Monday, 21 March 2016

Lubricating the Wheels of Steel. The Sheffield crawl.

Sheffield, the Steel City. A city which is Home to 2 former Premier League football teams, Sheffield Wednesday and Sheffield United, and the oldest football club in the World, in Sheffield F.C. It. is the venue for The World Snooker Championships, the birthplace of a couple of unrelated musical Rockers (or Cockers), Joe and Jarvis, as well as the location for the eight largest retailing emporium in the UK, Meadowhall Shopping Centre. With a few days off work, it was decreed that T'other 'arf, and I, would pay the city a visit. Retail therapy was in the air, and I fancied a bevy or two, so why not? We arrived on a cold, but pleasant, Monday lunchtime towards the end of February, and soon made our way off the station, to be confronted with The Water Cascade, a bold and impressive statement of art in Sheaf Square. The roads around here are busy and bustling, but we were soon making our way away from the hustle and bustle to our first port of call, and the latest review was under way. I will now indulge you with our opinions of the pubs and beer of Sheffield.


The Sheffield Tap. Sheaf Street
The Sheffield Tap.
This former railway refreshment room is accessible from both the station platform, and the street. It is a multi roomed bar, which has been very tastefully decorated in the style of its Edwardian heyday. High ceilings, and plenty of wood panelling, alongside huge mirrors and tiles keep the curious historians happy, but the display of bar taps is also an eye opener. 11 traditional hand-pulls, and 12 “continental” swing taps dispense cask and craft keg beers, being just a facade to a collection of, so I was told, over 200 bottled beers. A lazy beer lover could drop anchor here, and spend the rest of their stay in this fine bar, but we would only be having a swift one before moving on. I chose one of the Thornbridge Brewery ales, “Sequoia”, an Amber Ale of 4.5%, which was light, fruity and had a lovely nut taste to it. It isn't packed with flavours, but that is the point, I guess. It is as smooth as velvet in the mouth, the finish is medium, but satisfying and, above all, it is just oh, so easy to drink. If it was a gentleman's attire I would describe it thus. It isn't top hat and tails, or denims and trainers, more dressing gown and slippers. Nice. My Half-Pint taster chose a Chantry “18 Eight”, a 4.6% Bitter. This was another good beer, with sweet malt at the fore, and a good dry bitterness in the long finish. A good pub with great beer.

The Rutland Arms. Brown Street.
The “Slutty Rutty” is a pub I have been in before, many years ago, and it isn't what you would call glamorous. Traditional? Yes, but definitely not a posh wine bar styled boozer. There are 8 cask ales on, as well as some craft beers. The décor is a touch dated, but, I suppose, fitting with the surroundings. The bar staff are very friendly, and soon we were choosing our ales. Jane chose the “Hilltop Best Bitter” from The Blue Bee Brewery, which, unfortunately, didn't clear at all in the glass, and was changed for a half of Jennings' “Sneck Lifter”. I have always found this 5.1% Old Ale full of complex flavours, with caramel, fruit, toffee and hints of liquorice all combining well, with a slight spiced back taste, and T'other 'arf endorsed this. My beer, from Dark Star, was the 5.7% American Pale Ale, “Revelation”. I found it packed with peach, tropical fruits and a whisper of nuttiness. The sweetness of the malts come through well, and then the bitterness takes over and leads the drinker to an increasingly dry finish. Marvellous stuff. A pleasing APA/IPA.

Henry's Cafe Bar. Cambridge Street
A good selection in Henry's
After a bit of window shopping, our next port of call was to be The Brewhouse, but this venue wasn't open until the evening, so, the Brewhouse's adjoining, handily placed sister bar was our location for the next drink. Henry's is smart, modern and a comfortable bar to drop into, whether you are having a coffee and a bite to eat, or one of the real ales which adorn the counter. The selection of beers is quite good, eight on tap, I think, and I chose the locally produced Sheffield Brewery Co “Winter Double Porter” to accompany T'other 'arf's glass of Draught Bass. The Bass, at 4.4%, was as good as I can remember this old favourite tasting, with a rich malty vein prominent throughout. My “Winter Double Porter” also imparted a good malt taste, with lovely burnt caramel giving way to a mix of chocolate, liquorice and strains of coffee. I didn't remember to get the ABV, but with a porter as enjoyable as this, who cares!

The Tap and Tankard. Cambridge Street.
Pork Pies and a Beer. Tap and Tankard.
Just a little way down the road from Henry's is the Kelham Island Brewery owned Tap and Tankard, a traditional boozer, with a reasonable selection of both the “house” beers and guests ales. Also on sale at the bar are the “famous” Kelham Island” Pork Pies. The beers we chose in here were 5% “Bitter That”, an Extra Special Bitter from The Brew Foundation, and a pint of Kelham Island “Bete Noire”. The half pint of ESB was light, fruity but had good maltiness to it. It was easy drinking for its strength, and was enjoyed on this cold afternoon, as much as it would have been in a beer garden in the summertime. A beer for all seasons. The “Bete Noire”, a 5.5% Hirisk Stout is smooth dark and fruity, with bitter dark chocolate in the main, and a wonderful bitter-sweetness to finish. A very good ale to savour, especially when accompanied with a pork pie.

