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Saturday, 26 May 2018

#245 The Station, Sutton Coldfield, West Midlands : 2004 to 2018

"But the Royal Borough of Sutton Coldfield isn't on the canal!", I hear you say.
"And, you'd be right", I reply. "Let me tell you a tale...if only I could remember the details!"

It was the evening of Tuesday 31st August 2004 and on our journey back from Oxford (the long way around) we moored for the night at The Kingsley (#178) on the Birmingham & Fazeley Canal. This was a place we'd often stopped at but, for some reason that escapes me now, we caught a cab into Sutton Coldfield. (I presume that it was because we fancied a pub crawl in, relatively, new surroundings than a night in one pub we were very familiar with.)

I had been to The Station previously (and enjoyed it) but not as part of a canal holiday.
As I recall it was a proper pub...but no other memories remain. (We did visit a couple more pubs and finished the night in a local Chinese restaurant where I encountered the best ever Chinese curry sauce! Not yet returned!)

I don't think that I've actually had a drink in The Station since then, but in my other life as an artist, I frequently attend craft markets in Sutton and the cheapest car parking is in the station car park. (No not the pub car park, but the one in the actual station next door to the pub - clear?)

So, on Saturday 17th August 2013, I took this picture on my way back to the car park. Unsurprisingly, it had undergone a complete redecoration. The Station is one of the most popular pubs in Sutton Coldfield and also hosts a comedy club.

I was back, with my camera, but not at the market on Saturday 5th May 2018 to see the newly redecorated version of The Station.

Quite a bold repainting job; and I'm pleased to report that The Station is still as popular as ever.

This is what it looks like given the Photo Digital Art treatment.
© Photo Digital Art 2018

© Photo Digital Art 2018


Friday, 18 May 2018

Seeing the Light at Burning Soul

This is going to be a slightly different entry from usual and the 'blame' lies with squarely Pub Curmudgeon, West Midlands Exploration, BRAPA, Life After Football and Retired Martin. Whilst all of us share a love of pubs, their constant blogging about the joys of real ale and the incessant photography of pints/halves of (mostly) 'nectar' have turned my head.

I'd got to the stage where I would choose Oakham Citra over my long-term choice, Carling. That was before Saturday! Some friends had been so impressed on a brewery tour of Burning Soul that they wanted to return for a session.

 In typical micro pub/brewery style, the opening hours are extremely limited (Friday 4 - 8 pm; Saturday 1 - 8 pm).
It was a cool, overcast evening, but seats were still difficult to find. I imagine that on a warm summer's evening there would be twice as many people there.

There were seven different beers on the list which kept on changing as beers ran out and were replaced with new ones; all served in half-pint measures.

My first impression wasn't good as the beer I'd chosen ran out as it was being poured. To my untutored eye as a confirmed lager man, I was struggling to find something that appealed, but I did make a choice and sat down.

The first mouthful changed my demeanour, instantly. It was cool, fruity, tasty, complex and refreshing - words I never expected to be using in relation to real ale. I sampled two more of their beers (can't remember any of the names!) which were equally superb. They are all a bit stronger than normal ranging from 4% up to 7% ABV which is why they only serve in halves (and why I can't recall what I had to drink!).

Inevitably, 8 pm arrived all too quickly and we had to leave to search for some nibbles and more drink. It was only a short walk to The Church.
The Church is a lovely street corner boozer which has been well refurbished and was nicely busy. It is now an Everards pub and they had Sunchaser on. I've had this before and quite enjoyed it. I ordered a pint and one of my companions ordered a pint of Tiger. Well, what a comedown! My pint was lifeless, flat and might as well have been dishwater; the Tiger was similarly unimpressive. Neither were actually 'off', it's just that after Burning Soul's fresh, brilliant beers anything else was always going to be a disappointment.

For the first time, I understood what the real ale aficionados had been wittering on about for years - I'd finally seen the light! After a shared bowl of nachos and some chips (which all helped the beer to go down), we moved on to the newly refurbished Jewellers Arms.
It has been taken over (and refurbished) by Black Country Ales. They've done a good job, but on a Saturday evening, it wasn't that busy. Again, I can't remember what I ordered (but it was something that I liked the look of) and, again, it was dull, dull, dull! (Although not quite as disappointing as the Sunchaser.)

