Ramblings: Sheffield

Blue skies, wispy clouds, a cool breeze: the perfect weather for a Sheffield crawl. I met up with David, who is over from Canada on a grand beer tour before returning home in September. The key pubs here are well served by public transport, so it was straight off the train and up to the tram. Here, we met up with Neil (DJ Monarch) who'd crossed the Pennines that morning to meet up with us.

As well as the gen we've gleaned from ratebeer.com, we used Gazza's great Google map for Sheffield to help us round this grand city.

Onto the Supertram and two short stops later it's the first pub of the day, the J D Wetherspoon Bankers Draft

This used to be the York City and Country Bank, an assured example of Edwardian Baroque. I wasn't expecting anything too exciting beer-wise but hoped for something solid and decent to start the day. The main bar was serving Stones Bitter, Wentworth WPA and Kelham Island Easy Rider. We headed upstairs to see what else was on offer. Unfortunately there was nothing extra; I popped downstairs to pick up an Easy Rider.

Neil and David were still buying their beers when I returned. Neil plumped for the Stones, which was rugged enough for a beer now brewed by Bass (sorry, Coors), but used to be made in Sheffield. David's WPA was disappointing; perhaps the end of a barrel? Not a great introduction to Sheffield beer drinking! My Easy Rider was on good form, though; always a joy to drink this beer.

It was soon time to leave the city centre behind and head north downhill to the River Don. We were expecting a longer hike, but we were on the bridge in what seemed like only a few minutes. The extensive road improvement works threw us out a bit, but then scooping in Sheffield isn't the same without getting list amongst ongoing construction in this neck of the woods. Negotiating a maze of walkways marked out by fluorescent netting, we finally hacked our way over to The Harlequin.

This was a busy place - just as a pub with a growing reputation for beer and food should be on a Friday lunchtime. Eight handpumps offered a real range of beers from light golds to roasty stouts with a couple of ciders thrown in for good measure. Sadly, none of their house beer as Kelham Island aren't quite back up to full capacity yet. We escaped out to the beer garden - a recurrent theme of the day - which offered a great view of, er, the JCBs working on the road junction.

A real range of beers tried here; Church End Stout Coffin, Durham Cuthberts Cross and St Louis Kriek were all dispatched and enjoyed. The Durham beer just edged into being my favourite of the round.

We then retraced out steps back over the river - where debris ranging from old buckets to small trees was still lodged under the bridges - into Alma Street.

Just past the back-in-business Kelham Island brewery we rolled in to the Fat Cat.

The flood level has been painted on the wall, thankfully this year's wasn't as bad as that in the 19th century.

We ventured out to the beer garden again, not that busy compared to inside which was surprising given that it's a mild Friday with the smoking ban in force. Here we sampled Derby Brewing Company Passionately Pale, Black Hole Super Nova and Thornbridge Hall Jaipur.

My Derby beer was good - no different to the bulk of Trevor's light brews but what ain't broke you don't fix. David's Jaipur was fairly flabby - two poor conditioned beers out of three for him! To give the Cat a chance of redeeming themselves, I went back to the bar and got a Thornbridge Hall Blackthorne which was in much better shape - full of juicy fruits.

As for the Black Hole - I just don't get it; something in there that my palate reacts adversly to in their beers. I watered the flowers behind me with a quarter pint - so if there's a barren patch in the bed when you next visit, it's the Super Nova wot done it.

Just a short walk around the corner took us to the Kelham Island Tavern

Always a cheery welcome here. A really strong selection of beers and wonderfully chunky cheese cobs.

And so off outside for the best beer garden of the day. A real sun trap.

The first round of beers - Allgates Beer Hunter, Sheffield Severn Hills, Milestone After the Flood were all OK. It's always worth having a few in here, so the next round was for Mighty Oak Simply The Best, Acorn First Gold IPA and Acorn Fuggles. That last beer really narked Neil, who was moved to declare that Fuggles was "not a hoppy hop", "If there's double hop and triple hop, that's half a hop" and "I'm going to rename it fuck-alls".

