CoffeeBeer >> Pint Pleasures >> Head of Steam

Previous Pint Pleasures - May 15, 2016

guinness eileen

The Head of Steam, 103-107 Norfolk Street, Sheffield, South Yorkshire

(NOTE: I'm writing this column from the depths of a very nasty spring flu that seems to go on and on, so I do hope it all makes some sort of sense.)

At the beginning of April, as I was passing through Tudor Square on my way to work, I noticed a large crew working inside what had formerly been the Old Monk pub. On closer inspection, and to my delight, I discovered that the Old Monk was being converted into a brand new pub, the Head of Steam. Having visited a Head of Steam years ago in Newcastle, I assumed that this was to be an addition to the Tyneside pub chain. When I checked online I learned that the new pub, the 13th in the chain, was opening in a couple of weeks, just in time for the World Snooker Championship at the nearby Crucible Theatre. Excellent!

On the first Friday of the snooker I was unfortunate enough to have to work. This was voluntary, mind you, so that I would get paid for extra hours; but it was still an entire Saturday basically shot. So when I finished work at 3pm, I decided that I most certainly deserved a liquid reward. Seeing as how the big snooker screen was up in Tudor Square, and the Head of Steam has tables out on the square, this was the perfect opportunity to give it a try.

Having never actually been in the Old Monk, I was impressed with how big the pub is. There are large booths against one wall and lots of communal wooden tables all around. There is a central bar, with the 8 hand pumps all on the front end by the Norfolk Road door. The hand pumps feature selections from Camerons, the brewery that owns the Head of Steam chain, and also local guests, and it all looks pretty much like hop heaven. (There was one choice that looked quite dark and complicated, so the non-hopheads needn't be intimidated.)

I was tempted to order a half pint of Kanaka Jack (4.2% ABV, Abbeydale Brewing, Sheffield, South Yorkshire), until I noticed it was a whopping £4.00 a pint, which was quite surprising for the ABV, not to mention for a Sheffield pint in general. So I asked one of the friendly bar staff which was the hoppiest beer, and I was directed to the Ahop-alypse Now (4.3% ABV, Camerons Brewery, Hartlepool, County Durham), which was brewed with Chinook, Fuggles and Cascade hops and only £3.30. Seeing as how in comparison this now seemed a reasonable price, I went for a half of that.

I took my half outside onto the beer patio and sat at the only available table. My beer was dark golden in colour with quite an interesting combination of hops. The exciting Pacific Northwest hops were tempered by the more middle-of-the-road Fuggles, although this could be one of the Pacific Northwest Fuggles strains. I watched as Stephen MacGuire and Alan MacMannis were playing their match on the big screen. In my post-work daze after spending five hours heaving my body around with library books, I was amazed at how the players could pot balls through tree trunks…and then I came to my senses and realised that was why this particular garden table was still available.

Back inside I noticed the décor features lots of American craft beers posters, including one for Dale's Ales of Colorado. On one of my California visits I had a sixpack of Dale's Ales in my mother's fridge which I had bought at Trader Joe's, intrigued simply because it's sold in cans instead of bottles. The pub on this Saturday afternoon was mostly full of slightly older well-dressed people, perhaps because it had just opened. I still find it shocking how expensive the pints are, thought. I'm not sure how the neighbouring Crucible Corner's prices are these days, but I know that the neighbour on the other side, the Brown Bear, although not that exciting beerwise, is unbelievably cheap. So for a pre- or post-Crucible or Lyceum performance pint, well, you decide.

A week later I stopped in with my colleague John after work on the final Friday of the snooker. John had a pint of Strongarm (4.0% ABV, Camerons Brewing, Hartlepool, County Durham), which was your standard ruby red bitter and only £3.30. (Well, this is an expensive pub, so I'm speaking relatively). I went for a pint of Citra Star (4.1% ABV, Anarchy Brew Company, Morpeth, Northumberland), which was £3.50. Super pale, with those Pacific Northwest hops and a lemony character, this was a really refreshing and enjoyable pint, a perfect sup for sitting out in a beer garden or on a beach on a warm sunny day. Yes, this beer is actually really good.

Later I found out that as a CAMRA member I can get 20p off my pint. At these prices that will definitely make a difference.

Head of Steam Updates
(Last updated 24 February 2019)