- Midland Metro at the Jewellery Quarter -
An 11 o'clock rendezvous is scheduled at Jewellery Quarter station, Nick appearing fresh off his tram although it wasn't one of the new ones that I'd been taking photos of just before his arrival. We then had to find our way to the New Bingley Hall, the new home of Birmingham Beer Festival after it had outgrown its previous Second City Suite venue in Highgate. A short stroll down by Hockley Flyover had us on the right track for a building that occupies the Whitmore Street site of the former Hockley Bus Garage.
- The Good, The Bad & The Dudley -
The hall is certainly spacious, easily large enough to house the 300+ ales and 100+ ciders/perries on hand to tempt discerning drinkers. With so many to choose from it can be tricky deciding where to start, but Nick felt an English Breakfast sounded appropriate while I sampled a Holden's movie-themed special with a rather cheeky local name.
- Pumpkin Persuasion with Double Scotch -
The ales were arranged across five bars each named after local personalities such as Jasper Carrott, Tony Hancock and Jeff Lynne. Among our next selections were Kinver's Skiffle King, Little Valley's Organic Stoodley Stout, Redemption Friendship Porter and a Thriller in Vanilla, while pride of place also went to Pickles of Harborne with their irresistible scotch eggs and pork pies, very tasty.
- Tombola Trinket -
Perhaps influenced by the presence of an Ozzy Osbourne lookalike, we decided to stay firmly on the dark side with a further array of porters and stouts. Enville's Ginger Gothic made an appearance alongside Princess Caraboo and Papa Jangles, although Brass Castle's Hazelnut Mild also made a good impression. We made the acquaintance of two chaps (Kevin and Andrew) from down Aylesbury way and enjoyed chatting about the festivals and ales of Buckinghamshire and Hertfordshire, interesting stuff. With tokens spent there was just time to have a go on the tombola, although my prize cupcake purse will surely rank alongside the infamous Bromsgrove pot in our raffle oddities hall of fame.
- Postal Posing at the Lord Clifden -
The festival had been most enjoyable, and now we could savour some of our favourite Hockley hostelries. First stop is the Lord Clifden, a self-styled Urban Art Bar (UAB) on Great Hampton Street. The pop art influence certainly shows through with a paint-splattered postbox and Marilyn Monroe motif, although our attention is soon focused on the table football when two brothers challenge us to a match and promptly send us spinning to a dignified defeat. Moving swiftly on, the Drop Forge is a converted industrial unit where Woods' Beauty beer accompanies scatter cushions, spiral staircases and an upmarket menu Nick relished dissecting.
- Handsome Devil in the Red Lion -
The Rose Villa Tavern overlooking the cast iron Chamberlain Clock is always worth a visit just to admire the architecture, especially the spectacular green glaze tilework. Some Lord Marples here is just the ticket before we finish off in the Red Lion (sister art bar to the Lord Clifden) where comedy cobwebs build up the Hallowe'en atmosphere. Entering the spirit of the season, I was only too happy to model some Thwaites' Handsome Devil (dashingly delicious or so the pumpclip says) and then it was back to Jewellery Quarter station for our respective rides home.