Saturday, 25 February 2017

Toolmakers Brewery Tap, Forest, and Yellow Arch

Hullo,

  this is not a pub crawl I have done....

However, I have been to all three, two in one night once, and recommend you do the same. Here are some details (and guesses to fill in the blanks) a few facts and some opinion about the three venues above.

I was at Toolmakers earlier this month for Kirsty's birthday. You know, Kirsty. Kirsty? She is Kirsty who I work with. You are bound to know her....enniz, I went to the Toolmakers Brewery Tap for her birthday and really enjoyed it. My only issue is, I don't know when its open to just pop  in for a beer, if it is at all...? So although this serves as a review, I would consider calling the brewery or the Forest pub (there is a link here to their brewery website) to check when or how you can visit!

The bar room itself is long and has seating for 20 or 30 and a big log burner (although that wasn't working when we went so they had electric heaters!) The bar is at the right hand end and features three handpumps with two Toolmakers (Sonic Screwdriver being one) and a guest ale on handpump - at his time it was Steel City Forked Tongue so I was chuffed to bits -  a seriously hoppy pale ale at a birthday bash!  All the beer was well kept and sensibly priced at £2.80 a pint and, if memory serves, was served in large lined glasses allowing for a decent head.

It was my first visit to the brewery site and its quite difficult to find if you haven't been before, but you really just need to walk up Rutland Road to the Forest and Botsford Street is your next right, so behind the pub almost. There is a small metal A board/swing sign at the end of the street but it was dark when I went and I didn't see any signage! That said, there is almost nothing else on Botsford street.

Just round the corner is the Forest pub. Following brief spells as the Forest show bar (open for rent) and then the Woodside Inn, the Forest is now run by Marion and Olie, and has has had some work done on its interior and exterior. It sells three or four Real ales, mainly from Toolmakers but also one or two guests. I recognised the lady behind the bar at the Tap from the Forest who I think is Marion, and I understand her and the landlord run both.

The pub does Sunday lunches (or did) which I understand are very popular, and the beer once again is well looked after and sensibly priced. I went in after the birthday do and it was still busy, although I was only there for about an hour or so with my pint of Sonic screwdriver. A quick look on Google shows a lunchtime menu so I may try and pop in for a bite to eat soon.

The final place I want to mention is Yellow Arch Studios. I had heard about it for a long time but never went until September last year. I went to see a friend of ours Trev at his birthday do where he played and had other performers with him in the main hall.

The venue is easy to spot on Rutland Road and you enter through the arch and up some steps. It is  Moroccan themed inside and you walk through a corridor to the small bar and large performance area in front of you. The bar has three handpumps selling Kelham Island beers, and they sell a decent range of cans and bottles wines and spirits. It may have been Trev's influence but there was exceptional Greek food on offer in a room near the entrance - as a lover of Greek food this was very good quality I can assure you.

As with the Tap, I am not sure what the requirements are for getting to the bar - the bar is licensed, and it looks like its fine to simply wander in get a pint and sit down in the back room, however am guessing that the bar is only open when there is a band on so I expect you would have to pay to get in - for info, the link to their website is here.

In terms of the earlier mentioned crawl element, if you walk up Hicks Street to the left of Yellow Arch you come out on Rutland Road and its a short hop from here to either the Forest, Tap or in the other direction to the Gardeners Rest. All of which are worth a visit in Sheffield, the variously venued city.

Cheers!

Wee Beefy  

Saturday, 18 February 2017

The Bridge of Aln Hotel, Whittingham, Northumberland

Hello,

        I was recently sent a link to a report by Tash from a Professor of Entrepreneurship and Regional Economic Development at the University of Northumberland. This was about the important influence on the happiness of locals versus the often equal frailty of the local pub, in small communities. The link is here, and the report uses statistical analysis and sources including the Office for National Statistics, and Actions with Communities in Rural England (ACRE) to support the claim, that pubs in small communities are a positive focal point within them.

What I found interesting was I was sent this a couple of days after reading that the Bridge of Aln Hotel in Whittingham, Nortumberland, an isolated community not too far from Netherton with its famous Star Inn, was currently closed. No details were provided, but I always worry when an isolated pub closes, especially one on the National Inventory. There is a link to the listing here which gives some details and beautiful photos of this unspoilt former hotel.

