Wednesday, 30 December 2015

twobeergeeks` Pub of the Year 2015

A swift one, and another surprise....

OK, so previous blogbits testify our fondness and allegiance to excellent pubs in Shakespeares (consistently our favourite, we both agree), The Sheaf View and The Coach & Horses. Our recent Top Ten was one of our most viewed bits and gives our definitive list for the year although this is dynamic and subject to change, ever evolving, etc. .

Anyhows, our Pub of the Year we decided is The Beer Engine! New kid on the block off of London Road this place is great.


The location is spot on where a new decent boozer was needed; it`s close to town and near the eateries on London Road. Formerly Delaney`s, the reincarnation of this Cemetery Road hostelry is a splendid one. Light and airy yet cosy enough to survive the winter the Beer Engine is welcoming. This is largely due to landlord Baz`s belief in customer service and quality. Case in point is the ale: Bar staff are friendly and helpful providing tasters if required. The range is wide from some offerings locals like new boys Neepsend (see last post) to heavyweight superstars Siren, Salopian, Bad Seed and Northern Alchemy. Cask, keg and bottled offerings are available whilst the food (tapas treats) is deservedly lauded. Punters will come in and order the whole menu!

Comically, the concern regarding the light-coloured tables (they are varnished y`know) is worth a read on Sheffield Forum.  Early opening for football fans and the odd music event have also been offered recently too. Further refinements are being considered with the likes of more artwork displayed which could be cool (Coloquix please!).

The Beer Engine seems to improve every time we bob in and it is evolving nicely. We`re sure that awards from CAMRA and whatnot will follow once the place has been up and running a bit longer but we`ll jump in first and flag this place as twobeergeeks` Pub of the Year 2015! Nice one.

Our previous / first visit? - HERE

Tuesday, 29 December 2015

twobeergeeks` Brewery of the Year 2015

Brewery of the year? Now then, this might be a bit of a surprise.

 Previous winners have been crafty heavyweights from the North and South, Magic Rock and Siren (who`ve both had solid years btw) but for this year we have gone back to basics and back to proper local.

Sheffield is now awash with breweries; new ones popping up monthly but some of them are now actually getting pretty good. The shackles of traditionally tasteless twiggy brews are gradually being shed; Saturation point must be close mind. Whereas Huddersfield has a clutch of quality, boundary-pushing brewers most of Sheff's stay safe, small and simple. However, more and more drinkers are looking for quality not quantity even in the penny pinching city of steel. A business model that can offer quality but at an austerity-respecting price is the brew pub model: Make ales locally, for your own pubs, that are decent yet affordable. Quality hops at a quaffable cost. If the brews go down well, make more of them, produce more prototype practices and maybe then even flog them beyond the republic.

 The Sheaf View seems to have seen so many quality bar staff go on to great things, they must be doing something right. And they are about to become a chain if we hear right adding another to the Sheaf and Blake duo.

 Starting the Neepsend Brewery was nevertheless a brave step. Breweries are going bust in 2015. Previously the Sheaf View had been a top-selling Farmers Blonde pub but then a possible penny pinching plunge to Acorn Blonde helped keep the tills ringing. Selling so much of their house beers allowed managers to balance books and then buy better beer for the discerning drinkers to the point where there are now even dedicated craft keg lines offered alongside the occasional real craft treat and still at Heeley prices.

 Neepsend Blonde now fills the substantial shoes left by its famed predecessors whilst making budgetary room for bigger players under the salary cap, so to speak. However, head brewer Gavin has already nailed a solid Stout and his hop head orientated brews are coming along nicely. Hokaiddo is very good as is High Force whilst the IPAs have been spot on so far. And value.
Gavin is keen to tweak, test and perfect the Neepsend portfolio (including the branding) and they've already been spotted as far afield as London, and London Road (the Beer Engine sagely always has a Neepsend offering nowadays).  And Dronfield!

