Tuesday, February 11, 2014

A weekend wonder in Wadsley Bridge

The Railway, Penistone Road, Wadsley Bridge, Sheffield.
UPDATED*
I often wonder just how pubs survive after the weekend rush.
Does the boost from the Friday to Sunday takings subsidise the rest of the week? Or do a hardcore group of school-night drinkers chip in to keep their favourite watering hole ticking over?
I suspect the answer to both those questions is 'yes'. 
But on Sunday I came across a pub in Sheffield that operates solely at weekends - apart from when Sheffield Wednesday are playing down the road at Hillsborough.  
The Railway at Wadsley Bridge opens at 6pm on Friday and Saturday nights when music acts help pack the pub out.
On Sundays it opens all day from 11.40am to cater for its regular card players who take up residency for a few hands.
The pub is run by a 30-year veteran of the Sheffield licensee scene. Jean - as everyone simply knows her - has been in the pub as a freehouse for more than three years. But she also did a seven-and-a-half year stint at the pub on Penistone Road when it was formerly owned by Whitbread.
Jean is a well-know figure in the pub community having had the Cask and Cutler (The Wellington) at Shalesmoor, The Blue Ball at Wharncliffe Side and The Pheasant Inn on Trafalgar Road to name but a few.
The bar, looking through to the large function room
She kindly gave up her some of her free-time to answer some of my questions. It is Jean's choice that the pub has limited opening times.She had a million and one ideas about how she could turn the pub into a seven-day concern but prefers to just open at weekends and on matchdays. 
Helping her tick over are packed evening sessions in the concert room. Jean explained how people flock to the old snooker room on gig nights to see the likes of The Hillbilly Cats and Trevor Allen. 

The other draw card and revenue stream is the football club down the road. The pub opens especially on Sheffield Wednesday matchdays. I recall driving past at noon on New Year's Day and seeing the pub opening for business.
The pub caters for both Wednesday and away fans. I didn't see a 'no away shirts' sign, which you get at some other places in the city.
Jean told me there isn't any trouble or heavy-handed bouncers as she only let's 'nice people' into her pub!
So if you find yourself in Sheffield when Wednesday are at home then head up the road to The Railway. Don't worry about any queues at the bar as a team of six people pulling pints soon make short work of the lines. And when the weather improves you can enjoy a pint in the large beer garden under the railway line, which gives the pub its name 
On the bar, drinkers can expect three guest ales from nearby Bradfield Brewery. On Sunday, when I called, there was Farmers Blonde 4%, Farmers Brown Cow 4.2% and DAM'IT 3.8%.
I went for the latter because it was a new beer for me and it commemorates 150 years of the Great Sheffield Flood, which I mentioned on a previous blogpost when touring Bradfield dale.
This beer hadn't been on my radar until I saw it on the bar. But a check on the brewery's facebook page revealed the beer has been available since the end of January and has been flying out of the brewery's shop at weekends in take out jugs.
Bradfield describe DAM'IT as "a deep golden bitter with a clean & citric bitter aroma and a twist of vanilla. Brewed to mark 150 years since the great Sheffield flood".
It was an easy to drink beer and one half pint led to another. I normally prefer the higher strength Bradfield beers but I would certainly drink this one again.
Elsewhere on the bar, for non real alers, you will find Fosters, Carling, Guinness (later this week), Warsteiner, Thwaites Smooth, Stones Bitter and Kingstone Press Cider.
The snug
A side room decorated with film star memorabilia.
Those last two drink companies- former and current sponsors of Rugby League's upper and lower divisions - bring me neatly, and finally, to the point of my visit.
A little while ago it was announced that Sheffield Eagles RLFC would be returning to nearby Owlerton Stadium for the first time in 20 odd years. This followed the proposed demolition of their usual venue, Don Valley Stadium, for cost-cutting reasons.
I won't go into the politics of the decision. But as someone who started watching the Eagles soar at 'the dog track' in the 1980s, I'm just glad they are back home.
And from a drinking point of view, it opens up the possibility of even more matchday drinking in the Valley of Beer.
Close to the ground is The New Barrack Tavern which, I'm told on twitter, has a new Sheffield Eagles badged beer from Castle Rock. The pub, also on Penistone Road, intends to open at 10am for Eagles' home games (The first is on Sunday vs Rochdale Hornets at 2pm).
It will also serve breakfasts. So beer, a full English and RL - a winning formula! I'm looking forward to visiting the NBT soon.
Further down the road, towards town, lie the The Hillsborough Hotel, The Gardeners Rest, The Wellington, The Ship and the Kelham Island based pubs.
So expect periodic profiles of some of these places, and perhaps some lesser know pubs along the route as I sup with The Eagles.

Getting there: The 53 Bradway to Ecclesfield bus (which stops near the Sheffield railway and bus stations) takes in most of the places I've mentioned. It stops at The Harlequin, The Gardeners, The NBT, the ground and The Railway at Wadsley Bridge.

UPDATE: Unfortunately, today's game at Owlerton has been postponed due to a waterlogged pitch. The Eagles' first home game will now be against Barrow on Sunday, March 2 (kick-off 2pm). 

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