A BLACK COUNTRY SIX

Six of the Best from Black Country Ales, the Antic of the West Midlands.

Well, perhaps not quite Antic, but BCA’s combination of smart community pub with lots of beers does have some similarities.

Because Brum gets a kicking sometimes, let’s start in the heart of the second city (after Manchester).

Jewellers Arms, Birmingham

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Lovely pin clear beer, a good mix of ages, and a sense of community as strong as you get in Digbeth. Someone will complain that, like the Joules estate, it’s a bit contrived. But I didn’t feel that.

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I enjoyed the newish one in suburban West Brom, too.

Three Horseshoes, West Bromwich

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Who would trek out to the Three Horseshoes for a pint of Pig ?

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Answer: loads of people.  In big and small groups. Smartly dressed professors and scruffs (me). And frankly, it’s a great place for a cheapish pint and a chinwag.

OK, most of them looked retirees (nothing wrong with that), but plenty of pubs fail to attract gentlefolk away from the telly.

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My next one wasn’t packed on a midweek afternoon.

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But what the Shrewsbury Arms in Stafford lacked in quantity of custom it made up for in quality, as Stafford Paul, Quosh and myself downed pints of Brew XI (responsibly) in our table by the window. Does anyone else remember those halcyon days when we had pubs ?

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There’s certainly a house style about Black Country.

Queen’s Head, Wollaston, Stourbridge

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And not just the exterior. You’ll always find a cherry chocolate porter, a hook for your man bag, and a couple of Old Boys keen to discuss your favourite pub.

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I wanted to be a bit miffed that the Queen’s Head had stolen a Guide place from a Bathams or Holdens pub, but I just couldn’t be. Just give Stourbridge the entire GBG allocation for rural Lincs and be done with it.

Next up is the famous one, just in case you thought I’d forgot.

The Wellington, Birmingham

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I really didn’t like the Welly a decade ago. Cramped, fusty, full of tickers.

But I’ve warmed to its charms since  I’ve found the roof terrace, and you’ll always get good PubMan action in there.

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Another newbie to finish; in fact the last pub I visited before the original lockdown in March. The pubs were already too quiet.

Real Ale Tavern, Bewdley

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A classy place, the folk who were in were cheery and discussing their future foreign holidays (Oh dear), and I immediately admired Black Country for providing some competition to the Batham’s stranglehold (only sort of joking).

I’d have liked to bring you a few pics from my first, and best, encounter with Black Country, but all I have is the exterior and a memory of cheap faggots.

Black Country Arms, Walsall

In honesty, I’ve not always given BCA an unreserved recommendation. Their own beers always struggle for space on the bar alongside cutting-edge like, er,

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For example, the Swan in Halesowen was very pubby, advertising the arrival in town of Paul Merson that month, and couples popping in for cobs(/baps/barms etc.)

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But ELEVEN beers on a weekday was more than the Spoons down the road; that number MIGHT just about work in the Wellington, but not here.

To be fair I’ve had good beer recently, particularly in Shifnal last year, and with pubs as gorgeous as the Bulls Head in Lower Gornal I can’t bgrudge them their continued GBG success.

I just wish SOMEONE else would help me by drinking the Pig on the Wall rather than the Oakham.

28 thoughts on “A BLACK COUNTRY SIX

  1. I don’t think that refurbishing pubs by making them reminiscent of an age when pubs were proper pubs is “a bit contrived”.
    That Steve Nuttall could learn a thing or two by looking at BCA’s sensible fixtures and fittings, comfortable seating, tasteful décor and absence of new mirrors from Wrexham and other such tat.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. I’m with Paul on this one. When we did Bridgnorth with Dick and Dave, I liked the Joules beer (I know I’m in a minority on this) but the Shakespeare had an artificial feel to it. Contrived, as has been said.

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      2. Sheffield Hatter,
        Yes indeed.
        I can occasionally tolerate “artificial”, tacky or “contrived” interiors, and Joules don’t have a monopoly on those, but what I object to is the insensitive, and sometimes illegal, destruction of historic pub interiors for Nuttall’s ‘one size fits all’ policy.

