Tuesday, 23 December 2014

Wyoming Sheep Ranch (8.4%) - Buxton Brewery

It has been a good year for the Buxton boys and here`s one of their many tremendous ales from 2014.  Wyoming Sheep Ranch (we`ve come a long way since the days of ales called stuff like Busty Brenda`s Best, etc, eh?) is part of the Special Reserve series (No.5 apparently) and weighs in at a whopping 8.4%.

Wyoming Sheep Ranch is the sort of beer that quenches the thirst then restores energy and resolve after a hard day`s work, probably chopping trees down whilst battling against the elements. Do they have trees in Wyoming? I've not been recently. Probably do.  I'm pretty sure that they have some sheep though so maybe it was a sweaty day with the ewes, shearing 'n' that. Whatever, in my mind, everyone is wearing check shirts. And old Skool beards. Mebbe Mounties in the distance (I know that's Canada!).

Wyoming Sheep Ranch is a double IPA at  8.4% ABV. It has a hazy orange body with an enduring off-white head and the aromas are dominated by resinous pine. It's the wonderful outdoors and on a fresh day at that. This one is more drinkable than most DIPAs although the suitably bitter aftertaste is both complex and long lasting. Mouthwatering.

All this is packaged delightfully by Buxton who are certainly amongst Britain's beery best for 2014.  Renowned for Axe Edge, they sure are sure-footed when it comes to the hoppy brews that us two beer geeks rely upon and, this year, they have added an array of well-balanced offerings from all corners of the beeriodic table including some inspiring and ground-breaking collaborations.

Collaboration Carnage (with To Ol)

Yellow Belly (a peanut butter biscuit stout, allegedly...)
Our only quibble about this brewery has been their apparent rarity in Sheffield in spite of the relative proximity. Many of Buxton`s beers are headed straight for the big smoke or to the far flung corners of Europe but, thankfully, they have been sighted more regularly recently at the likes of The Rutland, The Sheffield Tap and Shakespeares plus they are popular off-licensed offerings at Sheff City specialists like Hop Hideout and Beer Central. Here`s to more abundant Buxton in 2015! Hats off to the High Peak hop heads!

Friday, 19 December 2014

Beer Central & Hop Hideout

2014 has clearly been a great year for all things ale in our Steel City. New pubs have opened and old ones have been revamped and revitalised. Breweries have blossomed and it is now possible to buy beer to sup at home from a couple of discerning dealers who have recently celebrated their first anniversaries.

Beer Central is a booming little business that operates out of Sheffield's much lauded Central Market. Some have struggled in the new location but Sean Clarke already has a loyal following and his breadth of beer belies the size of his pitch. Having sold in excess of 50000 bottles in it's first year is a worthy testament to Beer Central's ability to appeal to mainstream beer boys (and girls) whilst offering geeky gifts for crafty kids. <You need a habiscus-infused Berliner weisse brewed and bottled in Brittany after aging in vietnamese gin barrels? They'll have a selection!>  Beer Central's top sellers have been Bradfield Blonde, Kelham`s Pride of Sheffield and Thornbridge`s Jaipur but Sean cites Siren and Kernel as his 2014 faves, especially the former`s Carribean Chocolate Cake brew. Keep a look out for a Beer Central website in 2015.

Beer Central and Hop Hideout stand out from the competition because they go that extra mile and they have fast become focal points for the local beer scene. Together, Sean and Jules were a part of the brains trust behind the excellent Bath Brew Fest in October.  Sean runs regular bottle share evenings where cool kids swap stories and scores for the beers they've brought whilst Jules at HH has offered successful meet the brewer events held at the Electric Candlelight Cafe next to her shop (444 Abbeydale Road) near The Broadfield. Jules had Siren`s Tickle Monster and Wild`s Shnoodlepip as top sellers whilst the boffins at Buxton were the top brewery. The Northern Monk MTB evening was a particular success and more similar events are planned for next year. Sounds good to us!

Neither of us beer geeks are big consumers of bottles (we prefer drinking darn t'pub mostly) but we certainly appreciate what these two have added to Sheffield's beer scene. Not many days left until Christmas but it's never too difficult to think of an excuse to buy a bottle, is it? Today is Gary Cahill`s birthday btw! And Jennifer Beals turns 51. Who`d have thunk it, eh? Beer Central and Hop Hideout will always have a suitable bottle whatever the occasion! Cheers Jennifer!

Monday, 15 December 2014

Tap & Tankard,

Are you watching Sainsbury, are you watching Sainsbury? And Tesco, Morrisons, et al. A pub closes and re-opens as...... a pub.

The Tap and Tankard is on Cambridge Street where The Sportsman was and the rock bar has shifted t`other side of John Lewis to the former premises of the Lion`s Lair, I think. Not penguins at least. The T `n T has been refurbed and opended by Kelham Island Brewery in an area that is set to be completely redeveloped. Allegedly. Soon. Ish.

