2017 was a great year of beer exploration for me. I started to feel more like myself after a messy relationship breakdown in 2016 and made it my mission to spend more time engaging in the beer community in Birmingham, as well as making a few visits to thriving beer cities like London and Leeds and travelling to Brussels, Bruges and Copenhagen.
I’m looking forward to more of the same this year, but I’m also committed to spending a little more time going back to my roots and really appreciating the places where my beer obsession began. In writing posts for this series, I’m making my way back to the pubs I don’t visit often enough and spending quality times with some of my favourite people. I’m happy to bring you readers along for the journey.
The next stop on our casual crawl around Walsall is The Fountain Inn, a family run pub that acts as the tap house for nearby The Backyard Brewhouse.
The Fountain Inn, more commonly known as The Fountain, is located on Lower Forster Street, just a short walk away from Walsall’s main shopping area. Despite the close vicinity of some of my least favourite aspects of my home town, it’s tucked away just enough that it doesn’t tend to attract the more unsavoury folk that you might find right in the centre.
Formed of two comfortable rooms with the bar at the centre serving both, The Fountain is a traditional back street boozer with a twist. Whilst The Pretty Bricks could easily be used as a location for a period drama, the décor in The Fountain brings the pub into the 21st century, without taking away from the quirky character of the building. Music is also very much a fixture here, with eclectic events taking place throughout the year. I really do need to make it over to Vinyl Night soon.
As tap house for The Backyard Brewhouse, many backyard beers feature on the regularly changing tap list, alongside other local brews and popular ales from a little further afield. In my opinion, Backyard are a great little brewery that produce a core range of seriously sessionable ales. By taking a slightly more experimental approach to a variety of traditional British styles, Backyard offer plenty for the more discerning craft beer drinker, whilst keeping the most stuck-in-their-ways CAMRA member happy.
Personally, I would very happily drink pint after pint of Backyard Blonde on any given night and the chances are that I wouldn’t feel too bad in the morning. If you’re a stout fan, check out Coal Town Coffee Stout – it’s an outstanding pint without being too showy.
On my recent mid-week visit to The Fountain, I enjoyed a catch-up with my oldest friend, Nick. He often says the first ten months of his life were the happiest – then I was born. Obviously, this is bollocks, he was a baby then so there’s no way he could remember a world without me.
I see Nick fairly regularly, but in my opinion, the man needs to get out more, so I was happy to get a text from him inviting me to the pub –
“Beer tonight if you are about?”
Please, you had me at beer.
A few hours later, we were pulling up outside The Fountain. Entering through the front door, we decided to go through to the left room and set our jackets down at the booth in the bay window. After a quick scan of the cask pump clips, I decided on a pint of Backyard’s Centennial IPA and took a seat, leaving Nick to take care of the first round.
Over our first pint, we caught up on work and I talked Nick through my plans for the ‘My Home Town’ series of blogs and where I planned to go next.
Half an hour later, it was time for me to get my wallet out. I was happy to see that Backyards newest beer had been tapped – ‘The Mandarin’, a hazy, Belgian IPA. Nick settled on the same and we shared our tasting notes. The name certainly gives a clue as to the flavours in the beer; the tangy citrus, marmalade notes are subtle, allowing the spicy, fruity esters of the Belgian yeast strain to shine through.
As I had driven, I had to forgo any more beer, but I was very much in the mood for a pork pie. An exceptional pork pie, in fact.
Leaving the pub at closing time, I remembered to duck so as not to bang my head on the low door frame and went out into the cold, but clear night. Nick waited patiently by the car as I fiddled about with my camera and took a few shots of the pub exterior.
“Yep, we need to do this more often”, he said as I opened the car.
“Yeah, we should.”