Monday, August 25, 2008

The Head of Steam, Huddersfield

Mention real ale and Huddersfield in the same breath and most will automatically think of the pub on the station platform. There are of course two pubs on the station platform and both serve real ale, but the Head of Steam is the one they mean. The King's Head (formally Station Tavern) is remarkably little-known, even amongst locals, but finds it's niche with ale aficionados and music fans - but that's it; those weary travellers wanting a cuppa or a bite to eat won't be there. No, this is a place where people come to live, breathe and worship real ale with the sort of hushed reverence normally encountered in church. Indeed with it's spartan decor and mosaic floor the King's Head almost has the feel of a place of prayer, with little to distract you from the focal point of your religion - until the band starts up that is!

At the south end of the platform it's a different world. The Head of Steam provides more or less everything for everyone - not always the recipe for success - but it doesn't do a bad job. From a quick cup of coffee while waiting for your train to a three course meal or maybe a browse through the railway memorabilia then on to the impressive range of beer - the experience is one no visitor in need of refreshment should miss. The difference between the two pubs couldn't be more stark then, but they happily co-exist, each offering it's own interpretation of a waiting-room tavern - both popular, both vital.

So how is it that The Head of Steam has the wider reputation? Well the pub's nothing if not pushy. It's involvement in the town's major festivals together with it's own relentless promotions mean it's never out of the news for long, and let's face it, there are few more comfortable or interesting places to sit and drink beer locally.

I have to admit that I've probably been through the doors of The Head of Steam just once for every five visits to the King's Head, but then I'm a great fan of the predominantly pale and hoppy beers to be found there, and usually by the time I'm through, the desire for more ale is on the wane. However, using the HoS's current Festival of Fruit Beer, Cider & Perry (23rd-30th August) as a platform (please pardon the pun) I decided to redress the balance and make an effort to get more familiar with the place. And after chugging (sorry!) my way through some splendid offerings from the likes of Coach House (try their Passion Fruit beer for a real treat!), Westons and those awesome perry producers Broadoak, I'm very glad I did. The standard of poured ale was spot on as was the service and atmosphere. Although more cosmopolitan than most places I frequent, with it's groups of itinerant keggers and assorted teetotallers, The Head of Steam doesn't have any pretensions, being welcoming and courteous to all - and surprisingly relaxing.

In a town with so much going for it beer-wise it's all too easy to overlook some of the more established venues, especially if their popularity extends beyond a reputation for cask ale. But there it is, at the very heart of Huddersfield's phenomenal real ale scene, The Head of Steam - groundbreaking, vibrant, hard-working and still the name that trips off everyone's tongue.

The pub's calendar of events can be be found on their website.

More details of the available beers, lagers, wines & ciders will appear in the pub profiles section shortly. Decent outside pics of the pub are impossible at the minute with the work going on in St. George's Square but they will be added the moment it's finished.


Anonymous said...

I agree that the place is improving.The quality and range of beers are both better and the service is quicker,at least on the times I go in. I still have some reservations about the place, but it is somewhere worth calling in, if only for the occasional pint while waiting for a train. (or if you are into wasted money, watching the rebuilding of St Georges Sq) It has struck me that if Kirklees will give them permission, this would be a great place for an alfresco drinking area provided there is space when the work is complete, and should attract more passing trade. ..Tim

Glynn Dyson said...

Had some good meals here in the past, but yesterday's was absolutely dreadful. Rock hard veg that tasted like they'd gone straight from the freezer to the microwave (for far too long), chewy chicken, watery gravey, items missing from the plate and very, very slow service. Complained, but no sign of the manager -- clearly they don' care too much for unsatisfied customers (customers who've been coming to this pub longer than they have, I might add -- not that we'd go back now). Also a lot of loud swearing coming from the kitchen throughout the whole meal. From now on we'll go to Weatherspoons instead -- sad to see The Head of Steam lower its standards so much. Avoid.