PUBS, PATIOS & BARS: The best Birmingham pub crawl

Birmingham, England, is set for prime time this summer with the influx of thousands of visitors for the 2022 Commonwealth Games. If you or someone you know is one of the lucky ones to be attending (or competing), or perhaps you’re just inspired to revisit the impressively rejuvenated city at another time, a worthy pub or two will undoubtedly be required.

And while there may be many such establishments in England’s second largest city, there’s little question that a crawl along Brindley Place, is just the ticket. The large mixed-used development near the city centre is distinguished by its picturesque, industrial era canal (Birmingham is said have more miles of canals than Venice) and its attendant restaurants, cafés, pubs, shops, and a quaint bridge or two (look for the Black Sabbath bridge honouring the local rock legends if you’re so inclined).

For comparison, think Toronto’s Distillery District on a much grander scale, and with boats – of the canal barge kind, many of which can be chartered, or that may simply sell crafts and wares, such as chocolates, to passersby. At the least, they add another layer of colour to a simply delightful area.

As such, a wander along the canal is a must on any visit to Birmingham, and indeed the area swells with visitors nightly, not least local “Brummies” after-work.

Covering off both sides of the canal, here are three notable venues suitable for pub crawl (and a further non-pub venue for a bit of a variety):

The Malt House

The Malt House: Closest to the city centre end of Brindley Place, the Malt House is also around the corner from the Convention Centre, Birmingham (Utliia) Arena, Symphony Hall, and other nightspots, making for an ideal place for a pre- or post night-out drink. Famous patrons are said to have included Lady Gaga and Bill Clinton. But despite the pedigree, the pub is thoroughly traditional, split across two levels, and offering a welcome outdoor patio to help drink in the sparkling canal-side atmosphere (no pun intended).

The Canal House: Located mid-way along the waterway, Canal House (banner image) is the hottest pub in town, recently named 2022 Pub of the Year by West Midlands Tourism. Overlooking the Gas Street Basin, with dozens of moored boats, the two-storey venue has an intimate upper balcony and a spacious ground level outdoor patio with picnic tables. Inside, it’s barnboard chic, and bright and open, not stuffy. In or out, the venue touts “live music, flowing drinks and delicious food” and is open from noon to 11 p.m. during the week and 1 a.m. on weekends.

Canalside Café

Canalside Café: Across the Basin from Canal House, the compact Canalside Café overflows with flowers, and with its whitewash façade, suggests a Greek island setting rather than the UK’s former industrial heartland. But its real ale bona fides, along with honeyed cider and mulled wine, prove otherwise. The venue, uniquely long and narrow inside, is said to be “the smallest pub in Birmingham,” virtually guaranteeing that patrons will soon be happily chatting up their neighbours, whether they want to or not. And if such things are important to you (as they are to me), the likes of The Who and Kansas were among the soundtrack bands when I stopped by.

And last, but not least:

Jukeboxers: Not a pub, this duelling piano bar is a blast. Located across the canal from the Malt House beneath the arena, rotating musicians play classic pop where everybody knows the words (and feel inclined to sing them). The tunes are non-stop (as the drinks tend to be). There’s no cover, but minimum drinks are required.

On another note

David Green (blue shirt) and friends meet “Ted Lasso” star Jason Sudeikis (hat and ‘stash) on a recent visit to the pub where the hit Apple TV+ show is filmed

What a great and unexpected follow-up to my March 31 column, in which I wrote about The Prince’s Head in Richmond, just outside London – the real-life pub that serves as the film set for The Crown and Anchor venue on the popular “Ted Lasso” TV show. I observed that many Lasso devotees visit the establishment, noting an industry colleague who was soon planning to do so. G Adventures’ David Green immediately “outed” himself in the comment section, and afterwards, sent me a photo of the occasion in which he, and some friends, actually bumped into star Jason Sudeikis, who was taking a break from filming when the group stopped in for a pint.

“Honestly, I was grinning from ear to ear the entire time,” Green told me. “He was so lovely, very sincere and could not have been any nicer. We got up off the bench to ask for a selfie, and he was like, “No boys, sit down let me come and join you. He’s just as nice as Ted Lasso himself… So unexpected, but very, very happy!”

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With glass purposefully in hand, we at Travel Industry Today continue our series on some of the planet’s best bars, patios and rooftop venues. For more articles in the series, check out:

First published at Travel Industry Today