Rising From The Ruins In Digbeth

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In the spirit of #Tryanuary I thought I would source a new tap house in Birmingham with a new Brewery and I can guarantee it will be in next year’s GBG.

The Dig Brew Company Tap House is definitely open on Saturday’s between 2 an 10pm as it says so on its Facebook page and on the web…

Saturday is a prime time to open up your tap house and only a 15 minute walk from St Andrew’s could probably draw in some decent trade either pre or post match along with ale aficionados.

However, the shutters were firmly down both pre at around 2.15 and post at about 6.30pm meaning its hours are ‘variable.’  Make sure you ring ahead Martin, Dunc and Si when you’re on the lookout in 2020!

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However, every cloud… as my pal and I wandered around admiring the street art in Digbeth..

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we chanced upon a pub that’s so new that even whatpub? hasn’t got a picture for it yet.

132 – The Ruin B5 5SR describes itself as a ‘quirky take on the traditional pub’ with “it’s messed up decor, industrial nerve-centre computer room, distorted library and a growing selection of other random additions.”

Ruin Brum

(picture taken from Ruin FB page)

It’s only been open four months on the corner of Floodgate Street and was clearly once a pub but its previous incarnation was an ice-cream parlour and it has taken the distressed look to a new level and has some corking artwork in its courtyard (see picture below and opening picture)

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It very much fits in with Digbeth’ s image as the Bohemian quarter of Birmingham and any new openings in this part of the city are a welcome addition.

It is a Grade II listed building and its menu is different to most pub grub with goulash and koftas and it is clearly still getting there in terms of being a destination pub.

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I had a belting pint of Citra (Oakham) and it was a chilled place with a family eating food, a couple drinking coffee and another group knocking back drinks with another couple hidden away in one of the other rooms enjoying some cocktails.

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This is apparently next door to the British and Irish Modern Music Institute explains the fact it is promoting music and I would expect this will attract people from the nearby Custard Factory, which is definitely a place for hipsters.

A Saturday night in January isn’t guaranteed to be jam packed and at around 6.30 this place wasn’t full by any stretch of the imagination but was definitely ticking over nicely.

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(novel lighting, distressed windows)

My pal felt, “they’ve nearly got it right, not quite just yet,” but it is definitely a place to visit and I would  have a pint/food/coffee and relax as there are three rooms and a courtyard so it is a real tardis and nice to see in 2018.

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An old pub building, reopened as a pub with normal pub hours in a part of town that has yet to be regenerated, and a genuine Free House.

For those reasons alone, and the fact it serves goulash and a good pint of Oakham Citra, this place deserves to succeed.

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Classic Chain Pubs in Brum

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(a Saturday night in The Square Peg)

What’s not to like about Wetherspoons?  I’m sure I’ve mentioned this before but I’ve only visited one in Solihull (White Swan – pub 41), one in Nottingham (Joseph Else – pub 85) and one in Yardley (The William Tyler – pub 119) prior to this recent trip to Brum.

For me, one of the reasons I enjoy Wetherspoons boozers bucking the trend and being full all day every day, is that the people look down their noses at it.

Like a lot of things in society, it has become acceptable to sneer and belittle a certain section of society and whilst Wetherspoons attracts all ranges of society (it really does), fair play to Tim Martin and co for not abandoning a large section of the British population and ensuring food and drink is still affordable.

There are of course, lots of other reasons to enjoy pubs and 130 – The Square Peg B4 6PH was demonstrating lots of those reasons on a Saturday night in Birmingham.

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The Square Peg’s name originates from the fact old Timbo described the historic Lewis’ department store building (that’s Lewis’ to anyone over 40 and not John Lewis) as ‘A square peg in a round hole.’

If you read the spoons website it tells you this expression is “generally used to describe an unusual individual who does not fit comfortably into the niche society has prepared for them.”

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That, in a positive way, describes punters in The Square Peg and many other Wetherspoons boozers around the country.

