Monday, 7 August 2017

Good beer near Bramall Lane (Sheffield United FC)

Beer and food pairings are all the rage aren't they but how's about beer paired with .... football. Marvellous.

With the new season finally upon us, the time has never been better to experience this dynamic duo; beer and football, in the Steel City. Whether celebrating victory or drowning sorrows, visitors to Bramall Lane nowadays have some great beery options close at hand. No guarantee on points but pints aplenty!

Arriving at the railway station, many visitors will be drawn to the beautiful Sheffield Tap. The restoration here is fantastic and the beer on offer is very varied including several of the inhouse Tapped ales; you might even see a brew in process. Also a short stroll away is the underrated Queens Head, Sheffield 's oldest pub, arguably, (plus football on TVs) and also the Rutland Arms. On the route to the ground, the Brown Street boozer has a beautiful Gilmour exterior and inside you'll find an array of ales that puts this place near the top of the table, particularly with its new management team (think Clough and Taylor) now in place plus pub grub from the Champions League of noms. .
ye Oldest?
The Rutty (call here!)
Also on the way to Bramall Lane, Shoreham Street hosts one of Sheffield's newest and most impressive ale outlets in the Sentinel Brewhouse.  The food here is top notch and the usual offer of a chip butty and a pint might be just the ticket before the match. There`s even a couple of Blades-themed brews in Kop and Champions. A welcome addition to the local ale scene, Sentinel deserve your support this season.

Pubs nearest to the ground are, for the best part, no longer the no-go areas for away fans that they once were and several offer a decent choice for the discerning drinker, space allowing. The Railway Hotel on Bramall Lane and the Cremorne and the Albion (both on London road) offering a selection on keg, cask and in bottle with the latter (reopened this Summer) often sporting 10 cask and 14 keg lines! Restrictions may apply regarding away fans on match day but `low profiles` can yield beery dividends!

However, our top recommendation for the discerning footy fan visiting the city would be The Beer Engine. Found on Cemetery Road, a five minute schlep from the away end, this place is a real table topper in the ale stakes, cask and keg, plus the food is a league above most of its rivals. This is the current twobeergeeks Pub of the Year and you'll always get a reasonably priced offering from local heroes Neepsend but they might well be rubbing shoulders with Premier League stars like Siren, Kernel and Northern Alchemy or even some Scandanavian stars.... The place is unconvential in design terms and service is spot on. Worldy.
2BG PotY 2016!
All the places that we mention, are likely to be very busy during the 90 minutes before and after the, errr,  90 minutes of football so they quite possibly offer an opportunity for an early kick-off or stopping over for a little extra-time. You know it makes sense.

If you need any advice about other drinking options, we can give you likely candidates for quality ale and ambience in Kelham Island or the City Centre or the other great (and walkable) option is Heeley. Just let us know. And feedback appreciated. Enjoy the season!
cheers, hic!

Saturday, 15 July 2017

American Pale Ale play-off #1 - Abbeydale vs. Brew Foundation vs. Vocation

Beer is fashionable and therefore vulnerable to fickle fads. Last year, and much of 2017 truth be told, we were subjected to DIPA after DIPA. How DIPA is your love? We even witnessed nuances like Imperial IPA, and continued efforts to make £9 9%ers taste like £2 Boots`fruit smoothies all good, for a bit, and us twobeergeeks are a bit divided with DIPA`s at the mo, as we discussed this week over a Verdant DIPA at the Dev Cat (yes, it was only about 8% and only £4 a half. By contrast, your average American Pale Ale is equally hackneyed but far more friendly on the old pocket whilst sufficiently stimulating to the old taste buds, bud. We`re talking sexy American hops with no specific ABV but you must expect plenty of citrus fruit taste and trans-Atlantic aromas.


So, simple idea here. Budget plan and one that you can replicate domestically, is to get three APAs from a local outlet (NO supermarkets!) and blind taste to choose a winner, then mebbe add a note or two to justify choice. The longer term aim here is to get a `winner` from this semi-final and then have another three-way play-off, before a `final`. All GB made (GBAPA, anyone?) with no foreigners allowed, Nigel....

So, all three, blind-tasted, ranked and then re-visited for double check and a tad more detail. All three were canned ales purchased from the ever excellent Mitchell`s Wines and their ever-expanding craft ale fridge.