Sure, Neepsend Brewery Compnay are a work in progress but we reckon this brewery are one to watch. We like quality. We like local. We love local quality. If Neepsend build on this solid start then who knows! Cheers!

Wednesday, 23 December 2015

Beer of the Year 2015

Ridiculous thing to do: Choosing one favourite beer from the whole year? Beer is situational, of the moment, subjective, art. Which is the `best art`?! Plain daft, eh.?! We have tried though.....

Three up and two are pretty local.

Of the weird and wonderful, I opted for Northern Alchemy`s Marmalade and Assam Tea IPA. This was strong and expensive and, bearing those two facts in mind, I could only manage a half of it at the ever-improving Beer Engine after a memorable match at Bramall Lane. (It was either have another half and walk home or have enough cash for bus fare. Close call but it was a Tuesday).

The complexity in this beer had my palate doing somersaults and these guys really do make `Flavour Led Crafty Beer`. Orange aromas and initial marmalade hit lead to a floral tea aftertaste. I don`t care for marmalade nor assam tea particularly but this Newcastle brewery managed to get the bitter-sweet properties to hit all the right notes that you want from a strong IPA (7.4%). Not yet had this in bottle but I shall track it down. Keg of the year perhaps.  If Michelin did do stars for beer......

One we both heartily agreed on was Fruit Machine by Steel City in cahoots with Beer Central`s Sean Clarke. Danny supped most of this whilst it was (briefly) on at Shakespeares and we`ve both had plenty in bottles.  Hazy orange amber, massive citrus aroma, super-fruity mouth with a long-lasting aftertaste, the fresher the better. Thick and pulpy tasting nothing like 7%. One of Steel City`s very best.

Last but not least, maybe best `til last. I met North Riding`s Red Citra at the CAMRA Steel City Beer Festival betwixt judging sessions and it was stand-out even then. (Ultimately it was SCBF second overall too).

 Further quality control took place at the lovely Three Tuns on Silver Street where it tasted fantastic and also at the Broadfield a day or two later. Since it appeared in bottles, we`ve both really enjoyed it. Many purchased and several given away to nice people. This is better than the pale version as the grapefruit, mango and lemon punch is still there in droves but with a beautiful red body. Balanced superbly and mega-drinkable at 5%. Right up our street.

A trio of superb beers. Hats off and here`s to more from these brilliant breweries in 2016. Cheers!

Thursday, 17 December 2015

twobeergeeks` Best Cosy Pubs

Straight-forward enough idea. Still Wintery out there in the Steel City; cosy pub required. Criteria simple ; decent beer and a 'cosiness' factor (a vague, subjective term), both scored out of five in our esteemed opinion, no particular order:-

The Fat Cat - opinion split here for us. Cosy sure, a fair chance that you get chatting to the folk on the next table. They could well be beer tourists from Derby or Darlo. Pub and beer 'traditional' in every sense.

Cosy - 4 Beer - 2 = 6/10

The Brothers Arms - again, opinion divided / unsure. The room with the log burner is the focus here (left of (cosy) bar) , if you get in. Better known as a Summer pub.

Cosy - 3 Beer - 3 = 6/10

Which pub is this the front door for?
Fagan's - whatever happened to Irish theme pubs? Surprise inclusion? Here your cosiness consideration needs to aim for the snug. OK, no fire but the micro-nature of this room unfailingly lends itself to cosiness even down to the doggy smell. Worth queuing up for a snug spot at number 69 for opening time.

Cosy - 4 Beer - 1.5 (Moonshine, Tetleys. .. gotta be guinness) =5.5/10

The Rutland - yeah, fair enough it is cosy and definitely deserves a mention. Can be great if you get a nice spot in there. Whilst the beer is Ponsford (i.e. top end and you`ll pay accordingly), the d├ęcor is more errr Marston`s, if you get my drift. Makeover time? So close....

Cosy - 3 Beer - 4 = 7/10

The Red Deer - Pleasantly surprised with this one. No longer a Stancil Stronghold . Great Heck tempted but Roosters won the day and a seat next to the fire was spot-on.

