- Winson Green Outer Circle -
This latest Chip Foundation tale supplements a series that stretches back to February 2010, meaning we've completed nearly seven years of such adventures. Our aim this time is to cover a little of the Outer Circle ale trail, a promotional idea developed by the bods at Network West Midlands to link buses with beer - sounds perfect to me! Anyway, we arrange to meet at Winson Green metro stop come 1 o'clock from where we can intercept a passing 11A for a ride past the prison, City Hospital and Summerfield Park.
- Something grizzly in Bearwood -
Our first stopping point will be Bearwood where two Good Beer Guide entrants await within a very short distance of each other. We start with the Bear Tavern, enticingly perched on the corner of Bearwood Road and Three Shires Oak Road with some ceramic bears heads looking down from the 'Tempus Fugit' clock turret. Lymestone's Stone the Crows strong ale is our opening tempter while we discuss the dangers of 1950s chemistry sets before pondering the pallid pinkness of Stephen's lemonade and blackcurrant.
- Midland Moments (scarf optional) -
A few doors down and we have the Midland Tavern, one of the 11 pubs listed on the Outer Circle ale trail leaflet. This former branch of the Midland Bank has been sensitively converted by Black Country Ales and always proves a memorable place to visit - you'd think it'd been a pub for ages but it only opened in the summer of 2014. Nick succumbs to Black Rock Porter here whereas I spend a Chocolate Penny, a Flipside brew with an initial hit of cocoa fragrance - nice! We admire the barrels in the 'cellar' as visible in the next room before checking on our favourite feature, the old Chubbs bank safe in the back corridor, although despite several attempts we still haven't quite managed to crack its code.
- Riding the 11A to Harborne -
From Rutland Road we flag down our next 11A for the short journey through to Harborne, taking us past the Kings Head, Harborne Baths and what remains of the Huntsman (previously known as the Kings Arms, the building was ravaged by fire a few years ago and now looks a sorry half-demolished sight). Alighting for Vivian Road, we complete our Outer Circle riding for the day but note that the ale trail also includes calls at Kings Heath, Hall Green, Acocks Green and Erdington so there is plenty to nibble on for future chronicles.
- Sage wisdom in the New Inn -
Harborne is however our focus for the remainder of this trip and the New Inn is now on our agenda. The pub has a contemporary dining feel mixed in with a few traditional touches such as hammered copper tabletops. I try the New Inn house ale whilst Nick takes a Bunny Hop having possibly been inspired by the rabbit lamps dotted about (although a carved owl becomes his photographic companion for the purposes of this blogpost). All in all, a relaxing place to lose track of time on a sleepy Friday afternoon in January.
- Sportsman Stephen -
Picking up the pace again, we sweep into the Sportsman on Metchley Lane for half of Davenports Pale Ale (nice enough as a resurrected Birmingham beer). Sporting quotations from the likes of Muhammad Ali and Ian Botham adorn the walls although our eardrums are subjected to Boyzone's Greatest Hits at borderline deafening decibels. There's only so much 'No Matter What' one person can cope with so we swiftly set out in search of chips on Harborne High Street, Stephen having stoically reined in his hunger up until this point. With snacks digested we finish proceedings at the Junction, a rather upmarket pub where Nick gallantly sacrifices his wallet for the greater good. Woodforde's Tundra White IPA does the job of furrowing certain eyebrows, an expensive round in comparison to the rest of the day but the place was undoubtedly popular with an aspirational clientele. The 22 is then on cue to brave the Five Ways rush hour traffic and the afternoon concludes in Birmingham with our respective trains home - cheers!