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The Sheaf View, 25 Gleadless Road, Heeley, Sheffield, South Yorkshire
Before I start this month's column, here's a recent report from Mistah Rick, my San Francisco Bay Area correspondent:
"I lucked out at Barclay's Pub on College Avenue [Oakland] this evening. After getting home from work unusually early I arrived at the pub with hours of daylight to spare. Tending the bar was an attractive young woman I met a couple weeks ago who loves IPAs and has tasted nearly every beer at the bar.
"Having recently added a Drake's Ales coaster to my collection, and having seen someone wearing a Drake's t-shirt at the bar with the slogan 'a pint a day keeps scurvy away,' I inquired which brew was the best cure for scurvy -- or, at least, which was the hoppiest. She recommended the Drake's Warrior IPA, which was on gravity pour. It was First Firkin' Tuesday! I think I had encountered that only once before. She brought me a taste of both Warrior and Drake's 1500 (named for their 1500th batch, not for a year significant in the annals of exploration). Both were nicely hoppy, but I settled on the stronger Warrior.
"And for the first time ever I was immediately drawn into conversion with somebody at the bar. A middle-aged man three stools away asked if my bolo tie was a cat or a dog. "--Or a rabbit?" I answered, prompting a 3-way conversation about the dangerous bunnies of Monty Python and the Holy Grail and Saddam Hussein's possible possession of the Holy Hand Grenade of Antioch (or at least of Rabbits of Mass Destruction). As it turned out, this man was one of the co-owners of Barclay's (who reacted with some pain about financial losses when I mentioned the closing of Barclay's Jack London). His name is Chuck, and he's probably a good person to know, even if I'm not close in rank to the other people at the bar he introduced to me, who are on the Barclay's Hall of Fame board for having tasted over 1,500 different beers. He is also now serving as sales rep for Drake's Ales.
"Having recognized at the opposite end of the bar Roger, the brewer from Drake's Brewing in San Leandro, I moved over there to linger around him for awhile. (Perhaps to find out how, exactly, beer prevented scurvy.) It turned out to be nearly impossible to get in a word with Roger. But nearby I noticed a poster for the "Warrior Experiment" -- a friendly endeavor among six local breweries (Drake's, Triple Rock, Bison, 21st Amendment, Magnolia, and Marin) to brew something with their own distinctive recipe of malt and brewing parameters, but exclusively Warrior hops.
"After that I got into a conversation with a man next to me with an English accent. He seemed to be having trouble deciding which beer to drink. After I mentioned drinking cask ales in Sheffield recently, he said that I had probably spent more time in England than he. Turns out he has lived in Laguna Hills for 14 years and elsewhere in Orange County another dozen years prior to that. He used to work for Mattel in Hawthorne and El Segundo.
"Now this is what a pub should be. I should plan on arriving early on Tuesday every week."
Meanwhile, back in England, the search for cask ale pubs continues:
Ever since I moved to Sheffield a few years ago I've been meaning to try the Sheaf View. I really have. Because we ended up living on the opposite side of town it never seemed convenient to get over to London Road and Heeley just to try a pub. I know that's a pretty lame excuse for a cask ale lover, but it's true: time plods on, life takes over, and before you know it you're swallowed up in your own local rut.
Fortunately one recent Saturday afternoon we made the decision to jump in the car, venture out of our Northwest Sheffield protective bubble, and see if we could find this well known treasure of a pub. And what an excellent decision this was! The recently refurbished Sheaf View, situated rather proudly on a corner, is big, light, and roomy with lots of wood and very simple decor: carpeting and rich wood, off-white walls, and large art deco beer advertising posters, all of which remind me of San Francisco's sadly defunct Twenty Tanks. A variety of beer bottles line the ledge along the walls, and the partitions are detailed with stained glass. On this particular sunny weekend afternoon we headed back into the main room where, after mulling over the 8 handpumps and chatting with the friendly knowledgeable barman, we decided on pints of Boggarts Brew (4.3% ABV, Boggart Hole Clough Brewing Co, Moston, Manchester). This beer has a surprising taste, almost fruity but without the sweetness of fruit, with a nice fizzy bitter aftertaste. We seated ourselves at a strong wooden table in front of a large window which invited in the spectacular June sun. As we sipped our hoppy compotes we noticed the huge ABDULLAH CIGARETTES sign above the door and wondered, for just a moment, if that could be the reason this pub is a favourite of a friend of ours who happens to share that same name. Nope, we decided -- it's simply because it's a good pub with good beer and a good atmosphere.
Although on this lazy afternoon the Sheaf View was lightly populated with a fairly relaxed group of customers, I've been told it gets quite crowded on weekend nights. There are two gardens outside, one of them no-smoking, which reminds me even more of San Francisco (i.e. California) pubs -- but oddly enough smoking is allowed inside the pub. But fear not, you staunch non-smokers, because it's quite an open, roomy, and airy place so I'm sure your lungs won't be offended.
Along with the cask ales there are several German and Belgian draughts and lots of bottled beers. After admiring the gorgeously tall and sensual Erdinger glasses fondled lovingly by the people sitting next to me I almost wished I drank Belgian or German lagers instead of cask ale. Mmm, those lovely waists...on the glasses, that is. For some reason they remind me of Rodin sculptures. I could almost be sipping my pint of Boggarts Brew in the garden of the Musée Rodin in Paris. But I'm not -- I'm here at the Sheaf View, and I'm quite content with that.
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(Last updated 8 December 2011)