First time

First time: the Beehive, the Ale House

TV set into the wall at the BeehiveI’m not particularly offended by swear words in themselves – it sort of depends what people are using them for. So when I sit down in a beer garden for a nice, relaxing pint after work on a Friday, and see the word ‘cunt’ scrawled on a bench in three-inch-high capitals, it doesn’t send me cowering under a copy of the Daily Mail, closing my eyes, and wishing it was the 1950s.

But now that the weather’s turned nicer, people working here at the Beehive must come out to the garden to collect glasses, every hour of every warm day that the pub is open. Every one of them must have seen this conspicuous profanity, every time they’ve come out. Does the fact that nobody’s thought to get rid of it suggest a pub that just doesn’t care very much?

Not necessarily. True, the décor, the layout and the general feel are, well, boring. Other than a funny little sunken grotto thing – with a TV set into the wall, showing figure skating on Eurosport – there’s precisely zero to set it apart from a thousand Wetherspoonses, Yateses, and whatever other McPubs you can bear to name. But the service is friendly and – remarkably for West Street – there’s decent cask beer on tap at surprisingly reasonable prices. The Blue Bee Brewery has been pollinating here, and the fine results can be had for less than £2.50 a pint.

West Street houses the sector of Sheffield’s nightlife that is often euphemistically described as ‘lively’. Recently refurbed and returned to its original name, the Beehive as good a pub as you can expect given that inauspicious setting. It’s far from a must-visit but it’s way better than most places along the same strip.

Later the same Friday evening I’m making another first-time visit to a Sheffield pub, this time to the unambitiously named Ale House. When I lived over this side of town – it’s just out of Woodseats, towards Abbeydale Road – it was an anonymous-looking local called the Sheaf, which I never got round to trying out. The Sheaf was shut down the other year by its pubco and sold to a Sheffield beer appreciator, who did it up, renamed it and reopened it.

Many observers have hailed pubs like the Greystones as proof that even struggling suburban pubs can become viable if they take the radical and ground-breaking step of starting to sell good beer. It’s all very well for the Greystones: there are plenty of people living nearby who can afford good beer. The Abbeydale Brewery experienced less success when it tried something similar with the Office down in less well-heeled Upperthorpe.

Bar staff at the Ale House

It’ll be interesting, in that light, to see how the Ale House gets on – in a mixed-income sort of area, not posh but not on the breadline. Pleasantly, it’s not a posh pub, not over-scrubbed like the Stag on Psalter Lane. But nor does it lavish you in mam’s-front-room homeliness like the Wellington or the Fat Cat. The rooms still have that boxy, estate-pub feel. There’s something a bit 1960s or 70s about it which no refit will ever quite overcome.

This might not be quite what you expect from a real ale pub. But I’m going to argue that it’s a Good Thing, because it’s (a) completely unpretentious; and (b) something very distinctive in itself. The Ale House is not quite like any other pub I’ve been to. OK, so Bar 27 wasn’t either. But this time it’s in a nice way.

"If you wish to swear, please drink elsewhere!" A chalkboard in the Ale HouseThere are beers on from the Saltaire Brewery too. This makes a welcome change in Sheffield, where our justifiable delight at the stuff brewed on our very doorstep or down in the Peak District can sometimes blind us to the excellence of beer from elsewhere in Yorkshire. The prices are something to be welcomed too.

It’s not busy for a Friday night but it’s not dead. It’s not bursting with immediate life the way the Blake was on its opening night. But it’s doing enough, one hopes, to create a slow-burn buzz of interest among the community nearby. If you get the chance, pop in and guzzle at the Ale House, because it deserves to succeed. If you don’t, pop in and guzzle somewhere else that needs your support.

Over on the far wall a sign says: “If you wish to swear, please drink elsewhere!” Maybe someone read it and went to sit out at the back of the Beehive.

The Beehive on Facebook
The Ale House on Facebook
The Sheffield Telegraph interviews Tony Brearey, owner of the Ale House


About Pete Green

Poet and musician. Sheffield. Maps, coastlines, walking, whisky, and potentially dangerous levels of wist. Grimbarian. Pedestrian. King of the impossible. Big girl's blouse.


5 thoughts on “First time: the Beehive, the Ale House

  1. Oh bother… just deleted my comment. This new WP login system is a PITA.

    Was just saying that imho TVs showing third rate unwatched sport hour after hour cheapen a pub I think. If people are there for a specific game or event, and are *watching* it, fine, but I think it’s pointless to have it on as a nagging attention-hoover in the corner.

    Right, try again.

    Posted by looby | 25 April 2012, 9:17 am
  2. You’re dead right Looby. It’s great if there’s some kind of a match on that people want to see. It’s altogether less appealing when a pub uses TV sport as a sort of background music and it’s the Wednesday afternoon Equestrian Tiddlywinks Open or a man in a windy car park in Stoke talking about knee ligaments.

    Posted by Pete Green | 25 April 2012, 2:27 pm
  3. The Ale House (from your description) reminds me somewhat of a Derby success story, the 5 lamps. Previously struggling slightly out of town pubco place (similar sort of area) been through several incarnations (and decours) to try and attract the locals but never succeeded. Reopened as a Cask Ale pub 2 years ago (with an excellent selection on from the start) and whilst not having the atmosphere of a traditional boozer like the Bruswick is now Derby CAMRA pub of the year and packed out every evening.

    Posted by Nathan | 26 April 2012, 4:35 pm
  4. Hi Nathan. I remember the Five Lamps from playing a gig there in 2006. Its restoration was spoken of glowingly by a Derbyite in a comment on here last year. I’d love to get along and see it again one day. Thanks for reading!

    Posted by Pete Green | 26 April 2012, 7:00 pm
  5. Ah yes I remember now, those were the days. Get yourself a Derbyshire Wayfarer and come visit!

    Posted by Nathan | 27 April 2012, 2:14 pm
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