Phoenix From The Flames: Digbeth Part 1

There haven’t been many good news stories recently with pubs so it’s great to see Digbeth bucking the trend and restoring not one, not two but three boozers that appeared to be finished.

Digbeth is the Bohemian area of Brum and depending on your take is either awash with colour and street art/strewn with graffiti and litter.

There’s no doubt a lot of the traditional businesses have bitten the dust, but this is a region that still has plenty of entrepreneurs as well as a strong Irish influence amidst all the ongoing gentrification. 

I’ll leave you waiting for the Lister & Lea Grade II Listed classic known as The White Swan but there are pubs I thought had gone forever making a comeback and looking like they can survive.

It’s been a while since I posted but a rare Saturday off gave me the chance to go to Birmingham without the added pain of actually watching Birmingham City play.

The demise of so many pubs in Digbeth, Deritend and Small Heath mean that Blues fans options of a tot before and after the game are ever decreasing so the news that 680 – The Fountain Inn B12 0PG on Cheapside in Digbeth was back open again is a huge bonus.

I have to confess it was Pete Allen who alerted me to this old skool gem being open again on his excellent blog – read it here – but the chance of a pint in a ‘proper’ Digbeth pub was too good to refuse.

A bit of background will tell you it’s been pulling pints since 1780 and after a car ploughed into the pub 18 months ago, it looked as though it was gone forever with flats/apartments being built all around.

However, it has been rebuilt and is an absolute classic.  I strolled in at around quarter past three and it was clean, bright and full of life.  Four or five screens were up with BT Sport and Sky Sports on and this was the busiest pub I saw all day.

It’s a lively, no nonsense Irish pub with loads of memorabilia from olden times in Brum and it looks really smart and knows its audience. 

No cask but I had a pint of Atlantic (Sharp’s) on Keg and at £3 is a great price for a city centre pub and a copy of The Craic was available to read just to add to its Irish credentials.

The advert says Birmingham City fans are welcome and this place was packed without them playing so I reckon it could take the place of somewhere like The Waggon and Horses, which has morphed into Dead Wax Digbeth.

By this, I mean lots of laughter, lots of having the craic and a lot of playing up but ultimately, a welcome addition to the pub scene in Digbeth and great to see it revived.

A couple of lads were in full f***s mode throughout most of their conversation but everyone was chilled and the beer was flowing at a rate of knots.

This was the second pub of the day for me on my mini Digbeth crawl and my final pit stop was at another pub I thought had long gone.

The Forge Tavern had a chequered past and after a stabbing in 2017 it looked like time was finally called on this pub in close proximity to St Andrew’s.

However, it has been reinvented and a quick peek at its FB page shows that 681 – Son Caney Cuba Bar B9 4AY   appears to be thriving.

I’m not sure how long it has been open but the Gaffer is an absolute gem. He was happy to chat about Cuba and was delighted to show me what he reckoned was the best Corona beer pump in the country!

He had a point and it was highly impressive, in fact, in the absence of any cask, I thought I’d have to try a pint of Corona and the obligatory slice of lime.

I was the only punter at around 6pm but the gaffer was so passionate and happy to fit in with his local environment it was impossible to see how this place won’t succeed.

It already looked more welcoming than The Forge Tavern ever did and he has even painted the bar blue and white.

You’ve got to love the fact that in amongst all the gentrification, tap houses, street art and dance clubs there are two pubs reborn.  They aren’t niche real ale pubs as they are both keg only but one is full of life with punters and the other has a gaffer who sees the beauty of urban, gritty Brum….

More revived bars in Digbeth next time…

18 thoughts on “Phoenix From The Flames: Digbeth Part 1

  1. Definitely awash with colour in my book.

    All those pubs look really familiar, almost as if I walked past them on the way to Bordesley the other month !

    Great to see the area bouncing back. I reckon more pubs have survived than many predicted.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Like you, I thought that the Forge Tavern was gone forever – I only went in there once and that must have been over 10 years ago!

    Similarly with The Fountain – everything I read about it said that it was being converted into flats…and then it reopens. Also haven’t been in there for a good number of years, but with keg Sharps Atlantic available, I’m very tempted to return!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Reading this on my way to the first proper day in the office for over 18 months (yep both the trousers and the shirt pinched a bit) brought a smile to my face.

    Your point about lack of proper pub options before Blues games is a good one, I think it is also worth noting that draconian parking restrictions in Digbeth make getting pre and post match pints increasingly difficult. I will definitely visit both places featured in your recent post having been there in their former guises. There is a certainly irony given it’s chequered past for The Forge to reopen as a Cuban bar !!

    Lack of cask I guess is a minor irritation but we’ve discussed this previously.

    It was The Colmore and The OC’s for me on Friday night before I boarded the ridiculously packed superspreading 19.28 to the Hawthorns. Thought we did okay and surely our luck will change soon.

    Liked by 2 people

      1. Heartily recommend it BB. There was a great post work vibe on Friday without it being full of suits (to clarify I’m referring to financial workers rather than former colleagues of Meghan Markle).

        There’s a good range of cask, from memory there were about 5, and the keg range wasn’t your standard Carling, John Smith’s offering. I didn’t go berserk as wanted to remain relatively sober to drink in the inevitable avalanche of Birmingham City goals later that evening !!

        If Mrs Beermat is anything like my better half and doesn’t buy into the eating’s cheating mantra then this place may get the thumbs up as pizzas are the pub’s specialty though it is most certainly not a food pub.

        Whilst we are on the subject of cask my local The Gate Inn in Amington (a Marston’s house) are handing out ‘collector cards’ where the loyalty of cask drinkers is rewarded. Similar to promotions in coffee shops for every six pints of cask you drink you get the seventh free. I was warned in no uncertain terms by my good lady that it’s not a challenge and doesn’t need to be achieved in one sitting 🤣

        Liked by 2 people

  4. Reflecting on the survival through change of pubs on the way from Brum stations to the ground, it’s similar in Manchester. Boozers offer food, serve Cuban rum, live music, adapt for growing number of new flats just outside the centre. The closest bars to the Etihad are (I think, too scary to go in) Irish club type places too.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Good point well made. Bars are always evolving snd your football fan is generally easy to please re beer.
    As long as it’s open and serving cold ones they will come!
    You’ve been to the local Blues ones …I can’t imagine Citeh pubs are any edgier….you know you want to go!!


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