Friday, 24 March 2017

`Cherried Alive`! - twobeergeeks` brewday with Hop Jacker & Jon Terry

TwoBeerGeeks were lucky enough to be invited up to Hopjacker which is located at The Dronfield Arms to do a collaboration brew with head brewer Edd and the landlord of The White Lion Jon Terry. Mike having a proper job was unable to make it but I was over the moon to be able to get involved.
Edd had already decided on the beer. It was to be a chocolate cherry mild around 4.3% and Jon came up with the name of `Cherried Alive`. The pump clip had already been knocked up so all that was left was to get cracking.

The famous Mister Edd
Edd was kind enough to pick us up on the morning of the brew and on the journey to Dronfield we had a fascinating conversation about the complexities of  the hop market. I had no idea there was such a thing a hop quota and brewers don’t just have to consider what they need this year they have to think about the following year too. It’s easy to forget as a consumer that brewers don’t just have an endless supply of citra and all your other favourite hops and actually have to work pretty damn hard to get hold of them.

Like gold dust but tastier
After a cup of tea Edd wasted no time in getting me to work weighing out the malt which consisted of Marris Otter, Munich, Cara Light, 60L Crystal, Chocolate and Black Malt.

As the Mash began the smell and steam filled the brewery and it was time to sample some beers. First up was the Kali Ipa straight out of the fermentor and it was a monster, A murky hop bomb packed to the rim with Galaxy and Chinook. I wouldn’t normally touch a 6.4% beer at 11 in the morning but I wolfed down the lot. Next up was the Hop Jacked single hopped series Citra which was again outstanding. It tasted exactly like a beer that said Citra on it should do and left me wanting more but unfortunately we had work to do.
After the sparge it was down to me to climb in the mash tun and shovel out all the grain which I was pleased to learn is passed along to a local farmer to feed his cows.
Next up was the boil into which at various stages went cocoa powder, cocoa nibs and morello cherries. We added Magnum hops for bittering and Brewers Gold for Aroma. The aroma from the steamy vapour that filled the small brewery during the boil made me giddy with anticipation of what the beer will eventually taste like and that’s before Edd adds even more cherries and cocoa nibs after a few days of fermentation.
When we transferred the wort to the fermentor it had a rich chocolatey colour with a slight tint of red from the cherries. Edd pointed out the importance of keeping the wort aerated at this stage in preparation for the yeast being added. And after that had been done all that was left was to let the magic happen.
I was pleased not to be given the job of climbing into the boiler to clean it out and generally stood around awkwardly while Edd and Jon cleaned up. They didn’t seem to mind though and I was pleased when Edd suggested we finished the day with a another glass of the Citra, this time on keg from the pub upstairs. Its an exceptional beer, unfined, hazy and delicious. It was a fitting end to a great day.

You can always find Hopjacker beers in The Dronfield Arms or The White Lion. The Kali Ipa will be available in bottles (if I don’t buy them all first). Cherried Alive will also be available at Shakespeares, The Club House, The White Lion, The Dronfield Arms and The Spireite and maybe a beer festival or two not too far away!

Friday, 3 March 2017

The Waggon & Horses (by True North) at Millhouses

New month and another new venue for the True North chain. They now have ten places dotted around the Steel City and slightly beyond with the most recent being the Waggon and Horses situated roadside next to Millhouses Park.

Excitedly approaching.......
The Waggon is an impressive coaching inn dating back to about err, ages ago. However, recent incarnations as a grill restaurant and an ill-fated period as a pesto place have flunked. Success at the Broadfield and its ilk has been based on quality in beer, food, service and the whole ambience; True North venues thus attract a discerning yet quite diverse crowd. They seem to have the formula for success in these tough times for our local boozers. Beer-wise they also have a good balance between their own house beers, which are nice enough, a few other locals like Abbeydale and Bradfield but also nationally renound breweries like Siren, Arbor and Magic Rock. On a recent visit to the Broady I was even treated to an Evil Twin Ying, or was it Yang? Anyway at 10%ish this beer and brewery are understandably known Europe-wide and found there on a Monday afternoon on Abbeydale Road. Quality.

Millhouses deserves a decent public house. The Ale House on Fraser Road is fine and attracts a loyal crowd whilst The Millhouses and the Robin Hood are very much food-orientated and rather lacking in the range and quality of ales that many of us desire.

