After a fab day out discovering the hidden gems of Dudley and Tipton, it was time to hit the town (well Birmingham City Centre) with the girls. I hadn’t done the Birmingham pubs since I moved away in 2019 and I was keen to visit my old favourite haunts – as well as a couple of new ones that had popped up since my departure.
Karina and Wendy were off having a disappointing meal somewhere so I started the party on my own at the Welly, my stomach comfortably lined with my curry pie and battered chips from Mad O’Rourkes. I’d already seen one particularly exciting beer on their Facebook page earlier today, so I didn’t need to study the beer board.
It was 1900 on Maundy Thursday so I had expected this city centre favourite to be heaving but I can’t say that I wasn’t pleased to find a free table in the main seating area.
I spent a lot of time in this pub from 2005-2019 because I always felt completely comfortable in here. There’s always a mild on, there’s usually a cat around somewhere, you can take your own food in (or have it delivered) and it’s one of those pubs where you can chat with folk or chill with a book. I spent many an hour in here with a curry from the hot food counter at Sainsburys, a pint of mild and my Kindle. This was my little oasis and my happy place.
The last time I visited – ahead of the Cov match in 2019 – the new resident pubkittens, Malt and Hops, were running riot around the pub, climbing up my coat and wanting to steal my lunch. Indeed they were causing so much mayhem that they were consigned to their upstairs quarters with short shrift. Tonight I was delighted to see them both again – now all grown up and clearly owning the place.
This troublemaker was soon to be found claiming a bar stool and lounging on it with a paw casually hanging through the back of the chair. This was at a time when the pub was starting to get busy and a customer would have been glad of the seat. This cat didn’t give a stuff about that. This is my chair. This is my pub. Buy me a saucer of milk if you like.
These were the first cats I’d encountered since I started carrying a pouch of Dreamies in my pocket (since when I had met 476 dogs). I only remembered the Dreamies as we were preparing to leave. Guess which of the above cats was happy to accept one…?
Meanwhile Wendy and Karina had arrived, grumbling about the food and service at a local eaterie that I won’t name and shame, but they soon cheered up when they got stuck into their beers.
I was hugely surprised when the conversation turned to football, as this is a subject I don’t tend to raise at the best of times (it’s one of the things I drink to forget) but especially not with non-football friends. Wendy said she was hoping to persuade her husband Daz along to the Chasetown match on Monday. This is hilarious because Daz has been trying to persuade her to go down the Villa for years and she hasn’t had any of it. I guess it has helped that the two occasions I’ve taken Wendy to Chase they have won and the ground has been buzzing (plus we’ve had a few beers before and during the match). Chase are (at the time of writing) still in with a chance of automatic promotion to the Northern Prem and will at worst make the play-offs, so it’s all a bit exciting down there at the moment.
‘You do realise that Daz reads your blogs, don’t you? He couldn’t believe you didn’t know who Coutinho was.’
Wendy went on to inform me that Coutinho once transferred from Liverpool to Barcelona to £120m (or something equally ridiculous), which made it all the more amazing why he was now playing for Villa. I shook my head in amazement.
‘Doesn’t Lee know who Coutinho is either?’
‘Well no. That’s not really our world. We follow Blackpool.’
Further research has revealed that said astronomical transfer took place in 2018 which was during our Blackpool boycott. I didn’t even know who or when Blackpool were playing in those days. At that time I was working at Chase and was thus even further removed from the Champions League or whatever it’s called these days. I hope that goes some way to redeeming me, Daz…
The girls also proved helpful with my research for my forthcoming Football Tourist’s Guide To Luton, with a genius suggestion that will be revealed later this week.
I was allowed to choose the pubs for tonight’s crawl, which made me happy (because I am a bit of a control freak) so next we headed to one of the new pubs on the block.
This pub is situated in Great Western Arcade.
Historically, my favourite place in this arcade was Loki Wines (great for premium spirits and probably wine but that’s the drink of the devil). But tonight it was beer we were here for.
There was seating outside (in the arcade thoroughfare) but it reeked of weed out here, which ruled out using this seating space, which we might otherwise have done, as it was boiling inside.
We were warmly greeted by a cheery barmaid who talked me through the pump clips, as I was unfamiliar with Craddocks beers (this is one of their pubs, so I had to have one of their beers). Craddocks are a Black Country brewery from Stourbridge (where we’d be visiting tomorrow). The Good Intent is a not for profit bar and all its profits are donated to local charities.
I went for the Uncharted Waters and it was really rather tasty. But before we’d moved away from the bar, Wendy grabbed the craft beer menu and started excitedly pointing at things. The plan was to get a can to share. That’s the sort of plan I can get on board with. I love a bit of beer sharing. We settled on this.
When I tweeted the above pic, Green Duck piped up that it was they who had brewed the lush mild I had enjoyed in the Black Country Museum earlier today.
To be honest this place blew my mind. In my head I had imagined a poky little retail unit but in reality it stretched back further than I had expected and there was even an upstairs.
We found a free table upstairs, which was where the jazz band were playing.
They were a bit – er – experimental for my liking but still it was nice to have live music in a pub.
We saw food being delivered and my eyes turned to the menu on our table.
