Saturday, 20 August 2016

The Beer Engine is the best pub in Sheffield this month

Hello readers,

          the Beer Engine at the bottom of Cemetery Road round the back of Waitrose, in Sheffield, is the Pub of the Month for August. And, might I say, rightly so. I had been going in more regularly of late after a lull and was overjoyed to drink the amazing Fyne Ales Ragnarok Imperial Jarl, among other highlights, in the last month. So when I found out that Camra had recognised their achievements and awarded them pub of the month, and after finally catching up with Tom and hearing what he had lined up, I couldn't wait for Tuesday night.

Tom made it clear that the award should be presented to his staff - the bar and cellar manager, who have names, one of which begins with L, were therefore the recipients of the award, mainly to reflect their hard work running and stocking the pub, whose beer range continues to improve and impress.

I started the evening on the Wylam Jakehead IPA at 6.3% on keg. It was lovely and hoppy, but also well balanced,  and only a percent above my usual starting strength. I saw Rich and Kath and me and Matty sat with them and Richard, AKA Martin, or Dave Pickersgill. Am assuming he found this misrememberance amusing. I hope for his sake he does! Soon Tom came out with his kitchen garb on and asked when the other CAMRA members were turning up - more on that later. He went to get changed, and Myself and Matty got more beers and the excellent food was served.

Five types of pinchos on five large platters were placed on the bar, and on Tom's advice I tried the anchovy and green chilli one with the amazing Cloudwater DIPA6 - an excellent food and beer pairing. Myself and Matty had a couple, I think, and I also tried a third of the Redrum from To Ol, a red ale at 10% matured over rum barrel chips. It was amazing, and Matty tried some of the cask including the one from Sonnet 43 which was on excellent form. I also tried the Baltic, a pineapple and passion fruit sour which was incredibly refreshing - and a fantastic looking beer in the glass. The pinchos were fantastic, especially the chorizo one and the cheese with what seemed like perfect squares of pickle, and the tangy anchovies.

Well done to the team at the Beer Engine for putting on such an amazing spread, and continuing to source such excellent ales. It just goes to show what brilliant food can be served with what is a very  diverse range of beer styles.

I have to say however, that a big let down was Camra. I don't claim to recognise all of them but at the time of the award there were probably only 5 members there, including Matty. The do had also been rearranged for that night as the chairman was at the GBBF the week before, and now she was on holiday. Nobody had agreed who would present the award - this job went to Andy Cullen, who didn't therefore have time to prepare a speech specific to the pub, and despite there being numerous regulars there, there was way too much food, prepared with skill and love by the catering staff for the event, and specifically for the Camra members to enjoy.

I talked to Tom after he took the chef home and I am sure he won't mind me telling you how disappointed, annoyed and let down he was by this. This suggests to me that CAMRA had the vote for the pub of the month and many voted for the Beer Engine, but those who did so didn't bother to turn up, and the rest stayed away. What kind of message does that give out? I realise people are busy but this poor turn out undermined what should have been a richly deserved award for the pub.

Anyway, luckily that didn't ruin the excellent food and wonderful beers we tried, and we finished the night sat in the beer garden trying the Northern Monk marmalade beer, alas the name of which now escapes me, and finishing the excellent Cloudwater DIPA6.

With my very best wishes to all at the Beer Engine for the event, and hoping to see you all again soon. Well bloody done the lot of you -  take this as recognition of your continuing hard work at the pub.


Wee Beefy

Saturday, 13 August 2016

Abbey, Woodseats, reopens, and nearby pubs

Hello all,

     first post for a while - mainly as have not completely fixed the virus I now have on the tomputer  -so don't follow any links! Just a few details of the pre-launch night I went to with Matty at the Abbey pub on Woodseats on Thursday, and a couple of other pubs.

Matty had been invited as the CAMRA Sheffield young members wallah and had a plus one ticket - I was his choice. There was no expectation I would write about it, but I am anyway. The Abbey is potentially my least visited Woodseats pub - from those open in 1994. I think I have only been once and I can scarcely remember that. I did remember it has a bowling green, and it still does. And thats about it.

Arriving after 18.00 we went into the small room on the left with a small bar featuring two handpumps. From a choice of four real ales I opted for Abbeydale Moonshine and Matty Farmers Blonde. They will have two regular beers and two from the SIBA list, which I understand has some decent ales on it. The other two beers were Doom Bar and Greedy King Abbot - not an inspiring choice for myself, but I don't think O am the kind of customer they are targeting. The moonshine was well kept and on at £3.20 a pint.

The ticket entitled us to a tour with manager Wayne Morton (I hope I have remembered that right!) who showed us the three rooms, including an upstairs function room with a handpump. The room on the left retains its fireplace and is cosy and traditional in style, the right had room is much larger, likely previously having been two, and has the bar in the middle. It was in here we talked to Richard Short, a CAMRA fellow, and got to try samples of the free food.

