So it was with low expectations that I embarked on Saturday's BRAPA trip (thanks Europa league for ruining my life for a FINAL time) looking to tick off the remaining 4 pubs in the city centre having already done Wellington, Post Office Vaults, Old Joint Stock and the like on previous football days out.
However, what I discovered were some absolute gems that left me wondering why I'd never been to them before and whether these were pubs designed for the more discerning local Brummie ale drinkers.
515 - Prince of Wales - With father Bernard in tow before his afternoon of 'culture & shopping', we found this lovely old skool traditional West Midlands pub just to the west of centre amongst the many conference centres that dominated the skyline. The beer range was a little bit lacking with many standard real ales on and a couple of pumps turned around, but I enjoyed a first-out-of-the-barrel honey based Enville Ale made to a 200 year old recipe, handed down to the current brewery from their great great aunt. The atmosphere was quiet and relaxed, the barman quiet but friendly, the toilets were quirky and the walls clad with previous Princes of Wales.
|Top lampshade action at Prince of Wales|
|Pigeon with boobs in the Victoria - quirky.|
517 - Lamp, Highgate - I always find it interesting in Birmingham how the gay and Irish quarters seem to be in pretty much the same errm quarter, so after an entertaining 15 minute walk south, I found myself in the Highgate area at a lovely little pub called the Lamp, which seemed unspoilt in decades despite everything going on around it. The landlord (another friendly Irish chap, but this one more along the Brendan O'Carroll lines) was hoovering and had temporarily locked the pub, possibly not expecting me, first customer of the day, despite it being after 1pm. He told me about their Rock n Roll brewery (on the roof) so it felt only right to have a pint of Brew Springsteen. It was not incredible, but nicer than most pubs own brewed stuff I've tried in the past. Really relaxing little place to have a pint and read the paper, off the beaten track but not a long walk so probably the perfect pub location.
|Rock & Roll ales brewed in-house at the Lamp|
|Old Contemptibles, my final August 2014 tick!|
And if the day had finished there, it would have been a resounding success. But we HAD to go to the wonderful Barton's Arms, have a quick half at the afore mentioned Wellington, watch our train get cancelled, go to the underground Post Office Vaults, lose my bag, have a painful journey home, coffee in Leeds, feel totally monged, but can't complain on the whole. Still a wonderful day. 25 pubs done in August, well ahead of schedule.
|The breathtaking Bartons Arms, does a better pub exist?|
Of the 25 done, it's very hard to pinpoint the best. My fave Brum pub was probably the Lamp. It would be up against Bradford's Corn Dolly, Heptonstall's White Lion, Keighley's Brown Cow and the New Inn of Appletreewick. Overall winner? Arggghh, don't make me choose.
So what does September bring? Well, Histon (Red Lion beer fest) and Cambridge on Saturday 6th is a good start, I think I will hold off on the midweek West Yorkshire BRAPA for now. I may receive the new GBG as early as this week which will mean a lot of "book-work" (to use a Tom Irvin phrase).
Saturday 13th sees a trip to Oxford, September is feeling like a top university face off! I'll be trying to do Abingdon on the same day as you know by now, I like my letter "A" places.
Saturday 20th is a bit of a write off cos I am at Newcastle away but I'll be looking to hijack the Welly gang's plans with some pub ticks of my own (I still have 4 central pubs to do at the time of writing).
Saturday 27th will probably be my much planned and long awaited trip to Askrigg, Aysgarth, Hawes etc but if any of these pubs aren't in the new guide, I'll be revising my entire plan.
Happy pubbing, Si