Archive for the 'Pubs' Category

Taphouse 1: The Fountain, Walsall

Sunday, January 31st, 2016

PubBlog Link
WhatPub Link
100Pubs Link

Given that The Fountain is an easy one to get to, and well loved by everyone on the 100 pubs tour, it was a ideal start for our taphouse adventure. It is, of course, currently the only pub owned by the Backyard Brewhouse, and serves their excellent beer, as well as a few guests.

The Fountain, taphouse 1 of n

The Fountain, taphouse 1 of n

It scored as Follows:

Ambience 8
Beer choice/quality 8.8
Architecture 6.8
Cobs/Pies/Snacks 9.6
Toilets 9

Which means an overall score of 8.44.

Taphouse Tour

Sunday, January 31st, 2016

Following on from last year’s 100 Pubs adventure, we decided on a twist in our ways to drink too much contribute to the pub trade and have a bit of a giggle.

We’ve lowered the count this time, but added a challenge in other ways.

The challenge is Taphouses: that is, a brewery’s primary pub or bar. If the brewery is on site, all the better, but this isn’t always the case.

There’s ground rules.
1. The challenge is a minimum of 10 taphouses.
2. Each participant must drink at least 1 of the home brewery’s beer.
3. A photo of the taphouse must be taken.
4. Any 3 of the originators must be present, as a minimum.
5. Arrival (at least the last mile) should be by public transport, or walking (maybe cycle?)
6. Each taphouse will be scored out of 10 on ambience, beer choice and quality, architecture, pies/cobs/snacks, and toilets. Yes, Andy and me gave in on this one!

Each visit will be recorded here. If it’s a pub I’ve not been to before, it will get an entry on PubBlog too.

Scoring works as follows: each person judges in each category out of 10. The mean of the scores in each category is then published, and then the mean of those is taken (by summing them and dividing by 5) to give an overall score.

#100pubs2015: The Finale

Thursday, December 31st, 2015

We did it.

The challenge set by Andy was completed last night, with some good company we hit pub number 100 at The Turf Tavern, aka Tinky’s, having already used the original choice of The OC’s very recently, we needed a reachable, nice pub for our final one, and, as it is happily now open again, this filled that role admirably.

We’re planning a new drink-related challenge for 2016- just a few things to check out first, and we’ll also be publishing our findings during the challenge at some point.

#100pubs2015: The Home Straight

Sunday, December 20th, 2015

Despite a hangover (from all of four pints, FFS) on Saturday, I managed to get my errands done in time to get out by bus and meet Andy in Walsall for the start of another push at 100pubs2015. The start was going to be what used to be The Pen and Wig, but it is now The Lounge, and was shut. We considered a diversion to Arbor Lights, but the beer didn’t inspire us, so off the The Wheatsheaf it was, as it fitted our route- Brimingham, via The Bartons Arms. After that, we did a few Birmingham City Centre pubs, which will appear on PubBlog if previously unvisited, and will appear over on Andy’s blog (link above) once he gets a chance to log them.

Usual target is 5 pubs per trip, so we were pleased to see off 7 in this trip, leaving us at 99 completed. Now we have to pick pub 100, and try to reassemble as many of our companions on some of the trips together as possible for a final episode between now and Dec 31.

#100pubsin2015: Walsall phase 1

Sunday, August 16th, 2015

As we’re sadly behind schedule on 100pubs, we’ve had a concerted effort of late, and now we’re getting close to the halfway point, with an epic effort yesterday in Walsall. You can see the individual pubs here. Yesterday’s exercise had a few guests joining us, a tactical avoidance of the Walsall nazi fuckwit march, and a mere sociable gallon of beer, something I’ve not managed for some time. There’s still enough pubs in town for at least one more trip though…

At a Crossroads

Thursday, April 30th, 2015

I was greeted by the sad news yesterday that the Four Crosses in Shelfield has been boarded up, and, if rumour is to be believed, the landlord kicked out at short notice.