One thing that makes the Abbey stand out from its near competitors is the food. A bit pricier than the Spoons and the Chantrey for beer, the food is of high quality and comprised excellent steak, calamari, garlic cheese mushrooms, pork pies, sweet chilli chicken and others. The staff were friendly throughout and this was an enjoyable visit. If their two guest ales become a little more adventurous I will definitely pop in again.

Down the road is Archer Road Beer Stop. They weren't selling any real ale, and,. despite being a long time friend of Dave I didn't ask him if this was a long term arrangement. Instead we had cans of Chorlton Brewing Amarello sour, Beavertown India Stout and a Fierce Panther IPA that might have been from Sonnet 43. As we know Dave we were able to sit in the back and chat with him and sample the beers, which were sold for about £2.00 each. The Beavertown is a very hoppy stout and was enjoyable, and the sour from Chorlton was OK, but the best beer was the IPA at 6.3%. An excellent visit to the ARBS as always.

From here we walked down to the Broadfield. Rammed, as it always seems to be, we had pints of Acorn Gorlovka and a Wiper and True Pale - as the barman said, the brewery were far too cool to tell them which beer it was, but it was a 5.something% pale and it was delicious. It was. Matty wanted to try the keg Gorlovka as he is a massive fan of the beer on cask - if anything, he didn't like it as much as he did on cask. Another example of why not everything that works on cask works on keg.

Our final stop was a short bus ride away at the Beer Engine. Winners of the pub of the month (award Tuesday coming) this is a place I have been going back to a lot recently. As per my last two visits I and Matty had pints of the excellent Fyne Ales Ragnarok, Imperial Jarl at 7.4%. A wonderful mellow but hoppy golden pale ale which slips down far too easily - we had another two halves before closing.

Overall all the venues visited were excellent, and as regular readers may know, there are numerous other pubs nearby worth a visit. Best of luck to the Abbey on their reopening (following a £550,000.00 makeover) and to the other premises. Four more places worth a visit in sunny, slaking, Sheffield.


Wee Beefy

Tuesday, 2 August 2016

Since I've come back.....

Now then,

       the day after Yorkshire day - that's what today is. And yesterday was brilliant. Nothing to do with the annual celebration of Gods own County, just because it was me and Tash's anniversary.  Not a lot of great beer was supped, apart from Cloudwater DIPA 4 and 5 - a separate post will follow on that. Instead of any of the above, I wanted to tell you about some of the things I have experienced since I returned from the Sudreys.

I went in Shakespeares a lot - no change there admittedly, but some of their recent keg offerings have been exceptional. As have their cask as well, recent highlights of both have included the last of the Omnipollo tap takeover including Leon, their 6.5% IPA, their Apricot Sour, and the Alesmith Double Red IPA. Also, the tremendous bite of the Wild Beer Hibernating lemons at Tramlines, along with a Cloudwater White IPA, cans of the Beavertown Bloody Ell, with the frankly excellent Abbeydale Hop Smash on cask. Numerous other highlights, alas, have slipped my mind....

I also went to the reopening of the Horse and Jockey on Wadsley Lane. Having never been there before it was a bit of a trek to reach, but well worth it when I got there. I arrived about 20.00 to find the queue for the bar out onto he street, and inside it was 6 or 7 thick. I met up with Gav and Clare and bumped briefly into Liz Askam form the Barnsleys, and immediately tried to establish what was best to drink. I opted for a pint of Sentinel on keg - the staff didn't seem to know what it was, but it tasted wheaty - and a pint of Stancill pale ale, the name of which escapes me. We sat in the beer garden til it went dark, and I had a fabulous chicken and chorizo pizza from the Nether Edge Pizza Co. It would be nice to go back when its quieter to see some of the inside but on this evidence it looks to be a very successful reopening.

I also went to the Walkley Beer Co - this, along with the Bath Hotel is the second regular haunt of mine to win a pub of the month form the CAMRA which I did not attend - Gah! Many many apologies to Stef and Kit at the two venues. It just goes to show how little I know about my favourite pubs! On my last visits to the two I had Hopjacker Ultravox Vienna IPA in the Bath, which was excellent, and Buxton Axe Edge and a pint of Tempest Long White Cloud on cask. Stellar offerings as always from both.

Other recent visits have included those to the Three Tuns and Kelham Island Tavern. I had the excellent if surprising Tempest Marmalade on keg, strong ale which tasted of...marmalade. And hops. I also had some excellent Hop Smash from Abbeydale there as well. The Three Tuns continues to impress with numerous regular appearances from Blue Bee. Their excellent 6.5% NZ IPA is on at present and has a massive hop bite with fruity citrus notes and a long dry bitter finish - an excellent beer to start and end any day.

More posts - I promise - this week.


Wee Beefy

P.S - if you see any arrows or links on this post, DO NOT follow - am having a few issues with a virus so they will be dodgy......