Cosy - 4 Beer - 3 = 7/10

The Bath Hotel - Head for the blue room. Fire? check! Comfy? Check! Beer? Check. During the visit ales included seasonal Thornbridge in Cocoa Wonderland and Baize, Arbor, Hopjacker and Black Jack. Tidy tackle. Ideal respite from the weather and shoppers outside. Grab the 'paper and make yourself comfortable. Fell in love with this place about 6 or 7 years ago when we had all that snow but the bath remained a haven.

 Cosy - 4 Beer - 4 = 8/10  WINTER WINNER!

Agree? Disagree? Let us know! These are just our opinions and therefore entirely correct.

N.B.Another to add to this list now would be........

White Lion on Chesterfield Road. Since pub regulars Jon and Mandy took over, this place has gone form strength to strength. The front half of the pub is very cosy and the beer usually includes the excellent HopJacker, really fine unfined ales.

Cosy - 4 Beer - 3 = 7/10

Friday, 30 October 2015

Firkin Fest at Picture House Social

Just a quick heads-up for this event being held at the Abbeydale road emporium.

The Picture House crew have again joined forces with near-neighbours Hop Hideout to offer a weekend of ale excellence (plus toons) proving again that these two are indeed steel city`s dynamic duo.

night on the tiles
On the main bar was usual suspect Deception from ultra-local Abbeydale, an old fave, but alongside it were double dark delights Brass Castle`s Bad Kitty and potteries perfection in a pint pot, Plum Porter from Titanic. Both aromatic and deeply tasty. Incidently, Jules from HH had organised a MTB event with Brass Castle which I`d not picked up on but I`m sure that was a well-spent hour or two for those in attendance.

The firkins are housed in the Ping-Pong room next door and most ales are one gravity here with the odd keg too. Cloudwater Red (4.8%) was a very decent starter and my half didn`t last long. Pale ales from Siren and Burning Sky and the Wild Millionaire (popular salted caramel brew) were nice enough and old favourite Jarl from Fyne Ales was worth the quite hefty price attached. I also tried a bit of the Feral Nancy cider from locals Cider Beast and I have to admit that I lied it and the branding. (I concur that `seals are just mermaid dogs`!). The standout for me though at 6.3% was Jakehead IPA from the North East`s Wylam. Lots of floral aroma on this one and a lovely bitter-sweet taste made it easily drinkable, one of the better IPAs for me this year. Keep a look-out for Wylam.(I don`t know what a Jakehead is but it sounds like it could fit well onto Call my Bluff or some-such quizzical thing).

After sinking the Titanic favourite (ooh) we jumped ship (ouch) and boarded the Broadfield in search of more treasures. For the third time in a week I happily stumbled across North Riding`s Red Citra. After sampling this at the excellent Steel City Real Ale Festival last week, I`d had a few Red Citra`s at the wonderful Three Tuns and was happy to do the same at the Broady. The beautiful red body showcases a fine balance in this beer and reminds us what a wonderful hop citra can be. Fantastic and certainly one of my favourite beers this year.

Must mention the Great Heck Mosaic too as that was tasty. Night.

Thursday, 22 October 2015

The 41st Steel City Beer & Cider Festival

Just a quick bit to promote the event which runs until this Saturday 24th October.

Just as everyone says, the venue at Kelham Island Museum is SO much better than previous ones. Food stalls are outside on the courtyard whilst the ale is spread between the marquee, the upper gallery and the Millowners Arms. There are bottles galore too sagely supplied by local heroes Beer Central and Hop Hideout. And there`s cider.....

Judging took place near the stage upstairs. After a swift half of East London`s Red Ale I was into judging some of the offerings in the speciality category along with experts from the Sheffield Brewery, Lincoln Green and the WI. Several of the ales divided opinions but then everyone`s taste is different. Some were not keen on salty beers and ditto with the bretted offering but I enjoyed sampling such a wide variety. Pretty sure I recognised the lovely Magic Rock `Simpleton` in the mix there too and that was popular.