As my review linked above is quite old, I need to point out this was the only pub in Shelfield, the Spring Cottage now being a Co-op store, so now there’s no pubs in the area, the nearest now being The Horse & Jockey in Walsall Wood.

Also worth noting is that the pub is listed as an Asset of Community Value, but also that is has a long-standing planning application in force. Perhaps the ACV has the same clout as local listing?

Apparently local councillors are going to enquire:

tweet-crosses

but I have a bad feeling about this, and it’s going to be another sad loss. The pub was multi-roomed, quiet in one, louder in the bar, and always serverd good (and varied) beer, plus made a very handy stop off from the 89 bus route…

Shout

Wednesday, April 22nd, 2015

The 80s Tears for Fears song Shout contains the line

These are the things I can do without

and that came true last Friday. Warning: middle-aged whinge content approaching.

I’d already arranged to meet a friend in a local pub, when my neighbours suggested a meal out. I’d got plenty of time, so we trotted (well, walked) off to a local pub. The food and beer was fine, but one thing *really* grated: the volume.

The music wasn’t the problem. What was the problem was a group of people, clustered around the bar (Grrr!) seemingly unable to conduct a conversation at normal volume: even the act of moving out of my way so I could get to the PDQ machine was accompanied by a needless cacophony of shouts (to which I muttered “for fucks sake” under my breath (hopefully)), and something about the acoustics of the room made it impossible to hold a conversation ourselves (though, as we’re all distinctly middle-aged, it could be the start of our hearing deteriorating in a noisy environment).

This was repeated later when I met my friend in another pub, but also with a band playing. Loud.

I really don’t mind music in pubs; or indeed bands in pubs. In fact, I love music in pubs, if it’s decent, but why always so loud? The loud music, of course, then creates the shouting if it wasn’t there already.

This thing really feeds into my perfect pub post: and it’s worth noting that the pubs I really like often have no music, like this one, this one or this one, or music you can converse over, like this one and this one and, again referring to my critera, the old model of multi-room pubs (before they all got knocked into one space) really helps here: it may have been an answer to the smoking issue too (as many pubs had a smoke room back in the day).

This is starting to sound like a grumpy old man’s desire for quiet pubs with no life to them (last Sunday, I visibly winced when one heavily refreshed customer suggested my local needed loud music on the jukebox to “liven it up” (on a Sunday evening, FFS)), but I’ll address that in two ways. First of all, I know I’m not alone, and secondly, having been in this place at work-chucking-out on a Friday, with it rammed to the point of standing room only, and felt the buzz in the place, which, frankly, was infectious, but still been able to talk to my companion, because people were talking, I can honestly say that at times I crave a bit of life to a pub.

So then: am I just getting old (though, in truth, I’ve hated over-loud pubs since my teens), or getting (even more) boring? I know Andy will agree here, but he’s older than me (and possibly, if the two of us are present, this post may become hypocritical…), and others may not, and I suppose here there’s a point to be made that pubs are, well, public spaces, so have to accommodate different tastes.

Pub Closures

Thursday, December 18th, 2014

I’ve been (again) thinking of pub closures lately; this has mostly been prompted by the reports from Andy that the Pyle Cock is to close next year (as reported here) and picked up by WV11 here. The Pyle Cock has long been one of my favourite pubs, one that I don’t visit enough, because it’s 2 bus rides away.

There’s an interesting post here (and the comments are worth a read too) from The Pub Curmudgeon. My view don’t entirely align with his (or the linked report) (he’s of the view that the smoking ban has had a large effect, and the linked article dismisses PubCo behaviour to some degree), but it does make the point that pub closures are a complex matter: it is not just beer pricing (via taxation), competition (from supermarkets) or the smoking ban: all of these factors have a role to play, as does social change- as the comments point out, increased car commuting (and greater distances to commute), and a change in working patterns also play a part. It’s noticeable in large cities with more people travelling by public transport, pubs continue to thrive, but again, it’s not that simple.

