No visit to the West Midlands is complete without a visit to Ma Pardoes, or, as it is really called, the Old Swan Inn. Set on a busy main road in Netherton, it is quite a wonder, being one of the original remaining four home brew pubs when CAMRA was formed. Again I have been quite a few times, firstly on one of the Mystery Coach trips run by a noted CAMRA member in Manchester, Ken Birch
aka Ben Chestnut. Now why these trips were down as "mystery" I don't know, as we always ended up in the Bull and Bladder and Ma Pardoes. Then the legendary Mrs P was alive and kicking, but alas no longer so. For those interested in the history of the pub, there is as complete a go at it as you are likely to come across - here.
The main difference between these far off days and now is that the pub was extended in 1986 and now has somewhat oddly, two front doors and a set of rambling rooms behind the famous bar where a huge cast iron stove, now behind protective mesh still dominates, along with the stunningly grand ceiling with its swan motif. The large snug on the left, complete with piano, would be a splendid place to take someone else's wife for a drink, as indeed would be any of this maze of marvellously old fashioned rooms. Wandering around it, with its faded Victorian and Edwardian grandeur made you want to settle in and wait for the sing song. Atmosphere in buckets and you just can't manufacture that. It comes through time and people.
We sat in the old main bar and listened to the thick Black Country accents bantering with each other. The beer is still brewed here, but perhaps doesn't reach the heights of Holden's or Batham's, though Ma Pardoe's Original at 3.5% is still worth drinking and the pub worth visiting for its own unique feel. No particular warm welcome here, but an easy acceptance of us wandering round looking at the various rooms. They must be used to it.
We only stayed for one here, but I still recommend it.
Back in the day when The Little Pub Company was still going, we used to visit here and the Vines for pre or post lunch pints when venturing out to eat in one of their pubs with friends from the area. Who can forget the Cradley Sausage Works, Desperate Dan Pie Factory or Mad O'Rourkes? Not me. They had a motto on all their receipts. "Please drink harder and faster" Wouldn't be allowed now.
Remarkably, the Old Swan is owned by Punch Taverns.
A bit of a CV. Tandleman is a veteran beer lover, local CAMRA Chairman and activist, beer writer, beer reviewer and pursuer of all things good in beer. He lives in the North West of England and London. Despite his CAMRA membership, he does not limit himself to cask conditioned beer, though he believes that cask conditioning, when done correctly and appropriately, brings a quality to beer that is hard to equal by any other kind of presentation. He is a strong supporter of Northern methods of beer dispense and avidly detests poorly presented beer and dislikes pasteurisation. He regularly visits Germany, has conducted corporate British and German beer tastings for CAMRA at the Great British Beer Festival where he has worked for years on Biere Sans Frontieres and was Deputy Organiser at CAMRA's very successful National Winter Ales Festival in 2009, 2010, 2011 and 2012 and at the Manchester Beer and Cider Festival from 2013 to date. He admires good brewers wherever they are and has travelled extensively in pursuit of good beer to drink. He also judges beer at both the International Beer Challenge and the World Beer Awards.
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