Between the judging, I grabbed a half or two and one ale in particular grabbed my attention. The Mikey Rayer All Dayer was, indeed, the sort of easy drinking dream that could see a swift one turn into a session. Bags of hoppy taste packed into a 4.2%er. I`d struck lucky.

Winner from Wales

The golden bitter category judging was assisted by the experts from the Dronfield Arms and the Sheffield Brewery. We had a clear winner albeit amongst some forgettable sups even though I made a complete mess of my scorecard.

The gallery was pretty busy by this stage and the turnout overall was very impressive for a midweek night. Before home, I sampled a few more. Two beers stood out for me. Steel City`s Light at the End of the World (4.5%) was spot-on not surprisingly but my beer of the night came from North Riding. Red Citra weighs in at 5.0% and showcases the hop beautifully whilst maintaining a balance that makes it very drinkable. I hear that there is a cask or two of this in Sheffield cellars so keep a look out for it. Nice one.

Red Citra


Gold - Crafty Devil, Mikey Rayer All Dayer
Silver - North Riding, Red Citra
Bronze - Saltaire, Triple Chocoholic

 MILD CATEGORY - Brass Castle, Hazelnut Mild
BEST BITTER CATEGORY - North Riding, Red Citra
GOLDEN ALE CATEGORY - Crafty Devil, Mikey Rayer All Dayer
SPECIALITY BEER CATEGORY - Saltaire, Triple Chocoholic

Tuesday, 13 October 2015

Ale Tales from the Seven Hills # 3 - Sheffield`s Top Ten Pubs

Two Beer Geeks Sheffield Pubs Top Ten

Inspired by our virtual friend at Sheffieldalepubs, we finally have a definitive list of the best pubs for your perusal. This is a dynamic list subject to change and it is the best fit for us two (although most of our opinions are pretty closely matched). We cogitated and contemplated upon beer quality and selection firstly, and then the pub itself and service provided. Simples.

Inspired further by the name of our favourite hostelry, we then presented this in a poetic style of type known as a kenning. And added alliteration as usual. This is probably the correct term.

1. Shakespeares - considered quality.

2. The Sheaf View - economical excellence.
3. The Broadfield - priceless pints.

4. The Bath Hotel - cosy craftiness.
5. The Beer Engine - rejuvenated respect.
6. The Harlequin - stalwart supping.
7. The Rutland - precocious pints.

8. The Three Tuns - cornered quirkiness.
9. The Brothers Arms - ARTisan alehouse.
10. The Sheffield Tap - impeccable imbibing.

Especial mentions to Dronfield`s double diamonds - The Coach & Horses and the Dronfield Arms. Both would have made the cut if not for their cross-border location. That is all. Cheers.

Friday, 18 September 2015

Ale Tales from the Seven Hills of Sheffield - Pt. 2

Tale #2 - Sheffield has the best breweries in the country

Well, it won't be too long until there is a Sheffield Brewery for every letter of the alphabet but it's the old quantity versus quality dilemma.

We've made no secret of our love for Steel City Brewery's ales. Set up in 2009 by Dave Szwejkowski and Gazza Prescott with the intention of brewing really hoppy shtuff and they still do just that albeit as a solo operation now. Gazza now runs HopCraft out of the South of Wales whilst Dave does Steel City solos once a month usually using Toolmakers brewery set up. The wares of both Brewers are best supped at Shakespeares in our esteemed opinion., esteemed by us that is, and our bank managers. Currently, chilli is a popular ingredient but, allegedly, Dave is about to become even more sour-faced in a collaboration with Ripley`s Landlocked Brewery. Should be fun.

Blue Bee beers are often worth a go these days and they're found regularly in the Rutland, Closed Shop and Three Tuns. The key to the improvement here has been a new head brewer using sexier hops in reet pale ales.

Abbeydale's Moonshine might well be the top spelling beer in our city and, when well kept, it's quite quaffable although we tend to prefer Deception. Since taking over The Devonshire Cat,  Abbeydale have improved the quality of it's ale noticeably and they are also becoming braver with left field brews and keggy stuff.