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      3. Sheffield Hatter hit the nail on the head with the description of Joules pubs being artificial. That is the word I was searching for in a past conversation about Joules pubs. That is how the Cross Keys in Chester felt to me.

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  2. We’ve got a brace of very good BCA pubs in Leicester that I like a lot, both top choices on match-days if you can get through the door. The beer’s problematic though, I’d love BCA that bit more if I wasn’t forced into choosing from the (too many) guest beers lottery. If BCA just did a better tasting Mild I’d be a happy boy, and use their pubs more enthusiastically. The underwhelming malty stuff they do brew really is unforgivable from a West Mids brewer.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s a long while since I did those two. Actually, I doubt the Salmon was BCA a decade ago, and the King’s Head was indeed a cask beer lottery on our 2017 crawl (it had been quite good when I stumbled across it after a Tigers – Leinster game !).

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    2. Mark,
      “If BCA just did a better tasting Mild”.
      Maybe Angus McMeeking could borrow a recipe from Sarah Hughes. Or Holdens. Or Bathams.

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      1. Martin,
        Yes, and in my fiftieth year of drinking Banks’s I realise that the once common richness and freshness we experienced at the brewery is now almost a rarity. It’s not that the ingredients or how it’s brewed have changed but that pubs I remember clearing several hogsheads a week now sell fewer firkins. A proper turnover, helped with two beers were plenty, guaranteed quality.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. I’m surprised the Dog Inn, Burton on Trent doesn’t make the cut. But I don’t think I’ve been in a bad BCA pub. The two in Rugby are good too

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      1. But pubs are for local drinkers so isn’t providing a beer that’s locally popular what pubs should be doing ?

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  4. “Someone will complain that, like the Joules estate, it’s a bit contrived”

    This far into 2020 I’m beginning to feel that everything is contrived!

    “I enjoyed the newish one in suburban West Brom, too.”

    Apart from the Weatherspoons style of carpet… nice!

    “And frankly, it’s a great place for a cheapish pint and a chinwag.”

    Ticks all the boxes then. 🙂

    “Does anyone else remember those halcyon days when we had pubs ?”

    In the immortal words of the Rocky Horror Picture Show… ‘not for very much longer’. 😉

    “a hook for your man bag”

    Good heavens! Why would I want to display my scrotum?

    “and you’ll always get good PubMan action in there.”

    Wait, I’ve got this. Ahem;

    It’s either the one with long hair and glasses in the middle of the photo, or the one with the Jimmy Buffet shirt at the bar. 🙂

    “but all I have is the exterior and a memory of cheap faggots.”

    Um… no comment.

    “that number MIGHT just about work in the Wellington, but not here.”

    ‘nods’

    “I just wish SOMEONE else would help me by drinking the Pig on the Wall rather than the Oakham.”

    I’d offer, but:

    A) I don’t live over there and;

    B) drinking the Pig on the Wall conjures up all sorts of unsavoury visions!

    Cheers

    Liked by 1 person

  5. “Just give Stourbridge the entire GBG allocation for rural Lincs and be done with it.”

    Great idea, but it might be a bit difficult to find that Stourbridge if you happen to be in Lincolnshire at the time.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. You’re doing more posts at present than I can keep up with!

    From the ones I’ve been in, BCA have done an excellent job of refurbishing their pubs and producing a traditional, pubby atmosphere. But virtually all of them suffer from the curse of too many beers, especially the King’s Head in Leicester, and their own beers are very lacklustre. Some may say they’re *that* kind of beers anyway, but Holden’s brew subtle, malty beers that are far more distinctive. BFG is a very feeble echo of Batham’s or Golden Glow.

    Another good one you missed out is the Craven Arms in Birmingham.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Apart from write posts, there’s not a lot to do till the 2nd 😢

      You’re right about the Craven Arms. Worth going to admire the tiling. When I went a decade ago it was pre-BCA days.

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    2. T’other Mudgie,
      “Their own beers are very lacklustre” might be because they’re trying to emulate M&B and Ansells rather than Holdens and Bathams.
      My biggest disappointment with BCA is that they weren’t successful with the heritage Crystal Fountain in Cannock. I don’t know what went wrong there..

      Liked by 1 person

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