The Waggon and Horses opened on March 1st for the first time and I couldn't resist a brief visit on the Thursday, the second day in its reincarnation. The place seems to be neatly and logically split with food tables to the left of the building from roadside and the other side being more drink-orientated. Lighting was low and the music more prominent than I expected but it was busy with a mix of ages - from early evening dining senior citizens and young families to couples and groups out for an exploratory post-work pint. Round the corner were a duo of couples with babes in arms, which was nice to see. The proximity to the park will be key to the success of this place; Millhouses Park is an oasis for families with children and enticing them in here is vital.

The Waggon and Horses' staff were polite, friendly, helpful and diligent quickly quelling any queries from their potential public. I was swiftly given a loyalty card and the benefits of it were clearly explained. (I did have a Broady one at some point but it was 'electronic' and so rarely used and rarely requested tbh). Not sure on the decor as it was a bit dim and a tad too busy to have a proper poke around. Don`t expect a Broady-like transformation though! I did see some stuffed birds though which is great news for ornithological spotter types. Or really bad news, I'm not sure....

Vocation = yum!
The choice of ale was a little less than I had expected with True North on cask x2 plus a Black Iris stout and then about similar kegwise. Early days, mind and demand will determine, I'm sure. The TN session pale contain some sexy hops but paled into insignificance compared to the belting Vocation `Heart and Soul`, which was on keg at £4.20. Black Iris also seem to have close links to True North and their Red Rye IPA on keg was 5%, ok and close to a fiver. Add on a decent back bar with 30 + gins and all in all , the rebirth of the Waggon and Horses looks to be promising at worst. I reckon the reigns are now in safe hands. Ye ha!

Friday, 17 February 2017

Little Critters

A Thursday afternoon schlep over to deepest, darkest Neepsend took us past brewing`s past and up to shiny new Sheffield stars Little Critters to chat to Will Inman (ex-Thornbridge) who is the main man up there. Although they`ve only being around for a year or so, Little Critters have made a great start selling plenty of product around our city but particularly at the Fox and Duck (Broomhill) as well as at Doctor`s Orders. However, Will`s beers have been spotted as far afield as Brighton and their C Monster was a great success at the Steel City Beer Festival last year.

Cannon brewery, Rutland road

Why brewing? An internship over in the states really inspired Will as he learnt all aspects of the industry under the tutelage of none other than Dave Wickett, brewing pioneer. Tasting the likes of Stone and Firestone Walker was very influential too.

Top hops? Chinook, cascade and centennial.

Favourite pubs? Hallamshire House, Sheffield Tap and BrewDog.

Favourite Thornbridge tipple? Chiron.

Dream collaboration? Already done it! (Will worked with Sierra Nevada to produce Thornbridge`s Twin Peaks. See below). Another collaboration is on the cards very shortly with Sheffield Beer Week in mind......

Future plans for Little Critters? Expansion. They are increasing capacity imminently and taking over the unit next door to them on the industrial estate.

Next trend in beer? Lager. Expensive kit though.

Big one: What can Sheffield do to capitalise on its position as real ale capital of Britain? Bottle and keg! This would facilitate Sheffield beer being more widely available around the country. It would be ideal if the local breweries clubbed together to buy a bottling unit but they are expensive and do need a lot of maintenance.

Many thanks to Will for sparing the time to chat and show us around the brewery. It will exciting to see how their plans pan out and they`re sure to be one of the stars of Sheffield Beer Week next month. Cheers!

Our review of Twin Peaks, one of our first blog bits! - HERE !

Friday, 20 January 2017

New year news - Abbeydale, Thornbridge & True North

New year, new hope. Whilst we all recognise that January is generally a quiet month in the wonderful world of beer, thankfully the same can not be said of ale in our City of Steel.
First up, we hear that True North are taking over at the Waggon and Horses! Adjacent to Millhouses Park, this road-side coaching inn has bags of potential and it'll be interesting to see what the team behind the Forum chain have in store for us. We reckon the trademark quality drinks and food that TN pride themselves on will woo the folk of S7, S8 and S11 over to Abbeydale Road plus plenty of post-parkplay punters too. Due to reopen in February and so only a couple of months after the reopening of the historic Blue Stoops! Watch this space.
Next, Bakewell's best Thornbridge have taken the #dryanuary beast by the horns and served up a few initiatives of their own to get us through the winter. The loyalty card where you get a free pint for every ten purchased is simple, effective and appreciated by us loyal supporters.

