Saturday, October 12, 2013

A mini tour of Commonside and Walkley

Last summer I was taken on a magical mystery tour of Sheffield pubs. I thought I knew the city quite well ale-wise but I was proved wrong.
Local lad and fellow beer blogger Wee Beefy took me on a brilliant whistle-stop tour of pubs in Crookes, Walkley and Commonside. 
Today (Saturday) I returned to visit three of the pubs. This time I didn't have a handy tour guide who knew where everything was. 
But it turned our a lot easier than I thought as the 95 Walkley bus, from Pond Street, drops you at the junction of Commonside, where two of the pubs are.
A cider pig sandwich washed down with Blue Bee Light Blue
A short walk uphill led me to The Closed Shop, which is run by the team behind The Rutland Arms near Sheffield station. That means two things - good ales from Blue Bee Brewery and excellent food.
On the bar were a couple of pale Blue Bees, Axholme Special Reserve 7.2%, Kelham's Easy Rider, Doom Bar and Reverend James.
I was unsure what to go for so I asked for expert help. I was told the Blue Bee's Light Blue and Lincoln Green Brewing Co Quarterstaff stout were particularly good.
Having taken the barman's advice, I adjourned to the split-level seating area with my Light Blue 3.6% and picked up Sheffield CAMRA's magazine Beer Matters.
As chance would have it there were a few paragraph about the hoppy sessioner I was enjoying.
It turns out Light Blue is brewed for summer and this was a last outing to celebrate its runner up spot at Stockport Beer Festival.
It was the perfect accompaniment for my cider pig sandwich (12-hour cooked pulled pork with barbecue sauce and smoked cheese).
Both were gone too soon, so it was back to the bar for the recommended stout, Lincoln Green Brewing Co's Quarterstaff.
I've not come across this Nottingham brewery before. A trawl of its website http://lincolngreenbrewing.co.uk/# shows it was set up May 2012 by husband and wife team Anthony and Lynette Hughes. It take its name from the colour of Robin Hood's cloth.
The core range is named after all aspects of the legendary outlaw as is the seasonal special, Quarterstaff 5%.
Co-owner Mr Hughes, describing Quarterstaff on the brewery website, said: "A true stout, this has flaked barley and black malt to give a robust malt profile and plenty of blackcurrant, earthy flavours coming from the hops. 
"I'm delighted with the smooth, deep flavour of this one, which takes its name from the weapon used by Little John in his battle with our hero Robin Hood."
Well, I'll gladly be walloped by Quarterstaff again. It turned out to be my beer of the day by a short head from the Light Blue. 
It perfectly suited the rainy weather outside and put me in the mood for more dark beer. In fact I would have had another jar of it in The Closed Shop had I not had two more places to visit.
Hallamshire House's snooker table
I didn't have to travel far to the Hallamshire House as it is just over the road. My abiding memory of this pub from last time was wall-to-wall Thornbridge beers, a full-size snooker table and a quirky beer garden.
But it was a day for staying indoors, so I bought half of Thornbridge's Brother Rabbit 4% and played a frame of scratchy snooker.
The 'crisp golden ale' didn't grab me but I do like the feel of this pub and could have easily whiled away some hours here trying to build double-digit breaks! 
But because of the lack of guest ales I decided to move on.
The Blake Hotel, Blake Street, Walkley.
My route to the nearby Blake Hotel involved tackling one of the steepest streets in Sheffield. 
I arrived slightly out of breath after this short but stinging hike. But I manfully made my way to the bar to look for a restorative tonic. 
On it, I think, was a choice of Pennine, Acorn, Navigation Stout and a few others. Again I was impressed by the level of knowledge of the bar tender who gave me a good description of the colour, style and characteristics of the beers. 
I went for my second Nottingham beer of the day in the form of Navigation Stout 4.4%. 
The main bar was pleasantly crowded so I took my beer and a newspaper off the rack and went into a side room of this spacious pub.
The Navigation was a pleasant enough beer but it didn't knock any spots off the excellent Quarterstaff. But it should be said that The Blake held my beer of the day during my August visit, which I'm pretty sure was a dark beer.
Time was marching on so I walked back up another hill to Commonside and caught the frequent 95 service back into town.  I noted that the bus route opened up future possibilities off an extended crawl taking in The University Arms, The Red Deer, The Bath Hotel and on the return leg The Rutland Arms.
Food for thought.  

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