CoffeeBeer >> Pint Pleasures >> Previous Beer Columns 2 Cask Ale Venues

Previous Pint Pleasures - April 4, 2015

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The Walkley Beer Company, 362 South Road, Walkley, Sheffield, South Yorkshire

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The Beerhouse, 623 Ecclesall Road, Hunters Bar, Sheffield, South Yorkshire

For too many years the UK has experienced a depressing decline in pubs, with numerous hostelries closing down and being converted to private homes, small supermarkets, and empty lots, or torn down and rebuilt as clusters of even more luxury flats that are often left unfinished due to the drying up of developers' funds. Fortunately the recent microbrewery renaissance has been turning the tides, especially in places like Sheffield. Not only are many of the older pubs experiencing a rebirth, but brand new beer venues are sprouting up in former churches and shop fronts. In some parts of the country old buses, boats, and train cars have been reborn as pubs.

In the past few months two new beer venues have started up in Sheffield. As opposed to your classic pub, these offer a new type of experience for drinking local cask ale. Just down the road from us is the Walkley Beer Company, opened in October in a former florist's shop. This is basically a craft ale bottle shop where you can sit with friends and sample the wares. Along with the bottles on display, which you can also purchase to take away, are two to three cask ales served on gravity.

We sat at one of the two long tables and had pints of Lux Borealis Pale (3.8% ABV, Hardknott Brewery, Millom, Cumbria), brewed with Aurora Hops. We could taste the hops but also something else on which we couldn't quite lay our respective fingers. It definitely had an interesting crackliness. While we were sipping our pints we were offered a taste of Waxies Dargle (4.9% ABV, Waen Brewery, Llanidloes, Powys, Wales) which was just being put on. This is a vegan beer brewed with Irish whisky malts, offering two pleasures -- whisky and beer -- in one glass. It was a shame we were staying for only the one pint, because if we'd been able to have as our second pint this unbelievable experience of a beer...well, I wouldn't predict what that kind of gustatory rapture would do to me. Perhaps it's best we couldn't stay.

We chatted to the owner who runs the place with his dad. The reason he looked familiar to us is because he was responsible for the pop-up pub up in Crookes last year. He has plans for more craft bottles as well as home brewing ingredients and supplies, and there are plans for their own brewery downstairs.

On the bottle shelf I was surprised to see they had Stone IPA from North San Diego County. I told the owner I'd been to the brewery in California and that I usually keep a six-pack of the stuff in my mom's fridge when I go visit her in Long Beach. They have plenty of British craft beers as well, and the prices for purchasing to take home are not bad at all. The cask ales are available to take away as well, and two-pint cartons are provided. Or you can bring your own vessel to fill. It's all good, as far as I can see. Yet another great addition to the rebirth of Walkley's South Road.

Over in Hunters Bar is Sheffield's very first micropub. Opened just before Christmas in a former e-cigarette shop, the Beerhouse features two tiny rooms on split levels and 6 handpumps, 2 ciders, and a selection of wines. Wine tasting evenings were advertised on the wall along with Wednesday night quizzes. On the Saturday teatime that we stopped in the place was quite crowded, mostly with your typical upscale Ecclesall Road locals.

We started with a taste of Challenger Special (5.2% ABV, Saltaire Brewery, Shipley, West Yorkshire). Brewed with New World hops, this beer tastes much stronger than 5.2 and reminded me more of a barley wine than a strong ale. Andrew decided on a pint of Ginger Pale Ale (4.0% ABV, Stancill Brewery, Sheffield, South Yorkshire). This is a very nice bitter with an authentic ginger taste. It seemed to have a tiny bit of a sweet edge, so I opted instead for a redundant-sounding pint of Pint (3.9% ABV, Marble Brewery, Manchester). Another pleasant little bitter, this isn't terribly hoppy but it's still a nice drop.

We sat at the front window with a pleasantly green and leafy view. I was intrigued by the vintage photo above us of the Stacey Wheel in Loxley Valley after the Sheffield Flood of 1864. But then I am a bit of a Sheffield Flood of 1864 geek.

We chatted outside with one of the two owners who told us they buy their beers directly from the breweries. He also said that they're hoping to opening another micropub in Sheffield by summer.

So what sort of former shop will the new pub take over? Considering the recent trend of small supermarkets opening in former pubs, in the future will we be seeing a perpetual trend of pubs opening in former Sainsburys Locals that opened in former pubsjk that opened in former Tesco Expresses that opened in former pubs ad infinitum? And will this trend eventually be simplified so that we can just buy our groceries while we're having a pint with friends? The Walkley Beer Company is halfway there, enabling one to browse and purchase some bottles for home while supping cask ale. Personally I think this is a trend which will help to create even more fans of good cask ale. And this can never be a bad thing.

Walkley Beer Company Updates
(Last updated 24 February 2019)