Monday, 2 April 2012

MBA on Tour in Sheffield

Last Friday was indeed a good Friday, as Mediocre Beer Adventures and their brother in law took it's second (and pending financial upturn, possibly last) 'foreign' pub survey of the year.

I have been to the Steel City before (well I've watched LCFC lose at Bramall Lane and been shopping at Meadowhall), but this was my first drinking-based visit - one I felt impelled to make, after hearing nothing but good from wiser and better beer aficionados than myself.

A full programme yielded visits to 12 splendid pubs, including 7 or 8 official/unofficial brewery taps and left a warm, rippling feeling inside my heart.

Because there were so many good beers and lovely pubs, this report is going to be a bit of 'whistle stop' (much like my day), so watch out for bullet points and try to keep up.

1. On the Sheffield Station itself is the amazing Sheffield Tap, offering Thornbridge on cask and keg, + other top craft efforts from the likes of Tempest and Magic Rock, all complimented by hundreds of the World's best bottles.  Nice leather seats too.  Magnificent.  I could have stayed here all day.

2.  A short trip by tram, to the destination furthest from the centre: The Hillsborough Hotel.  Or..... rather the about to be renamed 'The Hillsborough'.  A lovely raised beer garden afforded a lovely view of the local ski slope (!) and I enjoyed sampling 2 beers from their house brewery Crown.  Or.... rather from their about to be already renamed house brewery Wood St.  Top marks for the [nearly] defunct beers and for stocking November's issue of Ales and Tales (which is the local CAMRA mag for the Stourbridge/Halesowen/Dudley branch) and which (coincidentally) contains an article written by me!  I did offer to sign it for them, but they politely told me to sling my hook.

3.  A walk down a hill, through an industrial estate, landed us up at the Gardener's Rest, my fave pub of the day.  A tap for the Sheffield brewery - they stocked 4 of their offerings, plus other handpulled guests; but it was the decor and fabulous beer garden that won the plaudits.  What a lovely clean pub, with lovely light and furniture, and what a lovely garden: full of nick-nacks, stained glass pagodas and a river view.  Genuinely lovely.

4.  Tap for the Little Ale Cart brewery - The Wellington was up next.  Very quiet inside, but with excellent tables and nectar-like hoppy Goldens on the bar, I did not care.  Several charming rooms.  Another winner.

5.  No time to hang around, because it was 5 minutes down the road, to the multiple winner of CAMRA UK pub of the year, the Kelham Island Tavern.  Nice burger scoffed, then on to...

6.  The Fat Cat, unofficial tap for the Kelham Island brewery (are you keeping up?).  This was [yet] another beautifully genuine and unspoilt old boozer, nestling on a corner.  Dead comfy inside, with charming features and a mix of handpulls and foreign beers.

7.  But we couldn't dawdle, as it was off to the Shakespeare, our last venue in the Kelham Island area*, before wending back to the wending towards, heading back to town.  The Shakespeare specialised in old furniture, pump clips on the wall and a serving hatch that looked like it had been scraped from a giant bar of soap.  Summer Wine Vanguard was the beautifully hoppy pale ale sampled here, thank you very much.

*Of course, this is not strictly true, as we first popped into venue number 8, which was:

8. The Harlequin - brewery tap for the Brew Company.  Samples of their Blonde and Best Bitter were completed, just as a touring party arrived. Nice wooden furniture here also + good foreign beers. 

9. DAda.  Which is, of course, Thornbridge's reinterpretation of a wine bar.  Funky collages on the tables and funky keg beers on offer, mainly of the Thornbridge variety, but appendixed by the brilliantly hoppy Modus Hoperandi, from the Coloradan Ska Brewery.  Wowee!  What a greatly delicious beer to perk up the sagging central trunk of our crawl.  Onwards.

10.  Bonus visit!  We nosed our way inside Hop, on the way to pub number 10, and were rewarded with very loud music, lots of students and nightclub style interior.  Very strange when you consider that this is an Ossett gaff, with 4 of their beers on handpull.  Inspite of this, it was the lovely Hawkshead Dry Stone Stout, which tempted me.

Number 11 was the Devonshire Cat, which offered an impressive array of well known Belgian bottles and about a dozen handpulls.  Very big, very modern, very open plan, very busy, very short visit.

12. It took an age to find the Rutland Arms, but then again I did have to divert via a comfort break, which had become all too pressing.  The Rutland was more like rammed-land (by which I mean it was rather busy).  I believe this is an unofficial tap for the Blue Bee brewery, but didn't realise until afterwards.  This explains why I sampled an Ascot beer.  Chris had a pickled egg.  Bully for him.

Then back to the Sheffield Tap and just enough time for a Sierra Nevada Ruthless Rye, before boarding train home.

Final thoughts:
  • The best pub crawl in the World?  Yes.
  • Every pub a winner?  Ain't that the truth.
  • My fave was the Gardener's Rest, but the Sheffield Tap was amazing, the Wellington was grrrrreat, the Fat Cat was effortlessly homely and DAda dripped with cool.  They were all good.
  • Lots of beer gardens.  A relative rareity in Brum, but in Sheff, each pub offered a bit of inner-city greenery and the chance to sample some fresh air.
  • Great scenery in this hilly city.
  • Good beer was unavoidable.  Every place offered lots of cask choice.  And keg choice.  And foreign bottles were ubiquitous.  And the quality was high.  And there about 1000 different breweries within a 10-mile radius. Mind blowing.
  • Quite cheap too.  Not to be sniffed at.
  • I love Sheffield.
(Photos will be posted separately (probably), once I have worked out how to use new iPhone.)

This post is dedicated to Steven Raymond Vaughan, who recently celebrated his 30th birthday.


  1. Yaay great review, well done on the stamina too! Sheffield does feel like the beer capital of England to me, wish it was just a short (and cheap) train ride away as every pub on your list is worthy of a longer visit.

  2. That's more then I could manage in 1 day! Nice that your favourite was the Gardeners Rest. I don't think it gets the credit it deserves, partly because of the awful location.

    There's also the number 43 bus route pub crawl, which takes in some outstanding pubs (and an outstanding off-licence with 4 cask ales on handpump) in Chesterfield, Dronfield and winding up at the Rutland Arms & Sheffield Tap in Sheffield.

  3. You certainly fitted in a few Dan - I'm surprised you found the station again. I've been to quite a few of these but there's a couple I haven't visited yet. Shame the Rutland was so rammed - it can get like that I'm afraid, but when its not its a really friendly pub and supposedly good food too (although I've not eaten there yet). If you come back again also try The Bath Hotel and The Stag. I also like Fagan's. They're probably not so much for the beer afficianado, but they have good beer and are also great pubs.
    A little further out of the City Centre I'd also recommend the Union Hotel - great local - and the Broadfield on London Road....Enjoyed reading it Dan, thanks

  4. Near the Broadfield, THE WHITE LION and THE SHEAF VIEW are great..... The Broadfield in on Abbeydale Rd!

  5. Liked your review, looks like a potentially messy excercise, congratulations on surviving.

    Am so glad to read some praise from a person with an appreciation of beer and pubs, for my regular haunt Dada - don't get me wrong I'm a Tap, Rutland, Harlequin and Bath Hotel kinda guy but Dada is better than folks give it credit for. Hope yer don't mind then if I drop a link (well, address, not very tech am afraid) for my Dada review?



    1. Thanks WB, am pleased to host a link to your blog! I dream of Sheffield and hope to get back A-SAP.