Ron Pattinson's post at Shut Up About Barclay Perkins about Tennants got me thinking about Sheffield and its beer.
Although Sheffield has plenty of award-winning pubs and microbreweries, it's the best part of twenty years since it's had a large-scale, regional brewery, joining the ranks of Birmingham, Nottingham, Newcastle and Leeds as cities without one.
Sheffield's big three breweries, Wards, Tennants and Stones, were established in 1837, 1852 and 1868, bought by bigger brewers a century or so later (Tennants by Whitbread in 1962, Stones by Bass in 1968 and Wards by Vaux in 1972), and their Sheaf, Exchange and Cannon Breweries closed by them between 1993 and 1999.
My experience of the historic beers of Sheffield is so fleeting as to be almost non-existent, unsurprising given that my reaching legal drinking age barely preceded their demise. The first pub I drank in as a teenager in the late 80's was a Whitbread house which stocked bottles of Gold Label strong ale, first brewed by Tennants in 1951, behind the bar along with Mackesons Stout, another nationally-distributed brand from a brewery Whitbread had taken over, although I never drank either myself, or saw anyone much below pension age order them. A couple of years later, when I was a student in Stoke, we occasionally drank canned Stones Bitter from the street corner off-licence, but in pubs Bass was pushing its other keg beer, Worthington's, and anyway I soon discovered ones where you could drink cask beers from the Staffordshire breweries, Draught Bass, Marstons Pedigree and Banks's Mild and Bitter.
It's a few years since I've been to Sheffield. A return trip is no doubt long overdue.