In The Black Country

The weatherman had promised us a dry, possibly sunny Saturday. Why then was I not surprised to find it lashing down as I stood patiently waiting for the coach in Manchester centre? At least I had come prepared, unlike one rather more trusting member of our party who was resplendent in his summer sandals. He-well we all were-hoping that the sun would be shining in the Black Country, for that is where we were heading.

We made very good time on the outward journey and were in Sedgley well before noon. Luckily the pubs are very civilised in that neck of the woods with the Bulls Head opening at 10. This is a comfortable Holden’s pub and I tried both the Bitter and the Golden Glow. Mention has to be made of their legendary £1.20 cobs which proved, er, legendary-proper pub food. A short walk took us to the Beacon Hotel-home of the famously strong (6%) Sarah Hughes Dark Ruby Mild. This is a fantastic pub with a myriad of rooms and complete with original features such as serving hatches. It’s 12 years since I last visited and everything seemed the same. The only difference being a new beer being available-Surprise. This was 5%, light and refreshingly hoppy.

Our next stop was Amblecote where there were several pubs to choose from. I started at the Robin Hood which fittingly, being the first ever pub to sell it, kept a good pint of Enville Ale. At the top of the hill I checked out the unusually named Starving Rascal, as it was advertising guest beers. Known locally as The Starver, it did indeed have Enville, Golden Glow, and Sadlers-which I tried. Apparently originally known as the Dudley Arms, the pub was renamed after a local tale of a landlord turning away a starving beggar, only to find him dead in the road the next morning. There was just time for a quick drink at the Swan where the Elland Samba was nicely bitter.

It didn’t take long to get to our next stop-the Vine aka The Bull & Bladder at Brierley Hill. This is another famous boozer, selling only Bathams Mild & Bitter. A couple of pints here and then it was time for our last port of call. This was another old friend-the Old Swan (Ma Pardoes) at Netherton. They resumed brewing their own ale some years ago and several were sampled including the light Original (3.5%) and Old Swan Entire.

Nicely full up with beer, the coach was surprisingly quiet on the way back-apart from the sound of some gentle and not so gentle, snoring. Back in Manchester I foolishly agreed to have a nightcap with the WHB in the Marble where the Pint was on top form.This eventually, and inevitably, led to another and...then some very late night whisky.


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