I visited in 2013 with Wee Fatha. We were staying in Long Framlington, a long finger of habitation on the A697 just down the road. Having eaten in the village we headed for Whittingham and then to the Star at Netherton. The Bridge of Aln didn't look particularly open and you enter through a door at the back, having parked in the courtyard. I don't think the large front door is any longer in use. There were lights on so we knew it was open but am guessing it doesn't attract much passing trade.

Having found our way to the bar we found a gaggle of locals enjoying drinks and conversation about local life - despite its remoteness, the area has numerous small villages and hamlets and it appeared all those drinking there were local. It was quiet (if that makes sense given my description of the conversation) warm and relaxing and the locals soon started asking us where we were from and going. I had a pint of Youngers of McEwans on keg and WF a soft drink and we went for a wander about in the actually quite large building. To note, the Whatpub website states it sells real ale - am guessing this is seasonal, as there was none there when we visited.

The bar is 1950's in style, as are much of the furnishings, and one of the doors (maybe for the bar?) has a sign stating "Select Bar" on it. This is a feature I have never seen before and am guessing it relates to its former days as a hotel.  We didn't get to see the rear right room but it looks rather fine on the National Inventory pub website. When we got back to the bar we explained that we were going to see Vera at the nearby Star at Netherton and we were told to hurry as if there was nobody in around 21.30 she would shut - we arrived just as she was saying goodbye to the last customer so just in time!

Another pub in the area that, alas, I have not yet visited, is the Star at Harbottle. It is only 3.8 miles away from the Star at Netherton and is similarly isolated. I was disappointed to read that this pub is also currently closed - especially since the pub has diversified to provide a tourist information service, and sell crafts as well as becoming the local shop. In his report, Professor Ignazio Cabras states" this positive effect increased threefold between 2000 and 2010 (the period examined) - possibly because pubs have become increasingly important as other local services such as post offices and village shops have closed."  

It is interesting that both pubs are in Northumberland, given the provenance of the report, and that in this case, the diversification has (temporarily I hope) not kept the Star at Harbottle trading. Especially since in other rural communities the pub taking on the shop - such as the Sycamore at Parwich in Derbyshire, seems to have helped keep the pub open, and strengthened its place in the community.

Perhaps the details in the report show that, sadly, the pressures upon rural and isolated pubs are increasing ever more since 2010 and that even necessary diversification of the business is no guarantee of pub survival. In the end, you still need footfall. If people aren't coming to the pub to drink it will close. Lets hope both pubs reopen and continue to serve their communities, and that both communities in turn do their best to support them.

Your very good health

Wee Beefy


Sunday, 29 January 2017

Can conditioned

        You might like this one Beefy - its can conditioned....

So were the words, or similar sounds, uttered by Sean Clarke at Beer Central. I had been into collect a can of Big Dipper and decided I wanted something else - to be honest, its apparent conditioning didn't attract me as much as the fact that it was Moor Brewing Entanglement Red IPA at 9.something percent. It was only when I got home that I thought - what the chuff is can-conditioning when its at home?

In an inescapably poor situation of no research whatsoever (stick with what you (don't) know after all) I don't actually know what can conditioning is. I can hazard a guess, having drunk cask conditioned, and bottle conditioned (and ruined) beers over the years with yeast sediment present. The beer in question was excellent, and poured cloudy, but that doesn't mean there was any yeast in it. What I can say is, for a strong over 9% beer, it drank very easily. It was smooth, but not widget artificially smooth, rather pleasant and refreshing.

Bottling with yeast is meant, in perfect conditions at least, to make the beer fresher, and more carbonated and to continue to "brew" in the bottle using live yeast. Bottle conditioning is not, in my experience, a guaranteed art. Its fraught with potential hazards, probably more so than cask, where at least a decent proportion of those handling it have some idea about what to do with it. So far, by way of absurd comparison I have tried two cans of can conditioned beer, both from Moor, and liked them both.

The other was their Illusion session Black IPA, and this was more casky, if that's a word, than the stronger one. I understand Marble also condition their or most of their cans, and another well known brewery that aren't well known enough for me to recall have also taken the practice on board. There is promise therefore that the practice may take off, at which point a more accurate comparison can be made.