Each unto his own, eh!

Tearing ourselves away from the KIT, we moved on to the unlikeliest scooping opportunity of the day

The Milestone is clearly aiming for the up-and-coming cocktail market in what is now becoming a fashionable area of the city.

Not much to look nat from the outside, inside it's all chocolate and cream walls, candles, easy beats, continental draughts, decent wine list, house cocktails, open kitchen serving smart bar-bistro stuff....

But also, two cask beers; Sheffield Five Rivers Cascade and Wentworth Imperial.
Those kept the guys happy; I was mellow enough to have a Paulaner. In fact, if the music had stayed mellow - and we didn't have several more pubs to visit - I'd have been happy to kick back and relax here.

But, onwards and upwards. The Wellington has had a lick of paint since its Cask & Cutler days, and certainly smells cleaner since the smoking ban. I forgot to take a photo - must have been too mellow after the Milestone..

A good range of beers - perhaps nothing overly unusual but the Cannon Royal Fruiterers Mild, Beowulf Chiller and Millstone Vale Mill were all in good form - the latter I though was superb, a new recipe (though I never had the old one) and early contender for Beer of the Day.

Keeping rolling, one stop on the tram and a short uphill jog past the old infirmary (with a Te$co now spawned in the grounds) and it was onto the Moon

Now this was a great pub - green and cream decor, two large rooms and patio looking over the old infirmary. Five Abbeydale beers, five guests, draught lagers including local stuff and a solid thirty-bottle range of mainly Belgian staples. The piped acoustic music and decent menu of classic pub meals (with regular or large portions) make it an inviting place to get your breath back after a hard day's scooping.

Abbeydale Daily Bread and Salvation were clealry the best beers of the day so far - really fresh, full of flavour. The Magpie Two 4 Joy was as a good drop as well.

Back down the hill and the longest tram ride of the day so far - at least a couple of minutes - to get to the Hillsborough Hotel( their official site - and that of the Crown Brewery - seems to have disappeared)

It's a good looking place, lots of wood panelling and airy ceilings. We went out onto the terrace again to take in the splendid Don Valley view. OK, it's mainly Mecca bingo and the dry ski slope but it's still better than looking at a recycle bin and a pile of dog ends.

We tried one of their own beers, Hillsborough Pale Ale brewed by Crown, Northumberland Fog On The Tyne and something else I forgot to name (possibly Howard Town Glotts Hop).All were good, as were the Seabrooks crisps!

Here's David and Neil still managing to look awake:

We didn't really need an excuse to call back in the Wellington, such a good beer range means that it would be rude not to give them another go. West Berkshire The Crabtree Effect, Salamander Idol and Blackwater Poison (brewed at Salopian) were sampled - my palate's getting jaded by this point but still found some keen hops in the Poison. And the crisp sampling moved up a gear with Tyrells Crisps - Ludlow Sausage with wholegrain mustard. A new beer came on just as we were getting ready to leave - Pictish Pale and Oppy - so a half was dispatched quickly (and damn good it was too).

Time to head back into the city. Taking the tram to West Street we seemed to descend into a circle of hell - the place was already dripping with women wearing little more than too much cheap perfume.

Into the Devonshire Cat, which was heaving already at 7pm. A quick trio to knock off (beers, I hasten to add); my notes gave out at this point but I do remember that I went back to get a pint of (this time, excellent) Jaipur.

Then it was time to beat the retreat - Neil headed back over to Cheshire whilst David and I had a middling wait for a Virgin train and the customary standing up next to the out-of-order toilet for forty minutes.

Back into to Derby, where there's always time for a couple more beers - the Brunswick for a pint of White Feather and then back to the Alex for a Jever and let David crawl off to bed and recover from several days scooping.

A good day - new pubs visited, good beers tried, great gardens lounged around in! I can heartily recommend a Sheffield crawl to anyone interested in quality beers and letting the tram take the strain.