Sunday, September 15, 2013

Honorary cider drinker tours the Valley of Beer and gets a score draw

Away end at Hillsborough
On Saturday I enlisted to join the Green Army as they laid siege to Hillsborough.
My one-day sign up to Yeovil Town was sweetened with the promise of beer before and after the big match in Sheffield.
It all came about as a couple of friends from work are Wednesday fans and another colleague is from Yeovil.
He wanted to sit with his Somerset brethren on Saturday, so I - a cricket fan who knows next to nowt about football - volunteered to join him and even up the numbers for The Glovers.
But before kick off there was the little matter of me as acting as a tour guide in the Valley of Beer. 
We met up and had about three hours to spare before kick off. We also needed a pit stop for food so the route really wrote itself.
We kicked off in Shakespeares Ale & Cider House, the reigning Sheffield CAMRA pub of the year. There was, as you would expect, a pretty good choice on the bar. 
My colleagues all went for Abbeydale's  Deception, which ended up being their joint beer of the day.
I was torn between an elderflower beer from Dark Star and Revolutions' Turning Japanese. But I opted for the latter after being told it was packed with hops.
Image courtesy of Revolutions Brewing Co
The Castleford beer didn't disappoint and was my beer of the day by a street. In fact, I would go as far to say it was the most enjoyable Revolutions Beer I've had. 
As I'm hopeless in the Oz Clarke/Olly Smith tasting notes stakes, I'll leave it to the brewers, who say Turning Japanese is a "pale, blonde-style beer with low-moderate bitterness and pine/lemon/lime hop flavour. Hopped with Green Bullet and Motueka."
As a New Zealand hops fan this ticked all the right boxes for me and I would have easily had another but we had one-eye on the clock.
With time of the essence and stomachs rumbling it was time for lunch at the Fat Cat.
My colleagues were amazed at the value for money of the food range.  We oohed and ahhed over having the cider sausages but it was the closest we got all day to the county drink of Somerset.
Here my friends continued their Sheffield beers theme with Kelham Island's Pale Rider. They liked it but not as much as the Abbeydale.

I chose badly and ended up with a middling half of Growler Gladness having been sucked in by the 'Madness' pump clip. Anyway this average beer helped wash down another fine pork pie ploughmans.
A closer inspection of the beer list on the way out revealed a dark Salamander and a Hambleton's I hadn't had before. Pity.
Time was again running short so we unfortunately had to skip the Kelham Island Tavern and go straight to The Gardeners Rest and its riverside beer garden.
View back to Kelham Island
Again my colleagues went local, trying a range of Sheffield Brewery Co beers, Five Rivers and Crucible spring to mind. Again they were well received.
On the back bar I noticed a new brewery for me: Three Daggers from Wiltshire. I went for that instead of one of those high volume curry beers I've been tempted by recently. The curry beer was over six per cent and I didn't fancy snoozing my way through the game.
Daggers Ale, at 4.1 per cent, was much more manageable. But it was maltier than I expected and not to my taste. It wasn't a bad beer by any means, just not for me.
Next it was on to the game itself, which cost a staggering £28 for entry into the away end. The price list in the bar was also eye-watering, £3.60 for a 500ml can of Carling. I gave it a swerve and wished for a cricket-style pass out at half-time to the nearby Riverside Cafe and Bar.
My 'Wednesday' colleague had told me about it on the way to the ground and said it featured real ales upstairs. Their facebook page shows they have two regular cask ales and four guests. They have beers from Sheffield and Yorkshire but also take requests for ales from further afield.
The bar, on Catchbarr Lane, is only open Friday to Sunday with a plan to extend opening hours soon. I will check it out on my next visit and report back.
Anyway back to the football: Yeovil snatched a well-earned point despite being down to ten men from late in the first half. It finished 1:1 and I'll spare you from a full match report.

Post game we walked to a favourite pub with Wednesday fans, The New Barrack Tavern. But it was heaving with blue and whites so we decided to blow the whistle on our match day session in The Sheffield Tap. Here my friends discovered it's not all reasonably-priced drinking in the Steel City. Three drinks, admittedly one mad continental beer, for a shade under £10.
I thought I couldn't go wrong with a Buxton Brewery beer which was getting some hammer in the crowded bar. But Moor Top wasn't good and, in fact, was my worst of the day. Totally unlike any of their other excellent beers that I've tried. Maybe it was near the cask end?
The 3.6 per cent chinook hopped beer tasted nothing like the Buxton's own citrusy tasting notes. My Yeovil friend didn't like it either.
And not a beer to celebrate a hard fought point in the Valley of Beer!

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