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guinness eileen

Early Bar, 96 Crookes Road, Crookes, Sheffield, South Yorkshire

I’d been wanting to visit Early Bar ever since I first noticed it back in early March 2020. Called Late Bar back then, the attractively turquoise corner entity on the unlikely corner of Crookes Road and School Road, formerly a butchers and a deli, looked impossibly tiny to be even a micropub. And then, before I and my friends had the chance to investigate, the first Covid-19 lockdown happened two weeks after opening, which was a bad omen for any new business.

But when things temporarily opened again in July 2020, this tiny pub once again showed signs of life. I considered stopping in, now that I had learned it had cask ale. But my dilemma was that Late Bar had changed its name to Early Bar and now opened at 10am because it was offering espresso drinks as well as beer and cocktails. So should I stop in early in the day to research a coffee review, or later on for a beer review?

And then, of course, there was another lockdown. And then another. By late May of this year pubs were finally allowed to open inside as well as outside. So after a recent weekend of surprisingly cold and rainy weather in Sheffield -- while my friends and family in America all sweltered in unbelievable record-breaking high temperatures -- I took advantage of a slightly warmer and definitely drier Tuesday afternoon to finally check out Early Bar.

When I walked through the door I was surprised to find the place much larger than it appears on the outside, with a second room to the left of the main room where the bar is located. This second room was emitting a lively, jovial vibe; but I had come with the intention of sitting outside in one of the custom-built wooden areas. So I first ordered a pint of Horatio Bright (4.5% ABV, Crosspool Beer Makers Society, Sheffield, South Yorkshire). This Citra golden ale is named after Horatio Bright, who lived in Lydgate Hall in Crosspool from 1881 to1906 and was known for always wearing a top hat and smoking a cigar. After he died the hall was demolished, and the Crosspool Beer Makers brewery is now on the site.

As I took my pint outside I thought the surprisingly large empty booth on the far end of the pavement seemed a bit too lonely for one person, so I perched on a stool at the tall wooden counter. I had a perfect view across the intersection of Wesley Hall which, dating from 1836, was the first Methodist church in Crookes, and also Cookies & Cream, a dessert and ice cream shop dating from a couple of years ago. But my favourite part of the view was located directly across School Road from me: the unique bench that sits by itself where Pickmere Road has been ended with a raised kerb. I’ve always wondered why the bench is there, because no buses go up School Road. And there’s not really anything to sit and contemplate from the bench, as it faces the street. But now, I suppose, anyone who sits there can observe the customers at Earl Bar, sipping their drinks on the tiny patio. I suppose that’s something.

While I sipped my pint, three men were sitting at the two small tables discussing, for some reason, the details of John Wayne’s death. At least it was different than the usual discussions about football or whatever was on Netflix last night.

Meanwhile my pint of Horation Bright was a bit yeasty for my taste, so I probably should have tried the other option. Nevertheless it was fun sipping a pint on this corner that I’ve walked by so often. And I do love contemplating that bench. Perhaps, someday, I’ll walk up here and sit on it for awhile so I can observe the people sitting in Early Bar’s patio -- seeing how long it will take me to cross the road and order myself a pint.

PUB UPDATES:

  • WELLINGTON, NETHERTHORPE: After yet more lockdowns the pubs finally reopened outside in April of this year, which allowed us to sit shivering in beer gardens as our pint-clutching fingers turned numb with frostbite. A few weeks later in May, just as the weather was starting to warm up, we were allowed to sit and drink inside. At this point, on a pleasant sunny Tuesday, Andrew and I decided to pay a visit to this favourite of ours. We sat first in the garden where they’ve installed covers over the open tables because of all the rain we’d been having, and then we eventually moved inside.

    I went for a pint of Pyrite (4.7% ABV, Neepsend Brewing Company, Sheffield, South Yorkshire). Brewed with Amarillo and El Dorado hops, as well as another variety I didn’t quite catch the name of, this beer is sharp and pretty darn good. Yipes! Yippy-yi-yay! For some inexplicable reason, the phrase “two-toned coyotes” popped into my mind. I suppose it was just another of those palate-induced hallucinations that happen sometimes. So if you want a real zap-bang firework going off in your mouth, I would definitely recommend a pint of this beer.

