If you’ve just arrived in Sheffield to study at either University then welcome! If you already know you appreciate great beer then you will love it here.
If you are at the University of Sheffield then two starting points. One is to join the Real Ale Society, the other is to pay a visit to Interval Café Bar in the Union which always boasts a nice selection of ales. Also on campus is the University Arms, a more traditional pub, again with a good beer range.
Over at Hallam University, the Student Union doesn’t do quite as good on the beer front but not to worry, there are plenty of pubs nearby with the Rutland Arms a particular favourite, the Sheffield Tap at the station has it’s own brewery and the Old Queens Head in the bus interchange offers well kept Thwaites beers and reasonably priced food. Also nearby offering real ale is the Howard, Globe, Red Lion, Royal Standard and Roebuck, plus of course lots more as you venture up into the City Centre. Don’t forget there are discoveries to be made off the main drags such as the Dove & Rainbow rock pub on Hartshead Square (down a passageway near Castle Square tram stop/Pizza Hut), Three Tuns on Silver Street Head, Dog & Partridge on Trippet Lane, Red Deer on Pitt Street and the Bath Hotel on Victoria Street to name just a few.
If you fancy exploring beyond the City Centre you may also wish to try a bus or tram crawl. Some favourites are listed below. (more details of pubs can be found at www.whatpub.com and public transport information can be found at www.travelsouthyorkshire.com).
All day travel tickets can prove good value (currently £3.90 for a specific bus operator or £4.50 for any bus or tram. Until 25th October an all day tram pass costs just £3. Alternatively, on buses only, students can travel for £1 per single journey. If you are commuting weekly or longer passes are also sold.
Bus 25 towards Bradway via London Road & Heeley – Beer Engine, Hermitage, Albion, Cremorne, White Lion, Sheaf View and Brothers Arms
Bus 43/44 towards Chesterfield via Dronfield – Coach & Horses, Victoria, Talbot, Jolly Farmer, Three Tuns, Dronfield Arms, Beer Stop.
Bus 52 towards Hillsborough via Broomhill and Crookes – University Arms, Place, Nottingham House, Crookes Social Club, Ball Inn and Punchbowl.
Bus 81/82 along Ecclesall Road – Porter Brook, Porter Cottage, Lescar, Sheffield Beer House Micropub.
Bus 95 towards Walkley via Commonside – Hallamshire House, Closed Shop, Walkley Beer Co and Walkley Cottage (alternatively bus 31 will take you to the Blake).
Bus 97/218 towards Totley via Abbeydale Road – Beer Engine, Cremorne, Picture House Social, the Broadfield, Robin Hood and Cross Scythes.
Bus 120 towards Fulwood via Broomhill, Ranmoor and Nether Green – Francis Newton, Fox & Duck, The York, Ranmoor Inn, Rising Sun.
Blue/Yellow tram towards Middlewood/Malin Bridge – alight at Shalesmoor for the famous Kelham Island real ale trail (Wellington, Ship, Shakespeare’s, Kelham Island Tavern, Fat Cat, Harlequin, Riverside, Gardeners Rest and Forest. Alight at Infirmary Road for the Hillsborough Hotel, alight at Bamforth Street for the New Barrack Tavern and alight at Hillsborough for the Rawson Spring.
So what is CAMRA about and what do you do in Sheffield?
The Campaign for Real Ale nationally has been promoting real ale, pubs and drinkers rights since 1971 and the Sheffield & District branch has now been going 41 years.
Back in the early 70s there were a smaller number of breweries all producing beer on industrial scales, they also owned the pubs which only served their own beers.
These breweries and pub operators were discovering new ways of cutting costs and increasing profits – at the expense of quality and flavour – including using cheaper ingredients and putting filtered and pasteurised beer into kegs and tanks, with then had gas added on dispense to replace the natural sparkle from cask conditioning.
CAMRA’s founders decided that the loss of traditional cask beer – and more importantly the influx of crap beer – was worth fighting against.
Fast forward to 2015 and the issues for CAMRA are different – although there are a few big brands of awful beer, there are a lot of small ‘craft’ breweries producing good quality beer across all the formats – cask real ale plus keg, can and bottle. The issues instead now are more about pub closures and taxation.
Although our campaigning is more focused on pubs at the moment, we are still embracing our heritage of promoting real ale by organising beer festivals, running champion beer competitions, maintaining a working relationship and dialogue with breweries and reporting on the real ale brewing scene in our newspapers and magazines.
In Sheffield we are one of many volunteer run branches (all of CAMRA is volunteer run except for a few paid professional support staff at HQ in St Albans) and publish a monthly newsletter ‘Beer Matters magazine’, run a Pub of the Month and Pub of the Year award scheme, organise an annual Beer & Cider Festival in October, conduct an annual pub survey and more. We also run regular socials included guided pub crawls, brewery tours and more.
CAMRA also incorporates ‘Apple’ who campaign for traditional cider and perry – that is your farmhouse style versions served ‘flat’ and made from nothing more than fermented fresh apple or pear juice – not made from industrial concentrates nor un-natural additives. We have two key cider dates in Sheffield – in October we help with apple pressing at Woodthorpe Hall and in January we judge Cider Pub of the Year.
You can join CAMRA by filling in the form in the back of Beer Matters or online at www.camra.org.uk. Membership if you pay by direct debit is just £24 a year, or less if you are under 26.
So what is ‘cask’, ‘keg’, ‘craft’ and ‘real ale’? And why does CAMRA only support some of them?
Well, Cask and Keg are simply the type of barrel draught beer is supplied in. Typically real ale comes in a cask and other beers come in kegs, although that statement is slightly complicated with the introduction of disposable ‘key-kegs’ that can be used for either.
Real Ale is a term introduced by CAMRA many years ago, the definition is beer that undergoes secondary fermentation in the container from which is served and is served without the addition of external gases to the beer on dispense. It is generally brewed from natural ingredients in the traditional manners and maintains the full flavours and aromas the brewer intended. The process of secondary fermentation actually generates gas giving a freshly served beer a natural sparkle.
Craft beer is actually an American term and doesn’t have a formal definition in the UK – however it is generally taken to mean a beer brewed in small batches from natural ingredients by a brewer that cares. Many real ales therefore can also be considered ‘craft’, however this term extends to those keg beers that are of the higher quality and basically fizzy real ales. The ‘craft’ term is beginning to get abused by some bigger breweries marketing departments though so be careful!
CAMRA’s heritage is to promote real ale and continues to do so. However as the campaigning priorities move more towards pubs, it is not considered worthwhile establishing a way of defining which keg beers are good and which are bad, so they are simply deemed ‘out of scope’ and simply another product on the bar alongside the real ale. Most people soon discover the dreadful bland ones, for example any brand that includes ‘Smooth’ in the name…