It’s not quite as glamorous as sampling ales from the land of the rising sun, but Birmingham has its fair share of weird and wonderful beers too. It also has the spectacular advantage of being 10 hours faster and several thousand pounds cheaper to visit.
My dad has, after many months of study and practice, earned his Blue Badge from the British Guild of Tourist Guides, making him uniquely qualified to take my sister and me on a tour of Birmingham’s historical and cultural sites of interest. I have precisely zero regrets about derailing the schedule to pop into a gaggle of pubs along the way.
Froth Blowers, Piffle Snonker
In fairness to Dad, there was already a pub stop lined up in the schedule. That brought us to pub number one: The Rose Villa Tavern.
Piffle Snonker has a golden, crystal clear body with a thick, lively head. The aroma is dominated by light malt: cereal grain and rich tea biscuits. There’s a little lemon and pear blossom fruitiness to start on the palate, before the malt returns with renewed vigour. A metallic twang spoils the experience, however, and I’m left with a bad taste in my mouth.
“It tastes like flowers,” my sister observes when she tastes. “The ones that grow, not what you make cake with.”
Black Country, Fireside Bitter
A short walk and a highly interesting Jewellery Quarter tour later, we stop off at the appropriately named Jewellers Arms. Black Country Ales just about counts as a local brewery, with facilities in Dudley around 13 miles away. Writing that out, I realise how spoiled I’ve become, living with five breweries in a two mile radius of my house.
Fireside is chestnut brown and takes a while to settle down. Once it does, I give it a sniff and am rewarded with dark, biscuity malt. That malt is even more intense on the palate, with some dark red fruit – cherry, a little cola – hiding behind. Fructose sweetness leads, but there’s a hint of bitterness balancing out that fruitiness on the finish.
This is seriously good. I’d stick around for another. 4/5
Fixed Wheel, Stelvio Salted Caramel Ice Cream Pale
After the first couple of pubs, I was worried all West Midlands beer was highly traditional, malty ale. Fortunately, after convincing Dad to stop off at a pub three doors down from The Jewellers Arms called 1000 Trades, I spotted something reassuringly weird.
Stelvio is a pale gold in colour brightened by a generous helping of bubbles. I pick up burnt caramel on the aroma – appropriately enough, given the name – sweetness and a little bitterness. The flavour is also about what you’d expect. It’s extremely sweet, sickly, even. Lots of caramel, and a little salt.
In fairness to this beer, it tastes as described. I should have known what to expect. But I couldn’t finish this pint of liquid Werther’s Originals for fear of hyperglycaemia. 0/5