Sheffield is a great place to drink beer. Many small, independent breweries and many excellent pubs serving a wide selection of local, and not so local, beers. When I came to Sheffield the drinking scene was dominated by Tetley’s, Ward’s and Stone’s Bitters and depending on where you went each of these could be good (occasionally very good). Now those beers have all gone and Sheffield’s new breed of breweries are very keen on their Pale Ales. The changeover to Pale Ales has come alongside the very welcome boom in the availability of Real Ale not just in traditional pubs but also in bars and restaurants across the city. Kelham Island and Abbeydale are two of the most long standing current Sheffield breweries, and their flagship brews of ‘Pale Rider’ and ‘Easy Rider’ (Kelham Island) and ‘Moonshine’ (Abbeydale) are Pale Ales that stand out as delicious examples of the local offerings.
However, for me, there is something missing in the beers that are coming out of the local area. It may be that the move towards the new generation Pale Ales is (to varying degrees) a national trend, but I have found that other regions still develop good traditional style Bitters to provide a balanced range of options at the bar. Looking beyond classics such as Timothy Taylor’s ‘Landlord’ and focusing on small breweries, a favourite Bitter of mine is the excellent ‘The Usual’ brewed at the Brunswick Inn in Derby. Further afield, ‘Gem’ from Bath Ales in Bristol is a good Bitter beer from a modern-day brewery. Coming back more close to home, I’ve recently tasted very good Bitters that are part of the range from the Marble Brewery, Manchester (e.g. ‘Manchester Bitter’ and ‘Pint’). In fact, Marble provides a good example of how a modern brewery with innovative ales for the modern trend can still provide high quality more traditional options for the likes of me.
I know most of the local breweries that supply the Sheffield area do brew Bitters, but to me it seems as if their hearts are not really in that style of beer. At best the local Bitters are uninspiring, and it’s sad that there isn’t as much enthusiasm in getting Bitter right as there is in experimenting with blending hops from around the world for a new tang to a Pale Ale variation. Sorry if a little bitterness slipped out there but it would be nice to have access to a good Sheffield Bitter rather than having to look out for the likes of Marble’s ‘Manchester Bitter’ guesting at my local!