Work has sent me to many excellent locations for beer drinking. Next week I will be reacquainting myself with Norwich (City of Ale) but it has been great to be sent to Stratford-upon-Avon again. My first thought was the Craven Arms. This pub opened during my last stint and although train times to Birmingham were not particularly helpful back then I was able to make a few visits. Now I am back for many months and the train timetable is much more convenient.
Arriving at Moor Street station I headed through the underpass and skirted New Street station to my right and upon reaching the large roundabout with the towering Radisson Blu I turned right after crossing the road and the first road on the left is Gough Street. It's a bit of a climb but you soon see the Craven Arms ahead. It's a classic building that has been beautifully restored with the resplendent blue and gold tiling of Holder's Brewery, the original owner of the building, standing out magnificently.
The pub is now owned by Black Country Ales and they do sell three of their beers here but it is the range of guest ales, alongside a good selection of the evil keg, that make this my favourite pub in Birmingham. Last time I was here, in February, it was the day following a Cloudwater meet the brewer. Today I stumbled across a stout fest. Either they constantly have great events or I am just lucky. Eight guest handpumps were lined up with what turned out to be some very good dark ales from local brewers along with some from further afield. I tried four of them. Black Ram (5.2% ABV) from South Staffordshire brewer, Kinver was a really warming, smooth stout with sugary sweetness and a classic bittersweet finish. Brodie's Prime (4.9% ABV) was a superb chocolatey porter from Hawkshead. Best of all was the Crate Digger Lite (6.5% ABV) from Manchester's Alphabet Brewing Company. A tremendous imperial stout. All beers were in perfect condition as is always the case when I have been here. Beers I didn't try, mainly because I've tried them before, included the gorgeous black IPA from Cloudwater and the sumptuous Jamaican stout from Brodies.
The pub itself is a single bar with a traditional decor that matches the classic exterior. Wood panelling that creates cosy seating areas at one end, two tiled fireplaces and a swirly carpet all combine to give the pub the look you would expect from a traditional street-corner local and it is very much that kind of pub. The clientele is very mixed with local characters mingling with office workers as well as a good few beer aficionados ticking their way though the fabulous range of beers.
This was my first visit to this pub in the light so I was able to appreciate the exterior of the pub for the first time. It is truly an architectural masterpiece. It is intricately tiled with some lovely designed windows displaying the name of the pub. The pub has been open now for over three years since the refurb and it is still looking immaculate so it is obviously lovingly maintained. A credit to the owners.
So that concludes what will hopefully be the first of many visits to this fantastic pub over the coming months. If you are ever in Birmingham then make sure this pub is top of your list of places to visit because you will not be disappointed.