‘Gutted is not the word. What a loss for the city’
Plus, the Pint of Science festival begins tonight
Good afternoon readers — and welcome to our Monday briefing.
Sheffield today is synonymous with brewing, but it hasn’t always been like that. Way back in 1990 Kelham Island Brewery was the first new independent brewery created in Sheffield for 100 years. Since then, the city’s beer scene has grown into one of the best in the country (some argue the world), so the news that the company that started it all off is to close has come as a bit of a shock. We look back at the legacy of a Sheffield brewing institution and ask why it struggled in recent years.
We also have all our usual favourite reads and recommendations including a nice piece about Pete McKee’s new Millennium Gallery exhibition and a great University of Sheffield science event which starts tonight.
Editor’s note: Just a quick message from me that there will be only one newsletter this week as I’m taking a few days off. Other than a few days at Christmas I haven't taken any holiday for almost a year now, so I need a bit of downtime to recharge my journalistic batteries. Normal service resumes next week.
Catch up and coming up
Over the weekend we published our local elections special with lots of analysis from our politics expert Jason Leman and reaction from the party leaders. You can still read that piece here.
Last week we sent two great newsletters to our 659 paying members. For the first, I took a walk around the city centre on a boozy bank holiday weekend to find out what it’s actually like to live among the day drinkers and bottomless brunchers of central Sheffield. And for the second I spoke to peregrine falcon expert and Tribune member Chris Greenwood about a wildlife spectacle worthy of a David Attenborough documentary taking place in the skies above Broad Street.
This week’s weather
Our weather forecast comes from dedicated Sheffield weather service Steel City Skies, who say we’re in for quite a changeable week ahead with low pressure closer to us, meaning breezier winds and a greater risk of showers. More settled by the weekend.
Monday 🌥 Dry by day with bright spells and increasing cloud. Showery rain overnight. 19°C.
Tuesday 🌦 Breezier with bright spells and a continuing risk of showery rain, though fading. 16°C.
Wednesday ☂ Unsettled and windy with an area of rain moving east during the day, breaking up. 16°C.
Thursday 🌦 A chilly breeze but drier with some sunshine and a few showers clearing south and east. 15°C.
Friday ⛅ High pressure attempts a move north so fewer showers and a better chance of a dry day. 17°C.
Weekend ⛅ Becoming warmer and drier as high pressure extends northwards over the UK. Sunny spells and variable cloud with highs 18-20°C.
The big story: End of an era for Sheffield’s oldest microbrewery
Top line: The legendary Kelham Island Brewery is closing after more than 30 years.
Background: When university lecturer Dave Wickett set up Kelham Island Brewery in 1990, it was the first new independent brewery to be opened in the city in almost 100 years. He opened it on the site of the Fat Cat pub (formerly The Alma), which he had bought in 1981 when Kelham Island was still a run-down red light district.
Influence: Because of Dave Wickett, the Fat Cat and Kelham Island Brewery, Sheffield is credited with being the birthplace of UK craft beer.
The brewery’s famous Pale Rider ale won Camra’s champion beer of Britain award in 2004, while Wickett would later become a consultant to Thornbridge brewery in Derbyshire, which is now one of the country’s leading independent breweries.
Craft beer giant Brewdog was started by a former Thornbridge employee and a 2016 report commissioned by the University of Sheffield declared that Sheffield was the “real ale capital of the world”, with an astonishing 57 small breweries across the city.
Why is it closing? A notice on its website says all creditors will be paid in full before the brewery is wound up. One Sheffield brewer commenting on social media site Reddit said that Brexit and the war in Ukraine were pushing up grain costs. But another person with knowledge of the Sheffield beer scene (who didn't want to be named) said there were so many newer and more innovative breweries in the city that Kelham simply hadn’t moved with the times. They said:
If you go into Beer Central in the Moor Market it’s the same four Kelham Island beers that they’ve been brewing for 30 years. But other breweries like Abbeydale and Neepsend and Little Critters are constantly bringing out new beers. Kelham do brew some different beers for pubs, but they never put them in cans and I don’t know why. And their social media engagement was pretty poor compared to many of the other breweries. Whoever was in charge wasn’t paying attention to the Sheffield beer scene unfortunately.
