- 172 342 at Solihull Station -
Saturday 6th October sees persistent drizzle besetting the morning as I make my way from Wolverhampton to Solihull. Photography is always tricky when it's wet but I do attempt some shots of the Class 172 trains at Solihull Station, newly resplendent in the orange West Midlands Railway livery. The operator replaced London Midland on the local suburban franchise following the December 2017 timetable changes and is accountable to the West Midlands Rail Executive group of 16 local authorities.
- Gravedigger's Mild -
Nick arrives off his Chiltern connection and we survey the soggy scene that greets us. It's a little early to go straight to the festival so we nip into the Beech House primarily to stay dry, sampling London Pride and Purity Mad Goose respectively while admiring some copper Budweiser tanks. The festival itself opens at midday whereby we eagerly obtain our token allocation before launching into Sinker Stout (from Leicester's Framework Brewery) and the slightly macabre Gravedigger's Mild (Church End).
- Programme Poised -
As with previous Solihull Beer Festivals the venue is Broomfields Hall, the Royal British Legion Club on Union Road. Settling in we proceed through the programme, availing ourselves of Black Storm Porter, Muck Cart Mild (from the mysterious-sounding Son of Sid Brewery), Malvern Hills Green Pear and Backyard Aethelred. Arguably our most memorable ale is the Silhill North Star with tasting notes about motherships and de-husked grain. We also make the acquaintance of a chap from Yardley or thereabouts who regales us with memories of his 46 year career dealing with income tax.
- Tell me it's not Carling! -
Tokens all totted up, we're now feeling peckish and decide to go a tad exotic by visiting the Tap & Tandoor, an Indian gastropub based on Warwick Road in the former Saddlers Arms. The vegetarian mixed grill fits the bill perfectly, washed down with some Purity Longhorn IPA served in a hefty handled glass (despite the photographic evidence we do steer clear of the Carling). Although the beer range is largely craft at the moment, cask ales may be introduced in future and the quality of the food would certainly entice us back for a repeat visit.
- Nick in economic mood -
The rain is just about easing off so we can brave a ride out to Hockley Heath, utilising Diamond's Signature S3 route which runs through from Dickens Heath via Knowle and Dorridge. Alighting on the Stratford Road, we spot an ancient petrol pump (trust Nick to note the Economy branding) then take a brief stroll along the Stratford-upon-Avon Canal. Bridge 26 is quite a find here, a hand-winched drawbridge contraption with a boat just happening to pass through by way of demonstration.
- Railway Inn, Dorridge -
Two tempting taverns will round off our damp day, starting with the Wharf Tavern in Hockley Heath beside Bridge 25 on the canal. Backyard Blonde is a tasty tipple as the football results flood in, Wolves securing a precious Premier League away win at Crystal Palace - our comfy chairs have seen better days though, sprouting stuffing from well worn armrests. We can then decamp to Dorridge and the Railway Inn which incidentally isn't as close to the train tracks as the name would imply. Corresponding halves of Sharp's Sea Fury and North Cotswold's Moreton Mild provide a cracking cask conclusion, leaving us to negotiate a further minor downpour prior to our respective trains home. The trip could have been a washout but actually went rather well - cheers!