The Brown Bear, hidden away in the heart of the city, is almost certainly Sheffield’s cheapest pub.
The Brown Bear can be found on Norfolk Street, a narrow, partly cobbled street running parallel to Tudor Square (home to the famous Crucible) which is close to the Peace Gardens, Winter Gardens and the Fargate areas of the city centre. A single doorway in a very narrow frontage make the Brown Bear a little invisible in such a busy part of town, so keep your eyes out for its hanging sign. Inside, two smallish rooms – the so-called public and lounge bars – stand either side of a single bar in the centre. Recently refurbished, The Brown Bear has a very warm, modern feel, though its walls remain decorated with many photos and memorabilia of Sheffield’s past.
The vast majority of the Brown Bear’s customers are locals. For a pub in the very centre of the city it’s relatively obscure and isn’t the kind of place a casual tourist is likely to stumble into. It is well-known to locals, however, as being the cheapest pub in the city centre. It draws, therefore, quite a mixed crowd, from office workers on lunch and shoppers taking a break to after work drinkers and numerous regulars later in the evening.
Be warned, though: The Brown Bear does attract some of Sheffield’s heavier drinkers amongst its eclectic local mix. Perhaps surprisingly, for all this, it’s not a rowdy pub by any stretch of the imagination and largely avoids the kind of hordes of young lads who scour pubs and bars for the cheapest beer and the quickest route to drunkenness. Mostly the Brown Bear’s clientele are those with a taste for the traditional pub.
Food is served daily, but without a set menu it consists instead of a choice of specials written on the board. These are largely traditional, if no longer typical, pub fare such as cottage pie, steak and ale pie, bangers and mash or scampi and chips. All are priced at under £6 and burgers are available at £3.95, as well as the usual snacks and sides.
The Brown Bear is a Samuel Smith’s pub. This rather eccentric brewery is known for keeping prices as low as possible by serving only their own products in their pubs. Rather than the usual range of big name lagers you’ll find, therefore, Samuel Smith’s Alpine Lager, while Sovereign and Old Brewery Best Bitter provide the choice of ales.
Samuel Smith’s own range of lagers, ales and ciders is reasonably comprehensive, so you’ll find a counterpart to most of the more common brands, at considerably cheaper prices. With the exception of a couple of very premium beers all pints are well under £2, with the cheapest (the Mild) being a truly astonishing £1.25 a pint. Spirits are likewise restricted to the brewery’s own brands, but don’t offer nearly the same savings. A range of wine is available, prices go from £2.60 upwards.
The Last Word
Almost certainly the city centre’s cheapest pub and, as it’s nestled right in its heart, it’s an ideal choice for those wanting a few pints in a traditional pub rather than the upmarket bars that populate much of the area.