Sunday, 31 July 2016

Drinking in the Sudreys - the Ales of Arran


      the final part of our trip saw us head off from the Isle of Islay over to what may have been Kennacraig from Port Ellen. We had ages before the ferry from Claoneig so nipped to the Skipness seafood shack. Home made fish finger sarnies for me and crab meat sarnies for the others,. accompanied by bottles of Arran Blonde. A beautiful spot for a drink.

The ferry to Arran is quite small so we had no chance to et, just stepped up to the side to take in th views before arriving at Brodick. Tea that night was at the Ormisdale Hotel, which was serving 3 or 4 real alea and excellent food. I had a huge chicken curry and rice which was packed full of chicken along with numerous pints of the Arran Blonde from a choice of their ales including Gold, Ale and Ormisdale. Although, that may have been brewed by Isle of Skye or Ayr.

We finished the night in the Fiddlers where I had a bottle of Fraoch heather ale and Matty a pint of Scottish keg and a bottle of Arran.

The next day we went for a tour of the island and saw numerous sites on the coastal walk, having headed into Lamlash to look at the Holy Island. We returned after our walk and went to the Pierhead Tavern on the seafront. I think WF was getting tired by this stage - having accused us of being an hour when we walked to the Co-op, of not knowing where we had gone or for what, and then claiming the Pier Head was a pub for young people - because he couldn't hang his stock on his chair. This, as the rst of us, by far the youngest people in the pub, listened to an hour long mix of 1960's hits....

We had excellent food in here - snack size portions of the main meals and I had wonderful haggis neeps and tatties in a whisky sauce. Real ale wise there were two or three so I had pints of the Arran Blonde and an Isle of Skye one. There was also a fantastic range of bottled Scottish beers including Drygate to choose from.

We visited the amazing Machrie Moor stone circles and then headed for the Best Western Hotel at Blackwaterfoot - alas it was far too rammed to eat in but we did have Fyne Ales Usghe Dubha and Damh Ban. We finished the night at the Ormisdale Hotel once more and had more food and excellent real ales along with a selection of the Arran whiskies.

The next day it was down to Brodick to catch the ferry to Ardrossan - the bar on this ferry serves draught although the Arran was not available. On arrival we crossed to Sorn and the Sorn Inn where we had pints of Orkney Puffin Ale before heading south on the motorway and stopping at the Park end (or New Park) Tavern in Samlesbury for tea, washed down with excellent pints of Purity Mad Goose.

Overall this was a holiday with ample opportunities not only to sample beers brewed ont he islands but real ales full stop - and the range of small Scottish brewer's bottled beers is welcome and exciting. The fact that 4 of the 5 islands visited have their own breweries, all but one of which produces cask, is a brilliant situation - and long may it continue.


Wee Beefy

Thursday, 21 July 2016

Drinking in the Sudreys - the ales of Jura and Colonsay

Hello again,

         the two islands named above are easily reached from Islay, and we visited both during our 5 days on the island. In terms of size comparison both are minuscule next to Islay or Bute - Colonsay has a permanent population of just 135 (according to the island's website). Its also the smallest, being just 10 miles long and 2 miles wide. Jura on the other hand is significantly bigger, although probably with a similar number of inhabitants. (188 in 2001). It does however have a distillery, whilst Colonsay has a brewery.

The trip to Jura from Port Askaig is quite short and soon we were on the long winding the end of the island. After miles of rugged coastline and moorland the first, and indeed only large place you come to is Craighouse, found on the A846, the only A road i have ever seen with grass down the middle, and passing places. Here is where the distillery is, and also the Isle of Jura Hotel.

Finding the bar is interesting as you need to walk through the back of the bar from the main entrance to reach it - I think there is another way in round the front. No real ale but an interesting range of kegs - along with the Harviestoun Bitter and Twisted they also had Drygate Gladeye IPA on at 5.5%. Despite continuous expansion and improvement in Scottish beer, am still surprised to find a really hoppy Scottish IPA - and this is it. We also got a bottle of their Red IPA to take away.

The bar was friendly and well stocked and the IPA was excellent - this was in fact one of the best bars we visited on the whole tour. That Jura is so sparsely populated, yet has such riches in terms of drinks, is worth celebrating.

Colonsay is further away from Islay and the ferry was packed on what was the hottest day of the holiday.  Arriving before the bar of the Colonsay Hotel opened - the only place to drink on the island bar the brewery,  we set off on a long tour of every road on the island, driving to Uragaig and the beautiful Kiloran beach (and meeting Walter and his dog Queenie) before returning to the hotel via the Colonsay Brewery.

I have to say I was a little disappointed by the brewery - they only had two beers from their range of three available in bottles or on keg at the hotel, and are only open 15-17.00. I do realise however that running a brewery on such a tiny island makes comparisons with  mainland breweries fairly pointless.  At the Isle of Colonay Hotel beer is expensive. Two pints of Colonsay IPA for me and Matty cost about £10.60 and the other beer, a Fyne Ales Haus lager, was £4.90 a pint if memory serves. Once again though, island life is different. And in this case, significantly more expensive.

