Monday 29 June 2015

BRAPA : the archives (241-251) - South Yorkshire Special

Welcome back all to the latest trip down memory lane.  In this entry, we'll be reviewing my experiences at the eleven pubs in South Yorkshire I visited before BRAPA became an official life-changing challenge so sit back with a bottle of Acorn, Abbeydale, a Blackcurrant Cordial or even a simple cup of tea, and enjoy!

241 - Old No. 7, Barnsley - To say Barnsley was crying out for a top real ale establishment on our early football visits in the mid noughties would be a massive understatement, the Gatehouse had sunk as quickly as it had risen.  But word of mouth (a family friend, various Welly gang people and hangers on) told us about this new place and we finally got our chance to go Tues 1st Nov 2011.  I was initally wowed by it, uncomplicated proper bare-boarded drinkers pub, with great helpful staff too, no wonder everyone had been raving about it.  However, our second visit 27 April 2013 was less impressive, not the pubs fault but it was absolutely rammed, even our our own group had too many people in it and it made for a disjointed session, though I remember enjoying beers from the fabulous Raw Brewery for the first time.  It was hard to even get our pre-match quizzes done!  Of course, this was a Hull City "Promotion Party" day which was always going to end in disaster, in fact it was one of the worst performances I have ever seen from us, and THAT is an achievement in itself.  I came back here after the match and sat in a weird downstairs annexed room for special occasions - like drowning your misery!  Luckily, we got to right those wrongs in July 2014 with a stunning visit, my favourite yet - there was a battle of two great breweries going head to head Acorn and Dark Star.  It was quiet too being a pre-season friendly so just me, Dad and Tom - it was pub heaven.  Sad they aren't in our division for this reason!

Chaotic second visit to Old No 7 in April 2013
242.  (Little) Plough, Doncaster - A pub I very much associate with the Irvin's, I felt like I was a late starter to this place when I decided to meet Chris and Tom here before a pre-season friendly v Donny, a first visit to their new Keep 'em Out stadium 28th July 2007.  I seem to remember talk of Jon Parkin 'training' in a nearby McDonalds but could be mistaken as we must've known he'd signed for Stoke by then!  May be I am getting confused with an earlier Belle Vue friendly where Delaney was booed off despite nearly dying on the pitch!  Anyway, I came here this day and was ridiculously earlier than the Irvin's, really making myself at home to such an extent, some old locals implied I was in "their" seat.  It was here I discovered Acorn Barnsley Bitter, a standard unfashionable gorgeous bitter, and I've never had it better kept than in here.  Staff friendly too, I seem to remember Chris marching us back here post match where a pub quiz was winding up.  It was all very jovial and as I had a later train, Chris and Tom left me propped up at the bar, barmaid promised to 'look after' me - haha!  Despite the emergence of the Cask Corner to excite those who favour quantity over quality, Dad and I managed to get in here as 'non football fans' on a high police intensity day, a bouncer on this pub felt wrong but the calmness in here compared with out in the street was an amazing contrast.  I was most recently here after the heaviest rainstorm I have ever witnessed last July.  Again, I was left with some, I have to say, weird locals, as others got the train first, but again, the Acorn was superb.

243. Salutation, Doncaster - In those early naive days of using the GBG to find an away pub, Dad and I decided on this one as it was most walkable to Belle Vue from.  It was an evening kick off, Monday 8th September 2003 and high excitement/aggro in the town as it was a 'top of the table' clash on Sky.  A boring 0-0 predictably ensued.  The 'Salutation' we were most likely to find in here was not 'hallo chaps!" but 'fuck off codheads' and so it came about, that I felt somewhat uncomfortable being clad in black n amber with a load of Burberry clad charvers staring at us.  The ale range was decent and quality was good.  We ordered fish n chips (unwisely) it turned out as we had just been called codheads when the waitress came out with two plates of food, and shouted "cod and chips for two!", you couldn't make it up!   Post food, which was acceptable standard pub quality, Dad moved us to the other side of the pub.  A decent move but it was even busier, but a bit less intimidating.  Never again we said, though in the GBG today, must be doing something right!