Inside, this place is very nice. Newly furnished and it is decorated with Sheffy stuff such as the fireplace which is plastered with `wallpaper` made up of old Stars depicting Steel City heroes like ar Jess, the Monkeys, etc. Nice. Comfy too on a chilly December day.

Beer-wise, it`s pretty much as you`d expect. Mostly dependable Kelham Island ales, 4 or 5 of them and my Pale Rider (5.2%) was in decent form at £2.90, I think. Amongst 2 or 3 guests there was Thornbridge`s minty brew Baize (5.5%) but little on keg.

A fair few folk were in on its first full day opening with a mixture of clientele and I reckon it`ll do well. Meanwhile Sheffield`s first micro-pub, The Beer House was about to open on Eccy Road or thereabouts (not to be confused with the Ale House). Nice little pub crawl around this area now up towards Division Street and mebbe finishing with a beer in the Bath. Gotta be better than supermarket sups, eh?! Cheers!

Sunday, 14 December 2014

Hand Drawn Monkey takeover @Brew Dog Sheffield

Hand Drawn Monkey are one of several great breweries that hale from the Hudd. Occasionally their ales have popped up on cask at discerning Steel City outlets like The Sheaf View and Shakespeares but last week they did a tap takeover at BrewDog Sheffield.

Both the Smaller and the Shadwell IPA (4.7%) were pretty good. Having only had HDM on cask previously I was a little underwhelmed by these two keg efforts. They were fine but nowt outstanding. Shadwell was fine and unfined and vegan friendly!


SeƱorita Beta did stand out though. Mexican yeast was used the helpful barkeep informed me and the dominant taste is from Kaffir Lime leaves. At 5.4% this is a very drinkable brew made in collaboration with Bexar County. The clip is a nice tilt towards the Stella branding and so linking with the brew name. Geddit? I rarely try lager but this cerveza was especial. And not super fizzy. Intiendo amigo?

Hold on, it was the stronger ones that  I was really looking forward to. We know HDM can brew hoppy but what about `specials`. Kir Royal is a 9%er so I was happy enough with a third of it but I would have happily had more. It's fruity with a slight sourness. I liked the red wine elements which come through in a warming sort of way. A hazy hit for me. Brew 100 is an 11% barley wine. I liked it. Enough hops to ensure it was not too wine like and the Sauvignon comes through nicely. By this point I had bumped into blogger nonpareil  Claire. (not literally although I did 'miss' the kerb on exiting Brew Dog!) and she quite intrigued with both beers too posing the question, "when does beer become wine?" And where better to ponder. Cheers BrewDog Sheffield and Claire!

Monday, 8 December 2014

Cocoa Wonderland (6.8%) by Thornbridge

Bakewell tart might well be a nationally renowned dessert but personally I`d sooner select another afters option and, funnily enough, it hales from that same Derbyshire town.

Cocoa Wonderland is a pre-Christmas treat that has recently been unveiled by Thornbridge. Unfortunately, we did not get to try this porter at the Steel City festival (it wasn`t put in front of our panel :-( ) but it was ultimately selected as the best beer there and, judging by this showing sampled at The Coach and Horses in Dronfield, it is another deserved accolade for the Bakewell brewers.

It pours black with an inviting beige head and an attractive chocolate aroma. The initial taste is friendly too, sweet for sure but then exploding into a warming milk chocolate mouthful and developing into a subtly bitter aftertaste. Vanilla notes and cocoa compliment this porter beautifully without any cloying or over boozy bite. Maybe liquorice and  coffee. Wow. Daftly drinkable you could get into allsorts with this one at 6.8%. If you liked Pollards or McConnels then this one is like the bigger and more talented brother. Wow again.) I`m imagining getting snowed in at the Coach for a day or two and having to survive on this beer.)

This brew is a collaboration with the folk at Cocoa, Ecclesall Road`s independent chocolatiers extraordinaire,  who clearly have provided some expert input here to get CW just right and to make it an ideal winter warmer. Think it was about £3.60 which seems very fair for a top end big ABV boy. Really hope this beer appears in all the Thornbridge pubs over the festive period. Especially at the Coach and Horses. Seek this brilliant beer and this great pub out. Now!



Mike - 9.5/10, a top tipple, and it offers subtle variations through the barrel. Each pint differed.


Mike - 9, converts to keg smoothly.


Danny - 9, loved it. Hoping it becomes a regular.
Mike - 8.5, still really good. A bargain!

Thursday, 4 December 2014

Shakespeares` Autumn Craft Beer Festival 2014

Breweries, boozers and now beer festivals are three things that Sheffield leads the country in case in point here being Shakespeares' Autumn festival.

Following Brewfest and the Steel City festival was a big ask but the Gibraltar Street boys managed just that. A year or two back we learnt not to leave a visit to this event until the weekend so two beer geeks rocked up on the Wednesday within minutes of the first fest pint being pulled.

