Steel City 47 review

After last year’s successful post-covid return, we were looking forward to welcoming everyone to another great festival this year. Little did we know the weather would have other ideas. Here’s how it eventually worked out.


Set up went particularly well this year, thanks to a good number of enthusiastic and willing volunteers. Starting on Sunday morning, we rattled through setting up the racks and cooling system and by the end of Monday all the beers were in place and chilling ready for opening. Tuesday saw us finishing all the bars and signage, and by Wednesday at 5, with all the food stalls in place, we were open.


The Beer of The Festival, contested by all our local breweries, was again sponsored by our friends at Beer Central and judging began straight away. By 6.30 we were ready to announce the winners. Heist Brew Co. took Gold with their “The Bad Part Of Gnome Town”, a hazy session IPA, and one of their first attempts at a cask beer! Silver was a porter named Brook from Tapped Brew, (also the best pun of the evening) and Bronze was Little Critters’ Pecan and Maple Stout, Great Danish. Purity Brewing hosted a drop-in Q&A session and things were well underway, with everyone enjoying themselves and it seemed like we might top last year.


A slight change in the opening hours for this year meant we opened at 11.30 and we had a steady stream of visitors from the off. As usual Thursday afternoon saw a lot of beer tickers arrive to sample the best of what we had on the bars, and a number of works events also boosted numbers early evening. Mike from the Old Shoe ran a talk on cider and an excellent set from folk-rock band Kingfisher Blue rounded off the evening nicely. However, by this point we had already had the flood alert warning and were expecting the worst on Friday.


Rain! And more rain! When we arrived at 9 o clock the river was already quite high, and the management at Kelham Island Museum were planning hourly assessments to track the water levels. Unfortunately, late morning saw a directive from the Museum that we had to close. Everything that might get water damaged was either taken upstairs, or simply placed on top of the bars. The Museum even had to drive their two Sheffield-built early 20th century Simplex motor cars up to the upper Hall and park them in front of our stage. A disappointed festival committee trooped off home (after a quick pint in a local establishment of course) to follow the weather forecast and hope for the best for the following morning.


Fortunately water levels peaked early evening on Friday without there being any flooding at the Museum and after discussion with the Museum staff on Friday night we got the green light to open, albeit at a slightly later time to allow to put everything back in its correct place.

The weather then decided to improve steadily and, in the end, it was a great day. The River Don engine drew it’s usual admiring crowd; the Loxley Silver Band entertained everyone upstairs; the boys from Kelham Rapper did their sword dances anywhere there was space (however tight that might be!); St Mars of the Desert hosted a well-attended talk on their beers; and live music from Galloping Dick rocked the Upper Hall to finish. The volunteers did their best to reduce the beer surplus at the afterparty, aided by pizzas from Sunshine Pizza Co, and the festival drew to a close.


As always at the festival there is an amount of beer left which sadly has to be poured down the drain. As a result of Friday’s closure there was a lot more to dispose of this year, with an obvious effect on the festival’s finances. We’d like to say a thank you to Bradfield brewery, who kindly took back the unopened casks of their beer, and the Rutland Arms and Kelham Island Tavern, who bought the unopened kegs and cider boxes. And thanks to the volunteers who came and dismantled it all on Sunday. They did an incredible job and by 3 o clock we had everything cleared and back in storage.

Final verdict

Overall the festival was a great success on the days we were open, and had we been open on Friday we would no doubt have exceeded last year’s visitor numbers. We raised £1750 for the festival charity, Yorkshire Air Ambulance, thanks to generous donations of unused portions of beer cards, cash, and sales of a special beer from Abbeydale and MKM Building Supplies. Feedback was excellent, and we had several encouraging comments from new visitors, and also new volunteers, who are already looking forward to next year. Here’s to 2024 (and hopefully better weather!).

Festival tombola

The organisers of the recent Steel City Beer & Cider Festival would like to thank the
following for donating items to the festival tombola and to sell for this year’s festival
charity – the Yorkshire Air Ambulance:- Blue Bee Brewery, Kelham Island Tavern,
Peak Ales, Ossett Brewery, Alan Gibbons, Sheffield Tap, Chantry Brewery, Terry
Palmer, MKM Building Supplies, Purity Brewery, Paul Goddard, Tom Pugh, Paul
Manning, Bradfield Brewery and everyone who donated anonymously. Apologies if
we have missed anyone.

