Sunday, 29 December 2013

War of the Roses - The Broadfield (Sheffield) vs. The Continental (Preston)

Undeniably, two great pubs here, head-to-head. Many boxes are ticked and bases covered by a pair of jacks of all trades but which rose ought to triumph?

Sheffield is famed nationwide for its abundance of great pubs. All corners of the Steel City seem to have real ale in real pubs and the local breweries to back them up. Preston meanwhile has just a smattering of quality boozers and brewers are proverbial hen`s teeth.


The New CONTINENTAL can be a little tricky to find, weaving your way through the terraces but the River Ribble and the lovely Avenham Park are close by. The Broadfield is on a busy main road good for bus routes but tricky for parking and with little to see nearby.

Conti 8 Broady 6


Both are pretty well blessed for urban establishments but Lancs looks the better bet here for a swift one in the sun (see below) with more space and open air.

Conti 8 Broady 5


Interiors impress in both bars. The snug in the Preston pub is a great place to kill an hour or two but The Broady has booths, barrels and a convenient bar dividing the eaters from the drinkers plus that great rail map on the ceiling!

Broady 9 Conti 7


Two genuinely welcoming pubs for those with a family in tow, both offer some colouring to keep little hands out of mischief plus carefully conceived kids` menus. No microwaved nuggets here!

Broady 8 Conti 7


The Conti is a well-respected venue for music in particular but the Broady is stuck for space. That said, The Abbeydale Road Ale House does do special nights to taste whisky, specialist quizzes (Breaking Bad anyone?) and even had reindeer out the back recently!

Conti 9 Broady 6


Strong menus using quality local produce albeit slightly more expensive in the Red Rose contender. Even veggies will find something special.

Conti – 8 Broady 7


Yorkshire hospitality comes to the fore here. The Sheffield bar staff afford a warm welcome, offer knowledgeable beer advice (and tasters) whilst the food side is equally consumer considerate.

Broady 9 Conti 6


Beer is really the bottom line but a bountiful back bar is boasted by both. Impressively, MARBle is the house beer at the Ribble contender (at just £2.60 too), Pictish is pretty much permanent too and there are some bottles. Both have half a dozen handpulls or more but the Broady also has some rare treats on keg aswell. True North as house beers are not the best but BLACK IRIS are a little better. However, The Broadfield has a growing reputation for offering some real gems although some would baulk at the prices. Recently, offerings have included Magic Rock, Summer Wine (SWB), plus some big ABVs on keg.

Broady 9 Conti 7


A narrow win for the Red Rose this time but you could do worse than try them both and make your own mind up. And then revisit just to make sure your verdict is accurate! ;-)

Saturday, 28 December 2013

Imperial Raspberry Stout (10%) by Thornbridge / S:t Eriks

Now then, we`re not advocates of buying bottles of beer from supermarkets; better to support our public houses (and ale `offies`) by drinking there. However, this one was purchased from the pub (Coach and Horses)after a small session with the intention of saving it for a special occasion and it needed to be as the price was premium (£12). `Dutch` courage?!
Produced at Thornbridge Hall rather than at the Bakewell Brewhouse, this special was made in collaboration with S:t Eriks Bryggeri from Sweden. Pouring a deep red berry colour and boasting prime Scottish raspberries, that is what you get hit with. The natural sweet and sour tastes of the berries are very dominant here but that was not a problem for us. Not usually a fan of fruit beers, this one was a class or several above the competition. The raspberry palate punch and aroma is very much whole berry rather than a Ribena / essence infusion with complexity then coming in with oily liquorice and chocolate notes.
Despite the big ABV, this Stout is very drinkable. We had it after our Christmas meal and all five family members who tried it were very favourably impressed. The main hop is stated as Bramling Cross although this was not a key taste to my palate. It has been a mixed year for Thornbridge and this ale makes me wonder if they are producing their best stuff for bottles and limited release at the moment.

Verdict - Mike goes a 9!

Saturday, 21 December 2013

Halcyon (7.4%) - Thornbridge

Lots of chat about in 2013 about whether award-laden Jaipur is the world`s best beer or if it is actually a pale supermarket shadow of what it once was (circa 2007 @ Coach and Horses) but don`t mess with Halcyon!

Thornbridge is a superior stylised brand that some traditional ale drinkers shun due to their top of the table prices. That said, from their Bakewell base, these brewers make a decent crust with wares available in cask, keg or bottle, worldwide by mail order. All of Bakewell`s bests are available in bottle but Halcyon stands at the top of the tree, and maybe St. Petersburg is a valiant runner-up. This Imperial IPA weighs in at 7.4% (was more pre-tramp tax) and is full of flavour. A citrus aroma shoots out of the bottle and develops into a floral fest. Grapefruit dominates on the nose but the sweet and sour fruit hit balances well with the big hop bitterness. Strong, but no overly boozy bang out of this bottle, pouring an innocent yellow/gold belying the Imperial power within. Crazily drinkable for a 7.4%er.

Hop heaven may well be offered by Jaipur for some palates but this brew is a step ahead. Kipling is now above the flagship ale in twobeergeeks` book but Halcyon is a seasonal delight that always delivers, by mail or other….

Score - MiKE - 9

Thursday, 19 December 2013

Dark Arts Aged in Red Wine Barrels (6%) by Magic Rock

`Same but different`. Love these beers but (always) need more. Over the past couple of years, we have happily sampled a plethora of brews from Huddersfield`s own Magic Rock and they seldom (read `never`)  disappoint. An array of styles and strengths in cask keg or bottle, the Quarmby kids keep coming up trumps but this one is special, even by their high (wire) standards.

