There are a lot of ghost beers in Sheffield. Walk its streets and you’ll see a variety of pub façades decorated with the names of breweries whose product was last drunk in a dimly remembered past. Wards and Stones are common sights, while across the busy road from the Wellington, AH Smith and Co, the Don Brewery, is remembered by a massive metal plaque on a wall, which presumably was once part of the business.
“It was mothballed by another local brewery in the late Fifties,” I’m told by the Wellington’s bartender, “then Whitbread swallowed them up. That’s all I know about it.”
Built in 1839, the Wellington was apparently the tap room for the Don and has survived brewery closures, drinking fads and Sheffield’s industrial decline. Moreover, in a city that likes to pride itself as Britain’s premier beer destination, it is that rare thing: a cosy two-room gem with many original features that thrives on beer alone (seven cask and four draught). Crisps are its main concession to gastronomy, though the pub is happy enough if you bring in a sarnie or a pie.
A man rustles his Sunday paper, as if to demonstrate annoyance at whatever he is reading
Naturally, it’s a sociable place. When I settle down with my pint in the side room served by a hatch, two friends on the next table are engaged in a post-mortem of the England squad's rugby season. I’m Welsh, so I keep quiet. Elsewhere, a man sitting below an aged Craven A clock rustles his Sunday paper, as if to demonstrate annoyance at whatever he is reading, while a man and a woman debate whether to walk to the legendary Fat Cat or have another pint.
The Don may have gone the way of the Ark, but the Wellington’s current owners, Neepsend, are part of the new Sheffield brewing family. They’re not bad either, if my glass of their Simcoe IPA is anything to go by. It’s fulfilling and fulsome with a bittersweet, citrusy, well-bodied mouth and the kind of dry, bitter finish that seems to leave me with an empty glass in no time at all. Sheffield’s beer ghosts can rest easy now.
Henry Street, Kelham Island, Sheffield S3 7EQ
0114 249 2295; facebook.com/thewellingtonsheffield