Saturday was for celebrating. A bold and momentus decision by this wench. No longer can I work and live away from my beloved Black Country. The pubs aren’t half as good. The ales aren’t half as tasty. The scratchings aren’t half as crispy. The people aren’t half as great. They also talk really funny down South. This wench is coming home. Home is where the heart is. And the pubs. And the ale. And the scratchings. And you lovely yam yams.
To celebrate I requested we visit ‘the one that is my new crush’ as I wrote in Area Culture Guide (p66-67) when I described some of my favourite Black Country boozers.
I’d fallen in love with The Swan in Amblecote after stumbling upon it whilst heading from The Starving Rascal to The Maverick (all on Brettell Lane). I didn’t want to leave that night, and had been desperately trying to organise a return trip to swoon over the floral wallpaper and stroke the velour armchairs.
In Area, I’d described The Swan as ‘stuck in the past, in a good way’ and ‘a real neighbourhood boozer’. There’s something really comforting about this pub. You feel like you’re supping an ale in your friend’s living room. It’s definitely still my new crush and I don’t think I’m falling out of love anytime soon! My return trip to The Swan certainly did not disappoint and as it was quite early I managed to take a few pictures of it’s loveliness before more punters arrived.
How can you not fall in love with this?
As bloke and chap sorted the beers: All American (Pig Iron) for wench and bloke, and Merrie City Cascading (Clark’s Brewery) for chap and wench 2, I gazed lovingly at the decor and beer garden. The smattering of swan ornaments and garden planters reminding you where you’re at. I have to admit I did stroke a number of the velour chairs while no one was looking.
The floral theme runs through into the ladies bathroom and I like this continuity in floral decor!
Once again it was time to move on from The Swan, far too quickly for me. In a few short steps we were at The Starving Rascal and starving ourselves, desperate for scratchings to soak up our ale.
The Starving Rascal is a fantastic little pub with a friendly atmosphere and a great selection of ale.
With such a selection on offer it was a hard choice but wench 2 and chap plumped for Oracle (Salopian), bloke for The Gaffer (Tring) and this wench went to town on a Blonde (Saltaire). We also fought over some tasty scratchings. There was some nervousness over the Black Pudding variety by Openshaws, especially as they’re not from the Black Country(!), but we all agreed they were mighty fine. However, it does seem the nicer the packaging, the lighter the load of scratchings so we might just stick to our bumper Black Country bags, or we’ll end up starving rascals (see what I did there?).
The Starving Rascal used to be called The Dudley Arms. Legend has it that, many years ago on one cold winters night the Licensee turned away a poor starving beggar from the door. The beggar was found dead in the road the next morning and thereafter, the pub became known as The Starving Rascal or The Starver.
If you like your whisky (and this wench certainly does) you will love The Starving Rascal as it has around 50 of the finest single malts from around the world, as well as a range of blended whisky. The whisky board advertises those on sale and we are planning a drinking competition to see who can get the furthest along the board. My money is on bloke!
On the subject of competition we took our second round: The Gaffer (Tring) for wench and wench 2, Blonde (Saltaire) for chap and Explorer Cider (Orchard Pig) for bloke, to the pool room where wenches took on chaps for glory (but no trophy).
There were some tense moments, notably when I got very good at potting…the white! By this point, wench 2 and I had fallen for The Gaffer (Tring) and ordered another, hoping this would improve our form. Chap decided to switch back to Oracle (Salopian), maybe for the same reason. Bloke whose form didn’t need improving stuck to his Explorer (Orchard Pig). Unsurprisingly the wenches were defeated, although The Gaffer seemed to have worked it’s magic on me, who managed to simultaneously pot two yellows…after the official game had ended of course!
Unable to continue the tense competition (as a steely-eyed blonde was eying up our table) we made our way down Collis Street to the CAMRA Pub of the Year 2015: Stourbridge and Halesowen – The Robin Hood Inn.
Unfortunately we were without slippers, but we did wipe our feet. It was mighty busy in the front bar and our eyes lit up at the selection of ale and cobs!
Another tough decision but wench 2 and chap went for a familiar Netherton Pale Ale (Olde Swan) as did bloke for Dark Ruby Mild (Sarah Hughes). Both fantastic choices! I decided to be brave and go for the unknown, sampling one I’ve never had before Duck and Dive (Green Duck). I think I made an excellent choice as it’s rather tasty, and local.
Feeling rather peckish we made our way to the rear of the pub with our crusty cobs and ale. A perfect combination.
It was a shame we couldn’t find a spot in the front of this award-winning pub as that definitely has a more traditional feel, but we were grateful of a seat in the house so we could tear through the crusty exterior of a proper Black Country cob. I’ll definitely be back here to work my way through the list of ales, and cobs.
Feeling the need for a bit of live music we made our way to The Maverick on Brettel Lane, pausing only to gaze into the window of Dawn Crystal – an independent shop that’s been in business for an impressive 30 years – oh how we should protect such things!
Once at The Maverick we realised we’d missed the 11pm curfew – yet again! We keep doing this.
There was no room at the inn! We did (politely) request entry, but the doorman was having none of it – not a rule breaker like us – so we resorted to staging a passive aggressive photo outside the door.
So here we were ambling around Amblecote, stranded back where we started, at the bottom of Brettell Lane. Once we realised we were going nowhere we decided to head back to chez wench for the Black Country after-hours drinking club. At chez wench there’s no curfew, and you’re always welcome to break the rules!