Weds I took the train to Birmingham where I was to host a beer and cheese tasting organised by my mates from Regional days Helen and Will. They live on a narrow boat currently moored in the canal in Birmingham and Helen is working for Beer Yeti who organised the event. England’s second city is not known for its craft beer scene and this was definitely a pioneering sort of event.
Birmingham is an interesting city , downtown is built around the bull ring, a massive multi level shopping mall, and the city is currently undergoing massive construction in preparation for the Commonwealth Games. I walked across town from the station to my accommodation, a room above The Gunmakers Arms. I had selected this pub to stay in as it was the tap of a local brewery. I did have a feeling it was going to be a bit rough and it was but it was also cheap.
When I arrived my room wasn’t ready so I popped out to Tilt a local craft beer bar specialising in pinball and coffee alongside craft beer. The bar had a very Wellington vibe. Our Hibiscus and Lime Sour Luna was on so I had a glass and said hi to the chap behind the bar. I then headed to The Craven Arms by taxi (it was becoming clear this town was too big and spread out for walking). The Craven Arms is a traditional Midlands style pub specialising in real ale. I was the only punter when I arrived, I ordered a pint of best mild , called Pig on the Wall, from a local brewery called Black Country Ales and then a dray delivery came causing the landlord much annoyance as much of the public bar had to be pulled apart to access the cellar. Later a couple of middle aged London ‘Barrow Boys’ in spiv style suits came in. They were straight out out of Lock Stock or Snatch. One of them got a call and responded ‘jast popped out for a sandwich luv’ as he sipped on his unaccompanied straight double vodka. Then I head back to the Gunmakers. My view out the window was of a motorway , a pedestrian subway and construction sites, I was no longer in Oxford. But Oxford didn’t give the world Black Sabbath so there!
I caught a cab to a bridge near where Helen and Will’s narrow boat was moored and checked out their tiny home. Pretty much the size of a caravan but super romantic , at least to those of us who don’t have to live in one. We then ubered to Moseley an up and coming suburb where the tasting was to be held. The tasting was in The Dark Horse, a craft beer bar and music venue that Helen used to work at. The tasting went well . although it was intimate , and then we headed down the road to The Prince of Wales a wonderful classic Victorian Midlands Style pub with multi rooms and roaring fires. Here we had pints of Landlord and Oakham Bishops Farewell. Then after they closed it was back to The Dark Horse for a lockin with some special cellar beers kindly provided by the manager from his personal stash. Westvelterin 12 at 1am was a pretty good way to cap off Birmingham.
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