T’was a bleak Saturday afternoon in the Steel City on the 20th January, but nether the less, it was Gluten Free Beer Swap Day, so that certainly brightened the air for two beer lovers residing on opposite sides of the Pennines. Thanks to the Facebook group Beers4Coeliacs, Twitter and Instagram, @GlutenFreePint discovered @GfManc, and that he was trying to achieve a similar goal over in Manchester. So what was left to do other than meet up for a few pints of the gluten free beer and exchange beers with each other.
In true fashion, Gluten Free Beer Swap Day was slightly delayed thanks to both the heavy traffic in Sheffield and the great service provided by the railways in the north of England. However our first stop was The Devonshire Cat – where Liz the manager happens to be a Coeliac too. So not only do they stock a vast range of bottles that are gluten free, but also have a dedicated cask and keg line. Sadly the keg line was off on Saturday – I’m informed this is due to a delivery arriving today from the Huddersfield area… it has to be Fantasma! Their regular cask beer, Raw Independence was however rocking the bar, which happened to be a new beer for @GfManc. Here we enjoyed our first beer and put a little route together of places to call along the way (we may have thrown a few extras in too).
Okay so moving on, the next stop was The Beer Engine. I’ve been here several times and it’s pretty hit and miss as to what’s available gluten free. Last month they had a wide range of beers available from Brass Castle along with Arbor Simcoe, Gun Brewery Scaramanga and Fantasma, however to our dismay there was only bottled Daura available, but who can have a gluten free beer crawl without the old classic? Talking to the bar staff, the kegs they had on went down really well, they just didn’t order any more, however she is going to speak to the cellar manager to see what’s going on!
So pub 3 found us in the Ecclesall Ale Club, owned by the Brew Foundation. It’s only been open just over a month, and knowing they brew their own gluten free beer it was only fair to call in to say hello. Our third beer was therefore Brew Foundation Free Beer (sadly we did have to pay for it). @GfManc had a similar first experience to Free Beer as me, where we’d sworn not to drink it again, however following the massive improvement in the brewing process it’s now a very drinkable gluten free APA. It’s sometimes availalbe on draft, however was only availalbe in bottles on Gluten Free Beer Swap Day.
Swiftly moving on to our next venue, which actually dictated our route, was The Beer House where one of my new favourites happened to be on keg was Arbor Simcoe, the refreshing citrus beer was that good we had an extra half before hitting the road for our next stop. Talking to the bar staff, they have the cask version coming on at some point this week too and were looking at the option of getting hold of more gluten free cask / keg beer in the future. We then found ourselves in a True North pub, The Broadfield – who always stock a variety of First Chop cans. It turns out we’d only missed First Chop Hop on keg that afternoon… but the extra half of Simcoe was worth it! So both enjoyed a can of First Chop Pop, the citrus IPA.
Five venues in, we felt it was only fair to call into Turners Bottle Shop on our walk back into town towards the station to complete our beer swap and head our opposite ways. After talking with the owner in Turners, he said the gluten free beer he was selling went down really well and was looking at stocking some more in the near future, I’m sure @GlutenFreePint will more than happily help him choose and drink some of the best beers on the market. During our 20 minute long conversation, another customer appeared in the shop who seemed rather interested in what we were talking about. It turned out Noreen also couldn’t eat gluten and wanted more information about gluten free beer too, we were happy to oblige! Taking to the streets of Sheffield with a bottle of Bellfield Lawless Village IPA it was time to find our second to last venue of the day.
Less than 10 meters as the crow flies from my new office lies the Sentinel Brewhouse, and due to the efforts they go to, it was only fair to include this on what has by this time turned into a pub crawl. A regular visitor to the Sentinel for the past year or so, I discovered thanks to Simone (a member of staff) that their PVO was gluten free. After questioning this, I was informed that Clarex was used during the brewing process to remove the gluten, so started to enjoy this beer. A few months later, when pushing #The12GlutenFreeBeersOfChristmas, I met with Alex their head brewer to discuss about their beers and the Clarex situation. Alex kindly informed me it’s not only the PVO, but also the CK, ZF and (unfortunately) Kop Lager that is also brewed this way. We can’t 100% verify these beers are gluten free, however taking Alex’s advice and the lack of ill effects from drinking these, I’m pretty confident they are. We chose not only to stay here for one pint, but instead two – so a pint of PVO and ZF was enjoyed.
Now for our final venue of the day, The Sheffield Tap – a place I’ve been known to regularly visit both waiting for delayed trains and quite simply to enjoy a beer or two! Their regular GFPA from Allendale wasn’t available on Saturday, however they did have a wide variety in the fridge including both Bernard and TO0L which we both enjoyed. After clearing it with the bar staff, we also set out to do what we had planned for the day… swap beers! This happened to draw quite a crowd to our table full of almost 20 different beers, including both the duty manager from The Sheffield Tap and a brewer from Abbeydale Brewery (more on this shortly).
@GfManc had brought a wide selection of Wildside Beers from the ‘wild side’ of the Pennines for me to try, along with a Daas Blond which were all new beers for me – sadly I’ve not yet had chance to try any yet, however I’m sure that’ll have changed by the end of the week! I shared a range of Shiny beers, Anarchy Exile and a few others I’d managed to grab from a visit to The House of Trembling Madness in York earlier in the week. Beer swap and photo shoot over it was time to enjoy the rest of the Bernard and TO0L before heading the few yards to the platform for trains back home.
Whilst however swapping the beers, a couple on the table next to us, who just so happened to be on their first date got rather excited about what was going off and the beers we were sharing. No wonder when one of them was a brewer for Abbeydale Brewery. I’m not sure how well the date was going before we arrived, but sadly I think it’s fair to say we officially ruined their first date, questioning him about Abbeydale Brewery and their gluten free beers. It was on the off chance I’d overheard about a week ago that Abbeydale Heaven was gluten free. It was confirmed it was, as Clarex was added, and it was initially tested as gluten free however due to the costs associated and the reason for doing so each individual batch isn’t certified. I for one will be giving Heathen a shot sooner rather than later, if you try it up to you!
After @GfManc had missed everything but the very last train to Manchester, it was time to head home and both enjoy sore heads on Sunday morning with special thanks to gluten free beers. It’s safe to say however Gluten Free Beer Swap Day was a massive success and I’m sure another one will be in the pipeline in the near future on the other side of the hills!