Monday 27th January 2014
It is not often that you come across two fantastic pubs almost cheek by jowl. The Brunswick and the Alexandra in Derby come to mind, but I can't think of anywhere else where there are two pubs of the calibre of the Fat Cat and the Kelham Island Tavern so close together. When Linda and I left the former we could already see the rear of the latter and two minutes later we were passing through its front door.
Kelham Island is a former industrial area that supported many forges, foundries and steel works. Some of the former buildings are listed, so remain with us. These give a feel of what the area must have been like when it was in full production. The district is not a natural island as it was created by a mill race being constructed around 900 years ago, thus splitting the channel of the River Don.
We did not have time to visit the Kelham Island Museum which has many extremely large exhibits from the steel-making past including a massive working steam engine used for hammering steel ingots to make plate. There is also a giant Bessemer converter. We have heard good reports of it and would like to visit one day.
The Kelham Island Tavern was originally built as a part of a terrace of houses, long since demolished. It first opened its doors in the early 1830s as "The Sawmakers" or maybe it was the "Sawmaker's Arms".
Whatever, this name was changed in 1846 to "The White Hart" and it stayed that way for a very long time. 150 years to be precise, to 1996 when it became the Kelham Island Tavern.
I have not found out what local brewery owned it through most the 20th century. Not long after its renaming it was closed and fell in to disrepair. I would think that it had been sold privately in 1996 and the new owner was unable to make it pay. Confirmation of this would be gratefully received. In 2001 knights in shining armour arrived in the guise of Trevor Wraith and Lewis Gonda. They reopened in 2002 after a refurbishment, retaining its last given name. Right from the start it was intended for it to be a Mecca for cask beer and so that turned out to be.
It was Sheffield CAMRA's Pub of the Year for no less then eight consecutive years; from 2004 to 2012, a magnificent achievement. In five of those years it went on to be Yorkshire Pub of the Year; in 2004/7/8/9/12.
Amazingly, it went on to be CAMRA's National Pub of the Year for two consecutive years (2008 and 2009), the only pub to achieve this. Also, it's only one of three that have been awarded the country's top pub prize twice.
It suffered badly from flooding in 2007 and closed for six weeks. This was used to advantage by the owners as the refurbished their cellar. On entering the main door there is a small drinking area to the left with red walls. This cosy space has a lovely cask iron stove in a solid varnished wood fireplace surmounted by a mirror. Its mantelpiece has a wooden framed clock guarded by two china dogs. There are also some brass candlesticks.
The largest part of the bar is to be found at the front and it is where most of the hand pumps are. Please note that there are no electronic machines in this pub. Straight on from the door we found on the right that there is a greater area with tables and chairs. There are lots of prints and paintings on the yellow walls. At the rear there is an internal window through to an even larger room.
Around the door to this big room, the pub's many awards are displayed, and they are not only from CAMRA. This large rear room looked like a dining room but in reality, as they only serve meals at lunchtime, it is a drinking area. Obviously it wasn't the right time of year for us to investigate, but we understand there is a nice beer garden.
The pub has eleven hand pumps and four of them are given over to the regular ales which are: Abbeydale (Sheffield, South Yorks) Deception (4.1%); Acorn (Barnsley, South Yorks) Barnsley Bitter (3.8%); Bradfield (High Bradfield, South Yorks) Farmer's Blonde and Pictish (Rochdale, Gtr Manchester) Brewer's Gold (3.8%).
The guest beers on when we visited were: Abbeydale (Sheffield, South Yorks) Black Mass (6.66%!); Fyne Ales (Cairdow, Argyllshire, Scotland) Jarl (3.8%); Glentworthy (Doncaster) True Blonde (4.0%); Brown Ales (Clay Cross, Derbys) Inception Amber Ale; Loose Cannon (Abingdon, Oxfordshire) Gunners Gold (3.5%); Otley (Prontypridd, Glamorgan, South Wales) Saison Obscura (5.5%); Raw (Staveley, Derbys) Anubis Porter (5.2%) and finally Thwaites (Blackburn, Lancs) Nutty Black (3.5%).
The customers of this pub prefer lighter, hoppy beers and most of the offerings are of these styles. However, you will always find a Mild, Stout and a Porter. Meals are available please see below for times.
Activities at the pub include Folk evenings on Sundays, a quiz on Mondays and they hold a beer and cider festival in June. I do not need to extol the virtues of this pub and it has already been done with the evidence of all the awards it has gained. If you in Sheffield, just don't miss it!
The Kelham Island Tavern, 62 Russell Street, Sheffield S3 8RW.Tel: 0114 272 2482
Open: Monday-Sunday 12.00-24.00
Meals are served: Monday-Saturday 12.00-15.00, not Sundays
From the Shalesmoor tram stop, negotiate the roundabout to the opposite side. Walk down Dun Street or Dun Fields and turn right at the bottom into Green Lane. At the junction of Alma Street, turn right into Russell Street and the pub is on the left side. It should take around ten minutes.
The Shalesmoor tram stop is served by two routes. The Blue route runs from Halfway to Malin Bridge via the main railway station and the city centre. The Yellow route runs from Meadowhall Interchange station to Middlewood via the city centre. Normally each line operates every ten minutes, giving a tram every five minutes from the city centre.
There are also several bus routes that stop here.