As we speak, Sheffield is rocking under the weight of the CAMRA AGM, a weekend of beer bonding, beer pilgrimage, beer exploration.
I did my own such pilgrimage last weekend. Never having been known to do things in the normal, easy way, we (Real Ale Bro and I) went to Sheffield on our own steam, for our own mega beer weekend- not an agenda in sight.
Saturday 9th April, our train pulls into Sheffield at 12.15pm, we are in The Sheffield Tap by 12.17. Having spent many an hour in The (lovely) Euston Tap, this was bigger (not difficult), brighter and simply the best station bar the world must have ever seen. We had 6 beers here, while it quickly became clear just how many amazing beers we were likely to come across his weekend.
Checked in, (9th floor- amazing views) we spotted The Rutland from our window. Four ales (from local breweries Raw, Brew Co. and Blue Bee) slipped down perfectly in the sunshine filled garden and before long we were at The Kelham Island Tavern. Approaching, we stepped into the photo that has been used in all the CAMRA pub of the year articles and on entering, there we were inside the Beer Tickers film. It is a weird feeling to actually, finally, be inside a place you have seen, read, heard so much about and wanted so much to go to. When you get there, the feeling is a strange mixture of cocky and smug, with awe and humbleness.
The rest of the weekend took us to The Fat Cat (which I think I actually liked more- its got more quirk, more heritage, and on our visit, a more exiting beer range) and then The Harlequin, where we enjoyed the bounty of cellar runs for porter, a beautiful Roast and chat with Pete, the brewer at Brew Co.
We made it over to the Devonshire Cat, where real ale pub meets student union meets world beer emporium and later, The Old House- funky, cool, with vinyl on the wall, but still all about beer.
The Bath Hotel was a 1930's treasure, and we squeezed in to listen to the live blues on Sunday night, the Derwent Dark Mild fitting the aura of the place so well.
A bus ride to the Rising Sun, and a bar lined with beers by Abbeydale and more, and a huge box of used pump clips looking for caring homes, started off Monday beautifully. We popped into The Red Deer on the way back into the city. A pleasant pub, but in a city where most places have a beer selection to blow your mind, this pub just felt a bit too much like the less adventurous of the pubs we find at home.
Walking back into the city, we spotted a Thornbridge logo flying in the sky. In reality, it was on the side of a whitewashed bar, Trippets, which treated us to some of the rarer Thornbridge ales and a room full of beery, quirky memorabillia.
The Good Beer Guide unfortunately led us to The Musuem, a souless city centre Greene King pub, and so we hotfooted it back to the Rutland for a range of beers completely different from those we'd had two days before. Finally, grabbing our cases, back to The Sheffield Tap.
One weekend, 65 different beers and some truly amazing pubs.
I'm sure those AGM folks are having a whale of a time (judging by the tweets, the conference deabating is just about being outweighed by exploring the beer delights).
However, we certainly got quite a kick out of doing it ourselves. And felt more than a touch of envy about those who live in The Valley of Beer. Do they know how good they've got it?
P.S Hope you like the new look. There are photos of this trip on a memory card about a mile away from where I am now, some will be added soon.