Pub visits this week 5
There are the spring and autumn equinoxes. There’s the longest day and the shortest day, midsummer and midwinter. There are winter festivals of light in cultures all over the world. But, as we saw last week, the most significant annual milestone of all, as the earth orbits the sun, is the First Beer Garden Day of the Year.
Tuesday this week throws up the second such day – a sort of Boxing Day to the Christmas of the first. I’m sweltering in the unseasonal heat, having donned a heavy suit for a job interview at the University of Sheffield. So what better way to follow it up than by going to the University Arms for lunch and sitting outdoors directly in the sun? As it goes, everything is just right, from the well kept garden to a highly presentable jacket spud. The Uni Arms (pictured below) was closed for a month or two earlier this year while they did it up, but it was surely worth the wait.
Later in the afternoon I’m back at the Blake Hotel. The Blake, of course, opened a few months ago, just down the hill from my house, and became an instant hit with pretty much anyone in Walkley or Upperthorpe who appreciates a pint of fine ale and a proper old-school boozer. Most of my early visits here were attended by extremes of cold and snowy weather. Today, for the first time, it’s warm and dry enough to sit out the back. So that’s what I do, making musical plans with Vinnie, the keyboard player from my band.
And it’s nice out here: lots of space, with a good view over the valleys into town. It could use a few nice plants in pots, but I expect they’re on the case with that.
On Wednesday a little group of friends gather for a birthday at the Hallamshire House (featured here), another pub just a few minutes’ walk from my home. It’s one of those pubs that are easy to overlook when places like the Blake are winning all the headlines. But it’s no less of a gem for that. The welcome is always warm, the mix of people is good, the London Pride is in great nick, and it’s only nine o’clock when the old boys bantering in the snug at the front start making Suez/sewers puns.
At length we take ourselves over to the Princess Royal. There are several reasons why I love this pub, but perhaps the strongest is that there’s always something going on here. It’s an outstanding community pub, with a mighty jukebox, unerringly friendly service and some easy-drinking pint from the Sheffield Brewery Company. But whether it’s a snooker match, a quiz, a live jazz band, or a meeting of a covert society preparing the way for the earth’s invasion by cannibalistic zombie insect people, there is always something going on.
By this point I’ve been offered the job at the university, so when the chance comes for another night at the pub the following evening I can say yes without having to worry about whether I can still keep up my mortgage repayments. A good thing, too, because our early band practice ends at seven o’clock, which would be a deeply weird time to go home.
The obvious choice of post-practice pub is the Rutland Arms (featured here; pictured above). It’s the best pub in Sheffield city centre and it’s only a minute’s walk from the practice room. We sit down intending to do the quiz, but our group becomes so big and the pub becomes so full that it’s just not possible. So we end up – you guessed it – out in the beer garden again, supping wondrous pints of Brooklyn Heights by the amber light and lapping up the springtime night.
This excellent Thursday evening also brings my closest brush yet with pub writing royalty, as the redoubtable Pete Brown stands at the bar of the Rutland. Wow, is it really him? Yes, it is – just a few feet away from where I’m sitting. The real, actual Pete Brown. It’s my chance to make face-to-face contact with the figure every beer blogger wants to emulate. So I summon up all my courage and bravely post a Tweet about it.