Triple threat, albeit a pretty one

Heathen (4.1%) by Abbeydale Brewery - I was pleased that I instantly recognised this from the upfront aroma, floral and citrus, trans-atlantic all the way. Doesn`t disappoint. A great value loc-ale snazzily packaged by James D. Murphy`s genius and the team down t`road in S7 who really are thinking progressively nowadays. Great beer with bags of taste for the buck, and the ABV.

Free Beer (4.4%) by The Brew Foundation - oft associated with Sheffield but actually brewed somewhere in t`hills betwixt here and Cheshire. Admittedly, I didn`t notice that this one was gluten free despite it being clearly labelled as such on the can but I did notice the hops; Chinook, mosaic and simcoe. Yum. Not bad but rather tinny / metallic and a very short-lived head, struggling against some err, heady competition. Barley and wheat are used in the process but later removed using brewers clarex. Possibly a contender in a different emerging field....!?

Pride & Joy (5.3%) by Vocation Brewery. Again another bargain beer and another from not too far afield over in Hebden Bridge, west side of Yorkshire, near Halifax. Apparently, Vocation have recently opened a tap house that sounds pretty cool and, if the beers are on this kind of par, we need to get there. Bold, resinous aromas and a nice bitter but citrus taste that lingers pleasantly.


Final Scores
3rd. Free Beer - Brew Foundation. Lives to fight another day....
2nd. Heathen - Abbeydale. Local heroes in hoppy heaven.
1st. Pride & Joy - Vocation. Worth a place in any final.

Monday, 3 July 2017

Thornbridge versus True North, Head2head (Parts 3 & 4)

In Sheffield we are fortunate enough to have two excellent pub chains : Thornbridge Brewery and True North. We are fans of both because of their quality in terms of pub, service and, of course, ale. We score these three aspects out of five and then award an arbitrary addition for the X factor. This is even more subjective and based on our true feeling therefore the service may gain additional credit (up to 5 marks), or for the `atmosphere` or the location or whatever we reckon makes the pub stand out from the competition. Simples.

Our idea here is to match up pubs of theirs (according to the `style` / target audience in order to allow a fair `fight`) and decide which one wins. The first two contests saw the Coach and Horses win against The Blue Stoops whilst the Stag`s Head drew with the Waggon and Horses.

Match 3

Two city pubs for this one with the Old House on Division Street and the Bath Hotel on err Bath street. Both convenient to call in on a crawl but the Bath is a better bet to settle into for a session, particularly in the winter when the fire is a um, sure fire winner. Meanwhile the food at the Old House is on a par or thereabouts with the other True North houses. Yum.
In beery terms, both tend to showcase their own brews but with some great guests too so an edge here for Thornbridge as their award-winning levels are tough to top.
Inside, both are well-presented and, when the Bakewell boys took over the Bath, the refurb remained true to the pub's heritage marrying it well with the brewery's own much-copied sleek style. Meanwhile the Old House's big bar and varied seating lends itself equally well to after-work drinks, food or bar-hopping.

 <<<<<<<<<< Bath Hotel 16/20 -  Old House 13/20 >>>>>>>>>>
beer in the Bath is tough to top
Another big win for Thornbridge but both well worthy of pub crawl stop-off.

Two on the outskirts next, both former favourites of ours, S8 versus S7....
Match 4

The Cross Scythes on Derbyshire Lane rewards those who scale Scarsdale lane with a consistently well kept pint. Since Thornbridge took over this place half a dozen years back (?) they smartened it up no end and it's now a stylish establishment with four varied rooms and beer garden front and back. Fare now appears to be exclusively Thornbridge with discounts on Wednesdays and a loyalty card to boot.

Whilst the Cross refurbishment is admirable, the Broadfield was veritably transformed at about the same time and it attracts a lovely mixed yet discerning crowd often wooed by the food but the beer here is great too. A recent visit yielded an outstanding Wylam Inferno IPA plus a new collaboration between Black Iris (a staple herein) and Seattle`s Reubens brewery in Black Strap & Bourbon, a 10% monster stout. The Broady beer can be costly (and there`s no price list) but selection is usually err, Broad.
<<<<<<<<< Cross Scythes 13/20 - The Broadfield 15/20 >>>>>>>>>>
So Thornbridge lead 2-1 at the moment.

