Mashtun and Meow: Sheffield Beer Blog: February 2014

Thursday, 20 February 2014

Sheffield Beer Scene

Despite a short, degree-length gap, Sheffield has always been my home. It is a land of hills, streams and more green space than any other city in Europe.  Arguably more importantly it also has an absolute abundance of real ale houses, with an ever-growing number of establishments serving and selling excellent beer. This is a tradition that sewed its roots (arguably national) in the form of The Fat Cat, which is now in its 32nd year - the original owner of which, Dave Wickett, started the Kelham Island brewery and helped fund the now pervasive and great quality Thornbridge Brewery.

The love of real ale in our fair city is insatiable, with new pubs, bars and shops springing up serving up the godly nectar. In this, Sheffield seems to buck the national trend of closures of pubs, due to an obsession (always healthy) with beer.

Along with the opening and refurbishment of a number of pubs in the past few years, more recently we have seen two new beer shops open. As part of the new market, just before Christmas came Beer Central - a shop selling a range of local brews from city breweries such as Kelham Island and Bradfield as well as those just across the Derbyshire border including Chatsworth and Raw. Alongside these, you can find numerous releases from further afield – some of my favourites include London (Weird Beard, Camden) and Belgium (Westmalle). We’ve now got a loyalty card which is serving us well!

The other shop that coincidentally opened at around the same time is the somewhat more experimental vendor of liquid intoxicants located just out of the centre, conveniently next to another of Sheffield’s great new ale houses (The Broadfield).  Hidden in the back of a vintage shop, Hop Hideout has given a new lease of life to the old office of a long-gone bank. Now with its far more beneficial role as beer shop, the walls are lined with shelves containing a fantastic array of bottled beers. We found some absolutely superb treats for Christmas, including Rogue – Santa’s Private Reserve, and Mad Hatter – Panettone Tripel, and the selection is ever changing meaning that there’s always something new to be found.

Both of these new shops show a willingness to engage with their customers, share their knowledge of all things beer, and generally demonstrate fantastic service all-round.
Our current beer selection, running a little low 
The addition of these two shops on the liquid landscape has also encouraged established, almost complacent, beer shops around the city to increase the range and provide more for us as consumers. TheDram Shop in Walkley now stocks more previously unseen breweries, and even the Bargain Booze’s of the city have a tendency to sell one or two more than previously.

As this trend of new places opening and old places adapting continues it can only be a good thing for us beer drinkers.



Thursday, 13 February 2014

A weekend in Whitby

We haven't been on a big holiday in five years, but weekends away are something we always really enjoy. We were treated to a gift voucher to stay in La Rosa Hotel in Whitby for Christmas, and booked our stay for early February to bring a bit of cheer to these gloomy days!

Whitby has always been one of our favourite places - the Gothic eccentricity of the whole town is like no other seaside resort, and although it's only 2 hours drive from home it's just that bit too far for a day trip, so a visit there is always a special occasion. Having the opportunity to stay at the absolutely marvellous (and really quite bonkers) La Rosa just accentuated this.

We began our stay with champagne afternoon tea at the hotel. The tea room itself is full of Alice in Wonderland inspired Victoriana and is truly unique. We feasted on a variety of sandwiches, scones with jam and cream, and a yummy chocolate brownie (not to mention the unlimited supply of tea and entire bottle of prosecco!), sat by the window on throne-like seats with a stunning view over to the Abbey.

We were then shown to our room and home for the weekend. Each room is themed, and we selected "Little Red". Laura was beyond delighted to discover that the exquisite attention to detail even stretched to a red velvet cape, and there was what we think may have been a wolf skull in a velvet-lined cupboard. Just incredible. The four-poster bed and little treats such as rose-flavoured homemade chocolates ensured that we were totally surrounded by an air of luxury and relaxation.