Keg from D Cat
Exit 33 are in a similar vein in so far as they make some really drinkable pale and hoppy pints and they're best supped at their Harlequin pub. Exit 33 are also regular at the Brothers Arms. If it's not Moonshine then Bradfield Brewery's Blonde in its various guises is the most supped and its a beginner- friendly beer.

True North is the brewery for the Forum chain and their beers are consistent and quaffable in very nice venues,  possibly too cool for twobeergeeks. ...

Neepsend Brewery are the newest kids on the brewing block and we have enjoyed their brews at Sheaf View and The Beer Engine. Kelham Island are long established and best tried at their Fat Cat base or the new-ish Tap & Tankard which is worth a visit. The North Union offshoot are up and about too producing a more varied range of styles including three that are available bottled.

Fuggle Bunny, Toolmakers and Stancil are also recently established traditional breweries and doing well to date. By contrast, On The Edge brew a wide spectrum of ales and showcase them superbly in well-supported community events. That is Sheffield in a pint pot ; we have the quantity but the quality takes a bit of a search / a lot of liquid research. Have another.

Sunday, 6 September 2015

Guthrie by Thornbridge

Afternoon. A quick one.

Having sailed past 100 different Thornbridge beers a few months back, I no longer feel that I have to try every new beer that the Bakewell boys produce. However, seeing Guthrie recently at the Coach & Horses, I thought I would try a pint although my expectations were relatively low, like the ABV. You see, pretty much all of my favoured Thornbridge brews have been the stronger, hoppy ales that they are famed for (Halcyon, Puja, etc.), weighing in at at least 5.5% so Guthrie at 4.3% is hardly a contender for the Heavyweight Champion.....

Guthrie and a fruit-based drink for the lady
Previously, we have reviewed the ventures of Reverend and the Makers` own home brewer Ed Cosens. Working closely with the experts at Bakewell, The Reverend and the Makers` Summer Ale was ok whilst we did really like the subsequent punchier American Brown (5%) which is still available in Dronfield. With no Kipling on, I opted for Guthrie and was pleasantly surprised. Manager James explained the story behind the brew with it being a celebratory tipple for the birth of Ed and Rachel`s son. Guthrie, named after the famed folk family, is fresh and zingy with quite a pleasant bitter zesty nose and a light golden hue under a creamy white head. Ed informed me that cascade and galaxy were the hops used and the former comes through really well. The aftertaste is appropriately bitter and lasting; bear in mind that I had just watched a Sheffield FC loss in the F.A. Cup which started with the home `keeper seeing red after 40 seconds. Argghhh!

 I enjoyed Guthrie so much that I returned three days later to have tea with the family and grab a pic whilst shifting another couple of pints. It was still in good fettle too and there`s another barrel in the cellar, rumour has it. Food from Chariot`s Kitchen hit the mark too.

 The other RatM beers have made it into Thornbridge`s ever-expanding bottled range and it will be interesting to see how it compares.


  In my humble opinion, Guthrie fresh and well-kept from the cask in a great pub would be tough to match in a bottle. Good work Ed and Arlo;. Bruce Dickinson could learn a thing or two!

Run to the Hills, indeed.

Tuesday, 1 September 2015

Ale Tales from the Seven Hills of Sheffield

The first in a series of seven, probably. Ideally. First of several anyway.

Tale #1 - Sheffield is the ale capital of Great Britain.

Easy one to kick-off. Now this one is true. With new breweries popping up every week and an army of ale-orientated hostelries to deliver them plus a plethora of expertly-led bottle shops, the Steel City can't be topped.

Sheffield Tap. Nice.

The unenlightened might suggest other cities but they're easily shot down.

