I’m not up that early. I said I’d be in Sheffield about one. It’s going to be a bit later than that.
I pick up a Cornish nasty and a cheese and onion sandwich in Piccadilly station. I would get a couple of bacon baps from Greggs, but, as I discovered in Edinburgh a couple of weeks ago, they don’t do them after eleven. Lunacy. The lust for bacon doesn’t end before lunch. It lasts all day. Why do some places serve breakfast all day?
It’s lovely ride through the Pennines. And the train doesn’t stink. Sheep stud the verdant pastures. Cliffs rear and stone farmhouses skulk sullenly in the dales. Amazingly, the sun is shining. Perfect. One of the things I really miss is the northern countryside. The wild bits. Open moorland scoured by wind and rain. Gets me all emotional just imagining it.
I roll into Sheffield around 12:30. When was I last here? At least 20 years ago, possibly more. How many times have I been here before? Twice, no, three times. Once that weird Newark CAMRA bus trip where I came down from Leeds by train then hitched a ride in the bus back to Newark.
Now I think about it, all the Newark CAMRA trips I went on were crazy. Like the one to Batemans. Where Chris Holmes cancelled at the last minute and my brother had to drive the minibus, even though he was too young. (That tells you how long ago this was.) The tour was brilliant and finished with a great buffet. It was the journey back that was insane. But I’ll tell you about that another time. I’m straying too far off topic.
Do you remember me telling you how unaccustomed to hills I am? And how unappreciative, other than as a scenic backdrop to my train journeys. Like many Yorkshire towns, Sheffield is hilly. Very hilly. And the railway station is in a valley. Everywhere is uphill. Including my hotel.
Luckily, my room is ready this time. I dump my shit and jump in a cab. My destination is Hop Hideout, a beer shop where I’m be speaking this evening. That’s nice. It’s next door to a pub with a Tennant’s sign.
My contact is Jules. I ask the man standing behind the counter if he’s Jules. “No, I’m not. That’s Jules.” He says pointing at a young woman. That’s confusing. All through our email contact I’d assumed Jules was a man. How wrong I was.
Soon I’ve a beer in my hand and we’re chatting affably away. This is one of the modern type of offie where they also have an on-licence. Pretty sure they would never have stood for this when I were a lad. It’s pretty compact, with just a single table and a tiny bar counter.
I can’t linger long. We’ve an appointment at nearby Abbeydale Brewery. Where they’re brewing one of my William Younger recipes (1868 No. 1 Ale, in case you’re wondering). If we rush we can get there before they’re done. Luckily it’s not a long walk.
When we arrive the brewer, clad in the traditional wellies and beard, is fiddling around with some spent hops. The brew, it seems, has gone well. It’s a pretty long-term project. The beer will be aged in a variety of barrels and be ready for next year’s Sheffield Beer Week in March. Which I plan attending. If only to drink that beer.
There’s an awful lot of brewery crammed into a rather small space. With more new fermenters recently squeezed in. They must be doing reasonably well.
Back at the shop, there’s time for a few more beers and pie and peas before I give my talk to a small but interested audience. The small and interested perhaps explaining why it takes three hours rather than the usual one. I don’t mind. I’m happy to keep talking as long as anyone is listening. Actually, it doesn’t even matter if anyone is listening. I love talking about beer.
The attendees – all members of a homebrew club – have brought along beers brewed using recipes in my new Scotland book (available for purchase here). Wettening my dusty words. And dusty throat, too.
When the words have finally dried up, Will, Jules’ partner in both senses of the word, drives us back into town and drops me off at my hotel.
The bar is still open. I nip in for a quick nightcap. There’s an odd crowd. Mostly fifty-somethings dressed up to the nines. I feel rather scruffy. A bumbling barman makes ordering drinks a longwinded procedure. They don’t accept cash, which is OK by me. I can charge it to my room. One less receipt to drive Dolores crazy.
Another busy day shunts me into slumber’s soft caress. I sleep well.
448 Abbeydale Rd,
Sheffield S7 1FR.
8 Aizlewood Rd,
Sheffield S8 0YX.
Tel: +44 114 281 2712
Buy my new Scottish book. It's why was in England.
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