Real ale and craft beer in Sheffield has been surging in popularity like the frothy head of overzealously poured pint in recent years.
Granted, the upward trend for well-made, characterful ales is echoed elsewhere in the country, but in a one of the biggest cities in Yorkshire – a county which itself is obsessed with brewing – it is even more acutely seen. To celebrate our city of fine ales, Sheffield Beer Week has been bringing together seven days of beery fun each March since 2015.
In late Victorian times, Sheffield was home to around 30 breweries (more than any other town in Britain except Burton on Trent), including the likes of Stones at Cannon Brewery, Gilmour’s at Lady’s Bridge and Tennant Brothers at Exchange Brewery. The last of the big breweries closed in the 1990s, but a malty aroma has since gradually returned to the some of the city's streets.
Across the city, more and more good quality real ale pubs are opening or being revitalised in an attempt to slake the Steel City’s collective thirst. And at the heart of any good pub is excellent beer. Here's our rundown of some of the best small, independent breweries in Sheffield. Some you may have heard of; others you're yet to discover.
Kelham Island Brewery
Where else to start to but in the so-called Valley of Beer that spans Kelham Island, Shalesmoor and Neepsend, where alongside some of the city's – or indeed the world's – finest pubs (find out more in our Sheffield Ale Trail), a handful of excellent independent breweries have been doing their thing for years. Since opening in 1990, Kelham Island Brewery has become one of Sheffield’s most successful exports. Easy Rider and Pale Rider never let you down, while there are regular seasonal ales on offer. Book onto a brewery tour on Friday evenings or Saturday afternoons, or discover what it's like to be a brewer for a day.
Where to drink: The Fat Cat, right next door to the brewery on Alma Street
Producer of perhaps the best pale ale in Sheffield: the gloriously moreish Moonshine. Abbeydale celebrated its 20th birthday in 2016 and since starting out has gradually grown in popularity and stature, now making up to 160 barrels per week of up to nine different ales.
Where to drink: The Devonshire Cat
Sheffield Brewery Company
Another from the Kelham Island Valley of Beer, Sheffield Brewery Company is based in Albyn Works and holds lively tours, allowing visitors to see the process of ale-making and to sample some of the beers, as well as brewer-for-a-day experiences. Sheffield University alumni of a certain age may recognise the bar, which used to live in Ranmoor hall of residence.
Where to drink: the brewery's onsite bar is open every Friday (4–11pm) and Saturday (2–11pm) – it gets particularly busy on Peddler weekends. And its beers can always be found in the glorious community-run Gardeners Rest
Up the road from Sheffield Brewery Company, Stancill was set up by a former brewer of the much-loved Barnsley Bitter – an ale which has been revived under the Stancill banner. Like many before them, Stancill's founders set up in Sheffield to take advantage of the excellent water here, and it’s one of the reasons their beer is so good.
Where to drink: Stancill has a number of taps, including Old Grindstone in Crookes, The Closed Shop in Commonside, Horse and Jockey in Wadsley, and The Albion on London Road
Saint Mars of the Desert
A relatively young addition to the Sheffield beer scene, Martha and Dann of SMOD brew their interesting beers out of a brightly painted spot in Attercliffe. The brewery doubles up as an intimate taproom (opening times vary – check website).
Where to drink: Kollective Kitchen at Site Gallery, Walkley Beer Co, Jabbarwocky, or at the brewery itself. Make a day of it by following the Five Weirs Walk or the Sheffield and Tinsley Canal Walk to the site, and round it off with an excellent pizza from nearby La Piazza (the brewery will often let you bring food to eat there)
It’s not uncommon to hear people eulogising about Belgian Blue or Farmer’s Blonde at a bar and it’s easy to see why. Situated in the village of the same name, on the edge of the Peaks, Bradfield does numerous seasonal ales, including a caffe mocha bitter for winter.
Where to drink: down the road from the brewery, the Nags Head Inn serves perhaps the freshest and cheapest pint of Farmers' Ales. The brewery also runs the traditional Wharncliffe Arms and, in Deepcar, King and Miller. Their beers tend to be on the bar at Porter Cottage too
True North Brew Co.
A brewery established by the same team behind the Forum on Devonshire Street, True North's beers can found across Sheffield in the venues's much-loved family of pubs and bars. If gin's more your thing, they also make Sheffield Dry Gin – the first gin to be distilled and bottled in the city in over a century.
Exit 33 Brewing
Is Exit 33 named after the South Yorkshire motorway junction of the same name? If so, is it the only brewery to be named after a motorway junction? Either way, its beers are well worth a try. In fact, you may well have tried some without knowing it, owing to its previous incarnation as The Brew Company. The beer is served unfiltered and unpasteurised, with regular ales as well as the odd surprise.
