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Tuesday, 24 July 2018

Digbeth in the Daytime - A Crawl Through Birmingham Heritage

This stroll has been reported on by Pub Curmudgeon (here and here) and Retired Martin (here, here and here), so I thought I'd give my interpretation as an unofficial guide to the salubrious side of Birmingham (or Eastside as it is now known!).

Over the years I'd visited every pub on the list, bar one, but it had been a while for most of them.

I arrived at the Wellington (in town) just after 11 am and had my earliest pint for many a long year - for the record it was Citra...and very pleasant it was too.
The Wellington, Bennetts Hill, Birmingham - July 2018
Once we had gathered the bulk of the 'Crawl Crew' we set off for the next pub on the list, The Woodman. It isn't the most straightforward of routes if you're unfamiliar with Birmingham (and with all the building work!) but we found our way there, via the currently defunct Fox & Grapes only to find that The Woodman wasn't open...well, not for another five minutes!

The Woodman, Eastside, Birmingham - July 2018
Inside was pretty much as I remembered, but a bit soulless as it had just opened and there wasn't a lot of atmosphere. I had a pint of something hand-pulled, but not sure what!

Then it was the (very) short stroll to our next destination, the Eagle & Tun.
Eagle & Tun, Eastside, Birmingham - July 2018
This was also pretty much as I remembered and again lacking in an atmosphere so early in the day. I had a pint of Green Duck which wasn't brilliant, but they did offer to change it. Why I declined I just don't know!! I didn't venture into the Off License, but it was reportedly magnificent.

Our next destination, and lunch stop, was a reasonable stroll away which enabled me to get a new picture of Suki10c which had been made over since my last visit in January.
Suki10c, Digbeth, Birmingham - July 2018
This used to be the Spotted Dog (another one!) but was converted to a music venue some years ago.

Our destination was the Big Bull's Head which is a pub I'd never been in.
Big Bull's Head, Digbeth, Birmingham - July 2018
It is a much bigger place than I'd appreciated and actually more interesting as well. Unfortunately, for my companions, there was no cask ale available, but my pint of Carling was very welcome. The food was very good, proper pub grub at a reasonable price.

From now on, my recollections (and photos) become a little more sketchy. We moved on after our sumptuous lunches to The Anchor.
The Anchor, Digbeth, Birmingham - January 2018     © Photo Digital Art
This was pretty much as I remembered and although I did have a pint of cask ale, I don't remember what! The nearest pub was the White Swan, but that didn't open until 4pm so we moved on with the aim of sneaking the Old Crown onto the list.

The Old Crown, Deritend, Birmingham - July 2018
This is Birmingham's oldest pub although the interior is nothing special. A few of us went inside and found that Hobgoblin was the only ale on and everything was being served in plastic glasses in view of the upcoming England game. We decided to give it a miss and move on to the next one on the list.

The Wagon & Horses is a gem of a pub that is a little bit off the beaten track being round the back of The Rainbow (currently closed) and back through the viaduct.
Wagon & Horses, Bordesley, Birmingham - August 2011   © Photo Digital Art
From the outside, it didn't look to have been decorated since 2011; inside we got a friendly welcome and another pint of cask ale that I don't remember the name of! It was here that someone (probably Retired Martin) that we go 'off-piste' and visit The Ruin which was given a good write up by Life After Football (here).

This stroll tested my intimate knowledge of shortcuts through the Custard Factory and if we'd been a couple hours later that route would have been blocked by England fans in an impromptu fan zone being set up under the ubiquitous arches of Digbeth.
The Ruin, Digbeth, Birmingham - July 2018
Inside, The Ruin lived up to its name being completely decorated (or not) in a shabby chic style. Not to everyone's taste, but if they can make a go of it here then good luck to them. For my seventh pint, I had a pint of something 'Hedgehoggy' that gave some money to a hedgehog charity.

Our final destination (on the official tour sheet) was the White Swan.
The White Swan, Digbeth, Birmingham - January 2018   © Photo Digital Art
It was here that I finally succumbed and had a pint of Carling when there were hand-pulled beers on offer. I couldn't face a pint of Banks's Amber Bitter (or whatever it is called these days); almost everyone else rated it as the beer of the day. It was here that the (in)famous Cooking Lager joined us for a pint. As acerbic in real life as in print, but ameliorated by the smile and twinkle in his eye.

That should have been that, but I was persuaded to pay a visit to Dig Brew which is a microbrewery and pub just beyond The Ruin (and so new that I don't have a picture of it!). By this time, the World Cup Semi-Final was imminent, but fortunately, Dig Brew was well set up and I managed to get my ninth pint of the day and a seat with a reasonable view of the screen. My fellow pub crawlers (John and Sheffield Hatter [I think]) left midway through the first half, but I stuck it out to half-time.

That ninth pint finally did for me and so I caught a cab from outside The Ruin and watched the demise of England from the comfort of my own home.

All in all, an excellent day (what I can remember) with great company, interesting beer and some of Birmingham's finest pubs. I look forward to more trips, as and when I can make them.