With the English county cricket season having entered hibernation for another year, the Chip Foundation turned its attention back towards a winter itinerary - yes it was time to resurrect our pubcrawl series, starting on Wednesday 26th October with a browse around Brum...
ASTON: We get underway with a train to Perry Barr, meaning some memory lane moments for Nick and Stephen as we call in on the old UCE campus (now home to Birmingham City University) and indulge in a nostalgic stroll along Franchise Street. A 51 connection then links us to our first pub, and what a treat we have in store straight off. The Barton's Arms was affected by the recent riots in Newtown but I'm delighted to say that the building looked as splendid as ever today, complete with clocktower and the renowned heritage interior that features colourful glazed tiles, a grand staircase and engraved windows. It really is a sight to behold and makes for a spectacular setting in which to sample some Oakham Ales, my tipple being a half of Inferno.
GOSTA GREEN: From one academic location to another as a further 51 ride brings us swiftly to the Aston University campus at Gosta Green. There seems to be a lot of construction work taking place in the area as part of the wider redevelopment of Eastside, and we enjoy soaking up the scene as we munch some chips outside the Business School - Nickolenko even went all exotic with a piece of masala fish! The campus is served by two pubs and it's the Sacks of Potatoes that secures our custom, lured in by the prospect of some Farmer's Blonde from the Bradfield Brewery near Sheffield.
GUN QUARTER: An encounter with the subways of Lancaster Circus leads us neatly into the historic Gun Quarter, a proud centre for the production of firearms, a trade which still continues here to this day (albeit on a smaller scale). The Bull on Price Street is our reason for stopping by though, sampling a very homely pub adorned with shelves of ceramics that must be an absolute nightmare when it comes to dusting. Aside from the jugs, plates and ornaments, a cat looked very cosy snoozing on a sofa in the snug and there's more Sheffield beer in the form of the Abbeydale Brewery's Contraption.
HIGHGATE: The light is beginning to fade as we cross the City Centre (with a helping hand from the 58 bus) and enter Highgate. The Lamp Tavern is a perennial favourite of mine as an example of a compact, backstreet local with a long-serving landlord (Eddie). Its a tight squeeze to get in this time but we find some standing room in the back corridor and I can enjoy my Aston Mild whilst Nick tackles the 'Stan the Man' Stanney Bitter. Stephen for his part is stoically getting through the lemonade and blackcurrants, possibly as a form of cough relief.
DIGBETH: Darkness has definitely descended as we navigate the backstreets of Digbeth accompanied by a cacophony of Diwali fireworks. Two final pubs complete the evening as we soon realise why the Lamp had been so busy. Our next port of call, the Spotted Dog, is absolutely stuffed solid with Bluenoses as we belatedly realise that it's a Birmingham City home matchnight. The pre-match anticipation added an extra crackle to the friendly atmosphere whilst the Uisce Madra ale was another discovery - brewed especially for the pub, the name apparently translates as 'dog water'. We finish off at the White Swan, an impressively ornate Banks's pub that boasts some decorative tilework all of its own. We even get to watch some of the Wolves v Man City Carling Cup match before leaving for our train home safe in the knowledge that our wintertime exploits had got off to a riproaring start.