Dark Arts is the self-styled `surreal stout` that has plaudits aplenty. We both enjoy it but prefer the other ales amongst Magic Rock`s regular rotation. However, this one recently appeared on keg at the beautiful Sheffield Tap but with the variation of being aged in red wine barrels, oaked in Oakes if you will! Wow! The chocolate and liquorice smoothness is still there, sublime, but it`s boosted by a subtle red berry sweetness, depth and complexity that really makes this a surreal 6% experience. A lingering red wine warmth adds volumes (but not ABV) to this beer putting it amongst the very best of Magic Rock`s big top productions. Love the red tint to this well-balanced dark brew served perfectly station-side in Sheffield`s TAP and quite a contrast to the also excellent OAKHAM Inferno that was my previous pint. Take a bow Rock stars but we want more of this in the Steel City for 2014, or a much faster train to the Hudd!

Scores on the train (station) doors – Mike 9

Marble `Lagonda IPA` vs. Steel City `All Hallows Eve`




Now then, this never `appens: Twobeergeeks reviewing bottled beers! Our Stateside brothers will love it after months of cask confusion, “Goddamn, beer from a barrel!?”

The latest `trend` in the Sheffield, GB`s beer capital, is for real ale off-licences. The arrival of Beer Central and Hop Hideout in the last few months (adding to a few others already existent)  has caused lots of interest in beery circles around the county. Although neither of us geeks are normally the type to sit home alone supping bottles and cans, this option has now become much more attractive of late. A wide range of genuinely quality beers are now available from these two new, handily placed outlets. The likes of Maui, Evil Twin and To Ol are no longer the preserve of the mail order enthusiast whilst Yorkshire pride is readily available in bottled forms from the likes of Ilkley, Magic Rock and SWB. Now Sheffield`s ale drinkers can pop in, peruse and purchase a special treat or add to a bottled collection.

A festive match-up of bottled beers is in order. In the Red Rose corner is the big favourite MARBLE, represented by Lagonda with the outsider opponent taking the form of STEEL CITY`s All Hallows Eve. Both are undeniable big hitters and the bottle terrain makes it a particularly close contest.

Lagonda is a fabled 5% IPA. Named after the 1927 Lagonda (a car apparently!), this beer boasts a quadruple addition of hops that give it a bitter finish preceded by a lovely floral nose. Very tasty and very true to its style, although a little lower in ABV, and thinner, than some of its India Pale Ale rivals. No doubt though, Marble produce quality and they do so consistently. Not a knockout but surely a heavy hitter.

Scores – Danny 9 , Mike 7.5

All Hallows Eve is one of the first brews that Steel City have produced from their new (cuckoo) home at Toolmakers and also one of the first opportunities to buy bottled goods from Sheffield`s top brewery IN the city itself. This ale drinks really well from the bottle. A little stronger than Lagonda at 5.2%, All Hallows Eve does the White Rose proud with a beautiful Mosaic and Chinook hop hit that is not as uncompromisingly bitter as some other unpronounceable efforts. An orangey hue and a familiar citrus niff make this a delight to see appear from the dark, info-abundant bottle.

Scores – Danny 9 , Mike 9

As a footnote, we were both really impressed with these fairly-priced purchases from Beer Central and Hop Hideout. Both bottles also have enough info on them to interest beery geeks in both ale-abundant counties. Another match-up beckons . . . !?

Final Score – Steel City 18, Marble 16.5.
(A close scrap and a prized win for Sheffield over Manchester!)

Saturday, 14 December 2013

Circus of Sour (3.5%) - Magic Rock

Maybe 2013 has been the year of the sour beer in GB. Personally, it was not a beer style that I was accustomed to until recently but there are some good uns out there. Efforts from Brodies and Wild have been blogged previously but this one is a step ahead.
Magic Rock rarely strike a bum beer note and this one fits their illustrious bill of best beers. Only 3.5% but bags of flavour. On keg at The Broady, we could have happily chomped on this for an hour or several because, although it is a sour, it is not a palate killer.  The carbonation is complementary and the Weiss is nice. `Brett` is not an addition we claim knowledge of but this is a well-balanced beer that is really more-ish. Magic! It rocks! err, etc.
el Scores on el Broady doors . . . .
Danny - 8           Mike - 8.5

Thornbridge - The Dark Side!

Thornbridge. Love `em or hate `em they certainly get people talking about beer. If brewing beer is an art, and if getting people arguing about whether art IS art or not is integral to art, then Thornbridge are at the forefront of their field. Locally, people are often happy to claim Bakewell` best brewers as Sheffield`s own (and oft best) whilst deriders will either proclaim a sour taste left on the palate by financially irregular ale (A4E ale, anyone?)  or that `Thornbridge beers all taste the same` .Hopefully those who claim the former hate will also boycott other beers who`s owners offend (Marston`s this week, selling pubs to Satan`s own supermarkets) and I`ll happily argue the toss with the latter; Thornbridge beers are not all mega hopped loopy juice!

We are lucky in South-West Sheffield to have a plethora of easily accessible Thornbridge houses all of which procure ale of a standard that is the envy of most parts of the country. However, the average price of their beer is not the envy of our austere White-Rosed county, hovering around the £3.00 mark but, then again, their ABVs do tend to be `above average` too.

Jaipur may well be the flagship beer of the Bakewell brewing empire, still winning awards in its current Tesco-friendly guise, but THORNBRIDGE do merit further investigation beyond the 6% hop fests.

