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guinness eileen

The Dorothy Pax, Arch 17, Wharf Street, Victoria Quays, Sheffield, South Yorkshire

For a few weeks I've been wanting to visit a new pub down in Sheffield's Victoria Quays. But from the side of town we live on, the Dorothy Pax, which is located under one of the arches at the beginning of the Sheffield and Tinsley Canal, is a bit of a challenge to get to by car, and then there's the problem of parking. The walk from Walkley and Crookes, on the other hand, is only two miles, and if one were to take a bus into town the walk would then be less than a mile.

On a recent Sunday we finally arranged to walk to the pub with a couple of friends, our month-long clear-sky heatwave suddenly abated with heavy rain. This was preceded two days earlier by thundershowers against a thick cloudy sky on the day of the total lunar eclipse and blood moon which was to be visible all over the UK all night long. Yeah, thanks, weather...

So we managed to drive to the Quays and luckily found a car park close to the pub which charged a flat rate of £3 which, between four of us, was reasonable.

The Dorothy Pax can be found under one of the Grade II-listed arches at the start of the Sheffield and Tinsley Canal, down which my late friend Trevor and I walked a couple of times in the past. I remembered from our walks the skinny house on the other side of the top of the canal, and the little paddling pool, which I learned later is a wet dock.

The pub was named after the last working Sheffield timber keel ship which was built in 1939 and used to carry coal and iron ore to the city. That Dorothy Pax was retired in the 1950s, and part of the pub's bar has been built out of timber recovered from the ship. Before the pub opened the premises housed a dentist's office, which seems a bit odd for the remote location. I suppose people who live on narrowboats need dentists as well.

In the front of the pub are several picnic tables, and a scattering of people were enjoying them as the rain had petered out to just an occasional sprinkling. As we entered the pub we stepped down the stairs to the bar. The hand pumps all have toy cars in front of the bases, which was why I originally knew I had to visit this pub when I first saw photos of it. (The toy cars brought memories from when I was four years old, of me and my best friend Ann digging roads in the dirt for our cars, and me coveting my other friend Maureen's toy garage with the lift and spiral ramp. Sadly she broke the whole thing before the two of us had a chance to play with it.)

Near the rear of the pub is the bar which features three handpumps and three craft beer taps, and they also offer a real cider and some gins and wine. We started with tastes of Chickenwire (4.2% ABV, Toolmakers Brewery, Sheffield, South Yorkshire) which had a sweet outer-coating edge enclosing bitter hops. Holly was hoping to like it more, as she had just eaten some grilled Chicken of the Woods wild mushrooms she had picked herself, and she was fulling anticipating suddenly dropping dead from accidental poisoning. So she thought it would be poetic if she were drinking a chicken beer at the same moment that she keeled -- no pun intended -- over. Fortunately this was not fated to happen, as Holly survived just fine and none of us were really very taken with the Chickenwire. So three of us went for the Honey Bee Blues Club (4.0% ABV, Stancill Brewing Company, Sheffield, South Yorkshire), which was a perfectly pleasant beer but not terribly exciting, with a taste a bit like dry honey. Mike went for a pint of ABK Hell Das Blaue (5.0% ABV, Aktienbrauerei Kaufbeuren, Kaufbeuren, Bavaria, Germany), which is a craft lager brewed in the German style. It wasn't bad at all for a lager.

We first sat outside next to the wet dock. When the rain started again we retreated inside and sat at the top of the stairs at window seats. That gave me a time to survey the pub's décor which featured a display of 45s on one wall and posters for blues and jazz events, along with paintings of sailing ships. The rain didn't last long so we returned to our outside seats, not too bothered by our slightly soggy bums.

The Dorothy Pax features live music on some weekends, and local art events are planned. There are plans to eventually build a kitchen, but for now they have offered wood fired pizza and jerk chicken cooked on oak and ash.