Go on then! Another pint!
Furthermore, a trio of 'guest fests' have mixed things up a bit with Hawkshead up at the Greystones looking the best bet to us but Northern Monk at the Bath or Siren up at Hallamshire House will tickle many an beery fancy too. And thirdly, Thornbridge have given us a glimpse of the year ahead with a new beer each month already laid out for us. Oh yes!
Puja!!!! MANGO Halcyon!!!!
 Last but not least, Abbeydale brewery are stretching their legs again. Following the much talked-about complete refurb at the Devonshire Cat, which has divided opinion amongst the drinkers we've spoken to, they have now put out a rebrand of their core range in the form of more modern pump clips which pay tribute to the brewery`s heritage and which you'll see on your bars very soon. The new artwork has been led by James Green, who Danny has been a fan of for quite some time. The colours are striking and the designs should look much more up to date in an increasingly competitive marketplace.
Hard core!
 Danny, as our 2BG art expert, is not quite convinced that the clips are uniform enough and maybe hoped for more but, like the Abbeydale ales of 2016, the artwork is a sure signal that the brewery continue to strive to improve and modernise their offerings, 21 years young!.
Anymore Hop Smash on the way?! Or Rango?
Exciting times Sheffield! Cheers.

Saturday, 31 December 2016

twobeergeeks` Top 10 Pubs in Sheffield, 2016


Last year we were inspired and encouraged by our prolific friend Pete at Sheffieldalepubs, to produce a definitive list of the best pubs around the Steel City, ale capital of GB. Ours is a dynamic list subject to change and it is the best fit for us two; although most of our opinions are pretty closely matched, there are one or two places that divide our opinion a little. We cogitated and contemplated upon beer quality and selection firstly, and then the pub itself and service provided.

Our scoring system is not set in stone because those three selection criteria can vary in importance. For example, as we both have young families, sometimes service can be so very important. Simples.
Building on our previous list,  we have again presented this in a poetic style of type known as a kenning. And added appropriate alliteration as always.

1. The Beer Engine - contemporary class. (Our PotY. Read more HERE )

2. Shakespeares - considered quality.

3. The Sheaf View - economical excellence.

4.  Bath Hotel - cosy craftiness.

5. The White Lion  (NEW!) - cultured community.

pic courtesy of Sheffield Ale Pubs site

  •  If there was an award for biggest climber in our chart then this would be it. I've been bobbing in for a fair while after meeting Danny at Sheaf or Brothers to 'kill time' whilst awaiting my bus back up but since Jon and Mandy took over, it`s been more than just a case of ten minutes looking at the lovely interior; now the beer is good too! The staples have been sagely supplemented by the likes of Salopian (occasionally) and Hopjacker (regularly) and delivered by ever-amiable bar staff.  Music and art are prominent here and the White Lion was deservedly awarded ACV status recently. This beautiful place is a fantastic hub for the community. Try it!
6. Hop Hideout (NEW!) - inspired independents.

  • Shock, horror: A bottle shop! This place is also a pub circa 2016. Jules and Will are great hosts to a wide range of groups and events and I enjoy the Mikkeller Running club which is held there each month: a swift (ish) 5k followed by a leisurely half or several and nice chat with a lovely mix of beery folk. Later on, HH is a great spot, best in the area to us, for a drink from their top tier keg collection or a bottle from their huge range of quality products from near and far, Scarborough to Scadinavia. And some Karkli! Love it.

7. Sentinel Brewhouse (NEW!) - modern magic. Great innovative and visionary addition to city drinking.

8. The Beer House - (NEW!) park-side pints. Lovely micro-pub, an oasis on Eccy Road.

9. Fagan`s (NEW!) - fabled features. Anywhere better than the snug in our city?

10. The Devonshire Cat (NEW!) - city sleekers. It is better but we`ll see how it develops.

(NEW! = New place in our top 10. Last year`s list HERE
Three Tuns and maybe Brothers Arms are very unlucky to slip out as is Harlequin (not been there so much recently) whilst neither of us fought hard for Tap, Broady and Rutland, I`m afraid, but things change. Also the usual footnote that we tend to drink in South West Sheff plus the city centre with occasional wander to Kelham Island so there are a few contenders that we rarely visit TBH. Shout up and we`ll endeavour to visit soon!)