So, have I undergone a Damascene conversion?! I now understand what the esteemed gentlemen, above, have been going on (...and on...) about for years, but I've not been converted to the real ale scene as a born-again beardie! It has, however, opened my eyes to the new world of craft/real ale and from now on I'll be much more likely to try out new beers.

Friday, 11 May 2018

#013 Carpenter's Arms, Digbeth : 1998 to 2018 (Revisited)

First off, here's what I wrote in 2011: -

Back in 1998 I went around the Digbeth/Deritend/Highgate area of Birmingham taking photos of all the pubs I could find. It was my intention to return in 10 years to see how the Birmingham Eastside development had affected these pubs. I didn't find the time in 2008 and so, finally, I revisited the area this year with my camera and these are the results.  This is the fourth in my 'Eastside' series.
  This is another pub that I've never set foot in, but it was a pleasant surprise to find another attractive looking 'local'. That was 1998, but I've kept an eye out for this pub when I've been passing over the years. I was concerned that when I came back it wouldn't be there any more as it was boarded up and there was a lot of demolition work going on in the vicinity. When I went back this year it was transformed into something that I would never even have thought about in 1998!
Moon Shisha Lounge
So, here we are in 2011 and the pub has become Moon Shisha Lounge. These types of establishment had started to appear around Birmingham, but I thought the smoking ban had put paid to them...obviously not! (Although, this venue was prosecuted by Birmingham City Council for a wrongly designed outside smoking area!) I know next to nothing about Shisha, so here is a link (Broken) to help you as well. Anyway, if a pub isn't viable then it is good to see it being put to use rather than being erased from the landscape.

 I went back again in 2014 to find that it was apparently closed.
Moon Shisha Lounge

Finally, we get to 2018 and this is what now occupies the space.
Moon Vapez
It is now a vape store which has opening hours that any pub would be proud of - 11 am to 2 am! As far as I can gather from the website it has morphed into a coffee and vaping shop where you can buy your favourite vaping product and chill out with a coffee and a vape at the same time. Sounds very civilised to me, if that's your sort of thing.

Tuesday, 1 May 2018

#244 The Barton Turns, Barton-under-Needwood, Staffordshire : 2009 to 2017

I start this entry with two expressions of disbelief; firstly I can't believe that I wrote nothing in the whole of April and secondly, I can't believe that we didn't ever stop at The Barton Turns before 2015! But the photographic evidence never lies.

The stretch of canal from Fradley Junction heading North is a route that, in past years, we've tended not to use too often which goes some way to explaining why we'd never stopped there before.

 The closest we came was in 1983 when we walked across fields to get to the village of Barton-under-Needwood, but that was before I'd started photographing our pub visits and, also, The Barton Turns isn't in the village; it is by the side of the canal.

These pictures are from the afternoon of Monday 31st August 2009 and we didn't even stop. This was the first year that I'd had a digital camera so I was taking lots of photos and these were taken from the boat as we passed through the lock. We'd had lunch in Alrewas and would spend the evening in Burton.

That passing shot was from Emma Jane, but with the advent of Peggy Ellen and her mooring at Kings Bromley, this stretch of the Trent & Mersey Canal has become more frequented than previously.
This was the view on the evening of Sunday 5th April 2015 when we finally had our first pint in The Barton Turns. And what a lovely little pub it is
So nice, in fact, that we returned after our stroll into the village for our evening meal. The Barton Turns does food, but not on the evening of Easter Sunday when we were there.

'Twas a few brief months before our return on the evening of Friday 21st August 2015.
In that short space of time, the ivy had been trimmed back with a concomitant loss of a letter 'T'. Also, a new sign had appeared.

Our most recent visit was at lunchtime on Friday 14th April 2017.
We spent the whole session there and had a very pleasant meal. Not surprisingly, the ivy had grown back and we'll never know whether the 'T' had been replaced!