So a good friend of mine from school recently got in touch after a few years in Cyprus. We got on to talking about craft beer and Brewdog. I mentioned that I have a mission to visit every UK bar so we organised a weekend at his to visit Brewdog Sheffield and The Sheffield tap. I was pretty excited and then he appeared at another friend’s 40th last weekend. He explained that the plan had been organised- I was confused as I thought we already had a plan. Turned out he’d organised this beer train trip from Sheffield to Huddersfield. My heart sank. You see the thing is that whereas I’m utterly obsessed with craft beer,I have found it’s destroyed my ability to enjoy other drinks. I try cask beer every now and again but I just don’t get it- it’s way too watery for my liking but I know- other opinions are available. Anyway, after this bombshell- the whole train journey to several outstanding ‘real ale’ pubs he let me know that we were going with a huge group of his fellow workers- all high school teachers! Two things about me- one, I’m a teacher myself so if I want to go out with a bunch of other teachers it will be the ones that I work with and like. Two- I’m not great at getting on with people I find boring; that is- people who don’t share my obsessive interests! So the weekend was planned and I was not looking forward to it one bit.
I got down to Sheffield after a very hectic last day of term; I was exhausted. We went to the local where the craft selection was zero so I opted to try cask again- a Samuel Adams summer pale ale. It wasn’t good; watery and lifeless but at least it tasted as though it had been near some hops. So my mate’s wife asked me if I was looking forward to getting up early. I was like- what? Turned out we were getting on the train at 9 am! I thought it was an evening thing.
The next morning we arrived at the train station to find what I can only describe as the extras from the Vicar of Dibly (and a dog) waiting for us. I thought- be brave and start a conversation so I did with the guy who had organised the whole thing. We got onto talking about train journeys (exciting-I know) and I told him about my recent trip to the Brewdog agm. He said to me- Brewdog, two words- too hoppy. Well that was the end of that friendship before it even began.
We arrived at the first pub in Huddersfield at 11 am and I had to say that I was about to eat a huge slice of humble pie. The Sportsman is a superb venue with a great selection of beers on cask and keg, including Magic Rock. Although, I had to admit defeat that 11am was too early for Big Top. I opted for the excellent Heart and Soul on keg from Vocational brewery. It was very, very good. I got to talking with the bar dude who went on to inform me that Magic Rock was ten minutes down the road. I felt a need to change the battle plan.
Luckily Chris, afore mentioned friend, sensed that the other pubs on the trail wouldn’t have the level of selection as this and he was curious to see what Magic Rock was all about. After a swift lunch we ditched the Vicar of Diblys and headed down the road.
Upon seeing the Magic Rock sign next left, I felt like a kid on Christmas Eve. We walked round and followed the signs to the tap room. In the forecourt was a bloody pop up smoke house- damn, why had we just eaten? We went to the bar and were greeted with a rather exceptional board. There it was, Salty Kiss! The last time I had tried it was the 2014 Brewdog AGM and it I remember it being utterly fantastic. I have since become rather partial to a Gose but they are sadly hard to get a hold of. Sitting there in this haven of craft excellence, I decided to be cheeky and put on Twitter that I would love to go into the brewery itself, which is still under construction. Seconds later the tweet returned- We can make that happen. So off we went for a look around and it was great to see how much this amazing brewery has grown. The equipment they have is large and shiny and mesmerising. It was turning out to be a rather excellent day. We stayed there for a few hours sampling some of the finest craft beer produced in the UK. The crowning glory was Pina Collision which is a sour/wild collab with Stillwater. It smelled like an amplified pear drop and its taste is a pineapple, citrus, bitter avalanche. It was bloody fantastic!
Heading back to the station, a little more wobbly, we decided that missing all the other pubs and going straight back to Sheffield would be a fine idea. We got back at around 4pm and head straight to Brewdog. After a quick half of vagabond pale ale and a few turns on the free pinball we headed to the Devonshire Cat. Now this is a great bar; huge selection of taps and bottles from around the UK and the world. I was about to grab a Founders All Day IPA when I noticed Fyne Ales Jarl on cask. I always remember all round beer guru, The Ale Trail, telling me how fantastic this was when I told him about me disliking cask. Bloody hell he was right. Smooth and not thin, it was utterly delicious and quaffable. So much so that I grabbed another.
From there we stumbled to the Sheffield Tap, another sensational drinking emporium. Their bottle selection is like Aladdin’s cave. After a Tuatara pale ale, Brodies hackney Red and a Yeastie Boys tea leaf IPA it really was getting on for home time.
So what can I say- Sheffield is an amazing city; the sun was glorious; Magic Rock Tap Room is a must for any craft enthusiast and I had a bloody excellent day. Just a pity that Magic Rock had sold out of their wonderful growlers!