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Previous Pint Pleasures - December 31, 2011

guinness eileen

Shakespeares, 146-148 Gibraltar Street, Shalesmoor, Sheffield, South Yorkshire

guinness eileen

Sheffield Tap, Midland Station, Sheaf Street, Sheffield, South Yorkshire

This month I'm going to write about three miscellaneous pubs in Sheffield that I've discovered in the past year, all with interesting histories. Years ago I visited the Shakespeare in Shalesmoor for a pool match. I can't remember much about it except that the pub's pool team were very friendly.

Famous for its ghosts, the Shakespeare started life 190 years ago as a Georgian coaching inn on the site of an earlier pub that dated to the 1700s. In the 1920s the pub hosted jazz bands, and 40 years later it had become known as a folk venue. Earlier this year I was excited to hear that the pub, which closed in January 2010, had been bought by William Wagstaff who planned to restore the pub and re-open it as a real ale venue.

We stopped in for our first visit in July, only a week after it opened and on the first day the toilets were finished and the rear garden became accessible. Now called Shakespeares, it's a very pleasant old classic pub, even if it's become a bit plural. It appears to be a huge pub from the outside but it's very cosy on the inside, sort of like an anti-tardis. The interior is gorgeous, with weathered wood floors and casks as furniture, and there are up to 9 cask ales on at any time. The old-style music room is still upstairs, and the pub is once again a lively music venue.

I had a taste of Cheeky Kriek (4.0% ABV, Saltaire Brewery, Shipley, West Yorkshire). Yikes. This is definitely too sweet for my taste, but there's a distinct taste of cherry. Because the James Blonde by White Rose had just gone off I settled for a pint of Sea Stallion (4.0% ABV, Rudgate Brewery, York, North Yorkshire). This pint was pale and bitter, with a good hoppy finish. And what a bargain: a pint and a half along with a cheese and onion bap cost only £3.90.

We first sat in the side room by a gorgeously ornate grandfather clock and listened to a couple of regulars in the front bar discussing the recent changes in Guinness Stout. We eventually moved out to the large L-shaped back garden. The enclosed area of the garden used to be the stables back in the coaching inn days, and the back room just off the garden was a passageway for drays. Now it's fitted out with long picnic tables and benches and plenty of reading material on the walls, including no less than 169 Salamander Brewery pub clips and hundreds of others, as well as beer mats and advertising posters.

On our second visit we had charming pints of Prickly Back Otchan (4.2% ABV, Great Newsome Brewery, Frodingham, East Yorkshire). Apparently otchan is Yorkshire dialect for hedgehog (a corruption of "urchin"), and that's why there's a picture of a hedgehog on the beer clip. Ooh, what a lovely flavour this has. What is that taste? A spice? A herb? Coriander seed? Mace? This beer has Pilgrim and Northern Brewer hops, Cascade hops, and crystal malt. It's really a lovely journey over the various parts of the tongue.

There were more customers on this visit, nearly all of them sitting out in the beer garden. Two other groups sat at tables with one solo reader in the corner. On this stop I visited the "Ladies' Waiting Room". There used to be a boxing gym upstairs, so the "Gents", Trevor says, is a bit gay and decorated with beefy boxers. But both were impeccably clean; my mother would definitely approve.

My third stop to Shakespeares was on a beer festival weekend when the weaker brews had run out, so I had to force myself to have a half of Prospect IPA (6.0% ABV, Prospect Brewery, Wigan, Lancashire). After munching a 60p cheese and onion sandwich to soak up the alcohol I had already consumed, I proceeded with this strong half. This is a pleasant enough brew, and after a few sips I could detect the basil. Still, it was so strong that I couldn't finish it that early in the day. Trevor had a pint of Autumn Fruits (4.5% ABV, Sheffield Brewing Company, Sheffield, South Yorkshire), which claimed to be a dark mild, although 4.5% is a bit strong for the definition of "mild". It's got a nice bitter porter edge to it. I think I will be trying more porters this winter season.

Earlier in the year we had the opportunity to have a quick pint at the newly opened Sheffield Tap. Located inside the train station next to Platform 1B, the pub used to be the refreshment and dining rooms for rail passengers in Edwardian times. In the 1960s the rooms fell into disuse, and ten years later they were converted into a large waiting room, the original mahogany bar top and the ornate fireplace having been removed. A few years later the Grade 2 listed interior was vandalised.

Thanks to private investment and a little assistance from the Railway Heritage Trust, restoration on the rooms began in 2008, with the original bar salvaged and rebuilt and the ornate plaster ceiling reproduced from moulds of the original. In 2011 it opened as the Sheffield Tap, featuring a lovely expanse of cask ales. The handpumps on the left side of the bar offer Thornbridge brews while the handpumps on the right feature monthly guest breweries.

On our visit we could no longer enter from the platform side as one could when it first opened, so we used the outside door on the left side of the front of the station, which Trevor pointed out was the main station exit back in the 1970s. The pub consists of a tiny room in front, a long passageway leading to two other tiny rooms, and then the main room which features a charming long bar with a high arched green and white ceiling, and both tall and short tables. There is an old train clock on top of the bar, and big chandeliers make this a proper train station pub. As we ordered our pints we could see a train to Scunthorpe passing by outside. I recognised a fellow First 95 bus rider who was holding up the corner of the bar, talking about how great the pub is.

The guest brewery today was Summer Wine Brewing, or SWB. While Trevor decided on a pint of White Swan (3.5% ABV, Thornbridge Brewing Company, Bakewell, Derbyshire), I went for a pint of Red Eye Rye Wheat Ale (4.7% ABV, Summer Wine Brewery, Holmfirth, West Yorkshire). With my very first sip I knew this was an absolutely delicious brew, as I have also found through my future encounters with SWB beers. Unfortunately this was a suddenly shortened and therefore hurried visit so it turned into a bit of rye and wheat stress. Even so it was a lovely necking-while hoping-I-can-still-walk pint. I would love to sup this at a more leisurely pace. It's a pint that deserves being leisurely appreciated. It tastes like a red, black, and white plaid, like my scarf, which I mean very pleasingly.

Ten minutes later, while riding in a car in heavy traffic, I could still taste it. Not that repeating aftertaste, but a lovely lingering reminder aftertaste caressing my mouth and asking me to promise to come back to it. Yes, I will, dear...

Shakespeares Updates
(Last updated 30 December 2017)
Sheffield Tap Updates
(Last updated 20 October 2018)