|Dark side & or the light side?|
A post Star Wars session has finally got my #tryanuary underway.
A combination of family illnesses, public transport holidays and poor planning on my part had prevented me from taking a ring-side seat by the bar.
But a trip to Sheffield to see The Force Awakens a week ago gave me the chance to get my 2016 ales campaign underway.
As far as I understand it, Tryanuary is a campaign promoting new beer discoveries throughout the month, It is in response to the the #dryjanuary pledge for charity.
I'm not going to get political here by adopting a pro or anti stance. I did an un-planned dry month last year and know a bit about the health benefits and the loss of income to pubs by such initiatives.
But this year I've been keen to take part having seen the breadth of ales being tried by some of my friends on twitter.
However, I had to wait until the credits had rolled on the latest Star Wars instalment before I could jump on the bandwagon.
The idea was to catch the tram to the Hillsborough Hotel, and then walk on to the New Barrack Tavern, the Gardeners Rest and The Harlequin - all places I hadn't been for a while.
But a tailback of traffic forced me to bail out at Shalesmoor and adopt a fairly well worn route.
The Fat Cat was the first port of call where a half of Tiger Tops was my pick. I couldn't get to the pump clip but the words hop and nearly five per cent spring to mind. Whatever I had, it was another fine beer from Barry Smith.
A short walk to the Kelham Island Tavern saw me spoilt for choice, so I ended up drinking in thirds. The first was Brass Castle Borderline Euro IPA (5.7%) and the second was Acorn's Christmas beer The 13th Noel, which is a dark ruby coloured ale at 6%. I thought I might have had it before but I'm still getting used to Acorn's re-branding, so I wasn't sure. The clip said it was part of their signature series and the guest brewer was one S Claus - he gets around!
The Brass Castle was first up and was soon was a thing of history, The Acorn wasn't too far behind it, such was the quality of both ales.
My last third was an old favourite, Brass Castle's Bad Kitty, a 5.5% vanilla porter.
To be quite honest I could have quite easily stayed in The Kelham all afternoon but my eye was on the clock and Shakespeare's around the corner.
Here, I had three beers ranging from a lighter shade of pale to red.
First was Tempest Brewing Co's The Pale Armadillo at 3.8%. I thought my taste buds might have been altered by the dark beers but not a bit of it. This may have been the weakest beer - in terms of ABV- I'd tried but it punched well above its weight.
Following on from that was Cloudwater Bitter at 4.3%. It's part of their winter range, apparently. I think this was only the second Cloudwater beer I've ever had and I think the first was in Shakespeare's too. It was very nice and I can see what the fuss on social media has been all about.
My last beer beer, given where my day started, was obvious - Blue Bee's Revenge of The Geek. This was a red mosaic beer at 4.5%. It confirmed my view about red beers, I like them when they've got plenty of hops in. This one had that in abundance.
That Star Wars themed bitter should have been my last one of the trip. I'd had a magnificent seven beers and supped just three pints in all - enough to keep the surgeon general and the Tryanuary folk equally happy.
But the small matter of a handy bus stop outside Shakespeare's ruined my symmetry. It left me with time to kill at the Sheffield Tap. I wasn't going to cave in until I saw a couple of beers from Kelburn on the bar, which evoked fond memories of The Navigation's Scottish ales festival a few years ago, which was a bit of a revelation for me.
I couldn't catch the name of the first Kelburn beer for the number people at the bar, but the line opened up in front of me to reveal Dark Moor, 4.5%, which was the champion beer of Scotland in 2014.
A fine finish to a faultless session.