I spent Sunday night in Sheffield, albeit a bit too close to Meadowhall for comfort. Shopping centres scare me, even at night.
I use the slow train to Manchester via the Dark Peak for City matches occasionally. Apart from the views, you always get the joy of grumpy old walkers complaining about Stag & Hen groups about to tear up New Mills.
Back in Sheffield, I set myself the task of visiting the four new Beer Guide pubs in a four hour ten mile walk. Not that quick, but it’s all uphill and you have slow down at road crossings.
The main station looks very lovely now, even if Sheff does seem to have gone overboard on the water features since the millennium. I got told off for racing plastic bottles down the fountain in the Peace Gardens once.
There’s few places anywhere with better views from pubs than Sheffield. Half an hour down the A61 is a little knot of pubs close to Heeley Farm, all with inspiring vistas across to the takeaways of London Road.
The Brothers Arms is very much of the suburban beer house model that the City has now perfected. So you get;
- Distinctive drinking areas
- Proper pub seating
- Cheerful bar staff
- A good mix of locals and visitors
- Beer mats
- Food confined to proper pub snacks
- Interesting beer range including a bargain House Bitter
- Live music
Sounds idyllic, and it very nearly was. But just because you can fit nine handpumps and as many keg fonts on a bar is no reason to do it. That House beer by Exit 33 clearly hadn’t had quite enough turnover to get it beyond NBSS 2.5. In the absence of John Smiths Cask, it’s really hard to guess which is the best selling beer.
Simon had a better time of it here a week or so earlier, which shows you what a lottery cask can be.
QUIZ TIME – What are those coloured objects in jars in the fridge in the top photo ?
Despite typical Sheffield gloom about impending downpours (and unlike Simon I only walk) it was a dry walk along London Road back into town. It’s a long while since my last greasy chip butty at Bramhall Lane, and I was mildly staggered at the volume of Asian eateries that dominate the strip, reminding me of Camberwell or Molesey.
With straplines like “Rice is Nice” and “Oodles of Noodles” I really should have sampled Satay Yo Beer; they probably had flat Bass on. But I got a bit distracted by street art, one area at least where Sheff matches Manc.
The most exciting thing about the Beer Engine is its sinister location, tucked behind the den of iniquity that is Waitrose. It’s not visually exciting, so here’s a photo off WhatPub of what it looks like.
A small pub rather than the micro it sounds like (that’s in Skipton), it was perfectly pleasant with a mixed crowd, what sounded like the third Squarepusher album playing, and another typically Sheffield selection of cask.
More average beers (unfortunately for Blackjack, who brew good stuff), and more folk eschewing the craft in favour of Bitburger and Orangeboom. As they are perfectly entitled to. Worth a follow-up though.
The next mile and a half along Ecclesall Road was like entering a different country. What I thought was a student strip is now like a Little Orlando. Apart from the Spoons, the pubs are virtually gone, and it’s all Toni’s Ribs, Yankees and (ahem) Taco Bell.
The Beer House is, then, a bit of a an oasis of pubbiness, while strictly observing the Herne Commandments of Micro.
My favourite on the night, and one of my Top 3 in the city already. Couples in the back room (with me prying on their intimate conversations of course), loners in the bar, smokers out the front, and the cheeriest people in town. That may have been due to the quality of the Titanic Cherry Dark, which is just as good as the Plum Porter. A really sensible, tight beer range here. And a cuddly dog.
My last pub in the magnificent Beer Guide chapter of South Yorkshire was in Crookes, where Mrs RM once entertained delusions of living before she realised how steep Crookes itself actually is. The mile and a half to the Punchbowl took a disgraceful 40 minutes.
My last tick in a chapter is always a pint, with me of course being a notorious creature of habit. Not a pint I was looking forward to in a “Pizza Pub” that looks very much like the modernised Greene King places in outer Leeds like Woodies and the Carleton. Family groups, shared bottles of wine, diner type seats.
The Blue Bee is not a startling house beer (think watered down Leeds Pale), but presentation and coolness were immaculate, even down to the Robinsons glass. I should have tried the Tetley, it might have been nectar, as it used to be in Fagans. If it still is, let me know.
A couple of friends were discussing their plans for a night out in Huddersfield as if they were trekking through the Amazon (has it changed that much since the Mallinsons Tap opened ?), but were drowned out by the first ever playing of “O Superman” in a public house.
On the eve of the anniversary of the death of Mr J Peel, it brought a tear to my eye. You don’t get that sitting at home with a bottle of Rochefort, or Tennent’s.
A moderate night in one of my favourite cities, with more for the handpump counters than the quality seeker if I’m honest. I’m back there on Friday, when I might revisit a classic.
And a “Guess the Pub” picture round to finish. This used to be in the Guinness Book of Records y’know.