Where to drink: the brewery tap is The Harlequin
Blue Bee Brewery
A core trio of beers make up the foundations of Blue Bee: Reet Pale, Hillfoot Best Bitter and Tempest Stout. There are also regular specials, often with fantastic names like Jarrylo IPA, Revenge of the Geek and Kikorangi Red.
Just like many successful breweries before it, Neepsend is the result of three people’s shared loved of beer. Launched in 2015, and brewing in ten barrels from a location near the Ball Street Bridge close to Kelham Island, the brewery offers a core range of pale ale, IPA, stout and a blonde. Once a month the brewery opens its doors for a tap room session.
Triple Point Brewing
Father and son team Mike and George Brook have been tempting people to an otherwise relatively quiet corner of the city centre since taking over the former Sentinel brewery-bar on Shoreham Street, with their specialism lying in lagers and pilsners. All Triple Point core beers travel just a couple of metres from the huge tanks to the taps.
Where to drink: the brewery itself!
Steel City Brewing
Steel City is a cuckoo brewery – borrowing brewing equipment from other makers in the city to make its own ales. Each beer is unique, with no recipe being repeated. This makes for an interesting and somewhat unexpected real ale journey. Thankfully, each beer has a 'worksplate' which outlines its strength and bitterness rating.
Where to drink: Shakespeare’s
Tapped Brew Co.
If you time a visit to the Sheffield Tap right, your nostrils will be met by the aroma of brewing beer as soon as you enter the back room. Inside huge copper vats, Tapped beers froth and ferment away. The brewery has a six-strong core line-up, including Miami Weisse (American wheat beer), Liberty (treacle stout), and Bullet (IPA).
Where to drink: Sheffield Tap
Tool Makers Brewery
Boasting a white rose as its pump clip and with a name like Tool Makers, this brewery is as Sheffield as they come. The beers follow the tool theme too, with names like Ripsaw, Pin Hammer and Crank It Up.
Where to drink: Tool Makers now has its own cosy onsite brewery bar near Neepsend, where it also hosts open mic and comedy nights
Fuggle Bunny Brew House
And the winner of the brewery with the best name in Sheffield goes to... A stone’s throw from Rother Valley Country Park, Fuggle Bunny makes a range of ales, from pale ale Cotton Tail to amber session ale Oh Crumbs.
Where to drink: Tap and Tankard in the city centre. Or if you're in Halfway, pop pop along to the on-site tap on Station Road, S20 (open Fridays)
On the Edge
Brewing from a house on a hilltop in Sheffield, On the Edge is a very, very small operation, experimenting with a variety of real ales in small batches.
Where to drink: look out for the rare opportunity to try On the Edge beers in local pubs, or head to their annual 9 Pin Festival where they brew up 'pins' (35 pints) of nine different beers
Mitchell's Hop House
An off-licence institution in Meadowhead since 1935, in recent years Mitchell's built a microbrewery next door. Beers include a 'beer and beef bitter' – a nod to the family-run shop's heritage, having started out as a butcher's.
Where to drink: buy to take home from the shop, or try the Sheaf View
Set up by the current owners of the Wisewood pub in Loxley village in 2018, this brewery specialises in bitters and pale ales, with many taking their name from the pub itself – including its flagship blonde Wisewood One – as well as from features on the local landscape, like Damflask and Strines.
Where to drink: Wisewood Inn in Loxley or the brewery's latest pub the Raven Inn in Walkley
Having no core range means these folk are open to experiment. Expect anything from saisons made using foraged fruit to cocktail-inspired sours.
A relatively young brewery run by a team of brothers, with regular favourites including their Norwegian Blue blueberry pale and Millowners Arms bitter.
Where to drink: at the part pub, part museum Millowners Arms, connected to Kelham Island Museum
Crosspool Alemakers Society
Another cuckoo brewery, based in the suburb of Crosspool, with ales that reference local historic events – including the time in 2015 when a herd of cows escaped from a farm and roamed the streets of Crosspool, inspiring their On the Loose IPA.
Where to drink: The Itchy Pig in Broomhill
A small brewery with a focus on seasonal specials, such as a raspberry blonde for summer, and unusual stouts in flavours ranging from chocolate raisin to hazelnut milk to coconut.
Where to drink: Red Deer
And if you want to have a go at making your own beer:
Since 1974, this independent shop has been selling barrels, hops, malt, yeast and grains to real ale enthusiasts to create their own home brews. Visit them at their big new premises in Renishaw or shop online at Brew Mart.
Our 'where to drink' suggestions are based on beers recently available in Sheffield locations when this article was published. Stay up to date with what beer is where by using the Untappd app or following Sheffield CAMRA.
- Words by
- Will Roberts
- Images by
- Nigel Barker