I started on a classy Kernel keg beer (Citra Mosaic 5.3%) whilst planning the pints ahead. Sticking mainly to paler hoppy brews seemed just the ticket as the darker beers sometimes don`t do too well straight from the cask. However, blogger extraordinaire Wee Beefy appeared (as if by magic) and allowed us to try the George Samuel Yorkshire Brown Ale (5% but tasting stronger) and the tidier Five Town Schneider V2, a palateable 5.0% dark wheat beer. Both were off of the main bar mind which was dedicated admirably to local-ish ales.

Bibble (Pale 4.2%)  and Goose Chase (Saison 4.5%) by the outstanding Wild were next up and we were not, err, wild about them to be honest. The Waen Message to You pale (4.2%) was better as was Weird Beard`s K##tish Town. Arbor`s NZ Amber (5.2%) was steady too.  Rare to see WB on cask in the republic mind and this `hoppy wheat beer` was very suppable at 5.5%, especially considering two beer geeks aren`t the wheaty sorts. Definitely, one of our stars of this show. By contrast,  Juniper IPAs are now firmly on our `no thanks` list after failing to finish the 6.4% Mad Dog Submissable Anarchy and it wor only a half and it was ultimately between 6 of us!!!

Some junipers yesterday.

The keg range at Shakespeares is usually limited but very well selected and it was expanded for the festival whilst maintaining the quality somehow. And there was apple juice for those sorts too.

Best beer geek beers of the day were:-

1)= Siren Calypso (Simcoe Dry-hopped at 4.0%), a Berliner weisse!
1)= Burning Sky New Gods (a 4% Radler).

Both were packed with fruity flavour right to the brim of the crafty glasses. Awesome sauce, amazeballs, etc. CAMRA wouldn`t have approved but we sure did! Cheers Shakey!

Saturday, 22 November 2014

Picture House Social, Abbeydale Road

Now then, three or four years back you would have been hard pushed to get a decent pint anywhere along Abbeydale Road. That was criminal especially bearing in mind that this artery of Sheffield stretches for about six miles from the city / London Road out to the edges of the Peak district right up in Totley. Skip to 2014 and there are options aplenty and you might even see a seven stone lass with blue hair playing table tennis whilst swigging a bottle of beer! I kid you not.

The latest addition to the area  is the Picture House Social.  Overseen by the team from The Great Gatsby, this subterranean hang-out is literally and metaphorically super-cool but things hot up as the night progresses. Despite being new, this place is already popular. We were glad we got there early so that we could grab a table and we really enjoyed the pizzas, although the arancini were a tad doughy and sage-heavy for us but then this is a beer log. Whatta we know?!

More importantly, there were three well-selected cask lines in operation. Saltaire's Raspberry Blonde was in form and, rather than have a Marble Bitter, I stayed local with a Deception which lacked the zing that this beer ought to have. A decent array. That said other options were readily available too. Five or six bottles from the fantastic Hop Hideout were offered and it's great to see local businesses dovetail so splendidly. My OH and I shared a cracking bottle of South African Shiraz at a fair price and the cocktails sounded pretty special too, or so I was told.

Thereafter, we made a night of it bobbing to the Broady and then schlepping to the Sheaf View to round off what is now a neat little local crawl.

Picture House Social is a great addition to the Abbeydale Road area. Pizza, pints and ping pong are now available on our doorstep! Yay!

Monday, 10 November 2014

Birra del Borgo at The Grove, Huddersfield

Ten years. Ten chuffin years. One of them there decades. That was how long I lived in Huddersfield and, almost as soon as I left, the real ale scene started to blossom.......

Luckily, I still regularly visit my BFF in the Hudd and we usually hook up at the (Holy) Grove. Now then, this place was one of the few boozers that I did not visit when I resided on the West Riding back in the day and now it is a destination pub.

Living in the Steel City, I'm blessed with local Thornbridge boozers but I still started on a Jaipur. The Grove is lucky enough to have the dry-hopped version but, then again, they do have a lot of `luck` with cask lines always dedicated to the likes of Buxton, Magic Rock, Oakham and, of course, Thornbridge. The Jaipur was very steady but still not what my palate associates with that mega, stand-out beer from 2008 at the Coach and Horses, Dronfield.

Pint two and I popped over to keg, very early I know, but it was The Kernel. At £5 a pint, their Pale was good value, showcasing Simcoe & sons in a very drinkable 5.4%er.

Aside from the poor train connection to Sheffield (#hali), the only other complaint I ever hear about the Grove is that there is too much choice. 19 (?) cask lines and almost as many on keg is backed up (unnecessarily?) by a hefty bottle bank. The `takeaway` menu is quite a read!

Onto the halves then and the Harbour`s Mango and Chilli combined well in the 7% brew to make this one much more drinkable than you'd expect. Suffice subtle to be drinkable but maybe I`d prefer more of a kick from the fruit or spice. Mebbe. Or mebbe I was just getting (Dutch courage) brave / daft....

