Pub/Bar of the Month September 2011: The Sheffield Tap, Sheffield, UK
The Sheffield Tap, Sheffield, UK
There can be few cities in the UK as exciting today for beer lovers as Sheffield.
It hasn’t always been this way. Only a few years ago, the outlook for beer and brewing in this part of the world was bleak, symbolized perhaps by the closure of the long-standing Wards brewery in 1999.
Pockets of resistance remained during those dark days, however, with the excellent, pioneering Fat Cat pub – the home of Kelham Island brewery – leading the fightback.
Now Sheffield is home to more than half a dozen breweries and boasts so many outstanding beer venues that you’re spoilt for choice on any pub crawl.
Indicative of the revival is a bar that opened just a couple of years ago. The Sheffield Tap is not just a wonderful place to seek out some of the best draught and bottled beers in the world, its location – right on the platform of the railway station – effectively acts as a gateway to beer exploration in the city.
The part of the Victorian station that the bar calls home was once used as refreshment rooms. Images of Celia Johnson and Trevor Howard in Brief Encounter come to mind, when you think back to the heyday of rail and the role smoky, steamy buffets like this played in keeping customers comfortable.
Sadly, the refreshment rooms closed in the 1960s and the area was brutally knocked into a waiting room, with little regard for its architectural features. In 1976, the premises were locked up and fell into disrepair.
Water damaged the interior and part of the ornate ceiling collapsed. But the potential of the site was spotted by Jamie Hawksworth, managing director of Pivovar, a company that imports Bernard beers from the Czech Republic into the UK.
It was Pivovar’s determination to renovate the site that made it happen, with Thornbridge brewery also joining the team that turned the dream into reality. Endorsement from Railway Heritage, Network Rail and East Midland Trains reveals just how cleverly the plans balanced cultural protection with modern-day travel requirements.
In 2009, The Sheffield Tap opened its doors – one onto the main road outside the station, the other onto Platform 1 – and travellers were able to witness a remarkable transformation.
Behind the big, arched windows they discovered a preserved mosaic floor and a high-vaulted, green-and-white ceiling – a precise replica of the original. The walls are tiled or wood panelled, depending on whether you’re in the main bar room or in the small snugs.
The ornate mahogany bar has been pieced together from sections of the damaged original.
It needed specialist attention to bring it back into use but now provides a welcome focal point for thirsty travellers and discerning locals alike.
The beer range is remarkable.
Excellent Bernard lagers and Thornbridge cask ales understandably lead the draught beer provision, but backed up by a wide selection of guest ales (cask and keg) from respected brewers such as Marble, Meantime, Anchor and Brooklyn.
Behind the bar, a row of chilling cabinets houses a spectacular selection of bottled beers, with many world classics on offer.
The Sheffield Tap is a brilliantly simple concept: a welcoming pub serving outstanding beer in the most convenient of places, with the added bonus of restoring part of our industrial heritage and making good use of a derelict property.
It’s no wonder the idea has already proved to have legs. The Euston Tap opened in London in November last year, and this November The York Tap is to follow suit.
There are dozens of historic railway stations across the UK that desperately need an injection of inspiration, love and care. If the ‘Tap’ concept continues to run, we may see many more stations come back to life as a result.
The Sheffield Tap, Sheffield Station, Sheaf St, Sheffield, South Yorkshire S1 2BP
Tel. (0114) 273 7558
Opening Hours: 11–11; 10–midnight Friday & Saturday