Meanwhile I am still not sure about the likelihood of exploding can conditioned cans, probably down to discombobulation about brewing processes, and a general lack of relevant knowledge re yeast. I know there is no point putting live yeast in a keg (so said Stuart from Magic Rock, probably) because it makes it too fizzy, but that hasn't been my experience of the two Moor beers.

The best thing that I can see coming pit of this is the fact that the CAMRA may now start taking canned beer seriously, now its no longer Worthington Creamflow and Skol. Obviously one can never tell in such areas, but to me there are now four excellent ways of serving perfectly brewed beer and at least three should meet one or other definitions of real ale.

Which means more choice for the consumer. Which is, after all, what we all want.

Huzzaah!

We Beefy

Saturday, 28 January 2017

Neepsend Brewing Century IPA

Hulloo,

    a while ago, although probably this year, I was in a public house with Rich, erstwhile member of the Neepsend Brewery brewing team. He was enthusiastically telling myself and Tash about a new beer they had brewed which was going to be monstrously hoppy. Dry hopped, pre hopped, wet hopped, with kilo upon kilo of hops in the mash and at every stage.

OK, some of the above is guesswork. My memory is not geared up any longer to...um...remembering stuff and thus all I can remember is Rich looking elated, laughing, and drowning us in brewing terminology. He may have told us what it was going to be called, but if he did that fact has also since escaped me. Until, that is, this week. In Shakespeares, pre and sadly post antibiotics (I know, I know) I had a pint of the 6.5% Century IPA from Neepsend Brewery on cask. It was £3.60 a pint (or similar) and tasted amazing.

I don't know if that same beer Rich was enthusing about so was, in fact, the Century. I also don't know which century is being celebrated in this lupuloid loop the loop. I also don't care. Because Century IPA is a humongously good beer.

Am guessing it may now have run out, as have I of days to drink now am taking 8 antibiotics a day for an infection. It will of course be on somewhere else soon. It may well have been, or will be, at the Wellington, and the Sheaf View. Wherever you try it, and am assuming you will, I trust you will love it.

By way of description it has a dry and then citrus hoppy finish after an explosion of hops. Don't let that put you off - the hops are fantastic but well balanced, and the beer is incredibly tasty. Whatever dark hoppy practices went into making such a beer they should be repeated. To make a beer of that strength so overwhelmingly hoppy whilst retaining a balance of bittersweet and dry hops in the aftertaste is a trick worth pulling off again.

I remember trying the Neepsend Sharpshooter when that came out last year (or earlier) and thinking that for a beer of its strength it carried quite a hop punch, whilst retaining, and this is key, a balance of flavours. I have no idea what hops were used in either brew but I would suggest that the Sharpshooter was a precursor to, or practice for, the Century.

Well done to Gav and Rich and other persons who have names at Neepsend for making a wonderful ale for me to chew and delight in.

Your very good health.


Wee Beefy

Tuesday, 17 January 2017

Wanderiains

Hullaballoo,

        and a very Happy New Year! Aah, a phrase best used...um about 16 or 17 days ago. But never mind, have been otherwise engaged and this is my first blog post of 2017. Here is what happened when myself and Mr P did our first Wanderiains of 2017.....

Twas the first Friday and I met Mr P after work to catch the 20. Didn't wait long, didn't take long, and we ended up at a pub I have never previously visited, the Sportsman on Harvey Clough Road. I know the late, great George, or rather Keith Laycock went there to do the quiz - although that may have been the Mount Pleasant, but either way, it was my first visit and Mr P's first for a couple of decades or more. For info, before setting out, George often used to say "am just going to change a tenner" or, "am just going to see a man about a dog". We all knew he was going to the quiz....

Inside I understand little has changed, Mr P recognised the layout, and on the large bar there were two real ales, of which we both had halves of Abbeydale Moonshine at a price which may have been below £3.00. The beer was well kept and this was an enjoyable start to our crawl. I also paid on card for two halves, which very much suits me down to the ground.

Nearby we visited the Mount Pleasant. In through the front this time (!) and I didn't see Gwynneth (?) or her Sister behind the bar, instead a jolly lass who was discussing the merits or otherwise of the Chrizznussly themed ale from a National Brewery. I think Mr P had a pint and I had a pint of the excellent Adnams Ghost Ship.

