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guinness eileen

Perch Brewhouse, 44 Garden Street, Sheffield, South Yorkshire

I've always been a percher. If there's a stairway leading up to a view, I'll climb it. And if there's somewhere to sit that's elevated, higher than everything else, that's going to be my seat. So when I first heard that there was a new brewpub in Sheffield called Perch, I was very excited indeed.

As Perch opened its doors in August of last year, it's been months since I first wanted to stop in for a pint and a visit. But in these post-lockdown days, it seems that our old friend Time has been marching on a lot faster than it used to. Is this because the earth is spinning faster, or because Time's mate, Life, has been so mundane and unchanging for so many of us that one day, or week, or month, seems the same as any other, and they all tend to blur into each other? Is this why my beer-drinking friends have all but disappeared--because they're experiencing the same thing?

Anyway, as I watched my entire life speeding by, I decided to give up on the idea of any companionship, take the bull by the horns, and seek out this new venue on my own. So on a recent day off, when I had to go into town anyway for some errands, I ended my afternoon by stopping off at Perch, shortly after it opened. Aside from myself there was only one other customer, which made it easier to observe my surroundings.

As I perused the cask choices at the bar, I asked what was pale and hoppy. The landlord thought that "pale" and "hoppy" were two mutually exclusive terms, which seemed a bit strange to me. Anyway, he recommended the Aurornis Xui (4.5% ABV, Dead Parrot Brewing Company, Sheffield, South Yorkshire), which I decided to try. Named after the oldest known bird which predated the Archaeopteryx by ten million years, this avian relic boasts Citra, Pearle, and Simcoe hops.

The pub itself, which was opened by Mark Simmonite and his brother Nick, is quite attractive and comfortable. Formerly a workshop, it's now got new furniture and clean polished wood floors. As there were plenty of choices for sitting, I took my pint and grabbed a choice spot on the plush leather sofa, near the standing PacMan machine. (The last few times I played PacMan were on tabletop machines.) As I sipped my pint I was struck by the music being played: "We Gotta Get Out Of This Place" by the Animals, followed by "Stayin' Alive" by the Bee Gees. Did this mean anything? After all, Putin was currently bombing as many Ukrainian citizens as possible, so the songs seemed quite topical.

As far as the extinct bird was concerned, I realised I probably would have gone for a different pint. Although it's described as a pale ale, the Aurornis Xui is quite amber in colour, and a bit too malty in character for my current tastes. When Dead Parrot Brewery first opened in 2018, this was the first beer they produced, so I suppose they were going for something to please a wider audience.

The walls in Perch feature a mixed collection of art, from Cubist paintings, advertising posters, and a framed collection of resined beer mats which match the surface of the bar. Along one wall a long wooden case displays beer bottles, and pleasingly orange paper lanterns hang from the industrial lighting tracks. And leaning against one wall is the obligatory Yamaha acoustic guitar.

On the wall just behind me there is also a mirrored graphic advertising Goose Island IPA, which the pub offers on keg. Having visited the original Goose Island Brewpub back in the 1990s in Lincoln Park, Chicago, I was pleased that the brewery has produced such a decent hoppy beer, which is on tap in so many places. Whenever I'm visiting the US, I always seem to have a pint of this beer during any airport breaks between connections. So I'd be curious to see what it's like on tap in this country. Which is another good reason to visit again...

Since Perch opened, it's become famous for its slow-proved, wood-fired pizzas, and there is a long menu with no less than seven alternatives for a pescaterian like myself. Each pizza has a beer suggestion, and one can order dipping pots as well. (In case any American readers are wondering what the dips are for, it's just another strange British habit.) There are also seven varieties of burgers, all made with Waygu beef, as well as four vegetarian burger options. There is a courtyard outside as well, and live music nights are featured. As the location is only a short walk from another fine pub, the Crow Inn, perhaps this neighbourhood will eventually become Sheffield's Avian Pub District.