Festival feedback

By the time you’re reading this, our annual Beer Festival will be over and hopefully it’s been another great success.

The Festival Committee will be meeting in November to review how things went, and where we can make improvements for next year, and as part of that review we would love to receive feedback from visitors on anything related to the festival.

Opinions on the range of drinks; the food stalls; the live music; layout of the festival; the range of activities and events; the volunteers – we want to know what you think.

Please send any feedback to and I promise we’ll discuss it at our meeting.

If anyone wants to be more involved, either by attending the November meeting, or even becoming part of the committee for next year, please mention it in your email and we’ll contact you personally for an informal discussion, and probably buy you a pint while we’re at it!

Steel City 47 – Talks, tours & tastings

For the first time, events at the forthcoming Sheffield Steel City Beer Festival will include a guided
historical walk: Sheffield’s Little Chicago Quarter in 1925. This will explore streets that feature in the leader’s book ‘Sheffield 1925: Gang Wars and Wembley Glory,’ with a narrative explaining how Sheffield briefly became the most turbulent city in Britain because of an escalating gang war
involving the Park Brigade, Mooney Gang, the Gas Tank Gang and many others.

The short walk will explore the social and Industrial heritage of the area, examining the myths and reality of a tumultuous year in Sheffield history, before finishing at the Beer Festival.

Dave Pickersgill, editor of ‘Sheffield’s Real Heritage Pubs,’ will provide an illustrated presentation
while, the three tastings: ‘Bridging the Gap between Beer and Cider,’ ‘Cask is Craft?‘ and ‘From
Europe to Mars,’ will, between them, cover a wide spectrum of the 21 st century UK beer scene.

Mike Pomranz (Old Shoe) will compare two beers and two ciders: two ‘single variety’ and two of a
‘funkier’ description before sampling the single box of a 2023 mixed-variety Sheffield grown and
made cider from his Exemption Ciderhouse. Mike successfully delivered a similar, more cider-
focussed event, at the recent national Members’ Weekend.

Julia Gray will introduce four contrasting beers: two cask (gravity and hand-pull), one key-keg and one from a small pack. An experienced beer trade professional with almost twenty years in the field, she aims to showcase, “the variety and quality of beer currently available in the UK.”
Jules owns a local independent award-winning beer shop and tasting room, Hop Hideout (established 2013). In 2015 she set-up a city-wide beer celebration in her hometown: Sheffield Beer Week. In 2018, this was followed by a new craft beer festival: Indie Beer Feast, now an annual event.

Dann Paquette and Martha Holley from local brewery, Saint Mars of the Desert (SMOD), will
introduce two European favourites and the beers which they have inspired. SMOD draw their
brewing inspiration from many sources, from traditional 19 th century recipes to the bright, vibrantly hoppy beers of New England. Their greatest influence is possibly the Belgian monastic style. As Martha put it, “this is an ideal opportunity for us to look back to our key influences, the Belgian and German beers which inspired us to produce such classics as Clamp and Jack D’Or.”
After seven successful years managing the ‘Pretty Things Beer and Ale Project,’ in Boston,
Massachusetts, Dann and Martha spent two years travelling. In 2018, they relocated to the best beer city in the world. On RateBeer, they were quickly named as amongst the top ten new breweries world-wide. Their brewery and taproom is hidden behind old industrial units in a currently unfashionable part of the city.

The 47th Sheffield Steel City Beer Festival will be held at Kelham Island Museum: 18-21 October 2023. Advance tickets for all events are available:

Festival beer mats!

By the time this issue of Beer Matters hits the pubs, we will have started sending out our festival Beermats. As usual we have 12 different sponsors for the mats, each with their own design on one side, and a different festival design on the back. Collecting all 12 mats and fitting them together will form this year’s Festival poster, another excellent design from Robin Lunnon at Durb Design.

Our Beer Matters distributors will be taking the mats far and wide across the city, and beyond, so you might have to visit several pubs to collect them all. (I know. It’s a tough ask, but I’m sure you’ll cope.)

We’ll also be putting a few sets up on Ebay to auction off for the festival charity, which this year is the Yorkshire Air Ambulance.

Don’t worry if you don’t manage to complete your collection, as we’ll be holding back a hundred or so of each design to put out on the bars at the festival itself. Yet another reason to come and see us at Steel City Beer & Cider Festival 47, 18-21 October 2023, Kelham Island Museum, Sheffield

P.S. Our staffing form is now open on our website for anyone wishing to volunteer to help at this year’s festival. If you’ve never volunteered before but are considering it, simply email and we’ll let you know all about it. Trust us, you’ll enjoy it.

