Beer Blog

The Lych Gate, Wolverhampton

Lych Gate-4

The last Black Country Ales pub I went into didn’t impress me much. That was also on a Pub tickers day out, but in Leicester. The Lych Gate though was, I thought, quite excellent.

Early evening and there wasn’t anywhere to sit in the heart of the cosy ground floor bar area, so we had to go upstairs into a very pleasant olde worlde, half timbered overspill room. It was empty when we got up there but we were soon accompanied by other drinkers.

Lych Gate-3

Dave Buck (pictured) has run the pub for the last two years with partner Haley Hall (pictured) and told me the pub was in part of the oldest building in Wolverhampton. The half of the ground floor where the bar is dates to around 1550, the front half of the ground floor is a bit younger, by about 120 years.

Lych Gate-2

As he sent us up stairs to find a seat he told me the upstairs room was the oldest Tudor room in the city. I don’t know whether it was the history, or the fact that it was nicely busy with a decent bunch of customers that made it feel more like a village pub than a city centre boozer. There’s a flash back here to the Combermere Arms, which had a similar feel. There wasn’t anything growing through the toilets in The Lych Gate though, and they were of excellent quality, just like the rest of the house.

To be fair this is what a town centre pub should be like early doors, even mid week, sadly that’s not always the case these days. So what was it? The pub itself? The beer? Or the presence of a friendly landlord sat at the bar?

I had the Black Country Ales BFG. I haven’t scored it in my little book, apart from entering ‘Brilliant’ at the side of it, so that means north of NBSS 3.5, maybe close on a 4. A nice drop of beer. I could have had any one of nine different cask ales. Although prices weren’t as cheap as some of the other pubs we’d been in , they were still reasonable. I paid £3.30 for my pint.

Lych Gate-1

And anyway, who cares about prices? So long as they aren’t extortionate. I mean, this place was full, and if beer pricing really is key to everything, then why isn’t every Sam Smith’s pub packed to the rafters day in, day out?

The presence of the management is another big for me. I’ve said it before and I’ll keep saying it. A ship needs a Captain and that Captain needs to be on deck, making sure everything is properly ship shape. It helps when they are nice people like Dave and Haley too. I reckon there’s a lot of slack, unsupervised bar staff ruined many a good pub and I like to see licensees behind their own bar.

I couldn’t find fault with this pub at all, even down to the disabled access lift to aid those less well able getting down the steps into the pub or up the stairs to the 2nd floor and toilets.

The Lych Gate is right in the middle of the more impressive ‘civic’ part of Wolverhampton, with the parish Church taking centre stage and well worth a visit, which is more than I can say about the Heritage Kebab house which insisted on my Doner meat going on top of a plate of chips instead of a pitta or nan bread. Presumably it’s called Heritage because the Doner meat had been hanging about drying out for so long?

Lych Gate-5

18 replies »

  1. I do find this comment interesting and a contrast to the normally posted opinions: “And anyway, who cares about prices?” (I’m guessing that was said with tongue firmly in cheek.) The prices in this pub are between 3.00 and 3.70. The Sam Smiths’ prices which appear to set the lower price point seem to be about 2.80. At the low end a 30 pence swing and at the high end an 80 pence swing. Most pubbers who comment on prices, which is pretty consistently done on posts, seem to think that even the lower price swing is worth commenting on. I have often wondered about the price comments. Will 30 or 40 pence affect the average consumer pocket book that much? I tend to notice price swings in the US when they get into the $2.50 to $3.00 range since $8.00 a pint seems extortionate to me. I normally pay $5.00 a pint. I don’t think I would notice a 30 cent swing nor do I think many other people would. I am curious why so many posters seem very aware of the lower end swing that seems so common in the UK.

