CoffeeBeer >> Pint Pleasures >> Previous Beer Columns >> 4 Bars in Sheffield City Centre

Previous Pint Pleasures - December 8, 2011

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Henry's Cafe Bar, 28 Cambridge Street, Sheffield, South Yorkshire

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Dada, 89 Trippet Lane, Sheffield, South Yorkshire

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The Benjamin Huntsman, 12-18 Cambridge Street, Sheffield, South Yorkshire

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The Forum and Common Room, 127-129 Division Street, Sheffield, South Yorkshire

Over the past year I've discovered a lot of new pubs in Sheffield. Some of these pubs have been classic pubs that were previously unknown to me; some have been brand new openings; and some have been previous incarnations that have transmogrified into fresh new cask ale venues. As I've expressed to my fellow aficionados, there is definitely a cask ale renaissance in Sheffield, partly due to the wealth of new local microbreweries using new varieties of hops, not to mention the increase in student-aged cask ale fans.

So it shouldn't be too surprising to find decent cask ale in unexpected establishments like wine bars. I first discovered Henry's Cafe Bar this past summer, after I along with my fellow Cobden View Girls had completed 5K in Sheffield's Race for Life to raise money for Cancer Research UK. After a post-run lunch we stopped in Henry's for a post-post-run-lunch pint. The designation "cafe bar" is deceiving, as there are 10 handpumps featuring local ales along with a knowledgeable staff -- and at £2.50 for my pint, it's very reasonably priced for a city centre pub.

As it was a steamy summer day we sat in the beer garden where three French deck chairs arranged under a large HENRY'S sign scream out "photo opportunity". My pint of First Gold (4.3% ABV, White Rose, Sheffield, South Yorkshire) was a bright and pleasant sparkle of a pint for a gold-medal kind of day. On a later visit, Trevor and Andrew and I sat inside where there is a variety of seating, from church pews to high-backed stools. I had a pint of Madeleine Lily (4% ABV, Ossett Brewing Company, Ossett Brewery, Ossett, West Yorkshire), Andrew had a pint of Henry's Long Blonde (3.9% ABV, HB Clark & Co Ltd, Wakefield, West Yorkshire), and Trevor had a pint of White Gold (4.2% ABV, White Rose Brewery, Sheffield, South Yorkshire). And they were all crackingly good hoppy brews.

Situated in Trippet Lane is another unusual venue. Dada was formerly called Trippet's Wine Bar. Trevor and I happened upon Trippet's by accident as we were taking a parallel route to West Street, so we stopped in -- and we were greeted with an exciting selection of local ales, half from Thornbridge Brewery. I had a taste of Red Lion (3.5% ABV, Thornbridge Brewery, Bakewell, Derbyshire), named after the pub's former name. It was nice but only mildly hoppy. So I settled on a half pint of Hopton (4.3% ABV, Thornbridge), which is very bitter with a light hoppy character -- in other words, trustworthy. We stood at the bar chatting with the friendly staff about table tennis and the seemingly secret and camouflaged location of the Crookes Table Tennis Club, and then we decided to investigate the surroundings.

The pub is comprised of several small rooms on slightly different levels radiating out from the small bar. At this time the decor was clean wood floors, lots and lots of wine and champagne bottles, and a wine cellar visible behind a wrought iron gate. What a lovely bright pub this was, we thought. In the front living-room-style snug were plush sofas, and in the trapezoidal room to the rear there were bottles everywhere, including a number of bottles precariously balanced above our heads under three skylights -- making earthquake-born-and-bred Me a little nervous -- and wooden wine plaques on the wall.

It was only recently that Trippet's closed for a short time and re-opened as Dada. It has the same layout but different decor: the wine bottles have been replaced with inverted buckets, there are grey walls everywhere adorned with the word "Dada" and surrealistic art, definitions of Dada on the walls, and old band posters. We first investigated the front room with its functional steel chairs and tables lacquered with photos of Sheffield bands. We sat momentarily at the Human League table, adjacent to the Cabaret Voltaire table, when a man came in wearing, appropriately enough, a bowler hat and tails. Over in the corner front room are Thornbridge-themed tables: a White Swan table, a Jaipur table, and a St Petersburg Imperial Russian Stout table, with a nonthemed sofa and overstuffed chair arrangement by the windows and modern dada art on the walls. I particularly like the little girl swinging happily with her banana friend.