Overall both islands were unique - Jura is rugged and barren in places, Colonsay is a haven for wildlife, and Jura had an excellent hotel. Both islands are very much well worth a visit.


Wee Beefy

Thursday, 14 July 2016

Drinking in the Sudreys - the ales of Islay

Hello again,

          this post continues the details of our trip round Bute, Islay, Jura, Colonsay and Arran. All very different islands with their own character, and crucially, pubs, bars and beers.

On our way from Bute we sailed from Rubodach to Colintraive and then headed for Glendaruel. We had hoped to nip in the Glendaruel Hotel, not neccessarily for real ale, but just a drink - alas this seems to have closed down sometime ago, now a weed surrounded relic of more prosperous times. Whilst in the village we stopped to look at the carved stones and then headed for Otter Ferry and the Oystercatcher pub and restaurant. The GBG said it was open Friday and Saturday only but this was a Monday. Luckily it opens all day on a Monday - thank God we tried it.

Two real ales on the bar, one Scottish craft keg and an astonishing range of Scottish brewed ales in bottle, along with an extensive whisky list, was what we found. Two real ales, Fyne Ales Lismore Red IPA at 5.5%  and their Cloudburst at slightly less, with the excellent Sanda Blonde IPA on keg. All three were tried and the Lismore and Sanda were both excellent. We also ate - WF had a house cured Gravalax, Matty had local oysters, Tash soup and myself calamari. WF bought a box of bottles to take home as well - all in all this was a fantastic first stop on the Cowal peninsula.

We headed next for Kames and the Kames Hotel. This sells two real ales and we had Jarl once again, on excellent form. We then sailed from Portavadie to Tarbert and stopped in the Harbourside Inn for a half of Jarl each. Tarbet is quite a large place so we stocked up on food before heading to Kennacraig to get the ferry to Port Askaing on Islay.

Although Islay like Bute and Arran has its own brewery, Islay is very different to Bute. Its harder to get to, less well populated, and perhaps as a result is mre expensive. It also has nowhere near as many pubs., and less of those sell real ale. On our first night we stayed in Bowmore and we went to the Harbour Inn for a drink. Two pints of West Lager (at least its craft...?) a whisky for Wee Fatha and a large sauvignon blanc for Tash came to over £22.00. Luckily, despite not selling real ale, the guy running the bar was able to advise where we might get some, and was also a good person to chat to about the Island. The bar shuts at 22.45 so me and Matty had raced round the corner to find WF and Tash and get them in, and even with the door locked we were only able to order one more drink - these were both whiskies for us all to try.

The next day we went to Jura - more of that in the next blog, and then on a tour of the distilleries. Not actually visiting them, rather to photograph them in the bright sunshine. That night we went to the best place to drink real ale on Islay, the Port Charlotte Hotel. We managed to get a table despite not having booked and all tried, except Tash, pints of the Islay Ales Finlaggan. This was a disappointing beer - tasting slightly but not nicely of whisky, it was a tired ale with an unusual aftertaste which sadly  none of us really liked. Luckily they also sold Fyne Ales Jarl so Matty and then I had a pint of that to accompany our wonderful meals - mine was seared Islay scllops for starters and a main of lamb shank in a drambuie sauce, sharing a cheeseboard for afters. The Port Charlotte is not cheap but you get what you pay for - the food quality is amazing. The real ale, for info, is £4.10 a pint.

The next day we went to Colonsay details of which will follow in the next post, then when we got back to Islay we went for a drive to some more distillerys includng Lagavulin and Ardbeg, before heading to Kildonan cross and then to Port Ellen, where we went ion the Ardview Inn on the seafront. The pub does not sell real ale but did serve bottles of whisky from all the Islay distilleries, so we had Kilchoman and Caol Ila whilst sat in the front bar.

We drove back from here to Bowmore and this time we did go in the Lochside Hotel, formerly Duffy's, and they did sell real ale. A favourite in bottles on the last few ferries the Islay Ardnave Extra at 5.5% was on sale. It was lovely - but it should have been at an eye watering £4.95 a pint. The Lochside still carries a wide range of whiskies - there is a whisky book - and many sell at over £500.00 a shot. The real ale is expensive, but it went down well, and they serve til midnight.  

Our final full day on Islay involved another lengthy drive and a coffee in Ballygrant past Bridgend. We visited Finlaggan in the rain (still worth it) and then headed to Kilchoman distillery for a tour, a taste and for WF to buy me a bottle of the 100% Islay limited Edition whisky. An expensive but incredibly enjoyable present! We then headed down what seemed like a road to nowhere - we found it - and then returned to the Port Charlotte Hotel for more Jarl, plus cans of BrewDog and excellent food. The Port Charlotte was definitely the best pub or bar we tried on Islay.

