Last month some old friends of ours signed up for a CAMRA weekend in Sheffield. It was quite a commitment to real ale since they live in Oxford. No doubt most of the pubs will be familiar to local ale lovers but it represents a handy primer for new visitors. So here is Hugh Palmer and Hoonie Feltham’s exclusive report on how others see us (with some nice photographs from Hugh www.hughpalmer.com)
‘The Oxford Branch of CAMRA (Campaign for Real Ale) went on a day’s jolly to Sheffield last month to sample the local pubs and their real ale.
We limited ourselves to locally brewed ales and were well impressed by the range and quality. We started at Kelham Island a mix of lovely old buildings and some derelict and defunct reminders of Sheffield’s past industrial glory.
The Kelham Island Tavern has a long bar of gleaming hand pumps, dark tables and chairs in a traditional beer drinking pub. It has won the CAMRA award for best UK pub several times, and deservedly so. They had four regular and four guest beers – one of which was the marvelously named North Riding’s Cricket R.I.P. We sampled Abbeydale Brewery’s Deception (ABV 4.1) a good strong amber ale, and one of Bradfield’s Farmer’s Blond (ABV 4.0) a tasty light and hoppy ale, which the landlord described as ‘a very popular pint’.
Next to The Fat Cat across the road. Its tiny bar – just big enough for two people to serve from at a squeeze – had a remarkable 12 ales on tap. We sampled a pint of Kelham Island Brewery’s Pale Rider (ABV 5.2) winner of CAMRA’s Supreme Champion Beer of Britain, and a pint of Sheffield Best Bitter (ABV 4.0) at a bargain £2 a pint. This we matched with a lunch of delicious Kelham Sausages in Yorkshire pud and a so-so chickpea veggie dish.
Then to the Riverside, a student pub and café by the river with a view to a mass of student flats across the road. Happily the view was appeased by a pint of Yorkshire Pride (ABV 3.7) a tasty and bitter blond ale from Barnsley’s Acorn Brewery.
The Harlequin was a big, impersonal, split-level place whose house beers are provided by the local Brew Company. Sampling Cedar Lake Amber (ABV 4.6) we liked the woody bitter that had a strong after taste and the Milton Thalia (ABV 4.1) .
The tram then took us back into town and to the lovely Rutland Arms with its snug and low tables where the golden light bitter, Blue Bee Nectar Pale (ABV 4) was enjoyed nearly as much as the hoppy Arbour Ales Pale Ale (ABV 4).
We were by now feeling tired and a bit wobbly, but not so wobbly that we couldn’t manage just one last pint at the Sheffield Tap, a terrific pub right there on Platform 1b of Sheffield Midland station, formerly the First Class Refreshment Rooms. After an award winning CAMRA conversion, it is now a very classy bar, with a sweeping row of windows that looks out across the platform in a scene straight out of Brief Encounter though rather incongruously staffed by a team of Aussies and Kiwis. Just time then for our last pint of Thornbridge Brewery’s Jaipur (ABV 5.7). Nice beer, nice bar, lovely atmosphere, no extraneous anything and the perfect place to down our last pint. Thanks Sheffield.’ Hugh Palmer & Hoonie Feltham, Oxford