Total Pageviews

Wednesday 27 February 2019

Beers, Boats and Boozers, 2018. No.40

Still in Birmingham the next day we decided to have a walk around the Jewelry Quarter that is not to far of a walk and always rewarding as we wanted to visit the pen nib museum.

On the way to the Jewelry Quarter we walked down the Farmers Bridge Locks and down Newhall Street where these luscious tiles adorn the Queens Arms. It was early so not open. It has just been bought out so will be in for a make over. I hope they add to the beer, and take nothing from the old decorations.

Also on Newhall Street is the Assay Office. Precious metal has been hallmarked since 1300's. It was a big extra cost to send everything down to London to be stamped so in 1773 Mathew Boulton the Birmingham industrialist went to London to lobby for an assay office in Birmingham. He stayed at the Crown and Anchor and apparently he chose the anchor as the city's assay mark from that despite being miles from the sea! This building dates from 1877.

St Paul's in St. Paul's Square, the only remaining Georgian Square in Birmingham, was erected in 1777 and Mathew Boulton and James Watt had pews here. It is Grade 1 listed. The tower and spire were added by 1823.

A beuatiful Jewelry Quarter small factory/workshop that is ripe for development in this up and coming area.

Beautiful old Georgian Houses sandwiched between old factories.

Always pays to look and up to see such lovely coloured brick work.

The Joseph Chamberlain Clock is now the symbol of the Jewelry Quarter and was erected following his visit to South Africa after the Boer War in 1903, during his lifetime. Chamberlain was a leading manufacturer of screws before gtaking to politics in Birmingham, becoming Mayor and then nationally becoming one of the leading politicians of the day (he died in 1914) and Leader of the Opposition.

Fattorini Limited were started in Yorkshire (Harrogate and Skipton) by Italian immigrants but expanded to Birmingham in 1919 as there was great demand for badges and medals with the growth of Association football in the region. They have made the FA Cup and the Rugby League Challange Cup that are both still in use today. I think this building is from about 1927.

The almost Moorish factory that is the Pen Nib museum.

Refurbished and ready to go. I wonder who the head is of?

Following all the walking about I reckoned it was time for a drink and the Rose Villa Tavern was in the right place, right time. The pub is opposite the  Chamberlain Clock and has a very nice interior. There was a pub called the Rose Tavern from the 1860's. It was a little down the road. That pub extended into its next door house and then, when the current building was built in 1919/21 it took in the next door but one. So the current pub covers three house plots. It was built by Mitchel and Butlers brewery for £15,000.

The pub is Listed Grade II and although there has been some modernisation in the pub, there are fantastic tiles and tile pictures. We ate in the pub and I tried one of the few hand pulls on the bar.

Image result for titanic brewery
I really like Titanic beers and so was pleased to see one on the bar. Titanic were started by two brothers Keith and Dave Bott when they bought the brewery in Burslem and started brewing. They now produce about 3 million pints a year and have eight pubs too.

Related image
They only had pale ales on hand pull and  so I went for the Kiwi Fleet at 4.4%.  It is named after the all New Zealand hops that are used. These are named on the above beer mat, Nelson Sauvin, Rakau and Orbit. It pours a pale golden colour with a very white head. There is a fruity aroma and first taste is of fruit, maybe gooseberries. It is very complicated on the palette as there is sweetness and then the bitterness comes through in the mouth at the end. All in all a good pale ale to quench the thirst.

Monday 25 February 2019

Beers, Boats and Boozers, 2018. No. 39

We like Birmingham and there is much to see. We had also arranged for a visit from an old friend and his wife. As it was such a nice day we took them round the loops and back.

Our daily commute was through Brindley Place and it always nice to see boats moving.

We went on a very interesting walk around the New Library and other places of architectural note around the canal area, including the Cube of which this is the interior all though the art work doesn't come out very clearly.

With our friends in tow we left our moorings on the Oozells Loop and out on to the Main Line.

We were soon making our turn into the Icknield  Port Loop. This has no towpath so the only way to view it is by boat. The turn is a little tight so you keep your fingers crossed nobody is on the way out.

The whole island has been earmarked for development for a long time but has been on hold since the 2008 crash. It seems to have started in earnest now. I complete new village is supposed to be being constructed here. I wonder bow it will turn out.

At the end of the loop is the dam for the Edgbaston Reservoir and all the way round are intriguing little remnants of factories that are starting to revert to woods. I wonder how green it will be when fully developed. Proper gentrification I suppose.

As you approach the western entrance to the Icknield Port Loop the bridges mark the New Main Line passing from right to left at Rotton Park Junction. Straight on is the route of the Old Main Line contour canal and that is now the Soho Loop.