  • CLOSED SHOP, COMMONSIDE: I stopped inside, alone, on a rainy day, so I brought a book with me to read. It was busy, all students except for the table next to me which was obviously a group of workmates. I had a pint of Nobby Dancing (4.1% AV, Stancill), subtitled Three Lions on a Shirt. Amarillo and Styrian Dragon hops. It’s very pale and cool and almost lagerish, but hoppy in a Czech-style way. So I’m relieved it’s that much different from Stainless or the boring Stancill Pale. I’m so picky, aren’t I? The only problem with the Shop is it still feels pretty sterile these days, but I’m hoping that feeling lightens up once Boris removes all restrictions.

BOTTLED/CANNED BEER UPDATE:

  • Shoot to Thrill (6.0% ABV, Wilde Child Brewing Company, Leeds, West Yorkshire). This is a Southern Hemisphere IPA with Galax, Nelson Sauvin, and Motueka hops. Whoo-hoo, it’s nice. I drank this on yet another cold and dark day; but the coolness of the day, in an almost cryo-suggestive way, made the hops feel cold on my tongue. There’s something special about cooling hops on a freezing day that warms the soul.
  • Bahamut Hazy IPA (6.8% ABV, Neepsend Brewing Company, Sheffield South Yorkshire). A hazy IPA brewed with Ekuanot, Azacca, Citra, and Simcoe hops and a Vermont yeast strain, oats, and wheat, this is another nice beer. My lip was still a bit numb from an earlier dental appointment in the day, so I was hoping I didn’t dribble this beer down my front. It reminded me of sitting in the garden of the Neepsend Brewery’s tap, the Wellington, back in the days between lockdowns, because the Wellington has consistently felt like a safe pub with a clean, socially distanced garden with heaters. Someday, someway, we’ll be back in the pubs, and I could end up having a pint of this on cask. I couldn’t help wondering where the name Bahamut comes from. If it’s a Mexican dog, it’s misspelled. When I googled the name I learned that it’s a sea dragon that lies underneath the supporting structure of the earth, and it rides on a giant whale. Hmm, is that what I’m getting on my palette?
  • The Things Yuzu To Me (5.6% ABV, Brew York, York, North Yorkshire). This IPA is a collaboration with street food partner Yuzu in celebration of the opening of Brew York's first bar in Leeds, which serves Japanese food. The list of ingredients is interesting: Citra (T90 and Cryo), Sabro (T90), and Loral (T90) hops; Extra Pale, Malted Oats, Malted Wheat, and Flaked Oats malts, as well as Honey Malt and Acid Malt; and it also contains yuzu, which is a hybrid of a mandarin orange and an ichang papeda -- or, to put it another way, basically a hybrid lime, lemon, and grapefruit. The can is decorated with Japanese food graphics interspersed with chopsticks. The beer inside is a gentle IPA with a wonderfully unique citrus character. And yeah, I can see this going great with sushi.
  • You Have Been Disconnected NEIPA (7.1% ABV, Off Peak Brewing, Bakewell, Derbyshire). Presented in another indecipherable can, this hazy beer is brewed with Cascade, El Dorado, Pacifica, and Huell Melon hops. What a unique fruity hops character it has, and it’s definitely another new taste for me. Is it the Pacifica hops? Are they from Pacifica, located down the California coast from San Francisco? Or are the hops grown on the Chatsworth Estate in Derbyshire, miles away from any ocean? After a mildly stressful day, after everything fortunately was sorted out, this brew was a very pleasant reward.
  • Green Curve Kveik IPA (6.5% ABV, North Brewery, Sheepscar Grove, West Yorkshire). The only thing I could find out about this beer is that it contains Kveik yeast. But whatever hops are used, they are totally cool. Basically a wheat beer, this was slightly sweet in a banana-pineapple way, and gentle. As the can was a cool green, I feltl as though the beer should be green as well. But it was surprisingly yellow, in a very hazy way.
  • Uncontrollable Occurrence (4.8% ABV, Wilde Child Brewery, Leeds, West Yorkshire). Brewed with Amarillo and Vic Secret hops, and also oats, this was a welcome occurrence on a Friday after work. It’s got a lovely hops character, not a beat-on-the-head hop rush, but just a yum-flavoured easy spice about it. It’s very pleasant, if I say so, which I’m doing right now. While I was enjoying this I decided to research Vic Secret hops. They’re Australian and similar to Galaxy, with a pineapple and passionfruit character, so no wonder I like them. I mean, you can’t wear Vic Secret hops instead of knickers, so you may as well drink it.