We finished our day at the An Tigh Seinnse in Portnahaven, which translates as "the Public House". Bottles of Ardnave were supped in here, although they do have a single Islay Ales handpull - when I asked, they said they sold real ale when its busier - so am guessing that means August.

So ended our trip to Islay - the next day we drove to Port Ellen via the Oa Peinsula, and caught the ferry to Kennacraig for a short journey to Claoneig and the ferry to Arran.


Wee Beefy

Tuesday, 12 July 2016

Drinking in the Sudreys - the ales of Bute


       apologies first of all for a distinct lack of posts recently - a mixture of self imposed poverty and heady discombobulation through drink, as well as the holiday I will describe in this and the following three posts, has made me unable, unwilling and otherwise disposed not to post anything since June. What follows is an island by island breakdown of the ales we drank in the places known as the Sudreys - in this case, Bute, Islay, Jura, Colonsay and Arran. I realise there are other isles in the Sudreys but we visited the above only. For information, the Sudreys is an old Norse word for the Southern Scottish Islands, as opposed to the Nordreys for the North. There is a link here featuring more precise info on the Sudrejar...

We headed to Bute in rain and wind - the sun only came out on our first stop in Moffat. Here the Coachmans bar of the Buccleuch hotel no longer sells real ale only GK "craft" but the guy behind the bar did recommend two pubs that did, the first being the Star Bar which we were parked nearby. The Hotel Star is a tall, long, thin building on the main street. The bar is accessed down the side street and is also long and thin, although it goes across the building. They have two real ales on sale - the Old Speckled and the Old Golden Hen. We had two halves of each for myself, Wee Fatha, Tash and Matty. We also tried the 80 and 60 shilling Belhaven kegs.The Old Golden Hen was perhaps the best beer.

Our next stop was the National Inventory listed Old Wine Store at Shotts. The pub has had a new sign and some refurbishment since we last visited, but crucially keeps its original bar fitting with once used whisky barrels inset, and a small mirror on the other side which owing to its difficulty to find and photograph am guessing was for the staff only. No real ale here, but halves of Belhaven best for all apart from WF who had a J2o. Its good to see the pub popular and having had some work done on it, without losing its character.

Skirting Glasgow we arrived at Wemys Bay and opposite the delightful station we boarded a ferry to Rothesay. Going across the weather looked ominous but we arrived on Bute in glorious sunshine and temperatures around 20 degrees. We stayed at the Commodore, an excellent seafront B and B and quickly headed out to find food - we did, at a real ale pub in the GBG.

The Black Bull is a small multi-roomed pub overlooking the harbour near one of Zavaroni's cafes. They had three beers on, Belhaven Golden Bay, Inveralmond Lia Fail and Straad Ass, a 4.2% amber/blonde from Bute Brew Co. This was a fine pint on excellent form so we didn't try the other ales on offer, we just drank the Bute all night. We also ate here - and myself and Matty had perhaps the finest home made steak and ale pie ever. An absolutely stunning flavour, and washed down with the excellent Bute real ale.

Before returning to the B and B we visited the Scottish regional inventory listed Golfers bar - sporting a Bute Brew Co sign outside and a single hand pump. selling the same beer as the Black Bull. Myself and Matty had at least two pints each in here with WF on a half and Tash on wine - she has developed a bit or a reaction to beer (and cider) of late so was reluctant to have more than a try. The Golfers was heaving busy and we sat in the separate snug at the end with access to the bar. The pub has an excellent ceiling and intact long single piece bar back, as well as this screened off room, meriting its inclusion on the inventory.

The next day we visited Rothesay castle whilst WF went to the Esplanade - which also sells real ale, but only Bombardier alas. From here we drove through Port Bannatyne and out to Loch Ettrick, then wound our way down the island to St Blaines church. Despite persisting it down with rain we enjoyed the walk up the hill and looking around, before we headed to the Kingarth Hotel and Smiddy bar.

This roadside hotel does good food and two real ales as well as a good range of whiskies and Scottish bottled beers. WF had a half of Arran Dark and myself and Matty a pint each of the Fyne Ales Jarl, one of the best beers in Scotland - it did not disappoint. The food looked lovely so we booked a table for four and returned to Rothesay to pick up a change of clothes, and then came back for a fantastic meal, along with more Jarl. I think they also have a third pump for cask, and we tried three whiskys as well.

Back into Rothesay we persuaded Wee Fatha to drive us to Port Bannatyne to the Bute Brew Co recommended Port Inn. Arriving at 22.15 the landlady was about to shut so we ordered two pints of the Bute brew Co Scalpsie Blonde at 3.9%. It turned out that the pub would remain open a little longer, although we had to leave by 23.30 to get back to the accommodation - we had no key to get in! Many pints were supped as well as a can of BrewDog Dead Pony Ale (I think) before we dashed off up the coast back to Rothesay. The Scalpsie was an excellent session ale.

