A Beer Revolution
Cotteridge and Stirchley are suburbs that are next to each other in South west Birmingham. At various times the high streets of both have had hard times, especially Stirchley high street. To this day there are a worryingly high number of empty shops on Stirchley high street. However, these two high streets do have a lot going for them. Because there is no juggernaut supermarket that dominates the area, local independent, shops are able to survive and in some cases thrive. Stirchley is home to a good amount of co-ops, including the Bike Foundry and Loaf, which makes artisan bread. There is even a shop dedicated to vacuum cleaners.
A key change in the suburbs of Cotteridge and Stirchley is the addition of small breweries, pubs and bars. There have been a few big pubs, but not many small and independent places to drink alcoholic beverages. I am a massive of Stirchley, in particular. I spend many of my Saturday evenings drinking beer in Stirchley. During one Saturday evening drinking beer in “The Wildcat ” an idea of conducting a beer tour of some of the micro pubs and breweries in Cotteridge and Stirchley. A plan was hatched.
The Beer Tour begins
Emma was my beer comrade for the day. We decided to start at the Cotteridge end of the mile, mostly so we could say “it’s all downhill from here,” as Cotteridge is uphill from Stirchley. Destination one was Redbeer’d a new micro pub that had opened at the start of the year. It was decided that we would drink two halves in each place to properly appreciate the range of beer that each establishment had. Redbeer’d has a bit of a pirate vibe going on, you can sit on a barrel if you so wish. I had a half of Paulaner, which is a lager from München. Redbeer’d is a great addition to Cotteridge high street, and a couple of minutes from the nearest train station. I will return.
Destination two; Cotteridge Wines
Cotteridge Wines is a shop that I’ve visited on many occasions. It has a wide variety of beers, including German and Belgium beers. They also have a bar and a tap room, that I had never visited before. To get to the bar, you walk through the shop. The selection of beer was Verdant heavy. The Verdant Lightbulb was Emma’s beer of the day. I was surprised about the size of the tap room. You could get about 20 people in there, which is much bigger than I expected. Two half pints was savoured by Emma and I so we moved on to destination three.
Destination three; The Glasshouse
On the border of Cotteridge and Stirchley is The Glasshouse. The Glasshouse is a micro brewery that is open as a bar on Fridays and Saturdays. It is in an industrial estate and can be found by following signs to the back of the complex. Inside it has a similar layout to other micro breweries. There are rows of benches and brewing equipment in eye line. I had my favourite beer of the day, which was a chocolate stout. Lovely! The Cotteridge side of the mile was completed so it was time to venture over the canal into Stirchley.
Destination 4; Attic Brew
First up in Stirchley was another micro brewery called Attic Brew. Attic Brew has a similar set up to The Glasshouse. Disappointingly, Attic Brew does not appear to be in an Attic. Attic Brew is 30 seconds walk from Bournville train station and I go here on a semi regular basis. Because it is the biggest venue on this tour, it gets busy quickly. Whilst we were here, I saw a man named Joel. I him that I would not talk to him, but he talked to me anyway, against my will. That was a good point to leave to go to destination five.
Destination five; Birmingham Brewing Company
Birmingham Brewing Company is a 5 minute walk off Stirchley High Street. Like The Glasshouse it is located on an industrial estate. Unlike The Glasshouse, Birmingham Brewing Company is accessible from outside the industrial estate via a well placed door that is accessed from the Rea Valley Cycle Route. This was the third micro brewery bar that we had visited and the most patriotic. Many of the beers had Brummie names, to my delight. Beer names included “Confused Brummie and Pale Brummie.” They supply beer to a whole host of bars, pubs and shops in Birmingham. My personal favourite is Pale Brummie. Two half pints were drunk. Having started at 1pm, it was now evening time. Emma and I were joined by Ben, who heroically bought crisps when they were requested. Full of crisps, we ventured back onto Stirchley High Street.
Destination 6; The Wildcat
Possibly my favourite place to buy beer is The Wildcat. Approximately half of my Saturday evenings are spent here, because it has many things going for it. It is reasonably small so it easy to get a seat, by being tactically aware of opportunities, when other people leave, and most importantly it has a strong range of beer. Freedom Lager is a firm favourite of mine. By this point we were coming to the end of the tour, so the policy of drinking two halves before moving on ended. I reverted to pints. Unexpectedly, the group of three became a group of seven, as Cath, Graeme, James and Matt turned up. They were tracking us via WhatsApp and knew when to strike. Matt only appears at night like a vampire. We stopped in The Wildcat until it closed and we were told to leave by the bar staff playing death metal. I like death metal so lingered around for longer. The Wildcat has a sign that says beer, lights up and points to the pub. It is arguably the landmark of Stirchley high street. At 11pm on a Saturday night the usual end destination is the British Oak with tonight being no exception.
Destination 7; The British Oak
The British Oak is the only traditional pub on this tour. It caters to a wide range of beer drinkers from the Carling drinker to the obscure ale fan. It is part of a small, Birmingham based chain of pubs, which is able to retain a strong community feel. My pint of choice in the British Oak is Brewdogs Punk IPA. I’m a shareholder of Brewdog and encourage others to partake in their beers whenever possible. Brewdogs share price is very important to me. We were now very merry, especially Emma and I who had been enjoying beer since 1pm. Once I’d finished my beer, it was time to go home so I went to the bus stop outside of the pub and got the bus home.
Reflections on the Cotteridge and Stirchley Mile
Cotteridge and Stirchley have a whole host of small, independent, pubs, bars, and shops. A growing and vibrant drinking scene is at the heart of the development of these suburbs. I spend a lot of time in Stirchley, especially, because there is so much going on for the lefty lover of Co-ops. We did not even go to all of the available bars. Couch and the Cork and Cage get great reviews, but we did not have time to include them on this tour, perhaps next time. If you can it is definitely worth visiting these two places to appreciate what is going on and to drink an excellent and possibly locally produced beer.