Beer Blog

The Spotted Dog, Digbeth.

As hard as he shook the handle, the door remained closed. The dimly lit interior revealed no signs of life neither. Walking to the corner of the pub looking for a second door he gazed at the pubs emblem in a glass panel where the door might have been. Checking his mobile phone he walked off, back towards the main road, disappearing into the Digbeth shadows.

Spotted Dog-3

If he’d looked up he would have seen the glowing lantern, illuminating the four Provinces of Eire together with a spotty dog and the words ‘the dogs’ in Gaelic. If he’d looked through the window he would have seen a glimmer of movement and if he’d gone right round the corner into the adjacent street, he would have found an open door leading into a small bar where a couple of chaps were three quarters of the way down their pints.

An archway leads through into a larger bar room and then round the corner into a concert room and back towards the door the lad had been trying. There’s no one in the larger bar, the two blokes sup up and leave, and for a good ten minutes there’s only us and the young bar maid in the pub, which surprised me for a noted Irish pub that’s in the Good Beer Guide. Maybe things are a little quieter outside the city centre in deepest Digbeth? Maybe the punters were saving themselves for the weekly Jazz night a little later in the evening? 

Four cask ales on, the always excellent, Castle Rock Harvest pale, One from Grey Trees, whom I’d never heard of, a local brewed Pale from Birmingham Brewing Co. and Holdens Black Country Mild.

Spotted Dog-7

I’d already tried a local small brewery beer in another pub and was scared to try another so I went for the Holdens Mild and it was superb, an easy NBS 3.5 and edging towards 4. I quickly necked my trial half and ordered another pint. Prices were dirt cheap, and even cheaper on some lines for the Jazz session.

It all felt a bit 40 Watt bulbish inside, but as my eyes accustomed themselves to the gloom a proper pub came into focus. Mucho leaded lights and a pleasing looking facade of red brick which I would have liked to seen in the daylight. The only thing I couldn’t work out was the random tricycle dangling from the ceiling in the main bar. The quirky signs were self explanatory.

As well as a strong Irish theme, music is a firm tradition, with portraits of flautists, fiddlers and accordion players on the walls and a permanent mixing deck in the concert room. People started to drift in, dribs and drabs rather than a flood.

The Mild was that good I had another, I felt at home, like in a pub from maybe thirty years ago. I felt warm and safe and comfortable, everything seemed familiar. I didn’t think I’d find a pub like the one I grew up in, in the middle of Birmingham. The only thing missing were the blokes talking dogs and horses, which is strange for an Irish pub. N.B. Scruffy Murphys and the like do not count as Irish Pubs and are merely tacky themed bars.

The folk bagsying their seats weren’t interested in talking, neither was the pleasant barmaid, who seemed to have problems understanding what I said, but then she wasn’t like us, or the locals I’d had a laugh with earlier in The Gunmakers Arms.

I really think that to discover a place you need to talk to local people, who’d probably tell you everywhere was over run with students and academics who tend to make the space they inhabit into a homologous everyplace. Yes, if there’d been some proper local drinkers in the Spotted Dog it would have elevated itself to the category of awesome.

17 replies »

  1. Now there’s a coincidence. I get home from the Woodman, the White Swan and the Anchor and read of your visit to a fourth Digbeth pub.
    Imagine my disappointment that the Banks’s Amber Bitter in the White Swan was a tad disappointing, as the Banks’s Mild was drinking more well there, and not quite as good as the Castle Rock Black Gold in the Woodman and the Wye Valley Wholesome Stout in the Anchor.
    I then stopped off on my way home at the Great Western and imagine my further disappointment that I was two or three hours too late for a pork bap or two and two or three days too early for the Holdens Old Ale. The Holdens Mild was though so very good that I would have had another had it not a been a long day starting off with the Bartons Arms kindly opening half an hour early for me.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Banks’s will always be disappointing for me because of the Marston’s connotation.

      I am however envious of your visit to The Great Western, but no pork bap! I’ve never tasted Holden’s Old Ale and I do like this type of beer. I had to be content with a few pints of Kirkstall Dissolution in Stew & Oyster which was surprisingly 10p under £4 and then a couple of pints of Taddy lager in the Fox & Hounds.


      • I’m not sure what you mean by “the Marston’s connotation”.
        Both were well regarded brewers and in 1999 ( after Pubmaster tried taking over W&D ) Wolverhampton & Dudley Breweries purchased Marston, Thompson & Evershed. It was then decided that Marstons would be a more positive name than Banks’s for future expansion,


      • “envious of your visit to The Great Western”. – Yes, that pub lives up to the “Great” even without a pork bap or the Old Ale.
        I do though prefer it at lunchtime, as I do every pub, and it seemed it bit odd that many of the other customers, rather than wearing Royal Mail uniforms, were dressed up, the men in black ties and the women like a school friend of mine who became an actress in James Bond films. I asked what it was all about and apparently they had all gone in for a few drinks at sensible prices, like £2.65 for the Holdens Mild, before going on to some nearby event that had a James Bond theme. One moaned that he didn’t think he could go with a replica gun.


  2. We missed you on our Digbeth dawdle, Richard. It was the best trip of the summer, beer wise, even though only the Woodman was in the Beer Guide. Really changed my view on Brum, just like new bars in Jewellery Quarter did last year. It’s the centre that’s a bit shy of great pubs nowadays.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Birmingham has never really gelled with me. It’s meant to be the UK’s second city, but is it really? It has always felt like a big sprawling nothingness without a heart to me. Having said that the pubs we went in were very good and I felt that there was something there.


      • I’ve nothing against Birmingham but I probably get to Manchester twice as often even though it’s twice the distance.
        Digbeth was indeed a bostin’ day out last July, far better than the city centre the previous October, and I couldn’t fault the Woodman and three other Birmingham heritage pubs I was in three days ago.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. I think I agree with you there.
    Not only did 1960s planners do much more damage to Birmingham than the Luftwaffe had ( and the Bartons Arms only narrowly escaped demolition in 1969 ) but the M&B Ansells duopoly left only a couple of Davenports pubs worth going to – that’s in the early 1980s when a trip to Manchester meant eight pubs each of a different brewer, and was long before I gave up seeking out different beers two years ago


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