Our beer festival is back!

It’s coming up to that time of year again. After last year’s successful post-covid return, we’re back once again at the Kelham Island Museum to celebrate all the best in beer and cider.

We’ve chosen to keep a very similar layout to the festival to let everyone get used to the changes we introduced last time. The Millowners Arms is still independent and offering a wide variety of drinks; The keg bar will stay in its new position in the rear courtyard, accessed through the engine room; and the Bradfield bar will be in the Brearley room, on your right as soon as you enter the festival.

No change in the range of beer and cider on offer though! Over 200 beers including around 50 keg beers, over 40 real ciders and 2 bottle bars featuring continental beers. The Sheffield Beer of The Festival award will take place again on Wednesday evening.

One noticeable change this year will be our decision to switch from beer tokens to beer cards. These will be A6 cards featuring a set of 20p boxes which will be crossed off as you spend. A common sight at other festivals we have decided to move to these to speed up service at the bar.

We have our usual array of live acts, and a great variety of food stalls, with extended vegetarian and vegan offerings this year. In addition to this we have our ever-popular Tombola stall, traditional pub games and CAMRA merchandise desk selling books and t-shirts.

Our overall festival charity is Yorkshire Air Ambulance, who will be grateful for any of your unused beer tokens, or festival glass deposit.

Although we’re not sure you’ll want to hand your glass back! We are delighted to announce that Henderson’s Relish are again one of our glass sponsors. This year they are sponsoring the pint glasses, with Bradfield brewery sponsoring the half pint ones.

No article on the beer festival would be complete without a word of thanks to our dedicated and hard-working volunteers. Each year they arrive to set everything up, man the bars, run the various desks, do whatever needs doing to ensure the festival is the success it is, and then dismantle everything and put it back in to storage for next year. We cannot thank them enough for the time and effort they give. The festival simply would not happen without them. As a thank you, this year we are running a free staff trip to Lincoln, and as an extra reward for the Sunday take down volunteers we have a free buffet at the Gardeners Rest. If you fancy joining our happy band please visit our website to get more details on volunteering. We can guarantee that you’ll enjoy it more than you expected.

Don’t forget to look out for our festival beermats around the locals pubs. As we have done for the last few years, the festival side of the mats are all different and once you collect all 12 they fit together to form an image of the festival poster.

We can’t wait to welcome you all back once more.

Steel City Beer & Cider Festival, 18-21 October 2023, Kelham Island Museum, Sheffield.

Steel City 46 review

Festival organiser, Paul Crofts, looks back at Steel City 46 and forward to 47

After a three-year break, we were finally able to return to Kelham Island Museum for our annual beer festival. For obvious reasons, the world has changed dramatically since our last festival in 2019, and we approached the 2022 event with a mixture of excitement and trepidation.

The general feeling amongst the organising committee was that there would be some pent-up demand for a festival, and that visitors would be keen to return to what has become a very popular event. However, information we were getting from CAMRA HQ was that visitor numbers at other festivals were down. There was also the background of rising prices and uncertainty about the future impacting how much people would have to spend.

Needless to say, the feedback from local breweries and on social media was positive. The hospitality industry has been particularly hard hit by the economic situation. The festival was seen as something that would help generate a bit of interest and encourage people back into going out and celebrating the Sheffield beer scene.

So when it came to opening time on the Wednesday, we were somewhat relieved to see a queue of punters actually wanting to come in! Over the next four days though, it became clear that despite a steady stream of visitors we were not going to achieve the attendance numbers we were hoping. Probably a combination of poor weather on some days, post-Covid wariness and a permanent change in some people’s habits meant an overall reduction on 2019 numbers. Luckily those that came spent a little more and by the time we closed on Saturday the committee were satisfied that we had produced another great festival.

One particularly popular feature was the half pint glasses, featuring the Henderson’s Relish logo. We ordered 35% more half pint glasses than usual in anticipation of these being popular and they sold out! Visitors also had a good range of food stalls to choose from, along with the usual exciting live music, with festival favourites Kelham Island Rapper doing their riotous routines in every bar.