244. Devonshire Cat, Sheffield - I've heard this place slagged off so many times over the years, and apart from being a fairly modern style bar and in the trendier part of town, I've always thought it was pretty above average.  I have never been here on a football day, always used it for a pre-gig venue in the days I always seemed to be watching obscure punk bands in dingy soulless Sheffield dives (not Bramall Lane).  I'd go as far as to say this was amongst the first times I used the GBG to find me a pub on a non-football occasion so am going to stick my neck out and say November 2002 as it was dark, cold and most bands toured in Nov!    I walked up from the station armed with my Autoroute Map with pushpin of where the 'Cat' should be.  Well, this was an eye opener!  Not only was it bright, modern and full of young people, but a range of about 10 ales was unlike anything I had ever seen, I don't think I recognised more than two of them, the staff were very helpful, and despite the heaving scene at the bar, I think this was the first place I was offered a taster!  I declined as I always do now.  I like the gamble.  I had been waiting ages to be served stood in different places, in fairness.  I have only been in once or twice more since, the latest time before another gig on an evening when Newcastle were away at Sheff Utd.  It was so great, I couldn't move when I got there at 7pm for Geordies, but by 7:30pm, the place was near empty and I made a point of sitting in about 5 different seats (because I could) before meeting some friends at the venue.  I'd missed some of the support act, but I didn't care!

245.  Sheffield Tap, Sheffield - Being a station tap, I have absolutely no idea how many times or when I first came here!  Vague early memories include one Hallowe'en post football because they had a crazy huge pumpkin thing on display.  I would think my first visit would be not long after opening (8th Dec 2009) with the likes of Ben and Mark probably in the latter stages of the 09/10 season.  The strangest thing is despite several visits, Dad has only just realised it has a huge backroom (which I utilised to best effect on my favourite ever visit, a morning with Krzb and Jig/John with copper beer things banging away!)  And this had been the real reason Dad has always despised the place, he thought it was a tiny two room thing with a hallway.  I have to admit though, I've never thought the beer quality was that good, especially when we've been in after a game, particularly the Thornbridge Jaipur which should be gorgeous.  But a very nice building and worth the stop off.  Dad even insisted on it when we had time to spare before our train on our January Sheffield BRAPA day out.  How times change!

246.  Fat Cat, Sheffield - In my head, I created a kind of 'rivallry' between the Kelham Island Tavern (which I love) and this Fat Cat, which the rest of the 'Welly' gang raved about and try to get me to, but I contrarily dug my heels in for years - my loss I suppose!  In addition to the Welly gang factor, JW2 also came down on the Fat Cat side, being very much the opposite to me and not having visited KIT.  I therefore decided to make my first visit entirely on my terms, preferably on my own.  The opportunity came post match 25th July 2009 after one of the most boring pre-season friendlies ever (and that's saying something!) and the walk back from Hillsbrough was hot and gruelling and I needed a pit stop.  I had to admit it, a great traditional pub with young, vibrant staff with superb range of quality ales as I sat in the main bar in the corner and witnessed one of  the weirdest drink requests ever - a pint of Deuchars IPA with an ice cube in it!  The pub was gobsmacked for about 10 minutes afterwards before the bubbly atmos returned.  I hope the young student lady has since seen the error of her ways.  With the shackles off, I was actually happy when Christine requested we met there on Boxing Day 2010, this time before a Sheff Utd win where all the focus was on my new thermal vest!  I was the winner, as it was one of the coldest days you could imagine and I put my leather gloves on to drink some of my pint!

