30th January 2020

A couple of days in lovely Wolverhampton to finish the West Midlands GBG. A quieter year for WM with less new micros, but I won’t gloat.

Tonight’s budget (well, £33) accommodation comes courtesy of Barons Court, which is a bit of a national treasure.

Still takes forever to get down to Stourbridge, though.


My new Guide pub is in the area known as “Batham’s country”, between the Unicorn and Royal Exchange.

So why aren’t you showing us them then ?”. You know the answer to that.

Black Country Ale pubs would be treasured in 90% of the country.

View to Kinver

Here they seem a bit ubiquitous now, despite being undeniably comfortable places to drink “interesting” (ugh) beer with like-minded folk (ugh).

And despite some great recent experiences (Jewellery Quarter, West Brom) you’re always worried you’ll get more handpumps than customers.

Oooh, choice

As it happened it was a bit quiet mid afternoon,

No idea what is going on

but the blokes at the bar were making fair inroads into the guest beers.

Are Lilley’s the new BrewDog ?

Always go for the last beer pulled, even if it is the Cherry Chocolate Porter (a traditional beer style in 1832, probs).

I took the posh seat by the window, found the local CAMRA magazine (I now have 38 different ones for Dave) and enjoyed a velvety marvel (NBSS 4).


And then the conversation at the bar turned to Vocation, and someone said “You should go the Hare & Hounds near Hebden”.

“Oh, I just have”.

I showed them my pics.

Isn’t it ironic ?

Five minutes later we’d found out more about each other than I know about my Dad, and agreed that Willesden is a “challenging” place.

Aren’t pubs great ?


  1. I had to read that twice to believe it really happened. Amazing stuff. Pretty pub too. For all their taps we’ve never returned a beer in one of their pubs. Some tired beers, but never anything bad. Small sample size I know.


    1. It was. He mentioned the Vocation Tap and then the Hare and Hounds and I’d LITERALLY just started composing my posts on those two.

      I think he was a pub ticker, competition.

      Useful perspective on BCA. Tired is right. Still a reliable chain though. I always go for their own beers, not sure many others do.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I thought I walked past there last month but then realised I was confusing Wordsley and Woolaston.
    There’s 34 Black Country Ales pubs now and many of them look the same, not that that’s a criticism.
    The last one I was in was Stafford’s Bird in Hand on Sunday where the guest beers included M&B Brew XI and Hancocks HB so I had both, the latter though being confused with JHB, but there Carvery gets confused with Carling.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s easy to be geographically confused round there, Paul.

      Where does Stourbridge become Wordsley, what is a Lye etc etc.

      The styling is similar but the clientele certainly varies!


  3. Fewer new micros 😛

    Agreed on BCA – the pubs themselves have been very well done out, but they always have too many pumps for the trade, and their own beers are unmemorable.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, “their own beers are unmemorable” compared to the ‘inspiring’ beers nearly all other new breweries do but a low hop rating is true to the Black Country tradition and probably well suits the mostly local mostly older customers that many of their pubs attract – and gradually growing to 34 pubs might suggest that they get the beers as well as the pubs right.
      I had 39 pints of their Pig On The Wall last year and could certainly describe it as ‘nothing special’ but if it had been launched thirty-something years ago as ‘Best Mild’ we would have thought it marvellous.

      Liked by 2 people

  4. It’s a long time since I was last in Willesden, so I will reserve judgement, but on balance I’m sure you and your new found ticker friends are right.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Hi Martin, strangely enough I also found myself preparing for Brexit by visiting a Black Country Ales pub in Stourbridge, although my choice was the Seven Stars next to Stourbridge Junction station. BCA haven’t had it that long so it wouldn’t have been eligible for troubling the 2020 GBG, although I’ve got my eye on it for the 2021 edition. I personally rate it as one of their finest restorations, but I’m a sucker for staircase tiles and etched windows. Whatpub suggests they could have up to 22 (!!!) ales on at any one times which I fear is far too many unless they march folk in off the platforms; saying that my Busman’s Pale on Friday was quality drinking.

    As for the Queens Head, its one of the less memorable BCA places for me – certainly nice but nothing that stands out compared to their other pubs. Of the house ales, I’m quite partial to a pint of BFG but the Pig on the Wall can be a lottery unless a place really shifts it. Bathams country has a recent addition with the purchase of the Bird in Hand at Oldswinford, definitely worth a visit – the Bitter on Friday was exceptional but time will tell if it makes the hallowed book. One pre-emptive to look out for is the Wheelie Thirsty in Old Hill, one of the places I’m judging for Dudley PotY. I didn’t realise until Friday that its sister micro in Lye has closed due to lack of trade 😦
    Cheers, Paul


    1. Paul,
      Had I known about the Seven Stars I might have stopped off there for a pint when changing trains at Stourbridge Junction railway station.not three weeks ago.
      I would definitely have got to Batham’s Bird in Hand at Oldswinford had I known about it.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Both definitely worth a visit Paul – the Seven Stars arguably as much for the building as the beer. The Bird in Hand has slotted into the Bathams ranks pretty seamlessly – apparently they used to own it 80 odd years ago so it’s arguably back where it belongs. Cheers, Paul

        Liked by 2 people

      2. Thanks t’other Paul.
        My trip last month was badly timed, just too late for the Eagle and Tun and just too early to know about Bathams’s latest acquisition.
        Maybe a return visit in a few months.


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