Two noticeable changes this year were an expansion of the ticketed events, and a new keg bar position. Beer and cider tasting sessions, hosted by Hop Hideout and the Cider Hole, and pub heritage talks by Dave Pickersgill were an excellent addition to the festival, building on the 2019 talk by Roger Protz. The keg bar had to be repositioned due to the Millowners Arms becoming a commercial venture, and moved to the rear courtyard. A number of visitors commented that this felt separated from the rest of the festival, and we will probably look to find a better spot this year.

A couple of CAMRA employees who came up from the St Albans head office to work with us were impressed with what they saw and we believe it enhanced Sheffield’s reputation as well as justifying the decision to hold the 2023 Members’ Weekend here this April.

Steel City 47

Looking forward to this year’s festival we have looked at some of the changes forced on us by the pandemic and are planning several improvements.

It has been obvious for a while now that we have an enthusiastic but ageing band of volunteers, and the physical work of running the festival is becoming more of a challenge. We have a concern that this may now be putting off some people who might otherwise be only too willing to help. Therefore we have plans to use third-party companies to cover some of the more strenuous and time-consuming elements of the build. From discussion with a number of existing volunteers it appears these moves will be very popular and we hope that it will help in recruiting new volunteers as well as encouraging back some of our previous volunteers.

We also plan to work more on attracting new volunteers to specific areas. Something in particular that we want to improve is the number of people in our cellar team. Anyone who thinks this may be something they would be interested in can email and we will be happy to give them more details on what is involved. We would like to have a larger team so we can share out the workload and make it easier and more enjoyable for everyone.

One pleasing aspect of this year’s festival, which will be vital for the coming year, is the great camaraderie between the volunteers. This was evident both during the festival and at the subsequent staff trip to Halifax. We’ll be keeping this going during planning meetings, with ongoing communication with all volunteers and by arranging a couple of social events over the summer.

Again, anyone wanting to know more can email us or call in to one of our planning meetings, which are held the third Tuesday in each month at the Gardeners Rest in Neepsend. I can guarantee that being part of our team will be both enjoyable and rewarding.

The dates pencilled in for Steel City 47 are 18-21 October 2023.

photographs by Dave Pickersgill

Christmas Snowflake

Everyone involved with the recent Steel City 46 was delighted to discover that Sheffield Children’s Hospital put our name to one of their Xmas Snowflakes as a thank you for our £1,200 donation. We’d like to pass on those thanks to everyone who donated money at the festival.

Our snowflake is (or maybe was, if you’re reading this in Beer Matters) on one of the columns above the doors to the Memorial Hall at the rear of Sheffield City Hall.

This year’s Xmas Snowflake project has already raised over £360,000, which will go towards building a helipad and making facilities at Sheffield Children’s Hospital even better than they already are.

Talks & Tastings @ SC46

Following the successful tutored beer tasting led by Roger Protz at the previous Steel City Beer Festival back in 2019, the recent 2022 edition saw three tutored tastings plus a couple of talks.

Mike Pomranz, from the Cider Hole, led participants through four ciders. These included Ross-on-Wye Cider & Perry, Flakey Bark S.V.P. 2020 (6.4%) and Sheffield brewed, Exemption Ciderhouse, Steel City Spontaneous Speed Run (5.8%). The latter involved apples which were on thru tree a few weeks earlier. Mike gave us the benefit of his experiences across the Atlantic, providing wide-ranging comments and opinions.

Julia Gray, the owner of Hop Hideout and the driving force behind Sheffield Beer Week, led two tutored beer tastings, each concentrating on a different set of five beers, a mix of cask and key-keg. Skilfully weaving her story and comments about beer history and production, Julia led us on an exploration of beer styles. A bonus was unscheduled inputs from Dan and Martha (Saint Mars of the Desert Brewery) who provided a potted history of their experiences in brewing and talked us through one of their beers. This was the music equivalent of attending a gig by the Rolling Stones and seeing Bob Dylan drop-in.

Dave Pickersgill twice delivered a talk about Sheffield, heritage and pubs. On each occasion, the slides were identical but different pubs were explored as comments from the audience influenced the verbal input. Several books were sold (and autographed) and the speaker was embarrassed when one attendee described the talk as ‘inspirational.’

One of the volunteer staff team who fetched and served the various beers and ciders described his Friday afternoon as different, eye-opening and to be repeated.

Thanks to all our speakers and the staff who made it happen. We intend to host similar events at SCBF47, and at the forthcoming national Members Weekend. We hope to see you at a future event.