Sunday, 19 December 2010

Fun in Brum

In the bleak midwinter there's nothing I like more than standing knee-deep in snow, inadequately dressed for the weather, nursing an ice-cold Weissbier in frost-bitten, gloveless hands. Sounds a treat doesn't it? Did I mention Birmingham as the venue? Mmmm!

I like Birmingham. It's really come on in recent years. A little bit London only a little bit friendlier. Full of Brummies rather than Londoners... I'll say no more. I like Frankfurt too, though sadly I've never had the opportunity to go there yet, so I'm basing my view of Frankfurt on Birmingham. Naturally!

Throughout the month of December, Birmingham does a pretty passable impression of Germanys fifth largest city, decking itself out in Singing Mooses and Rotating Santas at its annual Frankfurt Christmas Market (the clue's in the name). Possibly the best German Christmas Market outside of Germany itself, certainly better than the lame or non-existent offerings I've visited in other Midlands cities recently (you know who you are...).

This was my first visit to the Birmingham event, and probably the first time it's been forced to close early due to a totally expected heavy snowfall. Apparently things got pretty treacherous later in the day, but there's no doubt the sub-zero temperatures and thick carpet of fluffy snow made it a very Christmassy Christmas Market. It also made Mulled Cider the drink of choice (or at least one of the drinks of choice) for cold toes and chilly noses. One of the big attractions of this Christmas Market is the numerous speciality bars set up around the site. Plenty of German Beer to be sure, Gluwhein for those that like it, but also real ales from Woods Brewery, and excellent cider and perry from Hogan's of Warwickshire, and Orchard Pig of Somerset.

The Orchard Pig Cider Bar had their award-winning draught cider, cockle-warming mulled cider, and a selection of snow-covered barrels to stand around. Concentrate really hard, and it's almost like standing in a Somerset cider barn on a hot Summer day... well, almost. Top Somerset Cider nevertheless, if we can just persuade them to come to Leicester next year...

Warwickshire was slightly easier to visualise at the small, but perfectly formed Hogan's Cider Bar. More of that lovely Mulled Cider was available, plus bottles of the outstanding Hogan's Perry for those who needed cooling down. More snow-topped barrels to stand around, and by now the the silly animal hats were starting to make an appearance. Well done Hogan's, and well done too Birmingham Wetherspoon for helping out with the necessary comfort breaks.

It was getting really, really cold by now, so off to the Kölsch Bar for an ice-cold Schwarzbier. Brrr! It was slightly warmer at the back of the hut, but by now a group of lively Brummie gentlemen had started singing, so we headed next door for a chilled Weissbier at the sign of the Singing Moose..... outside!..... in the snow!.... Why!

It was time to beat a retreat to one of the city's noted hostelries. The cider selection at the Wellington was disappointing, but the Wye Valley HPA was in superb condition, and more importantly, not ice-cold. We'd thawed enough by now for the short trip to the palatial splendour of the Old Joint Stock, for some top quality London beer... oh well, can't win 'em all.

I'll skirt quickly over the 'Total and Utter Shambles of Disorganised Chaos at Birmingham New Street Station', and say what a great day out it was, in jolly good company, with a jolly good Bratwurst to finish too. Recommended.

4 comments:

tania_nexust said...

Sounds like you guys had an ace time, despite the weather, and all got home safely! I was stranded in a suburb of Brum with no buses running and main roads & pavements virtually impassable, but at least I had a well-stocked fridge and selection of imbibing delights at home. No mulled cider though, saving my bottle of Orchard Pig to make that when I do some homemade pork scratchings next week :-)

Paul Shirley said...

Mark's mistake was leaving too early. Though dressing in autumn hiking gear gives it a good run for its money.

If he'd come to the Shakespeare with us he could have walked straight onto a train home, instead of wandering the platforms for hours wondering where the trains were hiding ;)

...at least Birmingham was relatively warm. Would have been beer slushies in Leicester...

Ray and Gail said...

Nice photos - don't forget to send me them, plus some of the others for the ND article - and a name check of course! Just to point out the "silly animal hats" were to stop one's ears falling off and being crushed underfoot, and left on the snowy Brum sidewalks... Plus they looked cute (though the dog took a distinct disliking to them when we eventually got home!).
Soem drunken Notts louts gave me grief on the train to Hucky for wearing my hat - asked if I got paid for wearing it? So I asked if he got paid more for wearing that mask...? Still got my teeth though... :)

Rockingham Forest Cider said...

Plenty more graphic images where these came from, prepare for a large download soon...

Tania, we should have set up a video link so you could enjoy the day from the comfort of your own sofa. For authenticity you could have worn a tea-cosy and climbed into the fridge.

My mistake was not booking into a Wetherlodge for the night...