The home of Batham's Brewery, officially the Vine, but known by many by its alternative name as above, is a fine place indeed. The interior has four rooms linked by a central corridor, with
brown glazed tiles on the walls and a serving hatch to service the various different spaces. Like many, when there, I tend to be in one of the rooms off the main corridor, as indeed, most visitors do, but it is the inner sanctum, the public bar (though I don't actually know how they refer to it locally) that really is the prize spot. But wait a minute. This isn't a big room and there is pub etiquette to think of. You don't just march in to a place like this and plonk yourself down. Locals use this space and yes, they have a right to some respect and thus it is, that although I'd poked my head round the door more than once, I don't recall ever sitting there for a couple of pints. Until now. We called in on a Thursday just before teatime and the public bar was nearly empty. We were in the sweet spot after which the lunchtime mob has long gone and the teatime regulars had scarcely started to drift in. There was probably five or six within and with us four, ten at most. The bar wouldn't comfortably hold more than two and a half times that, so you see my point I hope. It looked reasonable to do so, so we entered the holy of holies and sat in the empty seats below the main bow window. We were given a friendly welcome by the (once again excellent barmaid - a Black Country speciality it seems - and nods from the locals. So far so good.
The pub itself has a history that can easily be discerned by our ubiquitous friend, Google, but of course I will mention its wonderful exterior, for this is that rarest of beasts, a pub that looks just as good outside as it is splendid inside. That's a lot rarer than you might think. We parked in the handy car park opposite which gives a great view of the pub. While the others darted inside, I paused to observe and take in the place. It is a remarkably handsome building, two tone yellow and cream in colour, dark wood windows and its famous slogan painted at roof level in block capitals, "BLESSING OF YOUR HEART - YOU BREW GOOD ALE". Adjacent and attached is the brewery, with the proud words, "The Birthplace of Genuine Beer". No false modesty here. They are proud of their pub, their brewery and their beer. And so they ought to be.
Batham's is a small company, with ten houses. That seems to suit them, though they do have a small free trade of around 20 accounts. I recommend having a look at the brewery's website which allows you to download, free of charge, The History of Batham's Black Country Brewery, a fascinating read, with many old photos.
Back in the public bar, we ordered pints of bitter and savoured this most traditional of brews, with its slightly sweet opening and bitter finish. Too good to have just one, we had another then left them to it. The locals would be in soon.
Batham's is one of a very few breweries that still deliver beer in hogsheads of 54 Imperial gallons.
The Vine is situated at:
10 Delph Road,
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.
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