Last orders called for Sheffield real ale legend Dave Wickett

Funeral: Dave Wickett.
Funeral: Dave Wickett.

IT WAS last orders for beer legend Dave Wickett as almost 300 people attended his funeral to remember the man they called the Godfather of Sheffield Ale.

Representatives from the brewing industry, CAMRA, Sheffield University, Sheffield United, business and politics joined friends and colleagues to pay their respects at Sheffield’s Grenoside Crematorium yesterday afternoon.

And some mourners arrived in a bright red London Transport double decker bus – another of his enthusiasms.

Dave set off the process which made the city the beer capital of Britain - CAMRA tots up more than 250 real ales on sale on its annual city pub crawl.

Beer writer Pete Brown said: “The ripples of his brilliant life and career will continue to influence the beer world for years.”

Dave had seen an opportunity in 1981 when Sheffield was a real ale desert and opened the Fat Cat on Alma Street, Kelham Island.

When the city’s four big breweries closed he liked to boast he had the biggest left, Kelham Island, opened in 1990 in the garden of the Fat Cat. It was to be the first of several local breweries he nursed into existence.

He could be difficult. There was a big turnover of brewers and many who left set up on their own so Kelham is, in Brown’s words, ‘the centre of a dense cloud of microbreweries and Sheffield has more cask ales on tap at any one time than any other city in the world’.

He was a winner. Kelham’s Pale Rider was Champion Beer of Britain in 2004, the Fat Cat reaped awards, he opened Champs on Ecclesall Road, bringing the first US-style sports bar to Britain. And he opened the Old Toad, a British pub, in Rochester, New York State.

He was a joker. When teaching at the old Sheffield Poly he invited students to the Fat Cat for the lecture. They thought the beer was free until he charged them – a lesson in itself.

He was ahead of the times. The Fat Cat had a smoke-free room in 1981 long before all fags were banned from pubs.

He passionately believed in beer, helping to found a micro brewing course at the university.

Afterwards they raised a toast to him at Bramall Lane. In beer.

Dave, who was born on May 24, 1947, died from cancer on May 16, aged 64. He is survived by his wife, Helen and son Edward.