Best of a great bunch though came from Birra del Borgo off of the recommendation of the personable and knowledgeable bar keep. Very hoppy (as requested) but also with the added complexity that you`d hope for in a 6.4% APA. Known as `Re Ale  this was class in t`glass,  a genuine belter.

Shnoodlepip was an excellent follow-up as this Wild Beer brew is super sour with the odd kick of pepper and passion fruit to boot. At 6.5% this boot might be pink but it is deceptively hard-hitting. whilst justifiably popular. There`s a Coach and Horses link here too, I believe, as Kelly Ryan (ex-Thornbridge) had a hand in this special. Fair do`s!

Axe Edge (another 6.8% beaut) and done. Love Buxton and knowing that there is always a line dedicated to a beer of their's at The Grove is yet another reason that any ale addict worth their salt (or pepper corn in Wild`s case!) needs to pop over to the Hudd. Best set off now; it teks a while to get there!

Friday, 31 October 2014

40th Steel City Beer Festival

Two beer geeks have have oft pondered and pontificated over points for pints in pubs around the city but never for an audience. We were kindly invited to judge beers at the 40th Steel City Beer Festival by Chris who is the rock that keeps the Gibraltar Street fun house aka Shakespeares so splendidly special.

The Kelham Island industrial museum was a grand location for Sheffield's biggest beer Fest including a marquee, the Millowners pub and the Upper Hall.  Scoring the ales for aroma, appearance, taste, drinkability and after taste was straightforward and sensible but also great fun.

We had a good mix of fellow judges on both the panels we judged and,from each tray of ten ales, there was usually one or two that really stood out for us. We only knew the candidates by number though so there was no voting for favoured brewers (Steel City, coughcough).. Plenty of happy hopheads mind charting beer geekiness although collating results proved trickier as the numbers of beers judged increased.....hic!

Before, between and after panels we, err, drank some beer. We liked the Hopcraft offerings especially Who`s Been Sleeping in my Brain, we think, but, despite a valiant effort, we barely scratched the surface of the 150+ beers on offer. Snowball by Waen also was an opinion divider.
All in all, this event appeared to be a great success. Venue,ales, food and judges were sagely selected for the impressive numbers of punters we saw on the opening night. Roll on 2015 and number 41!


Top 3 beers of the festival were 1st Thornbridge Cocoa Wonderland 2nd Fernandes Half Nelson 3rd Rat Ratweiller

Saturday, 25 October 2014

The Maltings (and others), York


Now then, we all know that Sheffield is the real real ale capital of Britain, really, but there are other places that might be worth a look. York is one such place, located to the North of the Republic.

A fifty minute train transit wasn't too painful and made all the easier knowing that the York Tap was awake and awaiting. I enjoyed my hard-earned Hop Dog, a 5.5% quaffable brew from another republic known as Sunny. This boozer out-does the Sheffield Tap on cask offerings with an impressive twenty although keg and bottle is broader in the steel city. Both boozers stand-out with their gorgeous interiors. Less Tapped Brewery beers in York though and thereby way more cask choice.

The Maltings was next stop and boy has the place altered since I last visited it in the Noughties. My comrades ate here and were well-satisfied with the pre-footy foody fare whilst the beer range was tidy tackle too. I wasn't over-keen on my Roosters brew whilst the Black Sheep specials impressed others in our group. Best for me though was Red Willow's Directionless (4.2%) on keg and The Macc lads rately err in our book.  Tasty, though it was snubbed by some of our growing  group for being keg. That's not real!

The York Arms is a Sammy Smith's pub that does not disappoint. Plenty of err, enthusiastic, err  older drinkers out early drinking plenty and the Best at £1.80 was difficult to argue with.

Post-match pints were located at The Three Legged Mare. This is a tap for the York Brewery and it proved popular with a range of early evening drinkers. My York IPA was steady whilst the Dark Star Hophead disappointed a bit, as it has done lately tbh. However, 12 cask lines and a few Premier league keg devils provided ample pintage for post Bootham Crescent boozers.

After the Mare we Legged it to the train and my evening ended with a visit to the Sheffield Tap and a first try of Magic Rock's Pognophobia . A memorable end to a decent day's drinking. 'Same but different' our Hudd heroes have heralded and this could apply to York, the two Taps and also the Pog pint. Try them all!

Monday, 13 October 2014

The Beagle, Marble Beer House & The Parlour, Chorlton

Beery bods nationwide descended on Manchestor this weekend heading for the lauded Indy Man Beer Con. I was a few miles South of the mark!