I also like the fact they restore old buildings and when David Lewis opened his store in Corporation Street in 1885 he probably had little idea it would eventually end up as a pub with one of, if not the, longest bar in Britain.

However, like many behemoths of a bygone era it bit the dust in 1991 and The Square Peg has subsequently taken over the ground floor of this imposing building.

It is right on the edge of Corporation Street and looking towards arguably one of the last ‘unloved’ bits of Brum towards Lancaster Circus which will probably be spruced up ahead of the Commonwealth Games in 2022…if the Markets are being moved for a new project (see Bull Ring Tavern blog) then I’ve no doubt this area of Brum will reinvent itself once more.

Anyway, enough of the history lesson and suffice to say on Saturday night at around 8.30pm it was packed.  The sort of footfall some pubs can only dream of and a rollicking good atmosphere.

I was in there with my pal who is not a native of Brum; he’s from Halifax and now resides in Derby, so he’s well versed with decent unpretentious pubs.

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We both had a pint of Pale Ale (Shipyard) at a price that was remarkable really for a city centre boozer on a Saturday at peak time.

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If I could think of one thing that sums up friendly people in Wetherspoons boozers then it would have to be as my bag split with some shopping in.

Nothing major at all as I could have dealt with it but a top bloke we had just started talking to from Manchester, Salford actually, and he told us that the city of Mancunia is definitely red Martin (!) Not only did we have a great chat about pub life he also commandeered a barman (no mean feat with massive queues) got him to fetch a black bin bag and then ensured I could carry Mrs BB’s present home with relative ease!

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(All those ales and a Carling being drunk – normal life in normal pubs)

I loved the fact a complete stranger got a black bin bag for me, there were no questions asked by the bar staff and it is just another everyday occurrence in The Square Peg.

As the pictures show it was heaving and the length of the bar has to be seen to be believed and if you continuously walked from one end to the other then you could arguably burn off any calories put on through drinking… (Maybe a new Olympic sport?)

Earlier in the evening we had visited another bar with a chain of pubs and had an equally enjoyable time, albeit in a different environment.

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131 – BrewDog Birmingham B1 1BL have their detractors but I am a fan.  Yes, they are quite pricey but I maintain they have turned more people onto Ale than many other breweries.

The demographics of a Brewdog bar are different but it is definitely a good mix of male and female but it is usually a far younger crowd than you will find in your average ‘spoons.

Nonetheless, it was full, low lighting, music and had the buzz and crackle of a city centre pub.  Brewdog were also at the forefront of attracting punters back into the John Bright Street area of Birmingham, which was full of clubs and punters in the eighties, hit a slump, and is now full of affluent clientele once more with the prospect of Rock City about to launch a venue to boot.

Punk IPA (Brewdog) was its usual quality pint and whilst you don’t get the controlled chaos of a Wetherspoons pub, this particular Birmingham branch of Brewdog is a hive of activity with a belting atmosphere.

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We often think of Farmhouse Inns, Fayre and Square etc when chain pubs are mentioned but I’d be more than happy to drink in either of these two boozers anywhere in Britain.

How To Avoid Shorter Opening Hours In South Derbyshire!

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Opening hours for punters are always a problem but I may have found the answer to having an afternoon drink in South Derbyshire.

Fellow members of the PUB (Pub Union of Bloggers…I intend to get a membership form drawn up soon enough) Martin, Duncan and Si are often driven to distraction after their lengthy quests to reach the holy grail of a GBG pub are met with ‘quirky’ opening hours making it nigh on impossible to visit.

The answer is to inadvertently gatecrash a wake!  That’s not strictly true as I had no idea what the opening hours were for 129 – The Brookfield  DE73 7HG in the village of Barrow on Trent;

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I was hunting for a post box with my kids after a trip to the ever expanding Swarkestone Nursery Centre, which is (un)officially “South Derbyshire’s No1 retail plant nursery” according to their website…clearly beating off tough competition from Staunton Harold and Bretby but it’s a cut-throat world in the garden centre business!