Old bit on Broady HERE 2013!

Friday, 23 June 2017

Northern Black by Thornbridge & Steve `Papa` Edwards

Now then, lots going on out there in the beery heaven that is Sheffield. Derbyshire neighbours Thornbridge Brewery have been having a great 2017 with a number of initiatives including Monthly Specials but this one has flown under the radar somewhat. June`s offering is officially Wye, a cucumber pale ale (why?!) but a better bitter bet, in our humble opinions, is Northern Black which was brewed in collaboration with local musical superhero Steve `Papa` Edwards. The Beauchief boy has worked with everybody in music Toddla T., Basement Jaxx, Richard Hawley etc. and so a collaboration with Thornbridge must have been the only item left on the Edwards` bucket list!

Northern Black @ Cross Scythes

I was fortunate enough to be one of the first to sample Northern Black (named after Steve`s L.P.) at the Coach and Horses soon after it was released and it hit all the right notes in my book. NB is a `Jamaican Stout` with a dark body and off-white head that lasted well from cask. The mouthfeel is nice and gritty, like a thick coffee, with a malty backbone that is filled out by the muscovado sugar sweetness that has been added to provide that hint of Carribbean rum. At 5% Northern Black is quite
quaffable with a nice, lingering dry bitterness and I`d put this as one of Thornbridge`s better stouts. It is also definitely one of the better collaborations betwixt muso and brewery (please, nobody mention Trooper by Robinson`s and that Worksop pilot bloke!).

Lookin` good @Coach `n` Horses
We asked a few questions to Steve and he was kind enough to reply:-
  1. What was your first experience of `drinking`? Me and our kid having a sneaky swig of Colt 45 at Christmas in the 70s.
  2. Can you name your top 3 local pubs? The Broadfield / The Sheaf / The Greystones
  3. Favourite Thornbridge beer? Sequoia
  4. Ever homebrew? Never but my Uncle John used to make wine - Elderflower, Nettle, you name it.
  5. How did the Thornbridge opportunity come about? I worked on their recent Faux Lord campaign I'm one of the original Lords). Northern Black is my autobiographical song & I may have mentioned that I thought it was a great name for a beer. Something dark, sweet & soulful. They must've like the idea.
  6. What`s your favourite tipple other than beer? Whiskey
  7. Beauchief and Woodseats needs better pubs, doesn`t it? Deffo, the Abbey is ok but's a bit too try hard. I sometimes have a sneaky one with the lads in the Chantrey on quiz nights but there's not a great beer selection. As for Beauchief, well there's no pub anyroad. Says it all.
  8. Food and beer matching is all the rage. Can you name a favourite track or two and an ideal drink to match?! A pint of Northern Black whilst listening to Northern Black or Seqouia listening to A Message To You Rudy.
  9. Musical plans in the pipeline? Any Tramlines tips? My new project Universal Tree are playing the Kabal All Dayer in the Plug Car Park, 4pm on Tramlines Saturday. I'm also doing my Steve Edwards Quartet at the Harland Cafe, Sept 8.
  10. Sheffield is the capital of real ale. Where else is good for a decent pint? Leeds, Manchester, Peak District, Devon, Cornwall, Worksop.
  11. Best Sheff music talent past, present and future?! Joe Cocker / Arctic Monkeys / Human League / Moloko / Crooked Man / Universal Tree / Longpigs / Matic Mouth / Pulp.
Here's a link to a live video of Northern Black
All good things and that. The first track in our In Session with Steve 'Papa' Edwards, directed by Helene Michealides of Cuckoo Films with steadicam by Tony ...

Steve also has a single called A Good Life which is out now. All sales are going to the 60/600 Challenge for the Alzheimers` Society, a great cause.
Download links:
A Good Life: Steve Edwards: MP3 Downloads
Cheers Steve! Plenty of proof there that this chap has taste and now you need to taste Northern Black, whilst listening to the above; you won`t regret it. Peace.