 It is very quiet, off the beaten track and very green. I have been picking blackberries down here in the past.

Hockley Port is half way round the Soho Loop where there are factory arms aplenty. I have never been up to have a look as it is residential moorings now, but next time I must go and see for myself. A little further round is Winson Green Prison, with its own canal access. (No longer though).

As we approached Brum again out popped 'Leo' being towed by 'Nansen II' on a C&RT jolly It was a lovely day so we were quite content to follow them to our mooring and say farewell to our friends after a bite to eat.

Image result for post office vaults pub birmingham
We revisted a pub we had been to in Beers, Boats and Boozers No.4. This is the main entrance on Pinfold Street and there is a small entrance direct from new Street too. As the name  suggests it is in the basement. In a past life it was a post office building and then a pub called the Royal Mail until about 2009 when closed. It was remodeled and reopened in 2011 and is a great little place with six hand pulls about ten poly pins of cider and hundreds of bottles of beer, selected from a menu!

Image result for salopian brewery
Image result for salopian brewery lemon dream
I had a pint of Salopian Lemon Dream that I have tried before. Salopian was set up in 1994 in North Wales and was called Snowdonia Brewery. When the proprietor moved to Shrewsbury he changed the name to Salopian. I tried Lemon Dream 4.8% and this pint wasn't really up to scratch.

Image result for fixed wheel brewery
I tried a beer from Fixed Wheel Brewery that is found in the Blackheath area of Birmingham. The owner is a cycling enthusiast, hence the name. He also likes his real ale too. They seem to be expanding and winning trophies too.

Image result for blackheath stout fixed wheel brewery
I tried the Blackheath Stout, 5%, that was very nice indeed. It has won in the stout category with CAMRA last year. It poured with a lovely white head and black body. The charcoal tasting malt and barley. The alcohol was carried well and was not in your face at all. Well worth the £3-90 that seems to be the going rate in the centre of Birmingham.

Saturday 23 February 2019

Beers, Boats and Boozers, 2018. No. 38

After our break at home for a family wedding and other things we arrived back at 'Holderness' safely moored up at Hawne Basin and set off towards Birmingham

The Netherton Tunnel couldn't be more different to the Gosty Tunnel. Two tow paths and two boat passage rather an agoraphobic's nightmare. It is dead straight and the way to stop getting bored is look out for the ventilation shafts! 

It's hard to imagine what this area would have been like in the early 1900's as there was industry everywhere, and motor boats and horse drawn day boats would have been all over. As it was now, as we popped out at the Dudley Port Junction there wasn't another moving boat in sight.

A little further on on the N ew Main Line is the Wednesbury Old Canal that leads to the Ryders Green locks down onto the Walsall Canal. We will have to revisit the BCN back waters as I really enjoy it round the back of the 'sofa'.

The Spon Lane Locks at Bromford Junction take you up to the Old Main Line, but we kept going to the right.

Looking back to the Stewart Aqueduct, and beyond that the modern M5 Motorway oin stilts that are piled into the middle of the canal. The meaty bridge nearest the camera must be a defunct arm that served the Chance Glass works from the Old Main Line Level. The railings are the same design as those of the Aqueduct. Chances were famous for developing prismatic glass for concentrating beams of light for lighthouses. The manufactory is being preserved as I understand it.

Galton Bridge forms a graceful arch that frames the entrance to the short Galton Tunnel.

The pump house straddles the canals with its lower storey in the New Main Line and the upper stoey overlooking the Old Main line. The pump recycled the water up back into the water short Old Main Line. Thgey have in steam days every now and then.

Another quite lovely bridge is actually the Engine Arm aqueduct. that leads up a short arm from the Old Level that was built as a feeder from the reservoir nearby.  There is a toll island just through the bridge. It would be great if they could restore one, and it didn't get vandalised and burnt  down straight away.

Still closer to Birmingham you seem far away from industry here. The bridge on the left gave access to the Soho Foundry Loop. This served the foundry that Matthew Boulton and James Watt set up in the 1770's and was thre first gas lit factory to allow work to continue day and night. The first bridge to the right was one end of the Cape Loop, now lost that served a Great Western Railway Depot and later a Geest Keen and Nettleford's factory. The second bridge seem to have served a small wharf in a factory surroundings.

We found a mooring down the Oozells Loop where it is a little quieter and a bit of sun in the afternoons.

Once moored up we went inot the city for a bit of shopping and ended up at a Wetherspoon's, as you do. This was the Square Peg. It seems that the name comes from a comment made by Tim Martin, Weatherspoon's Chairman saying the site was like a square peg in a round hole. Corporation Road was set out in 1878. By 1885 this building was erected and was Lewis's Department store. I remember shopping there. It closed in 1991.

