First of all I doubt this will be the last blog I do on this subject, There are so many pubs in Birmingham and so many which I have not yet been too, that this list will by no means be definitive. I am rating each pub /5 in 5 different areas. Much like the 'B-Town Rating' system
Best for Beer:
Situated right between New Street Station and The Town Hall, The Post Office Vaults (8/10) is so small that it is easy to walk past unnoticed, even though it is painted bright red and has hilarious chalk board signs outside. Being a very small pub, it tends to be packed with regular visitors, and with no beer garden, finding a place to sit can be tricky at peak time. The atmosphere however is wonderful. It does seem to attract a 30+ audience of punters, and the beers are not cheap, so I wouldn't recommend it for the young hipster crowd (It does have wi-fi though). The cosy feel of the place is down to the old furniture not being replaced and bottles of beer left on the walls after many great nights spent there. The POV has a menu of 100 beers. Mostly European, and almost all of them having a story of some sort. Some are brewed by Trappist monks, others in long established breweries. You can get a little booklet with every beer in it. Once you've drunk every one I believe there is a prize (of more beer!). If you love beer then you simply have to give The Post Office Vaults a visit.
Best For Character:
Centered right next to the Custard Factory, The Old Crown Inn (7.6/10) has become a cool hangout with Birmingham's hipsters. Despite being one of the oldest pubs in Britain. Founded in the middle ages and surviving Two world wars, The Industrial revolution and the developers of the 1960's. The Old Crown has only gained more character over time. Over the last 100 years the foundations have sunk, the wooden beams looking a lot more wonky than they used too. During the day The Old Crown also has it's own little coffee club, which is a nice place to sit if the pub gets crowded over night. Despite looking very small from the outside, The old crown only gets bigger inside. Complete with it's own beer garden (more of a patio really) and water well, as well as at least two resident ghosts. The old Crown can also boast to have once hosted Queen Victoria, weary after her travels.
Best for Music
As you will know from reading The B Town blog, I have always done my best to support Birmingham's music scene, and have been to many of these pubs to check out new music. However This raises the question of when does a pub become a music venue that serves beer, rather than a pub that has live music. The Sunflower Lounge (6) is a bit of both. To be judged by a pub's standards it lacks character, despite the cool look of the place. It's not the most welcoming of places either. I've always felt that The Sunflower Lounge is the cool place to be though. Yet it is the tiny cellar and the impressive roster of bands that play there that make The Lounge worth going too. The Flapper (6.8) is much more old school in style. It's big it has a pier to smoke on, a decent beer selection and the tunes are always great. The cellar down below hosts many great gigs, yet the pub itself is welcoming, it's big enough to not feel claustrophobic. The only drawback is how hard it is to find. The Actress and Bishop (6.8) is by far the least posh pub in the Jewelry Quarter, and as a direct result it's also the most popular. I've seen some great shows in the little upstairs section. The pub has a cool rock n roll vibe but a nice atmosphere all the same. But best of all Is the Hare and Hounds, which amazingly I've only ever been to once, a great pub and live venue, it's the best of both worlds.
Best for Atmosphere
In all the times I have been to or walked past The Shakespeare (7.2), It seems to be full of friendly, local regulars. Inside it is rather small, finished with old chairs and wooden tables, as well as a big fireplace and portraits on the walls. After a date at the sunflower lounge had been a bad idea we went to the Shakespeare and found it to be a much nicer place to talk. It has a nice cosy feel, partly down to the massive fireplace and old furnishings. For something very different, Baccus (7.2) is worth a visit. underground never to a hotel, Baccus immediately makes an impression with it's grand and very over the top décor. Huge greco-roman (reproduced) paintings on the walls. No two spots in Baccus are the same. Clearly a lot of work has gone into making it a unique place to be. A bit weird if you and your mates just want a pint, but perfect for dates and work parties.