Thursday, 4 May 2017

Thornbridge versus True North, Head2Head (Parts 1 & 2)

In Sheffield we are fortunate enough to have two excellent pub chains : Thornbridge and True North. We are fans of both because of their quality in terms of pub, service and, of course, ale. We score these three aspects out of five and then award an arbitrary addition for the X factor. This is even more subjective and based on our real feeling therefore the service may gain additional credit (up to 5 marks), for the atmosphere or the location or whatever we reckon makes the pub stand out from the competition. Simples.

Our idea here is to match up pubs of theirs (according to the `style` / target audience in order to allow a fair `fight`) and decide which one wins. Super Simples. Fiiiiiigggghhhhhhtttttt!

Match 1

 The Blue Stoops vs The Coach and Horses (The Dronny Derby)

 Both of these represent Derbyshire outposts right on the edges of Sheffilization. Both chains are essentially city-based but these two Dronfield boozers are worth an excursion from the Steel City. The 43 bus stops right outside the Coach whilst the recently renovated Stoops is adjacent to the civic centre and so served or reachable by most buses heading this way as well as the railway station which isn't far either.

The Coach is a cosy roadside boozer, good for all seasons and always affording a warm welcome whether it's to families or footy fans. Ales normally include five Thornbridge plus a guest and a real cider. Locals Drone Valley often feature. There's also a selection of four kegs and a decent back bar. All quality.

 Blue Stoops is admittedly food-oriented but offers the drop-in drinker an amenable space to sup four ales on cask plus a smattering on keg. Inside, it is sleek and stylish, a real statement from Kane's crew with a definite wow factor. True North ales are decent and drinkable but not often at the same standard as the ever award-winning Bakewell-based Thornbridge. Expect the likes of Titanic to back up the TN brews. I'm not 'into' toilets but the WCs here are Premier League fwiw!

>>>>>>>> Score - Coach & Horses 16/20 beats Blue Stoops 14/20 <<<<<<<<

With a better beer range, the Blue Stoops could be a fantastic pub.

Match 2

 The Waggon and Horses vs. The Stags Head 

OK, so here we have two family-friendly pubs that are food-orientated but we look at the other stuff, maybe considering the pubs ethos in our x factor five marks.

The Waggon only opened in March after a bit of TLC rather than a total refurbishment. Food is high quality as in all the True North houses with the service to match. In spite of the staff being new, they work hard to please. Drinks included four cask and four keg when we visited, mostly True North but with guests including Vocation and quite likely Black Iris.

 The Stag over on Psalter Lane has lots of similarities. The food is similar in quality and value although possibly a bit more traditional and this is served up by a cohesive and knowledgeable staff. Another similarity is that both pubs are quite open plan yet with lots of tables to suit the gastro-pub feel. Ales are plentiful, Thornbridge on cask and keg.

 >>>>>>>>>>Score - Waggon & Horses 12/20 Stag`s Head 12/20<<<<<<<<<<<<

A tie for us but let us know what you think!

Friday, 24 March 2017

`Cherried Alive`! - twobeergeeks` brewday with Hop Jacker & Jon Terry

TwoBeerGeeks were lucky enough to be invited up to Hopjacker which is located at The Dronfield Arms to do a collaboration brew with head brewer Edd and the landlord of The White Lion Jon Terry. Mike having a proper job was unable to make it but I was over the moon to be able to get involved.
Edd had already decided on the beer. It was to be a chocolate cherry mild around 4.3% and Jon came up with the name of `Cherried Alive`. The pump clip had already been knocked up so all that was left was to get cracking.

The famous Mister Edd
Edd was kind enough to pick us up on the morning of the brew and on the journey to Dronfield we had a fascinating conversation about the complexities of  the hop market. I had no idea there was such a thing a hop quota and brewers don’t just have to consider what they need this year they have to think about the following year too. It’s easy to forget as a consumer that brewers don’t just have an endless supply of citra and all your other favourite hops and actually have to work pretty damn hard to get hold of them.

Like gold dust but tastier
After a cup of tea Edd wasted no time in getting me to work weighing out the malt which consisted of Marris Otter, Munich, Cara Light, 60L Crystal, Chocolate and Black Malt.

