Saturday, 27 August 2016

Abbeydale Brewery ; On the up!

Over the past few years, Steel City have consistently been our favoured brewery in Britain's real ale capital but this year it's certainly not as clear cut. Last year we went for Neepsend as best brewery after their superb start we they continue to build upon and more recently we have some new kids on the block in the shape of Little Critters, Sentinel and the excellent Lost Industry. Now then, add to that the improvement at the likes of Abbeydale and things just got interesting....
Pops vs Steel City @ Sheaf
 The signs were on the wall literally and metaphorically with the huge improvement at the Devonshire Cat since the S8 maestros took it over (have a look at their new `what beers are on` boards btw) and it now actually deserves its place in the Good Beer Guide. Signings from the likes of Shakespeare's mega pub, Blue Monkey and Buxton Brewery have heralded a more modern, crafty wave of Abbeydale ales.
Abbeydale? On keg? Beginning of the end?!
Having missed the (apparently excellent) 20th birthday celebrations for Moonshine (Sheffield`s most supped real ale, still) on the Friday night, I made sure that I was at Hop Hideout next morning, OK early afternoon, for the (kind of) launch of Abbeydale's first sour beer Mango Rango. A month or two earlier I had sampled (several) of what I'd rate as Abbeydale's best ever beer Hop Smash and Jim Rangley`s signature sour brew could be up in that league too. Jim is conscious of the current `craft ale` hop demands, but also of the fact that Abbeydale are well-connected and well-established in the market.  Jim reckons lagers and fruity pales are likely avenues along Abbeydale Road`s progressive beery pathway. Watch this space...
Mango pulp reality. YUIM.
                                                                                                       <(Filter `n `fine that beauty!)>
 For £3 a pint this was a real mango fest reminding me of the Great Alphonso (Magic Rock) and, more recently and closer to home,  Fruit Machine that Beer Central / Steel City produced last year (our beer of 2015 probably ) but here you get more sour elements too resulting in a quaffable yet thirst-quenching taste at about 4% ish.  Oh, yes.
Xmas past.
This `meet the brewer` event was a part of Hop Hideout's sour showcase, a canny idea from the brains-trust at 448 Abbeydale Road for the August Bank Holiday weekend. Great work all round.
Abbeydale on the UP!  

Wednesday, 24 August 2016

Sheffield city pub review (rolling the dice with sheffieldalepubs!)

Different one this. First in what will hopefully be a series of collaborative blog bits. Representing twobeergeeks we have Mike up against Pete off of the esteemed sheffieldalepubs. Plan is to draw up our own separate six pub short lists of establishments we would consider putting in our respective top ten for 2016, ones on the cusp as it were, at least this was my intention. Pete meanwhile did a canny mix; a couple of his favoured boozers, a couple that he wanted our opinion of and a couple from the leftfield. We then roll the dice (or is it die in the singular?) and see what pub the number indicates, pop in, have a half, peruse and pontificate.

twobeergeeks` selection
Now sheffieldalepubs is the ideal ally in this endeavour as, since starting his webpage in January 2015, Pete has visited 198 Sheffield ale houses, most of them repeatedly and regularly in order to keep his page's information right up to date. Recently Pete launched his `weekly news` which keeps the ale city abreast of all things beery every seven days and he`s about to launch a series of pub walks which will be available to access as PDFs.
sheffieldalepubs` choices
Meeting at the Tap and Tankard over a half of Ilkley stout (me) and Pale Rider (Pete ) we set out our plan, looked at our lists and rolled a 2 meaning the Old House as my choice and the still spanking new Head of Steam as Pete's, both a conveniently short stroll away. The first two places impressed us in different ways; the smiley service at the Old House reasserted the fact that this city chain (True North) seem to have a happy knack of recruiting well. The beer range here these days has come a long way from when they used to have just a couple of handpulls and a clutch of bottles. Similar with the Head of Steam in that there was a pleasing choice of seven plus keg and my Anarchy Blonde was as good as I could of hoped in a beer style that I don`t favour from a brewery that I do. Pete was happy enough with his beer from the ever-present Cameron`s stable.