NB - As per 2015, especial mentions to Dronfield`s double diamonds - The Coach & Horses and the Dronfield Arms. Both would have made be top 10 if not for their cross-border location. That is all. Peace. Mike `n` Danny x

Sunday, 18 December 2016

twobeergeeks` Pub of the Year 2016

So our Pub of the Year was a tough call. Easily enough we can reel off 15-20 really good drinking dens around the city where we'd happily have a pint and put the world to rights then whittle down a top ten. There are definitely more than that too as we do tend to stick to south west Sheffield, the City and Kelham Island. Our top 5 are all close calls, crossing the line in a pack and the top two are a photo finish....
Twobeergeeks' Pub of the Year 2016 - The Beer Engine
Last year we announced similar in light of this Cemetery Road boozer bursting onto the beer scene in Sheffield so successfully but the caveat was that Shakespeares was still 'our favourite pub' and `the best pub in Sheffield`. Now we think the Beer Engine pips Shakespeares to these titles.
2BG`s PotY 2016!
 Judging establishments, we tend to focus on beer, pub and service in that order of importance. (Danny will sometimes mention toilets but Henry's was a lovely place for a 'rest room' visit....).
Beer - both are fantastic. Shakey's is the better on price and the extra keg lines this year have been special at times. The Beer Engine mixes it up sagely with the likes of Northern Alchemy backed by local heroes Neepsend and keg lines are always strong.
Northern Alchemy. yum!
Pub - both have their detractors but we like! Beer Engine is light and modern whilst Shakey`s is dark and traditional.
Service - both are good but slightly variable with The Beer Engine usually the better of the two.
There you go and on that basis, there is very little to separate them. However, The Beer Engine for us has the momentum and just keeps improving.
Whilst Shakey's is great but has lost its leader. A lunge on the line seals it for Cemetery Road in our humble opinion. Cheers to the Beer Engine, twobeergeeks` pub of the year, best pub in the Steel City and to Shakespeares, number 2 in our list this time.

Full top ten coming soon....!

And here`s our 2015 Top Ten

Thursday, 8 December 2016

twobeergeeks` Beers of the Year 2016

Hands up! Beer of the year is a bit daft but we @twobeergeeks do try. We are trying, very. With the vast number of styles out there and the vast quantity of pubs (especially in our city of steel) and bottle shops, great beer really is situational. If Bradfield Blue in t' local after a hilly plod hits your b-spot, who can really disagree!?
As per usual, we try to keep things relatively local and we've somehow narrowed it down to a top five, in no particular order:-
Green Man IPA - Drone Valley Brewery
Members of the Drone Valley Brewery cooperative planted their own hops (Prima Donna) in their suburban S18 gardens and harvested them to produce this autumnal brew. Pungent and flavour full, this is a great example of what is possible without paying top dollar for transatlantic tastes. 5.7%. And their Dronetsk stout weren't bad either. Encore.
Custard porter (red wine barrel-aged) - Cloudwater
From Hop Hideout. After a cheeky monthly 5k run with the Mikkeller Running Club, you need to refuel and this ticked all the boxes. Amazing. Think vanilla on top of balanced burgundy barrel-aged beer (Shiraz next please!). Strong % but don't recall what, for some reason... Our Abbeydale road heroes, Jules and Will, sagely select the best in beer and this was the real deal, leftovers from a MTB a few days before. Lucky us. You need to run and / or have a half herein at HH HQ.
Modus Operandi - Wild Beer
The Brothers Arms has been through a bit of a transitional period this year after arriving on the scene with a big bang but it still is a great spot for summertime sups. After a play in the park, kicking back on the city's best beer terrace, you expect a reasonable pint to accompany you but this old ale (ok, it was a half ) went above and beyond. Strong % but don't recall what for some reason. ... I had to go back for another . .
Love Among The Ruins - Thornbridge
Neither of us are big on drinking bottles at home, preferring a pub pint , but this needs, no it demands, a mention. I got to try this as soon as it was released thanks to James,  pub presidente at el Coach & Horses in delightful Dronfield and it exceeded expectations. After below-par dalliances into the world of sours (remember that ok Wild one, `Tart`?), but this was buckets better. Pucker up.
Rhubarb and Rosehip Gose by Sentinel
Both of us are fans of this super sour. At only 3.4%, RRG still offers lots of taste. I first sampled the beer at their Brewery's family fun day in August having heard good things about it from those in the know. Tough to beat a Summer sour, especially when its this good and great to see it available in bottles all year too. Love all the info that Sentinel offer the beer geeks at their Tap or on their bottles.
 Soooo, no space for Bradfield Blue this year, eh? We`re always interested to hear your choices, answers to the usual address pint pickers. Cheers.

In case you have forgotten  --Our  Beers of 2015