Pubs come in many different forms. Coaching inns, pubs, theme bars, roadhouses, micropubs etc. For a frisky canter through them read 20th Century Pub by https://boakandbailey.com/
Brewery taps, where they existed, usually meant the pub next to, and supplied by, the brewery. Now they are fast growing aspect of the microbrewery business. It’s easy to see why. They provide a guaranteed point of sale in a crowded market; no beer miles; few additional overheads; and direct control over quality. The problem for us tickers is often their opening times. Friday evenings and Saturdays only is not uncommon.
So it was with two in the West Midlands. Fixed Wheel, listed as Halesowen, is in a place called Shell Corner, so called because of, um, a shell on a corner.
The original shell was erected in 1924 as a memorial to those who died in World War One. The replacement version was placed in position earlier this year. There is also a shop that once sold incense and West Bromwich Albion fans.
There is a micropub, Shell-ter (geddit?) that was gearing up for one of those soccerball cup thingies you hear about.
Situated in the owner’s former electrical workshop, it has some cleverly adapted tables.
Beer quality was good (isn’t Salopian a wonderful brewery?) whilst Madame Luna greatly approved of the rum punch at £3 in a half pint glass. She slept soundly all the way home.
Fixed Wheel is a couple of hundred yards away, on a tiny industrial estate, bringing new life into an area that, frankly, needs it. The brewer is Scott, a former British cycle record holder, hence the theme and indeed the bike he set the record on.
The bike is simply scary- you can’t freewheel on it and I am not entirely sure how you stop it – but the Through and Off Session IPA (3.8%) was fruity and refreshing. Other beers have a cycling theme. They obviously had good fun thinking up names like Therapeutic Exemption Sour; Pope of Dope; and No Brakes IPA. I liked this place and would drink there if I ever move to Shell Corner.
Final stop of the day was the Badelynge Bar in Stourbridge, the Green Duck brewery tap.
This was on a much larger scale on an out of town industrial estate. The Duck & Cover IPA (4%) had similar hop flavours to the previous beer, perhaps explained by the fact that Scott used to brew here before leaving to set up Fixed Wheel.
I enjoy trying local brewery taps but by their very nature, they are not likely to be very accessible in terms of opening times. Both Green Duck and Fixed Wheel are open 13 hours a week. The Well in Mansfield Woodhouse, for example, is listed as open 10 hours a week. All are in the Good Beer Guide. They are not pubs but its not the Good Pub Guide. All do serve good beer. I expect the 2019 Good Beer Guide will include new entries with similar hours.
Surely, though, branches have to make a judgement about the availability of such places to allow people to actually access the beer. In Mid-Wales the local CAMRA branch deleted the Red Lion in Knighton on the grounds of “limited opening hours” – to my knowledge a hitherto unused criteria- yet it is open 28 hours a week. It can’t just be an issue for those of us daft enough to travel 600+ miles to score a tick, can it? Or if the beer’s good enough doesn’t it matter if you can’t get it most of the week?