Good pubs thrive, and taking the Pyle Cock as an example, it’s difficult to see why it is closing: it was for sale for a time, and has now been sold to a developer. That suggests a PubCo taking the option to cash in on real estate, but anecdotal reports suggest the pub was not busy in general, though the current landlord has been given notice, rather than quitting himself, it would seem, so perhaps it was making *enough* money: the beer was always good and the atmosphere was fantastic, old traditional pub.

Oddly, just up the road, the ever lovely Vine
is thriving and busy, with a new, young landlord and fantastic beer, and I’m told the nearby Dog and Partridge is fine too. It’s hard to see, though, what is so very different that makes the Pyle Cock unsustainable. It remains a fact that good pubs, even those not serving food can do well, and I’ve recently been in a very traditional backstreet pub with no real ale or food that seemed to be very busy (including with smokers, outside on a cold day), which makes me wonder exactly what the factors are that close pubs?

Golden Opportunity

Sunday, October 27th, 2013

I wasn’t at work last week, but the weather put paid to most of the outdoor tasks, as while it wasn’t universally wet, things were too changeable to commit to much. When a friend mentioned that she wanted to sell some gold, but wanted company (was I a bodyguard? maybe), it seemed like a pleasant diversion: The Jewellery Quarter has nice architecture, and decent pubs (more of the pubs later). I wanted to suggest CatsforGold
, but didn’t feel I’d get taken seriously.

We’d arranged to meet by the Chamberlain Clock, but I had something magnificent, but sad to look in on first, on my walk past Snow Hill:

The Gothic

What was The Gothic pub in Great Hampton Row, Birmingham

The Gothic was built around 1869-1870. It closed in 1991, and seems to have been rotting since: two of the nice gables have gone (see the c1950 photo here and another here), nasty modern shopfittings have been added, and the roof looks very dodgy in places. Thus is despite it being Grade II listed since 1982, though I suppose we should be grateful the arson contractors haven’t moved south from Walsall.

Anyway, onwards. We met up, and commenced the tour of the gold dealers: let this be a warning: prices varied by at least 10%, and this was not insignificant given the value in this case. After a tour of 5 or 6, we settled on one place, sold the gold, and got the bulk of the cash paid in to Barclays, handily back by the clock, and just in view of the lovely Warstone Lane Cemetery lodge:

Warstone Lane Cemetery Lodge, taken by Wikipedia user Oosoom. Click to visit the image's page.

Warstone Lane Cemetery Lodge, taken by Wikipedia user Oosoom. Click to visit the image’s page.

Now the nice bit: as a reward for standing about looking large, lunch, with some of the proceeds. A walk round the corner back onto Great Hampton St, passing the Rose Villa Tavern and the Jewellers Arms and on to The Lord Clifden
which turned out nicer than expected.

Walsall Beer Festival 2013

Sunday, April 7th, 2013

As is traditional, I went to Walsall Beer Festival. Unusually, I went in the day on Saturday, hoping to avoid some of the beers running out, and have it not so busy.

It worked, to some degree, but there were still a few notable beers that had run out: Backyard Brewhouse‘s Chinook IPA had gone, so we had to take a post-festival visit to The Fountain for that (well worth the trip). In all we found 5 or 6 beers no longer available: it seems everyone likes the same sort of beer (pale, hoppy ales and IPAs) as us.

Beyond that, it was great. There was still a good choice of great beer, decent food on offer from the town hall restaurant, and a friendly, relaxed atmosphere, so a big thanks and kudos to Walsall CAMRA for a great job. My one slight complaint? More seats required- us poor middle-aged types with kanckered legs and backs can’t stand for long. We did find seats, but they were in short supply.

Next year, I reckon, it’ll have to be a day off and visit on Thursday afternoon.


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