Birmingham

– Liam Toms (Untappd: liamtoms)

We started our epic tour of Birmingham at Pure Craft, where we found a fair range on tap and browsable fridge to the side of the bar. Much of what was on tap was from Midlands brewery Purity, which most of us tried and agreed wasn’t a bad pint. The interior felt not too dissimilar to a “posh” burger chain (think GBK, Byron). In our hungover daze (from the day before) we ended up being seated at a table in the restaurant side of the building. The menu options were fancier than we’d expected, so with burgers on the mind we headed elsewhere before continuing the tour.

With lunch out the way we headed to The Wellington. This pub was so conventional by comparison to everywhere else we went in Birmingham that you could be led to believe hipsters had opened it as a pub themed pub. “Think the Nags Head meets the Rovers Return”. The Wellington offered a long line of craft and more ‘real ale’ leaning beers on cask, with a few big name beers available for the punters who inevitably stumble into this pub mistaking it for a pub.

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After The Wellington things got weird. The next stop, The Old Joint Stocks, is set in an old theatre, which felt like walking on the set of a 1920’s gangster movie, with an ornate centre bar and landing overlooking the high ceiling room. The Old Joint Stocks had a range of Sadlers on tap, including the appropriately themed ‘Peaky Blinder’ black IPA. Despite the elaborate decor, we opted for some comfortable ratan furniture in the beer garden.

From the outside of Tilt you could easily mistake this bar for a vegan coffee shop, in fact they do serve coffee, but enter the bar and you’ll soon find that’s not the only brew on offer. Enter further and you’ll get the surprisingly reveal of a line of pinball machine and keen wizards (the name Tilt suddenly made sense). For those less confident with their abilities (me) there are a few additional machines hidden downstairs. I gladly lost a few quid on ‘Monsters of Rock’, which felt like an appropriate choice for the midlands.

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We stumbled down the high street toward our next stop and were a bit startled when we got there. What was this place? An indoor crazy golf? A buffet restaurant? It was definitely a bar, but I feel our confusion was fair. Set in the basement of a shopping centre with elaborate decor that spanned a bizarre mix of time periods, from medieval to Roman, via Egyptian. Bacchus takes the prize for our strangest craft beer stop to date.

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It would be hard to top Bacchus, but The Post Office Vaults did rise to the challenge. Easily mistaken from the outside (and in) as a sorting room, The Post Office Vaults describes itself as “Birmingham’s Premier Foreign Bottled Beer Bar”. The beer I had couldn’t have been any less foreign, it was one of their own. By this point the surrealism of Birmingham’s craft scene had fully taken over. As we drank our beers we found ourselves disappointed somewhat that there wasn’t actually a stack of letters for us to sort. Take note, Post Office Vaults.

Brewdog offered some normality. In fact there’s little to report about this stop on the tour. It’s a safe bet, a fair size and good atmosphere, but not a pinball, pharaoh or postman in sight. It did offer one of our favourite beers of their day, Brewdog’s new ‘East Coast Crush’. We found ourselves back here later in the night after a memorable stop at the Tap and Spire, but that’s a story for another time and place..

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