PUB UPDATES:

  • RUTLAND ARMS, SHEFFIELD: Last December, on a relatively quiet Wednesday before Xmess, I made my first post-lockdown visit to this pub with my workmates John and Ben. Before we ordered our pints, Ben got a taster of Cuvee Barrique (9.5% ABV, Schneider Weisse, Kelheim, Germany). Marinated in red wine barrels, this was gorgeous, as one would expect of something with that name. But it was definitely over the ABV limit for a friendly after-work pint for any of us. And who knows how much it would cost? So John and I went for pints of Ever Given Pale Ale (4.4% ABV, Thirst Class Ale, Stockport, Greater Manchester). Brewed withChinook, El Dorado, and Centennial hops and then dry hopped with Azacca and Bru-1, this was a nice pleasant hopster which made me feel like I was drinking something zingily sharp to satisfy my needs. Ben had a pint of Disco King American Pale Ale (5.1% ABV, Turning Point Brew Company, Knaresborough, North Yorkshire), which had not only a magnificently gorgeous aroma but also a heavenly kapowing blend of Mosaic and Chinook hops. I'd happily drink this one at home, but not when I have to walk by myself in the dark and figure out how to get myself home, as all of the buses have changed since I was last here. Nope, call me a wimp, but I'll stick with the reasonable ABVs.
  • HALLAMSHIRE, SHEFFIELD: I've been stopping into this neighbourhood pub quite a few times recently, looking forward to an interesting pint. I'm usually armed with a book, although more times than not I find friends in attendance with which to sit and chat. On one of my earlier visits I tried a pint of Mosaic Fresh Hop Session IPA (4.3% ABV, Thornbridge). Brewed with Yakima hops as well, this was very satisfying. On another visit I had a pint of Win Hill New England Pale (4.1% ABV, Thornbridge Brewing Company, Bakewell, Derbyshire, in collaboration with Brewgooders, Glasgow, Scotland). For a craft keg beer this is absolutely gorgeous: cool, hoppy, and very more-ish. As I was enjoying my conversation with Mel, I decided to have another half, and she joined me. The barman really likes this beer as well.

    On yet another visit, I had a pint of Salvo (4.4% ABV, Thornbridge). I can't find out anything about this beer online, but it's pale and hoppy, although the hops seem a bit, hmm, how would I describe it? Bushy. It wasn't really my typical taste, but it was good for the conversation with several friends. I had a taste of Mel's second pit, McConnell's Vanilla Stout (5.0%, Thornbridge) which was surprisingly oooh, mmm, nice! This is a very smooth and dry stout, with a lot of vanilla. So what's not to like?

    Andrew finally joined me here on a buzzing Saturday, when I treated myself to a pint of Twin Peaks (5.0% ABV, Thornbridge). I felt like I just needed to disappear, after an afternoon of headache-inducing tax return details and other little irritations, so why not a stronger beer?And this beer was pleasingly hoppy and zingy. For some reason on this particular weekend all the pubs seemed crowded. Our friend Dodge thought it was because there were fans in to watch the rugby match, and also there was live music in the evening. My god, does that sound like what we've become used to over the past couple of years? As I sat there, realising that I was surrounded by old and new friends, I suddenly felt like I had arrived "home", and I was experiencing a unique feeling of love and happiness. Was it because I was drinking an interesting pint and surrounded by friends? Was it because I was in a pub, and there were no issues being flung about? It was a thoroughly enjoyable experience, I must say.

    More recently I've been having pints of Ravenna (4.5% ABV, Thornbridge). This hazy Mosaic IPA is again on keg, but it's nicely hoppy in that fuzzy-tongue sort of way. And having lived in Seattle for a decade, I did enjoy taking long walks through Ravenna Park, so it makes me think of that.
  • CLOSED SHOP, SHEFFIELD: As this pub is across the street from the Hallamshire, I have stopped in here quite a bit as well. Shortly after my birthday, I met up after work with Dr Ali and her gorgeous prima donna of a Cocker Spaniel, Daisy. I had a pint of Blizzard (4.5% ABV, Stancill Brewing Company, Sheffield, South Yorkshire). This was a nice, hoppy pale, good for a catch-up with a friend, and also a good catch-up, involving lots of cuddling and scratching, with Daisy.

