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!