If it looks too good to be true, it probably is

Back down to earth after Dulwich, with a night out in Worcestershire.  This did give us the chance to visit some more exciting suburbs of south Birmingham, with Barnt Greens’s attractive roadworks meaning a half hour journey to a pub two miles off the M42. I know Mrs RM had been looking forward to a hike up the Lickey Hills in the rain, but sadly that will have to wait for the next time there’s a new GBG entry here. Probably in 2025.


Of course, there is no sight to lift the heart of the weary traveller like this one;


I haven’t been kind to Ember on this blog, but that changes (a bit) here. The Hare & Hounds, on the exact border between Brum and Worcestershire, has several merits, not least being open on Monday lunchtime, and filling the gap in a large Beer Guide desert. Southern Birmingham is where I first saw the Ember places emerge in the early 2000s, and they continue to be frequent Beer Guide entries in Solihull and Sutton.

My main gripe with Ember is that you always know exactly what, and who, you’re going to get.  You can’t say that about Wetherspoons, whose clientele in, say, Dartford and St Neots are at polar extremes.  And they’ve all got different carpets.

The word “generic” might have been invented for Ember.

Like Chef & Brewers or Toby Carvery, these are rarely places you’ll see dedicated drinkers, though they’re certainly not unwelcome.  The Hare & Hounds is typical.  Half a dozen diners, a few lager drinkers.

If that ale range at the top looks exciting, calm down. Most of it wasn’t on, even the Pedi. No-one else was drinking ale, so I went for the cheapest one.  The house Pale (NBSS 3.5) from Black Sheep was cellar cool, tasty, and seemingly priced near Sam Smiths levels, at least on Mondays. Two meals, a pint and a coke for £11.42 beat you-know-who.

And the staff were fantastic.

I asked for the “Chip Tank“.

Ooo. The chip tank.  No-one’s ever asked for that malarkey before

Are you sharing ? Aaah, that’s nice“(No – Mrs RM just nicks whatever I have).

There was much banter between staff and regular diners (“Don’t incinerate the salmon“) shouted into the kitchen. It felt like a proper community local.

A group of grannies were clearly regulars, and not too distraught at the lack of Pedi on the cask menu, as they shared videos of their respective grandchildren and barked directions down their I-phones.


The chip tank with calamari was proper pub grub, though I wouldn’t drink my cask out of their monstrosity.

Craft weddings and pubby Embers, what a year 2017 is shaping up to be.


  1. I always worry about branded chains having their own “house” bitter; Brunning & Price do the same under the Restaurant Group PLC’s tender care, brewed I believe by Phoenix.
    Good to see Harbour making the journey from North Cornwall to the Midlands; perhaps soon the beer will arrive to accompany the pump clip.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Agree. I avoid Nicholson’s Pale, the Phoenix beer etc, as I assume punters go for brands they recognise in chain pubs. I’d given up asking what was on, and the Black Sheep was very good.


  2. I’d forgotten about ” Nicholson’s Pale”; it’s disappointing that St Austell agreed to do it.
    My local is a B&P pub; I’ve never seen anyone order the “house” beer and the staff don’t suggest it; they do use it in shandies though.


    1. You can’t blame St Austell/Phoenix etc, it’s regular business. But it doesn’t promote their brands and a bad half of Phoenix in a Berkshire B&P that serves four pints all day is probably bad publicity.


  3. Before I offer my comments on Ember Inns, I have to declare an interest – for the past 16 years I’ve presented pub quizzes in the first ever (I believe) Ember Inn (Bulls Head, Stratford Road, Hall Green) and I now do three a week, all in Ember Inns.

    When my local closed for refurbishment in 2000 there were rumours that it was going to become a Hungry Horse, but it became one of the early Ember Inns. On first appraisal I was relieved that it was still, essentially a pub, but it had beome a sort of hybrid between pub and wine bar. At the time that was no bad thing.

    Over the years there has been the drift towards the ‘gastro pub’ model, but full conversion was stopped with the Ember Pub & Dining experiment. Quite a few years ago M&B tried to move the Ember Inns more upmarket with the Pub & Dining brand, but it turned out that these newly rebranded and refurbished pubs didn’t see the expected rise in profitability from the extra food offerings. The experiment was halted and now Ember Inns sit in a halfway house between pub and wine bar and restaurant. They are certainly places where you can just drink all night without any problem, but as to the offering of cask ales, I’m in no position to comment as a lager drinker.

    The downside to Ember Inns, as you highlighted, is that wherever you are, you know exactley what to expect from an Ember Inn. Some people like the comfort/safety of visiting a chain establishment, but I like the adventure of visiting new and different places.


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