JD Wetherspoon has come a long way since founder, Tim Martin, opened his first pub in Muswell Hill, London in 1979. More than 40 years later the estate boasts over 900 pubs spread the length and breadth of the UK. Success has been built on the provision of great value food and drink in a warm and friendly environment. From a real ale perspective this success is evidenced by the 250 pubs chosen by local branches for inclusion in the 2020 edition of the CAMRA GOOD BEER GUIDE.
Sheffield got its first Wetherspoon pub in 1996 when the Banker’s Draft opened at 1, Market Place on the site of the old Midland Bank building. This wasn’t a surprising location as the company is well-known for renovating and refurbishing old, and in many cases, historic buildings. The Banker’s soon became a popular place for friends to meet up in town. However, I believe that the pub has actually improved greatly in the last few years, especially since Jonathan Atkinson took charge. Jonathan and his partner, Terrianne McHale have been with the company for 15 years, the last 8 years at the Banker’s Draft. They are keen supporters of CAMRA. Local branch and nation and publications are prominently displayed in the pub. The venue has hosted branch meetings and has been a regular sponsor of the Sheffield Beer Festival.
Regular real ales on the bar are Abbot Ale, Ruddles Bitter and Doom Bar. Additionally there are about 7 or 8 guest ales available at any time. These are dispensed from the 14 banks of hand pumps on the 2 floors. They always try to offer a range of styles, ABVs and a mix of local and national brews. There tends to be a regular seasonal ale. Favourite local breweries are Little Critters, Bradfield, Kelham Island, Milestone and Acorn. With the addition of Alex Crowe to the team the Banker’s is one of the few venues stocking Welbeck ales. In any case the pub is a go to venue for any new breweries in Sheffield.
I know that Jonathan is very keen to increase the volume of real ale sold. To this end he has extended the normal company offer to CAMRA members by allowing an unlimited discount to card-carrying members.
CAMRA is also an organisation that supports real cider. It is therefore very pleasing to find that apart from the Black Dragon on regular offer there are 5 guest still boxed ciders on at any time. These may include Broadoak Moonshine, Snails Bank Rhubarb and Monkey Mango.
Given the overall success of JD Wetherspoon it is perhaps surprising that of their 9 pubs in Sheffield, opened at regular intervals since 1996, only one has ever been voted “Pub of the Month.” I am therefore delighted that the branch has chosen the Banker’s Draft as the winner of this prestigious award for February 2020. I know that Jonathan is too, and he hopes that as many branch members as possible come along on Tuesday, 11th February to join him and his team celebrate this success.