  • Pahlay Hazy Pale Ale (5.0% ABV, Fair State Brewing Cooperative, Minneapolis, MN). Sold in a one-pint can, this beer contains Citra, Simcoe, and Denali hops, wheat, and oats, and is quite tropical. In fact, when I popped open the can it scented the entire room. It’s tropical like an ocean breeze through the pineapple and mango trees. It’s quite gorgeous, actually. I selected this for my pint refreshment as I wait for a Cousins Zoom session to start, featuring one uncle, one brother, one sister-in-law, and cousins and second cousins galore. As most of them are on the Pacific Coast of America, where they’ll be having their second cup of coffee, and the one in Hawaii probably having his first cup, I’m sipping slowly because I don’t want to end up sounding pissed.
  • The Chameleon Series Waimea (5.5% ABV, Little Critters Brewing Company, Sheffield, South Yorkshire). This is a dry hopped pale ale brewed with whole leaf Columbus hops. Then Citra is added, followed by a dry hopping with Waimea hops from New Zealand. It’s a pleasant splashy wave of hops. If I roll it with just the right rhythm across my tongue, back and forth, I can get that feeling of waiting on my bodyboard for that perfect wave to appear that will make the whole day (or in this case, the can of beer) worthwhile. It’s not a choppy hops or a zingy hops, but a well-choreographed hops, perfectly foaming the top of the base of those Pacific Northwest hops. Nice. Kowabunga!
  • Tropical Torpedo (6.0% ABV, Sierra Nevada Brewing Company, Chico, California). According to the can, this classic Pacific Coast brewery is “family owned, operated, and argued over”. And it’s a proper 12-ounce American can as well, just like the cans and bottles I buy when I’m visiting the US. This tropical IPA imports an earthy jolt of pale light hops. It’s a gentle torpedo, an easy-to-drink nuclear weapon.
  • Valkri Kveik Coconut NEIPA (4.9% ABV, Brewboard, Harston, Cambridgeshire, collaborating with Brew York, York, North Yorkshire). Whoa! When I popped open this can, a massively pure head gushed out. Was it shaken? Or stirred? The can seemed extremely chilled, more so than most beers I’ve enjoyed in my home. Perhaps it was because the can is aluminium silver with Nordic-style abstract graphics, and it’s probably freezing a lot in Norway. But coconut isn’t really very Nordic. Ah well, the taste is what’s important. And it’s very interesting. Surprisingly the coconut goes very well with the hoppiness, probably because it’s not a sweet coconut, more like what one gets from coconut juice as opposed to coconut milk. The uniquely coconut afterflash across my tongue makes me smile.
  • Deception (4.1% ABV, Abbeydale Brewing Company, Sheffield, South Yorkshire). This New Zealand pale ale was first brewed by Abbeydale in 2008, and I remember it with fondness. Brewed with Nelson Sauvin hops, this is my first experience with it as a craft beer. Fortunately it’s quite pleasant, even though it doesn’t have the wow! factor of the original recipe of cask ale way back then. But hey, it’s been 13 years, so everybody changes and grows, even beers. It was pleasant and undemanding for the afternoon’s locals birthday Zoom quiz, this time featuring a screenful of friends with fake white beards and mouths full of plastic hair fibres. Once the birthday surprise is over, I think I may remove my deception of a beard in order to properly drink my liquid Deception.
  • Unbeliever Margarita Sour Beer (5.6% ABV, Abbeydale Brewing Company, Sheffield, South Yorkshire). This beer contains barley, wheat, oats, rice, maize, lemongrass, Kaffir lime leaves, lemon, lime, coconut, and hops. The perfect yellow and green striped can is decorated with tall conifers, which primed me for this uniquely non-IPA -- and practically non-beer -- experience. It was a distinctly lime sour of a beer, actually, meaning it wasn’t very beerlike at all. But I do like margaritas and California and travelling, and I loved my late mother’s margaritas, and also the margaritas in wonderful Mexican restaurants, and even the virgin margaritas my friend Daisy and I enjoyed before a long drive from Long Beach up to Big Bear. Ah, margaritas memories of missed travels and experiences made me want to jump on a plane and fly! And I wanted a proper margarita! But I realised that this startlingly nonbeerlike beer would have to do in the meantime.
