CoffeeBeer >> Pint Pleasures >> Previous Beer Columns >> 4 Pubs in Sheffield City Centre
The Frog & Parrot, 94 Division Street, Sheffield, South Yorkshire
Fagan's, 69 Broad Lane, Sheffield, South Yorkshire
The Brown Bear, 109 Norfolk Street, Sheffield, South Yorkshire
The Beehive, 240 West Street, Sheffield, South Yorkshire
Before I start this review I'd like to mention a recent uplifting statistic published in the Guardian. Over the past 5 years real ale sales have gone up 25 percent. This growth is due to the fact that real ale drinkers are twice as likely to go to the pub than others because of the few real ale choices in supermarkets. It's great to learn that we're helping both the economy and the social structure of neighbourhoods while battling the Tescopolisation of society just by preferring decent ale.
In the past year I've had the opportunity to acquaint myself with many Sheffield pubs I had yet to discover, including a few classic pubs in the city centre. Although I'd been to the Frog & Parrot several times in the past -- once for a works do, another time for a pre-dinner drink with girlfriends, and another time for a post-Race-For-Life drink -- these were all high-occupancy times with large groups, so I couldn't really take in the details of the pub. Earlier this year, on a weekend when CAMRA was having its AGM in Sheffield, my walking companion Trevor and I stopped in here for a quick one.
The pub is warm and cosy with windows and a raised bar area, records by local musicians on the walls, and lots of things to look at. I love the gorgeous flocked wallpaper, the kind my Danish Modern-loving parents would have hated. The garden is a pleasant area decorated with posters and served by an outdoor section of the bar.
The Frog & Parrot used to be famous -- or perhaps infamous -- for serving Roger & Out, an extremely strong ale named after a former landlord. Nowadays the handpumps offer a number of local cask ales. Trevor and I were instantly attracted by a beer named AlePril Fool (4.3% ABV, Westsgate Brewery, Wakefield, W Yorkshire). Unfortunately my half pint was served in a heavy chunky glass and the beer was not as cold as I would have liked. And the beer itself was dark and fruity, which isn't exactly to my taste. That's all I can say about AlePril Fool: dark and fruity. If you like dark and fruity, it's perfect for you. But I was certainly fooled.
A couple of months later during Tramlines 2011 I stopped in and listened to a set by the Repo Men, an entertaining witty band just made for fogey punks like myself. My half of Festival Gold (4.4% ABV, Kelham Island Brewery, Sheffield, South Yorkshire) was served in a strong plastic glass this time, but I much preferred it to the cut glass I had last time.
On a more recent visit I had a pint of Henrietta (3.6% ABV, Welbeck Abbey Brewery, Welbeck, Nottinghamshire). This is a nice gentle beer with a hoppy aroma, but only a tiny hop fizzle on the tongue. It's a delicate schottische of a hop, inspiring me to take a refresher on how to do the schottische. There is a definite malt presence, as if hops and malt are schottisching partners, with arms crossed.
Down on Broad lane is a classic well-liked pub. The sign outside Fagan's features a very Irish-looking Joe Fagan with a fighter bomber in the background. We learned from the landlady that Joe had been in the Bomber Command in WWII.
On this Saturday lunchtime the pub was quiet, with two gentlemen sitting in the front lounge. We sat in the back room with its walls covered with photos and paintings of folk musicians, photo collages, and an ad for a band called Johnny And The Prison Didn't Help Boys. A wall bulged with books, and the music of Ella Fitzgerald filled the room. Trevor and I both had pints of Moonshine (4.3% ABV, Abbeydale Brewery, Sheffield, South Yorkshire). This was the first pint of Moonshine I'd had in ages. It was a decent pint, although Moonshine has been a bit disappointing after all the newer golden hopblasters I've tasted since.
As it was lunchtime and I was a bit peckish I ordered one of the £2.00 cheese sandwiches and was offered a choice of red or white cheese. My white cheese turned out to be big blocks of Cheshire cheese on a crusty tiger baguette served with salad and an olive. It was a great stomach padding at a great price for our Sunday beer session.
I've often walked past the small brick Brown Bear and wondered what it was like, especially on a snowy day after work when the pub is packed with warm-looking imbibers. I finally had the occasion to check it out earlier this year before a performance at the nearby Lyceum Theatre of Les Ballet Trockadero de Monte Carlo. My friend Lulu suggested we meet here before the show, as the drinks are much cheaper than anything available in the Sheffield Theatres bars. And I'm talking a whole lot cheaper, as the Brown Bear is allegedly the second cheapest pub in Sheffield. It's obviously this reason that the pub has such a wide clientele, from local city-centre alcoholics to students wanting to save money.
When I walked in through the single central entrance I debated which of the two doors to enter. The one on the right led into a room I could see was packed, and the one on the left led into a room that wasn't. I chose the one on the left and found myself in the quiet lounge, populated only by two very drunk people attempting to speak to each other. And through the central bar I could see with regret that the public bar on the other side was much livelier and more gregarious.
Nevertheless I wore my mistake and ordered a pint. My pint of Old Brewery Bitter (4.0% ABV, Samuel Smith Old Brewery, Tadcaster, North Yorkshire), which was on both handpumps in the Lounge Bar, was a fairly standard bitter but pleasant. There were two more handpumps on the other side of the bar, so I assume they were the same. And my pint was only £1.50, which made it taste even more welcoming. As I sat sipping my pint and trying to decipher what the drunk woman was saying I saw the public bar gradually fill up, and I could hear a crescendo of drunken cackling -- so I decided I was safer where I was. Had this been a test of pub-room wits? Or was I just being silly?
It was from the bus I take every day that I noticed the Beehive. It seemed to me as if this West Street pub had suddenly appeared, and my walking companion Trevor had the same sensation. Apparently the Beehive, which originally opened in 1825, had been several entities since its original Beehive days, including for a short time Rockwells, the Foundry & Firkin in the 1990s when they expanded into the post office next door, and more recently Bar S1. So it must be that the return to the Beehive has happened only recently.
The pub is large and features a casual jumble of mismatched furniture. On our first visit on a Sunday the pub was very quiet, but on our second Friday lunchtime visit it was, well, simply a-buzzing. We had pints of an old favourite of mine, Bitter & Twisted (3.8% ABV, Harviestoun Brewery, Dollar, Clackmannanshire). I was so happy to see this wonderful brew finally invading Sheffield: the Harviestoun Army had arrived.
We sat in the beer garden which is fitted with speakers so we could listen to the cricket -- or Trevor could, anyway. This pub has since become a favourite of Trevor's for watching televised sport. And for a city centre pub crawl, it's conveniently located along the main route.
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(Last updated 8 June 2017)
(Last updated 14 April 2012)