Reaction: The news prompted dismay on social media, with some hoping that a buyer might be found to rescue the much-loved brewery. On Reddit, one person wrote: “Gutted is not the word. What a loss for the city, not to mention the wider real ale scene.” “One of the breweries to put Sheffield on the map. They’ll be missed,” wrote another.
Bottom line: Over the last 30 years, Dave Wickett, who sadly died from cancer aged 64 in 2012, has helped revolutionise Sheffield’s craft beer scene and will go down as one of the leading figures in the UK’s real ale renaissance. Thankfully, despite Kelham Island Brewery’s imminent closure, the Fat Cat will be remaining open, as a testament to his lasting legacy.
Home of the week
This five-bedroomed detached family home in Ranmoor is set over four levels and features a spacious roof terrace with fabulous views across the city. It is on the market for £850,000.
Our favourite reads
South Yorkshire’s new Mayor Oliver Coppard was formally sworn in today, and wasted no time in firing off a missive to Boris Johnson about his ambitions for the region. In the letter which he posted on his Twitter page, Coppard calls on the government to come good on key pledges on public transport, skills and healthy life expectancy.
A nice interview in Now Then with the owner of a tiny bar in Kelham Island shipping container development Krynkl that sells Basque-style cider. The Cider Hole is run by American Mike Pomranz and is believed to sell the first tipple fermented from apples grown in Sheffield for decades. The Tribune covered the Cider Hole recently here.
Chesterfield-born journalist and author Joel Golby writes a regular column in Vice magazine about terrible flats you can rent in London. In this edition, he branches out to Sheffield and writes about a Broomhill studio flat which has a mezzanine bed — above the kitchen sink. The flat is available to rent for just £625 per calendar month.
A good piece in The Star’s weekend supplement about Sheffield artist Pete McKee’s new show, which starts at the Millennium Gallery on Friday, May 13. Reporter Rob Hollingworth speaks to McKee about his new more satirical style and his recent exhibition in London — the first time he has shown his work in the city in more than 10 years.
The new Blooming Marvellous market took place in Sheffield city centre last weekend, bringing gardening stalls and an artisan market as well as street food, bars and children’s activities to the Peace Gardens on Saturday and Sunday.
Things to do
Science: Three days of science fun begin this evening at four venues across the city. Pint of Science is an annual event in which University of Sheffield academics host fascinating talks and interactive demonstrations on topics including memory and movement, sound waves, microscopic worlds and sustainable solutions to pollution. Tickets are £5 for each event.
Comedy: The Leadmill has had some great comedy on recently and this week is no different. On Tuesday, May 10 legendary political comic Mark Thomas brings his “50 things about us” show to Sheffield, looking at our national identity and asking who we think we are. Laconic American funnyman Rich Hall performs at the same venue the following night.
Talk: Sheffield Forum: Live is quickly becoming a must-see event. This third session brings together the lead singer of the Everly Pregnant Brothers Shaun Doane, coach, speaker and poet Auriel Majumdar and virtual and augmented technology pioneers Immerse Sheffield to Liquor Lab on Orchard Square on Thursday, May 12 (6.30pm-9.30pm). Tickets are £10.
Music: Music in the Round’s Sheffield Chamber Music Festival 2022 begins this Friday, May 13 with a launch event at the Crucible’s Studio Theatre. The first night features Ensemble 360 playing music by Anna Meredith, Martinů and Janáček. Before that, Dvořák’s Piano Quintet No.2 will open Music in the Round’s first live festival in two years. Tickets are £20.
Politics: Next Monday, May 16 former Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn will be speaking at the University of Sheffield’s Octagon Centre as part of Opus Independents’ Festival of Debate. The event will include a discussion and Q&A about his decades in Parliament, his time as Labour leader and his roles in the anti-war movement and Peace & Justice Project.
“Oh, what a lovely read! Very enjoyable, beautifully written”, Wolves and wilderness: a Sheffield you’ve never seen before, Carol Summons
“Wonderful that these birds enjoy the heights afforded in our city”, A wildlife spectacle — in the middle of the city centre, Robert
“Great analysis on what’s happened to the political map of Sheffield following the elections”, Tight races, late counts and a continuing political stalemate in Sheffield, Andy Kershaw