  • Union Jack IPA (7.0% ABV, Firestone Walker Brewing Company, Paso Robles, California). This West Coast IPA is hopped with CTZ, Cascade, and Centennial hops, then dry hopped with Cascade, Centennial, Simcoe, Citra, Amarillo, and Chinook. The malts are Two Row, Munich, and Crystal Light. The can features a rampant lion and bear facing each other as if they’re having some sort of duel. This was just a fine strong hoppy traditional West Coast IPA, I’d say. It made me dream of my next visit to California, hopefully later this year, and there is a plan afoot when I do go to visit this actual brewery in Paso Robles -- along with many other breweries, of course.
  • Funk Dungeon Hop Bretta - Tradition (4.9% ABV, Abbeydale Brewing Company, Sheffield, South Yorkshire). I love Abbeydale’s Funk Dungeon series of interesting beers. This one is single hopped with Tradition hops and bretted with Brett yeast culture and promises the tastes of grass and herbs “ with a funky nature." After our weekly Saturday-with-pub-friends quiz was cancelled, I took a pleasantly dry afternoon walk up the hill -- pleasant except for the sudden scary gale-force Arctic wind that necessitated my weatherproof hood on my French down hiking jacket, which froze solid my fingers when I had to remove them from my warm pockets to carry my shopping home. When I finally managed to thaw out my hands and bring the feeling back to my glass-wielding fingers, I was happy to be drinking a wowily interesting FUNKY beer as the frostbite slowly eased off. This was a pleasantly easy touch of brett and funk, actually, a good beginner’s machine in the Funk Dungeon.
  • Hordaland Kveik IPA (6.0% ABV, Thornbridge Brewing Company, Bakewell, Derbyshire). This beer is brewed with quick-fermenting Kveik yeast strains from Hordaland, Norway, as well as Citra, Galaxy, and Mosaic hops, with the flavour notes promising pineapple, peach, grapefruit, lychee, and guava. I grabbed the can off the shelf because of the red label with black framing and bits of gold. It was a great colour combination that would also stir my magpie lust for collecting things red and black coloured. And the beer was nice as well. I’m a fan of Galaxy and Mosaic hops, and I do like the Northern European touch of Kveik yeast. The initial tasting notes I scribbled down were a bit hijacked by conversations about muddy trails on Bole Hill, crumbling plaster, the smog in Los Angeles and London, mudslides, and a description of sperm donation in the current book I’m reading, 10:04 by Ben Lerner, which provoked uncontrollable laughter. But fortunately this is a good beer for many subjects.
  • Falco IPA (7.0%, Evil Twin Brewing Company, Brooklyn, New York). This complicated IPA comes in a one-pint can, giving one plenty of time to check out the various layers. The first few sips imparted a real sweetness which lasted throughout the entire can, and which I was hoping would ease off a bit. As to the name, Falco, although there’s a stylised Mohawk-streamline-moderne raptor on the can, I can’t help thinking of the Austrian singer from the 1980s who sang “Rock Me Amadeus”. I think I’d prefer more of the sleek-lined falcon hoppiness and less of the malty rock-star hair.
  • C Monster (6.5% ABV, Little Critters Brewing Company, Sheffield, South Yorkshire). Brewed with Columbus, Centennial, and Citra hops with fresh Kaffir lime leaves and citrus peel, I must say once again that this is a bit sweet in character. But the lime helps temper that sensation. I think I like the can better than the beer, actually. But if I pretend this is a lime sour beer -- that’s “lime sour” beer, not “lime” sour beer -- then I can enjoy it more.
