Weekly round-up

A week in pubs: w/c 9 August 2010

Pub visits this week 8
Locations Sheffield, Birmingham

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This week I discovered Tim Hampson’s Beer Blog, where we’ve been having a nice chat about the great pubs of Sheffield and another city not far away. Tim writes lucidly about pubs and ale, and the blog is well worth subscribing to. Our discussion has also made me want to go drinking in Derby as soon as I can.

We discovered recently that the previous Labour government had a minister for pubs. We’ve discovered even more recently that a Lib Dem backbencher is urging the current government to have one as well. Good luck with that, Greg Mulholland. We’ll be watching.

So, let’s get to the pub.

Beer is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy

Inscribed beer glass at the Yard of Ale

I seem to be properly back in the pub quiz groove, as Tuesday finds me hunched over an answer sheet with a biro just down the road at the Freedom House. This week I just about manage to avoid hindering teammates Dan, Vinnie and Jeremy on their march to victory, and we scoop a tenner in beer tokens. One of the men from the teams in the corner, on his way out of the room, congratulates us warmly on our success. “Y’ bastards!” he adds, with a great big playful grin. At least I think it’s playful.

Friday takes me to Birmingham for a high-powered business meeting. Before it I have a quick and very ordinary pint with my brother, in the distinctly average Yard of Ale on New Street. After it I have two exquisite pints with my friend Ray in the Anchor. The Anchor, just next to Digbeth coach station, is the best pub in Birmingham by miles. When I used to work round the corner, I practically lived here. This afternoon the tables are all occupied by silent, solitary beer tickers, rather than the dishevelled, barely intelligible but friendly folks who used to populate the bar in my day. But the ale is still outstanding and the service still great.

At six o’clock I head back into town to meet my other brother at the Victoria. This was a halfway decent pub when I lived here, but when I came to the Vic again last summer to play a gig, I found it beautifully redecorated, festooned with flowers and replete with real ale. Hauling myself in out of the rain, I find a pub packed almost shoulder-tight with indie or indie-ish types celebrating the end of the working week.

The Anchor

Island Bar

Above: the Island Bar. Top: the Anchor

The sibling and I chat about unemployment, illness and other cheerless themes while the grey skies outside weep on. After a bit we head over to the Island Bar to meet his other half from work. Good call: Vikki’s sparkly personality is just what we need to lift the gloom. This is my first time at a place I’ve heard plenty about, but my exchange with the young lad behind the bar seems to embody everything I remember about Birmingham from before I moved away.

“Have you got any cask ales?”

“Any what?”

Happily, there’s some OK stuff in bottles, including Brewdog’s Trashy Blonde. I don’t think I’d go far out of my way for the Island Bar, but it’s a reasonable place for a post-work libation before we head off for a curry. Birmingham: it’s not as bad as it was when I left. Well done.

Back in Sheffield, some extra shifts of childcare free me up for pub fun early on Sunday night. Dan and I undergo severe pub fail before we get started, however. Plan A is scrapped when we miss the train to Chapeltown to check out the Commercial. Plans B and C fall by the wayside when the Three Cranes and Three Tuns are both closed. So we fall back on the excellent Kelham Island Tavern. Some of my friends are engaged in a philosophical debate over whether it’s possible for the Kelham Island Tavern to be simultaneously the best pub in Britain and not necessarily the best pub in Sheffield. But the garden, where Dan and I cradle a pint and wish away rain clouds, is beyond debate. It’s lovely.

Kelham Island Tavern

Outside at the Kelham Island Tavern

We walk over to the Wellington next, where the beer is superb, where Dan nods to a bloke he knows from a band called Pygmy Globetrotters, and where a baby buggy is standing in front of the fireplace. If the Kelham Island Tavern isn’t the best pub in Sheffield, the Wellington might be. And the week ends with another candidate for that title, the Hillsborough Hotel, where Dan and I sit out on the patio enjoying the neon-spangled view to the east, back along the Don valley into the city centre, and behold an array of curious lights appearing in the sky just as we’re discussing the existence of God.

Thanks for reading! Have a good week in pubs – and don’t forget to enter our competition.


About Pete Green

Poet and musician. Sheffield. Maps, coastlines, walking, whisky, and potentially dangerous levels of wist. Grimbarian. Pedestrian. King of the impossible. Big girl's blouse.


5 thoughts on “A week in pubs: w/c 9 August 2010

  1. If you can find it, Bacchus in the centre of Birmingham is well worth a visit for its slightly unusual decor and cask beer, including the only ever time I’ve seen the excellent Fraoch on cask!

    Posted by Warren | 16 August 2010, 11:09 pm
  2. Hi Warren. When I was in my old band, we once did an interview in that Bacchus. Strange place, yeah! It was the only place we could find that was quiet enough for the dictaphone to pick up what we were saying…

    Posted by Pete Green | 16 August 2010, 11:20 pm
  3. So, um, hypothetically if I’d lived in Birmingham for 10 years and didn’t know where bacchus was, how would you direct me there?

    Did you make it down to the Old Contemptibles in the end Pete?

    Posted by dunc | 17 August 2010, 9:14 am
  4. Um. Er… Bacchus was sort of below one of those incongruous posh hotels between New Street and Stephenson Street. There was some sort of fancy arcade connecting the two streets (and perpendicular to both, so kind of running parallel with The Ramp). I seem to think the entrance was in there somewhere!

    Sadly, I didn’t get to the Old Contemptibles, no, cos my train was late into Birmingham, and my brother had to catch go and catch one from Moor Street, so we didn’t have time. Hence going to the Yard of Ale instead – it’s closer to the station(s).

    Posted by Pete Green | 17 August 2010, 9:40 am
  5. I took the opportunity to visit Bacchus last week and thought I’d report back. Firstly it was a very surreal experience to find it burried under Birmingham – it was like walking into Las Vegas. It looked like it was always on the verge of running out of seats but never quite got there and we found a good table, which is a rare thing on an early Saturday evening in Birmingham town centre.

    They didn’t have Fraoch on cask, and so I plumped for a pedigree, I’ve never felt like I’ve had a good pint of it ouside of Derbyshire. It was OK, better than the pedigree you usually get in Birmingham. I’ll go back at some point.

    Posted by dunc | 7 September 2010, 5:56 pm
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