The next day we were away from Bute on the ferry and that part of the journey, and Islay, will feature in the next blog post.


Wee Beefy

Saturday, 11 June 2016

Cheshire and Salford revisited


       I got Wednesday off work in the hottest week of the year so far so me and Tash could accompany Wee Fatha to Tatton brewery to buy some bottled beers. Naturally, as a rambling sot, the only thing to do whilst undertaking this task was to visit some other pubs. As Tash has never been with us to Cheshire there are some repeated visits from last time, but it was well worth doing so.

About 2 hours after setting off we arrived, having come past Manchester Airport into the rural idyll of Ashley, in Mobberley. No getting lost this time, we passed the Railway where Matty and WF went last time and headed for the Church Inn. I understand that apart from the Railway the 3 or 4 other pubs in Mobberley are owned by the same firm. This is disappointing, as it could stifle competition, but to be absolutely honest, none of the three pubs we visited were bad.

The Church Inn is just across the road from, um..the church, and is a large rambling premises serving food and four real ales. We had halves of Tatton's Ale Glorious which I think is brewed for the pub (or rebadged), half a Wizard dark mild and a pint of Brightside Your Town pale ale for me. We sat in the garden admiring the views and deciding whether or not to get food - in the end we didn't as only Wee Fatha was going to and the starters were all sharing plates. The beer was well kept and unsurprisingly the Brightside was the highlight for me.

Further into the sprawling village we came to the Bulls Head and the Roebuck. The Bulls Head car park holds about 6 cars so its good the same firm owns the Roebuck where we parked. We also went in for a drink, since it had only reopened the weekend before. One thing that is slightly annoying about all 3 pubs is that someone greets you on the way in - this is to establish if you want to eat, or simply have a drink. I know some people like this kind of greeting but I would rather find the bar and wait to be served by a friendly barkeep. In this case, the bar is hardly that - so we would probably have talked to the guy anyway.

We had halves of Dunham Deer Beer and one from Tatton which I think was blonde. Having opened the gate to let WF climb less steps into the garden we got sat out in the sunshine and decided to get some food, starters of Ratatouille for WF and Dunham potato chips for me and Tash. Was the food pretentious? Yes. Was it tasty and reasonably priced? Yes. A decent place to stop, and to leave the car as we popped over the road.

The Bulls Head is a little older looking inside than the other two - am certain that much of the antiquity is imported but I like the tiled floor and the panelling, real or recent, in the pub. The bar had 6 beers on so we tried thirds of them all - this included a pale ale from Wincle, Wobberley Mobberley which I think is also brewed by Wincle, Cheshire Cat Pale Ale, Dunham Bulls Head Bitter, Weetwood Oregon Pale ale and Wizard (or Merlin?) Merlins gold. We supped them outside in the warm sunshine and enjoyed them all, especially the Weetwood.

From here we drove to Tatton brewery for WF to buy his bottles of beers, of which there were many, and then onto Lymm to visit the Old Post Office, or Lymm Brewery Tap. The beer range comprised Dunham Massey and Lymm brewery beers and we had halves of Dunham Stout, Cheshire IPA, and Lymm Dam. The later was 7.2% and a copper coloured strong ale, which was easy to drink, as was the Chesire IPA. We had free olives with the beers (even tempting WF to try a few) and bought some local pork scratchings. Always a good place to stop off, and playing some decent tracks including Mark Lanegan.

We drove out to Winnick and Burtonwood next to visit the Fiddle ith Bag Inn. There were three beers on including one which everyone went for but since WF and Tash were staying alcohol free I went for a North Blyth Seafarers Pale. I sat outside and soaked up more beautiful sunshine whilst Tash took a tour of the numerous artifacts inside.

Our next stop was the exccllent Grocers Micropub on Liverpool Road in Cadishead, run by Martin, AKA Dimpled Mug. We parked just down the road and entered to find the tiny pub busy, mainly with customers anticipating the quiz. I had two pints of the excellent Dunham Experimental #2 and Tash likely had some Wilson Potter, and we sat down in the right hand corner to soak up the atmosphere and listen to the buzz of conversation.

A steady stream of customers came, few went, and it was obvious that the quiz was a very popular event. The beer was on great form and it was good to catch up with Martin and to congratulate him on winning his local branch pub of the year. Really must try and get back there sometime when we have more time to sit down and have a proper sup!

Our penultimate stop was the Star at Higher Broughton. Am not sure if the pub is brewing anymore but they had First Chop AVA and Abbeydae Moonshine on so we all went for the first, apart from WF, now on J2o. The pub is still community owned and has a basic interior with three rooms, including one at the back which seems to have been brought more into use as a games room, and may have lost some original features as a result.

