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                          Bartons Arms                                                            Barton's Arms bar                                                             The Trocadero  

I first visited the Bartons Arms, 144 High Street, Aston B6 4UP (0121 333 5988) when I last went to Villa Park. This is a fine example of Victorian pub architecture and offers an impressive interior. It was built in 1901 on the site of a former pub, the exterior sporting a square clock tower is of an imposing brick and stone neo-Jacobean style, whilst the interior is the epitome of Victorian decorative grandeur. There are many original features, including rich mahogany wood panelling and carved features, stained and engraved windows and mirrors, snob-screens, an impressive wrought-iron staircase and wall to wall Minton-Hollins tiles, from shiny-glazed decorative patterns to huge painted scenes. The building itself left a lasting memory, but particularly the main staircase.

The Bartons was taken over by Oakham Ales in 2002 and serves two of my favourite ales, as you would expect of an Oakham establishment, ie Oakham JHB and Bishops Farewell, and also more guest ales. The Bartons is a moderate walk to the ground, sells fine ales, brags an excellent interior and exterior, and also provided a good value, very tasty Thai meal (served 12-2.30 and 5.30-10pm). Whoever first thought of linking Thai Restaurants into Ale Houses needs congratulating, because pale hoppy beers certainly go with spicy Thai stir fries. If you are visiting anywhere in Birmingham, I would recommend you visit the Bartons Arms, I enjoyed the atmosphere, the JHB and the Pad Thai!

Closer to the city centre and Moor Street station is the Woodman, 106 Albert Street, Digbeth, B5 5LG (0121 643 1959), an Everards pub (also sold Cains Mild last time I visited). You are more likely to find Birmingham City fans here, mostly over 30s, conveniently being on the way to St Andrews, and away fans are very welcome. The Woodman is a traditional pub with ceramic tiles and basic decoration, and had a limited food range, with pies and sandwiches only. 


                            The Anchor                                               Wellington                                             The Bull  

Similarly, if attending St Andrews, The Anchor, 308 Bradford Street, Digbeth B5 6ET (0121 622 4516) is on the way and is a welcoming pub to home and away supporters. It sells the usual cobs and pub food, plus having curries on the menu (12-8pm). This is a Grade II listed building with separate rooms around the bar area and a well designed comfortable garden area. Oh yes, it also serves up a wide variety of ales from around the country, so you are very likely to find a fair number of real ale types at the bar, which is no bad thing on match day.

Fans of all the local clubs also visit the Wellington, 37 Bennets Hill, B2 5SN (0121 200 3115) a no-frills pub that used to be a night club. The Wellington has an array of hand pumps, selling a great range of ales, being a genuine free-house, reported to have sold 2,200 different beers in a year from as far apart as Cornwall and Scotland. If you like your real ales and have the time this should be on your list of places to visit whilst in Birmingham, and I've very recently been recommended this pub, yet again, good to know it carries on being a fine ale house, this time by Paul; many thanks Paul!

If you are hankering for a pint of beer from West London in grandiose surroundings, then you have to visit the Old Joint Stock, 4 Temple Row West, B2 5NY (0121 200 1892) a Fullers' house (so not cheap) in a bank converted around the beginning of the Millennium. This doesn't have a Thai restaurant, which as we all know is a very common feature of Fullers' pubs, but it is an Ale and Pie pub (also common with Fullers), serving food from 12.00 onwards. It regularly sells another brewery's beers, which is out of the ordinary for Fullers, as it supports the local micro, Beowulf Brewery. Please note, though, that the Old Joint Stock is closed on Sundays, also that they run a very strict 'no colours' rule here, rigidly enforced by affable door stewards on match days.

The Old Joint Stock has a large main room with plenty of seating, a massive central bar and a fine view of the cathedral. There is a large glass dome in the ceiling, chandeliers, prints and banking memorabilia, and the wood panelling you would expect in such a building. There was also a smaller, more private, room downstairs and an upstairs gallery overlooking all the splendour, which appears to convert into a theatre.

Although there are a fair number of other places to visit, (if you are staying for a weekend, perhaps) my final suggestion has to be The Bull, 1 Price Street, Aston B4 6JU (0121 333 6757), that sells the more expected beers supplied by pub companies (though you may have a surprise with the guest ale). The pub has 2 rooms and dates back to 1729, now with a strong Irish flavour, particularly regarding the food (12-9.30pm Mon-Sat). You are more likely to find Villa supporters here as it is near to Aston, but City and WBA fans drink here too.