Saturday, 8 December 2012

Birmingham/Black Country Pub of the Year 2012

A short post this, as I am trying to learn to be conciser that what I have been known to be.

My pub of the year is based on a combination of two things, of which the latter is the subordinate.

First: I look for good beer - either a big range, or a smaller range of good beer.  Ideally a big range of great beer.  Extra points are gained here for uniqueness of the offering.

Second: a like a pub with a nice feel - friendly staff, nice furniture, good music, cool decor et al.

For Birmingham, I believe this year has been a transitional one for pubs: we are betwixt the great craft beer 'lift-off' of 2013, but much {much} better off than the pre-Wellington days of 2004.  In the Black Country meanwhile, the old classics plough on undaunted, even while the next generation of pubs and breweries chomp at the/a bit.

And so, without further ado, here are my Top 3 [Brum/Black Country] pubs of the 2012 year, in reverse order.

3. Post Office Vaults, Birmingham
Loses points for being cramped and very expensive, but gains big points for having a marvellous Belgian range.  To be able to go into a city centre boozer and be guaranteed Orval, De Molen, St Bernardus, Slaapmutske etc is fantastic and not to be taken for granted.  For donkeys' years we have begged for a place like this, and now we have it.  Tiny Rebel on tap, on a regular basis is appreciated also.

2. The Victoria, Birmingham
Scores highly for being a cool place to hang out.  Also garners enormous praise for being the first, and largely the only city centre pub to stock UK craft beer, albeit in bottles.  I love the idea (and the reality) of leaving work, and then 5 minutes later being able to drink Kernel or Red Willow, whilst listening to some cool choons.  The Bitters 'n Twisted pub chain deserves credit for seeking to fill the craft beer gap in Birmingham and the Victoria is a place I enjoy spending time.  Bravo.

1. The Windsor Castle, Lye
A wonderful place.  A short train journey from Snow Hill station brings you to the home of Sadlers, a West Midlands brewery who are absolutely at the top of their game.  This place scores well for cleanliness, comfort, staff and decor, but let's not pretend otherwise - it's the beer range that brings me back.  To be able to walk into a pub and be confronted by 10 or so handpulls devoted to fresh, local produce is fantastic.  Added to this is the fact that Sadlers are churning out big, hoppy beers; more so than any other local brewery.  Hop Bomb is marvellous, but Dr Hardwicke's is the one what does it for me the mostest.  If I can recommend a pub crawl to people in 2013, it is the Number 9 crawl which takes in the Duke William in Stourbridge (for Craddock's beers), the Windsor Castle in Lye and the Waggon and Horses in Halesowen.  Black Country beer heaven - I'M TELLING YOU.

Well done to Sadlers and well done to the Windsor Castle - the Mediocre Beer Adventures Birmingham and Black Country Pub of the Year for 2012. 

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