Chorlton is a lively leafy suburb in the South of the city and there is an abundance of options for a night-out there. We started at The Parlour which seemed to have a nice mix of the traditional and modern, kind of a shabby-chic vintage vibe. There were half a dozen cask ales to choose from plus the usual suspects on keg. and I enjoyed my Red Willow Seamless here. At 3.6% this pale ale was a sensible starter (for once) and it was well kept with sufficient hops to interest the palate. These Macc lads are consistently very good to be fair and we enjoy seeing their ales around the Steel City too.

From the outside, The Beagle didn`t look like my cup of tea:-

The pub was pretty busy though and I was very pleasantly surprised at the selection therein. They had four handpulls plus an impressive board of ten keg products dispensed discreetly from the rear of the bar.  The kegs were nearly all from big hitters like Siren (Shattered Dreams at £9 a pint, similar to Rutty), Kernel and a SWB house beer. My OH opted for a First Chop coffee IPA (3.5%) and I enjoyed my Arbor NZ Pale which at 4% was nicely crisp, floral and hoppy. Convention would suggest that coffee works well with malty brews but credit to First Chop for errr, trying something different.

Last stop was the boozer I`d been hoping our guides would take us to- The Marble Beer House. Not as aesthetically pleasing as Danny`s fave The Marble Arch, however this place had the range of Marble ales that still quite possibly represent Manchestoh`s premier pints. Between us, we had them all: Chocolate, Ginger, Pint and Dobber plus the collab with Beermoth and a shared bottle of Earl Grey IPA.

Our gang of four all had different favourites but mine was the bottle which was £4.95 and decent value compared to £5.50 for a Jaipur at The Beagle. Chocolate Marble on cask was popular too. I`m looking forward to visiting central Maanchestor in a month or two and Chorlton was certainly a winner.

Tuesday, 7 October 2014

Sheffield Brew Fest @ The Bath Hotel

Collaboration and cooperation seem to be watchwords, very valid vocab, in British brewing and beery business nowadays. (Mebbe not in crafty Camden though eh?!).

Brew Fest was the result of a true team of talent. Sean from Beer Central , Jules from HH, Edd off of The Bath plus a pair of local home brewers made Brew Fest happen filling the Bath to the brim. Every discerning beer supper seemed to descend on the Victoria Street ale house at some point during the four day Fest and no one can have left disappointed. The Bath is a Grade 2 listed building heritage, a real beauty, and a beer geek favourite for several years now. Quality not quantity appeared the apparent aim of this event.

30 cask offerings plus more of similar quality in keg and bottle covered all beeriodic bases.
For both of us, Thornbridge`s own Desert Sessions (5.7% rye) rated very highly and may well appear in a separate blog bit.....

I quite enjoyed the SWB Cirachi (5.8%) as my first tipple recommend by a fellow beer geek whilst Danny had enjoyed the 5 Points pale at 4.4%. Atom, Steel City and Anarchy divided opinion amongst us and our drinking neighbours (including ar Wee Beefy) whereas we were all fans of Tiny Rebel`s Cwtch a 5.6% red, having encountered it at Derby last year.

 (two innocent-looking ales)

 On keg Wild's Wildebeest was an 11% special and drew many admirers as did Magic Rock`s 9.2% Human Cannonball and the Sierra Nevada Big Foot barley wine but Danny chose Marble as his top beverage. I plumped for Siren. Or Magic Rock. errr.

 Firstly,  Earl Grey IPA appeared quite late in our evening but it is a tremendous beer, one of the very finest of its type. This one was in a bottle which is surely worth seeking out at Hop Hideout (Abbeydale Road) or at Beer Central (Moor Market). Siren have done nowt wrong in 2014 in my book and the Berkshire brewers have taken our steel city by storm. Soundwave is a straight up west coast IPA that is beautifully balanced at 5.6%. Citrus fruity fresh and happily hoppy. All good! Mind you, Magic Rock`s Pith Head, a 4.5% fruity radler, was also a standout ale. Too much choice! Huddersfield and Reading were in the same division for this clash and it was Premiership not a lower league!

So     -     30 barrels + city's smallest pub = Big Success
Therefore, ergo, henceforth : Quality is more important than > quantity. QED, etc.
Well done and a sincere thanks to all the organisers plus the squad of enthusiastic volunteers who helped run the bar at first Sheff Brew Fest. Take a bow and put your feet up after that sterling effort. But when's the next one.......?!?!!

Friday, 26 September 2014

Norfolk Enchants?! - Part 2 - (The Ship Inn, Mundesley)

Mice and men made plans. Mine was carefully constructed and involved sloping off to that there Norwich town, canary city, to compare it with Sheffield a.k.a. Britain`s capital of beer. But it didn`t really rain. It didn`t rain so we didn`t want to or need to move far from t` beach.

