... Sure enough, my Neepsend (2BG`s brewery of the year 2015 btw)  red one was my best beer of the night and Pete was happy with his unusually hopped Blackjack brew. Love this place.
16th best pub in Sheffield, according to CAMRA!
All evening, the dice had been very kind to us with no great hikes between brews (3 of my selections were in Kelham area!) but this came to an end as The Hop was disappointingly closed, disappointing at least until I suggested substituting it with The Devonshire Cat! Now this place is so much improved and rightly Pete continues to promote it as one of his very favourite drinking spots. It has been a staple in the CAMRA Good Beer Guide but only since Abbeydale took it over could that really be deserved for the first time in a good five years I`d suggest.The clientele here is regularly boosted by the Corporation crowd (Scandinavia`s Arch Enemy on tonight) and students being fed by visiting parents. The ale selection is vast and varied now plus there`s also a clutch of keg offerings too. We stayed `traditional` though as I went for old favourite Abbeydale Deception, one of our first blog topics, and sheffieldalepubs selected Absolution, both of us selfishly ignoring Moonshine, a few days short of its 20th birthday and still the city`s most supped ale. A predictable end to an unpredictable evening of `research`. Cheers!
*You can find Pete`s very informative web page HERE - Sheffield Ale Pubs.*