Tim Hampson's Beer Blog

The quest for the perfect beer

Is Sheffield the best beer city in England and is the Kelham Island Tavern the finest pub?

with 13 comments

A local pub with a national reputation

I was in the Steel City researching a new book and also taking the opportunity to visit an old friend Dave Wickett – creator of the Fat Cat pub and founder of the Kelham Island Brewery. With pubs like the Fat Cat, Tap, Rutland Arms, Devonshire Arms, University Arms, Hillsborough and Harlequin a beer lover is never more than a short walk or a tram ride away from good beer.

The Kelham Island Tavern’s glass is much more than half full, it is bubbling over. The back street Sheffield pub recently won Campaign for Real ale’s (CAMRA) National Pub of the Year for an unprecedented second year in a row. Not bad for a boozer that was rescued from dereliction in 2002 and nearly went under following the Steels City’s flooding in 2007. It was shuttered, boarded and sadly dilapidated when bought by Trevor Wraith and Lewis Gonda in 2001, and most thought its best days like that of Sheffield’s steel industry had long since gone. But the pair had a vision of running a local pub based on simple virtues – good service, a wide choice of well-kept beer served by knowledgeable staff – which was a place for people of all ages to sit, chat and sometimes sing or just read newspapers.

And now their dream has become a nationally renowned gem with customers exchanging articulate views on the merits of a Farmers Blonde, a Nutty Black or even a Ludwig Wheat. Trevor Wraith said: “Never in a million years did I think I would get CAMRA’s national Pub of the Year the first time. To get it a year later is beyond imagination.” Inside, the Kelham is neat and clean – with a seeming Tardis like ability to keep allowing people in, most of whom seem to find a bit of space to call their own.

Lewis Gonda said: “We are a small, humble pub and we endeavour to serve the best real ale we can. We never envisaged anything like this could happen to us.” The pub offers up to 13 permanent hand pumps, including two that always dispense a mild, a stout or a porter.

Kelham Island’s accolades are well deserved and Sheffield is a delight to visit – but where could be better?

Kelham Island Tavern.

62 Russell Street. Kelham Island. Sheffield. S3 8RW.

0114 272 2482.



Written by timhampson

August 10, 2010 at 6:52 am

13 Responses

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  1. Sheffield the best beer city? Yes, by a country mile.

    KIT the best pub? Too close to call. Sheffield has a dozen top-drawer pubs, each offers something different enough. If I want banter, Blonde and a cheese roll then I’ll choose the KIT. Knockout food and Kelham beers, I’ll choose the Cat. A glass of Orval? The Dev Cat. Eclectic beers? The Harlequin or the Hillsborough. World-class keg? The Sheffield Tap.

    That’s the variety that entices me up there at least every other week.

    Reluctant Scooper

    August 10, 2010 at 12:11 pm

    • What amazed me about the Sheffield Tap is the number of people who now travel to Sheffield by train and only get as far as the Tap. I also spoke to two people there who used to drive to work, they now commute by train in order to have a drink on the way home. Now that is an integrated transport policy.


      August 10, 2010 at 3:25 pm

  2. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by sheffieldblog, Chris Baldwin, jerseyteabag, Lee Bishop, bromheads and others. bromheads said: RT @sheffieldblog: Is Sheffield the best beer city in England and is the Kelham Island Tavern the finest pub? http://bit.ly/akHq0T […]

  3. I can’t think of a better beer city in England than Sheffield, though Derby is often said to run it close.

    As far as Sheffield pubs go, if the Kelham Island Tavern is the best in the country then the Sheaf View, the Wellington, Sheffield Tap, Fat Cat, Hillsborough Hotel and Rutland Arms can’t be far behind!

    Pete Green

    August 10, 2010 at 3:09 pm

    • Now Derby, sounds like I should visit – where do you suggest?


      August 10, 2010 at 3:23 pm

      • I haven’t really got round to a proper session in Derby, so can’t recommend extensively. But the Brunswick Arms (right near the station) is a semi-legendary pub with its own microbrewery.

        There’s quite a bit about Sheffield pubs on my blog Get to the pub.com – please drop by and see, if you’ve got a few minutes…


        Pete Green

        August 10, 2010 at 3:34 pm

  4. I concur on the Brunswick, moments from the station and the sort of place where I feel at home as soon as I take off my metaphorical hat.


    August 10, 2010 at 7:50 pm

    • Then we should all go to the Brunswick and have a bloggers day out. But one pub does not a “beer city make”. Where else?


      August 10, 2010 at 7:55 pm

  5. Derby has a ludicrous amount of good beer pubs for its size.

    In the same area as the Brunswick there’s the Alexandra Hotel – haven’t been here but friends recommend it.

    In the middle of Darley Park there is a lovely Sam Smiths pub, The Abbey, which is absolutely perfect for summertime drinking as you can take drinks out into the park.

    Then in the town centre there is:

    The Flowerpot (wide range of guest ales, nice-but-small garden, decent cheap food)

    The Dolphin (ancient, hosts an excellent beer festival every summer)

    The Brewery Tap and The Greyhound (both run by the Derby Brewing Company – http://www.derbybrewing.co.uk/ – both sell “racks” of five 1/3-pint taster glasses accompanied by locally sourced cheese)

    The Silkmill (recently refurbished, offers a free cheeseboard on the back bar!)

    Five Lamps (even more recently refurbished – good beers – I think it’s Everards – but slightly confused as if it can’t quite decide what kind of pub it wants to be)

    That’s the main ones that I have experience with, but there’s also the Falstaff (another brewery pub that I have yet to visit – http://www.falstaffbrewery.co.uk/), The Exeter Arms (near the Brewery Tap – only been there once but it seemed nice) and a few more, I think.

    I’d definitely say it was worth a trip.


    August 11, 2010 at 8:35 am

  6. Derby pubs. Right next to the Brunswick is the Alex (Alexandra) which has some great beers in great condition. And some interesting railway memorabilia. The Falstaff is most unusual, a little hard to find and replete with real ales, including its own brews. The Royal Standard is also great (as long as you like the light, airy type place) for the Derby Brewing Company beers. The Flower Pot is good with an enormous mix too. There are certainly many more, as well.


    August 11, 2010 at 8:59 am

  7. Also The Smithfield is rarely mentioned, but is worth a visit for a good selection of beers in a nice location.


    August 11, 2010 at 9:08 am

  8. […] week I discovered Tim Hampson’s Beer Blog, where we’ve been having a nice chat about the great pubs of Sheffield and another city not far away. Tim writes lucidly about pubs and […]

    • As a Derby chap who visits Sheffield frequently, I have to say that Derby definitely has a larger concentration of real ale pubs and beers …. just. BUT Sheffield has suffered less pub destruction, so the pubs and atmosphere are a touch better. Hey, it’s a close run thing and depends purely on taste. What I will say is that nowhere else comes close!


      June 18, 2016 at 11:17 pm

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