Mundesley. Nice spot. And this wor pretty much the view from the town`s pub, The Ship Inn. This place is really popular, or at least it was during the Summer season and deservedly so. Cracking local food (Cromer crab por ejemplo amigos) and an array of local ales thankfully. OK, there was Doom Bar and Speckled Hen but plenty of East Anglian offerings to sample too. The Wolf brew was a wheaty one so not really my tipple and the Woodforde`s Wherry was nice and deserved of its local popularity but I preferred Humpty Dumpty`s `Little Sharpie` which was a super suppable Golden ale. At 3.8% this ale was very sessionable so ideal for refuelling after a day spent paddling, relaxing and lying down in the sunshine plus it was hoppy enough to keep the palate interested. This one is best sampled in what claims to be `Norfolk`s Best Beer Garden`, and I`m definitely not arguing!

Wow! And ideal for the kids with a climbing frame, plenty of space to run around without being a pain to the (severalful) old codgery folk and it done got a speed-boat!

A footnote shout to Wroxham Barns. Again a family day out job (animals `n` that) but a beer haven / ale heaven. The Barns` shop boasts of housing 65 locAles and so it is well worth a look. On advice, I grabbed a few Grain bottles and they were solid. The Redwood was pretty well put together, quite boozy for a 4.8%, but I`d like to have been able to try this on cask or keg. From the bottle, it is best drunk from a smaller glass with regular top-ups to maximise the carbonation and spread the alcohol kick. Give Grain a go gents!

So, a great week in the Norfolk sunshine (seems an age ago already), a micro-climate allegedly. However, all that countryside, tha knows, beaches `n` that is not conducive to ale adventures. I`ve dipped my toe in, liked it and stopped ont` beach. East Anglian ale and pubs look promising. Maybe they deserve another visit; I just hope the weather isn`t too good!

Friday, 12 September 2014

Norfolk Enchants?! Part 1 (The Crown, Trunch)

Aye, everyone`s favourite rib-tickling pub quiz name is "Norfolk `n` chance" but is East Anglia really the answer to a hoppy holiday away from super-supping Sheffield (a.k.a. GB`s beer capital)? An unbiased review? Read on....

Plans were laid well in advance and centred around a day in Norwich which (allegedly) possesses a premium pub, or two, on a par with the Steel City apparently. Well, the British weather, or more specifically the Norfolk micro-climate, failed to `play ball` and was nice for pretty much the whole week so la playa was the choice of us holidayers ahead of la pub-a. That said, I did dip my toe into the water of East Anglian ale.


The Crown is in the `quaint` village of Trunch. (Never watched the programme but think `League of Gentlemen`. Local. Friendly locals. Strangers welcome.....). An especially friendly chap over-loaded us with suggested places to visit during our holiday week (some useful, admittedly) whilst also telling us that Sheffield was NOT friendly (he`d never actually been but he had lived in Scunthorpe, that town in North East Lincolnshire!!! Exactly). Yes, he was `over-loaded`.

The Landlady had been at the helm since October and was clearly at ease wearing this particularly headpiece. I enjoyed my beers, they were well-kept and the pub is deserved of its place in the GBG. I`d not heard of the Salem Bridge brewery but their cascade-laden Golden Swallow (4%) was tidy, easy drinking, and it was only later that I realised it is an off-shoot of Bateman`s.

The Crown is cosy inside and has food on, plus there is a popular quiz fight  night. (Get there early we wor told). The music seemed to go up and down randomly as they practiced for the following night`s quiz and the lights went `on` and `off` err, randomly, but this place was certainly memorable and definitely worth a visit, especially on a nice day when you can sit outside and watch the locals (friendly) go by. Different world but different is good, right....?!

  • (Bateman`s but different....). x

Monday, 1 September 2014

A Propa Local? The Brothers Arms, Heeley

In these harsh times of ever-elongated austerity, what could be better than a new pub opening? Not being turned into (yet another) Tesco or Sainbury`s but actually opening, well reopening with the proprietors having successfully negotiated agreeable terms with a `heavyweight` PubCo. Ye Olde Shakespeare Inn was a famously run-down boozer just a stones throw from the super-successful Sheaf View in Heeley and it has now been rebranded as The Brothers Arms (no apostrophe) in reference to its new overlords, The Everly Pregnant Brothers.

We managed to visit the place three times between us over the opening weekend (a selfless effort) and it appears as if this place could be well be an EPB hit. Still smelling of paint, the brand new Brothers` boozer was bursting at the seams with a nicely mixed clientele. This area now has a decent and discerning little ale run starting at The more beardy Broadfield and taking in The beautiful White Lion, then the Sheaf View and now, by the looks of it, The Brothers Arms.

The layout is neat with a great beer garden terrace sporting a splendid vista and a cute central bar. The manager is Nick Hayne, well-known locally having done sterling service at The Sheaf View and at London Road`s Cremorne previously, and he and his squad did well to keep the bar going working four-strong in fifth gear in very close proximity. In fact, you have to wonder if there was a maximum waist requirement for Brothers` bar-staff as there can`t be any room for being Everly Pregnant therein! `Yorkshire tapas` and a game of darts are on offer too, if that floats your boat plus many a music event, I`m sure.