    On another visit, when I sat by myself reading my book, I had a pint of Azacca (4.0% ABV, Stancill). The clueless barman told me it was probably hoppier than the other choice I asked about, because one was a pale ale and the other was a blonde ale. Um, yeah, that really didn't make any sense to me, as it's all about the hops, not the colour. Anyway, this had a mild zip of Azacca hops, but it wasn't terribly exciting. The pub was unusually packed with people, some eating and some just drinking and chatting. But I had found a good spot in a corner, with no irritatingly grating and loud voices distracting me from my book, so I was most content.
  • WELLINGTON, SHEFFIELD: On a lull of a day between massive windy storms, Andrew and I stopped here after I got off work. They've extended the seating area out to the next street, where the Roscoe Road Liquor Store is located, which I have yet to visit. The two of us sat alone in the little bar in the front, where we admired the sparkling cleanliness of the place, as well as the handy round wooden tables which some time ago replaced the old sewing machine trestles or whatever they were--you know, those tables on which long-legged people like myself constantly bang their knees painfully. We discussed the "lost bearings" painting of a disjointed Sheffield on the wall, painted by Dave Akehurst, which has also been there for quite a few years. As we chatted we sipped pints of Borah (4.2% ABV, Neepsend Brewery). Brewed with Summit, Idaho 7, and Chinook hops, this beer is surprisingly flavoursome, and satisfyingly bitter. The hops all bang into each other, bringing to mind a mosh pit of American hops. So who's performing tonight? The Ramones?

BOTTLED/CANNED BEER UPDATE:

  • Fresh Hop Heathen (4.1% ABV, Abbeydale Brewing Company, Sheffield, South Yorkshire). This is an American pale ale brewed with frozen fresh "green" Mosaic hops that have been harvested in the US. Oh yes, ooh-ah! I sense the fresh, bright, green hops, fresh and bright! I see jade green! I see a pint sitting in front of me, somewhere in California. Have my dreams come true yet? Am I visiting my home country, my friends, and my family yet? No, not quite. This is just a preview of what's to come, here in my Yorkshire living room.
  • Wanderer Nelson Sauvin & El Dorado NEIPA (6.8% ABV, Abbeydale Brewing Company). Brightly hoppy bitter, with a dry berryness, this is much more exciting than the surprisingly boring and vapid Astrid on cask I had just suffered through. (Surprisingly I've enjoyed Astrid on keg and also in the can. I guess the cask version is just a little too tame for me.) This Wanderer is definitely a tonic. I love El Dorado hops anyway. Considering I grew up only three miles from a large park of the same name, I was destined to like them. Of course I also love Galaxy hops, and I suppose I do live right in a galaxy...
  • Wilderness Northeast Pale Ale (5.5% ABV, Abbeydale Brewing Company). Brewed with Amarillo, Enigma, and Nelson Sauvin hops, with added Simcoe Cryo, this is just another nice, chewy hoppy brew on a disappointingly sopping-cold-wet-windy day. It's a nice "there, there, let's have some fun!" beer on a disappointingly cabin-fever restless-leg sort of day.
  • Wanderer Aussie IPA (6.5% ABV, Abbeydale Brewing Company). Brewed with Galaxy and Vic Secret hops from Australia, this beer offers a flavour panoply, pastiche, or palette of pineapple, passion fruit, peach. And it's hazy as well. I really needed the tropical hops massage, because the weather has been way too non-tropical, with constant rain, massive winds, bitter cold, flurries, hailstorms, and flooding. It was actually too constantly wintery all day long that I couldn't even venture out for my walk. That's some serious weather.
  • Kasper West Coast IPA (5.5% ABV, Loxley Brewery, Loxley, South Yorkshire). Brewed with Mosaic and Azacca hops from the Yakima Valley, this beer also has a good dose of Crystal Malt, giving it a dark golden colour and depth of character. The can also proudly announces that Loxley Spring Water is used as well. Of course, one needs to use some water in their brewing, as the older of us remember from the Olympia Beer TV commercials, whose catchphrase was "it's the water". But those ads were referring to artesian well water, whereas I assume--as Sheffield is the city of seven rivers--the brewery is obviously referring to natural springs from the River Loxley. This beer offers a powerful taste, and it's very chewy, if you know what I mean. Wait a minute--coincidentally, is that Chewy, as in Chewbaca, on the can? On second glance it's more like Big Foot standing in the shadows. But after examining it even more closely, I think it's a threatening raven, standing in front of a ceiling fan that's been attacked by a sally of machine gun fire. But who, or what,is Kasper? It's not spelled the same way as Kaspar Hauser, the German boy who supposedly grew up in a totally dark cave. In Persian the name Kasper means "bringer of treasure". Hmm, it could mean anything, and only the brewer truly knows. So I'll just drink this beer and wonder instead about that ceiling fan.