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From Spa Town to Steel City....

In the past week, I have visited two Yorkshire towns, firstly the up-market and attractive spa town of Harrogate, followed by gritty and bustling Sheffield, famous for its steel-making heritage. Two completely different places, but from a beer point of view, though, they are both well worth a visit.

A few of us visited Harrogate last week as Town were playing in the FA Cup against Harrogate Town. So after catching the train from Halifax, we alighted at Harrogate in search of our first pint of the day. And we didn't have far to go. Harrogate now has its own Tap at the station, so we headed in there. And what a friendly place it is! The staff were all very welcoming, and the beer was spot on. As you would expect, like other station Taps, it is an attractive place, plenty of wood panelling, an open fire, and two banks of gleaming hand pumps. Well worth a visit.

We moved to another new place for me, Major Tom's Social, not far from the Winter Gardens and Betty's. Situated in an upstairs room in a building with a mix of retail outlets - including a record shop - this is one quirky place. Decorated in an eclectic style, the artwork on the walls is for sale. Beers included one from Roosters, though I sampled another beer which was excellent, the name of which I have forgotten! A couple of giant pizzas were carried past us, shame the effects of breakfast hadn't worn off! Major Tom's is not cheap, but it does warrant a visit if you are in the town. From there it was a couple of minutes walk to the Blues Bar, an old favourite which does what it says on the tin, hosting music most evening. Beer was as good as ever.

From there, resisting the temptation to join the queue for Bettys, we headed off to the ground. It is around 25 minutes walk across the town and the open spaces of The Stray to the CNG Stadium on Wetherby Road. A big crowd saw the mighty Shaymen come away with a 2-0 victory, and place in the next round.

After the game, there was some confusion as our party became fragmented and we headed off in the wrong direction. We eventually tracked the rest down in the Swan on the Stray. Now this proved to be the most disappointing pub of the day. The accent here was much more on looking after the dining customers than us beer drinkers. Surely this should be something CAMRA takes into account when deciding which pubs get into the Good Beer Guide? Particularly when the beer is not that good. The Blues Bar, which is not in the Guide this year, won hands down on both the beer and service count versus the Swan. 

Fortunately, relief was available a couple of doors down. 10 Devonshire Place was packed, but service was great here, and so was the pint. We had to dash off fairly quickly though, as our train was due, and it was a 10-15 minute walk back to the station. We'd had a good day, and considering we'd not had chance to visit such as the Old Bell, Hales Bar, and the Coach and Horses, plus a new micro bar, Little Ale House, there is plenty of scope for a further visit soon.

By way of a contrast, yesterday I visited Sheffield. Again, it was by train, this time the hourly one from Huddersfield. Now this one passes through some lovely countryside as it wends its way through the Holme Valley, through to Denby Dale, Penistone, and Barnsley, finally heading into Sheffield after an hour and twenty minutes. At one time there used to be a train every month or so on this line that featured live jazz, though I think those days have now passed. 

Arrival into Sheffield, like Harrogate, affords you the opportunity to visit a Tap. Unlike, Harrogate, though, the Sheffield Tap sprawls over a number of rooms, and even includes its own brewery, which you can sit and watch over a pint. This is a really spectacular building, although yesterday the choice of beers was limited, and service didn't hit the heights of its Harrogate cousin.

From there, it was a 10 minute walk passed the campus of Sheffield Hallam University to the Rutland Arms. This is a beautiful old corner building, with contrasting red and yellow brickwork. Inside, the clientele was a mix of student types, the presumably retired, and a few suits. I bought a pint of Reet Pale from Blue Bee, brewed in the city and owned by the same people that own the pub, sat down and listened to a great jukebox.

I decided to try Henry's Bar next. This is more in the centre of town, a good few minutes walk away, made longer by the disruption caused by some serious building work! When I eventually found Henry's, it was shut, a sign in the window saying it was closed for refurbishment. Funny, then that the Beer Guide says it has had a refurbishment. Obviously, it wasn't good enough!

I decided to head towards Kelham Island, after a wander around HMV on the High Street at the top of the city. On my way, a toilet break was required, so I called in an ale and rock pub called the Dove and Rainbow. Not only were there 10 handpumps, but they offered CAMRA discount, it was friendly, and I enjoyed my pint of Easy Rider as I tapped my foot to some death metal. 

I wandered around for a while, before coming to the Harlequin on the edge of Kelham Island. This is run by the local Exit 33 brewery, and the pint of Mosaic was my favourite of the day. I also had a huge beef and onion sandwich. The pub is comfortably furnished, and whilst it sits beside a church and near some industrial units, it does feel somewhat on its own. But the place was pretty busy with the Friday crowd starting to appear. Highly recommended.

A few minutes walk later, I was in the heart of the Kelham Island. This old industrial area has become home to more smaller units, car parks, plus student flats, and is home of the Kelham Island Brewery, which I walked past on my way to the pub next door, The Fat Cat. This a Sheffield institution, with a tap room to the right, a lounge to the left, a corrdor with a serving hatch, and a couple of further rooms. I ordered half of Pale Rider, brewed next door, and sat in the comfortable lounge. This should be on everyone's itinerary when in the area.
It also turns out there was a beer festival at the nearby Kelham Island Museum, but I was totally oblivious to the fact, but not to worry!

It is about a minute's walk to the next port of call, the serial award-winning Kelham Island Tavern. This is a traditional pub, with 12 hand dispensing a range of beers from around the country. Behind the front bar is another room, from where you can get out to a very attractive garden. I opted for a half of Drone Valley Stout, brewed by a community-owned brewery in Derbyshire. Not one I'd come across before, but very nice it was. Again, one you must visit.

From there it was a few minutes walk to the Shakespeare, multi-roomed and with several handpumps. I opted for a pint of Abbeydale Deception in what was the busiest place I had visited. Very good it was too. 

It took me just over 15 minutes to get back to the station from the Shakespeare, where I noticed the Sheffield Tap was filling up. So, two completely different places visited in the past week, but both were well worth the trip!

The Harlequin, Sheffield


  1. Some great stop off there Chris. I thought I knew both cites reasonably well but Major Tom's Social in Harrogate and The Harlequin in Sheffield are unknown to me. I'll add to be to do list.
    Nice blog!


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