J.D.Wetherspoon's The Steel Foundry, Meadowhall Shopping Centre.
After a bit of window shopping, I was dragged, like a naughty schoolchild, to this man-crèche, otherwise known as The Steel Foundry, based in the shopping centre. This “Wethers” is a little lacking in character, but, to be fair, the retail environment does nothing for it. The range is typical of the company, and all the favourites, including food deals, are available. The beers I chose to have in here were White Horse “Wayland Smithy”, a 4.4% Ruby coloured Bitter, and a Brewsters “Cock-a-Doodle-Doo”. The “Wayland Smithy” imparted a good maltiness, with slight fruit and caramel sweetness coming through before an almost grassy and bitter finish. “Cock-a-Doodle-Doo” a 4.3% Bitter has a touch of dark fruits in the initial taste, balanced with a biscuit maltiness. The dry bitter finish is adequate, but no more. I thought both these were OK, but nothing special.

The Old Queen's Head. Ponds Hill.
The exterior to this Alehouse is steeped in history, and, it is said to occupy the oldest dwelling in the City, add to that the tales of hauntings and Ghost tours by arrangement, this Thwaites' pub is certainly interesting. Inside, the décor is tasteful, but also quite modern, but the old beams and timber work are still apparent. After the “retail” gig, and freshening up back at the hotel, we decided we would have our evening meal in here, to start our night off. The food is reasonably priced, and the beer selection is quite good too. After ordering our food, we chose our drinks, with Jane deciding on refreshing, light and citrus backed 4.1% “Wainwright's” Golden Ale, and I, the 4.7% “Symphonic”, both by Thwaite's. Symphonic is a rich, full blooded Stout, which is packed with fruit flavours, noticeably plum, with hints of chocolate and coffee. There is a slight spicy tang in the fruity but dry finish. A really enjoyable beer. My second drink was “Nutty Black” from the same brewery which is a 3.3% Mild. The taste is roasted nuts, with a bitter-sweet character to it. This is a good mild, which was, sadly, overwhelmed by the flavours of my original Ale. The beer, the food, the general friendliness found in here make it a place to return to.

The Brewhouse. Wellington Street.
The periodic table of Ale and Beer
Bright, light and modern is the best way to describe this bar. It feels comfortable, but with a brash attitude, with that “bubble-gum” American Diner atmosphere to it. Saying that it isn't “in your face”, but certainly not a pipe and flat cap local. The bar has its own brewery, and features up to ten different cask ales, usually from local sources, along with a wall of craft keg taps. The Stella Artois glasses forming chandeliers above the bar is a nice touch, as is the periodic table of beers on the wall. Add to that the extremely friendly bar staff, who also man, or woman, the pumps next door in Henry's, and it makes a nice place to drop into. Our drinks in here were Sheffield Brewing Company “PhilanthropicAle” and “Hill Top Best Bitter” from Blue Bee Brewery. The “PhilanthropicAle” is a Chinook IPA of 4.7%, and is quite a spicy ale, with a good, but subtle, citrus edge, which is refreshing on the palate and, although light, is very full flavoured. Jane's 4% “Hill Top Best Bitter” was quite malty, with hints of fruit, and a biscuity aftertaste. A good solid no-nonsense traditional bitter.

The Three Tuns. Silver Street.
To view this pub from the outside, at night, after a long day, and wearing beer goggles, set my mind back to those old photographs of New York, and the Flat Iron Building on 5th Avenue, although our building is not so tall, boasting a mere 3 storeys, and not the twenty that its Manhatten cousin has. No matter, size isn't everything, and the beer and boozer in which it is served is what it is all about on this blog! The décor in this triangular shaped pub is tasteful, with a Victorian feel to it. Mahogany is well evident throughout, and the shape gives it a nautical feel, especially towards the “pointy” end. Again, the beer selection is good, with a good local representation. I chose an “Argentinian Cascade Pale Ale”, a 4% brew from the North Riding Brewery, whilst T'other 'arf went for the Kelham Island “Easy Rider”, the classic 4.3% golden coloured Pale Ale. “Argentinian Cascade Pale” is a dry, fruity and solid tasting beer, with a strong bitter finish, whilst the “Easy Rider” is a big punchy brew, with a fruity backbone, a nice balanced bitter-sweetness and a finish that is long and quite bitter. A nice way to finish our first evening in Sheffield.


The Old House. Devonshire Street.
With a bit more “retail therapy” proposed to get under way, I was shoo-ed off to find my own entertainment. With my list in hand, I set of to find The Old House. This is a very friendly cafe bar, near the University campus and the Devonshire Quarter's shopping area. Inside, one will find an airy layout, with old records on the wall and bare floors. Not only are there a good range of cask ales on in here, they are also backed up with a eclectic selection of World Craft bottled beers, not to mention the 100+ gins! There are, in fact, monthly Gin Schools, where you can make your own gin, by adding whatever botanicals you want. My beer in here was “Sheaf Blonde” a True North Brewing Co, This 4% beer is light, zesty, with a good hoppy taste. The bitterness is well balanced and the finish is quite dry. A refreshing beer to start today's session with.