Our final stop was in Chorlton at Pi. Its somewhere that serves food til 22.0 and the pies are quite nice -  a simple meal to fill us up before the trip back to Sheffield. I had something locally brewed in here - I said that about Pi in Macc as well, but I wasn't after having much and enjoyed whatever we had. Tash really enjoyed her coffee as well. Pi is part of a chain as you may know and its an interesting if frustrating mix of hipster and trendy staff and ethos. However the beer seems well kept and its a good place to fill up when you are on a lengthy pub crawl.

Pub of the day was, clearly, the Grocers Micro Pub, but the Star and the Bulls Head were close runners up. A great day out, and a superb way to wrap numerous pub visits round visiting Tatton brewery fr 20 minutes.


Wee Beefy

Tuesday, 31 May 2016

Unspoilt country pubs - a Sunday tour by car


        on Sunday myself and Tash were taken out for the day by Wee Fatha on a tour of some classic unspoilt pubs in Derbyshire and Staffordshire. We started our journey travelling to Beauchief Abbey in Sheffield to meet WF who gave us a quick tour. We then got into the car in bright sunshine and set off.

We were soon heading through Chatsworth out on to the A6 and then down to Darley Dale, through Wensley and Winster via some absurd driving by fellow visitors, to arrive at Elton, and the Duke of York. It was shut. It only opens during the day on a Sunday but arriving at 13.55 it was firmly closed. Despite the maniac actions of drivers in Winster nearby we returned there and got parked to visit the Old Bowling Green pub.

I haven't been here for some time and was glad to find that not only was it open but the bar was open all day. We sat outside in bright sunshine supping a pint each of Peak Ales Chatsworth Gold for me and Tash and a half, of which he had less then half, of Abbeydale Daily Bread for WF. The pub serves food and three real ales, the other being Abbeydale Moonshine, and claims on its sign to be from the 15th century - I think it said 1472. Its slightly modernised inside, mainly to extend the amount of seating, but is still a pleasing old style inn.

Off next on a perplexing ramble via Newhaven, Biggin and Hartington to the Manifold Valley. A beautiful drive along the road and up brought us to Grindon and then finally to Wetton, followed by a trip down into Milldale and up onto the main road before finally heading through Thorpe for Ilam. here we took the beautiful road cum track to Throwley and on into Calton before arriving at Cauldon and the Yew Tree.

I can't remember how long it is since I last visited, maybe three or four years ago, and although the pub still retains its collection of amazing antiques, and still sells there real ales, some things have changed. For a start, although landlord Alan East is still on the premises the bar work is mainly carried out now by his son in law and, one assumes, Alan's daughter. They also now have a card machine - which made our visit longer and more thirsty and of course, more excellent.

I started with a pint of fresh on Burton Bridge Bitter, and bought halves of Rudgate Ruby Mild for Tash and WF.  I then went to buy another pint along with a large for WF and a small for me, pork pie. This took quite some time to eat and both were lovely, as was the Bitter. Having been for a wander round and nipped outside for a look at the garden, I then came back to use my card for a further two pints of the Burton Bridge, one of which I shared with Tash. It was good to spot Alan, standing almost transfixed by his ancient polyphon playing in the entrance. Be it bank holiday Sunday or not, the pub was packed throughout.

Our next stop was in Hanley a 40 minute of so drive away. The Coachmakers was threatened with demolition many years ago, despite its listing by English Heritage and CAMRA as a pub with a historically important interior. Since then the new bus station that its clearance was to bring about has been built, yet the pub remains standing. On our visit many locals were sat on the benches outside the pub and inside the beer range was reduced considerably, being just Bass and Black Hole Black rising or similar, a strong dark mild. I had a pint of Bass , Tash a half and Wee Fatha some of a half of the Black Hole.

We were sat on our own in the front bar room with the gentle hub-ub of conversation in the background and the sound of the barmaid serving customers to keep us occupied. It was good to relax in here, although disappointingly the wall of beer mats seems to have been changed into one painted dark grey. Despite this, little else has changed in this National Inventory pub - including the threat of demolition. Still well worth a look if you have or haven't visited already.

We had been planning on visiting the Quiet Woman but decide instead to return to Elton and made our way back to Alstonefield, then the same way from Milldale and then headed to Parwich. As I had a pressing need we stopped there at the Sycamore. This traditional Robinson's house is still very much part of the village and we had a half for me and Tash, one being Robinson's Double Hop, and a tomato juice for WF.

The pub has three or four rooms and serves fod and real ales, and Parwich is a great place to start or finish a walk in the area. I first went about twenty or more years ago and still enjoy a visit - alas we were heading off for our last stop so did not stay around long.

At gone 22.00 we arrived in Elton to find the Duke of York open. Whilst Tash and WF locked the car and got coats on I ran into the pub to order a pint and two halves of the only real ale on which was Marstons Bitter at £2.75 a pint. As is unsurprising, nothing has changed in the Duke of York since I first visited last century - apart form the main bar duties are now carried out by Mary's Nephew.

