Classic Chain Pubs In Brum

Brum Square Peg 16.12.17 (5)

(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 131 – 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.”

Brum Square Peg (2)

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!

Brum Square Peg 16.12.17 (7)

(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.

Brum Brewdog 16.12.17 (2)

132 – 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.

Brum Brewdog 16.12.17 (1)

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.

19 thoughts on “Classic Chain Pubs In Brum

  1. I love your positive approach to pubs here, Ian. You’re right Spoons split opinion in beery circles, but some of us like pubs with more than one sort of person in them. As you may know, Pub Curmudgeon dragged a large group of aleheads kicking and screaming into that Brew Dog in October. I believe there’s a plaque commemorating the visit.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I’m not sure I’d particularly want to be in one on Saturday night in a city centre, but otherwise I think Wetherspoons do a great job. Okay the beer can be up and down, but generally you’ll get an okay pint and some cheap scran. Do you not think that Shipyard has a horrible metallic thwack?

    I’m a big fan of Brewdog, not everyone’s cup of tea, but I like them and they are all slightly different in some way (like Wetherspoons). I’ve not been to the Birmingham one, in fact I’ve not been to Birmingham for a good while, and then only for work, although I have had a few drinks on an evening when I’ve been there.

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  3. I’ve never been a big fan of Wetherspoon’s…but I’m not a critic either. When they first came on the scene I didn’t like them at all as they weren’t ‘pubby’ enough for my liking. Over the years, though, this has improved greatly, but they are still (generally) too big and feel more like a beer barn than a pub. Whenever I have a choice I’d always choose a ‘proper’ pub over a Wetherspoon’s.

    However, on our canal trips, we have been rescued several times by the local Wetherspoon’s being the only place doing food – notably in Rugeley, Ellesmere Port, Hinckley and Bingley. So, I’m happy they exist, happy that they are thriving and providing a good service, but I still prefer an old fashioned boozer.

    I’ve not been to the Brewdog in Brum (or anywhere else) so can’t comment!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Agreed, they’re not really “proper pubs”, but it can’t be denied that they do a very healthy trade and appeal to a whole swathe of people who otherwise you just don’t see in pubs. Plus, as you say, in many towns they’re about the only option for pub food, full stop.

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      1. “and appeal to a whole swathe of people who otherwise you just don’t see in pubs.”

        On the whole I’d chalk that up as a good thing, what with micro pubs, brewpubs and the like. Just as long as proper pubs don’t go the way of the dodo.


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    2. I like the individuality of a classic old boozer but they are getting less and less! Wetherspoons has really grown on me over the years and they are last man standing in a lot of places and I admire that. Brewdog is an acquired taste I reckon but I generally like them even if they appear to believe they invented the term ‘punk!’

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  4. “(All those ales and a Carling being drunk – normal life in normal pubs)”

    Ain’t that the truth!

    Is there a short history somewhere of how predominantly ale drinking UK switched to predominantly drinking lager? (at least I think more lager is drunk now as opposed to ale)

    And yes, you can partly blame Canada as Carling apparently moved from here to there and partly started the lager trend. 😏


    Liked by 2 people

    1. Just read Boak and Bailey’s “Rise of the Lager Lout” and in that post they mentioned Pete Brown’s book “Man Walks into a Pub”… which I have and read some years ago! Have to dig it out and read the bit on Stella Artois again.


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