 Next up the die took us to my wildcard Gatsby and then the Red Deer, now free of ties to Stancil. My Roosters YPA was not right so the kind barman refunded my money and replaced it free of charge with the steady Saltaire Pride, the only available ale here today.  After a wrong turn or two we found the Red Deer nice and busy for a Monday but two beers down from its usual array. However my Blue Bee Reet was er,  reyt as was Pete`s Sadler`s. Good to see so many folk in there too.
The final rolls indicated The Bath Hotel and The Hop. Now, I`d cunningly added the former as one of my choices as it `might not` make the 2BG`s Top 10 if standards drop with the manager Stef having left and of course this beautiful bar barely scraped into Sheffield CAMRA`s top 20, < cough,cough >.... Sure enough, my Neepsend (2BG`s brewery of the year 2015 btw)  red one was my best beer of the night and Pete was happy with his unusually hopped Blackjack brew. Love this place.
16th best pub in Sheffield, according to CAMRA!
All evening, the dice had been very kind to us with no great hikes between brews (3 of my selections were in Kelham area!) but this came to an end as The Hop was disappointingly closed, disappointing at least until I suggested substituting it with The Devonshire Cat! Now this place is so much improved and rightly Pete continues to promote it as one of his very favourite drinking spots. It has been a staple in the CAMRA Good Beer Guide but only since Abbeydale took it over could that really be deserved for the first time in a good five years I`d suggest.The clientele here is regularly boosted by the Corporation crowd (Scandinavia`s Arch Enemy on tonight) and students being fed by visiting parents. The ale selection is vast and varied now plus there`s also a clutch of keg offerings too. We stayed `traditional` though as I went for old favourite Abbeydale Deception, one of our first blog topics, and sheffieldalepubs selected Absolution, both of us selfishly ignoring Moonshine, a few days short of its 20th birthday and still the city`s most supped ale. A predictable end to an unpredictable evening of `research`. Cheers!
*You can find Pete`s very informative web page HERE - Sheffield Ale Pubs.*

Friday, 19 August 2016

Thornbridge - Days of Creation & Love Among The Ruins

Sour season is now in full swing and the best British breweries are now making forays into this traditional beer style whilst many are bogged down with (yet another) Double IPA. The focus of Bakewell's Thornbridge Brewery this Summer has, sure enough, been the sour with the previously blogged Serpent and now the barrel-aged double header of Love Among the Ruins and Days of Creation. Last year, we weren't Wild about Tart, but it was a start,  and this year has been a sour success.
Both brews are 'top end' and will set you back a tenner or thereabouts. Ironically, a year or two back Thornbridge were oft criticised for the hefty price tag on their ales availed to the brassic city of Sheffield. Nowadays their pricetags of £3 - £4 a pint are seldom seen as steep, more of a steel city steal but these specials are a different beast. The aging process required for any half decent sour (plus the cost of barrels, I guess) goes a long way to explaining the tenner but only if the beer measures in terms of quality. Lucky 7% ABV, or not...
In short, both are excellent and Love Among the Ruins is truly outstanding, well deserving of the category gold medal achieved at this year`s world beer cup. I had expected to enjoy the raspberry flavour of Days of Creation more than its twin's cherry bomb but the additional complexity of the latter is stunning. A short-lived fizz leaves a thin beige head and an inviting dark fruity-red haze.

 Both brews seem to develop as you drink them unveiling added depth and flavour as the fruit becomes more prominent. Initially, sour and yeasty aromas dominate then a hit of balsamic before fruit. Whether the ales' changes are due to aeration or warming to room temperature or whether they are fruitier further down the drink I'm not certain but there is plenty going on here even for the pickiest of palettes. Love Among The Ruins really is a tour de force for Rob Lovatt and the team at Bakewell, their best brew for a year or two in our humble opinion.  Great work. 
*Thanks again to gentleman James Broad at the Coach & Horses, the original and best Thornbridge tap, for providing these beauties.*