‘We’m bound for Brierley Hill’ I muttered to wench 2, chap and bloke. ‘Brierley Hill?’ they muttered back in surprise. ‘Is there a festival of beer or summit?’ Oh, they know me so well.
So off to Brierley Hill we set foot on Saturday. Or rather our local chariot sped us along the A461 towards the High Street. While they messed about with the hole in the wall, I gazed over at the Quality Carpet (just the one?) & Furniture, but didn’t see owt that took my fancy. I did, however, do a bit of twitching, catching a bird in flight over the flat to let.
On our amble down to the Civic Hall, I spied the Dog & Partridge. My excitement grew. A random, undiscovered pub in which to enjoy an ale. Now bloke wasn’t convinced and looked warily across the road, but wench 2 and chap both trusting of me, agreed we had to try it. I do have form in selecting just the right pub for an interesting experience. More of that later, as we agreed we needed to get bloke a little bit merry before persuading him.
So this was my first visit to Brierley Hill Civic Hall and I was rather impressed. It’s got quite a grand view as you wander down to it, lots of grass, a Christmas tree and sculpture out front. I’d heard it was ‘next to the cop shop’, but I didn’t realise it was quite so close. They’re almost in the same building. Brierley Hill in bloom as you get to the door as well!
The Civic Hall is now run by Dudley Council for Voluntary Services who Dudley Metropolitan Borough Council entrusted with it on an 18-month trial in February 2015. Well they seem to be doing a good job of it as there were lots of events advertised and it’s a lovely space. These places, like our pubs, should be protected so well done Dudley CVS!
The Dudley Beer Festival was being organised by some of the same chaps and wenches linked to Black Country Day / Festival activities I think, although it was hard to tell by the promotion which came through on Facebook and Twitter. Not that it matters I suppose, but I’m just interested in these things. It didn’t appear to be linked to the local CAMRA groups in Dudley and South Staffordshire or Stourbridge and Halesowen, but I now know that Stourbridge and Halesowen gave much wise advice before and during set up (see John’s comment below) which is not a surprise given their experience!
Anyway after we finally got through the door, after paying entrance fee, token fee and glass fee all separately – this challenged me as I was so desperate to get to the bloody beer – I was pleased to see a fine selection on offer. In fact, fine doesn’t really do it justice. It was a real celebration of Back Country beer with representation from most of the local breweries, and a few out-of-town beers from further afield too. When I see that sort of beer list, I’m even more proud of being from the Black Country! Well done to the organisers, cracking job!
Someone also needs to get an award for the neatest handwriting on a beer board don’t yow think?
As we were early we decided to grab our first beers and settle ourselves into a nice table in the lounge area next door. I think we’re getting old(er)! First round for us was Dark Side of the Moon (Purple Moose), Upper Gornal Bitter (Fownes), Blonde (Green Duck) and Blackheath Stout (Fixed Wheel). All great.
As we relaxed, I was swiftly informed by the others that I needed to go and see Mister Dave in his hatch. ‘Mister Dave?’ I said. ‘What on earth could Mister Dave have to tempt me away from my beer?’
Yes, you are seeing it. It’s true. Faggot samosas. I repeat, FAGGOT SAMOSAS! If you’re not from the Black Country then you might not be aware that our regional dish (alongside curry and a good old cob – not together of course) is faggots and peas. So, combining faggots and samosas, well now that’s the work of a genius, and that genius ladies and gentlemen, chaps and wenches, is Mister Dave. It took a couple more rounds of beer – Noble and Living on the Edge (Kinver), Pirate (Twisted), Upper Gornal Bitter (Fownes), No Brakes IPA (Fixed Wheel) and Dark Side of The Moon (Purple Moose) for us to get up the courage and then this happened.
Rather tasty, although I’m so used to a spicy samosa it did confuse my tastebuds to not have that spice!
Then it all got a bit dangerous. I spied the Pig of Doooom challenge behind the bar. Intrigued by this I flagged down a passing Civic Hall wench and pleaded with her to share the secret. ‘Spicy scratchings and Tequila innit?’ she casually threw out there. Well, chap, bloke and I, empowered by the fact that wench 2 was busy talking to the legend, Kinver Dave (couldn’t tell us off), decided we would take up the challenge. Queue I did for five whole minutes. Only to be told they’d run out of Pig of Doooom. Yow cor believe it, can yow?
Disappointment was soon drowned by fine ale. We worked our way through Wheat Malt (Green Duck), Lemon Dream (Salopian), IPA (Pig Iron), King Korvak’s Saga (Fownes), Shell Corner Velodrome (Fixed Wheel), Crispin’s Ommer (Fownes), Netherton Pale Ale (Olde Swan / Ma Pardoes), Black Ram (Kinver), Rok (Black Wolf), Pale Ale (Kelham Island), Glow (Holden’s), Fireside (Black Country Ales), Body Snatcher (Sadler’s), Century Gold (Fixed Wheel), Blonde (Pig Iron) and Enville Ale (Enville). These are the ones I remember at least.
The Hall started to get busy and there was a great atmosphere, I particularly enjoyed a bit of swaying along to local band Flat Stanley. I did a couple of live Periscope broadcasts during the evening which you can view below and give you a bit of the atmosphere:
- Walking to get a beer and watching Flat Stanley
- Watching Flat Stanley and then walking to get a beer
It wor arf a bad night down at the Civic Hall at all, so a big thanks goes to the organisers, many of whom I’m sure are hardworking volunteers! As the evening drew to a close at the Dudley Beer Festival we decided to venture to the Dog & Partridge – remember that pub we spied on our amble down? Well bloke was still hesitant, but at the merest hint of last orders I virtually jogged up the road – chap says he has never seen me move so fast – which forced them all to follow. I also realised that I’d been calling it the Dog & Lamppost all evening long, but hey I’m sure no one will mention it to them!
There wasn’t really much in the way of beer for us, but the friendly lady with the pink hair sat at the bar recommended the double-double: double port and double brandy. Never one to turn down a recommendation (challenge) bloke and chap were in there like a shot or two…so I felt it only right us wenches joined them. A decision I was soon regretting on Sunday.
Well it didn’t half make us feel like singing. Along with the other eight or so punters who were working the jukebox like a charm. It was mostly 60s and 80s night, but we weren’t complaining. The beer might not have been up to much, but the jukebox and company certainly was. In fact, I haven’t heard the four of us sing so well since…the last time we had an inappropriate amount of beer to drink.
Although I have to say it was definitely the other punters who had the vocals and the moves that night. Top class. Chap and I were particularly enamoured and extolling the virtues of this establishment, which is quite a compliment considering there was no decent beer and chap decided the only thing he could do was bring us back four bottles of Newcastle Brown Ale from the bar at last orders.
So who broke my heart on Saturday night?
Well it wasn’t the Dudley Beer Festival which let’s face it had much of the best beer ever brewed to sup on. And it wasn’t the Dog & Partridge, now renamed Dog & Lamppost by me. It may not have the beer, but I’d end up there again if only for the jukebox, singing, dancing, laughs and maybe a double-double (if I’m stupid enough).
So who broke my heart? You did. You did.