I discovered whilst there that at present the were not open Sunday lunchtimes because Mary had been very ll in hospital - there are no plans at this time to reopen Sunday lunchtimes, so its 20.30 til 22.30 (or later) most nights of the week.

The beer was also fresh on here and tasted lovely, so much so that I had another pint, and took Tash outside up the old sloping steps to see the toilets - an unusual feature to have outdoor toilets these days. Inside the fire was lit and the locals were chatting to each other about all sorts of things, and the barman as well. Lets hope Mary gets better soon and we see her behind the bar once more at this fantastic old boozer.

So ended a lengthy drive round five brilliant unspoilt or at the very least old pubs in Derbyshire and Staffordshire. Its difficult to pick out a favourite as all have distinctive characteristics but I think as a group we probably liked the Yew Tree at Cauldon best of all -  a cracking traditional pub that has managed to adapt to modern times whilst losing none of its considerable character.


Wee Beefy

Wednesday, 25 May 2016

Head of steam, Garrison and Sword dancer

Hello strangers,

        what have the three venues in the title all got in common? The answer is, as well as them all selling real ale, I have visited them for the first time in the last few weeks. Here is what I found.

I was in the Head of Steam, which I keep calling Smoke Barbecue, last week. I met Tash and Matty and bumped into Phil Vintin, who I used to work with. Lovely to see Vimto, who is a very nice chap. I also met Uncle Mo. I had a pint of tea beer which was a little underwhelming and although there were 5 casks to choose from (and I hadn't seen four of them before) I decided to move quickly on to the Chimay Red on keg. Its £3.75 a half so pretty expensive, but I have never seen it on keg before, and really really enjoyed it.

The pub does barbecue food from Longhorns smokehouse or similar but I did not try any - maybe another day. They also do American keg beers and a range of bottles. It appears that the Head of Steam chain is owned or operated by Camerons Brewery. I don't dislike Camerons, but am surprised at this being their work.

The venue has been done out really well and, although its not difficult, is many times better than the dreadful Old Monk that preceded it. I know that Head of Steam is a chain, but it seems like a nice place to stop off for a pint or two, potentially does good food, and if they could charge slightly less for their keg and sell pork scratchings I could get to quite like it.

Friday night I was at Micheal and Lauren's evening do for their wedding at the Garrison Hotel in Hillsborough. This was my first visit, and luckily I saw Jambon outside when I arrived, a little late admittedly, at about 21.30. He told me there were two bars, and that one sold real ale. Naturally I went there.

There were three handpumps, maybe two, and they were serving Bombardier and Moonshine. My choice was the latter, naturally. It was £3.30 a pint, which isn't bad for a wedding venue, likewise the fact that they serve real ale at all. The venue itself is open to the public as a bar, if desired, or as a function suite, and I think it sells food. The bar is, as I found out, open until midnight. I probably had six or seven pints in the three hours I was there, and the beer seemed well kept. They also sold some bottles from around the world, not all of which I had heard of, and Caledonian triple hop on keg.

Its not the sort of place I would choose to go for a night out normally but I have to say, a least they are making an effort, and at least they, or some marketing department somewhere, recognize that people may not only want to drink Carling Fosters or Strongbow.

My final first is the Sword dancer on Handsworth. Rumours were around before this was built that the pub would be a Wetherspoon, but instead it opened as a Greedy King Hungry Hippo or similarly named outlet. My mate Christingpher went and described it as one of the worst pubs he had ever been in, wit no real ale or any other drinks of note and terrible food. Mr Shape, a nearby resident, also went in only once to find it very disappointing.

The other night I was in the Old Crown enjoying a pint of something pale and hoppy and decided to pop in. Mainly, having checked the tinterweb to discover they sold real ale. Could this be true? I had to find out. On arriving at gone half eleven the pub wasn't too busy and the customers were mainly sat in the right hand side surrounded by TV screens. That side of the bar has three or four handpumps selling Greene King Abbot, Old Speckled Hen and Belhaven Golden Bay. I ordered a half of that, having never tried it. but alas it was running out, so had a half of the Abbot instead.

I sat outside, in the beer garden, with my half an inexpensive but not unpleasant bottle of wine. No-one bothered me, and no trouble was witnessed. Obviously I did not try the food but I have to say the place was OK. Given that the Turf is currently sadly closed, this now means that as far as I know every pub in Handsworth sells real ale. I may only occasionally go out locally but this is great news.

None of the above pubs are going to compete with the likes of the Bath or Shakespeares but I wish them all the very best of luck. Its refreshing to find venues making an effort and selling in some cases, beers you don't usually find anywhere else, and catering for the needs of the numerous real ale drinkers.

Sheffield once again stands out as a great place to go almost anywhere and enjoy a decent pint.


Wee Beefy