The pub seems unaltered since my first visit five years or more ago and that's to its credit. Its has a   traditional layout with a lovely lounge on the left and a very small bar in the...um..bar. Room. An excellent place to stop for a beer as always.

Further down the Road Mr P asked if we could go in the Prince of Wales. I can't say I was blown away by it last time but I agreed, if nothing else to hear him read his poem he wrote after being told not to come in anymore when he was in his late teens. An excellent poem, I have to say. On the bar this time were two beers and I think one of them was from Wychwood, which we had a half of each. It was OK, a bit Wychwoody, but that's not a criticism of how it was kept.

Further down the road is the Cross Scythes. Still a Thornbridge pub selling numerous real ales and kegs (and flavoured pork scratchings), I went "mad" and bought myself a pint and Mr a half of the 7 or above% Huck from Thornbridge.  I have to say I really liked it, but agree with Edd that you could expect more from a hoppy pale ale at that strength.

Having bumped into Steve in the loos, we headed his way - down Derbyshire Lane, to the main road and walked along to the White Lion. A guy whose surname I think is Miles (who I saw at the Bath Hotel do an excellent version of John the Revelator, unaccompanied of course) was doing a set at the back. We got pints - myself am fairly certain of Abduction., and sat near the stage having watched the first five or six of his songs from the steps.

As always the Abduction was on top form and it was good to see the pub absolutely heaving - testament of course to the sterling work done by Jon and Mandy since they took over (and Jon may have lost an H, sorry Jon....)

So ended an entertaining and enjoyable crawl of some new and old favourite boozers in Sheffield to kick start Drinkuary in fab sunny Sheffield.

Drink! Drink! Drink!

With regards,


Wee Beefy  

Saturday, 31 December 2016

Halcyon

Halcyon days.

          Warm summers, strong sunshine, autumn leaves, cold white frost an inch thick on frozen surfaces, huge downpours onto moist Spring ground, lovely rare steak and venison, lamb casserole, beautiful red wine. The feeling that its Friday morning when in fact its Saturday and you can close your heavy eyes and get back to sleep. All things that can easily, for me at least,  be associated with Halcyon. No longer, alas, with the Thornbridge beer of the same name.

I used to love Halcyon. It was, frankly, a completely terrific beer. Bundles of fruit and citrus hops balanced perfectly in a scrumptious mix to make the ideal fruity pale ale, but with beautiful lingering bitterness in the aftertaste. In 2012 I came back from a week of slightly less inspiring beers in Crete and went to the Bath Hotel for a pint. I wasn't actually enamoured with the selection of real ales and kegs so went for a bottle of Thornbridge Halcyon. I absolutely loved it.

This was the first beer that I loved in cask, on keg, and in a bottle. It was so well balanced, it hit all the right notes in my book for a wonderfully refreshing strong pale ale. Its arrival at any pub was a triumph of delivery over expectation because it was also almost always better than I hoped or imagined it would be.

Three weeks ago, likely more, I was in the Bath Hotel,  talking to Chris, or a man with a similar or entirely different name, who is currently running the pub. I have been going to the Bath less often lately but that isn't a reflection of beer quality, more of a different drinking pattern, less often being one feature. I noticed that Halcyon was on keg and was about £4.70 a pint, and ordered it with glee. And then I tasted it.

Um...someone forgot to add the citrus hops and mouthwatering fruit flavours for a start. And the bitterness was there, but was bleak and harsh and a little like paracetamol. I had expected a wonderful taste, and hadn't had some for a while, but this was a terrible re-enactment of a once wonderful beer.

I don't know enough about brewing to figure out what changes have been made to the recipe, or indeed why Thornbridge beer has become so poor - especially given the excellent pale they brewed back in September. I do think that an alleged merry go round of new brewers in quick succession may have destabilised the brewing, but if that is the case the solution is surely simple.... employ a good reliable brewer on a long term rather than short(est) term basis.

I am sure that running pubs makes Thornbridge more money than brewing beer does, so as a business I can forgive them for prioritising one over the other (if they indeed are) but I can't forgive them for ruining one of m,y former favourite beers ever, and making a rubbish version of Halcyon, worse even than the needlessly sweet Belgian version.