 Part of the Brothers` manifesto is to stay local but they do boast of having sourced their beers from as far afield as S60! I really enjoyed my Raw (of Staveley, N.E.Derbyshire) Chadrock dry stout (5%) despite it being in a cider glass. Staveley is Sheffield`s 43rd state (S43) but, if you`ve not been, think more Iowa than "aloha".....

And tha knows this definitely was not Stones:-
It was Vedett white btw. Obviously, these are really minor teething faults caused by the volume of ale served, sold and supped. In fact, by Sunday, the place had pretty much run out of lager but, being beer geeks, this was not noted as a problem by us! Certainly a great start for Heeley`s newest hostelry and, who knows, The Brothers Arms may just turn out to be Pete McKee`s best-loved creation....! 

Friday, 29 August 2014

Beer Central Bottle Share @ Shakespeares (August 27th 2014)

A candle-lit night at Shakespeares offering the opportunity to wax lyrical about beery beverages; what could be better?

Now then, how does this malarkey work? Line `em up, knock `em back, farty beer talk and then pick a number (1-10, no halves allowed!).  Chris had everything really well set up, as you`d expect at Sheffield`s best boozer, and Sean off of Beer Central in the Moor Market had socially networked to bring together a reyt motley crew of us (self-professed) beer boffs.

The tackle was lined up in order of ABVs aiming to start with the lowest first and progress from there onwards and upwards. A broad range of styles was evident to really stretch the palate, particularly bearing in mind that this included one or two I was not too fond of like saison and weisse-y stuff but then that`s one of the beauties of this sort of event - stepping outside of your beery comfort zone and trying something different (no dunkel though, phew!).

Having recently returned from a Mid Wales visit, I started proceedings with Sunshine from Monty`s. This little brewery are based in Montgomery and their tap is at The Sportsman in Newtown, a popular haunt of the area`s keen CAMRA branch. Sunshine is a hoppy delight (predominantly Cascade) that has picked up an award or two, is very sessionable and weighs in at 4.2%. It seemed to be pretty well received and  scored respectably from the tough crowd who were (almost all) new to this Powys brewery. Later I learnt that one of these earlier events had begun with brews around the 8% mark and gone up in ABV from there! Still, I was content with my choice and the ideal of drinking local stuff whenever it is possible and palateable.

Kate from the Three Tuns (and family) was next up though and her offering from the fantastic Buxton Brewery was a strong contender for a fair old while. Far Skyline is a lovely dry-hopped weisse drop but another sessionable beer and, it was becoming clear, that type of tipple would struggle to win what was shaping up to be a heavyweight contest. Local challenges from the likes of Nook and Raw fell alongside stateside superstars Stone as Buxton looked to have (Axe) edged it. Odell`s Footprint made its ,errr mark, with prickly pear juice, chilli, sweetcorn etc, all locally (by U.S. standards) sourced, and then exported to North Riding. This bottle showed that, if you chuck enough wacky flavours in there, you come out with a bland beer - a low scorer tonight.

Beavertown are based in Hackney, London-town, and have a deservedly high reputation. In fact the two main challengers in this bottle share smackdown both had us nerds wondering `is this beer`?  Applelation is a barley wine, well barley champagne, that looks as a saison but the aroma quickly lets you know it is from a higher league. There`s a bit of everything in here but it balances and contrasts intriguingly at 8.7%. Sweet, sour, citrus, bitter, barley, champers, dahling! Loved it and scored it 8. And I still `don`t like` saisons.

The Nogne / Bridge Road special dished out to end proceedings came close to the top slot for me but the red wine was just that bit too sweet and lacking depth or spiciness despite its gorgeous colour and its multiple ocean transit betwixt Oz and Norway. Nice though it was too wine-driven for some. Beavertown won this one scoring an average of over 8 / 10 from us fussy folk.

A couple of pints of HDM before bed-time were ideal night caps chatting to Steel City Dave and blogger nonpareil Wee Beefy. Hats off to Chris of Shakespeares and Sean from Beer Central for organising this and to the collective for bringing along some cracking ales and for making me feel welcome at my first bottle share. Give it a go!

Saturday, 16 August 2014

Farmhouse IPA (6%) - Magic Rock & Lervig

Belter in a bottle!
We like/love the IPA , that much-loved beer genre from the past year or five and you couple it with a sprinkle of the old Belgium-y Brettanomyces yeasty stuff = winner. An IPA that gets better / different the longer you leave it. In this case, it was a full 10 days, so well mature.....

Magic Rock were our brewery of the year 2013 and we`re still waiting for them to put a foot wrong this year. Neither of us buy many bottled beers but in Sheffield we are blessed to have Beer Central and Hop Hideout that are well willing to supply super sups like this one. The Rocky Hudd heroes push boundaries, vary their style and collaborate successfully. This funky effort was conceived alongside Lervig Aktiebrygerri of Norway.

