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Previous Pint Pleasures - May 30, 2011

guinness eileen

The Blake Hotel, 53 Blake Street, Walkley, South Yorkshire

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The Greystones, Greystones Road, Greystones, Sheffield, South Yorkshire

Late last year, in a reversal of recent trends, Sheffield experienced the re-opening of 2 derelict pubs. The most surprising re-opening was of the Blake Hotel in Walkley, because the pub had closed down 7 years ago with plans to turn it into a private home. In spring of 2010 James Burkett took over the pub and restored it, laying new foundations and floors because the old ones were damaged with dry rot. Burkett, a Canadian who has lived in Sheffield for 18 years, previously worked at the Kelham Island Brewery, the New Barrack Tavern, and the Sheaf View, so Sheffield real ale lovers knew they were in for a treat.

My first visit was on a late Saturday afternoon. As we walked in I was impressed by the pleasing decor, with Victorian fixtures, etched windows, and brewery mirrors. The pub gives the impression of a square divided into snugs and split-level rooms. On this initial visit the barman seemed a bit presupposing and gave us descriptions of the cask ales which we found to be wrong. My pint of Ruby Red Hot Chilli IPA (4.2% ABV, TSA Brewing Company, Stirling, Scotland) was surprisingly dark and not very IPA-like at all. The chilli added a flavour but extremely little heat. Andrew's pint was Winter Ale (3.8% ABV, Keltek Brewery, Redruth, Cornwall), a nice bitter malt with no treacle at all, and it was the most pleasant pint of our trio. Trevor's Farmers Blonde (4.3% ABV, Bradfield Brewery, Bradfield, South Yorkshire) wasn't too bright, but it might have been the end of the cask or that cask layer phenomenon thingie.

My second visit to the Blake was on a drizzly cold Sunday lunchtime, the first stop of another weekend pub walk with my friend Trevor. This time the same barman from before was very friendly and helpful and chatty about the brews, and he offered me several tasters. The Exmoor Fox (4.2% ABV, Exmoor Ales Ltd., Wiveliscombe, Somerset) had a very nice citrus orange tang, slightly furry like a fox. The Pictish Porter (4.4% ABV, Pictish Brewing Company, Rochdale, Lancashire) is a most appealing porter, malty but with a coffee-bitter bite. Because it was sort of a Henry-themed weekend, Trevor and I were both subconsciously drawn to have pints of Henry's Original IPA (3.6% ABV, Wadworth Co. Ltd, Devizes, Wiltshire). This is a nice basic solid bitter, good for the start of a pub crawl. It tastes light in alcohol but naturally cheerful.

The Blake has a nice large beer garden with a covered and heated smoking shelter. Because the pub is on the top corner of Blake Street, Sheffield's steepest road, there is a great territorial view from the front over Upperthorpe with Sheffield City Centre just beyond. And across Daniel Hill Street from the pub is Ruskin Park, used in the park bench scene in the film The Full Monty. So if you're doing a cinema trivia tour of Sheffield, the Blake Hotel is an ideal stop.

Over on the southwest side of Sheffield, a pub called the Highcliffe closed earlier last year for extensive restoration and was re-opened in November as the renamed Greystones. A Thornbridge pub, it features a long bar with an equally long line of Thornbridge handpumps. The decor is bright and clean with white walls, wood floors, and big windows. The adjoining Back Room, which features regular live music as well as the Thursday night Merry Hell Comedy Club, contrasts with its black walls, and there are music-related posters throughout the pub.

On our first visit the 3 of us had pints of Wild Swan (3.5% ABV, Thornbridge Brewery, Bakewell, Derbyshire), an ultra pale and nicely hoppy lunchtime pint. As we were a bit peckish we ordered off the limited food menu. Andrew's slice of Huntsmans Pie was very ordinary, but my specially made cheese and onion sandwich was not only so abundant in mature cheddar that I could barely make a dent, but the cheese itself was very good. At £3.75 it seemed a bit overpriced, so it would be nice if they could offer half a cheese sandwich as a lighter option. A few places in Seattle used to do that, so why not here?

The food menu also includes pork pies, homemade soups, and various snacks, and there is a bottled beer menu as well.

Our second visit was for a post-birthday night out. A group of us came to see the Dale Storr Band, New Orleans blues at its finest. The place was thriving and throbbing on this Saturday night. The tables in the pub itself were occupied by undoubtedly local Greystones yuppies, while us music lovers were all crammed into the overcrowded music room.

My third visit was at the end of a long walk through Whiteley Wood to Forge Dam. Once again we had pints of the super pale and lovely Wild Swan. This time we sat in the front beer garden with the unfortunate view of brick council houses on the other side of the road. Andrew suggested that they could plant a high hedge on the wall to give us something else to look at: some leilani, perhaps. I thought maybe a row of Douglas firs would be quite nice...

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(Last updated 22 April 2018)