Five science students are on a quest to rank and rate every boozer in Sheffield. Colin Drury meets them...
Tom Young flicks through a battered notebook filled with handwritten tables and charts, numbers and stats, notes and illustrations, and eventually looks up.
“Shakespeares in Gibraltar Street,” he says. “That’s the best pub in Sheffield. It scores maximum for beer choice and garden though falls down on toilets. We’ve given it 87.5 per cent. In degree terms, that’s a first.”
Here is a young man, it seems, who is somewhat academic about his ale.
Two years ago ecology PhD student Tom - along with fellow brains Sam Slater, Peter Weston, James Craven and, not pictured, Steve Muddimer - set out on a most worthy of scientific studies: to go in every pub in Sheffield and, using stats, maths and hard facts, rate and rank each one to establish, empirically, which is the best.
The boozy boffins, all 25 and of Walkley and Crookes, came up with 13 categories (including everything from service to seats), established scoring index and devised a maths formula to weigh everything up into one final percentage mark. They’re so serious that pubs which have made it into the top 20 get a second visit to ensure marking is fair.
And now, as they near completion of their selfless research, they are building a smart phone app which will allow users to compile their own data, thus creating a democratically-decided list of the best and worst boozers with detailed statistical breakdown of why each scores as it does.
“Why do it?” ponders Tom, today, after we head to (of course) Shakespeares. “We’re all science PhD students. I suppose we like that idea of using data to find conclusions.
“It started as a discussion imagining Sheffield pubs as Top Trump cards and wondering which one would be the best in which categories. Then we decided we could use those categories to actually find the best pub. It went from there.”
The quintet formed a list of every city pub (bars aren’t included, though what constitutes a bar and what a pub gets blurry) and set about visiting them with their notebook. So far they’ve done 256 out of 313.
They’ve been everywhere from Bradfield to Bradway, and Lowedges to High Green; supping and scoring. “I reckon we’ve walked about 170 miles in total,” says Tom.
They’ve stumbled on some unexpected jewels (the Rose and Crown in Stannington, for instance), and struggled through some real dives. The White Rails, in Upperthorpe, now shut, has the ignominy of receiving the lowest rating at just 24.5 per cent. “It took 10 minutes to get served and went down hill from there,” notes Sam.
Now, they’re hoping the app - called Rate Good Pub - will be ready for the summer.
“It’s pretty nerdy but then we are science students,” says James. “It’s been fun, although you do become quite judgemental. Every pub I go in now, I’m looking around scoring it in my head.”
THEIR TOP TWELVE
1. Shakespeares, city centre (87.5)
2. Gardeners Rest, Neepsend (86)
3. The Fat Cat, Kelham Island ( 80)
4. Red Deer, city centre (79)
5. The Rising Sun Inn, Nether Green (78)
6. The Sheffield Tap, city centre (77.5)
7. The Cremone, London Road (77)
8. Kelham Island Tavern, Kelham Island (77)
9. The Closed Shop, Crookesmoor (77)
10. Rose & Crown, Stannington (76.5)
11. The Blake Hotel, Walkley (76)
12. The Wellington, Shalesmoor (75)