It's good to see a cask ale pub available for Sheffield's canal boat enthusiasts as well as canal walkers. Actually, it's simply good to see another cask ale pub opening, period.

PUB UPDATES:

  • PEACE IN THE PARK, SHEFFIELD: This summer I walked down with some friends to the yearly Peace in the Park festival held on Sheffield's Ponderosa. As Victoria and I were the only cask ale drinkers in attendance, we somehow found our way to the beer tent and bought pints of Godgifu (4.5% ABV, Neepsend Brewery, Sheffield, South Yorkshire). Described as an "experimental British pale", its alias for today was Peace In The Park Pale. I'll have to say it was pretty damn good, although it was a long twisted walk through hippie bodies toward where we were seated with our friends, so I didn't venture back for a second pint.

  • CLOSED SHOP, SHEFFIELD: Now that Stancill have settled in here, I'm starting to really like this pub again, as the cask ale selections are really good. On an initial visit during this year's World Cup we had pints of Last 16 (4.0% ABV, Stancill Brewery, Sheffield, South Yorkshire). With the pump clip demanding "Dare to Dream", we realised that Stancill had named several of their beers after the "beautiful game". This first try was really yummy, with something nicely dry and bitter about it. We also tried tastes of Golden Boot (4.5% ABV, Stancill), aka "Player of the tournament", which was hoppy as well, and Early Exit (3.7% ABV), "for the optimist", again nicely hoppy. Our artist and music promoter friend Martin was in attendance with Aggie, his cockapoo, and we learned that the Closed Shop and the Hallamshire across the street were throwing a street party in a few weeks on Tramlines weekend.

    The Closed Shop now features little mason jars full of each beer in front of each pump so you can see what the beer looks like. On this particular day, according to the jars there were 6 pale ales, 2 amber ales, and one dark. Oh yes, and 3 three vegan beers for all the veganistas..

    On our next visit we continued the World Cup theme and had pints of VAR (4.0% ABV, Stancill Brewery), which stands for Video Action Replay. Sadly Croatia had beaten England the previous night, but there was still plenty of beer left. We sat out in the teaparty-coloured garden next to some friends and thoroughly enjoyed our video action replay. It's a really nice beer, I must say..

    On the next visit I stopped in after work and had a pint of Ace (4.2% ABV, Stancill Brewery), "The Tie Breaker Blonde", which was quite nice with bitter hops. On this particular day after work the pub was full of a young group of people seeming there for the special vegan menu, and of course they had a vegan beer on offer, a craft version of the cask ale Full of Dank. As I sipped my pint and watched more veganistas enter the pub, I wondered whatever has happened to plain ol' vegetarian food. I mean, does it all have to be either meat or fish or vegan? I rarely see just a cheese or an egg sandwich or entrée on any of these new menus. I mean I happen to really like (real) cheese and eggs, as I know many other people do as well. I'm perfectly happy with all-vegan restaurants and cafes. Good on them. But why offer beef and pork and braised beetroot and leeks but not cheese and eggs? Oh well, I'll get back to the beer....

    On our next visit we had halfs of FestivAle (3.8%, GADDS The Ramsgate Brewery, Broadstairs, Kent). Described as hoppy and fruity, this low-ABV beer surprisingly followed the complicated hops profile of a 5% brew that we'd just had at at another pub. That's impressive.

    Another time, on a hot afternoon after work, we met here and took our pints of Full of Dank (4.2% ABV, Stancill Brewery) out to the garden. (Sadly Andrew wasn't wearing his Dank Williams t-shirt I bought for him at Cellarmaker in San Francisco.) This is another vegan beer, meaning simply that it's unfined and therefore a bit hazy. Our instant reaction was Whoo! Wow! This is a deep, dank, raving experience. I'm glad we tried it..

    And yet another time, when we went for more pints of VAR, I first had a lovely taste of Luzhniki (4.8% ABV, Stancill Brewery). There are two words for this: beautiful and heaven. But I really didn't want a pint that strong right after work.

