Pub visits this week 5
Get to the pub.com is a pub blog rather than a beer blog. This being the case, when it comes to guidebooks I’d expect to find a pub guide more useful or valuable than a beer guide. But whatever you can say about Camra’s Good Beer Guide, its rival Good Pub Guide has become worse than useless overnight now that it’s given up all pretence to credibility by charging pubs to be included. I’ve found the Good Pub Guide pretty useful now and again over the years, but while this policy stands I’ll never buy it again.
Speaking of credibility issues and vested interests, you may have seen some of the coverage of a recent ‘finding’, by the former government drugs adviser David Nutt, that alcohol is more harmful than many illegal narcotics. If you have, then you owe it to yourself to read the brilliant deconstructions of this nonsense by Phil Mellows and Pete Brown. If you haven’t, just forget it and carry on. But it’s scary how much airplay the forces of neo-prohibitionism are able to command and on such flimsy evidence.
The price of getting to the pub is eternal vigilance. Eternal vigilance and about £2.60 a pint, depending on where you live and what you drink.
On Thursday my girlfriend and I are sneaking a night out at the Hallamshire House, just down the road in Commonside. I like this bit of Sheffield, its suburban murmur, its proximity to town, its balance of studenty hum with residential peace, its ability to slip snugly into autumn like your arms into your favourite coat, its superb and superbly named chippy New Cod on the Block.
There are quizzes everywhere. After a couple of drinks here – and after turning down the offer of a question sheet and a pen – we look in at the Closed Shop across the road. Quiz in full flow, every table taken. So it’s on to the Princess Royal instead, which allows me to stay on the excellent and highly quaffable Five Rivers, a glistening, gossamer-light ale from the Sheffield Brewery Co. “Name a well-known medium or psychic,” asks the quizmaster. One table is confused, then its confusion is resolved. “Oh! I thought he said sidekick!”
The Sheffield Tap has been with us for nearly a year now (while its cousin the Euston Tap is newly delivered into the world). It’s become firmly established as a superlative railway pub which people will readily seek out even if they’re not using the station. Good thing, then, that there’s now a bit more space to park your bum, as it’s been uncomfortably busy here at times. My visit late on Friday makes full use thereof, and is lit up further by the wondrous American Pale Ale from the increasingly impressive Dark Star brewery. Fine work all round.
At length our group finds itself the last to leave and we are urged by the staff to get a move on. I think this is the first time I’ve experienced this since I left Birmingham and its mediocre pubs in 2004. And even now the urging is assertive rather than aggressive. Back in Birmingham you’d barely have chance to raise the final rubbish pint to your mouth before a Tyrannosaurus in a long black coat marked the hour of 11:01pm by bawling into your ear: “C’ y’ starseeinyerdrinksoffnowPLEEEEAAAAASE!”
The Cremorne over on London Road has always seemed to me a curious sort of pub, not quite sure what it wants to be or who it wants to please, but not bad, intriguing, holding a promise of good times if you roll up at just the right moment. Dan and I drop by on Saturday afternoon to talk to someone about putting a gig on here. He doesn’t turn up, but there are beers on from the Sheffield Brewery Co again, so it’s not a waste of our 40-minute walk from S6. “Sorry for dragging you over here for nothing,” says Dan. Hey, it’s still a pub.
And on Sunday night it’s quiz night at the lovely Gardeners Rest, one of my favourite Sheffield pubs and one I’d surely get to more often if it weren’t in so awkward a spot. My contribution to the team effort is as minimal as always, but there’s plenty here to savour nonetheless – not least a lush Rum Porter from the Boggart Brewery of Manchester. Presumably the life-size animated speaking horror dummy in the corner is a remnant from Hallowe’en; either way, it takes a couple of pints to stop being alarmed when its grey straggly grinning head turns round and it starts to reel off disquieting utterances like a sinister butler from the Hammer films.
The macabre theme continues among the Gardeners’ living denizens, and the spirit of Guy Fawkes is in the air. “If it came to it, I’d burn Nick Clegg,” reflects one drinker. “Can I join in?” asks another. It’s a great moment, but I can’t quite decide whether it’s the greatest of the evening. The thing is, there’s also the moment when I win 150 quid on the accumulator. And there’s also the unforgettable experience of walking up to the bar and seeing a bloody Mary being prepared using Henderson’s Relish.