  • Midway IPA (4.1% ABV, Goose Island Brewing Company, Chicago, Illinois). Brewed with Amarillo hops and Pale, Pils, and Maris Otter malts, this is a very gentle, “easy drinking” beer. In fact, it’s so easy-drinking that it would probably go great with easy-listening music, and perhaps a really easy-going companion. I mean, if you really like that sort of thing. As I sip this, yes, I’m sure I could drink several of these at a party or a pub session without even being really aware of what I was drinking. But I miss the excitement of Goose Island IPA. I want to jump on a rocket to the moon! I want to skydive from the thermosphere! I want to pogo and skank on the head of a pin suspended above a flaming cauldron of HOPS-HOPS-HOPS! But then again that’s just my palate’s spirit. But I still think this is like settling for a zero-alcohol lager in a worldwide pub full of interesting brews. There’s nothing wrong with it, of course. Since I‘d bought a 4-pack I hadt three more cans, so hopefully it would grow on me.
  • Devil’s Rest IPA (7.0% ABV, Burning Sky Brewery, Firle, East Sussex). This is a classic style IPA from the South Downs, although the hops used are Simcoe, Columbus, and Amarillo, which aren’t exactly classic Kent hops. Burnt orange in colour, this is a memory trigger of a beer. And I’m not talking about my beer explorations back when I lived in Kent; this particular hops character I recall from the first great Pacific Northwest hoppy IPAs I tasted, with that original Oomph! character. And this was before the distinctly different Oomph! I I’ve experienced from the newer hops like Galaxy, El Dorado, and Vic Secret. Yum, I say, simply yum! This IPA has the original wonderful hoppy character that I’d forgotten all about. It’s good to take the occasional stroll down Original l Oomph! Memory Lane.
  • Big Wave Golden Ale (4.5% ABV, Kona Brewing Company, Honolulu, Hawaii). Brewed with Galaxy and Citra hops and Pale 2 Row Premium and Caramel 20 malts, this beer is very pleasant, and it’s hoppier than what I was expecting from a Hawaiian beer. I guess I’ve got a lot to learn about Hawaii, even though one of my favourite cousins has lived there for years. This Big Wave was the second can of beer I attempted to enjoy after sitting in our back garden on a cold lockdown day with a friend. Because we were allowed to socialise outside with a small distanced group, our friend Mike came down to have a couple of cans of beer and some nibbles with us. It was a good idea, and also the only 3D socialising we were allowed to do. But the fact that the temperature hadn’t reached much above zero degrees meant that it was quite uncomfortably freezing outside. I must admit it was very peaceful and quiet, but probably because all of the other people in the neighbourhood were being sensible and staying indoors where it was warm.
  • High Hopes West Coast IPA (5.0% ABV, Burnt Mill Brewing Company, Ipswich, Suffolk). Brewed with Mosaic, Citra, Chinook, and Centennial hops, this is a really nice drop, with tropical and pine overtones. What is there to complain about? Probably only the fact that I’m drinking this in the garden with our friend Mike and we’re absolutely freezing. It would be so much more civilised if we could just go inside, like modern human beings normally do. But alas, it was early spring in 2021...
  • Hop Bullet Double IPA (8.0% ABV, Sierra Nevada Brewing Company, Chico, California). This is another beer that comes in a 12-ounce American can, which just makes you feel like you enjoy that little bit more. It’s brewed with Magnum hops and lupulin dust, which I think are two great ideas. I loved the lupulin dust, having first experienced that sensation in the Bay Area only a few years ago. The beer was gorgeous and somehow suited the surprisingly frigid Arctic April day.
  • Stop Telling Us What To Brew!!! Session Pale Ale (4.3% ABV, Kelham Island Brewing Company, Sheffield, South Yorkshire). This seemed an appropriate beer for the day, as earlier my perfectly good functioning three-way printer/scanner/photocopier suddenly started to make horrible noises and stopped feeding the paper, apparently because of a tiny plastic part that had broken. I was also having problems with trans-Atlantic Zoom and WhatApp connections and other shit. But as it turned out, this beer being the first Kelham Island brew I’d had for a long time, it was zingily hoppily great! And at 4.3% I’d happily drink a couple of these as pints in a pub. Yum! It’s brewed with Centennial and Sultana hops and pale ale and oat malts. And it’s really good! Thanks, Kelham Island!
