Saturday I ventured into Walsall. I did so to visit the Black Country Arms which were holding an Ale Festival; I visited one the previous week at my favourite local pub The Vine. It gave me hope that the Great British Pub, despite suffering hundreds of closures, is not dead yet.
In fact the independent brewery which owns both The Vine and The Black Country Arms have been bucking the trend and have been regularly increasing their locations, with a Wolverhampton City Centre pub due to open shortly. I’d like to think it’s because people have turned against fizzy lagers, although the reason for closures is of course due to more factors than just that; however the rise in popularity of cask ales is clear to see with most pubs now trying to get in on the game.
I’ve always maintained the case that a key reason many pubs have been closing is because most of them, the ones owned by major chains at least, lack character. As can be seen The Black Country Arms can hardly be accused of that, and the same is true of most pubs which specialise in real ales. Yet, despite this, I still can’t shake the feeling that in parts such establishments play up to phoney nostalgia, they sell not beer but old times, they sell an inaccurate vision of a yesteryear when things were much easier than now. I don’t want to say much more as one of my zine articles is on this very topic, other than to say that while I can sometimes be conscious of the fact that elements of such pubs might be pure fantasy, they still hands-down beats sitting in a clinical, utterly soulless, modern bar.