Sheffield has always been a beer-drinkers town. Since before the castle was built – William De Lovetot’s medieval fortress, not the pub – locals and visitors have flocked to its hostelries for refreshment. But that was small-time, local stuff.
Now they’re talking about Sheffield’s pubs 3,000 miles away in New York and the city is described as the Beer Capital Of Britain by the New York Times.
Brooklyn to Broomhill may be a long way to go for a post-work pint but our reputation travels far and wide.
In the Great Yorkshire Beer guide book – also mentioned in the New York Times – Sheffield is described as having’ ‘the right mix of traditional, long-standing pubs – that remain fiercely independent – and buzzy, modern bars and gastropubs”.
And it’s that mix, according to Sheffield brewer, pub owner and serious beer lover Andy Stephens, that makes Sheffield so special.
“I think it’s more than fair to call Sheffield Britain’s beer capital,” said Andy of the Blue Bee Brewery, The Three Tuns pub, The Closed Shop and the Rutland Arms. People DO come from all over the world to Sheffield for the pubs and the beer, it’s true, because of the breweries and the style of pubs that sell real ale in the city.
“From the Sheffield Tap at the station to the Milestone restaurant and Sheffield University’s student union bar there is a real variety serving great beers to all types of people and every generation.
“I don’t think other cities have that mix of venues or the cross-generational support for real ale that Sheffield has.
“There are 14 or 15 breweries in the city and I think that as long as the industry carries on developing new beer styles from really hoppy ones to black IPAs I think the real ale market will continue to grow.
“As many old-style pubs go into decline, real ale pubs are flourishing. At some point things might change, we can’t keep having more and more breweries but you might get ones that just supply a couple of pubs. “On the other hand the breweries like Kelham and Abbeydale have a national presence now, Punch Taverns sell Easy Rider and Enterprise Inns sell Farmers Blonde.
Andy, originally from Hampshire, moved to the Sheffield area when he met girlfriend Laura, from Derbyshire, at Hull University.
Andy also believes there’s more to Sheffield’s pubs than just the beer.
“There’s a culture around Sheffield pubs that’s linked to art and street art. Kid Phlegm’s stuff can be seen in pubs as can Wildago, and Pete McKee has the mural on the wall at Fagan’s on Broad Lane and you can see his pictures in a lot of pubs.
“The Rutland Arms is on the way to Bramall Lane and is known to football fans and they often come here and make a weekend of it or come back later with their partners.
“We have people in from Brighton, Portsmouth and London because they have heard about the pubs and the beer.”
The New York Times’ ‘Where to Go 2014’ article placed Yorkshire at number 22 in a list of places to visit this year and recommends Sheffield to visitors as Britain’s beer capital – an accolade that owes much to the late Dave Wickett who started the real ale revolution in Sheffield in the 1980s.
Beer blogger Adrian Tierney Jones, sings the praises of Sheffield in an online New York Times article saying:“Arrive by train in Sheffield and its current credential as the best place to guzzle beer in the UK is immediately announced on Platform 1.
“The Sheffield Tap is an inspirational introduction to the seriousness with which folk hereabouts treat their beer. For the moment the beer crown sits easily on the head of Sheffield’s beer god.”
Artist Pete McKee agrees.
“I think we have some of the finest pubs in the country,” said Pete, painter of Fagan’s mural and currently working on a new exhibition to be opened in London in spring.
“Sheffield has a fantastic brewing heritage going back way before every steelworks would have its own brewer to give the steelworkers their daily allowance.
“It’s part of the history of the city. There have been around 130 separate breweries in Sheffield over the years and we have some brilliant ones now. There’s nowhere like it.”
Drinkers gather for Sheffield festival
Sheffield’s reputation as Britain’s beer capital gets another boost in March when the giant Beer X festival takes place at iceSheffield.
The celebration of British beer – staged for the first time last year at Pond’s Forge – is set for a triumphant return with a bigger show.
The event gathers British brewers, licensees, hop growers, barley farmers and other suppliers, industry friends, politicians and, most importantly, beer drinkers.
BeerX 2014 will run for five days, March 11-15, and is anticipating 1000s of visitors to sample the 300+ beers on offer.
On Tuesday 120 judges will taste more than 300 beers as part of the National Beer Competition for cask, bottled and keg beers.
Wednesday is members’ day, starting with an AGM and followed by a programme of seminars designed to help SIBA members to grow their business.
Fullers head brewer John Keeling and Roger Ryman of St Austell Brewery will share their brewing expertise, while a panel of brewers already running successful pubs will give advice to delegates considering the move. Tickets for BeerX are now available from: www.wegottickets.com/
Wednesday/Thursday, adults: £6 (advance ticket price).Concessions: £4 CAMRA, NUS and Armed Forces (advance ticket price) includes glass and a programme.
Friday, adults: £8 (advance ticket price). Concessions:£6 CAMRA, NUS and Armed Forces (advance ticket price). Includes glass and a programme.
Saturday, Adults: £8 (advance ticket price). Concessions:£6 CAMRA, NUS and Armed Forces (advance ticket price). Includes glass, a programme and entertainment by the Everly Pregnant Brothers.