|Dad threatens to defy the piano rules (see pub 833)|
The train journey couldn't have gone better, including the local connection from New St to Selly Oak, though quite why my first pub had the BR symbol in the Good Beer Guide when it was over a mile trek probably says a lot about encouraging people to go to a random Ember Inn in a pretty miserable area of the city.
829. Selly Park Tavern, Selly Park, Birmingham
It was quite a grand red-bricked building from the outside, but that Ember blueprint was present from the moment we entered. Fake fires, mis-matched non pub furniture, a familiar beer range (minus the Abbeydale Moonshine), and a friendly barmaid who was both Brummie and Eastern European made this almost identical to my Edenthorpe Ember experience a few weeks ago. It was warm and comfy though, and to Dad who isn't familiar with this chain, there wasn't a great deal to dislike. The problem was, there wasn't much to like either! Tom joined us as I forced down a strong, rich Rev James ale (the first time I've had this on draught in over 4 years and I could see why). My new pink jumper, having been inspired by the barmaid in Leavening last week, made it's debut. There was a skittle alley out the back I read, I wish I'd gone to have a look as this would have offered a quirk. As it was, a hot tap that wouldn't turn off was as exciting as it got in the "difficult access toilets".
|A Rev James, only myself to blame!|
|Arriving at pub number two.|
|"Our" back room at the Prince of Wales|
830. Prince of Wales, Moseley, Birmingham
This reminded me so much why I love pub trips to this part of the world. A fantastic old pub with a superb green tiled corridor and a couple of private little side rooms where you can close a door behind you and block out the outside world! Apparently it has the UK's biggest collection of cigars too but not seeing these hasn't, in my opinion, hampered my experience of the pub. The pub has been selling cask since 1861, quite a claim so it was fitting I went for a Victorian Porter from Lincs. In the safety of our superb back room (bell pushes n all), conversation turned to how to commit the perfect murder. Interestingly (or not), on the other two occasions I've drunk this same ale, I've also been discussing murder I later found out! Things settled down a bit and TV crime drama became the topic instead. I just hope those bell pushes didn't record our chat.
|Corridor looking back towards the bar at the Prince of Wales.|
|Barmaid (left), me (centre), Dad (right) at pub 3.|
Inside it was busy, friendly and ultra-traditional as we squashed in at the bar and I ordered a lovely Black Country bitter from Holdens, one of those great breweries you only see in these parts. The barman was tall, South African, and had the menacing air of a darker Pistorious with two legs and no gun. I don't think. I was relieved when chirpy smoky barmaid returned and popped up just in time to direct me to the most confusing toilets of the day, outside then back in through an unmarked door. Dad had taken up a place under a giant TV screen but the North London derby was really hotting up, and I was worried my new pink jumper detracted from Harry Kane's wonder strike. Poor locals. The food menu was cheap and curry based, and despite not being available to 6pm, Balsall Heath has it's own time zone and food was very much on the agenda, and smelt delicious. But in the interests of BRAPA, I couldn't get distracted. Then the TV went off just as the match was coming to a climax, nooooo, very Hole in the Wall, Hull 2004 in that respect except it didn't get stuck on a gurning image of Harry Redknapp. Wonderful pub, best yet!
|The locals focus on the football, I'm focused on my beer!|
|Dad - a first class male bather|
|Me and pink jumper - Women's Baths! (obviously)|
|Tom - a second class male bather|
832. White Swan, Digbeth, Birmingham
High hopes for this historic heritage pub, but it was sadly the weakest of the day, a bit lack lustre despite it's obvious charms. Beer was limited to a couple of Marstonny efforts and whilst my New World Pale was superb, barmaid was totally distracted in the entire time we were at the bar, chatting to a local and it quite frankly came across as a bit rude. Egg chasing and tennis lef us to decide that we'd be comfier in a back room a la our Prince of Wales experience but it was so cold. I imagine heating a building like this it expensive but other pubs can manage it. If I was you, I'd go to the Anchor down the road, well unless it's Valentine's Day and they have changed all their ales to terrible 'love' themed ones like in 2012!
|Dad and Tom trying to stay warm in the beautiful but disappointing White Swan.|
I'm always a bit suspicious of pubs branding themselves 'Irish' but as this is a big Irish part of Birmingham (plus Whelan's in Asselby is so good), I needn't have worried. This was my pub of the day from the minute I took my first glorious sip of Fixed Wheel IPA and we sat in the quiet back bar, which had a lovely mid afternoon gentle hubbub which certainly you wouldn't have got on a football day. Thanks Sky! What with Malton's Spotted Cow being my favourite pub last Saturday, I wonder if a Spotted Elephant is going to pop up in the Berkshire countryside next week. They did then suddenly decide to gently 'illuminate' us by putting the lights on. This had happened in the White Swan too. Do Digbeth pubs like to keep a close eye on their pub visitors? For fans of Peaky Blinders, I could imagine the Shelby gang having a nice quiet pint in here, providing they left their razorblade clad flat caps at home. A wonderful pub experience, you must visit before you die!
|Time for some Irish fun at the Spotted Dog.|
|Me and Tom finally locate the Woodman|
834, Woodman, Digbeth, Birmingham
It was another hit on a day when the standard of pubs had been superb. I guess the people of Birmingham must take for granted the wealth of brilliant pubs available to them. As Dad said, certainly no need to return to the Wellington again when a couple of minutes extra walk gets you to a pub like this. More great local ales were available, not sure I can count a 5.6% Shropshire porter as locale but I'll try. This pub had a slightly younger, vibrant vibe than the others, but not in an annoying or threatening way. In fact, using the pubs own condiments to season my smuggled pork pie shows just how relaxed (drunk) I felt by this stage. The music was peculiar, one song particularly stood out, a Gothic version of the "Are You Being Served?" theme. I felt a bit safer in the knowledge that the people on the table next to us were totally wasted, as I tried to figure out what made this pub's recent refurb so environmentally friendly. Top pub!
|Drunk dude, condiments, great ales - the Woodman, ladies and gentlemen.|
Midweek South Yorkshire is on Wednesday this week due to pub opening problems, it might not be til Friday when I write that one up so I'll see you when I see you. Happy pubbing.