  • Tri-Hops-Ical DDH Pale Ale (5.7% AVB, Vocation Brewing Company, Hebden Bridge, West Yorkshire). Hopped with HBC 630 hops this comes in a pretty can decorated with tropical colours, in sort of a red-less Carmen Miranda headdress of a design. It’s been a few years, but let me do my Gilly Goolden impression: Ooh, I’m getting guava and banana and papaya in the first sniff! It’s not super hoppy, but it’s really nice, actually. I’d like to get a little paper umbrella that I could balance on the side of my glass, along with perhaps a little plastic monkey hanging by its curly tail. It makes me want to be in Hawaii, sitting out enjoying the sun, instead of snuggling up here in Yorkshire with the heat blasting from the radiator.
  • Tropic Fiesta (4.0% ABV, Beatnikz Republic, Manchester). Brewed with Mosaic and Ekuanot hops as well as oats, this is again a very smooth beer. It has a hops taste but no zing or wop or zat or doo-dah. It’s more like a siesta than a fiesta, but hey, it’s pleasant enough. I mean, who doesn’t like to lounge in a hammock under a palm tree? Faith in Futures DDPA IPA (6.5% ABV, Northern Monk Brewing Company, Holbeck, Leeds, West Yorkshire). "Twist Edition". This beer is a collaboration between Northern Monk and INSA, who’s a graffiti artist from Leeds, and also the Faith in Futures Foundation who, with each can of beer sold, donates money to charity and community projects that tackle injustice across society, which is a great thing for a beer to do. It’s brewed with Citra and El Dorado hops as well, so it tastes pretty good as well.
  • Astrid Juicy Pale (3.8% ABV, Thornbridge Brewing Company, Bakewell, Derbyshire). Brewed with Crystal, Simcoe, and Mosaic hops, this is pretty damn good and hoppy for a low-ABV beer. It’s hazy, with suggestions of pineapple and grapefruit, two tastes I really like. So of course I like it. And the purple can with its gold detailing goes well with my freshly coloured purple, green, and teal hair. It makes me want to say a simple “Zingity-zing-zing!” On the can it recommends drinking this with huevos rancheros, which sounds fine with me, because anything Mexican is fine with me, thank you very much!
  • Absideon IPA(6.6% ABV, Thornbridge Brewing Company, Bakewell, Derbyshire). Brewed with Citra and Mosaic and in a yellow can with green and black and gold decorations, this is another very decently hoppy Thornbridge brew, two days in a row. The can suggests grapefruit and melon flavours, orange and mango with hints of lime oil, and that this beer would be good with tacos al pastor. Heavily dry hopped. Clear and sparkling in the glass, bright and cheerfully hoppy. Yes, it brightens up the all-day-rainy Bank Holiday Monday, with hopes that I don’t go mad with cabin fever and restless leg syndrome, and hopes of a future day of no rain, this beer actually has cheered me up. Goes great with the Palo Santo incense that is currently burning in our lounge while the rain pours down incessantly outside.
  • Emergence (4.5% ABV, Abbeydale Brewing Company, Sheffield, South Yorkshire). Vic Secret and Galaxy hops. This is glorious. Surprisingly glorious. On a day off, I could have walked to the pub and sat in the garden, and the sun is shining brightly. But it’s been a very changeable day, sudden clouds and heavy thundershowers, so I think I’ll do an un-JC rhing and sit inside my house all day and admire the gorgeous day from the dry safety of Inside. This is a lovely beer, and I can read my Saul Bellow book, so I’m happy.
  • Ekuanot Silhouette (6.4% ABV, Beatnikz Republic, Manchester). This was a quickly-chilled can for a rare after-work an at home instead of a pint sitting in a pub garden taking advantage of both the loosened Covid restrictions and the warmer days. Today is a warm an balmy day, nowt to do at work, and this hazy brew is feisty and zowie, with an aromatic character. It's like walking into an exotic garden with waterfalls and pungent tropical plants. It wakes me up.