Por ejemplo:-

Maaanchester has a growing number of nice pubs and bars, true, but it's only relatively recently that Marble were the only decent brewery there. Now in 2015, there are others, and well-hyped too, but this is media city after all. (Or is Salford really a separate city albeit in the middle of Manc?). Also they have a lot more 'attitood' compared to the friendliness in Sheffield city-village. Ditto Leeds.
The Beagle, Chorlton

Liverpool; no ta la. Not a fan. A few 'eventful' nights out there have completely put me off.

London. Good pubs but there are at least seven tube stops between each decent boozer, unless you want to visit Bermondsey, apparently. FYI, no direct link to Heeley or Woodseats either.
Norwich? Rubbish. All tractors and twigs. Never been but Danny went to Uni there he thinks.

Newcastle? More to it nowadays than the infamous Bigg Market but it's full of stag and hen do's. Last time I went, I loved the place, mostly. We started at Bacchus but, after a Tactical Nuclear Penguin at BrewDog, it all went err haddaway, I divvnt kna, etc. But I was on a stag do!
Nottingham?- see Newcastle but they do have a Hooters. #idealstagdo

Derby - the better side of Brian Clough way IMHO with lovely pubs (see earlier BlogBit) but the beer is a year or two behind us up the M1.

York? Nice place but not a City. OK, it's got a cathedral (so has Ely) but it's got a smaller population than Meadowhall. Huddersfield is great but no cathedral. Sorry, have you thought about getting one?
The Maltings in York

Sheffield #cityofale , 1-nil up early doors.

Wednesday, 12 August 2015

Ale in the Lake District #2 - Tweedies & The Brown Horse

So, as previously blogged, the visit to Hawkshead brewery was great. Next we headed to Grasmere to complete the obligatory lakeside walk ending with a visit to Tweedies in the Dale Lodge Hotel. Now I had visited this place before remembering it as a great place to imbibe required refreshment.

Tweedies offered 8 relatively local cask ales (think Ilkley, Hardknott, Coniston, etc.) plus a couple of ciders. Bottles showcased more quality local fare plus a couple of kegs were on offer. The slate-floored interior is spacious yet cosy and the food was popular with the wealth of walkers therein.

All the ales were very well kept and the flight of thirds was a useful option. I particularly enjoyed the Pacific Voyage from the modestly-named Cumbrian Legendary Ales which was really quaffable. Fresh and quite zesty at 4.5%, this one of the best NZ-hopped brews I`ve had. I`ll have another.

Finishing off with a half of Mills & Hills, a collaboration between Fyne and De Molen, was ideal. On one of the three keg lines at 9.5%, this complex brew explained in deserved detail on a little chalk board and proudly pulled by the excellent bar manager. Very tasty and a nice little dessert ale. Tweedies has won CAMRA awards in the past and I'm sure it will gain more accolades in the future if our visit was anything to go by. Nice. Thank you.

Finally we bobbed into the Brown Horse Inn for the reason that it looked proper nice and it was close to Winster where we were staying. This roadside coaching inn is very food-orientated and clearly popular. Interestingly the Winster Valley brewery is based here and I quite enjoyed my pint of Lakes Blonde, I think it was, and it had some champagne in there apparently providing a distinctive taste. Nice to get quality real ale in a foody pub. Staff were friendly and accommodating although they were busy and we were not eating. Also the outside area had lovely views. Well worth a look.

The end of a little holiday but, as the Oscar Wilde quote on the bar of Tweedies said, "Work is the curse of the drinking classes."  Indeed.

Saturday, 1 August 2015

Ale in the Lake District #1 - Hawkshead Brewery

Is The Lake District the best bit of Great Britain? Sure, it is oft over-filled ( mostly with teachers during any mid term holiday) and the lovely-looking pubs are awash with dreary, disappointing Jennings / Marstons beers but times are a-changing. Cumbria has periodically boasted about having the most breweries per capita or something similar and now some of them are pushing for Premier League status.Coniston Brewery have always been solid ( it's in their water!?) but the likes of Hardknott and Hawkshead have also been worthy of recent note.

BEWARE! There are several Staveleys but thankfully we found the right one for the tap house and brewery for Hawkshead and were definitely not disappointed.


