Pub visits this week: 9
Two interesting related things happened at Get to the pub.com this week. One was the unexpected opening of the closest pub to my house, the Old Heavygate Inn, which had shut up shop twice in the past year (see Saturday’s entry below). The other was receiving a promotional email from a company which sells bottled real ales online. It’s the first contact they’ve made since I ordered from them once a couple of years ago. After a few sentences of marketing bumph, the email ends: “Remember that drinking in is the new drinking out!!!!”
Cheap supermarket booze, of course, is one of the factors often cited in the decline of the British pub. Personally, though, I never seem to enjoy drinking at home very much, or at least not without people coming round. Even then I’d much rather be with them at the pub, I think. What does this mean? Where do you come down on drinking at home? Please post a comment below and tell Get to the pub.com what you think.
Princess Royal, Slinn Street, Crookes, Sheffield. Dan drags me out late on for a quick couple of pints. I take a short cut through the snooker room to the toilet while a match is on, sit back down afterwards, and conclude immediately that I’ve made some sort of terrible faux pas.
Cheshire Cheese Inn, Edale Road, Hope, Derbys. One of the reasons why walks in the countryside are so great is the opportunity they present for guilt-free pub and beer fun immediately afterwards. You feel you’ve earned the right. And my girlfriend and I have just enjoyed a lung-stretching, head-clearing walk to one of my favourite spots in the Peak District: the top of Win Hill. It’s a clear, bright day with a bustling north wind and I have developed an appetite that could slay a horse.
For every good pub in the Peaks there’s another that’s austere, unwelcoming and cynically overpriced to exploit the tourists. The Cheshire Cheese, however, is the genuine article. A 16th-century building with open fires and bang-your-head low doorways, it offers excellent ale and fine food. At nearly a tenner, the price of our lasagne is veering towards the outrageous, but it’s well cooked and there’s plenty of it. The treacle sponge touches greatness.
What’s more, it’s a pub that’s truly immersed in its surroundings. While I order my first pint, the lass behind the bar asks how strong that wind is outside ‒ because she’s mulling over a quick jaunt up Mam Tor in between two shifts. This takes me aback slightly, as she doesn’t look at all the outdoor type. Then again, neither do I.
Sheffield Tap, Sheffield (featured here). The Tap has achieved session pub status! As appealing a place as it’s been in the five months or so it’s been open, you wonder sometimes if you can spend a whole evening there, just because of the way people come and go. Perhaps the inherent restlessness of the station pub rubs off on you. But tonight, despite some early initial plans to jump on a tram somewhere, a big group of us stays from half seven until 11 or so. A fine night out it is too.
Red Deer, Pitt Street, Sheffield. Beer garden again! There are three quarters of an hour to pass between work and the popshow I’m putting on tonight (see below), and the Red Deer is perfectly placed to pass them for me. It’s a gentle sunny evening and the garden is calling. The tables tinkle with glad post-work conversation. Outside the walls and gate the city rushes home. Between swigging pints, a lecturer is giving a tutorial to two students at the table nearest the back door. Now that’s education.
Red House, Solly Street, Sheffield. I’m increasingly impressed by the Red House’s ability to serve a good pint of Leeds Pale. This comes from the Leeds Brewery, whose Brewery Tap was featured on Get to the pub.com last December. Back then I was less than impressed that the producer seemed to be offering a fairly poor pint of its flagship ale, Leeds Best, in its own tap house. The Pale at the Red House is a fine drop, though, as is the Golden Pippin from another Yorkshire brewery, the admired Copper Dragon people in Skipton.
Anyway, never mind all that. I’m putting a gig on, and I’ve ended up playing at it as well because the headline band are grounded in their native Sweden by the volcanic ash thing. But tonight is amazing because about 25 people turn up instead of the usual ten. Rock and/or roll!
Old Heavygate Inn, Walkley, Sheffield (featured here). Never thought I’d see this place again before the living and the dead are reunited. With my mum visiting for the night, we start walking up the hill to the Princess Royal, only to notice lights on and the doors open at the Heavygate ‒ a pub we all thought had breathed its last some months ago. And I’d be neglecting my duties if I didn’t take a look inside.
Inside… it’s just the same as before. The lounge room is empty; the bar room has four or five people standing at the bar. And it’s half past ten, and the licensing hours are old school, so we’ve only got time for one drink. The bar is staffed only by a younger man than me, who tells me this is the first night of the re-reopening. “They should’ve done something special to promote it,” says my mum.
Maybe new things are planned for the Heavygate. But at the moment it’s only the £1.99-a-pint IPA and lager that are different. I really hope I’m wrong, but it’s hard to see why people might come here now when they didn’t before.
Princess Royal, Slinn Street, Crookes, Sheffield. There can’t be many things that cheer me more than a room full of older people having a great time. And that’s exactly what we find here tonight. When we leave at half past midnight, they’re still going strong. My mum likes the decor, likes the beer and likes the friendly company just as much as I do. If I bring her here a few times more, she might move to Sheffield, and all my babysitting cares will be over!
Brown Bear, Norfolk Street, Sheffield. Four of us are here for a quick pint before taking in a session of the world snooker championship at the Crucible, just along the road. And this little section of the city centre seems to lack any alternatives to the Brown Bear: a strange, strange pub where the prices are low and the faces are lived-in. Well, I suppose there’s always the Old Monk instead. If nothing else, it would really make you appreciate the Brown Bear.
Crucible Bar, Crucible Theatre, Norfolk Street, Sheffield. Ali Carter hasn’t been playing well, and Joe Perry hasn’t been playing as well as Ali Carter. It’s the mid-session break here at the Crucible (sorry ‒ I’ve always wanted to be Hazel Irvine) and the game we’re watching hasn’t been the best. It’s still fantastic just to be here and experience the atmosphere though, regardless of the standards of play. Which is more than can be said for the standards of organisation. An announcement says there’s ten minutes to go until play resumes between Carter and Perry. I figure that’s enough time for a scotch and dry. Five minutes after the announcement, play resumes between Carter and Perry, and we’re not allowed back in until the end of the frame. Bastards.