Brock – case-in-point here. This is a drinkable, tasty but ordinary, stout that is very sessionable given the ABV of 4.1%. It is a smooth badger-coloured brew that need not be nocturnal. (MIKE – 6.5)

Black Harry – again defies expectations but we do find this a bit too light and watery although it is pretty fruity. Just not my taste although it is another low strength ale (3.9%) that might appeal to some who prefer beers that do not pack a punch in the taste stakes. (MIKE – 4)

(Wild) Raven – O.K. , this is `typical` Thornbridge but a different colour. A beer drinker`s favourite oxymoron, a 6.6% Black IPA, and it is indeed hoppy. Better balanced than some of this kind I have sampled, Raven is maybe even better on keg, rare praise from this beer geek. (MIKE – 7.5)

St. Petersberg – banging beer that now weighs in at only 7.4% to swerve the `tramp tax` that was imposed.  Previously it arrived at 7.7% but it still ought to make the Bakewell Empire proud. Tough to top as a sturdy Winter warmer. (MIKE – 8.5)

McConnel`s – this is a vanilla stout. The vanilla is fairly subtle but it certainly works well with the creaminess of this 5%er. (MIKE – 7)

Pollards – one of our very favourites, when in the mood. A rich winter beverage with its coffee and milk combination weighing in at 5% ABV. The coffee hit is prominent and quality. (MIKE – 8.5)

Other dark beers from Bakewell have previously been reviewed here in the form of Kacho, Thorny Goat and Imperial Oatmeal Stout.

To summarise, Thornbridge present a pretty impressive portfolio and they showcase a real range of dark beers. Give them a go over the festive season!

Tuesday, 3 December 2013

The Bell Jar and The Cremorne

Now then, boarded-up boozers and abandoned ale houses are common sites in towns and cities the length of the country. Some are taken over by Tescos et al whereas others are reborn as restaurants but we are lucky in the Steel City to have a number of thriving pubs and even some that have been reinvented or revamped successfully. On London Road (an area that has been crying out for a decent pub for ages) we have two cases in point; The Bell Jar and The Cremorne


Formerly known as The Albion, The Bell Jar is a bit different. With a name taken from a Silvia Plath novel, this pub has quite an eclectic interior with lots to look at. It is very much a `work in progress` but it is a promising first chapter on London Road and it certainly is different to anything else in the area. Our visits have found the beer to be local and pretty decent including the likes of Sheffield Brewery and Wentworth on the five pumps. Music is prominent too.


The Cremorne has been recently redirected since gaining an able new manager. It also has an arty vibe with regular live music and popular pizzas on offer plus a pleasing selection of ale. There are plenty of handpulls plus a couple of ciders as well as a hefty back-bar. Despite being spoilt for choice on my last visit, I couldn`t get away from the Pictish Chinook which was in fine fettle. Saltaire is a prominent brewery on the Cremorne bar and they seem to bring with them a host of high quality swaps. Sheffield`s own O`Hara`s rum is also stocked here and really needs to be tried. In fact, both of these `new` bars merit a visit.


Further along the Abbeydale corridor (97/98 buses), there has been lots of change amongst the public houses. The Millhouses is now very much food-orientated as is the Robin Hood across the road but better beer is to be had at The Ale House (formerly The Sheaf) just off Archer Road home of the long-established  GBG stalwart Beer Stop. The Wagon and Horses still retains its coaching inn style but is now an Italian eatery named Pesto whilst at the Beauchief, the bar is currently named Jack`s and is a cosy spot offering Thornbridge wares. Pick of the bunch though would still have to be twobeergeeks favourite The Broadfield if you can get a seat, and, if you cannot, there`s the brand new bottled beer specialist Hop Hideaway almost next door. You could certainly do worse than an Abbeydale ale adventure!

Edit (1.1.15) - Whilst the Cremorne is still doing well Bell Jar closed and is due to re-open as The Albion which was its previous name and it will be a free house.

Thursday, 28 November 2013

Ryan`s Roar (5.8%) & Otters Tears (6%) by Thornbridge


A few years ago, IPAs (India Pale Ales) were a rarity this side of the Atlantic but now we almost expect to see them on the bar of any decent real ale pub. Traditionally, you can expect the ABV of an IPA to be near to 6% (or higher) and this does put off some of the more `mild` ale enthusiasts. However, the numbers that favour this style is clearly on the up. A fair amount of credit for this trend ought to be credited to Thornbridge, Bakewell`s best brewers. Jaipur was, in its time, a seminal ale and some even reckon it was at worst `very influential` in the creation of Brew Dog`s infamous Punk IPA. However, times have changed, and both are now available in major supermarkets and many run-of-the-mill tied houses too. Thankfully, we sampled these new ales at the more amenable surroundings of The Coach and Horses, Dronfield and at The Cross Scythes, Derbyshire Lane, two of the very best Thornbridge boozers.

Thornbridge 2013 produce a lot of really good ales in an wide array of styles (see earlier twobeergeeks blog entries!) but many do still associate them with strong hoppy beers, and their latest releases do little to dispel this opinion but are these two tributes actually any good?

