Disclaimer: We were invited by The Head of Steam to attend a press event on Wednesday 6th of June, the day prior to the official opening of The Head of Steam Birmingham. All food and drink was on the house, in return for us to share our thoughts via Wednesday Beers. Whilst we were invited to the event by The Head of Steam, all opinions in this article are our own.
Shortly after the official opening date of Thursday 7th June was announced for The Head of Steam Birmingham on Temple Street, we were invited via email to a press event taking place on the evening of the 6th June. Once we had calmed down from the exhilaration of our first recognition as big time journos, Dave and I were happy to accept the invitation to check the venue out early, especially since we were already planning on attending the launch night event.
Owned by Hartlepool-based Camerons Brewery and established in 1995, The Head of Steam have 13 pubs across the North of England. This year, sights have been set on the Midlands with bars opening in Nottingham, Leicester and now Birmingham, with plans to establish more venues further down south. The Head of Steam prides itself on offering an impressive selection of keg, cask, bottled and canned beers, as well as cocktails, wines, spirits and a menu of pub grub and world flavours.
After wetting the whistle with a couple of beers at Tilt, we made our way to Temple Street for six-thirty PM. Greeted at the entrance, we were welcomed inside and taken upstairs to be seated near the impressive central bar that forms the focal point of the pub. After a quick wander round the 504 square foot venue and a cursory glance at the keg lines, we ordered glasses of Triangles, a fruity and resinous session IPA from Spanish purveyors of juicy juice, Garage Beer Co. A few sips in, we were ready to scrutinise the food menu.
The food menu is quite extensive. With breakfast and brunch options, sandwiches and wraps, light bites and world flavours, as well as handmade pies, burgers, hot dogs and stone-baked pizzas, most people’s tastes are covered. It’s great to see that all light bites and world flavours menu items featured a beer recommendation.
Whilst we were tempted by The Besler, a light bits and beer flight sharer, we decided to go straight to mains. Dave settled on a spicy southern fried chicken burger and mac and cheese bites, whilst I decided on the 21 Day-aged Yorkshire sirloin steak with peppercorn sauce and a side of onion rings. The steak was tender, buttery and full of flavour. I could have eaten another, but I’m just greedy. Dave tells me he enjoyed his burger.
We both decided to order dessert. I chose the strawberry and rhubarb cheesecake and Dave had the salted caramel and chocolate tart. I don’t think I’d ever had the combination of strawberry and rhubarb before, but I like it. Nice one menu overlords.
With ten cask lines and around twenty keg lines, plus multiple fridges full of cans and bottles from around the world, you have to commend the sheer volume of beer available at The Head of Steam Birmingham. Whilst I would imagine that certain lines are tied, it’s good to see the bar working closely with local breweries such as Twisted Barrel, Birmingham Brewing Company and Dig Brew Co.
One area that The Head of Steam excel is Belgian beer. As far as I can think, the selection is the best of any pub or bar in Birmingham. I’d say most people would be impressed by La Chouffe, Chimay and Delirium on draft, but even your biggest Belgian beer geek would have to applaud the bottle list, which includes offerings from some of the most respected traditional, trappist and lambic breweries in Belgium. Reminded of good times in Bruges last year, we both ordered a bottle of Straffe Hendrik Brugs Quadrupel from Brouwerij De Halve Maan, an absolute masterpiece of a beer. Boozy and complex, with dark fruits, aniseed and a syrupy, nuttiness. A few sips in and I was reminded of great drunken times in La Trappist, Bruges.
All things considered, we were impressed by The Head of Steam. There’s no doubting that the venue looks fantastic, with the bar at the heart of the pub and the walls tastefully decked out in brewery memorabilia from around the world. As discussed above, the beer and food menus strive to provide something to please almost everyone.
On the evening of the press event, we found that all members of staff were attentive and enthusiastic. Throughout the night, bar, waiting and management staff were on hand to make recommendations, let us know about upcoming events and listen to our feedback. I’d say that the team did everything that they could to earn a favourable review. In the interest of fairness (to thank HoS for the freebies, but also to see the pub in action for real), we made it back for a couple of beers late on opening night. At around 10pm, it was still very busy with groups of varied demographics and all things considered, everything seemed to be running smoothly. I was served quickly, so there were no quibbles from me. Talking to a member of the management team, I think the bar staff were relieved that the crowds had thinned out from the swarms that had filled every square metre earlier in the evening.
So where does The Head of Steam fit into Birmingham’s beer scene?
Simply put, it’s a great addition to the thriving scene in Birmingham. The Head of Steam provides a perfect bridge between city centre pub chains and the independent craft beer bars scattered across the city. The beer selection is large, regularly revolving and it has to be said, impressive, whereas the beer at the majority of city centre drinking holes is average to poor. Add to that the decent pub grub on offer, you’ve got a great place to bring a large group of mates as you know you have a fair chance of pleasing most of them.
The Head of Steam might not be the best place to go for a quiet chat or to enjoy a couple of beers while you read a book, but if you’ve got a macro-lager loving friend to keep happy, a camra member to keep on side, or you’re out with someone who’d rather have a cocktail than an imperial stout, it’s well worth you heading over to Temple Street.
For more adventurous beer drinkers, the location of The Head of Steam makes it the perfect place to stop for a beer if you’re crawling between Digbeth and the city centre in one direction and the Jewellery Quarter in the other. Personally, if I’m jonesing for a Belgian Quad, I’ll be there in a heartbeat.