Image result for pershore brewery
Pershore Brewery was started up on the outskirts of that town on the River Avon in 2015 by a husband and wife team that wanted to move onwards and upwards from their homebrew. They now have a head brewer and a business development director to move the business on.

Image result for summertime ale pershore brewery
I had a pint of their session beer at 3.8% Summertime Ale. It is a light golden colour and has a light taste with pale malts and three types of hops. I think I wrote that it was thin with an undefined taste, so not up there with my top ten, or maybe fifty!

Monday 18 February 2019

Beers, Boats and Boozers, 2018. No.37

Just for a change the beer comes first this is because it was a detour was made after I had been dragged off shopping the next day. We didn't have far to go so had a half day, and celebrated my survival with a pint at the Weatherspoon's over the cut from our moorings

The Waterfront In is on the Waterfront complex that was built on part of the Round Oak iron and Steel Works. It had started out as the New Level Iron Works in 1857, and become Earl of Dudley's Round Oak Iron and Steel Works by 1897. It was decommissioned in 1982 and the 200 acre site was made available for the Merry Hill shopping complex and the Waterfront area of offices and entertainment. A lot of the place along the water front appear closed, but Weatherspon's seemed to be as busy as normal.

They only had five 'different' hand pulls on. It seems to be the way of things now a days. They have their standard draught beers but the guests beer numbers have dropped in number. It may be a good thing as then they get used more quickly and so less chance of a duff pint. I chose a beer from the Phoenix Brewery. It was started up by Tony Allen who took voluntary redundancy from Bass to start his business up in 1981, called the Oak Brewery. Initially it was on an industrial estate in Ellesmere Port but over the following ten years the brewery did very well and he found that he was  too far away from his main trade so decided to relocate to the old Phoenix Brewery in Heywood, Manchester. This brewery had been built in 1800 but had gone bust three times! The brewery had been left by Bass in 1962. Oak Brewery moved into the attached maltings and changed its name to that of the brewery building, the name is on the tower from the original company, in 1996. They produce around 100 barrels a week and supply more than 400 outlets.

I had the Wobbly Bob, which was a little daring at 6%, but it wasn't just alcohol. It had a lovely golden colour with an off white head to it. The first taste gives you a good malty hit that has the taste of treacle and fruit, a nice half sweet beer that is all about the malt. Quite often these strong ales just have the alcohol packed in them and that is all that you can taste. This was a nice drop.

I love this building at the waterfront. I think the credit card company Egg had it when it was new, the company and the building that is.

We headed up the Dudley No.1 Canal and stopped at the Blowers Green services for water, rubbish etc. There was no smell of baking bread from the nearby bakery today, shame. I hope it hasn't closed. We were now on the Dudley No.2 Canal.

As you pass round Ntherton Hill you could almost be somewhere on the Leicester Arm as you feel right out in the countryside.

We had a night at Windmill End which is a delight, other than the idiots on their motor bikes haring up and down the tow path, on their way to the next drug deal I expect, but usually the natives are friendly and I end up having a good chat to somebody.

We didn't head through Netherton Tunnel as we were heading for Hawne Basin as we were off home for a family wedding. The Dudley No.2 is a dead end now so is not boated that much, but was once a veritable motorway of boats heading to the Worcester and Birmingham Canal at Selly Oak, as a short cut that by passed Birmingham. When the Lappal Tunnel collapsed that was that. There is plenty of evidence of works and docks along the route still.

These signs got me thinking about whether structures these days prodly disply there builder and date like this. Maybe we are not quite so proud of them now?

Gosty Tunnel always seem to take ages to get through. I think it is very shallow so you can never put on speed. Here at the northern entrance there is what is left of the old tug dock where the tug that towed boats through was moored.

I always stop when I clear the southern portal as we are going that slowly I convince myself that we have loads of stuff round the prop. Usually there is nothing to worry about.

As soon as you clear the Gosty Tunnel it must have been amazing up until 1962 as you emerge into the middle of the Stewart and lloyds steel tube works. It started out in 1903 and by the time it was finished it was on both banks of the canal with bridges, cranes, pipelines etc above the canal. It is all slowly being recovered by nature now.

We are always made very welcome by the Coombeswood Trust of Hawne Basin, and old transhipment point for the railway. It is a bit of a beggar to get in through the bridge hole and in the confines of the basin in any wind, but we were lucky. The moorings and fuel are very reasonable. We were soon full of fule and water and moored up before  we headed home for a week or so.