During the UK portion of our travels we drove down to Glossop, just outside Manchester for about 4 days. In addition to spending a few days with our son’s mother-in-law to be, finalising the details of the Thailand wedding, we also took the train over to Sheffield for the day to meet one of my old ship mates. Two retired “Jolly Jacks” on a pub crawl in Sheffield, with wives, now that might be worth a read.
Sheffield, on the other side of the scenic Pennines, is only 25 miles from Glossop, but driving wasn’t an option. Judi won’t even attempt driving on the left and with me planning to partake in a few ales, we opted for a daily return on the trains. We started off at Glossop, catching the local stage coach, which departs for Manchester every 1/2 hour and takes about 35 minutes. After a short stop in Manchester we boarded the next train for the 40 minute journey across the Pennines, arriving in Sheffield shortly after noon.
Our Train Journey
We met Zak & Tracey at their hotel at the Quays and took a taxi to commence our pub crawl. Well, maybe it wasn’t exactly a pub crawl, since we only visited 1 pub, but we did try many of their ales. Zak, who originates from Sheffield recommended the “Fat Cat”, a typical old British city pub serving real ale.
So what is “Real Ale”. The Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) Group is well established in UK and many pubs are now serving an excellent selection of beers known as “Real Ale”, “Cask Ale” or “Cask Conditioned Ale”. Basically, it is beer made from traditional ingredients that receives secondary fermentation in the cask from which it is served, without the addition of carbon dioxide or other gas. In many pubs, it is served from hand pulled pumps rather than the gas powered taps of the mass produced, bland liquids that masquerade as beer.
The Fat Cat pub, which was built in 1850, definitely has character and has operated as a public house/hotel since day one. Originally called The Alma, it was owned for many years by a large brewery, probably serving copious quantities of bland liquids they called beer. It was purchased by the current owner in 1981 and opened that summer as the Fat Cat, an alternative to the numerous pubs owned by the large breweries. A new range of beers were introduced that featured local independent breweries and a guest brewery. Being a traditional pub you will find open fires during the winter months, but if you want music, electronic games or gaming machines you came to the wrong pub. This pub is for good home cooked food and exceptional beers or even scrumpy (cider).
The bar had a selection of at least 10 real ales ranging from Pale Ale to a Chocolate Stout. Wow, 10 pints of beer, no problem in the younger days, but not anymore. Consequently, Zak and I commenced with 1/2 pints, starting with Kelham Island Best Bitter. After the Bitter, it was onto the Pale Ale, followed by a local IPA then a full pint of the Chocolate Stout, which was fabulous. Smooth, creamy with lots of flavour, in fact it was so good, we just had to try a 2nd pint. Oh! BTW we did take some time from beer sampling to have lunch, which for me was a tasty sausage & onion pie with chips and peas.
Mid-afternoon we decided to return to Zak and Tracey’s Hotel, the Sheffield Hilton, for a afternoon cuppa before returning to the train station. We asked the very pleasant young chap behind the bar if tea service for four was available on the patio. They didn’t have anything on the menu at that time so headed to the galley for a chat with the chef. Upon return, he advised the chef could whip us up some scones, clotted cream & jam to accompany the tea. Good to his word he served us steaming pots of tea, a huge plate of warm, fresh scones and small bowls of clotted cream, butter and strawberry jam. Sitting on the patio overlooking the canal with tea and scones, on a warm and sunny afternoon – simply perfect.
Unfortunately, our return train departure approached, so we said our goodbyes after an excellent afternoon reunion, with a promise not to have such a long gap to our next visit.