Saturday, 26 March 2016

Sentinel Brewing Co.

`Sentinel` - a soldier or guard whose job is to stand and keep watch or, in this case, a new brewery for the steel city.
We visited Sentinel Brewery for a look and a sample or several as  the super-successful Sheffield Beer Week drew to a close at the new premises located at the city end of Shoreham Street. Brewing has so far happened at the Marble brewery across the Pennines (we believe?) but a shiny new kit will soon be in place. The space is good with plenty of room, inside and out, in an area of town that ought to be able to support a brewery tap plus there is talk of a cafĂ© doing breakfasts and whatnot. The idea belongs to Alex Barlow who will be the boss here and the former carpet showroom will offer the chance to see the `theatre of the brewery`. Link ups with the University are also on the cards. The space inside could also work for small events we thought.  You can even buy a Sentinel t-shirt.

So to the beers; Early days sure enough but we enjoyed our drinks. The IPA was nicely drinkable at 6%+. Refreshing and crisp and utilising seasonal hops this will be a key beer in the range. The Orange Stout sounded interesting and was also quite quaffable although the citrus kick was very faint. We also had the American Red one which neither of us particularly favoured. There were also a couple of lagery types on offer too plus a best bitter.

Sentinel vs Steel City (`n` Arbor, `n` Hopcraft)
We reckon there are a lot of positives here and the Sentinel brewery should be a worthy addition to Sheffield`s beer experience. In terms of the beer, price will be key; with the IPA at £6 a pint on the day the beer has got to be great for Sheffield folk to sup it. Time will tell; stand and keep watch.

Wednesday, 9 March 2016

Sheffield Beer Week 2016 preview



An unexpected highlight from last year for us was the beer festival at The Bath Hotel as organised by Hop Hideout. Unfortunately that is not happening this year but similar events at Picture House Social seem to have superseded it and also 2016 sees a much bigger Sheffield Beer Week. Yes, every week in the Steel City could be claimed as a beer week but this one has lots to offer.
Organised by the brains trust at Hop Hideout together Chris B. of Shakespeares (Sheffield`s best pub), the events included span many fine pubs, many Sheffield breweries (and others from further afield) and also some off-piste ideas like Twitter hours and whatnot. Meanwhile, that Clare off of the famed feast and glory blog is also selflessly sorting a `hump day` pub tour.  Here are three Beer Week `ones to watch` in our expert (!) opinions:-
1) Tiny Rebel Tap Takeover at Bath Hotel, Wednesday 16th. Great pub meets the brewers of GBs best beer (red dream Cwtch), according to CAMRA. No brain winner. (And you could combine it with the Hump Day social pub crawl led by Clare for free).
2) Belgian Beer tasting with Chris at Shakespeare's, Wednesday 16th. In collaboration with Hop Hideout`s Jules, this event will surely provide tasty treats and info aplenty from two top Sheff beer boffins. (£10 only).
3) Blind beer tasting at The Three Tuns. Again Wednesday 16th , again great pub and an opportunity to stretch your palate by attempting to match beers to the relevant tasting notes. (£5)
Likely candidates...
So, it`s book a day off Thursday then!
Other highlights that are not on Wednesday :-
  • Buxton Brewery (they`re not bad!) at Shakies on Friday 18th on keg AND cask!
  • Crafty Devil - tap takeover at Thursday 19th Brewdog Sheffield. Quite a scoop on Div Street!
  • Brass Castle MTB at The TramShed, Thursday. If you`ve not visited this cool bar why not?!
LOADS more to go at. Check the website for more details.

If those don't fit, don't fret because there is a lot more to stimulate even the pickiest of pint punters as detailed on the helpful web page and brag book too. Let us know what`s good out there. Jules tells us that the aim is to bring together all the good things that are happening out there in beery Sheffield and it cunningly culminates with the SIBA event later in the week. Stay safe out there.

Wednesday, 2 March 2016

Montgomeryshire CAMRA Mid Wales Tour

Around this time of year, ale enthusiasts under the badge of CAMRA will be diligently collating and cogitating with regards to their recommendations for the tome that is the Good Beer Guide. To be fair, this is oft a year-long process but now we're at the business end of the beer season.

I hopped on board the fun bus with 14 other fine folk from the Montgomeryshire branch of CAMRA. Now this lot are active, proactive even, in their promotion of proper pints in the beautiful heart of rural Wales but their task is a tough one. Entry to the GBG ought to be presented by Willy Wonka in these parts as pubs aplenty procure pints that are pretty close to perfection...


 I met my convivial host Jon at the branches' HQ, The Sportsman in Newtown and it was plain to see why this boozer is a no-brainer in terms of GBG entry locally. Most pubs in this town are fizz-full but this place is the shiny tap house for Monty's brewery and my MPA was van ideal starter at 11.33 am. Long day of research ahead!

There were too many pubs to write about, and do justice, to individually so here's a list for reference:-

1. The Sportsman, Newtown.
2. The Red Lion, Trefeglwys.
3. The Bluebell, Llangurig.
4. The Black Lion Hotel, Llangurig.
5. The Old Mill, Llanidloes.
6. The Stag Inn Llanidloes.
7. The Mount Inn, Llanidloes.
8. The Red Lion, Llanidloes.
9. The Crown and Anchor, Llanidloes.
10. The Royal Head, Llanidloes.
11. The Angel, Llanidloes.
12. The Railway, Newtown.

Numbers 2, 3 and 4 are quite isolated village boozers that were welcoming and warm whilst the weather whistled by, worsening the further west we went!

Llanidloes, it seemed, was the where the west was won as the task here was a tall one; this market town of less than 2000 people has a plethora of pubs, many being really well worth a visit for any beery visitor.

Who should be in the GBG? Discussion at The Mount
The Stag was fun with an amenable jukebox taken over by top bloke Beeker and some 'mood music' whilst find of the day for me was the Old Mill. Located in the building of the former United Sevices Club, this place is great. It's a cosy, cobbled-together drinking den that is recycled and completely left field. Warm and welcoming, you would never find this artisan gem without a guide and I pushed hard for it to be strongly considered.

Beer scoring cogitation
 Other pubs in Llani tend to be more traditional in terms of layout and beer choice. Welsh ale is often that bit sweeter than that found elsewhere but pleasingly the pints were clearly well kept and mostly locAle. Three Tuns brewery were spotted several times but I preferred the Purple Moose and, best of all, was the Pamplemousse at the Old Mill, one of the beers by Llani's very own Waen Brewery. Crisp, clean, citrussy and moreish, Sue Hayward is rightly receiving acclaim from far afield aswell as having the best pint about when I visited.

The Mount and The Crown are also definitely worth a visit for anyone with an interest in the heritage and historical contribution of our pubs. The latter is fondly known as 'Ruby's' locally and has been lovingly run by the same landlady for 50 years! Half a dozen pubs here all within stumbling distance of one another and all offering very good ale, I'm pleased to report.

 I bobbed back to the Old Mill for another Pamplemousse before boarding the bus back East. A tactical snooze and a final pint of Tiny Rebel's Cwtch back in Newtown were in order along with chairman Ian 'Oz' Austin and co contemplating the day's findings. The Montgomeryshire branch have a tough job, but someone's gotta do it. When's the next trip!?

Thanks to all the pubs we visited and to all the fine people that I chatted with. You are doing a tremendous job supporting and promoting pubs and that is clearly appreciated.