Never let it be said I pass up the opportunity of a pint whilst on holiday or out shopping and, as this was during the Christmas break, then the opportunity for a pint in a boozer was too good to miss!

However, I subsequently discovered that this solid two roomed boozer with a pool table and Derby County memorabilia everywhere usually opens at 4pm in the week but it looked as though the lights were on and the doors were open just after 1pm.

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It was open and the boozer was full, as I had walked into a wake of one of the regulars so there was a sombre mood that was warming up and it was noticeable that nearly every punter was sinking Pedigree (Marston’s).  https://twitter.com/oldmudgie wrote a really good post recently about the perils of ignoring pubs with  just one ale on as that is reflective of more local boozers than pubs with ten or eleven ‘wickets’ behind the bar. http://pubcurmudgeon.blogspot.co.uk/2017/11/meanwhile-back-in-real-world.html.

https://twitter.com/NHS_Martin also waxed lyrical on his very readable blog about a recent visit to The Woodlark in Derby with locals drinking Pedigree and being perfectly happy at the choice as quality trumps quantity every time https://retiredmartin.com/2018/01/10/derby-provides-real-choice/ 

This is the only drinking option in the centre of this growing village and whilst its signage makes it a slightly different looking boozer from the norm externally it has the feel of a well-used local inside.

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(What year did Derby have a Marston’s shirt sponsor? )

A pool table, sky sports, framed football shirts and a community noticeboard all added to the mix and whilst it did feel a little bit like we were intruding, everyone seemed too preoccupied to be concerned about me and my kids in the corner.

As mentioned before, the wall was adorned with football memorabilia and one here for Lord Sugar and Karen to get excited about…

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…whilst a Roy Keane number showed this pub is definitely not one for the prawn sandwich brigade…

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A good local pub with good beer on and it looks as though it is the sort of place that knows its market and plays to that audience.

https://twitter.com/BoakandBailey have written some well debated posts on the death of the backstreet boozer and it is undeniably true but this definitely has the criteria for a backstreet boozer as its tucked away between lots of houses and you wouldn’t reach it if you were driving on the main road.

Martin also mentioned recently that Derby is almost unique in being so well stocked with ‘proper’ backstreet pubs serving ale …you can add this one to that list and I fully intend to go in different circumstances next time!

No Bull – Bull Ring Tavern Still Going Strong

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Some Brummie pubs are an institution and 128 – The Bull Ring Tavern B5 6BH is one of them.  This boozer that is situated at the back of what is left of Birmingham’s market area could be described as ‘the gateway to the Bullring’

I’m pretty sure the council’s gleaming new vision of Birmingham that has sprung up with the arrival of Selfridges, Grand Central Station, The Cube, The Mailbox and all the assorted restaurants such as Purnell’s, Jamie Oliver’s and the fantastically named Nosh and Quaff would like to leave behind pubs such as The Bull Ring Tavern.

It is traditionally the market traders pub but these markets have been under the cosh for a while now as the wholesale market have been moved out to industrial estate in WItton as part of the city’s £1billion transformation of this 34-acre site.

The Smithfield project being run in conjunction with Cushman & Wakefield means a large part of the city’s history will disappear although, as Councillor John Clancy, Leader of Birmingham City Council, said: “Smithfield is without doubt one of the most exciting regeneration opportunities in Birmingham for years and will turn the area currently occupied by the wholesale markets into an exciting and vibrant addition to the city centre.

“Crucially, Smithfield will deliver jobs, homes, and modern public spaces and play a crucial part in the ongoing transformation of the Southern Gateway Area.”

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Peter de Birmingham obtained a royal charter to hold a market at his castle way back in 1166 and the market developed in the 1700s but, not to worry, progress is always good and Birmingham has a history of knocking down, replacing with structures (think Malin’s Brutalist architecture in the 1960s) and then ripping it all down again.

