Sheffield & The Kipling Test

It was Friday night and I was offered a bit of this or a bit of the other. Being a beerhound, I chose the other: A chauffeured trip over to Sheffield; the valley of beers.

After a dark and winding, somewhat mysterious, drive through the Snake Pass, we reached our first destination. The Crickets is hidden away down Penny Lane and is apparently close to the very posh end of South Yorkshire. Yes, apparently they do have one.

Presumably that’s what influenced Thornbridge to lease the pub from Enterprise. Despite its isolated location it had the potential to attract punters by offering a good food led operation. They’ve certainly gone for it in a big way-and I don’t just mean the A3 menus-with a very interesting selection and from what we could see, nicely presented.

The pub itself is posh. Stone floors, big sturdy furniture, candlelit tables, that sort of thing. But I liked it. After all, I can do posh occasionally; sometimes I even have a paper napkin with my black pudding.

The staff were attentive, if rather surprised to find people there just for the drinks. Ah, the drinks. A row of Thornbridge handpumps adorn the bar. The house beer is a rebadged version of Wild Swan and very tasty it was too. In fact all the beer was served cool and in top condition. On the face of it, a very impressive operation.

Two things, though: The landlord came over and offered us a, very generous, sample of Lord Marples. Despite its excellent condition, it merely reinforced my conclusion that this is a sweet brown beer with little, if anything, to redeem itself.

And then there was the alleged Ploughman’s. £10 for cheese, roast ham AND a Huntsman pie, apple and crackling salad? That is not a Ploughman’s, but pretentious crap and frankly an insult to humanity’s intelligence. Pay a visit to the March Arch, see how it's done and get it sorted.

Once the shock of the Ploughman’s had died off and the smelling salts had done their stuff, it was time to move on. A very unusual place next-the Archer Road Beer Stop. This is a quaint off licence, reminiscent of Open All Hours, that sells a wide range of bottled beers and has real ale on handpumps. Although, sadly, not for consumption on the premises.

The White Lion is a classic multi-roomed boozer with several rooms spreading off from the original tiled corridor. Although there have been some alterations, many parts are still Grade II listed and it is noted for its original Gilmour windows with their unusual spelling of “Windsor”.

Last stop had to be the Sheffield Tap which is situated adjacent to the railway station. This has been generating some very good press and is much loved by the beer blogging fraternity. It’s not hard to see why. They offer the full range of Thornbridge beers, the likes of Brewdog on the fonts and an impressive bottled selection. But of course what everyone asks me is whether it lives up to the hype?

Just my tuppence worth: It seemed smaller than I had visualised. This is probably due to seeing it mainly pictured empty. I don’t know if they clear the place when the likes of Pete Brown visit, but there’s little room to manoeuvre on a Friday night. However, it’s not a crime to be busy and there was a good mix of customers.

Seeing that Kipling was on both cask and keg, the Kipling test had to be done. Was it really true that some Thornbridge beers are better kegged? Of course I’m led to believe that this is not your bog-standard keg (heaven forbid!) but something called Keykeg, if you want to be technical.

This superkeg delivered a more rounded, fruitier, version of Kipling than the cask. It was certainly palatable enough. The cask version however was aesthetically more pleasing with much longer head retention and a more robust aroma. The clincher was the taste; the cask simply had more punch to it. So, on this showing, it’s 1-0 to cask.

A note on quality. The cask beers were a tad warm for my liking and not quite as good as at the Crickets. Could a possible explanation lie in the absence of sparklers? Yes, to out amazement (and somewhat disgust) there were no sparklers on any of the beers.

I’ve been told that this is because on a Friday & Saturday they are “too busy to serve through sparklers”. A rather worrying admission it has to be said. If you care enough about beer to have sparklers, then they should be used all the time. It may not be easy, but it is perfectly possible. Another visit here is called for, perhaps when it’s less busy.

So three new pubs for me and an off licence. Seems Sheffield truly still is the valley of beers.


Tandleman said…
Right. We'll go when it's quiet then!
TIW said…
“too busy to serve through sparklers”

What? Get more staff/pumps then!
Barry said…
The Tap is brilliant for foreign beers and very handy for the station.
Quite ironic being situated in the kingdom of tickers but apart from Thornbridge it's not the place to get any ticks. The lack of sparklers is odd though.
Neil said…
Is that a Yorkshire ploughmans?
Yorkshire Lad said…
Not been to the Tap but sparklers are common practice in Yorkshire.However if they are really busy at weekends and the staff are new or inexperienced then it may make sense for them to take them off.
Anonymous said…
The comparison between keg and cask is very interesting. I've not tried the keg version but I love the cask version. Have you tried the keg Jaipur? It would be nice to hear how that compares with its keg equivalent.

Hopefully I will get to the ST sooner or later and find out for myself.

Eddie said…
When Tyson responded to my advert for a beer drinkers escort service (see back pages of the Bury Times)I was delighted to take his booking and drive him to Sheffield. Looking back at the Tap, there was a definite shortfall in staffing, pleasant and helpful as the staff were, they were stretched too far. This could have been caused by a bewildering number of people ordering annoying rounds such as "one dry white wine with lemonade, but not too much lemonade, just enough, one malibu and coke, diet coke that is, a whisky on the rocks, a lot of ice please, sorry make that coke and ice, a coffee err cappuccino with sprinkles and a pint of soda water.....err what cordial have you got mate?...." Straight away you could write off one of the two barmen for 20 minutes. At a train station beer bar you will find people who are out of their comfort zone. Inevitable. Why on earth isn't there a fast lane for beer (and whisky) drinkers in these places? If you want wine or coffee you have 3 choices a) leave b) join the queue at the end of the bar with the other people who should also be in Yates c) drink beer (or whisky)as God intended. This country!

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