Birmingham Beer Trail – The Chris Metcalfe Experience

In the 1980s the British brewery sector was run by accountants, and wine became increasingly popular. Birmingham and the Midlands were associated with “mild”, which at the time was defined as a weak dark beer without too many of those expensive hops.

Then in 2002 the British Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, adopted an idea originating in Germany of “progressive beer taxation”, which encouraged more small breweries to set up. The effect on the range of beers available in Britain in recent years has been incredible, and the best place to sample the full range is in a decent pub. Birmingham has plenty, but here are six within walking distance of the conference centre to get started with:

37 Bennetts Hill, B2 5SN

If you are wanting to sample UK beers and go to just one of these pubs, this is the one. Ten or more beers on pump, and a decent range of cider also available. There is a roof terrace if the Fawlty Towers décor gets too much.

Gunmaker's Arms
93 Bath Street, B4 6HG 

Just outside the inner ring road – easiest to find via the underpass from the Holiday Inn. This very traditional pub is associated with the nearby Two Towers Brewery. Just like the rest of Birmingham, very multicultural and the locals will talk to you! Ignore the unpromising exterior and go for it. I had the Two Towers Porter.

Old Contemptibles
176 Edmund Street, B3 2HB

Clearly more of a “chain” pub, but with a good selection of beers, ciders, and other drinks, plus a food menu. I had the Fuller's Oatmeal Stout – a guest beer from the brewery in Chiswick, London.

48 John Bright Street, B1 1BN

Bit (a little bit) more of a young person's place, but with a traditional tiled interior that is worth a look, and a regular beer selection that is worth seeking out. I had the Thornbridge (Bakewell) Amber Ale.

Craven Arms
47 Upper Gough Street, B1 1JG

Again, just outside the inner ring road (go down New Street and keep going), and with the feel of a “local” pub. This time it is the tiled exterior that impresses. Inside there are eleven ales on pumps to choose from. I had the guest ale from the Siren brewery in Berkshire.

Post Office Vaults
84 New Street, B2 4BA

Afraid I didn't get to this one. But it gets enthusiastic reviews, and if you've just paid a small fortune to travel to Birmingham on a train that smells of chemical toilet, you've earned yourself a visit.