  • PRINCESS ROYAL, SHEFFIELD: After pizzas at Zefi's in Commonside, I walked with three friends through the Buddhist Centre and up to this pub. As the Prinnie often doesn't have anything that interests me, I was pleased to find something pale and hoppy, Equanot (3.8% ABV, Blue Bee Brewery, Sheffield, South Yorkshire). And I have to say it was delicious. It was a warm day, the beginning of the long heat wave, so Olly, Carmel, Wendy, and I sat at a nice table outside on the shady side and talked about the World Cup (England had just beat Panama 6-1, but I was rooting for Mexico.)

  • HALLAMSHIRE, SHEFFIELD: During Tramlines we stopped in here and had halfs of Jessamine (4.7% ABV, Thornbridge Brewery, Bakewell, Derbyshire). An "easy drinking" beer brewed with jasmine, orange, and Willamette hops, this was pleasant but not very exciting for hopheads. And yes, it was definitely orange.

    On our next visit on the Tramlines Sunday we had halfs of Hacksaw (5.0% ABV, Thornbridge). This vegan beer was brewed with Citra Galaxy, Mosaic, and Amarillo, and was quite satisfying in the hops department. Sadly the Commonside Tramlines festival was proving to be a bit dead this afternoon, but at least the beer was wildly alive and kicking: ehyup! Yup! That's what I kept thinking as I sipped it. Perhaps that was becaue I'd had "Attack of the Crab Monster" with Tom Waits, Pete Krebs, and Elliot Smith running through my head for the past three days. It was the sound of the sinister blade being sharpened…could have been a hacksaw.

  • WELLINGTON, SHEFFIELD: On a recent visit with friends we had a taste of Mosaic (3.5% ABV, Brewsmith Beer, Ramsbottom, Greater Manchester). It's a pleasant little pint: but Andrew, Mike, Holly, and I all ended up going for pints of You're My Mate (4.3% ABV, Imperial Brewery, Mexborough, South Yorkshire). Described as a "super charged hoppy pale ale", yep, that about describes it. I can't really add any more than that. As the rare rain had let up momentarily we sat at an exposed table in the beer garden, as the seating in the covered area had all been taken. But that was all right. After all, what's a bit of a wet bum when you're having a great pint?

  • HEAD OF STEAM, SHEFFIELD: On a Saturday afternoon during Tramlines I took a walk through town to see what was happening. I ended up having a half pint at this pub which I sat and drank just outside the beer garden on Tudor Square. As I sipped I thought of my typical weekdays when I sit in Tudor Square (when the weather's good) eating my lunch, reading a book, and pissed off about having to go to work. But today was definitely different, and my half of Mosaic (4.1% ABV, Exit 33 Brewing, Sheffield, South Yorkshire) was surprisingly satisfying. After having passed through Division Street crowds, with techno dance music blasting from here and there and the ocasional rock band doing indie covers, I was overjoyed to run into the Piano Bicycle Man, aka Rimski, who had a new partner, the Upright Bass Bicycle Woman, aka Handkerchief. As I finished my Mosaic I felt -- even though I'd only been out a few hours -- as if I'd successfully done this year's Tramlines.

  • SPRINGVALE, SHEFFIELD: Recently I met Andrew here after work for a pint of Bohemia (3.7% ABV, Dead Parrot Beer Company, Sheffield, South Yorkshire). Brewed with Perle and Mosaic hops, this is described as a Pilsen Blonde Ale. It's interesting, with sort of a Czech flavour to it and with a heavy citrus overtone. I always think of Mosaic as being sharp and cutting, so I think the Perle must be a milder hops. Andrew described it as an example of Mosaic not standing out without a stronger brother hops. Researching further I found that Perle, grown both in Germany where it was developed and in the US, is currently the most popular aroma hop used in German-style beers. So there you have it.