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    • Cask OBB is £2 a pint in Sam’s pubs Dave and some of the 2.8% beers very much cheaper. You are correct, in so far as this was quite a tongue in cheek comment. I think your comments are quite astute here. Personally it worries me not how much my beer is. Granted I wouldn’t want to be paying much more than £3 for the likes of Banks and other traditional session beers, but if it is a decent beer I don’t mind paying. The reason for the beer price sensitivity in the UK is I believe a social phenomena, in so far as ale was a working man’s drink (and it was a man’s drink rather than a woman, back in the day when factory/forge workers would repair to the local pub and sink four or five pints before going home. In these sort of households money would be tight and careful budgeting required. Often the money would all be spent before the next pay day. Therefore any price hike on staples like ale would be harshly felt. I think this price sensitivity harks back to these days. It’s worth mentioning that alcohol has never been more affordable to the average person in employment. I remember my grandad going on about how much a pint was when it hit the £1 and saying back in his day a pint was a penny farthing or something, when asked how much his wages were he replied in terms of shillings and we worked outfit beer was much more affordable at the time.

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      • Your explanation is a good one and matches what I was assuming as I read the comments on posts. I do find myself going on like your Grandfather when I find myself paying $40.00 for the two of us to go to a movie.

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  2. Price does matter to a lot of people, though, hence why Wetherspoon’s in any town are generally far busier than most of the nearby pubs. Yes, it doesn’t make much difference to me if I pay 50p more for a few pints each week, but it does stick in the craw if I feel I’m being blatantly charged over the odds.

    And, to be honest, I do much of my discretionary drinking (i.e. that not prompted by CAMRA activities or organised trips) in Sam Smith’s pubs, not because they are cheap, but because they offer the kind of environment I find congenial – brown decor, comfortable bench seating, no piped music, no TV football and a relative absence of shrieking children 😛

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    • Hard to argue with that environment type. We were in places dominated by TV and piped music this last week. The volume gets more and more difficult as I get older.

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    • Yes, it does matter to a lot of people, especially retired folk with limited means. The point I was getting at was why does it matter so much to commentators on the beer scene, so long as there are, and continue to be, places like spoons’ that cater for the less well off.

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      • Because we are interested in the general health of the pub trade, and the diversity of clientele in individual pubs?

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  3. Richard,
    So the Lych Gate Tavern is “in the right hands”?
    I only know about a quarter of Black Country Ales’s thirty pubs and the Kings Head in Leicester is the most disappointing of those several.
    On our Proper Day Out in Birmingham BCA’s Craven Arms was probably the highlight of the day and I’ve rarely heard any criticism of their very well-known Wellington.
    In Cannock, several miles from me, they have done a wonderful job in restoring the Crystal Fountain with its heritage 1930s interior and Stafford is all the better for them having taken on two pubs here, the Shrewsbury Arms and Bird in Hand.
    All are nicely refurbished with a straightforward traditional décor rather than a fake olde-worldyness.
    I don’t consider hundreds of microbreweries to be of much benefit to pub goers but those few, like Black Country Ales and Castle Rock, who can properly run a chain of two or three dozen pubs that the big Pubcos failed on are doing a splendid job.

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  4. Loads of interesting, well-made points here, Richard. I’m really glad the Lych Gate was good, and the Craven Arms in Brum (which I also missed). I find the pubs to my taste, but some of them have been much too quiet midweek to support the number of beers e.g. Leicester, Halesowen and Dudley.

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  5. Peter,
    You “find BCA’s own beers to be rather lacklustre” but ‘Black Country’ in the name surely suggests sweet rather than well hopped beers.
    Batham’s Best Bitter was never a ‘hop monster’ and neither is Holden’s very similar Golden Glow which I understand to now be their best seller.
    Maybe that explains why there’s not a Brewdog venue in Brierley Hill, or even one in Dudley.

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  6. Some very interesting comments. On pricing, well, my local pubs vary from £2.80-3.15 for cask ale. I on’t care which one I drink in, and at that level, I don’t care what the cost is. If it drifts nearer to £4 I’ll start to notice, and over that feel I’m getting stiffed a little.

    As to the Lych Gate and Black Country Taverns? I’m not so keen on the Lych Gate, or the Black Country Arms, but The Craven Arms, Pretty Bricks, Crystal Fountain, Old Bulls Head, and Duke of Cambridge are all lovely pubs and BCT seem a really good company. The thing is, there’s nothing I can find wrong with the first two, but they miss something undefineable for me- they’re well run, and have great beer though.

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    • Unfortunately it drifts towards and sometimes over £4 round these parts, in two out of the three pubs in my village it’s £3.30, it’s only by virtue of the Sam’s pub that the average price in our village gets down to £2.87.

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