The walk from the city centre to Aston captures many aspects of Birmingham’s changing profile; canals, industrial heritage, corner pubs, impressive new buildings and universities- five of them. There are more university students (65,000) in Birmingham than the entire population of nearby Stourbridge.
Look in any direction and there are cranes. Look in this direction and you get a rainbow and gas holders painted in Aston Villa colours.
On New Canal Street lies the Eagle and Tun, a fine example of a Victorian boozer with Ansells glass work (above). Famed for the filming of a video for UB40’s Red Red Wine- recorded around the corner and said to have been written in the pub- it closed in 2008 and remained shut until December 2015.
Much of the UB40 memorabilia remained in place during the long period of closure.
On tap were beers from Purity, Thornbridge, Sadler’s and Church End Low Rider. Despite being 2.8% the latter had plenty of body and a nicely bitter taste. Coupled with Indian snacks and a bottle shop, this pub is a gem.
The Fox and Grapes opposite did not share the same caring restoration.
The Fox and Grapes is a former Mitchells and Butler house. 1961 was a seismic year for the two Birmingham Brewers. It was the year that Ansell’s – and its 1,088 pubs- merged with Taylor Walker and Ind Coope to form Allied Breweries. And in the same year M&B merged with Bass. Ansells brewery closed in 1981 whilst M&B continued brewing on site until 2002.
Time constraints prevented a revisit to the beautiful and highly regarded Woodman on the same street. Up the road and adjoining Birmingham City University Students Union, the Eagle and Ball is a different sort of Eagle altogether.
It shares the same Victorian history as the Eagle and Tun and functioned as a local corner pub for well over a century. In the 1960s it became the Moby Dick, the sign for which is retained in the small covered outdoor area. Now it is essentially a student pub. Beer wise it was hugely disappointing. One handpump was empty, the other sold Greene King IPA, a beer I find to have a slightly metallic finish. Even the keg craft from Sadler’s was off. On a Friday lunchtime the pub was busy – too busy for the solitary barman and the kitchen.
One of these pair of Eagles should be a very strong candidate for the new Good Beer Guide.