Otters Tears was brewed in conjunction with the Indy Man Beer Con experts and weighs in at a hefty 6%. It is a tasty drop without being remarkable and is dedicated to famed scooper Simon Johnson. Hoppy, pale, fairly citrus but nowt `standout`. Not a classic and a league or two below the likes of Kipling.
Danny`s Score - 7
Mike`s Score - 7

We were both excited by the prospect of Ryan`s Roar which proclaims itself as a  "hugely flavoured New Zealand Pale Ale with passion fruit, mango and lychee tropical fruit aroma which give way to a dry bitter citrus and grapefruit created by the use of New Zealand hops Nelson Sauvin and Motueka" and is a tribute to Patrick Ryan, who was the father of Kelly Ryan, former brewer at Bakewell. The Thornbridge blurb is brave but we were undecided. Solid and drinkable but no bold flavours but easy quaffing tasting more 3.8% than 5.8%. The reassuring familiarity ensured that it was unlikely to offend the geek palate but not the banger of a beer that Jaipur was when it first started appearing at The Coach and Horses (back in the days when IPAs were more hen`s teeth than Speckled Hen).  At least Ryan`s Roar is punctuated correctly if not exactly a `punk` ale.......!
Danny`s Score - 7.5
Mike`s Score - 6.5


Wednesday, 27 November 2013

Amarillo IPA (7.5%) - Weird Beard

The Weird Beard Brew Company operates out of Hanwell, West London and the former home brewers have quickly established a solid reputation. A recent allegiance with key-keg kings Brew  Dog has resulted in Beard beers appearing in more and more bars around the capital.
The Amarillo IPA (part of their single hop series) was indeed procured at the sort of price that the Aberdeen anarchists would approve of at £6+ a pint, so a half was an apt choice given the county we`re in. There was plenty of zest and zing in this brew although there was also a little too much carbonation and too obvious an alcohol hit on the palate for my liking.  In these respects, this brew reminded me of a 10% Anarchy ale I sampled at the same venue recently. A very decent hoppy brew that does a fair job of showcasing the amarillo hop but also a good example of how keg can limit the depth and complexity that could have been offered if this beer was served from a cask. Thankfully, The Broadfield does offer an admirable selection on cask as well as kegged ales. The influence of American `craft ales` is clear with the Weird Beard.
Mike`s Score - 7

Friday, 22 November 2013

Pirate Badger Attacks! (7.8%) by Arbor & Brew Dog

Another week, another collaboration but this one is a union of a couple of hoppy heavyweights. Representing Scotland, Brew Dog are self-styled anarchist brew punks with a stylised image that courts haters and fanatics in equal (expensive) measure. From the South-West, Arbor have produced some stand-out ales with 2013 being their best year to date. Pirate Badger Attacks was never going to be dull!

A hefty 7.8% ABV ought to scare off most lost boys and then there`s the coconut black IPA label to prepare for too. Lots of taste surely but a difficult balancing act. We walked the plank taking the plunge with a full pint each at Shakespeares. PBA pours dark brown with an off-white head. Aroma is hoppy ahead of faint coconut and the taste is similar. Thankfully the coconut does not overpower this brew and, whilst it tastes strong, it`s not too boozy on the palate although it does get more gloopy towards the bottom of a pint. Enjoyable but one was enough. Some other nice beers were on show too including a Muirhouse Mango Man and Brew Company`s award winning IPA but Pirate Badger Attacks was certainly the most memorable.
Danny`s Score - 7
Mike`s Score - 6.5
(Especial mention for the creative clip design courtesy of Chris Bamford, Manager at Sheffield`s pub of the year!)

Wednesday, 20 November 2013

Green Hopped IPA (6.5%) - Dark Star

English hops quite often are bullied by their tastier Stateside brethren and can appear meek and mild when compared to our antipodean outcasts; hops from the U.S.A. and from down-under dominate many ales that we sup in Blighty. Traditional English hops (e.g. fuggles, challenger, etc.) can often disappoint lacking the complexity and taste of those from warmer climes.  However, late Autumn heralds a time of year for fresh, hoppy British ales. Green hopped beers afford brewers the chance to really showcase the taste of a hop for a month or two at least.

Dark Star Brewing Company do deservedly have a very good reputation even in Sheffield, so far from their Sussex base. A fresh pungent aroma is quickly offered and GHIPA is certainly fresh. Grassy and citrus with no massive hit of alcohol in the taste despite the hefty 6.5% ABV. Personally I found it reassuring (and surprising to be honest) and that it was possible to produce such a beer using `fresh English hops`. However, a little bit of research informed me that Simcoe and Target were the main hops used, although I do believe that the former is an American variety - ?

This Dark Star ale is dangerously drinkable and does not disappoint. I was lucky enough to track it down at The Ale House (on Fraser Road, Sheffield) which is a free house that has been quietly growing since opening in August 2011. Formally known as `The Sheaf`, this pub might not be the easiest to track down but, then again, neither is Dark Star`s Green Hopped ale and that didn`t disappoint!

Mike`s Score - 8/10

Millseats` best boozer?!

Saturday, 2 November 2013

Shakespeares Autumn Beer Festival November 2013

What a year it has been for this Gibraltar Street ale house! Shakies has taken Kelham Island`s ale trail to the next level and I don`t just mean across the busy A61.

Back in March we visited the 5th festival here and then celebrated the scoop of becoming Sheffield CAMRA`s pub of the year for the first time just 2 months later, in face of stiff local competition. Therefore we made a (Blue?) Bee line for the Autumn Beer Festival as early as possible on the Friday after all the early bard catches the, err, best beers.  Having only opened on the Thursday, Shakey had already lost one beer in the shape of Abbeydale`s latest Dr. Morton hit but there was still plenty to go at. 9 locALEs were on offer downstairs plus 22 beers from further afield showcased in the Festival Bar upstairs. We did our best, fuelled by a Shakey sarnie or two.....