Karina pointed out another new place across the arcade – The Pineapple Club Cocktail Bar & Bottle Shop. This was another place I hadn’t even heard of, in addition to Vagabond, on the corner of Bennetts Hill and Colmore Row, which had taken me by surprise earlier. Seems there is still more of Birmingham that I need to discover so I must get a return visit pencilled in.
As we strolled back down Colmore Row in the direction of a new pub I had heard of, I was stopped in my tracks by the new Natwest Tower. Wowzers! Where had that come from?
This much-anticipated Thornbridge Brewery tap is most famous for not letting fellow beer blogger Si in because he wasn’t female. It was no coincidence that I was visiting with the girls tonight. And of course we had no problem getting in and strode straight past the friendly doorman.
I know and love these Thornbridge pubs now, following a recent visit to a couple in Sheffield with Martin and Christine. I practically skipped to the bar and stood on my tiptoes and leaned on the bar to study the fridges, as I knew exactly what I was looking for here tonight. Oh and here it was!
Here we continued the new and welcome practice of having a sharing can in addition to a cask ale (the one on the right above is a Timmy Taylor Landlord Dark).
Here are the pump clips.
This was another great new addition to the Birmingham City Centre scene. There was even a surprise pool table which we found downstairs en route to the Ladies (which I forgot to review for you, soz).
We observed that the group of lads (I know! In The Colmore!) at the adjacent table were all drinking lagers/light beers and our table of girls was drinking ALL the dark beers. I guess we’re an unusual bunch but I guess that’s also why we’ve gravitated towards each other and why my friendship with these girls has survived my relocation.
On our way out we were stopped for a chat by the friendly doorman (since when were doormen at real ale pubs a thing? They were all over Cardiff too.) What a lovely and welcoming place this was. Can we still be friends, Si…?
Next up it was this old favourite.
Untappd confirms that I had the Castle Rock Oatmeal Stout here.
Speaking of Untappd, I was chastised by the girls tonight for my number of repeat entries of the same beer. I explained that this was the likes of Doom Bar when there’s nothing else on (and Plum Porter when there is) and I like to keep as complete a record of my beers as possible because that’s what we addictive personalities do (hence all these blogs!).
It was pretty quiet in here tonight, too, and we found a vacant table round the corner to the left of the bar, past the bar billiards(?) table (which I’ve never seen used).
Karina and Wendy both returned from the Ladies disgusted at their state (only one cubicle had a light on and it was not the one with the toilet roll in it; and one ‘looked like a man had used it’, with urine all over the toilet seat). The toilets in here have always been a problem; indeed you need a code to enter them, which is always a faff. I decided to cross my legs and wait until we got to the next pub.
In the Stymie Si Stylee, we were refused entry to the Head of Steam by the man on the door. This seemed to be more time-related than gender-related though, as it must have been approaching 2300 by this point.
‘Oh no! But I’m dancing here – I really need a wee!’
‘Well you can go in and use the toilets. Up the stairs and they’re at the back on the left.’
‘Thank you so much!’
I of course had a peer at the beers on the way out to see if they’d got the Cassels Milk Stout I’d enjoyed on a previous visit here and was pleased not to spot it, as I would have been heartbroken to have missed it.
I was still disappointed that this – one of my fave pubs in Brum – was closed though. I was going to ask if they’d do me a banked beer (the trend of the moment) which MAY be being rolled out across their pubs.
Plan B was this new outlet for Birmingham’s new (since I left) Sommar Brewery. And WOW!
Birmingham continues to lag behind the likes of Manchester and Sheffield when it comes to pub innovation. But this new place is a step in the right direction for Birmingham. It reminded me of Industry Tap in Sheffield, which I’d visited with Martin and Christine (and Karen), with its keg only offerings, beer fridge and cool neon lighting.
It seemed this place was just closing too, but we managed to make the cut, being the last to be served.
I have no idea what I had to drink in here but I’m pretty sure it wasn’t the Raspberry & Foam Prawn Milkshake Pale (from Play Brew Co, who I’ve been wanting to try for ages) that I’ve just spotted on the menu. To be honest, I find beer boards like this – with ALL the information – a little overwhelming at the best of times, let alone when I’ve already had a few and I feel rushed because the pub wants to close. I suspect I just scanned for the word STOUT and had a half of No. 10.
At the table I was excited to find this on the spirits menu.
I wouldn’t have been having any of the tonic or garnish (why ruin a perfectly good vodka?) but I would have been all over that vodka if only they hadn’t stopped serving. In retrospect it was a good thing that they had stopped serving, as this wouldn’t have seemed such a good idea when I was trying to get out of bed the following morning…
At 2315, Daz arrived to collect me and Wendy (my hotel was on their way home) and I had to do some grovelling about Coutinho on the journey. I have to say the car conversation is a little hazy now but I think Cameron Archer may have come up in conversation, so I may have got myself in trouble again (he’s the Nobber who put our keeper in hospital and incited a riot last week and he’s on loan from Villa, apparently).
Let’s just say I slept well after that brilliant night out.
Next Up: A Football Tourist’s Guide To The Black Country – Part Two & Walsall Pubs.
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Thanks to Wendy and Karina for the beers tonight.