As well as visiting the Kelham Island Tavern on my trip to Sheffield, I also called at the Fat Cat, where to my delight, the pub was hosting a Sheffield beer festival. In addition to several beers from the Kelham Island Brewery there were two on the bar which particularly caught my eye. Older drinkers will remember Stones and Wards - both originally brewed in Sheffield and both victims of brewery closures - so I just had to try them!
Stones was brewed at the city's Bass Charrington plant when I first encountered it way back. It was not my favourite beer, being pretty unremarkable except for the headache it left the following morning! The beer is now apparently brewed by Everards in the Midlands but is still unremarkable, with very little hop or malt character - it does have a nice pump clip however!!
Wards was an independent Sheffield brewery and their bitter was one of the maltiest beers I have drunk, with a head that always broke up in the glass. The newest version (I have seen it brewed by others previously) is from the Maxim Brewery in the north east and has a tight head with none of the maltiness of its predecessors - indeed a particularly poor substitute for the original. I'm unsure whether the recipes have changed, or that the different water simply cannot replicate the original taste, or even if they aren't just completely new beers - but whatever the truth is, neither can be described as a success.