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guinness eileen

The Crow Inn, 33 Scotland Street, Sheffield, South Yorkshire

Recently I was pleased to learn there was a new pub in town, especially as it wasn't just another micropub and I was attracted to its name. I like the idea of pubs being named after birds, and I've reviewed plenty of places named after cocks, magpies, partridges, eagles, ducks, parrots, peacocks, swallows, swans, cranes, and cuckoos, but never a crow -- or even a raven, for that matter. But I've always especially liked crows, so this was a place I definitely had to check out.

The pub has an interesting history. Originally called the Crown Inn, it first opened in 1797. By 1840 it was the meeting place of a group of Chartists who wanted to discuss their strategy of seizing the Sheffield Town Hall. In 1859 the pub was the scene of the murder of saw grinder James Linley by trade unionists, and in 1866 John Wreaks, described in his obituary as an "enthusiastic angler", died suddenly. And then in 1925 the street outside the pub was the scene of a gang war involving thirty pairs of armed party pants.* There’s also a rumour that a ghost plays piano or organ in the middle of the night inside the pub, which would make sense if two people have died there.

*(I struggled with writing the previous paragraph on my phone, as the smartass phone kept insisting that "participants" should be spelled "party pants", so after a struggle I finally gave up. Makes the story a bit more interesting...)

Much more recently the Crown was turned into R & B's Uptown Bar, and then in 2010 it morphed into the budget-friendly Sleep Hotel. A couple of months ago it changed back into a pub, having shed one of its Ns somewhere along the way, to become the Crow Inn.

Run by Kate and Chris, who also have the Rutland Arms, the Crow consists of two rooms, a tiny kitchen, and of course toilets (which are announced loudly and proudly on the rear wall, so there’s absolutely no need to wonder where they are. As Andrew and I walked in on our first visit on a Sunday afternoon, there was something about the pub that made us fall in love with it. Several handpumps featured local brews, and we both went for pints of Heathen (4.1% ABV, Abbeydale Brewing, Sheffield, South Yorkshire), which is always a good choice. We chatted with the co-manager who said she was surprised people had already travelled from other parts of the country to visit, as the pub hadn’t been open that long. As the pub had previously been a hotel, they’re hoping to book out the four-to-six rooms upstairs to people needing a room for the night. The kitchen is too small for breakfasts, but they’re hoping to make a deal with Smith Street Coffee Roasters directly across the street, perhaps offering vouchers to the hotel guests.

Along with cask ales they offer craft beers, some snacks (vegetable bakes, for instance), and as this is 2019 there’s a big gin list as well as a huge whisky list, and also on the menu are two mezcals and absinthe, and the wine list is very reasonable. As we sat in the room with the wonderful crow figure etched in the window. The coolness of this place was bowling me over completely and filling me with warmth and aesthetically satisfying happiness. The people around us, covering a wide range of ages, were a real mix: the cool, the white t-shirts, the frumpy raincoats. And then there were the two of us, the Hat People.

The pub has a small urban garden in the back, accessible from the front of the pub as well as the back, with a children’s nursery next door and the old multi-storey police station towering just beyond. I really like the quiet location, and I can easily walk here from either home or my university job. It was a shame that our friends who were either at music festivals or had headaches or simply couldn't be bothered didn't join us for this visit.

For our second visit we did manage to get Mike to come along. Mike and I walked down from Walkley, as our longer walk in the Rivelin Valley had been scuppered by the threat of heavy rain. We sat in the garden and all had golden pints of Ghost In The Circuit (4.5% ABV, Mission Creep, Sheffield, South Yorkshire), brewed with New Wave UK and European hops by a Sheffield-based cooperative brewing project. The sharply cutting hops was what I really need to survive these stressful days, as well as a pub like the Crow that I can actually look forward to visiting. I wish them all the best.

PUB UPDATES:

  • GARDENERS REST, SHEFFIELD: On a recent visit I had a pint of Cut the Mid Drop The Bass (4.2% ABV, Nightjar Brew Co, Mytholmroyd, W Yorkshire). This is a nice, extremely pale, lightly hoppy, and nearly bubbly brew, with Simcoe, Columbus, and Amarillo hops. It suited the warm balmy day by the river. I had just booked my flights to America, which is always complicated as it involves flights each way, so a bit of relaxation was welcome. For some reason I got the impression of hoppy apple, or perhaps it was hoppy pineapple. An interesting taste, anyway.

  • WELLINGTON, SHEFFIELD: As we’d already had pints at a previous pub I felt like being a bit careful when we came here, so I started with a taste of Limu (3.9% ABV, Neepsend Brewing Co, Sheffield, S Yorkshire). Brewed with Amarillo, Cascade, and Motueka hops, it tasted a bit too careful .So I had a pint of Mercy (4.0% ABV, Great Heck Brewing Co, Goole, S Yorkshire), which was blonde and delicately refreshing, while Mike and Andrew had pints of Lit (4.5% ABV, Beartown Brewing, Congletown, Cheshire). Described as an American super-hopped pale, the Mercy followed my previous Ghose perfectly. It was so...therapeutic. It kissed my palate and being -- not sweetly, not gently, but like a warm, supportive friend with wit and intelligence. As we sipped we chatted about the legendary Club 60, Kelham Island, and the old cafes for the homeless which have sadly degenerated into the horrors of Brexit -- in other words, today's reality. Suddenly I desperately needed this beer's support. On the other hand, the Lit...wow. I felt as if I had 1950s and 1960s space alien sound effects buzzing around in my mouth. I could even hear the theremins.

  • SHAKESPEARES, SHEFFIELD: Mike and I chanced the summer’s sudden unexpected torrential rainstorms by walking down to this pub, and fortunately we were lucky to not get soaked. We met Andrew here and I decided on a pint of Hop State (3.9% ABV, Blue Bee Brewery, Sheffield, South Yorkshire), brewed with Centennial, Amarillo, and Cascade hops. Andrew had a pint of Stateside American Pale (4.3% ABV, Summer Wine Brewing Co). It was pleasant with light hops, but Andrew was soon disappointed by the mildness. Mike had a pint of I’m Spartacus (6.8% ABV, Torrside Brewery, New Mills, Derbyshire), which was described as an “inevitable US IPA” and which elicited a loudly explicit “WHOA!” from me. All three of us were blown away by this taste, and Andrew and I both needed a palate cleanser before we could taste anything in our lower-ABV and not-so-rocket-speed pints. We also had a taste of I Am Curious Lemon (4.8% ABV, Torrside), brewed with lemon and pepper. Yes, lemon and pepper. That’s about all I can say.

  • CLOSED SHOP, SHEFFIELD: One day after work Andrew, Mike, and I all met here for a pint. As I got there first and Phil was behind the bar, he immediately gave me tasters of the three new Stancill pales, which Mike got to sample as he showed up just after me. The Summer Breeze (4.2% ABV, Stancill Brewing Company, Sheffield, South Yorkshire) was very light with light citrussy hops. The Erika (4.0% ABV) was also lightly hoppy, and the Flawless (4.0%) also had a lightly hoppy character. As I found the three very similar, I decided on a pint of Flawless simply because I liked the name the best. Mike and Andrew both went for the Erika. We sat with our very pale and very hoppy pints and talked about upcoming flights and trips to America, Mike to upstate New York and me to Southern California and Seattle. The conversation would have been perfectly accompanied by some extremely powerfully hoppy pints, but no worries; I’m looking forward having enough of those on my travels.