Into the Valley
Beers to right of them,
Beers to left of them,
Beers in front of them
Sheffield: the valley of beers. So called for its abundance of choice of real ale. No fear of meeting the “usual suspects” in the hostelries of this part of South Yorkshire, but does choice equate to quality? There was only one way to find out.
The Sheffield Tap is well known to lovers of the beery stuff. Handily placed at Sheffield station, it offers a range of Thornbridge beers alongside a number of guest beers. A good start was made here with the choice of Thornbridge Kipling; lots of tropical hop flavours here to get the palate stimulated.
Then it was onto the Supertram. For those who care about such things, this is a proper tram and not the bastardised abomination that is the Metrolink. A conductor-yes an actual human being, will happily sell you a Dayrider (£3.90) which allows you unlimited travel on the tram and on Stagecoach buses.
The New Barrack Tavern is a classic, multi-roomed, old school-boozer. It still bears the long gone Gilmours livery, but is now part of the Castle Rock group. No surprise that Castle Rock Pale was the order of the day here.
Not far away is the Hillsborough Hotel. Another interesting pub with a very nice conservatory drinking area; this made its name for being home to the Crown Brewery which produced some good beers. This was the second visit under the current regime and yet again it was disappointing. Their own beers were distinctly amateurish and the guest beers were served too warm.
Much better was the Wellington on Henry St which is home to the Little Ale Cart range of beers. All the beers here were met with approval. Indeed, some people considered it the best beer of the day.
However, I reserve that privilege for the Gardeners Rest. This is a real hardcore tickers pub, even by Sheffield standards. You’re usually lucky if you’ve heard of any of the breweries on offer. On this occasion there was a beer festival on, so the choice was even greater. Through careful negotiation we ended up with Truefitt Erimus Pale. This was very aromatic with a good clean hop bite and all for only 3.9%.
You can’t go to Sheffield without visiting the Fat Cat and the Kelham Island Tavern. They are both great pubs. The trick is to avoid drinking any Kelham Island beers as the beer has never scaled its early heights. In the KIT, you’re ok because they have Pictish Brewers Gold as a fixture, but it’s trickier in the Cat. I often seem to struggle to find a decent pint in here and this visit proved to be no different.
On the other hand, the Bath Hotel is truly worthy of a visit on its own merits. It’s on the CAMRA National Inventory of Historic Pub Interiors and has some splendid original features. Recently acquired by Thornbridge, the beer range has been expanded and there is now a good range on the bar.
There I must draw a veil over our excursion into the valley of beers. The dark tale of dodgy curries and late night trains that follows is, like the story of the giant rat of Sumatra, one that the world is not yet prepared for.