Inspired by BJ's account of Bristol, and by Huddersfield's superb Ale Talk, I decided to take a wander around and look at some of those less frequently visited pubs to get a little taste of other delights available. I started, like many visitors to the town, at the railway station. There are two pubs here, The Head of Steam to the left of the station frontage and the Kings Head (previously the Station Tavern) hidden away at the right.
The Head of Steam is on the up. Often in the past it has been ignored by the real ale drinkers for the quality of beer and the haphazard service. These problems seem to have been eradicated by the new licensee and they often serve up to eight decent beers from varied breweries. It is one of the two places in Town that Sam Smiths Old Brewery Bitter can be enjoyed, but unhappily not at Sam Smiths prices. The other beers are not cheap either, except strangely O'Kells from the Isle Of Man, but the quality is good and there is an interesting food menu.
The Kings Head is well known locally for those liking beer of the light hoppy variety. The pricing is good and the 10 beers on offer are kept in good nick. Along with the lighter beers are usually a mild and a couple from Taylors of Keighley. The pub itself gained fame when Oz Clarke and James May visited for their TV programme recently and is now busier than ever. It is an open plan pub that has not changed for years, but none the worse for that!
A short walk away is The Vulcan in St Peters Street behind the Post Office near the Ring Road. This is a small pub that has the feel of a town centre local with its own group of regulars. There seems to be an emphasis here on racing with a big screen TV dominating the pub, but it does cheap food and often 4 beers on handpull. Two of the pumps offer local ales regularly, instead of the big brewery beers seen previously. The only problem seems to be the size of the place, making it hard to find somewhere quiet to enjoy your beer.
Back up on John William Street you will not miss the Cherry Tree, one of the town's two Wetherspoons outlets. If you like your beer served in the drinking equivalent of an airport lounge then this is for you - that is if you can get past the crowds of smokers hanging around the doorways! Notwithstanding, it does serve ten real ales, five are the usual JDW fayre and the rest from breweries far and wide. The quality is good and pricing competitive, but like the Vulcan, seating is always at a premium.
My final stop was at The Albert in Victoria Lane, an old favourite that reopened around four weeks ago - take the yard at the side of the old Woolworths off New Street and it's at the bottom. In my opinion this is one of the town's gems. A wonderful looking pub with an interior to match - well worth visiting for this alone. On my visit there were four beers on the bar. My Copper Dragon Golden Pippin was acceptable and not overpriced, and should you want to eat there is a good looking menu. I just hope that it stays open this time, having spent more time closed up in recent memory.
All five pubs are very different, and whilst not especially great for scratching new beers, the prices aren't outrageous for a town centre (the Head of Steam being the most expensive) and certainly worth visiting if time prevents seeking out the Grove, Rat & Star.