Sunday, February 02, 2014

Actual & official birthday sessions in Sheffield and Huddersfield

Left for KIT/Fat Cat, right for Shakey's
Question: What do you do when it's your birthday and you are torn between two rival beer destinations?
Answer: Easy, take a leaf out of Her Britannic Majesty's book and have two celebrations.
I found myself smack in the middle of that quandary last weekend. As fans of this blog will know, I like to divide my drinking time between Sheffield and Huddersfield - two great ale places with different characteristics.
The Valley of Beer has become so vast now that it's almost impossible to do it justice in one day. You find yourself doing the Steel City in sections, while Huddersfield is more manageable. It's concentrated town centre circuit offers six or so real ale pubs in a short distance of each other.
So which one to do first? Again fate intervened as two old friends were working in Sheffield on my 'actual' birthday.
The idea was to do the best one, two, three pub crawl I know - Kelham Island's Holy Trinity: Shakespeares, Kelham Island Tavern and The Fat Cat. 
So we made our way through the rain to Shakespeares on Gibraltar Street.
I walked in and my eyes fixed on a much sought after beer: Mallinsons Silk Tail 3.9%.
Image c/o Mallinsons/Blue Birder
It just so happens that the pump clip photo was taken by www.aswiftone.com editor Will as part of the Lockwood brewers long-running bird series. 
So it was a no brainer which beer to start with. It turned out to be another impressive beer from Mallinsons. My half didn't last very long so I was soon back at the bar for another jar of hoppy gold. Other drinkers were also purring about the waxwing beer, which wasn't expected to last the night.
The brewers themselves describe it in much more professional terms as "a golden coloured ale with a strong citrus hop aroma. The bitteness is medium with slightly honey notes, and a fresh bitter finish".
After a pint and a half of Mallinsons it was time for a pub move. So we dodged death on the rush-hour ring road and the less lethal pot holes in the pay & display en route to The Fat Cat
I should explain my friends are not real drinkers and they must have been wondering where the hell this loon was taking them. 
But their fears were allayed as soon as they walked through the door of this homely pub, which blazed a trail for real ale in Sheffield and for me. 
It was only fitting to go to The Fat Cat on my birthday because it is the place where I signed up to the real ale cause about a decade ago. And there, like the first time I ever walked in, was Fat Cat landlady Diane to explain the beer choices.  
Howzat! Image c/o Five Towns
She told me Five Towns' Sledging 5.1% was a very good wheat beer with a lovely orange taste. Here I basked in a glimmer of reflected glory as I played a small part in helping name this beer. This moniker for this Aussie beer came about through a twitter exchange with its cricket mad brewer, Malcolm Bastow, during the recent Ashes debacle. Mercifully I had no hand in it's brewing - leave it to the professionals!
My friends had a taste of the beer and - I hesitate to say the were bowled over -  they really liked it. So there is hope for them yet!
The beer is made from perle hops from Germany and summer hops from Australia.
Malcolm tells me the beer also has coriander and curacao orange in the traditional Belgium style. And it features Belgium yeast with additional cinnamon sticks for seasonal addition.
I had another 'bonzer' Sledging or two but as I tried to negiotate the steep steps leading from the top room it was a bit like our batsmen going out to face paceman Mitchell Johnson at The WACA. I'm not sure this important health and safety aspect was foreseen by the brewer! 
Enough joking, I think Sledging is among Malcolm's top beers. Not because of my slight connection with it but because of the taste and drinkability. Catch it if you can, it was on at The Star in Huddersfield last night.
I followed it up with Kelham Brewery's Tin Can Avenger 3.8% - a continental style lager and one of Kelham's February specials. I must admit I chose this because of the cartoon superhero clip artwork from Jim Connolly. I forgot that I'm not a big fan of continental lager. It felt a little thin after the tasty Sledging. Perhaps I drank them the wrong way round?
We had an appointment with a fish curry so unfortunately we had to miss out the Kelham Island Tavern. That turned out to be a mistake as my tastebuds were turning towards dark beer instead of iced water at the curryhouse.
But that omission will be put right next weekend when The Kelham Island Tavern will be visited without fail.
But before that comes my 'official' birthday in Huddersfield. So join me next time for a hike up Hoyle Ing to The Sair in Linthwaite and more Mallinsons and Five Towns down The Star.
A Happy Birthday!

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