Thursday, April 09, 2015

Beer gardens of sunny delight in Sheffield

Kelham Island Tavern's beer garden
The good weather has driven me outdoors and into the beer garden.
I thought the heat wave called for a spot of ale fresco drinking in some of Sheffield's city centre hostelries.
There are a host of beery sun traps in the heart of the Steel City.
My template was to keep out of the Kelham quarter in order to bring you something a bit different -but, as you will see, I wasn't entirely successful.
I started out the Fat Cat's newish sister pub, Tap and Tankard, across from the City Hall.
It is on Cambridge Street, down the side of John Lewis, not far from Henry's. I forget what it was before or what it looked like. So I went in without any preconceived ideas.
Inside it was a little dark, but neatly laid out. One thing I noticed straight away was the music. Not something I'm used to hearing at its sibling's pub apart from during the Tramlines festival or at special events.
I'm not against music in real ale pubs, in fact I rather like it, but it was just something I picked up on.
The bar presented four Kelham Beers, three regulars and a special. On the other half of the bar were four guests, from which I chose Bad Seed Brewery's Boadicea Pale Ale (4.5%) over Thornbridge Jaipur, Rudgate (Innovation Ales) Milk Stout and Exit 33's Calypso Pale Ale Ale.
Sign at Tap & Tankard 
I wandered through the bar and into the beer garden, which I was told had some old brewing memorabilia.
I was greeted by a number of old brewery signs and pub names. The beer garden was the usual whitewashed bricks catching the sun affair, which was just what I was after.
I'd set myself a half-pint limit in each pub so as to cover more ground, so it was soon time to head to The Red Deer, off West Street and Mappin Street.
Now, I have a family connection with this pub. It was my dad's local when he worked over the road. He once arranged a conference where people came from all over. I'm not sure what he made of foreign delegates telling him that the best bit about the conference was the after party at The Red Deer. Strangely, I've not done much drinking in my dad's old favourite, so I put that right.

Red Deer, Pitt Street
I ordered half of Blue Bee's Rational (4.3%). This brewery can do no wrong in my eyes. The beer was a dark red hue but very hoppy. A piece on the Sheffield CAMRA website reveals it has "a full flavoured malty body and bags of hop flavours from a combination of Cascade, Citra and Columbus hops".
I took my half into the beer garden where I hoped to catch sight of its famous neighbours: the peregrine falcon family who live a street away on St George's Church. But despite them being on a clutch of eggs, I had no joy.
University Arms, Sheffield.
My path led me next to the University Arms on Brook Hill. It has an actual garden for a beer garden. But I chose to sit in the conservatory where a nice breeze was wafting through. My beer choice here was Welbeck Abbey's Henrietta Grande golden ale (4%) but it was close run thing with Acorn's Eggcracker bitter following a taster of each.
My intention was to round off this outdoor drinking session by catching a bus from the Botanical Gardens back towards the station and The Rutland Arms.

Sign at Shakespeares
But fate stepped in when a Kelham Island bound bus rolled up. It dropped me off outside Shakespeares, which has a large beer garden. My steady-away non Kelham session was thrown further into disarray when I spotted North Riding and Five Towns' collaboration brew OAP DIPA, which weighs in at 9.6%. It was the sequel to the mighty 300, which was popular at The Star and elsewhere last year.
I'd tried the sequel only in a bottle form and it was a beauty. But on draught it went into a different dimension.
After a hazy look at the old posters in the pub's beer garden, it was time to finish off in The Kelham Island Tavern, which I'd just heard that day had been once again been named Sheffield CAMRA's pub of the year. In fact it won for the eleventh time.
The pub is also well known for its beer garden, which I think has garnered plenty of awards too. I congratualted Trevor the landlord and asked what he would recommend to toast their latest success. He suggested Atom Rare Earth (5.5%). This pale turned out to be one of the best beers I've had so far this year, along with OAP DIPA and Blue Bee's Left to Right.
I seldom revisit a beer but I broke the rules with this one and had it again while perched on a bench with arguably the finest view in beer.

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