- GARDENERS REST, NEEPSEND: One day in July, after the first lockdown eased, we stopped in here with our friend Mike. As opposed to the first weekend of pubs reopening, when Andrew and I stopped by on the Sunday only to find that the pub was already filled to its socially distanced capacity, on this weekday there were only three other people in the pub, and there were 3 cask ales on the menu. As it was a relatively pleasant day we sat out in the garden next to the River Don. Andrew and I went for pints of Blonde Bear (4.2% ABV, Little Critters Brewing Company, Sheffield, South Yorkshire) and Mike had a pint of Blanco Blonde (4.2% ABV, Sheffield Brewing Company, Sheffield, South Yorkshire). As Andrew and I have found the Blanco Blonde to be just a bit too boring for our hop-driven taste, we were glad we went for the Bear because, although not a hopmonster by any means, it had just enough hoppy bitterness to satisfy us in a gentle sort of way. It was nice to sit out looking at the Don lined with the old former works. It’s been a harshly long spell of publess months...
- SHAKESPEARES, KELHAM ISLAND: Since I returned to work in July after the first Covid-19 lockdown, I suddenly found myself back in the City Centre three days a week. One day after an excruciatingly boring few hours I met Andrew at this pub for a reward of a pint. We sat in the garden where I had a pint of Session IPA (4.0% ABV, Bad Seed Brewing Company, Malton, North Yorkshire). With Simcoe, Centennial, and Calypso hops, this was very pleasant and surprisingly smooth. Andrew went for a pint of Little Citra Session IPA (3.3% ABV, Blue Bee Brewery, Sheffield, South Yorkshire). “Hazy New England Session oat pale”. This has a gorgeous aroma with a gentle Citra hops flavour. This was my first day back on full hours, and with very little to do and too many staff members to do it, that’s why it was so boring. It was pleasant listening to the sounds of the city: ambulance sirens, fire sirens, police sirens, and that massive truck that roars down Gibraltar Street every time we visit this pub. We briefly spoke to Ethan.
A few weeks later, on a particularly rainy day, I met Andrew and Mike here after work. The first pint I chose was a rather rash decision, as I didn’t even have a taste of it. So stupidly I ordered a pint of Pogo (4.0% ABV, Wild Beer Company, Shepton Mallet, Somerset), having always been a fan of the old political comic strip. Instantly I remembered having tasted this beer once before. It was awful! If you like very sweet beers, you might enjoy trying this; but to a bitter lover I found it disgusting. So I forfeited my entire pint and paid for something I could drink: a pint of Thunder Bridge (3.7% ABV, Shiny Brewery, Derby, Derbyshire), which was quite good. It only took half of my pint to clear the hideously sugary Pogo off of my palate.
- RED DEER, SHEFFIELD CITY CENTRE: As we hadn’t visited this pub for some time, Andrew and I decided to meet here one Thursday after I got off work. The current management are very strict about the Covid-19 rules, with clear partitions erected everywhere and instructions to scan the NHS Covid Scanner QR Code on arrival, and we were not even allowed to take our pints with us out into the garden for a cigarette break. Apparently you need to book a table in the garden in order to drink a pint out there, and that means that on these cold days you have no warm place to retreat to if your fingers start turning to ice blocks. Oh, well, this will all end someday, probably after we’ve all lost our fingers to frostbite...
The only cask ale available that was below 5.0% ABV ran out just as we arrived, so our choices were all quite alcoholic. We ended up going for pints of Debut (5.5% ABV, Triple Point Brewing Company, Sheffield, South Yorkshire). It had a lovely hops aroma and flavour but I could really taste the alcohol, so as it was only late afternoon neither of us really felt like finishing our pints.
And the round of two pints came to £9, so the pints are quite pricey. When we did go out to visit the garden, abandoning our pints inside, there were a few dunnocks who were enjoying the birdseed that had fallen out of the feeders onto the ground. So we were both happy to see that they’re still catering to the birds. Still, I might pass on this pub until all of this is over.
- CLOSED SHOP, COMMONSIDE: Mike, Andrew, and I all met here one Monday afternoon when it was still pleasant enough to sit in the garden. I went for a pint of Cardinal (4.0% ABV, Stancill Brewing Company, Sheffield, South Yorkshire) which offered a very nice hoppily bitter flavour. Mike and I both ordered pizzas from the New Yorkshire Pizza (formerly Nether Edge Pizza) van that is parked every Monday in the rear car park. Mike went for the Nether Edge Vegetarian with added jalapeños, which was pretty good, and I had the Grenoside Goats Cheese, with spinach and walnuts, which was absolutely gorgeous. I was so happy, especially as I tend to be able to eat only half of a pizza, so I could take home the rest for dinner the next night -- something to look forward to on a Tuesday. We’ll definitely be back here on a Monday for another pizza and pint.