Arbor Triple Hop 13 (4.0%)                    Danny - 7   Mike - 7
Art Baby Anarchist   (3.2%)                    Danny - 7   Mike - 7.5
Art Anarchist Party Bitter (7.2%)            Danny - 2   Mike - 4
Hopcraft Bikini Atoll (4.5%)                   Danny - 6   Mike - 7
New Bristol Beer du Jour (4.6%)             Danny - 7.5   Mike - 7
New Bristol Angry Tom IPA (5.9%)       Danny - 8   Mike - 7.5
North Riding Screaming Bedlam (4.1%) Danny - 7   Mike - 7.5
Four Thorns Redeye IPA (5.2%)              Danny - 7   Mike - 6
Sqark IPA (5.5%)                                     Danny 7.5   Mike 7.5
Lincoln Green ? Chilli, late addition(?)   Danny - 8   Mike - 7
were our scores on the doors, carefully calculated using the beer geek guesstimate gauge.

and our favourite was . . . . .
STEEL CITY ALL HALLOWS EVE (5.2%)   Danny - 8.5   Mike - 8.5

One of the dearest ales on show (£3.00) but also one of the few locALEs we fancied (Sherry Stout, Honey IPAs - no ta, duck!). All Hallows Eve was right up our street, floating our boat all around the S3 island. Very hoppy, citrus, bitter yet dangerously quaffable. Steel City seem to have gone from strength to strength despite the brew pair being split up (and rehoused!) this year. Although having a duller name than their usual brews, this one is up with Steel City`s best, near to Angel of Death standards in this geek`s opinion.

Another cracking fest at Sheffield`s best pub.  Didn`t get any real new find gems (Tiny Rebel were case in point back in March) but still a great selection and nowt wrong with a clear win for the home, Steel City side.

Friday, 1 November 2013

The Great Alphonso (5.6%) by Magic Rock and Brodie`s

`Same but different` is the motto of Huddersfield ale heroes Magic Rock and this beer is a case in point. For me, Magic Rock are modern masters of pale hoppy ales but this one is a bit different.

The aroma is very attractive, massive wafts of citrus are an irresistible invite to this golden Mango Pale Ale. Citra is one of my favourite hops so I knew this would be good but the fruity mango and balanced bitterness take this brew to another level. 2013 seems to have been the year of the craft ale collaboration (although this one first appeared last year, I believe) and many have failed to impress but teaming up with East London`s Brodie`s has resulted in a truly Magical American-style pale ale.

This brew was supped at The Grove in Huddersfield and the carbonation, an aspect I sometimes struggle with, was spot on. Alphonso was my beer of the night ahead of, amongst others, Marble`s Barley Wine (10.7%) and Hawkhead`s IPA (7%) both of which were just too alcohol dominated for this punter`s palate. The much weaker Seasider (4.3%) by Gadds way off the mark for me or maybe it was just another example of how English hops come up well short against their stateside counterparts. Same but definitely different!

Mike`s Score - 9

London Sour (Blackberry Edition) by Brodie`s (3.7%)

Another sour special to sing about! Brodie`s beers enjoy a strong reputation but they are not seen that often in Yorkshire and so I was well chuffed to see this belter on keg at The Grove, Huddersfield.

I did wait to sample London Sour until near the end of a session fearing that it would be overpowering and maybe even gloopy so a half seemed the sensible option. It pours a beautiful purple brown colour with a thin head and a definite berry aroma. The carbonation was faint enough to allow the full taste to be enjoyed which comes through both sweet and sour with a real tart aftertaste that I enjoyed. A great balanced beer especially considering its massive taste yet low alcohol content (3.7%).

The (Holy) Grove is definitely a desireable destination for any real ale fan with its unmatched selection of cask, keg and bottled beers. Yorkshire`s finest!

Mike`s Score - 8.5

Thursday, 31 October 2013

Redwood (4.8%) - Wild Beer Company

Another belter in The Broady, but not everyone`s cup of tea, I`m sure.

Over the past months, I have found increasing reasons to rave about The Broadfield and the regular appearances of this Somerset brewery`s wares are an real ale asset. The Broady is welcoming even if you are accompanied by kid or canine, want coffee or craft ale and they even have a selection of daily newspapers if you want catch up with the world as you kill an hour, or two. A real jack-of-all-trades.

 Redwood had a hand-written note on it to say that it was a very limited edition with there only being 5 (?) barrels in existence and so it cost £2.50 for a kegged half pint. The knowledgeable bar-keep also insisted that I had a (sizeable) sample as he was aware that it had a very strong taste, one which he himself disliked. I downed the taster and was in for a penny (or 250 of them in this case).

Redwood has a dark mahogany body and a super sour niff plus quite a decent head. An initial taste of balsamic was not totally pleasant but that subsides as you taste the fruity / berry elements. Often I struggle with the carbonation of kegged ale but that is not an issue with the way this was served up at my favourite Abbeydale Road alehouse. As a big fan of bold, brassy vino tintos, I lapped up the red wine taste that balances pretty skilfully with the sourness of this 4.8% beer. Not for the faint-hearted but be bold beer drinkers!

Mike`s Score - 7.5

Friday, 18 October 2013

Preston`s Premier Pub - The Continental

Cross border ventures from Yorkshire to Lancashire are only attempted by the brave and the foolhardy. Bravery can be boosted if one has prepared having perused the GBG in detail before beginning the mission but decent boozers in Lancs, whilst not exactly hen`s teeth, they are certainly sparser than in the White Rose Republic.
Bucking the trend is The Continental. This place has does a fine job of filling a (sizeable) gap in the Preston pub scene. A genuinely eclectic clientele support this South Meadow Lane establishment where punters attending a punk gig or a burlesque session may rub their Ribble-side shoulders (et al) with families tucking into the excellent food that the `Conti` menu offers. Not cheap but professional staff serving really good local food.
On the bar, you may find nationwide offerings from the likes of Huddersfield`s Summer Wine Brewery (SWB), Northumberland`s Anarchy Brewery and North Walians Purple Moose. The range varies but is usually well selected and of high quality as are the bottled offerings. Plus there is always the Pictish to fall back on or the house beer from Manc maestros Marble, Continental Bitter (3.8%) which was a snip at £2.30 last time I visited. Add on a cracking spacious beer garden, comfy seating aplenty and a back bar / tap room to give you the Continental.
Honourable mentions ought to be given to the brilliantly-named Bitter Suite which bravely offers something different in the heart of student-ville and the rough `n` ready Old Black Bull, then you have pretty much done this city in three acts. However, no one could be criticised if they chose to not drift too far from The Continental!

