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Gardeners Rest, 105 Neepsend Lane, Sheffield, South Yorkshire
When I was in my twenties back in Long Beach, California I wrote music reviews for a couple of monthly newspapers. As this was at the height of the Los Angeles Punk/New Wave scene of the late 1970s, there were hundreds of bands performing everywhere and I had an endless amount of potential material with which to work. I especially enjoyed writing about bands at either end of the quality spectrum, rhapsodizing about the excellent ones and ripping apart the atrocious ones. Unfortunately at least 80% of the bands I saw lay somewhere in that dull, milky middle zone of noninsulting but unimaginative mediocrity. Eventually I tired of describing even the good and the bad: like Beavis and Butthead I simply wanted to say "This band is cool" or "This band sucks." The monotony led me to finally follow the obvious course. So I hung up my writing shoes and joined a band.
Years later, now that I'm surrounded by a bajillion pubs, I fear the same thing might happen. For the sake of public decency I will gladly slash to shreds the worst pubs in the area. I will also report glowingly on the best pubs. What I fear is that the vast number of good pubs I'm surrounded by may lead me to become unimaginative in my writing. I mean, after you've described a pub as being warm, cosy, traditional, and serving an excellent pint of Landlord, what more can you say?
That's why distinctly unique pubs such as the Gardeners Rest help to restore my self-confidence. Located in the industrial area between Infirmary Road and Penistone Road in the shadow of the former Stones Brewery, this pub was undoubtedly buzzing back in the steelworking days. Today, except for the nearby Sheffield Ski Village, the area is relatively quiet -- but the pub is still alive and vibrant. Consisting of a public bar, a tiny snug bar, and a sunny back conservatory with riverside deck, the pub features one of the only two bar billiards tables in Sheffield. The walls are decked with monthly art exhibits as well as flyers announcing music and quiz nights, local CAMRA publications, newspapers, captioned photos, stacks of South Riding Folk Network Magazine, and advertisements for recording engineer training courses and gardening sales. And bar games line the shelves as well. There's just so much STUFF!!
And the beers...ahh, yes, the beers! Along with around 10 real ales available on hand pump and directly from the cask there are 4 Belgian beers on draught (De Koninck, St Louis Framboise, St Louis K8, and Dentergems Witbier), as well as bottles of the famously limited Samiclaus Strong Ale for sale. Scattered among the events fliers advertising folk, blues, and Celtic nights are order forms for cases of Belgian beer and Irish whiskies.
Along with various guest beers the Gardeners Rest features Timothy Taylor and Wentworth ales. On our first visit our pints of Landlord (4.3% ABV, Timothy Taylor & Co. Ltd., Keighley, West Yorkshire) were absolutely perfect, just right. There's not much more that can be said about a perfect pint of Landlord; there's not much more that can be done other than to drink it and enjoy it. The other beers available on handpumps that day were Timothy Taylor Best and Golden Best and Wentworth Party Time and Needles Eye; straight from the cask were Timothy Taylor Porter, Wickwar Mr. Perrett's Stout, Dunn Plowman Early Riser and Brewhorse Bitter, and Westons Old Rosie Scrumpy. And on the "Coming Soon" board were 11 more beers from breweries such as Harviestown, Kelham, Dunn Plowman, and Salamander.
On our second visit we tried the Timothy Taylor Best (4% ABV, Timothy Taylor & Co. Ltd., Keighley, West Yorkshire). I know I'm not being terribly imaginative here, but this is another excellent beer! It perfectly describes the words "best" and "bitter", and it's even better than Landlord! What more can I say? This beer is, like, totally cool!
On this particular sunny cold day there was one person sitting outside on the deck next to the River Don, with views of industry across the canal. Although the pub doesn't serve food this looks like it would be a great spot for a summer barbecue. Back inside the woman behind the bar was blowing up shockingly green balloons; that's when we realised it was St Patrick's Day Weekend. Although we didn't feel particularly Irish my drinking partner had just discovered a couple hours earlier that he was shorter than he thought, and he was wearing a green sweater. So here I found myself, sitting in this truly remarkable and unique pub jam-packed with STUFF, sipping a wonderful pint with my Incredibly Shrinking green friend while the occasional bright green balloon farted through the air emitting a sharp rubber toot. And all this in an industrial area by the canal, in a pub for musicians, artists, real ale lovers, and gardeners. Ahhh, is this inspirational bliss or what?
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(Last updated 20 October)