As the Mash began the smell and steam filled the brewery and it was time to sample some beers. First up was the Kali Ipa straight out of the fermentor and it was a monster, A murky hop bomb packed to the rim with Galaxy and Chinook. I wouldn’t normally touch a 6.4% beer at 11 in the morning but I wolfed down the lot. Next up was the Hop Jacked single hopped series Citra which was again outstanding. It tasted exactly like a beer that said Citra on it should do and left me wanting more but unfortunately we had work to do.
After the sparge it was down to me to climb in the mash tun and shovel out all the grain which I was pleased to learn is passed along to a local farmer to feed his cows.
Next up was the boil into which at various stages went cocoa powder, cocoa nibs and morello cherries. We added Magnum hops for bittering and Brewers Gold for Aroma. The aroma from the steamy vapour that filled the small brewery during the boil made me giddy with anticipation of what the beer will eventually taste like and that’s before Edd adds even more cherries and cocoa nibs after a few days of fermentation.
When we transferred the wort to the fermentor it had a rich chocolatey colour with a slight tint of red from the cherries. Edd pointed out the importance of keeping the wort aerated at this stage in preparation for the yeast being added. And after that had been done all that was left was to let the magic happen.
I was pleased not to be given the job of climbing into the boiler to clean it out and generally stood around awkwardly while Edd and Jon cleaned up. They didn’t seem to mind though and I was pleased when Edd suggested we finished the day with a another glass of the Citra, this time on keg from the pub upstairs. Its an exceptional beer, unfined, hazy and delicious. It was a fitting end to a great day.

You can always find Hopjacker beers in The Dronfield Arms or The White Lion. The Kali Ipa will be available in bottles (if I don’t buy them all first). Cherried Alive will also be available at Shakespeares, The Club House, The White Lion, The Dronfield Arms and The Spireite and maybe a beer festival or two not too far away!

Friday, 3 March 2017

The Waggon & Horses (by True North) at Millhouses

New month and another new venue for the True North chain. They now have ten places dotted around the Steel City and slightly beyond with the most recent being the Waggon and Horses situated roadside next to Millhouses Park.

Excitedly approaching.......
The Waggon is an impressive coaching inn dating back to about err, ages ago. However, recent incarnations as a grill restaurant and an ill-fated period as a pesto place have flunked. Success at the Broadfield and its ilk has been based on quality in beer, food, service and the whole ambience; True North venues thus attract a discerning yet quite diverse crowd. They seem to have the formula for success in these tough times for our local boozers. Beer-wise they also have a good balance between their own house beers, which are nice enough, a few other locals like Abbeydale and Bradfield but also nationally renound breweries like Siren, Arbor and Magic Rock. On a recent visit to the Broady I was even treated to an Evil Twin Ying, or was it Yang? Anyway at 10%ish this beer and brewery are understandably known Europe-wide and found there on a Monday afternoon on Abbeydale Road. Quality.

Millhouses deserves a decent public house. The Ale House on Fraser Road is fine and attracts a loyal crowd whilst The Millhouses and the Robin Hood are very much food-orientated and rather lacking in the range and quality of ales that many of us desire.

The Waggon and Horses opened on March 1st for the first time and I couldn't resist a brief visit on the Thursday, the second day in its reincarnation. The place seems to be neatly and logically split with food tables to the left of the building from roadside and the other side being more drink-orientated. Lighting was low and the music more prominent than I expected but it was busy with a mix of ages - from early evening dining senior citizens and young families to couples and groups out for an exploratory post-work pint. Round the corner were a duo of couples with babes in arms, which was nice to see. The proximity to the park will be key to the success of this place; Millhouses Park is an oasis for families with children and enticing them in here is vital.

The Waggon and Horses' staff were polite, friendly, helpful and diligent quickly quelling any queries from their potential public. I was swiftly given a loyalty card and the benefits of it were clearly explained. (I did have a Broady one at some point but it was 'electronic' and so rarely used and rarely requested tbh). Not sure on the decor as it was a bit dim and a tad too busy to have a proper poke around. Don`t expect a Broady-like transformation though! I did see some stuffed birds though which is great news for ornithological spotter types. Or really bad news, I'm not sure....

Vocation = yum!
The choice of ale was a little less than I had expected with True North on cask x2 plus a Black Iris stout and then about similar kegwise. Early days, mind and demand will determine, I'm sure. The TN session pale contain some sexy hops but paled into insignificance compared to the belting Vocation `Heart and Soul`, which was on keg at £4.20. Black Iris also seem to have close links to True North and their Red Rye IPA on keg was 5%, ok and close to a fiver. Add on a decent back bar with 30 + gins and all in all , the rebirth of the Waggon and Horses looks to be promising at worst. I reckon the reigns are now in safe hands. Ye ha!