The Devonshire Cat. Wellington Street
Just around the corner you will find this modern, friendly boozer. It has around 12 hand pumps and Abbeydale brews are well evident. Next to the bar is a little shop, which sells bottled beers, presumedly as off sales. I chose a pint of “Dev Cat Stout” in here, from The Blue Bee brewery. This is a 4.8% Stout with smooth malty bitter-sweet flavours throughout. I thought it just a bit thin, but still an outstanding brew. I liked the ambience of this place, which was just getting busy with lunchtime clientele as I was leaving to meet back up with the diligent shopper.

The Fat Cat. Alma Street, Kelham Island.
The Fat Cat
Now re-united, T'other 'arf and I made our way across the busy A61, to Kelham Island, and The Fat Cat. This pub has won many accolades, both locally and nationally, and is as traditional as it comes. The interior is small, but the welcome huge and warm. There are 6 ever changing guest beers alongside a couple of Kelham Island brews, Timothy Taylor's and a cask cider, or two. The pork pies are also evident. Many original features adorn the bar, with brewing and steel making memorabilia also on show. Our beers in here were both from the Kelham Island range (when in Rome.......and with the beer plant only 20 something yards away!). I went for the excellent “Pale Rider” which is wonderfully fruity, with a hint of peach evident, and has a lovely bitterness to it. There is a resinous feel on the palate before the long satisfying finish. This is a very moreish 5.2% Golden Ale. Jane chose the “Best Bitter”, and, again, this was a very good beer. 3.8%, and well balanced, with sweet caramel and nutty strains, this is a very easy drinking bitter.

The Kelham Island Tavern. Russel Street.
Another traditional boozer with original features, and up to 13 real ales on. This is a place to rest awhile with one of the excellent beers that are on offer. The range always includes a mild and stout, as well as a gluten-free beer, and many fruit beers, wheat beers and continental drinks. Jane opted for the “Barnsley Bitter”, while I chose “Gorlovka Imperial Stout”, both from the Acorn Brewery. My stout was full bodied, with a nice richness. Liquorice and roast malt flavours are abundant, with fruit and slight chocolate hints. The finish to this 6% beer is smooth, slightly bitter-sweet and long. The Bitter was also well received, with its hints of toffee and fruit well balanced all the way to the good bitter finish.

Shakespeare's. Gibraltar Street.
Just back over the A61 you will find this pub. It has up to 9 real ales on tap, alongside Continental lagers and a good range of over 50 bottled beers. Upstairs is The Bards Bar, which features live music, whilst folk music is also featured in the downstairs rooms, one of which has a 1950's Juke Box, free to use. My half-pinter went for another “Barnsley Bitter” in here, this time from the Stancil Brewery. It was nice and malty, with a smooth and almost silky mouth feel. Another well balanced beer at 3.8%. “Abandon All Hop”, a collaboration brew from Raw Brewing and Steel City Brewing was my tipple. No hops in beer? Well, although tasting a touch sweet, almost like cola, it worked. There was some bitterness there, from other herb infusions, and a touch of orange peel, but it is a nice floral, fruiy tasting ale. Interesting, if nothing else.

BrewDog. Devonshire Street.
BrewDog Sheffield
How do you describe a BrewDog pub? Well, it was just like a BrewDog pub! They are what they are. Why alter a tried and tested formula. The staff are very friendly, and informative of their wares, which makes the experience enjoyable. “This Is Lager” at 4.7%, and “Jet Black Heart”, also 4.7%, were our choices. Both were good beers, which is expected, with the lager full of malt to begin with, then the bitterness takes control, before ending the jouney with a spiciness. Not bad at all, for a lager. My beer was a Milk Stout, with a complexity to it. Coffee, chocolate and oatmeal are first to appear, before a mouthfull of fruitiness, and vanilla make an appearance. The finish is long, and very worthwhile. When Craft beers are as good as this, it certainly makes this marketplace one to dabble in.

With our stay now coming to an end, we wandered back to the station, stopping back off at The Sheffield Tap. What a good break we had had in the City of Sheffield. You may have to wander a little further between good pubs, but it is worth it. Being just a short train ride away, we will definitely be back. We have a few more inns and taverns to experience yet. We discussed this as we sipped our final beers. Now both on halves, we savoured The Kernel Stout, a strong viscous brew of a high 8% ABV. The roast flavour is full on but a subtle fruitiness and a dry finish follow and Brass Castle “Pale Stout”, which we thought was not so nice. This 6.4% strong ale is copper coloured and far too sweet for my taste. It has a rather sickly mouth feel, but others may love this strange style. The alcoholic strength is very evident, with strains of sherry in the finish. With room for one more, Thornbridge “Black Harry” was sampled ultimately, with this Mild of 3.9%, full of roast coffee flavours, and a lovely fruitiness in the body. It was the perfect pint to end a great couple of days.
14 different pubs, and 28 different brews sampled in our combined total of 24 pints (including those halves). Not a bad return, if my maths are correct.

Cheers, and keep it “Real”

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