Spotlight: Real Ale Trails

December 11, 2012 at 9:52 pm | Posted in Features | Leave a comment
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Launched at Sheffield’s very own MADE Festival this year, Real Ale Trails is on a mission to introduce even more people to the wonders of Sheffield-produced real ale (not to mention that old favourite: a pie and pea supper!) by organising tours that take in some of Sheffield’s fantastic local breweries and pubs. We caught up with Real Ale Trails co-founder Austin Macauley, to find out what makes Sheffield the real ale capital of Britain and to get his recommendations on some of Sheffield’s top local pubs…

Can you give us a short intro to Real Ale Trails?

Austin: Real Ale Trails is all about building on Sheffield’s growing reputation for great pubs and local ales by making it easier for people to experience what the city has to offer. We take people around some of the best watering holes, sample lots of local ale and introduce them to people who have helped turn Sheffield into Britain’s beer capital.

What inspired you to create Real Ale Trails?

Austin: Every week there seemed to be something new happening in Sheffield – a pub brought back from the brink of closure and refurbished, new breweries opening, local ales winning awards. We just felt there was an ‘ale experience’ that could be created out of so many great pubs and breweries – and were surprised no one else was already doing it. Although things have improved, the UK still doesn’t make enough fuss about its real ale scene. If this was France the world would never stop hearing about it…

What can people expect when they join one of your tours?

Austin: A typical itinerary will involve a brewery tour, visits to 4 or 5 pubs across Sheffield, pie and peas at one of the stops, a drink at every stop along with lots of samples of local beer. Better still, it’s a trail with minimal walking – just hop on and off our mini bus at each destination. Perhaps when the weather’s better we’ll incorporate a bit more walking. It’s a great way to celebrate a birthday, unwind with colleagues on a works do, make new friends and network.

What do you think makes Sheffield such a great destination for the real ale enthusiast?

Austin: It’s the range of pubs and beers on offer. We’re fast reaching the point where it’s odd to find a pub that hasn’t got real ale on offer, and more often than you’ll find beer that’s locally brewed. There aren’t many (perhaps any) other cities that can say that. There are now something like 14 breweries in the city. It creates a snowball effect: the more people see local ale in pubs, the more they expect to see it (and demand it). All the breweries we talk to are flat out trying to keep up with demand.

As real ale enthusiasts, you must know your way around Sheffield’s pub scene! Can you recommend some little-known gems that we should be visiting?

Austin: They’re not exactly hidden gems and are known to many, but here are a few that don’t always get the plaudits they deserve: The Harlequin on Nursery Street; New Barrack Tavern on Penistone Road; The Blake Hotel in Walkley; and The Hillsborough Hotel.

And finally, what are you plans for Real Ale Trails in 2013?

Austin: Other than running as many tours as possible we’ll be adding new pubs and breweries to our growing list of destinations. We may even branch out to nearby towns and villages to see what they’ve got to offer.

You can find out more about Real Ale Trails at


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