(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.
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.”
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.
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.
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!
(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.
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.
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.