Classic IPA aroma and body but with added depth. The carbonation lifts the aromatics and the taste dwells pleasantly on the palate. Definitely drinkable and does not present as a 6% monster, more a light-heavyweight that can hit with resinous pine!

Thanks for this one to Beer Central ahead of international IPA day!

Not lacking bottle ....... FARMHOUSE IPA  9 / 10.    BUY NOW!

Sunday, 3 August 2014

Situational Sups - #1 Summer

You know the deal. It was just the right time, right pint...etc. Might not even be the exact beer that you thought you wanted or hoped for but it just hit that spot (don`t panic, no lager herein). And here`s a couple that spring to mind for me. In Britain, it`s all about the beer garden. Maybe. Or the beer. Or a bit of both?!

Ok, so the wonky beer garden here wouldn`t get that bubble dead-on in the middle of any spirit level, but the Rising Sun (at the crossroads near Carsington just before Hopton above Matlock. Somewhere) is a lovely roadside pub with a child-friendly spot at the rear. This one was a Golden / Blonde Blue Monkey PG Sips (4%) and eminently suppable. The Nottingham brewers seem to be doing well and are at their best with light hoppy efforts like this one from their core range. Only been to the Rising Sun twice and staff were absolutely spot-on plus the bar homes 4 or 5 well-kept ales, mostly well-chosen LocAles. If you can find this boozer from my very vague description, you deserve a pint. Mebbe two.

My second suggestion for a seasonal Summery sup is also out of town in the quiet village of Holmesfield, adjacent and above (literally or metaphorically, you decide) of Dronfield, North Derbyshire.

Normally, I would associate this great little place with all things cosy. The Rutland Arms is that rare type of pub that does not seem to rely now on food or pub co to survive, where you would happily get trapped in by the wintery weather, (snow, rain, any meteorological excuse) for that extra pint or few. AND it has a nice beer garden, our Summer has revealed. A really ermm, green, grassy green patch with picnic table aplenty and space for (well-behaved) little ones to stretch their legs before sharing a bag of Walkers and a Fruit Shoot, (or other similar products). Again, the staff and atmosphere are very welcoming to visitors whilst pleasing their well-heeled regular punters. Beer choice is limited to 3 or 4 fairly local (and well-kept) brews but then that is a decent offering for a small but perfectly formed Derbyshire drinking hole.

Castle Rock, another Nottingham brewery coincidently, are not normally one I would specifically opt for but their Harvest Pale hits that situational spot. This is their marquee Pale ale that won awards at the GBBF a while back as the glass proudly attests. (And isn`t it good to get the proper glass for that particular beer!?).

Other nominations and suggestions are more than welcome, especially in this happy and sun-blessed holiday season, but you`ll probably find me in a well-maintained beer garden somewhere, with my well-behaved kids drinking a well-kept pale ale. Try The Rising Sun or The Rutland Arms for starters!

Thursday, 24 July 2014

Limoncello IPA (9.1%) by Siren, Mikkeller & Hill Farmstead

My first trip to Brewdog Sheffield was just after having visited Fagan`s. A slight contrast perhaps.

Versus . .

Guinness or Moonshine versus a huge board of the weird and wonderful from BrewDog, and other international beery giants. Sometimes the choice on offer at the Division Street bar can bamboozle new punters but the staff are usually super-keen to help and to offer tasters. Both are welcome options as you don`t want to pay premium prices and procure a p-poor pint, or more likely a half or a third.

Slaughtering these lot over prices, keg-loving or the full-on, in your face, branding and marketing is easy, dull and pretty facile. `You get what you pay for` is increasingly true in the ale industry. The sexiest hops are more expensive and speciality brews require time and are labour intensive. It is easy to spend a pretty packet at BrewDog but I`m choosy and I`m rarely disappointed.

Limoncello IPA is a collaborative brew led by Berkshire boys Siren, who I had heard great things about as they started to appear recently around the Steel City. Danny had raved about Siren`s Breakfast Stout at The Ruttie and so I was daringly decisive in choosing this wonderfully weird IPA when I spotted it on the cinema-style beer board. We love a good IPA but we also enjoyed sours last Summer and this one encompasses both styles. It pours with quite a thin off-white head and a hazy amber orange body. Carbonation is medium and lifts the intriguing aromas.The hoppy, zesty citrus  bite is as crisp and refreshing as you would hope and the addition of lactose provides the sweet contrast in this tart beer. Lemon curd Danny reckoned and we both agreed it was certainly `special`.

For me, this was the best beer of the year so far. Hats off to Siren, and friends! I also purchased a bottle of it to takeaway (a rare event) and that was just over a fiver with a take-out discount and it drank well, pretty close to the keg version (which cost £4.00 for a half). Make sure the bottle is cool enough and served properly and it won`t disappoint. If it does, go back to Fagan`s.

Top of the League Scores from Division Street
Danny - 9 /10
Mike - 9 /10