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.
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.
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.