247.  Kelham Island Tavern, Sheffield - Speak of the devil, this truly has to be one of my top pubs of all time and deserves all the awards and plaudits it gets.  My first visit from memory was 14th Feb 2009.  As if the range of superb Abbeydale and other local beers wasn't enough, a great pie and peas and chips made for a gorgeous simple pub snack, and it was here that I was introduced to Henderson's Relish too, a local classic.  I'm a bit of a nibbler when it comes to my food, and I was still picking at my chips half an hour later.  Usually, pub staff whisk my plate away but the landlord appreciated my 'nibbler' ways and let me carry on.  It's minor details like this which stick in the mind! and make it a classic in my eyes, silly as it sounds.  Our experience was soured slightly by our taxi (which we'd booked behind the bar) not showing up!  And we nearly missed the terrible defeat.  A few months later, I found myself in Sheffield for a pre-season friendly, and spent around an hour here drinking a Chocolate Orange stout and reading my PG Wodehouse - possibly the slowest I've ever drunk a pint in my life - it was strong and I seem to remember being fragile anyway!  A couple more visits followed (we always used it as a pre-Sheff Utd pub despite it being on the way north towards Hillsborough.    But this was rectified on my favourite ever visit, 6th Oct 2012.  I'd been working on the Sat morning but got away for 12 noon and Dad had resisted the usual Fat Cat calls and despite my taxi getting lost and my GBG App crashing on me,  I was soon there and found him alone with a pint of Abbeydale Dissolution on the table for waiting for me, chatting to some jolly Sheffield locals.  It was a perfect pub moment in a perfect pub.

248.  Harlequin, Sheffield - 19th April 2008, the sun was shining and despite a dodgy Autoroute map distorting the dimensions of Sheffield City Centre, we found this pub by a canalside location up near the Kelham Island area.  What we hadn't banked on was a beer festival, and the pub was bursting with red & white and black & amber serious ale drinkers, including a group we recognised from the Welly in Hull, and Mr Sticky-Out ears annoyed Dad by telling him he shouldn't be drink-driving (it was in our pre-train days for journey's like this) but it did make us think why just use trains for long distance trips?  The staff were very helpful, given us beer menus and stuff but it was more like one of those "pub with lots more beers on" than an actual festival - for example, no sign of tokens or glasses.  It annoys me when pubs to that.  It was hectic at first, I had to convince Dad to stick with it and we settled into a nice pre-match session once people started dispersing to pubs nearer the ground.  We remembered it fondly enough to return post-match on 6th Oct 2012 as we hadn't had very long pre-match and one of those hot & gruelling walks back into town from Hillsbrough meant we needed refreshment pre-train.  We'd won so were in good spirits, as we went into a more traditional lounge bar (we'd not even seen that on "festival" day) and joined a family of Hull City fans for a nice relaxing post-match 'brew' (or two) from the 'Brew Co,, their Tap I assume.

249.  Gardeners Rest, Sheffield -  Mine and Dad's 'official' pre-match pub of choice for Sheff Wed, we visited this on three occasions before flood damage closed it and had it lying in disrepair for a long while - plus it's opening hours are not the most generous for my tastes!  Our first visit on a midweek night 8th December 2004 saw us parked up in the car nervously waiting for it's 5pm opening before we saw a light flicker in the gloom.  We entered to the right hand room with books and a big world map - it felt a bit like a geography lesson, am sure the landlord had a ginger beard, green jumper with patches on the sleeves, though I could be making that up.  5 or 6 beers were pleasing and we trekked a couple of miles to the ground for THAT 4-2 win (we got in on time, did you?) and declared it an away pub of the season contender.  Next season, 9th Aug 2005 was another midweek night (our fault Wednesday had gone up) and I remember feeling this visit was a bit less magical (probably built it up in my mind too much), fewer beers on but still pleasant.  More of our fans milling around, Championship glory seekers meant we ended getting a lift up to Hillsborough with some random Hull guys.  Our final visit New Year's Day 2007, a Monday meant 7 points in three visits here - a lucky pub.  It was back to it's superb best with one of the most unique pre-match experiences ever. Pub workers and locals put on a panto of sorts, with current affairs jokes and references, Gordon Brown and Tony Blair featured heavily - it was absolutely brilliant and so pleased us two visitors could enjoy it.  So it was sad to walk past a decrepit shell on two ocassions during it's 'closed due to the floods years'.  We moved on to other pubs like KIT and Fat Cat as a consequence but great to see it back to GBG standard and would love to go again.

