Welcome to Walsall, a town in the West Midlands best known for an excellent statue of a Hippo and for being eight miles north-west of Birmingham. It’s also the place where I was born and still call home. Despite the bad press that Walsall often gets (rightly so in many cases, but BBC Midlands Today do tend to pick the worst people to interview), it’s full of friendly and down-to-earth YamYams and traditional pub culture is strong.
In this series of stories, I’ll be taking you on a tour of the best pubs in Walsall to enjoy a few pints, a couple of cheese and onion cobs and share good conversation and a bag of Black Country style pork scratchings with your muckers.
Here’s stop one on our crawl.
The Pretty Bricks
The Pretty Bricks, a Black Country Ales house on John Street, is the true epitome of a community pub. Walking into the pub for the first time and feeling charmed by the traditional interior, you could be forgiven for feeling like you’ve entered a time warp. With its real fires, cosy booths and a complete lack of TV, you could be fooled into believing you were in any time in the last hundred years.
It’s an old-style building, split into a bar room at the front and a lounge at the back, with a single wood panelled bar serving both rooms. On an average day, you’ll have the choice of up to ten ales and ciders on cask, plus your usual Guinness and macro-lager options. The cask beer offering is usually quite local; alongside the permanent beers from Black Country Ales and traditional brewers like Holden’s, you’ll often find one or two choices from great midlands brewers like Stourbridge’s Green Duck and Shropshire’s Salopian. Just as important as the choice available, the beer at The Pretty Bricks is always impeccably well-kept.
On a recent Thursday night, I made the short journey over to meet up with a friend for a couple of beers and a chat. With all booths in the front bar taken, I went through to the lounge. I ordered a pint of Salopian’s Matrix pale ale and took a seat at a long bench that spans the length of the back wall. Other than myself and the pub dog, the only other people in lounge were a middle-aged couple sat on the opposite side of the room. We smiled at each other and exchanged some pleasant small talk about the dog and her love of pork scratchings. With my buddy Rob not due to arrive for half an hour (not me, a different Rob), I decided to read my book for a while.
Conveniently, Rob arrived just as I was reaching the last few sips of my pint. Browsing the beer list, he asked me what I was drinking and I recommended the Matrix. My first had gone down well so I decided on another of the same. Why wouldn’t I? Trying as many new beers as possible is always great, but in the context of a decent pub, sometimes you can’t beat picking a good session beer and sticking to it for the duration of the evening.
For the next couple of hours, we flowed from one conversation to another, with passing pub patrons joining in from time to time. When last orders came, we drained our glasses and returned them to the bar, having a quick chat with Lucy the licensee and saying our goodbyes. Outside, standing by Rob’s van, we politely turned down the offers of windscreen de-icer from fellow pub-goers and made plans for a proper session at The Pretty Bricks in the near future.
As we talked, the pub’s exterior lights were turned off. As good a cue as any for a quick bro-hug and to go our separate ways.
John Street, Walsall, WS2 8AF. Tel: 01922 612 553 Mon – Thurs: 12:00pm – 23:00pm Fri- Sat: 12:00pm – 00:00am