ESCAMRA visit to West Brom Real Ale Pubs
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Everton Supporters in CAMRA, the Campaign for Real Ale, like to visit pubs serving hand-pump cask ale on our travels around the country following the Blues.

The Hawthorns and even West Bromwich itself are not well off for Real Ale pubs. At the far west of the town, where the High Street begins there are two establishments, The Wheatsheaf and The Hop Pole, but they are about as far away from the ground as is the centre of Birmingham in the other direction. This explains why so many of their fans seem to drink in the city on match day. They presumably head past the ground as its only an extra fifteen minutes on the tram to Snow Hill and this is exactly what ESCAMRA did.

First stop has to be the renowned WELLINGTON, on Bennetts Hill, a Real Ale stronghold where the beers are displayed on tv like screens high on the walls. Under the titles 'Pump', 'Brewery', 'Beer', 'ABV', 'Price' and 'Colour' come their details, Pump being the number that you order at the bar and Colour being A = Pale through to E = Dark.

And so it was a Number 16 - Angel Ale (4.1%, £3.10, A) , a Number 2 (seriously !) - Black Country BFG (4.2%, £3, A) and a Number 3 - Black Country Pig On The Wall (4.3%, £3, D) that constituted the order. 

All local beers. Some of the others on offer included three at 6.5% costing £4 or more, along with some regulars we have spotted on previous visits, Wye Valley HPA, Oakham Citra and Purity Mad Goose. One concern though 
was that Pump 4 actually contained a Fat Cat beer confusingly called 'Number 3', so someone was bound to ask at the bar for Number 3 when they actually wanted Number 4!

We visited two more pubs in the Snow Hill area. The OLD ROYAL, as the name suggests is an old classical looking pub from the outside, though inside it was fairly modern to the extent that wherever you looked 
there were tv screens showing sky sports news. The beers had all been seen many times before, Marstons Pedigree, Greene King IPA and Exmoor Ale. We opted for the latter, a light ale at 3.8%

Last stop before the tram to the match was THE OLD CONTEMPTIBLES on Edmund Street which can be seen from the platform at Snow Hill station. Another old building but looking quite grand from the outside, this was quite old on the inside too but clean and not shabby. With a high ceiling and some nice décor it was a bit  too much like a theatre bar in some respects. A Nicholsons pub, their Pale Ale was on offer along with Doom Bar, but we opted for Frosted Jack at 4.3% from Dorset, a pale golden ale as detailed on the pump clip   

After the match, we were able to try out one pub that had been recommended, just within walking distance from the ground. THE VINE can be found by walking alongside the tram track back towards West Bromwich, not far the other side of the motorway. As advised, this looks a small back street corner pub from the outside and even when you first walk in, but then goes back through various other rooms, a bit of a tardis. The beer garden was obviously not open on a winter's night, but apparently in better weather they do barbecues out there. There were also plenty of signs up indicating that curries were popular on a match day, though at 10pm food had stopped for the evening and 45 minute later beer was to stop too! We did manage to get a couple of pints in though and between us were not disappointed by the following 

-  Bathams Best Bitter from a Black Country brewery at 4.3%, described as 'a straw-coloured bitter which initially seems sweet, but a complex dry, hoppy taste soon predominates'. Abbeydale Duck Baffler at 4.1% described as 'A pale beer with light, passion fruit and lemon aromas and flavours'. Abbeydale Resolution at 4.2%, described as 'A pale and hoppy beer with an orange peel aroma. Citrus and bubblegum flavours lead onto a lasting creamy peach finish'.

Research has since enlightened us to Abbeydale being a Sheffield brewer. Abbeydale Park being where Yorkshire played cricket in the city from 1974 to 1996, following the closure of Bramall Lane to cricket when the new stand was built converting it from a three sided venue. In addition to cricket, football was also played at the Park, with Sheffield F.C., the oldest football club in the world, playing there from September 1921 until 1988. Argentina and Switzerland both trained at the ground during the 1966 World Cup. So from drinking Abbeydale beer after a disappointing draw, we were both slightly more topped up on both beer and knowledge! 

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