On another meeting with Mike I had a taste of Disraeli (5.0% ABV, Stancill Brewing Company). Ooh, this is heavenly! An English-style IPA made to an 18th century recipe, it’s actually quite a gorgeous drop way up here in the 21st century. I would definitely have had a pint if I hadn’t been required to walk home on my accident-prone feet and legs. So I decided on a safer pint of Stainless (4.3% ABV, Stancill), while Mike went for the ol’ PM, as he's not a wimp like me.
- TWO SHEDS, CROOKES: The weekend before the second Covid-19 lockdown in November, I decided to stop at this micropub which had reopened for a few weeks before having to resort back to takeaway. The windows still haven’t been repaired from an incident a few weeks ago, but there is plenty of time to repair them for whenever the pub can properly open again. In the meantime, I felt like I was entering a darkened cave of beer marvels. I ordered two takeaway pints of Red Star IPA (4.5% ABV, Tollgate Brewery, Ashby De La Zouch, Derbyshire) on cask. Brewed with American hops, this was tasty, even though when I poured my first pint an hour later, after I got home, the beer had gone completely flat. I assume it was the way the barmaid had dispensed it, as I hadn’t noticed this totally flattening phenomenon from a takeaway pint before. It still tasted quite decent, hoppy with a reddish bitterness. It just was a little weird, as it looked and felt more like the beginning attempts of somebody’s home brew. Ah well, I’d like to try it as a proper pint in a pub.
BOTTLED/CANNED BEER UPDATE:
- Clamp New England IPA (5.4% ABV, Brewery of St Mars of the Desert, Sheffield, South Yorkshire): This beer is brewed with Mosaic and Waimea hops and features a nice simple line drawing, black ink on white, on the can. The sipping of this beer turned out to be a multitasking accompaniment, as I had failed to reach my Unkletom in Sacramento on Messenger, which he had just installed and learned how to use, and I was waiting to connect to a Zoom meeting with my unofficial brother in Long Beach, while I was reading Saul Bellow’s novel Humboldt’s Gold as I waited for all of the connections. When I finally started concentrating on the Clamp, I found it a bit hazily fuzzy on the tongue and not quite grabbing me as much as I was hoping something named after a biting implement would imply.
- Divinations NEIPA (6.8% ABV, Turning Point Brew Company, Knaresborough, North Yorkshire): Brewed with Galaxy, Azacca, and Bru-1 hops, there is definitely a sense of incense burning in this complication of flavours. It’s a very interesting beer, with quite a complicated first taste followed by a crossroads of several different bitternesses and fragrances, all weaved into a tight luminescent lattice. I could actually have drawn a picture of the taste. It was Day 4 of Billie-No-Mates Down Syndrome, which perfectly describes the way I was feeling, so I was feeling like getting a little pissed. Would I see God? Would I become one with the Brahma-Atma? Would I find peace and happiness and friends? Hey, it was worth a try...Mmm, glory be! There’s a subtle but deeply religious intent of this beer. My American brewery-visiting companion Mistah Rick would definitely like it.
- Funk in Drublic Barrel Aged Sour Lager (5.2% ABV, Abbeydale Brewing Company, Sheffield, South Yorkshire): The can describes this beer as a bretted lager which has been aged in a combination of former wine and neutral American Oak casks for 14 months. Apparently it’s brewed in what’s called the Funk Dungeon as Funk Chapter 4. It’s a classic orange-golden sour beer with lagered hops, brett yeast, and skeletons all over the label. So what’s not to like? My sleepless super-stressed soul definitely enjoyed this brew. And while I was drinking it I received the phone call I had been waiting months and months for, that would finally relieve most of my sleeplessness and stress of the past few months. So this beer seemed soooo perfect for this experience. Thank you, my sweet -- sorry, I mean my sour kittykittykitty...
- Circadian Rhythm Double IPA (8.0% ABV, Polly’s Brew Company, Mold, Flintshire, Wales): Brewed with Citra, Equanot, Mosaic, and Simcoe hops, as well as Extra Pale, Dextrin, Oats, and Wheat malts, and London Ale 3 yeast, this is intense. Wow. I could really taste the alcohol. This can was recommended by a man at the Walkley Beer Company with whom I've chatted several times about super-hoppy beers. I'm getting the impression he leans towards the heavy-alcohol superhopped beers. After a few gulps of this I realised I was finding it a bit too overpowered in ABV for me to fully appreciate each of those hops. I was afraid this was going to make me fall asleep early, slightly nauseated. I just couldn't drink it. I wasn't enjoying it. Sometimes you just gotta give up.
