Every year, between mid-November and just before Christmas, an area of Birmingham City Centre stretching from New Street to Victoria Square is taken over by the Frankfurt Christmas market. There’s no doubting that this is a really popular event; crowds flock in on a daily basis to browse stores for Christmas gifts and eat pretzels, schnitzels and bratwursts, all washed down with glüwein, hot chocolate or beer.
I know plenty of people who get excited when the Christmas market comes to town and rightly so – it’s all in the name of fun and Christmas spirit, but I’ll be honest with you, it ain’t for me. My main issue with the market is that it gets so busy that I can’t enjoy enough of my own space to hold a beer without spilling it every time someone pushes past. It can be pretty claustrophobic and leaves me feeling anxious.
Other than my own anxieties, that fact that the Frankfurt market is always so predictable doesn’t particularly appeal. The same stalls and bars are in the same location every year and once you pass a few stalls, the next few are usually carbon copies. In terms of beer, every year there’s a choice of one German lager and one nice enough, yet uninspiring weissbeer.
If you’re a Midlander tired of the same old Christmas market routine, an out of towner visiting and looking for something more than weissbeer and schnitzel, or just fed up of fighting your way through packed crowds and spilling your beer, we’ve put together a list of some of our favourite alternative Christmas hangout spots.
To keep the length of this article down, we’ve chosen to focus on pubs and bars within walking distance of the city centre.
If you’re looking for somewhere to head for a beer after you’ve been to the Christmas market, or if you’re looking to stay/start in the centre of Brum, you should check out:
Just a 2 minute walk away from New Street Station, Tilt is often the first place we head to when we get into Brum.
Café by day and bar by night, there’s always a friendly, relaxed vibe in Tilt and it’s grown to be a popular social hub over the last 2 years. With 8 permanent taps, a well-stocked fridge and a mobile bar that brings the keg list up to 20 for special occasions (there have been a few lately), Tilt never disappoints. Having built great relationships with many breweries in the UK, the guys at Tilt strive to ensure that they get the freshest and tastiest beer possible. Whilst the beer list predominately champions the best of British beer, you’ll often also find some awesome European brews on tap and in the fridge. Keep an eye out for meet the brewer and tap takeover events!
If you’re looking for a great coffee and a piece of cake, you’re also in the right place.
2 City Arcade, Warwick Passage, B2 4TX
The Post Office Vaults
If you’ve risked the Christmas market crowds, but you’re looking for a quick getaway, the good news is, Post Office Vaults is just around the corner.
Whilst so close to the madness, Post Office Vaults provides a peaceful retreat from the Christmas market madness. When it comes to choosing a drink, you’re spoiled for choice – with a bottle/can range of over 350, 8 cask ales and 12 real ciders, plus plenty of wines and spirits, there’s something for everyone in this friendly cellar bar.
84b New Street, B2 4BA
The central Birmingham Cherry Reds café is a couple of minutes walk away from New Street Station. To complement its fantastic food menu, Cherry Reds hosts a great selection of bottled beers from around Europe, as well as championing a host of exciting British beer on cask and keg. Expect to find some seriously tasty choices from the likes of Midlands favourites Twisted Barrel Ale, or Fixed Wheel.
88-92 John Bright Street, B1 1BN
You can also check out the second Cherry Reds location in Kings Heath
16 York Road, B14 7RZ
You’re unlikely to ever go to far wrong in a BrewDog bar. You could argue that the success of BewDog’s Birmingham location since opening in 2012 has been a big catalyst for the rise of the Brum beer scene, as a number of the staff have gone on to start their own businesses in and around the city.
There’s always plenty to choose from tap and fridge wise, the tunes are usually decent and the staff are always happy to talk you through what’s on offer and give you some samples if you’re not sure what to choose. You can find BrewDog just across the street from Cherry Reds.
81-87 John Bright Street, B1 1BL
If you want to head away from the Christmas market all together, we’d recommend heading over towards the Jewellery Quarter. It’s a 10-15 minute walk, or if you prefer, you can hop on the tram at New Street and get off at St. Pauls.
The Wolf opened in January of this year and has quickly grown to be one of our favourite places to go for a beer. With 10 keg taps and shelves of fridge space, along with great wines and spirits, you’ll never have an issue finding something you like to drink. Draft-wise, The Wolf always like to mix it up and offer a few different styles, making full use of the 10 taps. Their beer range is constantly changing, bringing you the best of the Midlands, the UK and further afield.
If you’re hungry, there are always plenty of snacks to go with your beer; bread, cheese, meat, pies, pasties and sausage rolls are all locally soured whenever possible.
You’re always guaranteed a warm welcome at The Wolf.
2-10 Constitution Hill, B19 3LY
Burning Soul Brewing Co
If you’re around on a Friday or Saturday, you should definitely head over to Burning Soul Brewing Co to drink right from the source. The Burning Souls were named winners of the 2017 Thirsty Games at IndyManBeerCon, despite heady competition from Little Earth Project and Affinity Brew Co.
The taproom is open on Fridays from 4pm to 8pm and Saturdays from 1pm to 8pm – the tap list is ever changing, often featuring a number of experimental pilot brews alongside favourites like OCT IPA and Coconut Porter.
Unit 1 Mott Street, B19 3HE
If you don’t fancy heading out to the Jewellery Quarter, you can take a short walk past the Bullring Shopping Centre into Digbeth.
Clink is a great little bottleshop/bar that is not only home to an impressive selection of beers sourced from breweries and micro-breweries from around the world, but also holds a permanent tap residence for Kings Heath’s own, Glasshouse Beer Co. Let me tell you, Josh’s work is always packed seriously boshable.
Why do all your drinking at the bar when you can also take it away in bottles, cans or growlers to enjoy when you get home?
6 Gibb Terrace, Gibb Street, The Custard Factory, B9 4AA
Glasshouse Beer Co.
You can also check out Clink Beer’s second venue in Harborne, The Paper Duck.
115 High Street, B17
Whilst there’s no doubting the extra foot traffic that the Christmas market brings in, with the same vendors traveling to Brum year on year, it does lead me to question why there’s no real Birmingham stamp on the market other than its location. The popularity of the yearly event seems like a missed opportunity to promote local businesses alongside the Frankfurt stalls.
Our advice is to check out more of what Birmingham has to offer – a visit to a couple of the places on our list is a great start. Why not take a crawl from one end of town to the other if you’re feeling ambitious?