The rag market is still there along with the open market and indoor market but it’s not quite the draw it once was.

However, I sincerely hope characters such as the bloke trying to sell me a jumper as I walked past his stall don’t disappear from Birmingham city centre.

Only £3 mate; this is a genuine Marks and Spencer’s jumper…the finest quality.”   How I refused I’ll never know!

However, the Smithfield project is planning to bring a lot of new homes to the area although I’m not sure how many of the locals will be popping into the Bull Ring Tavern for a pint.

If you want to see a slice of Brummie market life then this is arguably the last place left you will find it.  It’s had a chequered history but is back open again and is full of old skool Brummies.

There was plenty of Stone Island on show and some unbelievable fashion faux pas but also a lot of blue and white striped bags from the market and shopping trolleys along with the biggest sports screen I have seen in a pub for a while.

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Bearing in mind this was Saturday afternoon at 1.30pm I was surprised to see a total of four doormen across two entrances in Hi Viz jackets and a policy of you must enter through one door and leave through another!

Plastic glasses for my pint of Keg Golden Ale (Open Gate – that’s St James’s Gate to all and sundry) and the fact a bloke had to have his bottle of Sol in a plastic glass led me to believe this place still hasn’t shaken off its past fully!

My pint was only £2.50 and at those prices, you are always going to attract punters in as my choice of beer was certainly not the cheapest on the menu.

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I enjoyed this pub and there was no edge to the place at that time but, I recognised one of the doormen who used to be a colleague of mine and he gave me a warts ‘n’ all account.

Apparently the gaffer of the pub is trying to stamp out any trouble and working with police has been told to serve in plastic glasses and baseball caps are also banned whilst you can only enter through one door and leave through another.

This has met with partial success as, according to my doorman pal, someone causing trouble had some of his ear removed by another hungry punter in the recent past!

One of the punters wasn’t happy with the ‘in through one door out by another’ policy and had a lengthy debate with the doormen but agreed to leave via the suggested exit.

However, don’t get me wrong, this place was a bit like a Wetherspoons but without the choice of ale and it was clean and tidy inside with the added bonus of live sport for punters.

I can see why it attracts a lively crowd as it is situated by the markets, has cheap and cheerful prices on its drinks and has wall to wall sport on the TV.

Apparently, my doorman pal informed me it used to be heaving when a DJ was on but, at present, DJs are off the agenda.

Nonetheless, this had a busy trade and lots of people in bearing in mind the time of day and I would genuinely like this place to succeed.  It’s open all day every day and that is surely a bonus in the modern era.

There will still be market of sorts when Smithfield has finished its gigantic regeneration plan and it would be good to see The Bull Ring Tavern still going strong with a clientele that attracts all areas of society not just the Brummie bourgeoisie.

 

Pump Up The Volume In Digbeth

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I’ve got to hand it to https://twitter.com/NHS_Martin as he clearly knows the kind of boozer I like. A week into 2018 and I have already found a contender for pub of the year and it will take a blinding boozer to beat this one.

However, I must add in a few caveats first.  This would not be Mrs BB’s pub of the year due to the decor.  If you don’t support Birmingham City then, at 5.45 on a Saturday, this might also not be your pub of the year.

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However, notwithstanding those two points then 127 – The Wagon And Horses B9 4ED is a pub you cannot fail to enjoy if you like stepping back in time to a ‘throwback’ pub.

Not only is it near to some classic street art (see top picture) it also is a pub full of surprises as the curtains are drawn but you can certainly hear the locals from outside.

If you walk into a boozer and Down In the Tube Station At Midnight is booming out of the jukebox then it always onto a winner with me!   However, just when I was thinking it was quite loud the landlady turned it up another few notches – think Spinal Tap and 11 – and The Clash were belting out I Fought The Law, which gives you some idea of the clientele in this pub.