- Lost Cosmonauts (6.0% ABV, North Brewery, Leeds, West Yorkshire): This is a hazy beer brewed with Mosaic and Ekuanot hops. I tried this on the first day of Sheffield’s Tier 3 limitations, which meant our local pub had to close again. So we’ve once again started up the weekly online Olly’s Zoom Quiz. Because there are always at least seven of us and therefore the time on Zoom is limited, we decided to try Google Duo. But because of sound problems, we ended up going back to Zoom. Ah, the trials and tribulations of virtual life...anyway I'm pleased to say that Lost Cosmonauts is absolutely AMAZING! Delicious! It's wonderfully hoppy and perfect! This is a truly delicious beer! I apologise for all the exclamation points, but they're well-deserved! Now, I just have to remember where I bought this so I can get some more.
- First Flight Hazy Rye Pale Ale (6.0% ABV, Whitefaced Beer, Penistone, South Yorkshire): On the second night of Sheffield going into Tier 3 I had a can of this. Brewed with Citra and Falconers Flight hops, it’s nice and hoppy and pale, with no reddish tones like the rye ales I got used to. It suggests just a tinge of sweetness but not too much, so it's perfectly acceptable and balanced and actually quite interesting. The mint green can is acceptable as well. It had been a sunny cold day and the time had just changed back to British Winter Time. So perhaps the can should properly be called wintergreen.
- Splendour (4.4% ABV, Abbeydale Brewing Company, Sheffield, South Yorkshire): This splendourous brew is a dry hopped orange-infused pale, and it’s quite pleasant, perky, and shiny. There is a definite orange aura about it, peeking out from behind a satisfyingly and typically Abbeydale wonderfully hoppy experience. A can of this was a nice reward for enduring the constantly rainy day, most of it spent setting up my new phone. Dealing with new smartphone and computer systems is always exhausting work, sometimes very frustrating, but it’s pretty much done, and I’m looking forward to testing the amazing camera on it. But that won't be today as it's way too dark and wet outside. Instead I'll just sit here inside and bask in this orange hoppy sunshine.
- C.I.A. (4.4% ABV, The Brew Foundation, Sheffield, South Yorkshire): An American ale brewed with Comet, Idaho 7, and Azzaca hops, this is yet another vegan and gluten free beer. The description on the bottle suggests tropical, mango, and citrus, but I'm getting more than just fruit. This delivers satisfying hops yomp! in a dark golden ale with an interesting tropical resin flavour. In fact, I can smell resin, or more properly, rosin. Where’s my violin bow? I’m hearing Stephane Grapelli under the palm trees, and I can see the magnolia sunset. What a pleasant multisensual beer!
- Tupelo (5.5% ABV, Salt Beer Factory, Saltaire, W Yorkshire, in collaboration with Thornbridge Brewing, Bakewell, Derbyshire): This is a hazy pale brewed with an exciting partnership of Sabro, Citra, Ekuanot, Chinook, and Centennial hops. Each sip emanates a zingy velvety hops throb with slightly mango-coconut overtones. I’m not really sure where the name has come from, because I know Tupelo as the town in Mississippi where Elvis Presley was born, and also as the source of the excellent Tupelo honey. I suppose I could take a can of this with me to a park and sip it while singing to the bees and gyrating my pelvis. But as it’s raining outside I think I’ll just drink it while lounging on the couch with my book. Probably a wiser decision.
- Hemisphere Session IPA (4.2% ABV, Fourpure Brewing Company, London): This beer was “inspired by adventure”, which of course all of us are having just too much of this year. Let me recount some of my exciting moments in 2020: discovering a new local park? Buying a new prepared entree at the local Sainsburys? Organising a Zoom virtual pint with a friend? Whoa, slow down, girl! (And then there's today, which is the first day in my entire life that I got off work and could not go have a pint or a drink, whether I wanted to or not. This is because all of the pubs have had to close again, but I still have to walk several miles to work and back. Anyway, quit complaining because it’s a challenging world at the moment...) But back to this beer. It's refreshingly hoppy, tropical, crisp, and breezy, like riding in a fast-moving boat -- in my imagination, of course. We’re not allowed to travel at the moment...