Friday, 17 February 2017

Little Critters

A Thursday afternoon schlep over to deepest, darkest Neepsend took us past brewing`s past and up to shiny new Sheffield stars Little Critters to chat to Will Inman (ex-Thornbridge) who is the main man up there. Although they`ve only being around for a year or so, Little Critters have made a great start selling plenty of product around our city but particularly at the Fox and Duck (Broomhill) as well as at Doctor`s Orders. However, Will`s beers have been spotted as far afield as Brighton and their C Monster was a great success at the Steel City Beer Festival last year.

Cannon brewery, Rutland road

Why brewing? An internship over in the states really inspired Will as he learnt all aspects of the industry under the tutelage of none other than Dave Wickett, brewing pioneer. Tasting the likes of Stone and Firestone Walker was very influential too.

Top hops? Chinook, cascade and centennial.

Favourite pubs? Hallamshire House, Sheffield Tap and BrewDog.

Favourite Thornbridge tipple? Chiron.

Dream collaboration? Already done it! (Will worked with Sierra Nevada to produce Thornbridge`s Twin Peaks. See below). Another collaboration is on the cards very shortly with Sheffield Beer Week in mind......

Future plans for Little Critters? Expansion. They are increasing capacity imminently and taking over the unit next door to them on the industrial estate.

Next trend in beer? Lager. Expensive kit though.

Big one: What can Sheffield do to capitalise on its position as real ale capital of Britain? Bottle and keg! This would facilitate Sheffield beer being more widely available around the country. It would be ideal if the local breweries clubbed together to buy a bottling unit but they are expensive and do need a lot of maintenance.

Many thanks to Will for sparing the time to chat and show us around the brewery. It will exciting to see how their plans pan out and they`re sure to be one of the stars of Sheffield Beer Week next month. Cheers!

Our review of Twin Peaks, one of our first blog bits! - HERE !

Friday, 20 January 2017

New year news - Abbeydale, Thornbridge & True North

New year, new hope. Whilst we all recognise that January is generally a quiet month in the wonderful world of beer, thankfully the same can not be said of ale in our City of Steel.
First up, we hear that True North are taking over at the Waggon and Horses! Adjacent to Millhouses Park, this road-side coaching inn has bags of potential and it'll be interesting to see what the team behind the Forum chain have in store for us. We reckon the trademark quality drinks and food that TN pride themselves on will woo the folk of S7, S8 and S11 over to Abbeydale Road plus plenty of post-parkplay punters too. Due to reopen in February and so only a couple of months after the reopening of the historic Blue Stoops! Watch this space.
Next, Bakewell's best Thornbridge have taken the #dryanuary beast by the horns and served up a few initiatives of their own to get us through the winter. The loyalty card where you get a free pint for every ten purchased is simple, effective and appreciated by us loyal supporters.

Go on then! Another pint!
Furthermore, a trio of 'guest fests' have mixed things up a bit with Hawkshead up at the Greystones looking the best bet to us but Northern Monk at the Bath or Siren up at Hallamshire House will tickle many an beery fancy too. And thirdly, Thornbridge have given us a glimpse of the year ahead with a new beer each month already laid out for us. Oh yes!
Puja!!!! MANGO Halcyon!!!!
 Last but not least, Abbeydale brewery are stretching their legs again. Following the much talked-about complete refurb at the Devonshire Cat, which has divided opinion amongst the drinkers we've spoken to, they have now put out a rebrand of their core range in the form of more modern pump clips which pay tribute to the brewery`s heritage and which you'll see on your bars very soon. The new artwork has been led by James Green, who Danny has been a fan of for quite some time. The colours are striking and the designs should look much more up to date in an increasingly competitive marketplace.
Hard core!
 Danny, as our 2BG art expert, is not quite convinced that the clips are uniform enough and maybe hoped for more but, like the Abbeydale ales of 2016, the artwork is a sure signal that the brewery continue to strive to improve and modernise their offerings, 21 years young!.
Anymore Hop Smash on the way?! Or Rango?
Exciting times Sheffield! Cheers.