250.  New Barrack Tavern, Sheffield - In our early Sheffield visits, this pub was mentioned plentifully by Irvin's and Andrew's but it's relative proximity to Hillsborough, and let's face it, Wednesday fans are not generally the nicest people, meant we were a bit too skeptical to go.  I even saw Chris and Ben disappearing in there post-match once just ahead of us.  So a bit like Fat Cat, I waited until the 25th July 2009 pre-season friendly bore draw to take my chance.  It certainly had a huge range of ales, it was all wooden boards, old adverts and a friendly old school landlord - yes it felt like a proper drinkers pub.  A few nervous looking Hull fans showing colours were glad to see I wasn't a Wednesday skinhead and carried on drinking, some annoying women came in with tonnes of shopping and couldn't decide where to sit or what to do.  I took a beautiful pint of something local (it could've even been Nottingham's Castle Rock brewery ales!) to the furthest back corner of the furthest back room but I'd been to a few before so only stayed half an hour or so.  I'd have criticised the lack of atmosphere, but then again 'too much potential atmos' was why I'd always avoided it.  You can't win with me.

251.  Rising Sun, (West) Sheffield - I'd been out with work on the Friday and felt a bit rough when me n Krzb hopped aboard a bus on a grey murky morning to come to a beer festival - I'd guess July 2011 as it was pre-untappd and I can't remember much iPhoning either.  The sun came out, the Scunny real ale mob including Colin, Christine, the friendly guy with the funny eyes and of course, the crazy Scunny Sarah were soon on the scene to witness the superb Abbeydale ales, strange pricing system, belly dancers, sword people and all sorts of entertainment.  It was truly the BEST pub beer fest I have ever been to and if it wasn't for BRAPA, I'd be back.  Now the pedants among you (mentioning no names) may say "can you count it if you didn't go in the pub" but having bid the Scunts farewell, me and Krzb decided to witness the pub itself.  Abbeydale's spin-off side project, Dr Mortens, had generally been regarded as the best ales of the festival - inside the pub and out of a pint glass in the calm and darkness, they were even better and the locals (non-fussed by the fest) were friendly and chatty.  Bus and train back, Rustlers burger and watched Wimbledon tennis til I fell asleep about 9pm.

That's got my juices going for another Sheffield trip at least, certainly South Yorks is something I can maybe focus on a bit more in the coming months when & if I finish West and East Yorks.

See you soon for some North Yorks archiving.



  1. Much as the towns within it are, in the main, complete shit holes, I love South Yorkshire.

    I though the non promotion game followed the script to the letter, apart from the fact that at the start of both halved Hull City AFC were excellent up until the time when Barnsley scored against the run of play, and then took control. Sadly the goal times were something like 2 and 46. I'm sure we've seen far, far worse, mainly at home to Macclesfield.

    The simultaneous pub quizzes in the Little Plough and the Tut n Shive were after the 0-0 Delaney game, which would presumably make said game the day you red penned the pub.

    To answer the question, I didn't get in on time for the 4-2 win at Sheffield Wednesday because I didn't go. I will have you know that the next season, with all the second division hangers on, we actually took 3000 less.

    New Barrack Tav served best as a 10:00 opener for Wednesday. Much later and it is too busy. I dare say we will have some red pen action instead for both Sheffield defeats this season.

    The rainstorm in the first half of the 0-0 at Moss Rose in the Cup when the Jamaicans made their debuts was heavier than that walking between the 'Spoons and Plough in Donny that day. Make Donny the second heaviest.

    I reckon a lot of South Yorkshire is doable on your soon to be vacated Tuesday night BRAPA slot, once you've finished West. Of course, we have 3 visits to look forward to with Hull City AFC.

  2. Interesting comments there, I had no idea we took fewer fans on the second Wednesday visit - I guess people were more organised then if we actually saw them in the pub.
    I didn't think the rain was quite as bad on the 0-0 Moss Rose day but I was generally in the seats throughout anyway!
    Definitely think South Yorks may be more preferable than Lancs as my Tuesday night slot - also writing those archives makes me really want to go to the Sheff Utd friendly now.

  3. I'm up for Sheff U if you are. I suggest, assuming it has sensible suitable opening hours, Hillsborough Hotel as I think it will be packed for the Wednesday game. Others can be slotted in as well I'm sure.