I have been meaning to write this for some time now. I have been sitting on my thoughts, my feelings and yes, some anger for long enough. Maybe I wanted just to wait: store all my thoughts into a collective heap. That way I could keep ignoring them, get on with things. But no: working for a brewery based in the West Midlands doesn’t help the frustration! The collective heap kept staring at me, gnawing away, even growing. Is it ‘a bit late? Or right on time?’ for this blog? I guess you decide, but first I need you all to stare at the monster. Familiar to me, but a new horizon for you: The West Midlands beer scene….
I asked a question on Twitter in the form of a poll on the 18th July 2017: ‘Do you think the beer scene in the West Midlands is overlooked? If so, what could be done to improve it?’. I was taken aback by some of the responses. Impressed, deflated and left in shock at the overall thoughts of some people and the way they view the centre of the UK. Let me break this down first of all: the poll was only answered by 231 people, a teeny tiny small percentage of the beer loving public. It also gives no geographical detail of those that responded: it could in theory have been 200 people from the West Midlands. Or, on the other hand, they could all be from elsewhere. Whichever way you look at it, polls are polls. What I did not expect, however, was the conversation that happened under the Tweet. For me, this was more fascinating. It also gave me (and a few others) a better understanding of what on earth is going on in the West Midlands at the moment.
Here are a few Tweets that I received; I tried to answer as many as I could. If you would like to go back and refresh your minds, or even Tweet me again, you can find the poll and the Tweets HERE!
Sensing a general theme? It seems like Breweries, bars and events aren’t shouted about enough in the West Midlands. I live in the area and am involved in the beer scene, so I know about the majority of things that are happening, and I can tell you that they ARE happening. We had our first ever Beer Week based in Birmingham this year: who knew about that outside of the West Midlands? The Birmingham Beer Bizarre happened this year too, a massive beer festival smack bang in the middle of Birmingham: who heard about this? There are taprooms open on Friday nights and at weekends around the Birmingham and Coventry area. Bars, bottle shops and pubs are now regularly opening their taps for ‘meet the brewers’ Do you know when the next one is?
There has been a like-minded group of people working on this issue in the form of The Midlands Beer Blog (Twitter: @midlandsbeerbc). They get around. A lot. If you are interested in the Midlands Beer Scene I would say this would be the best place to start… a lovely bunch of people who can direct you to the right places for beer around the West Midlands! For a start, check out their BEER MAP.
The West Midlands has been redeveloping its transport network for the last year or so, with trams now accompanying buses, trains and taxis as means of venturing in to places like Coventry and Birmingham, making it easier to get around. Places like Earlsdon in Coventry – home of Beer Gonzo – is very easy to get from the train station. Cotteridge Wines, Stirchley Wines and Wild Cat Tap are more accessible than you think with a 5 minute walk from Kings Norton train station. Yet accessibility seems to be a problem. With any trip away to another city/town, you will need to plan. Places like Leeds, Manchester and London etc. are well known for certain beer bars. Test yourself: how many do you know in Birmingham or Coventry? If the answer is none, ask yourself why you don’t? Is it because of a preconceived idea that the West Midlands is devoid of good beer and not served well? Any city in the UK has at least a few pubs or bars that will serve beer to your taste, why not give the West Midlands a chance?
I challenge that the breweries in the West Midlands are high enough quality already: Burning Soul are going to be taking part in Indy Man over the next week. Marstons (Banks’), no matter your taste in beer, are a high quality brewery: one that sells more beer than all other West Midlands breweries combined in a year. Bars in Birmingham are continually selling beer in the West Midlands. Even though we have fewer breweries in the West Midlands, we have a high number of breweries bringing out amazing core and seasonal beers, and still managing to sell a lot of beer outside of the West Midlands.
The final question I pulled out made me think a lot. What are WE as brewers, publicans, bottle shop owners and bloggers doing to get people looking at OUR scene. This is a hard one to answer, even looking to other areas: what does Manchester do to attract people there? How about Newcastle? Leeds? Other successful beery cities and towns? Regular events? The West Midlands does them. Social Media? All the main bottle shops, bars, and bloggers are very active online. So we are, in some ways, ensuring that people are looking at us. However, ensuring awareness of the West Midlands isn’t getting people into the taprooms here. It isn’t becoming a destination for people from Manchester and London. Why, because the scene has grown so slowly that people from other places do not need us anymore? They have their own bubble, their own unique places that they enjoy, why travel a few hours when you are happier at home? Well, come to the West Midlands – our home – and rather than wondering what the West Midlands can gain, find out what your City or Town is missing. Like this blog, our scene is not late. Our scene, the West Midlands beer scene, has actually arrived. It’s arrived like this blog: on time! But there is still more to come!