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It is definitely a Birmingham City supporters pub but I was with my mate from Burton Albion and as long as you join with the general ambience then all is good in the world.  There were some proper characters in the pub including a bloke who continuously ended up behind the bar ‘playing up’ with the barmaids and a bloke who was so hammered he was dancing like Bez and gurning like Ian Curtis as he put Penny Arcade by Roy Orbison on three consecutive times!!!!

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There were lots of blokes  (and girls) in their 40s/50’s and 60s in adidas sambas bouncing along and clapping to all the songs which clearly get played on a regular basis as all the bar staff knew them too.

As mentioned previously a lot of the pubs near to St Andrew’s are closed and with The Forge Tavern recently biting the dust I suspect this place has picked up even more trade but this is clearly surviving well in a part of town with little housing but plenty of small unit style business.

The beer was top notch and I had a good pint of Vesper (Cross Bay Brewing) for only £3.00 and it’s nice to see ale on this close to Birmingham’s ground.  Backed up with a cracking cheese and onion cob for £1 it was a belting hour we spent in there.  I would be intrigued to see how this place is during the week but it is open all day every day so clearly there is passing trade to be had.

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As me and my drinking buddy departed a crowd of lads were bench pressing someone’s son – who I reckon was about 12 – for the duration of Penny Arcade in a crowd surfing style at a gig!

There were a good crowd of people outside smoking when we left who confirmed this place is always this riotous so who knows what it would be like if Birmingham started winning regularly!

However, this place is for people who want a laugh and drink and clearly aren’t in any rush to get home as it was only just warming up as we left.

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As I said at the start of this blog, https://twitter.com/NHS_Martin knows his onions where pubs are concerned and I would urge anyone who enjoys old school boozers to visit this place as the beer is spot on too.

A cracking start to 2018 and #Tryanuary continues apace as this pub proved!

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A Pub Of Two Halves

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…was exactly how my drinking pal described 126 – The Three Horseshoes DE13 8DR in Barton-Under-Needwood when we visited on a Saturday night with the Christmas decorations still on display.

Its current moniker on the website is 3 Horseshoes but my mate knows I do a bit of pub blogging and reckoned this would be a good description for this place and it is very much two-for-one.

Not in the Marston’s cheap and cheerful eating place but this boozer manages to combine gastro and old school drinking and gets it just about right.

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Barton is growing on me and its stock of pubs is decent considering the size of the place and this one covers all bases.  If you park at the back then you will see the Bit ‘n’ Cherry restaurant operation,

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which was previously a derelict cottage but has been incorporated nicely into the building.  This is gastro and good food and had plenty of people in for 6.30 on a Saturday.  There is also bespoke accommodation in converted outbuildings but it hasn’t forgotten its roots as a boozer, as the bar at the front remains defiantly pub orientated.

There were around 20 people in, that made for a cracking atmosphere and it was interesting to note that Sky Sports was on but no one appeared interested in it as the conversation was flowing.

Mind you, plucky little Manchester United were holding big spending Southampton to a draw in a real mismatch so well done Jose and the boys as this Premier League malarkey is really unfair…

Pedigree was on but in the early spirit of #Tryanuary I had a London Gold (Young’s) which you don’t see in the Midlands very often and it was superb….

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whilst my pal had a Wainwright’s (Thwaites) which was equally impressive.

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As modern day models go, I can see how this pub is surviving.  Barton is not a downtrodden place and this pub taps into all corners of the market and demonstrates that a multi-roomed approach can work

Apparently, this used to be a blacksmith’s cottage back in 1881 with the earliest record of it being a pub emanating from 1914.  Therefore, it is just over a hundred years in the trade and it looks as though it has found a niche in the Staffordshire market to continue going strong for many more years to come.

