some news from much closer to home now re the pubs of Handsworth. I am focusing on the two pubs that sell real ale for definite and that I know are good, and leaving for another time the subject of the New Crown which may now have given up on real ale altogether, and the wannabee restaurant that is the White Rose, my nearest watering hole which I almost never visit on account of it being a bit grim.
So, on the 1st of May, having recovered from our skip filling exploits, which was the way we chose to celebrate the royal wedding, me and Waarf went for a wander through Bowden Woods, a short amble that I suspected would take us to Handsworth top after a while, and thus promised a pint or two.
The woods look fantastic at the moment, the unbroken sunshine and lack of rain has meant the paths are bone dry and easily passable (notably the unfavoured ones that head off into the undergrowth where briefly, you can imagine you aren't sandwiched between a dual carriageway and a housing estate), but also the flora and fauna is in bloom and there are bluebells and other green shoots in the dappled light to enjoy.
Of course, its difficult to spend more than 10 minutes in Bowden woods without encountering a retard on a mini quad or trail bike tearing up the path, usually to the delight of a gawkish crowd of easily amused simpletons, or young people as I call them. Mind you, lets be clear, this is not a mono generational phenomena, quite often doting law breakers come along to see their water headed offspring zoom around illegally on footpaths in the best countryside for miles around. On this occasion, a mixed bunch of adults and the larger infantile were amassed at a cross section cheering on an unseemly quiche of Johnny no stars as they attempted to race around every path or track in the woods, and who delighted in racing past us at 30mph, much to the assembled morons pleasure.
Somehow we escaped unscathed, but annoyed at having the peace and of course the law, broken by irresponsible persons, only to get through the second part of the woods and out onto the path to Richmond road to observe a gang of mini quad riders speeding towards us in unison, their faces covered.
Naturally, if you have an inbuilt tendency towards selfish stupidity, this is quite normal behaviour, but on planet earth it shouldn't be. So, and this is not an excuse, I promised myself that I had good reason to be ready for a life soothing drink at the pub when i had finished the walk with Waarf.
We walked along the road straight on towards the allotments and up the path across the field to the church before Chala announced that she wanted to go in the Cross Keys. Once in there, I noted one handpump had the clip turned round, but didn't mind as Cocker Hoop was still on, but when the barman went to pull it another staff member told him it had gone - he stopped as I sighed at the expected alternative, but didn't turn the pump clip round. I have to be very calm to overlook that deceit.
So, with only the grimly innocuous malt and water mouthwash of Bombadier, once a beer that actually had ingredients in it, on offer, Chala checked if I wanted to stay. Of course, I'd have rather gone for a better range elsewhere but I checked twice that there was something she wanted and proceeded. Having got my pint, Chala then ordered a coke with ice. Inspired.
In the end, more out of annoyance at earlier events, and that we could have been having something that wasn't a Bombadier and a coke, I had two pints, before we sloped off home for a very nice meal.
The next day, having missed my chance before, I went to the Old Crown on me tod and was very surprised to see 3 White Rose brewery beers on offer. I had a pint of their Spring Hoppiness, which was quite nice but a bit tired and cloudy, and then a pint of the better Hopping Mad, which was similar, but clearer and with a little more bite. I also had a chip butty to soak up the effects of my lunchtime tippling, before treating myself to a final half of the Blonde - the Hopping Mad had run out. Mind you, as I sat back down, the landlady very kindly came over with a free half of the beer that had just run out. Full marks then to the Old Crown for having something different on and being generous to boot.
So, back to today, and after painstakingly pissing away two hours uploading losing and moving parts of my last post, we went on said walk again, this time undisturbed by the great unthinking, and walked, through the lesser used paths, all the way from Handsworth Avenue entrance to the bridge out of Bowden woods, in silence, and dappled sunshine.
Feeling a bit devil may care, we then headed for the TPT towards Beighton but took a walk across the playing fields, shortening our walk to Handsworth top by a few minutes. This time I insisted on The Old Crown being first choice, although to be fair to the Keys, it was rammed, so perhaps they had got 3 beers on this time?
Alas we shan't find out as we went in the Old Crown, and found 3 White Rose ales on offer once more. Their Blonde appears to be the regular, the Spring Hoppiness was on the same pump but this time clearer and fresher, and the unfortunately named Kate's Willy was on pump 3. I tried 1 pint and a half of the spring offering, and, despite misgivings about a potential cheap novelty ale bandwagon, I did try their royal wedding ale, which wasn't as good as the spring beer.
Also, whilst stood at the bar I noticed a Spire Golden (something) Ale pump clip above the bar, suggesting perhaps they have had it in the past, or it will be coming on soon. I get the feeling that the Keys is owned by a pub company, or certainly that they have a say, and this is a crying shame. On a purely aesthetic note I much prefer the Keys, and I think both of them are selling real ale at the same price, £2.65 a pint, but consistently the Crown comes up with interesting or just generally better beers, and for that reason, is currently nudging ahead in my Handsworth affections.
Lets hope then that the choice, assuming these are the only two choices for real ale drinkers in Handsworth, long continues.