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Wednesday, 14 August 2013

Birmingham Pubs (Back) in the Doghouse (Part 2)

After their trip from Wales and a punishing walk to the Barton's Arms (and back to New Street Station) the intrepid crew from Doghouse - The British Pub Magazine returned to Birmingham for another pub crawl.

This time it was to be around Digbeth, an area rich in proper pubs and a place that I've covered extensively in previous posts. Their first stop was The Bull Ring Tavern - not a place I would've chosen, but it is the site of one of my most memorable pub visits!

It was back in the days before the smoking ban and we walked in one Saturday lunchtime. Inside it was like stepping back in time into something akin to a scene from a Hogarth painting. The atmosphere was so thick with smoke that after one pint it was too much even for my 20+ a day companion - even his eyes were watering! The clientèle seemed oblivious to the smoke they were creating...and what a selection of folk it was...there were people of all shapes, sizes, ages, sexes and races having a great time...and the most diverse range of facial features I've ever seen in one place! 

We went back after the smoking ban and it was 'dead' - the magic had gone! That's how it still is.

The Doghouse team then moved on to the White Swan on Bradford Street.This is a pub I've covered previously (#064)
 The write up in Doghouse captures The White Swan and the state of lunchtime drinking today perfectly.

They then moved up the road a bit to The Anchor (#025) - another fine example of the red brick and terracotta pubs built by James & Lister Lea in the late 1800's/early 1900's.
The Anchor is a pub I've only ever visited occasionally, but it is a great example of how pubs used to be.

Next, they moved on to The Fountain (#054). Not the most obvious of choices, but a good one. It is a place I've been in a couple of times and it is a lovely, proper pub. Doghouse put it better than I ever could -

"Your average Joe would probably stalk past The Fountain every day of their life, glancing through door and window merely to reinforce their own conceited prejudice about the place. But to those who understand, a session in this pub would be an experience worth travelling for"

Then it was on to The Old Crown (#016), possibly Birmingham's oldest pub. Outside it looks inviting, but inside it doesn't live up to the promise!
And, finally on this leg of the Doghouse pub crawl (sorry, I mean survey!), they popped into the Craven Arms (#086), which isn't in Digbeth, but is always worth a visit. Over the past few years it has been renovated and is now run by Black Country Ales
That was the end of the second leg of the Birmingham visit, but there was a third, shorter, instalment when Doghouse went to the Jewellery Quarter to sample a couple more of Birmingham's finest pubs.

First was a visit to the Rose Villa Tavern which has been wonderfully restored by the Bitters 'n' Twisted group. My first visit was before the regeneration when it was in quite a sad state, but the potential was definitely there to make a great pub.
My only visit after the changes was on a Saturday night when a disco was in full swing, so I probably didn't get the full appreciation of the new Rose Villa Tavern...but I was impressed with what I did see.

The next pub is one that I hadn't set foot inside until very recently, but I'd admired from the outside.
The Jewellers Arms has a magnificent sign and I always wanted to see what it was like inside. Again on a Saturday night I ventured into the Jewellery Quarter to sample the delights of some more pubs. At first, the Jewellers Arms looked to be closed, but it turned out that the lounge was open and we went in. Having left a very busy Lord Clifden it was sad to see that the Jewellers Arms was almost empty. This is a double shame because it was like stepping back in time to how cosy and comfortable pubs used to be 30+ years ago.

The Doghouse team then sampled two more pubs that I've never visited - the Black Eagle in Hockley and The Villa Tavern in Nechells.

I'm glad that I found Doghouse and that they came to Brum because it made me (re)appreciate just how many good pubs there are in this fair city - an observation that needs to have a much wider audience!    

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