Birmingham Beer, Briefly

It’s almost the end of what has been a wonderful Tryanuary 2018. I’ve been to new places, drank new beer, and met new people. I think my Tryanuary has been a success! There was one more Tryanuary trip I wanted to write about before we close the month out. Recently, I took advantage of a brief visit to Birmingham, to see how the beer scene here is evolving. On my trip, I had time to check out three great places that suggest the scene is as vibrant here as anywhere else. Here’s The Wolf, The Indian Brewery Company and The Gunmakers Arms.

The Wolf

If you’ve never been to The Wolf before, you may still have heard of them. Last March, they were at the centre of national media coverage, after being threatened with legal action by BrewDog over their name.

Based on Constitution Hill, conveniently a few minutes’ walk from my hotel, what first struck me about The Wolf was its size. Approaching from the south, The Wolf looks to be on a small corner, but as you walk around, it stretches out to create a roomy venue. As I went to enter, the first thing that caught my eye was a chalk board by the main door. On here was a list of draft beers available that day. A nice touch that’s like how restaurants have food menus displayed outside.

Great Tap Handles

Inside, the style is very much that of a modern ‘craft’ beer bar. Wooden floor, some comfy, living room-style chairs. Some individual chairs and tables, some long benches and tables. Exposed wiring running across the ceiling and dimmed lighting. A variety of mural’s, posters and signs linking to breweries and other beer-related themes. Not least of which was a large Wolf on the wall of the entry from the first area into the main bar.

The bar itself has 10 beers on draft, with fridges stocked full of cans and bottles. For the draft products, they do all sizes from 1/3rd pints to a full pint. These are served from a bar where the tap handles are made up of animals, with a wolf at the centre. Another nice touch. The surrounding walls are decorated with pump clips and stickers – so much character going on here. But, where some bars who adopt this style seem to be just doing it because it’s the style of the day, here it felt personal.

Wolf Mural

Behind the bar, co-owner Sallie McFadyen served me. What a friendly welcome I got! As I ordered my meat and cheese platter (the medium platter is more than enough for one person FYI!), she talked to me about my day, what brought me to Birmingham and, more importantly, made some great beer recommendations which I eagerly accepted. For me, being in a venue and being treated as a person is where a good bar becomes a great bar.

Tasty Platter

The meat and cheese platter was a delight. All washed down with a third each of ‘Frambuzi’ by Tiny Rebel, ‘Auric’ by Salopian and ‘3 Bean Stout’ by Lervig. Although the last one was my favourite, the tart fruit ‘Frambuzi’ was the one that worked best with the platter.

I left The Wolf knowing I would be back again the next time I’m Birmingham.

The Indian Brewery Company

The Indian Brewery Company has a venue a short walk away from The Wolf in the Snow Hill area of Birmingham. Formed in 2014, their focus is artisan coffee, Indian street food and craft beer.

Here, the style is vibrant colour and light. Bench style seating in some areas, with tables and chairs in others. Dance music was playing, loud enough to notice, quiet enough to not be too much, but it added to the vibrancy. It felt like an energetic kind of place and somewhere people wanted to be – it was busy!

Vibrant with colour

I must admit, the welcome I got here wasn’t quite as good as The Wolf. The staff were nice enough but didn’t take the extra time that Sallie did to talk to me. Although, I appreciate the venue was busier.

Available here are a variety of brews produced by The Indian Brewery Company. Their flag ship beer appears to be ‘Birmingham Lager’. Lager isn’t my favourite style, so I opted for their ‘IPA’ on draft. Unfortunately, it wasn’t available, so I got a bottle of it instead.

Birmingham Lager centrepiece

I initially sat at one of the long-benched tables, but after a few minutes I was politely ushered on, so a group of ten people could be seated. At this point I decided that I would finish my drink and move on. This venue is good, but I suspect it’s better enjoyed with friends, rather than someone on a solo beer hunt.

The ‘IPA’ was ok, probably lacking a little bit in hop character and strength for my personal taste. I’d be interested to go back at a quieter time, or with friends, to see what else is in their beer portfolio.

The Gunmakers Arms

Based on the corner of Little Shadwell Street and Bath Street, also in Snow Hill, the final place I visited was The Gunmakers Arms. This is as traditional as a traditional pub can be! Acting as the tap house for the Two Towers Brewery round the back of the pub, this is one for cask ale fans and those who enjoy the traditional pub experience.

Inside, the décor is very much traditional pub. Stools around tables, long seats running the length of walls and a quite stunning carved wooden bar.

Now, the fear with these places for me is they scream local. That’s not a bad thing in itself, but the experience can go one of two ways. You’ll either walk in the door and receive a hearty welcome, or the pub will fall into an uncomfortable silence when you, a stranger, walks through the door. I’m delighted to say it was the former on this occasion.

Cask ales all brewed on-site

As I walked up to the bar, I received a nice welcome. Then, having quickly established I didn’t know the pub, I was offered tasters of a selection of the beers on hand pull. Most them brewed on site. Having chosen my drink, I was then involved in conversation with the bar staff and regulars. It was a quiet evening in the pub, but it didn’t feel it as we crossed subjects from beer to music.

I came in here thinking I’d be about an hour before heading back to my hotel. I was there until closing time. It felt like a true pub experience – it was all about sharing stories, socialising and laughing with people over a pint.

I highly recommend you try this!

I managed to sample a few of the beers here. The absolute stand-out though was ‘Peaky Blinders’, a wonderful traditional mild. Dark in colour, the roast malt flavour came through evolving into a bitter sweet, very smooth and moreish beer.

Like The Wolf, I left the Gunmakers Arms knowing I’d be back again.

A Great Place for the Beer Hunter

Even though I had only just scratched the surface of what Birmingham has to offer, the sense I got from the places I visited was that this is a fast becoming a hub of beer. Following the patterns that we are seeing across the country, it was great to be able to visit three completely different types of venue. And, like my other experience this month in Bradford, I am eager to come back to Birmingham and explore more.

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