After exploring the room (whilst small, there was a lot to see in there!) we headed out into Whitby to sample some ales. Whilst we didn't find anything particularly unusual or even locally brewed, the pubs are all cosy and welcoming and the beers (including Timothy Taylor's Landlord and Mr Grundy's Passchendaele) hit the spot on a very cold and windy day.

We ate out at an Italian restaurant, Moutreys, which came highly recommended. We went for the mussels starter - which was delicious - and both ordered a pizza, as the restaurant boasts a proper pizza oven. These were an excellent choice: Jim went for the meat feast, and Laura selected goats cheese and chorizo. Definitely some of the best pizzas we've ever eaten, and we even had enough to take a few slices away!

The rest of the evening consisted of Drinks by the Dram whiskies from china teacups. Enough said.
We awoke the next day to a knock on the door - the delivery of our picnic breakfast in bed. Such a brilliant idea and executed very well. Inside a vintage wicker picnic basket we found cheese scones, warm from the oven, hard boiled eggs, fruit, yoghurt, fresh coffee and a slice of fruit cake - a lovely start to the day.

After a sad farewell to La Rosa, we paid a visit to Fortune's smokehouse, for homesmoked kippers!

It was then time to head home. We chose the coast road, and spent a couple of hours in Scarborough on the way - seaside fish and chips are truly a must! Somehow they taste better when you can hear the seagulls as you eat...

La Rosa is an ideal venue for a quirky, romantic weekend away, and we already can't wait to plan our next trip.

L & J x

Tuesday, 11 February 2014

Whisky Tasting at The Greystones with StarmoreBoss

In the back room of the Greystones pub, on a stage normally reserved for blues musicians and comedians, StarmoreBoss hosted the first whisky tasting the pub has held. The event, described as an "Introduction to Whisky", had us initially apprehensive, as we were expecting a dram or two we had already sampled. However, we were impressed to be presented with five whiskies we had never tried before, some from distilleries and blenders which we hadn't even heard of.

To accompany the whiskies came a discussion on the marvellous elixir, its origin, production and styles, from our host Jefferson Boss - a true fountain of whisky knowledge!

The tasting opened with Bain's Cape Mountain grain whisky. This South African dram is the first to be produced in the country. We found it to be a light toffee vanilla whisky with an oaky texture throughout the mouth, with a lightly spiced quite short finish, but still a really well rounded grain whisky. A good easy-drinker and a pleasant, gentle start to the evening.

The second, following a roundup of blending techniques, was Teeling Irish Whiskey: a small batch blend using the pot still distillation method. At 46%, this was a rich fruity dram that filled the head and upper nose with apple crumble and the rest of the palate with custard, that followed through to the mid length floral finish.

This was followed by an example of an American Bourbon. Having had mixed experiences of this type of whiskey in the past, the Elijah Craig 12 Year was a surprising treat. Given much longer to maturate than most Bourbons (which are normally aged for about 4-5 years), the resulting product is a deep intricate whisky that sings with a greater oaky aspect than most. On the nose it is fruity and delicately spiced, with a palate that fills the mouth with a sweet and fully rounded, lightly smoked finish.

The penultimate whisky in the evening's proceedings was a Speyside offering - the Glentauchers 1994, showcasing a cream custard texture that prickled across the tongue with a rich light peat texture. A singing sherry character brings with it a fruity spice across the tongue and into the finish.

The night ended with the Ileach Peaty, a dram from an unnamed Islay distillery: a young, textured, highly peated whisky. The strength of the oaky smoke filled the head with a fireside warmth, accompanied with an iodiney pepper character across the palate. Having sampled whiskies from each of the Islay distilleries, it's definitely fair to say this was a great choice to exemplify their characteristics.

The night as a whole was really interesting, and great for beginners and budding connoisseurs alike. Jeff was knowledgable and passionate throughout. Also the owners of a new boutique-y off-licence in Sheffield, StarmoreBoss have a lot to offer to the city and we're excited to discover what future events and collaborations may bring.