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.