24 potential handpulls, a smattering of keg and fantastic food made the trip off of the A591 well worthwhile.
Decisions, decisions
Top tapas
Gotta love a comfy couch

In the name of research, I sampled most stuff. 5 Hop was probably the pick. Their Pale was pretty close to perfect mind and at only 3.5% and the Great White (4.8%), whilst with it's wheat, botanicals and manageable motueka sounded like my nightmare, was actually deceptively drinkable. Hop Black was a solid BIPA but not really enjoying that style at the mo. However, my OH reyt enjoyed her ITI, a snazzy NZPA named after the maori word for `little` apparently.

There is also an excellent beer shop at Hawkshead Brewery stocking lots of their wares plus some classic Euro fare. I grabbed some bottles of bourbon barrel-aged Brodies Prime #4 for the road and this proved to be a great choice. A 12 month oak barrel maturation sees this core range beer go from a tidy 4.9% up to BPX at 8.5%. During Beer Central's bottle share event at the Sheaf View a few days later, this brew scored really well; Muriel Spark would have been quite proud. `Wiki` her!

Friday, 3 July 2015

Siuational Sups #3 - Drinking from the cellar at Shakey`s

Day-time drinking: Irresponsible? Reserved for holidays only? Only when abroad? The preserve of the Wetherspoons crowd? A road to ruin.......

Anyway, Monday pub crawl and what better situational sup is there than a couple of halves from the cellar at Sheffield's best pub? It's a great pub. The fact that Shakespeare's won the Sheffield Camra Pub of the Year in 2013 is still amazing considering the vested interests and the outdated criteria involved AND it keeps getting better. Sure, it may have smelly toilets ( who gives a ... ) but the selection and service here are bar none, so to speak. Chris' superb staff will even traipse to the cellar to get you tasters of future delights if you ask nicely (and it innt too busy).  Monday is  ideal therefore and henceforth, et al, etc.

Steel City is still the best brewery in Sheffield in our esteemed opinion. Sorry, the best 'brewer' what with them being cuckoo, homeless types (currently brewing from Toolmakers) amongst about 20 other brewers in our city, some good, some bad, some indifferent.... Answers on a postcard. And Shakey`s is the most likely place to get the latest releases from the capital of ale`s best brewer.

70p sarnies tough to top
Wow. Three Steel City brews in one pub!? That's like finding the fabled rocking horse shtuff, a Steel City beer festival reet there on Gibraltar Street. In this case we're talking Just What Nobody Wanted  ( a nice pale n hoppy 4.  % brew, of which I had the last half!), Incubus (a 5.0% black IPA collab with Mexborough's Imperial) and the drinkable Four Stooges joint-effort with some usual suspects..

On the bar, Shakey's has 9 handpulls ready to go with quality ales, mostly local-ish (including the much-hyped Cloudwater stuff), 3 quality kegs plus loadsa bottles from around the globe. And gin.

Shakesbeers, the beer board

Sure, situationally the Abbeydale's 4.1% Deception here is the best value pint in Town at £2.30, but that mebbe merits a blog bit in itself (here`s one we prepared earlier)!  ....,, We'll be back!

Monday, 15 June 2015

Punchy feather-weights ?

Light-weight but heavy hitters? You know the type; a low ABV beer with big bags of taste.
It wasn't so long ago that anyone wanting lots of taste had to be looking at your classic IPA % of 5.8 to 7% and similar with the stouts. Even then, plenty of them tended to be overly boozy rather than full of flavour. And again, similar with stouts.

However, one trend that we are both fond of is the hoppy brews that weigh in at 4% or less meaning that you can have a few without forgetting your name or the way home.

We reviewed Powermouse by Great Heck back in 2013 and this one was a really good pint. Hoppy, bitter, quaffable and only 3.6%, Powermouse was one of the first beers that made it clear that hoppy taste didn't have to mean 6%. Unfortunately, it`s now been replaced by Chinook-driven Chopper in the Great Heck range and we look forward to trying that one. The Sheaf View or The Harlequin were your best bets of spotting this little creature in the Capital of Beer.