Friday, 13 September 2013

Kacho (Rum Porter) - Thornbridge

Well another month and another Thornbridge `collaboration`. No pop stars involved this time but rather local illuminati Tom and Sophie off of Derbyshire Lane, S8, who visited the Bakewell brewhouse in their capacity as managers of  The Cross Scythes.

Although we have enjoyed the likes of RatM Summer Ale, Thorny Goat, and Twin Peaks but they were not out of the top drawer of Thornbridge. Baize certainly divided geek opinion whilst Rattlesnake certainly had an alcoholic bite, or at least left a taste in the mouth that did not merit review (No fangs!). I did fear that I would need to swerve a review of Kacho out of fondness for what Tom and Sophie have done to `The Cross` but this collab is a belter!

I missed the `First Pour Friday` but had my own occasion (a second sip Saturday?) that did not disappoint. The beer line-up was the best I have seen in S8 and I had to tear myself away from the Buxton beer I started on, and which I had chosen ahead of the likes of Pollards (a seasonal favourite of mine), Halcyon, Beadica`s Well, etc; Strong Thornbridge fare at their best.

I must prefix my comments with the fact that I only had time for a few slurps of Kacho (I shall return for more!) but I loved the rum aspect. I feared that it would overpower the classic roast malt of this porter ale but O` Hara`s spicy tones appeared late, and surprisingly subtly, on my palate. Using a (very) local Rum is a masterstroke in my opinion and it is balanced well here (Kacho is a very different drinking experience to the Rattlesnake, the last Thornbridge `house beer`). Kacho reminded me of a really good liquor coffee, or maybe a Pollards with a splash of the Steel City`s very own pirate juice. Mind you, Pollards is a `stout` but the Cross Scythes (first born?) baby is a mere porter weighing in at `only` 6%. Whatever the label, both Pollards and Kacho boast plenty of punch for the palate.

Mike`s Score - 8.5 (happy to reassess, very soon!)

Wednesday, 28 August 2013

Mosaic Single Hop IPA - Arbor

Another nomination for beer of the year! Also a lesson in how different an ale can taste in two different establishments.

Arbor Ales have shown themselves to be one of the most reliable producers of fine beer recently, possibly the best in the South-West, and it is a pleasure to see them appearing with increasing frequency around the Steel City. The Broadfield and The Sheffield Tap have recently housed their beers but I stumbled across this delight in Sheffield`s pub of the year, Shakespeares. Although it was early and my first beer of the day, I had to have a pint and was delighted that it was just £3.30, which I knew to be very reasonable for a proper IPA (6.8%!) from a top notch producer; I was not disappointed. Served in one of Shakey`s over-sized pint pots this beauty is full-flavoured showcasing a tremendous hop. Mosaic is complex, earthy and floral with a quite pungent aroma. It is quite a hazy amber colour and citrusy enough to suit my taste nicely. Wow! The rest of the day`s beer was never going to live up to this!

However, the day after I spied the same beer at The Rutland and opted for a half, baulking at the way higher price tag (£4.25 a pint, I think). It was served in a posh glass which, to be fair, can help bring out the flavour in such complex beers, but it just did not measure up. I think the main problem was the temperature; it was a little on the warm side so the `zing` was not quite there. The difference in price is also astounding. A real shame but at least I didn`t have a full pint to bemoan.

Mike`s score - 8.5 (10 for the one at Shakey`s but 7 for Rutland`s)

Thursday, 15 August 2013

Coalition Barley Wine - Thornbridge / Birrificio

Thornbridge have been quite prolific in the number of beers that they have produced over the past year or so, many of them being collaborations. Recently we have had The University Challenge brews, the Reverend and the Makers Summer Ale, the home brew winner and currently the staff at Thornbridge pubs are taking their turn to brew their own ale at Bakewell. Success has been varied at best. However, we knew that The Cross Scythes had been sitting on this collaborative rarity for a while and hoped for a return to quality and complexity. Birrificio were the co-conspirators in this case.

Coalition weighs in at 9.3% but does not taste that strong which has to be a good thing, mostly (the strength hit me 20 minutes later!). It has a beautiful amber colour with a thin white head and tastes of caramel and toffee. The fruit flavours add to but don`t overpower Coalition making it, all in all, quite drinkable. I only had a half but more would have been fine.

Thornbridge are often criticised for the price of their beer. Coalition cost £2.50 for a half which I thought was acceptable in this case, more so than the £3+ charged for some of their afore-mentioned `amateur` collaborations. If the beers are expensive then that is acceptable but only so long as the quality is as consistent. Pubs like the Rutland and The Broadfield also ask a lot for their ale but maybe it is time for Thornbridge to set another trend and have a house beer at their pubs that costs nearer to the £2.50 mark? After all, `Innovation` is a integral part of their slogan.

Mike`s Score - 8.5

Friday, 9 August 2013

Diablo IPA - Summer Wine Brewery

Over the past couple of years, it seems that the best breweries prove themselves with innovative cask ales before graduating into kegs. Locally, we have seen Magic Rock, Thornbridge (to some extent) and Summer Wine Brewery follow this `progression`.