- Atomic Theory IPA (3.8% ABV Jennings Brewery, Cockermouth, Cumbria): Brewed with English Goldings and Slovenian hops, this is easy-drinking but sparklingly hoppy in that old-fashioned English pale hoppy way. I thought I recognised something: that distinct Goldings flavour from my Kent and Shepherd Neame days. I really like this theoretical beer! It's named in honour of John Dalton, who was from Cumbria and was famous for proposing in the early 1800s that all matter was composed of atomic bonds. That taste of Goldings reminds me of the olden days, when we were still allowed to kiss and hug each other, Britain was still part of Europe, the USA wasn’t in danger of becoming a fascist dictatorship, and lip-reading had not become an obsolete skill. Yep, I suppose that proves what a dinosaur I must be.
- Jamestown (5.9% ABV, Thornbridge Brewing Company, Bakewell, Derbyshire): I had a can of this beer the night before the second lockdown and the day after Election Day in the USA. It's a New England IPA with Galaxy, Nelson Sauvin, Citra, and Mosaic hops. The notes on the can suggest papaya, pineapple, stone fruit, and citrus, and it’s also suggested that it would go great with a Tangy Peach and Pecan Salad, if anybody happens to be making that for their tea. This beer is really quite nice, though. The fruitiness is tempered with a real WHOPPITY tanginess, which was perfect for the cold night on which I tried it. I can’t really picture drinking this on a warm humid picnic type of day; but living in Sheffield I don't have to worry about that much. I am, however, wondering why it was named Jamestown. I suppose it's referring to the early New England colony, and this is a New England style IPA. But I could be completely wrong.
- Spokane West Coast IPA (6.0% ABV, Kirkstsall Brewery, Kirkstall, Leeds, West Yorkshire): This beer comes in a very attractive can, black with a metallic blue William Morris/paisley sort of design. It’s a nice reward after another work week and feeling a bit more hopeful about the American elections. But what hops are in it? And why is it called Spokane? Is it because of the Eastern Washington State hops? So many questions as I sip it and enjoy it...
- Bloody ‘Ell Blood Orange IPA (5.5% ABV, Beavertown Brewing Company, London): I believe this is the second blood orange IPA I’ve had, and I think I really like these. I was going to have this with our once-again-weekly Saturday Zoom quiz, but I popped the can open early to celebrate the announcement that the 46th President of the United States had just been officially declared to be Joe Biden, with my country’s first female and non-white Vice President. What a great feeling, although a certain party has definitely thrown a pall over the normal feeling of elation. Okay, no more about politics, as most of you know exactly what I’m talking about. This is about beer, and this is a very nice beer. And I can get it at my local Sainsburys, which makes it extremely convenient during this second lockdown. All good!
- X2 Double Debut DDH US IPA (7.5% ABV, Triple Point Brewing Company, Sheffield, South Yorkshire): Apparently this is the brewery’s first IPA-times-2, hence the X2. The strong beer uses a double dose of five hops: Admiral, Chinook, Centennial, Mosaic, and Simcoe. It sounded like an exciting idea to me, and since I felt like celebrating good news including the new President of the United States and the first Covid-19 vaccine to be potentially released very soon, I decided to give this a whirl. The first taste was wowingly strong with a massive collaboration of hops, but with an unexpected sweet edge to it all, which may be due to the fact that you can really taste the high alcohol. It seemed at first like a great foggy-night refresher, but then it became a bit too cloying. Perhaps it’s just too much of everything, all at once. It would suit some tastes, but I think I prefer a bit more, um, suavity.
- A to the K (5.6% ABV, Alphabet Brewing Company, Manchester): This is really nice and hoppy. It’s brewed with Mosaic hops and also oatmeal, which seems to be a popular craft beer ingredient these days. This is just a nice pleasing beer. That’s all I can really say. All I can find out about the name of the beer is that it may relate to automatic weapons; but I prefer to believe it may stand for something like Aviators to the Kalahari or even Artichokes to the Kangaroos. How about Accolades to the Kazoos? They never get enough credit.
- Virtuous Aromatic Session IPA (4.5% ABV, Kirkstall Brewing Company, Kirkstall, Leeds, West Yorkshire): This is my second brew from Kirkstall, and the can is equally attractive in a sort of William Morris-meets-paisley kind of way, with green designs on a black background. I can’t figure out what the aromatic aspect is, but it certainly tastes nice and is easy to drink, which I preferred on this particular evening. It’s a delightfully peaceful beer.