Simpleton by Magic Rock has appeared in a couple versions : one at 2.6% and one at 3%.  Again this one offers the option of less alcoholic content without compromising too much on the taste. Sure, Magic Rock have more exciting wares in their ( recently expanded) locker but Simpleton scores well for a little un. Really enjoyed this at The Broady a while back but the price was still steep, if memory serves (and it should for once at 3%!).

I was also pleasantly surprised by the Thornbridge effort on Stitch. OK this one is a relatively hefty 4% ( bantam weight?!) but the Bakewell boys don't always manage to hit the high notes of taste without an ABV to scare off many a mere mortal. For me, Stitch  is a better drink than the AM PM attempt at an all day IPA but then I find the seminal Founders AD IPA to be transatlantic blandness.

There's also plenty of little gems available in bottles from the likes of Beer Central, Hop Hideout and Beer Stop as the craftiest brewers seem to be working hard at both ends of the ABV scale. Siren / Hill Farmstead recently offered Love of Work, or was it Work of Love, which was very tasty at 3.6% and there are other good ones on them there shelves. Wiper & True`s Small Beer is below 3% and was recommended to us by the beer sages at The Broadfield and, sure enough, it is a one of the best to come of Bristol recently.

Unfined is fine by us.

The other alternative if you want big taste without an ABV to match is to look at the sour stuff. Again Siren is a great starting point but mebbe that line of drinking thinking will save for another day and another blogbit. It could be a Sour Summer ahead, ideally dry-hopped! Cheers!

A noticeable floral aroma here!

Thursday, 4 June 2015

Three Valleys Beer Festival

Now then, neither of us are big on traditional beer festivals. Standing around for hours in a village hall or a sports centre with a luke-warm twiggy brew in a half pint pot isn't our idea of a good day out. There are exceptions though with some innovative 21st century beer fests but essentially we are both pub people.

However, this weekend sees a real highlight in the annual ale err annual with the 3 Valleys Festival. This event is now in it's fifth year and encompasses an impressive 18 pubs around this corner of North Derbyshire. Even with our ale-y expertise and local knowledge (sophistication? I've been to Dronfield), we couldn't possibly comment on all the pubs but here are some highlights:-

The Travellers Rest, Apperknowle

On the outskirts of the Drone Valley this one so bus or hike here but expect an easy on the-eye aspect and an outdoor marquee bar. Ales are scheduled to include Salopian (a rarity in these parts), Hawkshead and Fyne Ales. Plus then the secluded Miners Arms at Hundall with an inflatable pub and Pictish a-plenty is walkable too!

The Dronfield Arms

First stop for those arriving by train ought to be The Dronfield Arms. This place has been on the up since it changed it's name from the Sidings half a dozen years back but it is still improving under the leadership of Edd ex of The Bath Hotel. Ale quality has definitely been upped and the Dronny Arms is quite a tidy boozer. Expect best beers to include Brass Castle, Bad Seed, Great Heck, Waen plus locals Raw. Sure the White Swan is close by,  The Three Tuns too, but the bottle experts The Beer Stop are closer and they will have handpulls a-ready too. Just don't tell anyone else about this little gem or it'll be crowded out!

The Coach and Horses

No surprise to see us recommend this place eh as it is nearest to Sheffilisation and thereby an ideal first or last stop of the day. Beautiful beers inside and out showcasing Thornbridge's finest (fancy some Tart?!) plus other highlights like Magic Rock, Brooklyn and Black Jack. And gourmet salads in the early Summer sun, or your money back!

Other top tips / sound sage advice:-

Suncream - It is wam dan Saff.
Don't get stranded at Barlow Brewery, although it is worth a visit. Take a tent.
If you manage to get a pint in all 18 pubs, we congratulate you and commiserate with your liver. Write off Sunday too.

Have fun and be careful out there!