Sunday, 22 January 2012

Saturday's stolen 'crawl' and a craft beer checklist

Well it was stolen, but not a crawl.  I left work yesterday, pinched borrowed 5 bob off leather-clad chum Malcy, legged it straight to the Welly and necked two halves in ten minutes, as follows:

Black Iris Bitter - a proper old-skool, 'real man' type Bitter, which makes no concessions to fruity transatlantic flavour, just a wallop of grizzled UK hops and chiselled sandpaper malt.  It was alright though.  Interestingly enough, having tried all five beers from this newish Derby-based microbrewer, I am now their top rater in the World.  Consider personal trumpet thoroughly parped.

Second was a new beer from Oakham - always a pleasant sight to greet a weatherbeaten beer fan, upon entering a boozer.  This one, entitled 'Preacher' was a suntanned bronze colour, with a luscious aroma of tropical fruit.  Taste was right upfront in the 'delicious mango and passionfruit' department and as balanced as my current account* throughout.  Really good from Oakham.  As always.  Which got me thinking....

How many of the top, top UK breweries' products actually make it to Birmingham on a regular basis?

Oakham - We are lucky to have one of their own pubs serving all their best stuff, plus their beers always make it to the Welly.

Crouch Vale - they pop up in the Welly, fairly frequently.

Moor - Nicholsons carry them, so four chances for their beers to appear in the City centre.

Brewdog - no bar in Birmingham as yet, and their stuff hardly ever pops up on cask, except occasionally in the Bleagle.  Nowhere in Brum serves craft beer on keg, so we are fairly scuppered for Brewdog generally.  Their bottles make it to Stirchley Wines; as do >>>

The Kernel - no pubs in Brum take these bottled masterpieces.  Thankfully Stirchley Wines are doing Birmingham proud.

Magic Rock - to my knowledge, none of their beers have ever appeared in a Birmingham pub, which is nothing short of a scandal, given their reputation as one of the UK's hottest new brewers.  Thankfully Stirchley Wines have just picked up their bottled range (are you noticing pattern here?).

Summer Wine - they very (very) occasionally pop up in the Welly - I've sampled them there twice. 

Thornbridge - pretty good coverage with Post Office Vaults, Wellington and the Nicholsons' pubs taking them.  Unfortunately no one serves their keg efforts, so we have never seen Versa, Italia or Kill Your Darlings, to name but three.

Dark Star - these appear in the Welly with almost acceptable frequency.

Brodies - never glimpsed in Brum.

Redwillow - spotted twice in the Welly by my good self.

Marble - occasional visitors to the Welly, but a full bottled range is at... wait for it.... Asda Stirchley Wines.

Bristol Beer Factory - not spotted in any Brum pubs for a good wee while, luckily someone has some bottles for your delectation. 

Hard Knott - Stirchley only.

Hawkshead - interestingly enough, Wetherspoons are your best bet for these Cumbrian beauties.

Gargoyles - The Anchor is your best bet to try these Devonian treats on cask, which is the same story for...

Steel City - only spotted in the Spanker.

Camden Town - only Nicholsons have sported a beer from this lot so far, but then again, they are primarily keg only.

Buxton - yawn, I'm boring myself now ... these are spotted very occasionally in the Welly, but Stirchley take their bottled range.    

As a City, the end of term report reads "Must do better".  Beer fans like you and me must request these brewers' products and our band of dedicated landlords must seek them out. 

*perhaps more so actually.


  1. I've found some of these in various places:

    - Marble, Buxton, Summer Wine - occasionally to be found in the Anchor - and Marble regularly appear at their annual Organic festival.

    - Bristol Beer Factory - I believe they produce the regular cask beer at Arco Lounge, Harborne and their bottles are in there too, as it's part of a Bristol-based chain. Possibly therefore they may also appear in Loco Lounge, another member of the chain but based in Kings Heath High St.

    - Brewdog - they had a regular outlet at the Black Eagle for both cask and some bottles, but now that they've announced they will no longer be producing cask ales (sorry to hear it) maybe only bottles will appear in the BE from now on.

    - Thornbridge, Dark Star - recently they've appeared quite a few times in The Victoria - so woth keeping an eye out for them there!

    Agree with you on the Kernel, Hardknott and Magic Rock cask situation though, but as long as I can get my fix of those in bottle from Stirchley Wines, then it just gives me more purpose when on an ale trip elsewhere to seek out those breweries!

    1. Thanks for this. All additional info is extremely useful and will be added to the internal beer database AKA my brain.

  2. You've managed to quantify here perfectly the blind spot in Birmingham's beer offerings that led to my own post on the subject recently. I do see a bit of a parallel between those breweries that seldom feature in Birmingham pubs and those that are most outspoken against Camra though this may of course be pure coincidence. The arrival of the PO Vaults gave me some hope for a step change and I've had some good cask there, but the focus on foreign bottles rather than quality UK ones (which would normally then suggest many of the breweries you listed!) I take as a sign that we're still not really breaking the.mould. After all looking at what features on six or eight hand pumps at any one time gives a limited idea of a pub's overall philosophy, but 100+ bottles sets the tone more substantially.

    All that said, the PO vaults is another very good pub in a city centre with several to choose from and it shall continue to be one of my first options. I just wish the latest addition to the Birmingham beer scene had been the one that takes it to a new level.

  3. Thanks for this. I should have mentioned earlier, that this article prompted me to write my post, as I agreed with it totally. I am upset by the assumption that Birmingham isn't ready to embrace craft beer. Au contraire - give it to us and we will love it - I am certain of that.

  4. Thornbridge beers have appeared a few times in The Bull on Price street; very welcome after an hours 5-a-side with the Library Gems