Wednesday, 23 March 2011

Return of the Brew Girl

So you might have wondered why I've been a bit quiet on the blogging front? No? Well, I'll explain anyway.

As you might have gathered, I currently work for Kelham Island Brewery in Sheffield. They've taught me how to brew and shown me the mysterious ways of the bizarre but quite wonderful beer industry. What you probably don't know is that I was taken on to set up a new brewery which in a joint project with Welbeck Abbey, near Worksop.

Over the past couple of months I've been starting to set up 'Welbeck Abbey Brewery', and have pretty much worked on it full time for the last month or so. The brewery is a 10 barrel kit which we'll be brewing on twice a week, hopefully establishing three core beers and then various series of monthly specials. More on that to come soon...

The village of Welbeck surrounds Welbeck Abbey which was built in about 1153 as a monastery, and after various centuries of use as an Abbey, came into the possession of a branch of the Cavendish family. It's been extensively redeveloped during this period, and many of the village buildings were built by the 6th Duke of Portland in the late 19th Century. The brewery is being installed in an old barn, which admittedly isn't as grand as the old stone buildings, but it's still pretty cool. I've set up a (rather rubbish ATM) blog to follow the progress of the brewery, but I'll be writing on here from a more personal angle.

It's a completely different world out there, everyone is incredibly relaxed and welcoming so I already feel part of their little community. Mad things happen though, like yesterday. I am working on a logo for the brewery and want to use the Bentink badge as that's the main family name really (after the Cavendish bit - it's very complex I think!), so I popped in to see Derek, Welbeck's archivist. Yes they have several historians/archivists. He was looking on Google for a good example of a Ducal Coronet, which is basically like a crown but specific for the title of Duke. He couldn't find one, so he donned some white gloves, fetched an tin hat box, and from this old box he produced the Portland Ducal Coronet. It is silver-gilt and is dated about 1820's I think. It's been worn at various coronations over the last 200 years. I took a photo in the viewing room. Mental.

Wednesday, 2 March 2011

The York

When I came to Sheffield as a wee excitable student in 2006, I passed a rather dingey looking yellow and black, 'Scream' pub in Broomhill. I remember it as a confusing and rather unpleasant place, with a terrible layout and horrid dark corners, peeling black paint work, and a pool table which seemed to take up most of the space. Being situated in the student Mecca for Sheffield Uni Freshers, surely this student pub, armed with it's super cheap spirits and nasty beer, couldn't go wrong?

It was awful, and most freshers quickly grew out of it. It eventually closed in about 2008. After a while it reopened as 'The Dove and Rainbow' which saw it reincarnated as a purple monstrosity, although it did have a good range of local ales on hand pull. Alas, neither the students nor the locals particularly took to this new place and it closed after a few months.

But wait! It has reopened for the third time after having lots of money spent on redevelopment by the new owners. It now belongs to a small groups of bars in Sheffield called the 'Forum Cafe Bars' - this includes some of the more upmarket places in town which the trendy kids frequent, like The Forum (didn't see that coming right?), the Old House, and The Common Room.

The York really fits into Broomhill perfectly, filling the gaping hole in the cafe/pub market for the older students, post graduates and 'Young Professionals'. It describes itself as a 'Victorian themed Cafe/Bar' and it has to be said that this fits the style incredibly accurately, in terms of decor, furniture, and food. Their website describes it perfectly...

The York's interior is an amalgamation of all three previous businesses with a modern and edgy twist. The walls are painted a rich dark blue with sections of heavy glazed green tiles both commonly used in the Victorian period. The pictures are a mix of gilt and wooden framed modern drawings and Darwin-esque style illustrations on actual Victorian newspaper. The heavy oak bar with canopy and hanging hops houses a huge array of divine wines, local and British hand pull ciders and ales including our very own porter and a whole host of wonderful spirits (the whiskey section is fabulous!).
They should not only be proud that the place looks incredible after not merely throwing money at it, but thoroughly soaking it through with giant buckets of cash, but it's good to see the thougt behind the theme isn't just cosmetic. The food is all seasonal and locally sourced, they have their own smokehouse at the back of the beer garden (I know!!), make their own breads jams and chutneys, and you can get real traditional Victorian English food with a modern twist, like scotch eggs and brawn.

The range of drinks on offer is fantastic, no matter what your taste is. Here's a quick run down...
  • There is always a good range of local micro brewery ales on their 6 hand pulls, along with their own 'Anvil Porter' from The Brew Company which is well worth a try.
  • Three ciders on hand pull
  • A collection of some of the best continental beers you can imagine
  • A good few premium lagers on draught
  • An excellent selection of Whiskeys complete with a map to tell you all about them
  • A huge list of wines from all over the world
  • More cocktails than you can shake a twizzle stick at
  • If you're a G&T fan, this place is heaven with a range of gins and tonics and the story behind the drink is explained.

During the day this pub is a busy cafe, serving pots of lose leaf teas in the traditional English way. They also have a selection of cakes and light lunches which makes this a perfect lunch time meeting place for their target audience - it probably wouldn't do anywhere near as well if it was just a pub-lunch type of venue.

To be honest, I could rave on, but I shan't. Even if the theme doesn't tickle your fancy, then at least go for the incredible range of drinks and excellent service which they come with. It's a bit 'yuppie', but that's what Broomhill needed, and it's always totally packed out which proves they've hit the nail right on the head.