I was delighted to see an SWB ale on cask recently at The Broadfield. Furthermore, it was alongside its Huddersfield amigo, Magic Rock in the form of one of our favourite ales, High Wire. The Broady has had a whole host of great beers on recently, mostly on keg, but to see these two in their old-fashioned form was a real double-take moment. High Wire (5.5%) tasted very good even though it was the bottom of the barrel (can be a negative with some cask ales) but I could not wait to tuck into the Diablo.

At 6.0% Diablo is a devil of a beer. Bags of taste but none of it that overly alcoholic hit you can get from many strong ales and from some less successful IPAs (eg Thornbridge`s Rattlesnake). Citra is the dominant taste but this is showcased superbly whilst surrounded so skilfully with tropical fruit flavours. The tasting notes proclaim pineapple, papaya, mango and lychees so all very Indian Ocean. I`m not a big fan of fruity beer but, when balanced this well, they really take some IPAs into a league of their own and Diablo is a case in point. Some Yorkshire folk might baulk at the £4+ price tag, especially for a local cask ale, but this one is worth it.

Hailing from Huddersfield (well Holmfirth actually), SWB are one of the best brewers out there in our opinion. Although we differ slightly in our palates, I feel that beers like Diablo really allow you to sample the complexity of flavours therein when served on handpull without the distraction of added carbonation and cooling you get with keg products. That said, we have both enjoyed SWB kegged ales sampled this year at The Broadfield and at The Harlequin but a cask of the stuff is becoming quite a rarity even though the Hudd is only a `short` train journey away!

Mike`s Score - 10! (only improvement could be if it was 6.66%!)

Wednesday, 7 August 2013

Ale on Anglesey

Nowt like a holiday to make you appreciate what you have on your doorstep eh?!

Extensive research had high-lighted a small number of pubs that had to be visited on Anglesey (Ynys Mon to the Celt locals!) and I did my best within the realms of a family week away. I heard that Purple Moose were a known brewery in this sparsely populated part of our kingdom but I didn`t spot them at all.

In fact, my first taste of North Wales beer came in Bangor? Nope. Conway? No.  Holyhead? No. It was actually in the esteemed Kelham Island Tavern! Great Orme Brewery appeared in our award-winning tourist tavern (and also in The Sheaf View) a couple of days before I set sail (well drove on the M56) to Anglesey. However, I was not enamoured with my half of Ynys Mon, a thin malty drop belying its 4%+ ABV.

On the island, my first beers were bottled ones form the Conwy Ales. Looking at their website, they have an interesting range and I tried Rampart (4.5%) and Welsh Pride (4.0%). Both were very amenable but I really enjoyed the Pride (aka Balchder Cymru) which was zesty but unusually orangey rather than the more sour fruits you expect in Summer ales with a spicy notes too. (These were purchased from Waitrose in Menai Bridge so I shall be paying for them in instalments over the the next 48 months.) Da iawn!

Looking for the perfect beach we ended a day at The Ship Inn which is a GBG stalwart. An isolated gem, this place stretches the wallet and offers an array of tasty food for passing pirates, okay scouse tourists. On the bar were Adnams, a Derby Brewery one (too close to home to bother with!) and so I enjoyed the  Kenneally`s house beer (named after proprieters for last 40 years) sat in the late afternoon sunshine.

However, other Beaumaris bars were not so noteworthy. The Sailor`s Return looked great but the badly-kept Bass was the only ale on offer and I showed my true colours by sipping half of it before running out of the door, wife-in-tow. The Robinson`s house George and Dragon was next. Unusually they had opted for a Friday night quiz to draw in the punters. I`m not sure what the four locals doing the test were drinking but I do know that answer number 4 was ZZ Top and that that my Trooper by Robinsons (4.8%) was not too bad actually. I would have had another but we were in danger of winning a prize in the quiz mainly due to our combined ability to breathe and sit.

Hancock`s HB was my ale of the night in Ye Olde Bull`s Head. The beer was average but this hostelry oozes with quirky character and, I suspect, has done so since Stuart times. More recently Dickens supped here; I wonder if it was as busy as when we bobbed in and I wonder if he ended up in the window seat too. Small bar with handpulls secreted away but worth the effort.

In very brief summary, Anglesey is a great place to holiday but beer geeks will likely be starved of suitable sustenance and will welcome their return to (Sheffield) civilisation. Funnily enough, my first venture out after my sojourn and I spied `Celtica` by Great Orme OTB at the Sheaf View which was a fruity reminder of my holiday, just a shame that the beer is kept so much better in S8 than in LL75!

Thursday, 25 July 2013

Double Dark Alliance (9.2%) - Arbor Moor

Sometimes fate is said to conspire against you but for once it was my ally. A recent re-routing of my bus dumped me outside The Rutland Arms and so it would be rude not to at least pop in,and purvey, wouldn`t it?

The Ruttie always has an array of Blue Bee beers plus much Marston`s stuff but sometimes it has ale from a higher league. Raw can regularly be found there and also Magic Rock usually seem to occupy a keg or two plus there is cider if you are a lover of that South-West shtuff. Surprisingly, Somerset and Avon in this case was indeed the focus of the brew I chose. It was not alcoholic apple juice but actually a collaboration between powerhouses Arbor and the Moor Beer Company. Weighing in at a mighty 9.2%, Double Dark Alliance cannot be taken lightly though and its ABV is thankfully all it has in common with the loopy juice that usually is sent to us from that part of the country!