We finally settled in the back asymmetrical room which is now covered with wonderfully surreal collages of posters. We sat at a pleasingly plain unstained wood picnic table that had been subtly accented with glitter. I had tastes of Moor Top (3.5% ABV, Thornbridge) which is extremely light, and also Buxton Blonde (4.6% ABV, Thornbridge) which is very nicely tempting but a bit too strong for Sunday lunchtime. I settled on a pint of Wild Swan (3.5% ABV, Thornbridge) which was just right, like the baby bear's porridge. The number of handpumps has been reduced slightly, offering 4 Thornbridge brews and 2 ciders. For the peckish Dada offers tasting boards, which are basically tapas plates, with cold meats, pork and Stilton pie, various cheeses, olives, pickled onions, and bandarillas. And there is a huge menu of bottled European and American micro beers.

My favourite part of Dada's decor is the little grey door with its industrial steel pull handle and a key intriguingly perched in the lock, making one wonder what lies behind. I also love the fierce fox head on the wall which is snarling at the euphonium suspended nearby. Yes, this place grows on me by the minute. Est-ce ma bière n'est pas une bière? If only they had Brother Rabbit on tap, I believe it would be a bit of heaven.

Immediately after last summer's Race for Life, 3 of us racers, along with our supporter Trevor, stopped into the Benjamin Huntsman for a pre-post-race-lunch-pint pint. A Wetherspoons pub, the Benjamin is named after the inventor of crucible steel and is located in Cambridge Street, which was originally called Coalpit Lane. Covering two stories, the pub features a beer garden off the upstairs room. We sat downstairs and admired the industrial architecture artefacts and sculptures and the impressively large venting tubes that reminded me of a beefed-up Brazil. I sipped my refreshing pints of Ruddles Best (3.7% ABV, Greene King Brewing, Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk) amid a sea of startlingly pink ladies. (I must admit that, although us three Cobden View Girls were dressed in customised black t-shirts, we were also wearing pink knickers as outerwear...)

My first visit to the Forum was with a group from work on a day out. I had a pint of Moonshine (4.5% ABV, Abbeydale Brewery, Sheffield, South Yorkshire) which was a bit slippery and slightly sour. Obviously the selection on the single handpump just wasn't turned over enough. I was considering that possibility and therefore tempted to go with a pint of Becks Vier or Leffe instead, but at 5% ABV they were too alcoholic for a works lunch. On future visits to the Forum I've stuck with Becks Vier or Peroni.

My Portobello mushroom frittata with goat cheese sandwich was tasty, although the "Portobello mushroom frittata" seemed like frittata who'd had a passing thought about Portobello mushrooms but couldn't recall exactly what they were. On a later visit I had a spicy bean burger which was a bit more satisfying.

The bar at the Forum is large, and there is a very pleasant patio and garden stretching out onto Devonshire Green. On the town side of the place is a passageway leading to the Forum Shops & Boutiques, and over a stairway is a piece of lighted art with a design scarily similar to the In Case Of Fire sign directly next to it.

Upstairs from the Forum is the Common Room, where Trevor and I discovered not only a table tennis table but 2 handpumps, 1 which is always active. The cask ale seems more dependable up here; but as Trevor and I arrive here first thing every Friday morning to play table tennis, the first pint out is always a bit warm so we tend to play it safe with Becks Vier. If we ever play later in the day we'll be more than happy to have a pint of Farmers Blonde or whatever they have on offer.

Next to the table tennis table is a table football game, and in another room there are lots of American style pool tables. In the central room are boots surrounded by TV screens, and there are always a variety of sporting events being broadcast, and the music the staff plays is always good. I like the huge litho of a classic Formula 1 car on the wall in our table tennis room.

Over the Tramlines weekend last summer the Common room was having a cask ale festival, so Andrew and I popped in for a quick half. There were 28 selections on gravity in our table tennis room, with the table having been replaced with bales of hay. The service at the bar to get the necessary vouchers for the real ale was atrocious and insulting. ("AM I INVISIBLE OR SOMETHING?" I finally shouted after several long minutes of being ignored.) But we finally were able to have our half pints of Wren's Nest (4.2% ABV, Howard Town Brewery, Glossop Derbyshire). This is a buzzy little pint, like a nest of buzzy little bees darting about the tongue.

But still, I couldn't help wondering why the bales of hay...

Henry's Cafe Bar Updates
(Last updated 3 December 2012)
Dada Updates
(Last updated 29 July 2012)
Common Room Updates
(Last updated 11 February 2012)
Benjamin Huntsman Updates
(Last updated 22 February 2015)