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guinness eileen

The Banner Cross Hotel, 971 Ecclesall Road, Banner Cross, Sheffield, South Yorkshire

Back in May on a bank holiday Monday, Andrew and I decided to check out a pub we'd known about since we moved to Sheffield but never actually visited. This was due to the fact that it's a bit out of our way and it wasn't part of either pool league Andrew used to play for, so we would never have found ourselves there for a match. But recently I read that they now feature a revolving selection of cask ales, so I decided it was worth a trek down past Hunters Bar and on out to the neighbourhood called Banner Cross.

The name Banner Cross comes from bæna kross, which means "the cross of prayers" in Icelandic. I've never heard about any specific Icelandic connection to Sheffield, but as us Sheffielders are "up north" I supposed anything's possible.

The area called Banner Cross was named after the Grade II listed Banner Cross Hall, an Elizabethan mansion dating from 1821. A third of a mile away is the Banner Cross Hotel. I couldn’t find out much about the history of the pub except for an event that happened in November 1876. Charles Peace was an English violinist and burglar who killed a policeman in Manchester and then fled to his home-town of Sheffield where he became obsessed with his neighbour's wife. As a result he shot and killed the neighbour, Arthur Dyson, in a passageway located next to the pub. He then fled down to London, was arrested in Blackheath, and was transferred up to Leeds where he was tried and hung. He certainly got around a bit. Apparently the Alleyway, a sandwich shop located behind Italia Uno just a few steps from the pub, was named after the original passage where the murder took place.

We've been aware of the Banner Cross for ages but, as it's not near anything we do, we'd never stopped in. I had another Friday afternoon off, so we decided to drive down and check this out, not thinking that it was 4:00 and would be the busiest rush hour of the week. Battling our way through slow-moving traffic, ambulances, etc., we finally made it to Banner Cross and miraculously found a place to park the car. The pub has a rough and ready feel, but the clean weathered wood floor in both the public bar and the lounge really appeals to me. A central bar separates the two rooms, and when we walked in a small group of locals were standing at the public bar bantering with the landlord.

There were several cask ales on including Farmers Blonde, Yorkshire Farmer, Moonshine, Easy Rider, and Tetley. We went for pints of Saltaire Blonde (4.0% ABV, Saltaire Brewery, Shipley, West Yorkshire). It was a pleasant very golden pint with balanced hops. But the price, £3.50 a pint, seemed a bit high even considering the current rate of inflation. I suppose at some point in the future a typical Sheffield pint will cost a fiver, but I'd rather not think about that right now.

We sat in the front bar at a table surrounded by photos of various Sheffield sporting stars. Also on the walls were two sports-related illustrations by local artist Pete McKee -- one of Sheffield United fans and the other of Sheffield Wednesday fans -- hanging side by side in surprisingly peaceful harmony. Also around the walls were painted your typical witty bar sayings. And, of course, large TVs, including the main 10-foot screen, for related sporting events. In the back is a great beer garden which features a large sunny area of picnic tables in the back and a couple of inviting little alcoves along the side.

I have no idea what this pub is like in the evenings, but on this weekday late afternoon the atmosphere seemed quite relaxing. The patrons were all friendly, including the injured laughing man and the paramedic who came in to use the toilet. The lounge is pleasant and inviting, too: roomy with lots of wood tables and more of that appealing wood floor which was nothing like the typical traditional carpeted (and usually rather boring) pub lounge at all. In fact, I was reminded of some California brewpubs I've visited. I would so love to have a wood floor like that in my home.

The Banner Cross is located next-door to the Somewhere Else Coffee Shop, which I'm hoping will be a future Double Shot Buzz excursion. Directly across the road is Barking Mad Pet Supplies and Dog Groomers. And if you like decent meat, there seems to be a wealth of butchers in Banner Cross. On the other hand, if you don't eat meat, there seems to be an inordinate number of butchers in Banner Cross. Glass half empty or half full of meat, your choice.


  • CLOSED SHOP, SHEFFIELD: Recently I stopped in and had a pint of Stateless Pale Ale (3.9% ABV, Redwillow Brewing, Macclesfield, Cheshire). My friends Lorraine and Nick were drinking the same beer, and I have to say it was really a fine hoppy pint indeed. From my experience Redwillow seem to brew some damn fine pale, hoppy, and pleasing beers. And as I'm a bit "stateless" myself (meaning I'm American and British, sort of), it seemed an appropriate choice for me.

  • SHEFFIELD TAP, SHEFFIELD: On a recent Friday my workmate John and I took another workmate who's about to retire to this pub for after-work drinks. John and Dave both went for pints of Veltsin Pils while I decided on a pint of Hit the Lip (3.8% ABV, Cromarty Brewing Company, Davidston, Scotland). I was a bit concerned because my pint was cloudy, but the barman told me it was usually cloudy because of all the hops in it. Uh, right… well, I personally have never heard of that phenomenon before, and I've drank plenty of clear hopmonsters in my life. Anyway, he was really busy and I didn't want to wait around for him to change it, and it tasted all right.

    We found a table out in the front garden where I sat and decided to pursue this pint. After a few disappointing sips I could just detect the grapefruity hops. This could have been quite a nice drop if it had a really hoppy taste, know what I mean? And when it occurred to me that I was going to have to step on a bus to get home, I thought about my recent trauma when, totally sober, I tripped and split open my lip on the bus floor when stepping onto it after work. I certainly don't ever want that to happen again.

    So thought I'd try something a bit less violence-suggesting for my second pint. I most definitely wanted something else for my second pint. So I went for Mojo (3.6% ABV, Tapped Brewing, Sheffield, South Yorkshire) which I'd had before at the Tap. And I was reminded what a great little pint this is -- and at that low ABV it's a perfect pre-train-journey pint. Yum.


  • Elvis Juice (6.5% ABV, BrewDog, Ellon, Aberdenshire, Scotland): Wulla wulla wulla...I'm all shook up! Elvis has left the can, in the form of a grapefruit infused IPA. It wasn't as good as the previous grapefruit-infused brews I've had (Magic Rock's High Wire and Ballast Point's Grapefruit Sculpin' IPA). Maybe it's the fact that Elvis also contains orange and peach along with the grapefruit, making it more like a fruit punch. Perhaps The King would have enjoyed it, especially with a fried peanut butter and banana sandwich, but I prefer my grapefruit pure. I mean, if I could risk eating grapefruits without getting a stomach ache, I wouldn’t want to dilute the lovely flavour with slices of sweet peach. My taste buds are shakin' like a leaf on a peach tree…

  • Heart & Soul (4.4% ABV, Vocation Brewery, Hebden Bridge, West Yorkshire): This is a session IPA that also comes in a can. As I poured it I was struck by the amazing aroma that hit my nose. For awhile I just wanted to smell it rather than taste it, but I finally did taste it. Andrew thought there was some sort of vegetable imparted, such as possibly pumpkin or squash, but I thought more guava, which like grapefruit I think is a very agreeable flavour in pale hoppy beers. I can picture taking a few cans of this to an afternoon barbecue, if it ever becomes barbecue weather again, that is. On the day I drank this it was very cloudy and cool with rain forecast for the entire week. Ah well, I can pretend...