Good beer, food, atmosphere and a warm welcome from staff in contrasting surroundings.  To coin the footballing parlance…it’s very much a pub of two halves…take your pick, whichever one you fancy.

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Where Have All The Estate Pubs Gone? A Trip To Castle Vale

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https://twitter.com/oldmudgie has a number of blogs and one that really hits home is the closed pubs site.

https://closedpubs.blogspot.co.uk/ highlights just how many boozers have bitten the dust and I know there has been plenty of comment on numerous pub blogs about the diminishing stock of estate boozers

My own thoughts are that they have been replaced by social clubs and, for example, Castle Vale in Birmingham is a prime example of pubs biting the dust on an estate.

It had six when the estate looked very different to how it does now back in the eighties and nineties but they have all disappeared…Trade Winds, Albatross, Trees, Skylark, Artful Dodger and Lancaster…whereas the only option now for an estate of 10,000 people is the  St. Gerard’s Social Club.

This has both Sky Sports and BT Sports and looks like it’s the only option if you want to stay close; although on the outskirts of the estate, just off the Kingsbury Road, is the only other pub with a B35 postcode, the 125 – Tyburn House B35 6AA. 

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A bit of history will tell you that in the seventies and eighties The Vale had 34 Tower blocks with 2,000 flats and was unlikely to win any awards for ‘post-war overspill architecture.’

When a concrete panel fell from a great height in 1991 it sparked the regeneration of the estate and for the best part of 15 years nearly all of the tower blocks and maisonettes were demolished and replaced with new housing stock along with a gleaming Sainsbury’s and other shops on a retail park.

However, no one appears to have taken up the cudgels regarding pubs in Castle Vale and when I popped into The Tyburn House on a Saturday after another rare Birmingham win with my pal, it wasn’t bulging at the seams.

It’s a big old roadside boozer and, in its defence, it was the day before New Year’s Eve and therefore people might have been saving their pennies.  There were a reasonable amount of people in, but this is a behemoth of a boozer so there is always plenty of space.

I think Mudgie has also been commenting recently on how he feels a pub that has eating and drinking combined is better than one with separate venues for food and drink and this would have been right up his street.

Although there were three of the most wasted people I’ve seen in a long time when I walked in tucking into a massive starter dish with another crowd playing pool.  There was also a dart board so the Olympic sport bandwagon is gaining momentum!

 

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This boozer was apparently rebuilt in 1930 in a Tudor style by Birmingham architect C E Bateman and whilst it purports to be Castle Vale it feels as though it is more Erdington really but, nonetheless, it was open and selling beer.

It has the feel of a drive to pub as opposed to walking here for your local pub, but, as stated earlier, there aren’t many pubs left in this area of town.

All three of the ales had gone, with the GK IPA pump just being turned as we arrived, so I had Worthington Creamflow,

Would you like a flake with that sir?

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which was less than £3 and it was definitely a blue collar workers kind of place. There was a crowd next to me where a couple of the lads had company scaffolding t-shirts on and I reckon that is the perfect kind of punter for the Tyburn.

The low lighting and décor suggest it might be in line for an M&B refurb any time soon as it is from their Sizzling range but, there were beermats, Parklife by Blur was playing in the background and, bizarrely in Birmingham, there was a lad in full Wolves tracksuit having a meal with his parents watching them win at Bristol City on Sky Sports.

I still think Quiz Nights (advertised)/Sky Sports/Pool/darts – along with solid pub grub – will attract people into this boozer although the drinking habits of the locals has clearly changed over the years as there doesn’t appear to be any misty-eyed nostalgia over the boozers that have disappeared from Castle Vale.

Apart from the fact someone had ripped the crossword out of the Daily Mail (shocking I know!) which meant we couldn’t indulge in one of our pastimes, my pal and I had a decent hour in here.

It’s not an award winning boozer by any stretch of the imagination but it does what it says on the tin and in a part of Brum that is lacking boozers, performs a valuable service.

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