Wednesday 2 November 2016

BRAPA - Finishing Sheffield (at long last!)

I described Sunday's East Yorkshire trip as the Hallowe'en Special, but it couldn't match a freezing cold, dank and dark Tuesday night in West Sheffield for sheer horror.  It was so chilly, the locals weren't even walking around in their regulation string vests.

But it was worth it.  For the first time ever, I can say "I've visited all GBG listed pubs in Sheffield".  In a way, it's a mission going back to late 2002 when I popped into the Devonshire Cat before some seedy punk rock gig at the (original) Corporation.

Here's what happened when the 52a bus finally made it through the rush hour traffic and plonked me in Crookes.......

It's a pizza party with a feline twist.
927.  Punchbowl, Crookes, Sheffield West

For the first ten seconds after entering, I enjoyed this pub.  My brain said "yum, the smell of pizza, and what a nice knitted red jumper the barman has got on".  I quickly came to my senses when I heard an underprivileged Twild having a tantrum over the homemade ice-cream having already wolfed down a pizza.  The sense of entitlement was horrendous and Mummy Twild had to calm it down.  I'd spied a sign about drinking pale ales so I ordered a stout - which in Sheffield, always makes me feel I'm doing something rather naughty.  The fireplace had a fake horrific Blackpool illuminations style hearth, the seating was patterned in a magic-eye way which would make Ember Inns blush, and I ended up sitting a bit too close to a Neanderthal Jarvis Cocker (NJC - there's one in every Sheffield pub) who scowled at me.  With the Twild now calm, a hideous dull hum - the kind that can induce sickness - overwhelmed the pub for the next half hour, it even drowned out the background music, and I was starting to get a headache.  I didn't enjoy the next 20 mins and was just waiting to finish my stout when the smiley Mrs NJC appeared with, rather randomly, two purple multi-packs of Whiskers cat biscuits/treats.  And then something even I thought I'd never see in a pub happened.  NJC had opened a bag and was crunching them - laughing with his wife as he did so.  I couldn't help but stare and when  he saw me, they both shuffled round the other side of the hearth slightly out of view.  There was something very Twin Peaks about this whole pub for all the bland pizza based facade and lack of charming decor.  Weird.

Name the only band on here I own an album by.

I did neither.

The wrong glass didn't help but my stout was excellent.  It's all that was!
It was a long trek through the crisp Autumn leaves, past the York pub I visited earlier this year, and I ended up following a shadowy hooded figure across this poorly lit residential area ironically called Melbourne Avenue.  A student girl jumped out of her skin when a cat appeared from the shadows, and then, back in Studentsville, the ghost of Clarke Carlisle asked me if I had a light.

There was something spooky going on tonight.

My phone battery drained so I couldn't get an outdoor shot of the pub, a shame really as six people were braving the cold to sit outside smoking......

928.  Beer House, Sharrow, Sheffield

Uh-oh, I thought.  Micropub and people sat outside, must be a tiny heaving place indoors.  Except it wasn't.  Oh, I do like Micropubs when they are multi-levelled and you can hide round corners (i.e. like normal pubs), hell it even had two toilets.  I wish Tom had been here to ask if Blackcurrant Cordial was on and complete the holy trinity of micropubbery.  The young barman with mutton chops was of the scrappy doo ilk, all ultra friendly bluster and when he did the whole "what style of beer do you like?" I simply said "something spooky!"  Well THAT got the pub excited.  "Ho ho, he must be still on it from t'hallowe'en!"  I kind of admitted I was, "don't worry mate, we all know the feeling!" Soon I was drinking a "Mandarin Claw of Death" and with the barflies distracted by a blonde student who looked like Simone from Neighbours (she did "try before you buy" on everything.... ugh, the worst!), I escaped to a wonky table in the raised area.  I was near two curmudgeonly old men who didn't seem to fit the youthful vibe.  Later on, an excited old lady bounded in, spied the men, and told one that his niece was going to give birth before Christmas.  "Oh great" he said "just another bloody Christmas present I have to buy."  Classic Sheffield attitude.

Barman on the right, and his mates.  And my Mandarin Claw of Death.

The scene so typically Micro.
After another bracing 20 minute walk where a man shouted "brisket" in a threatening way for no apparent reason (well, he was near Red's True Barbecue), I'd reached the promised land of my final Sheffield tick, and despite the all consuming firework banner, it was open!

Ah, the Chinese Fireworks Co Inn!
 929.  Beer Engine, Highfield, Sheffield

Wow, well this was like the antidote to the Punchbowl.  The calmest, most serenely lit, chilled out place with sleepy looking punters, smiley staff, music that sounded like those dolphin echo CD's you get when you are trying to get to sleep.  I tip toed in and had a hushed conversation with a really amiable young chap about this pumpkin beer which his mate in Huddersfield brewed at somewhere called Beer Ink.  6.5%, I didn't notice, I just went with the flow.  Seriously, I've been to more tense Brown Cafes in Amsterdam than this pub.  But the inevitable downside, the pub just wasn't pubby enough.  The seating, the layout, it was all a bit clinical.   And just my luck to end up in a side room with two psychotic hippie girls.  I overheard them talking about drinking a glass of cranberry between pints.  Presuming this was a tactic to keep them focussed, healthy, hydrated, between pints.   I asked them about it and was told it was more designed and stopping them drinking as much full stop, but I realised I'd become the weirdo that butts into other people's conversations when it isn't wanted so I retreated back into my shell.  Just as well, cos their long lost friend, the Ghost of Pete Burns, had arrived for a reunion drink.  I felt sorry for GOPB because the next 20 minutes involved the most psychotic girl describing the neighbourhood cats in her garden as "stupid fucked up vermin infested creatures" to use a direct quote - cats definitely the theme of the night.  I sensed she knew that not only was I a cranberry disbeliever, but also a cat lover.  Time to leave.

Not a cat friendly pub

Recommended beer.

A better view of the pub.
I trekked back across the ring road towards Sheffield station, hopped on to the first train to L**ds without time for any more ale in Rutland or Sheffield Tap, and was in York for about 10pm which wasn't too bad when you think.

So as promised in my November preview, I pushed myself quite hard tonight,  delighted to finish Sheffield, but still have SIX places beginning with "W" to visit in South Yorkshire before I can put this crazy county to bed and get back on West Yorks in the new year.  Hurray!



  1. Classic stuff. Apart from your post being a lot funnier than mine, your experience pretty much mirrors those 3 in reverse I did a week ago. For Beer Engine, I think your dolphin music is spot on. I should have done what you did and had a pint of the strongest one there, would have walked it off on the hill up to Crookes.

  2. For the quiz, given my musical knowledge consists of bugger all, I shall pick the most punk sounding answer, avoiding what I suspect is the QI obvious answer of Pulp, and go for Voltaire. I suspect that their music is electrifying.

  3. I suspect Simon listens to Arctic Monkeys.

  4. I expect it's Pulp, but would be impressed if it was Clock DVA (especially if they did a post-punk version of Alex F or Woomph, There It Is)

  5. Arctic Monkeys Dave?? How very dare you ;) - no I did dance to them at a Manchester leaving do once drunk on Guinness.

    Correct answer was PULP. In my "brit-pop-even-though-they-weren't-really-but-they-were" phase of 1996. Only half a point for Krimbo as he may know my musical background. Half a point too for Martin as I found a Longpigs song on a compilation album. I did used to have Axel F by Clock but we won't talk about that!