Monday, November 26, 2007

Black Country BeerEx

Don't ask me what a BeerEx is (BeerExpress, BeerExcursion ?) but apparently I was on one on Saturday. And a wonderful afternoon was spent on it.

Steve had got hold of a bus, invited around 25 people to get on it and to thence tour around some of the Black Country's well know watering holes, 6 of them in all.

Me and my unquestionably better half arrived in Wolverhampton at 11.30 desperate for breakfast. If you are ever in Wolverhampton requiring breakfast I can now confidently recommend the Express Cafe opposite Spar at the bus station. Their Bacon, Egg and Sausage sandwich was a sight to see but Deb's Bacon, Egg, Sausage and Tomato triple decker was such a gargantuan feat of culinary engineering that photo's were taken.

The bus duly arrived and off we sallied to the Vine, or is it called the Bull and Bladder (Here it is). Whatever, they brew Bathams there. Jules informed us that he was determined to drink nothing but Mild all day and we agreed this was an admirable ambition and joined in his quest. So the first thing that happened at The Vine was that Mild was purchased. The second, and much more surprising thing that happened at the Vine was that I played a game of darts (possibly for the first time in around 15 years) and won!

Onwards and upwards. Back onto the bus we went and headed off toward Netherton to visit The Old Swan or as it is more commonly known, Ma Pardoes (It's here). The big stove in the middle of the bar with no guard around it would have sent a conscientious Health & Safety type into a fit. I also have to say that I've never before been excited by the thought of Vitreous Enamel but can I point you towards the bar's ceiling as a wonderful example of such, the Institute of Vitreous Enamellers fully agree. They brew their own at Ma Pardoes too and Deb was advised to try a brew called Entire by a very friendly chap at the bar. Or at least that's what we thought he was saying as he had a Black Country accent so thick we could very possibly have been having two completely different conversations.

Next on the list was the Lamp Tavern in Dudley (Here you go) where Jim was to join us. Except, he got one of those taxi drivers that didn't know where he was going ! Tell me, really, what is the point of becoming a taxi driver if you don't know where to go in your local area ? You arrive in a strange town (and frankly there are none much more strange than Wolverhampton) wanting to go to somewhere you've never been before so you jump in a cab...and then the driver admits he doesn't know where you want to go either. Anyway Jim arrived just in time to get the bus to our next port of call...
Quick note to say The Lamp was where our plan to drink Mild all day fell apart, we drank all their Mild and had to have Bitter.

...which was The Britannia. A very small and cosy place with lots of interesting "stuff" on the walls. While I was at the bar Deb shouted over that there was a back room with a TV showing the Darts, so ale was purchased and off we trundled to the back room. It soon became evident there was a problem in the back room. For those of you that have ever seen the film Blazing Saddles you will know what I mean when I refer to the campfire scene with the beans (for those of you that haven't seen Blazing Saddles think about the major side effect of eating too many baked beans...that's right, wind). This back room was small, and very full, full of men who'd been drinking Mild for quite some time now. Not having a gas mask to hand I collected up my wife and child and ran for the door, gulping down the fresh air available in the bar...phew that was a close one.

The Park Inn, Holdens brewery tap was our next destination. They had table football. I like table football...A LOT ! I think I may have been a little noisy while playing and upset one of the locals who was out for a quiet pint. Either that or he was just loooking for a row and got very confused when I apologised and offered to buy him a pint instead of offering to step outside with him.

Our intrepid travellers were then returned to their chariot (well we all got back on the bus anyway) and were transported to their final destination, The Great Western in Wolverhampton. A cracking pub tucked up against the railway lines next to the station. I'd love to tell witty tales of high jinks and much merriment there but honestly, after 7 hours of boozing all I really remember was people playing with their mobile phones and being really hungry. Thanks to Steve, Jules, Sally, Simon, Phil and everyone was real, when can we do it again !