What lies ahead in 2017 for Thornbridge? I hope its better beer, simple as.

Yours in regret and disappointment


Wee Beefy

Friday, 30 December 2016

Micro

Hello all,

  I wanted to write today about Sheffield's Micropubs.

The first I knew of  ( in the UK) was in Kent. It was called the Butchers and was, am guessing, set in a former Butchers shop. It was definitely in Kent. And it could (probably) seat 3 people. It was open half an hour every week by appointment only, and had a pin to last that whole session.

OK, I made much of the above up. I have, after all, never been there. The first one I went to was the Little Chesters  Ale House in that there Derby. I really enjoyed it. I was surprised, however, that there was nothing similar in Sheffield.

In late 2013 or a similar sounding year the Crookes Ale House was,  to my mind, Sheffield's first pop[ up pub. I knew very little about ir and even after a description of its location I struggled to find it. I went in with Carlos the first time and Angie and Jackie and other peeps the second. I bought a bottle f the Courage Imperial stout which I may possibly still have, and loved it. Local ale was on stillage, and it opened for six days or less.

The next year this became the Walkley Beer Co. I didn't visit until my 40th birthday and I tried my specially brewe (well, dry hopped version at least) birthday ale, and spoke to Josh and Christy and Kit. The pub later or already had a permanent license and I have been going in ever since.

Tonight I had two pints, the Cromarty Brewing Rogue Wave IPA at 5.9%, a hoppy pale, and the 6.9% Wild Madness IPA. I saw Rob, Dan and the gent whose name I can't remember,. as well as Rhod and Kit and Imogen and a guy called Pete. The atmosphere and ale was as always, excellent.

I just wanted to say well done to the shop, or rather micro pub, and all Sheffield's others. Because its a fine feature of Sheffield watering holes that your service and range is required, and whats more very much appreciated.

As the beer capital of the UK, I am not surprised that Sheffield can support 6 micropubs!

With warmest regards


Sir Beefalot

Tuesday, 27 December 2016

Reet

Good afternoon Lazerngennulmern

        it occurred to me today (well, during a quiet period of reflection on Christmas Day actually) that it has taken me until now, or rather then, to realise the following.....

The "Reet Ale Pubs Company" sounds like the Retail Pubs Company.

Its taken me the three or maybe four or more years since their inception to figure this out. It explains, for one, the pronunciation used by Mr Stephens's. Its also "funny" because Reet Ale sounds like retail. And as a pub company, they retail not only ale, in their Reet Ale Pubs, but also retail Reet Pale Ale in their Reet Ale Pubs.

Its a pun!

Ha ha!

Ha ha!

(etc)

And yes, I can confirm that Boxing day and today have been quiet, thanks for asking.

With warmest twixt winter solstice and years end regards

Wee Beefy.

Monday, 26 December 2016

Bar-stewards

Merry Chrissmuss yall!

     
         the title of this post is perhaps a little risky - although pertinent, I appear to have locally garnered a reputation for being some sort of criticism monkey, living in a tree of moaning in a forest of malcontent. So to make clear now, this isn't a polite way of saying Bastards. Its a way of saying Bar Stewards, but making it one word. You may not have noticed, but I am trying to stick to single word post titles this month, in order to be more punchy and, um,  rad, fo the yoot. I am quite old by the way....

Anyway, the Bar Stewards is Sheffield;s latest pop up pub - this claim is made on the basis of a lack of information about the Pub Inn which opened after I had already formulated the text for this post. So nehrrr.

Its on Gibraltar Street across from Shakespeares and is run by Al and another gentleman, who will have one of many thousand male human names, probably with an I in it. I dunno, Richard, Michael?

The pair have done a good job sprucing up the empty retail unit and have a bar with four handpumps and possibly some sort of keg dispense, with a well socked fridge behind with bottles and cans inside. There is also a snazzy toilet, and comfortable seating throughout. I have been in three times now and enjoyed each one, the first by myself, once with the lovely Kati and once with Mr Grant and Hux's friend whose name I have since forgotten. On that occasion the real ales on offer were Wild Millionaire stout, Tiny Rebel Cwtch, North Riding Mosaic Pale and Fyne Ales Jarl. The North Riding and Fyne were tried and both were on good form.

