Last night, during my monthly pub jaunt with work pals, we ventured outside of Birmingham city limits into the Black Country, and paid a visit to the brewery tap of Sadlers.
The Windsor Castle in Lye, is a smart pub which mixes country style dining decor, with some modern gastro features, which are reflected in the food options available. But enough about food, cos it was the beer what brought us here.
In Birmingham, a brewery tap is almost unheard of, but in the Black Country there is a rich sprinkling of such venues. The Windsor Castle is certainly one of the best, because Sadlers are really pumping out some quality beers at the moment. I'd previously not paid much attention to this local company, but around a year ago, on my first ever visit to the Windsor Castle, I sampled Hop Bomb, which totally opened my eyes. Hop Bomb is a rich, citrussy, spikily hopped beer (duh), which is packed with the aroma and favour of US hops. It wasn't just me who's nose was pricked up by Hop Bomb - it garnered some very good reviews on Ratebeer, following it's appearance at GBBF.
Since that sample I have sought out Sadlers beers where-ever possible, and for their part the brewery seems to have realised the pulling power of quality hops.
The beers sampled last night were:
Red House - a slightly vinuous Mild
Sprung - a delciously light and airy spring Golden
Jacks Pale Ale (AKA JPA) - another well hopped light Golden ale
Worcester Sorcerer - a hard nosed traditional pale Bitter
Thin Ice - a Witbeer accented lemony Golden
Mud City Stout - a strong Stout and favourite of Sadlers' fan @mrdavidj
Magic Miles - a hoppy seasonal Mild
Red IPA - an amber, berry tinged, thickly hopped beast
One beer I was disappointed to miss out on was their new Double IPA - Dr Hardwicke's, as the pub was between barrels while I was there. But hey ho, the very fact that a smallish, regional microbrewery is now brewing an 8.5% 85-minute hopped beer such as this is massively encouraging - even a year ago such a thing would be unthinkable. Progress is moving faster than I even realise.
Anyway, the Windsor Castle is a very impressive and very clean pub. Anywhere that offers 8 or 9 handpulled beers from one high quality brewery is surely somewhere that should be on everyone's list of 'must visit' pubs?
Yet another reason to visit the Black Country and somewhere that can easily be programmed into a pub crawl encompassing the Bull and Bladder (Bathams' home at Brierley Hill) the Duke William (Craddocks' home in Stourbridge), the Hawne Tavern and the marvellous Waggon and Horses (both in Halesowen). In many ways, the Black Country puts Birmingham to shame.