On the map: Huddersfield
Colin Drury’s new monthly tour of unrecognised UK beer hotspots begins in Huddersfield
Saturday 07 May 2022
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For Taya Hayes, the last few weeks have been grim.
She is the landlady at the wonderful Grove pub in the West Yorkshire town of Huddersfield, a boozer with 45 separate taps and pumps. But she is also Ukrainian and her sister is in war-torn Kyiv right now.
“She’s living between her bathroom and corridor at the moment – the only rooms in her apartment without windows,” Taya tells Ferment. “We keep praying for her.”
Communities across the UK are doing what they can for the East European country. And in Huddersfield – a town with a large historic Ukrainian population – the burgeoning beer scene has been at the heart of that effort.
The Grove has put on fund-raising events, while local brewers – including Lords, Mallinsons and Magic Rock – have donated free ale. “The response has been overwhelming,” says Ian Hayes, Taya’s husband.
These may be especially unusual circumstances but, to some extent, the action captures the craft ale movement here: inclusive, generous, united and creative.
Oh, and the beer isn’t bad either.
If small towns across the UK are leading the current beer renaissance, Huddersfield – so often in the shadow of nearby Leeds – is very much part of that.
Pubs like The Grove and The Rat and Ratchet, bottle shops such as Arcade, and breweries including Beer Ink, Zapato and Milltown are putting the place firmly on the map.
“It’s a great little place to be,” says John Slumbers of Lord’s, which started up in 2015. “The fact there’s so many breweries in such a small place – it means you can’t stand still. It pushes you forward to better yourself, but, at the same time, everyone is super-friendly and helpful.”
How helpful? An anecdote to demonstrate: John remembers the time Lord’s ran out of yeast mid-brew. “I had to phone Russ at Empire [another town brewery] and ask if I could borrow some sharpish,” he says. “I was driving round in the van to pick it up about five minutes later.”
Not long after, he paid the debt forward when Beer Ink Brewery called him in need of urgent grain.
Ink itself is to some extent indicative of Huddersfield’s growing beer confidence.
If small towns across the UK are leading the current beer renaissance, Huddersfield is very much part of that
In the six years since Ryan Stoppard bought some second-hand equipment and set the place up, it's transformed into a cult favourite knocking out 4,200 pints a week and selling them to pubs and homes across the UK. Today, there’s a taphouse on site and plans for a new brewery that will focus exclusively on creating sours.
Not bad for someone who’s still only 32. “Aye, mate,” he says. “But I look about 42 because of it.”
He has his own theory about why Huddersfield beer is so good: the water here.
“The mineral content is ideal for brewing,” he says. “I talk to breweries in like London and they’re having to add salt or acidities. With us, it’s pretty much ready to go, straight from the taps.”
Back at the Grove, Ian Hayes considers this theory. He’s been landlord here for 20 years so knows a thing or two about what makes a good beer. He muses on the water hypothesis.
There may be something in that, he agrees, but there’s something else too. “I just think there’s some very talented people here,” he says.
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