The Evening, sorry Birmingham Mail recently pronounced it's Top 10 Birmingham pubs and it's a solid list. Admittedly it's based on unspecified criteria, but this is not intended as a nit-picking blog post, more of a conversation starter and gosh darnit, a celebration of some fine Brum establishments.
The Wellington, The Anchor, The Black Eagle, The Bartons Arms, the Old Contemptibles are no-brainers: places that combine good beer choices with a convivial atmosphere/good decor etc.
For the rest of my five, this is my thinking (in no particular order):
Lovely artwork, good music, ping-pong, a GREAT beer garden and just enough good beer to top things off. Cool pub.
Post Office Vaults
New kid on the block and already the subject of it's own blog post. Could be the City's top venue soon enough.
Small, located on an industrial estate, and fantastic. The welcome is warm, the beers are well kept and the banquette seating takes me right back to Syston in 1992. A magnificent survivor.
The Shakespeare (the Summer Row one, not the Lower Temple Street one)
The Mail chose Bacchus, but I've gone for a different Nicholsons pub. I love the arrangement of the L-shaped front room, with it's elegant street aspect. I love the fact that it is Brum's most reliable stockist of Moor beers - this fills me with a deep joy. This is almost my favourite.
The Brown Lion
This one scrapes in if I'm honest, as it is still a bit underfurnished and not quite lived in, although it is early days. The beer is what brings me here, because the BroLi is the brewery tap for Two Towers - one of Birmingham's small crop of microbreweries. At first, even the beer wasn't enough to bring me back regularly, but TT are pulling their fingers out now and I'm becoming quite paternal towards them.
What connects the above five places and the five Mail choices that I agree with? Well, after a bit of chin scratching I think that it's some ethereal combination of good beer choice and an aspirational outlook. I want to leave a pub with a good tingle on my tastebuds and a spring in my step.
Birmingham doesn't yet have a proper craft beer bar, but it does have some nice beer venues; and when I think back to late 2004, just prior to the opening of the Wellington, things were really grim. Only the Anchor was shining a light. Our City has come a long way.
And my favourite place of all? Probably the Anchor. Just.
Whats your favourite, my beer brethren?
(With apols to the Red Lion, Prince of Wales, Old Joint Stock, the Junction (Harborne)).