I understand the idea is to get a permanent license and open full time sometime in the future - it is rumoured there has been much red tape to leap over and clamber through which may be retarding progress. I do hope for their sake's they get a permanent license - the bar does feel just like a pub now (if that makes sense) and especially in December, when the wonderful Shakespeares is packed to the rafters, its often a little quieter in the Bar stewards.

One question you may ask is - does Sheffield really need another ale venue? The answer is - yes. Of course. Not just because one has recently closed either, but because all venues have their own unique atmosphere and offer their own brand of hospitality. If the nearby (ish) Pub Inn becomes permanent there will be six Micropubs in Sheffield and what that does is increase choice for consumers, which has to be a good thing.

In addition to the cask and bottles and cans they also sell wine and possibly spirits and crisps, and Mr Rich was there doing a quiz on Wednesday last so this may take off as a regular feature. Whats more, Bar Stewards is the perfect place to undertake support for Drinkuary, which I expect all of you to be involved in through the dark joyless January ahead.

Cheers!

Wee Beefy


Tuesday, 20 December 2016

Cloudwater

Hello,

       despite my recent inescapable slide into debt and trashed credit ratings, I got there only recently - as in, I arrived there, finally, after many years of effort. During more recent times, and since, mainly through the generosity of my friends, I have tried numerous beers from Cloudwater. The Manchester brewery may have a reputation solely for producing DIPA's. However, and whatever its repute, many people want to know what Cloudwater are all about. The thing is, I don't know.

I do however know what I have thought, tasted, enjoyed and observed of them.

I first heard about Cloudwater in 2015. Two brewers and two beer bloggers were discussing what they thought of a heavily hyped new brewery in Manchester. As I sat dewy eared in the Beer Engine beer garden, I was puzzled how a brewery could be so heavily hyped, and yet I hadn't heard a thing about them? Well, luckily, there was a Cloudwater beer on at Shakespeares the next day. It was low strength and fairly tasty. It didn't explain the hype or lack of though. It didn't really add up. And then, Cloudwater IPA's at 7 or 7.5%, started turning up in the Bath Hotel.

Many sessions during late 2015 were spent in the Bath Hotel sampling wonderful easy drinking Cloudwater IPA. Some of them were the best beers I had in 2015 and when I found one on cask at Shakespeares on New Years Eve I was very very pleased. More so, when I heard about their DIPA 1 celebration strong pale. I didn't get to try this on draught, but did very luckily get to buy the last bottle from the Walkley Beer Co. It was fab. Hoppy. Bitter. Backed with good malt that supported the hops without fighting against them. It had a slight "Manchester sweetness" to it and it was 9% and drank like Vimto.

For those not in the know, DIPA V 10 has recently been released. It lasted a day at Shakespeares, despite being sold at £7.50 a pint (which is actually a good price for the V10). It still doesn't drink like a 9% IPA and I note from the bottle labels that at least, up until V9, they added dextrose extract or similar, to the malt. This may of course feature in all beers but I wondered if that was what gave the Cloudwater DIPA that simultaneous new world hoppiness tinged with Manchester sweetness? Or is that simply the yeast they use? (they used Lees yeast in one brew, maybe 7...).

Either way, and no matter how "DIPA'd out" some of us may be, the recent announcement of more regular releases shows a commitment to bettering a single product. My only worry is, how will they do that?

Reading the back of a Cloudwater bottle is a little like looking at notes from a science class. Am interested, but not as much as I am in whether or not the beer tastes good. And so far, none have tasted bad. All have tasted good (even 3) and some have tasted fantastic. The interesting developments will come if and when they make more changes to their DIPA brews. Maybe change the template of the brew...

The one thing that jumped out of their recent blog about DIPA's is the idea that the beer keeps its hoppiness by not being exposed to temperatures above 5c from bottling to receipt. Their post claims that definitive flavours in beer are killed off by exposure to heat. It is something I have heard about before but am not aware of a brewery previously adapting this cold storage and cold distribution plan.

I have one bottle of unopened Cloudwater DIPA left - its number 8 (haven't got a ten yet). I intend to drink it on Christmas day.

Because no matter what they or others say, Cloudwater brew a bloody delicious DIPA.

Cheers!

Wee Beefy