The beer pours black but with a tan-tinted head and the waft of coffee greets you aggressively. The clip proclaims this to be a `hoppy coffee imperial stout` and most of that you certainly dare not argue with. However, any hoppiness is readily demolished on my palate by the alcoholic whack you receive. Seeing this on cask is indeed a rare treat and rightly heralded by Steel City beery folk. No tax dodging by trimming this ale down to a safer 7.4%; it is well into the imperious super-heavyweight division. Credit to The Rutland for giving this brute a home. Try if you dare!

Tuesday, 23 July 2013

Cool as a Cucumber - Fyne & Wild

You know it`s Summer in Britain when you get some crazy brews appearing on the bar of your boozer. It is anything-goes season when it comes to ingredient s in your beer.

One of my most local pubs is the popular (and previously reviewed) Broadfield Ale House. Part of a local chain including The Forum and The Old House, this place has been thriving since opening its doors nearly two years ago. To my mind, the beers on offer there were very average back then, but more recently they have really stepped up in the ale stakes. It was nice to see local guys On The Edge prominently placed again but my eye was caught by a visitor to these parts, or visitors to be more accurate; Fyne Ales hale from Scotland and The Wild Beer Co are from Somerset, I believe. `Cool as a Cucumber` is their seasonal (saisonal?!) offering.

Collaborations seem to be de rigueur this year and a mash-up between heavyweights Fyne and Wild had to be sampled. To be honest, I ordered my half in haste. It was only just past lunchtime and the `Broady` was sparsely populated for once but then I actually read the clip properly! Nice union logo - well done. Cucumber, er okay; it is warm-ish out there. Mint. Oh, dear. Hope it`s just a hint of therein. Saison. Oh, Christ.: Nightmare but maybe it will be better as it is a `wild` saison. God help those poor French farm workers who were forced to drink gallons of that stuff every day. For the defence, I do like to try beers with out of the ordinary ABVs and, at 2.9% `Cool as a Cucumber` was just that. It was tasty and drinkable but even more cucumber driven than Thornbridge`s Wye, which is on the horizon again, I hear. The saison aspect is not overpowering and the mint is there but not like a mouthful of polos. I would have to say that this is a successful brew but just not for me. In fact, when I explained it to my better half, she said it sounded like Pimms which is obviously a good call. You could even imagine CaaC being supped at a garden party in jugs over ice, while the Summer lasts . . .

Monday, 22 July 2013

The Flower Pot (Derby Day Out Pt. 2)

The Peacock and another sunny beer garden was our next stop which was fine (although we just missed the Oakham ale I wanted) and then we found a nice spot sat on the upstairs terrace of the swish , home of the Derby Brewing Company. Now this tap house is evidently very new but the brewery has been going for nearly 10 years and is the baby of Trevor Harris who had previously retired from The Brunswick before being tempted back. I enjoyed my Quint Essential which weighed in at 5.8% and had very upfront citrusy flavours; just the sort of complex ale I had been looking for!

By this point, Derby was getting busy with quite a few folk clearly suffering from the heat, or from an afternoon session at the Beer Festival! We didn`t disturb the chap sleeping in the Old Silk Mill as we fought our way to the busy bar but were disappointed by the offerings. To be fair, they were fine but the blackboards boasted so much more. Apparently the Mill was having its own beer fest a week later and was keen to show about the wares it would be offering. From there we crossed the road to The Olde Dolphin Inne which, as the extra e`s hint, is Derby`s oldest boozer dating back to 1530. The Nottingham ale I had was very average (as was the selection) but the pub must be a fantastic haven in the Winter months with its warren of little rooms. As it was we endured the dirge from the band outside as long as we could (about 7 minutes) before staggering on to .

Appropriately situated on King Street, the Flower Pot was certainly my top trump of a day`s drinking in Derby. There was lots of choice of a range of ales, many of which were from the innovative breweries that I favour. The Flower Pot is home of Black Iris Brewery but I was tempted by the Raw ale before spying one of my favourites this year which was What Would Jephers Do? by Huddersfield`s Hand Drawn Monkey. A red ale with complex flavours was not to everyone`s taste but it hit the note for me. If only HDM`s beers appeared more often in Sheffield. I wish we could have stayed longer but it was a dash to a taxi to catch the train to the Steel City, England`s real ale capital . . . .!?

Sunday, 14 July 2013

The Flowerpot, (Derby Day Out Pt. 1)


Now then, I must firstly state that this was the final watering hole (of many) and not the sum total of a day`s drinking over the border to the Southern countryside county of Derbyshire but what a spot The Flowerpot is!
Having nearly ended up on the train to Norwich (and Nottingham, Cloughy`s other team), we were more than happy to start our sesh in the sun-blessed beer garden of The Brunswick, a place I have happily happened upon before. This end-of-terrace boozer is big on Everard`s but the malty niff is testament to the pub`s own brewery, visibly located close to the pub`s toilets. Nice beer though, kicking off with a half of the esteemed Triple Hop. And a couple of hops was all it took to land on the Alexandra Hotel, around the corner but it`s outside space was standing room only so we stood admiring the static locomotive whilst supping a wheaty White Arse. The Castle Rock Pale was probably the better choice though.

We sensibly grabbed some grub at The Exeter Arms which is a tap for the Dancing Duck brewery and my falafel butty was a belter with some tremendous chips and affordable in this age of austerity. The Anti Pasti posters were appreciated too, at least by us discerning forty-somethings! The lovely bar staff were also rightly apologetic about the chalk board outside that had heralded, falsely, the hope of a Hand Drawn Monkey(HDM) but Derby is a long way from the Hudd. We made do with a Brown Clough or two which is an agreeable, DD Brown Ale. Half-time!