Pub/Bar of the Month February 2012: The Vine, Brierley Hill, UK
The Vine, Brierley Hill, UK
Motorway driving can be a drag, so one of the little treats I allow myself on long journeys is to divert to a pub.
Inevitably, as I’m heading from south to north, or vice versa, the most convenient places to take a break tend to be in the Midlands.
On a recent trip I made a diversion into the Black Country, home to some fine family brewers and historic, community pubs that have not been vandalised by here-today, gone-tomorrow designers.
The destination this time – my M5 refreshment stop – was The Vine at Brierley Hill.
Better known to beer buffs as The Bull & Bladder (apparently, the premises has butchery connections), the pub is the brewery tap for Bathams, which sits, almost obscured, right behind. This means Bathams fine ales are on tap and as fresh as they come.
It’s an impressive pub right from the first sight, with the famous inscription from Shakespeare’s Two Gentlemen of Verona – ‘Blessing of your heart, you brew good ale’ – emblazoned along the two-tone beige façade.
A tiled entrance porch leads to a mosaic-floored corridor, with a central bar and rooms off to left and right.
You can just picture the delight spreading across some bright-spark’s face as he orders in the hammer to smash down all the dividing walls, and equally imagine the soul-less void that would be left within once the ‘refurbishment’ had been completed.
Thank goodness Bathams doesn’t think that way, as the pub is a real joy, catering for all sections of the community in their own little pocket paradises.
The public bar on the right at the front is basic and conversation-noisy, a simply furnished drinking area with old newspaper cuttings framed upon the walls. Here, the lads crowd the bar, swigging pints of mild and best bitter, and chewing the fat in their broad Black Country accents.
Across the hall is a carpeted lounge, divided into two areas by archways. Cushioned bench seating is a throwback to the old days, complete with bell-pushes for service.
Light streams weakly through the leaded- and stained-glass windows from the busy road outside, and the odd items of old brewery equipment scattered round the room act as reminders of the family-run business that has operated behind the pub for more than a century.
From these front two bars, The Vine drifts unpretentiously back to yet more places to sit and sup, including a long rear room, upholstered in burgundy, that has a dartboard in pride of place at one end.
The furnishings are simple and the atmosphere timeless.
The only problem for the dib-in, dib-out motorist like me is that he doesn’t have the time to fully savour the experience and can only take in part of the pleasure (and none of the ale).
The menu of simple but hearty Black Country pub food (pies, faggots) looked very tempting but I didn’t want to fall asleep at the wheel.
In the end I enjoyed a huge salad roll, for not very much money, which I washed down somewhat resentfully with a mineral water, as I sat and eavesdropped on conversations of little import that nonetheless are the lifeblood of brilliant boozers like The Vine.
The car sat impatiently across the road like a nagging mother-in-law. I could picture it looking at its watch and tutting. I had to go. But I’ll be back, and hopefully for longer next time.
The Vine, 10 Delph Road, Brierley Hill, West Midlands DY5 2TN
Tel. (01384) 78293
Opening Hours: 12–11; 12–10.30 Sunday