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Wednesday, 7 August 2013

Birmingham Pubs in the Doghouse (Part One)

Doghouse - The British Pub Magazine is a relatively new publication and Issue #5 dropped through my letterbox a few days ago and what an enjoyable read it was. (I'm indebted to The Pub Curmudgeon for bringing it to my attention)

Let me start out, though, with a criticism, albeit a minor one, unless you live in or near HARBORNE. Throughout the magazine the Birmingham suburb comes with an added 'u' which is unwelcome and extremely irritating to pedants like me!

That said, I could find no other fault with an excellent publication. This issue of Doghouse visited many Birmingham pubs, several of which I am familiar with.

First stop was the Bell Inn in Harborne. This is a pub I haven't been to for quite a few years, but from the description in Doghouse, it hasn't changed much...thankfully. It is one of the few pubs in Brum that feels like a proper village pub, and long may that continue.
Here's a picture I took earlier this year in the snow.

The next stop on their pub crawl was a pub that I have eulogised about in previous posts - The British Oak in Stirchley - and this is what they thought:

"I must say I was slightly underwhelmed by it all at first, though on reflection I must admit it's a remarkable establishment - above and beyond its period design and fixtures; and mostly to do with the fact that this roadside monster is still standing."

I can't disagree with any of that. I'm glad that it has survived largely intact and is thriving, but I don't go as often as I did 25 - 30 years ago and its not quite the same as it was!
Here it is from earlier this year.

Next on the list was the Prince of Wales in Moseley. This is another pub that I haven't been to for a few years, but frequented a lot about 30 years ago. It certainly didn't have a 'cocktail lounge' in those days, but the write up does make me want to go back and see what it is like now!

Then it was into town for a couple of the lauded city centre pubs. First, the Old Joint Stock, which I visited only a few days ago! It has an impressive interior and considering it is only 16 years old it is a fine addition to Birmingham's collection of pubs. Next was The Wellington, Birmingham's first (I think, in the 'modern' era) pub dedicated to Real Ale. Now as a lager drinker, I'm a bit biased, but as a lover of pubs I've never been impressed with the place - and neither was Doghouse, who put it much more eloquently than I ever could:

"- with the building's lack of character and a weird air of transience that doesn't quite weld you to your seat for longevity. It is perhaps a great beer ticking venue, but much else has to be found elsewhere."

The Doghouse pub crawl then moved on to The Old Contemptibles, another fine example of how tasteful refurbishment can produce a great pub. I also learned from the article that it was originally called The Adelphi Wine Vaults and then the Albion Hotel. I always wondered how it came by its current name and Doghouse didn't disappoint.

They then walked to the Barton's Arms which is a feat in itself as it is quite a stroll from The Old Contemptibles! I've only ever driven past the Barton's Arms and it is a magnificent building that I intend to photograph in the near future.

That was the end of Day One of the Birmingham pub crawl and I'll review the other entries soon. However, I'll just finish with a pub that wasn't visited, but is only just around the corner from The Old Contemptibles and is a place I'm quite fond of.
The Old Royal is one of the most photogenic pubs I know and inside it is still a proper pub. It hasn't been extensively refurbished and does feel like stepping back a few years to how pubs used to be (with added wide-screen TV's!). Hopefully, when the Doghouse team are back in Brum, they can pass their eye over the Old Royal. 


  1. As someone who knows the pubs concerned that one must have been a particularly interesting read for you.

    The one thing that several people have said is that it could do with a bit more of a critical third-party eye which would pick up errors such as "Harbourne".

    1. Oh yes, very interesting...and quite surprising that I agreed with most of the opinions on the pubs I do know!

  2. Great to read through your Doghouse review, Peter. Your opening criticism (and that of Curmudgeon) is a real issue. In fact I nearly didn't send out edition four, once I discovered an error in the first paragraph of the first article.... It annoyingly/sadly comes down to money, as the magazine is self-funded. I live for the day Doghouse gets the dedicated sub it deserves – as it annoys me as much as it must the readers. Slightly more annoying is that we missed The Old Royal! Cheers, Jon

    1. Thanks for your comments. I understand...and at the end of the day it isn't a fatal error. I look forward to your views on The Bull...and if you come back to Brum there's a couple more that might be worth a visit, but then I bet you get loads of suggestions!