Guest Post – Claire Swaffield (Dap and Drink) – Micropubs and Sheffield’s first, The Beer House

Fad or fixed?
The Micropub was presented in 2005 by publican Martyn Hillier with he opening of the Butchers Arms in Herne, Kent. It stood alone until November 2009 but slowly a trickle lead to a river with 106 currently in trading, 88 of those since January 2013 and 9 currently in planning. Now, according to the Morning Advertiser, by 2020 we should have 5000. But what is and defines this fast-growing business model, I hear you ask?

‘A Micropub is a small freehouse which listens to its customers, mainly serves cask ales, promotes
conversation, shuns all forms of electronic entertainment and dabbles in traditional pub snacks’
-The Micropub Association, founded by Stu Hirst & Martyn Hillier in 2012.

In the shunning of electronic entertainment, they have been praised for their encouragement in igniting real-life interaction, forcing people to sit and have a conversation and being packed full of people. Surely they should encourage you to make small-talk to lead to new friendships within your local community! Lovely! Some consider a Micropub to exclusively serve cask ale and refrain to a single room. Some are a little more lax on the rules, including one of the newest additions: The Beer House.

Sheffield’s first Micropub

Sheffield’s newest addition, and only fixed Micropub, graces my part of Sheffield, Hunters Bar. It is a welcome independent addition to Ecclesall Road and the south-western part of the city. Ecclesall road is littered with food chains and bars that are popular after work scene. There are a handful of pubs in the area, but primarily chains: Porter Brook, Porter Cottage, Nursery Tavern and the mixed-reviewed Sheffield institution, the Lescar Hotel.

The Hunters Bar area, particularly Sharrowvale Road, has quickly become the go-to place for Sheffield independents with butchers, bakers, no candle-stick makers, fishmongers, a deli and our very own boutique drinks shop. But still no friendly, independent pub embracing the full range of local northern breweries on a rotational basis, that was until December 2014!

Chris Sinclair, who has run The Dronfield Arms, Dronfield along with business partner John Harrison are the brains behind this venture and are serving up a variety of beverages that go beyond the expected cask. As well as a keg line, the Beerhouse has worked closely with Jeff and Barry of Starmore Boss, the boutique drinks shop on Sharrowvale Road, to provide carefully selected wines, including an organic Rioja and Yorkshire’s own Robin of Locksley gin.

But back to the beer, the ‘beer vision’ is to serve up good tasty beers from good small local breweries. Those not familiar with the brewings-on in the Sheffield area, here’s a little round up! Breweries featured at the Beer House so far have included, but not limited to:

• Blue Bee (2010, Sheffield): Reported to have seriously stepped up their hop presence and with it, their game this year.

• Harthill (2012, Rotherham): Classic English cask, noted especially for their wheat beer.

• Stancill (2014, Sheffield): A new brewery making waves. Their Barnsley Bitter quickly became a South Yorkshire favourite, and more recently Parky’s Pale Charity Ale, a supportive and tasty delight.

• Fuggle Bunny Brew House (2014, Sheffield): Proving solid offerings for it’s first year in the form of Russian Rarebit and Orchard Gold.

• Marble Beers (1997, Manchester): Well established Northern Brewery, making sound contributions and recognised nationally.

• Sky’s Edge Brewing (2008, Sheffield): Previously The Brew Company until 2014, Sky’s Edge have gone for a full refit and branding and with it some marvellous beers, definite firm favourites in Sheffield!

So far, best-sellers have come from Marble and Sky’s Edge, with Pictish Brewery as a house favourite. Additionally, a small number of interesting rotating bottles from far and wide have included contributions from Kona, Hawaii, Cervecería Mexicana, Mexico and Daas Blond, the gluten free abbey/trappist beer from Daas. Currently in stock is the full range of Sonnet 43, a microbrewery in County Durham. Future bottles will hopefully come in the form of Wold Top Brewery, Yorkshire and Green’s gluten free beers.

On my first visit I enjoyed a Big Wave Golden ale from Kona, which refreshing, beautiful and well balanced. I do struggle more with English cask beers having only recently begun my beer journey, less than a year ago. I prompted for a Parky’s Pale Charity Ale as my second choice, which is a solid contribution to the line up, a golden pale body, with the perfect frothy white head, just as smooth in taste as it looks.

On my second visit I began with the cask, prompting my first experience of Fuggle Bunny, and their Orchard Gold. A pleasant pale with sweet honeyed notes and savoury undertones. Finishing off with Sonnet 43’s Steam Beer Amber, which for a amber is really quite savoury, I guess the low ABV (3.8%) accounts for this.

The pub itself is set in one, but almost two, open rooms. It’s quite plain, but homey, in decor with a gorgeous fireplace in back space. It houses about 40 customers and supplements it’s beverages with bhajis and samosas from Sheffield’s own Bhaji Shop and Thali Cafe, there has also been word of the infamous Space Invaders being sold too!

Some entertainment is provided, in case the cat’s got your tongue, and comes in the form of backgammon, dominoes and chess. A weekly quiz has begun, Wednesdays 8pm, if you’re ever in the area and further collaboration with Starmore Boss comes in the form of a Gin tasting on the 3rd of February.

So far, feedback has been glowing. Attentive staff and a great atmosphere have pushed it up to the #1 nightlife spot in Sheffield, according to Trip Advisor and it seems as if I’m not the only one who’s appreciating this independent gem. Bring on the micro-pubs!

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