30 November 2009

Dudley Beer Festival

Click here to search for pubs in Dudley

I have arranged to visit Dudley again in the summer. Supposedly, the Northeast, Sheffield, and the Black Country share similar demographics. These demographics reflect a preference for stronger beers than elsewhere in UK.

Before I left, I spent an hour in the morning writing a document that would allow the project I was working to continue in my absence.

It did not take long to pack. I had gathered the information on where I would stay several days beforehand. I always compiled a single document that contained information on accommodation (Travelodge in Dudley in this case), transport, etc.

I travelled down to Dudley Port railway station on 26 November 2010, via Wolverhampton (change at platform 5) from Stockport (platform 2 from Stockport to Bournemouth). Incidentally, there is a Chinese chip shop near Dudley Port station. It was possible to buy burger, chips, and curry for under £2.

To reach the venue (Dudley Concert Hall on James' Street, near the library and the art museum), I took the 74 bus to Dudley centre. Buses in Dudley work on an exact change principle. So ensure the correct change. The ride was supposed to be £1.20 but I gave £2.

I checked the date on my CAMRA card, which had expired. A new one was supposedly dispatched in October. I never received it but I had an email which I intended to show at the door, should there be any contention over my membership (to save a few pounds for the myPUBGUIDE.com fund).

I was in the Griffin, getting directions to the beer festival venue. The drinks were Banks's. I paid £2.20 for a pint of bitter. There was 3.75 hours left to go for the festival to start and four weeks left to Christmas.

As well as the concert hall, there are other attractions in Dudley: a castle, a zoo, and several museums (including one like Beamish). The Black Country Museum sounds like a favourite (too far and hard to find). My family had not joined me on the visit. It was a bit of shame really. My son would have enjoyed the zoo but he attended school instead.

The festival could have done with more chairs (Stoke was the same). It had the same kind of local government and local brewery politics; people were standing tables and the floor area was cleared a little for the Morris Dancers.

The range of drinks including IPAs was extra strong. I started with a half pint of Acorn IPA. Then I tried Beowulf, Brewdog (punk), Crown's Ring of Fire, and Banks's Old Ale. I left my guide there because I became distracted. I got talking to someone about how non-representative of the population CAMRA events are and that it has not moved on to reached out beyond the converted. He gave an example of how whiskey events were far more representative. He considered that the master brewer could play an active role at the beer festival, instead of running a binge drinking assembly hall.

I did not remain at the festival for too long. I found the appeal of The Court House on New Street (opposite the police station) more appetizing. The beer in the Court House was in better condition than the festival. It has an alluring Black Country Ales sign on the door. I was impressed by the sixteen draught beers. These included Fireside (5%) and Downton IPA (6.8%), at around £3 per pint.

I had a fair few. I followed this with a kebab and taxi. The taxi that night was £6.90 from the bus station. I did not get back until around midnight.

The next morning, I left the Travelodge at 0945 (Room 32). The bus (246 exact cash) was £1.70. I was ready for it this time because I went to the shop near the bus stop first, to obtain change. It is near the Blue Brick and an Aldi.

I made my way to the Priory (New Street, DY1 1LU) near the police station and the Court House. I drank Banks's Original (cask). The steak pie and pint was £3.60; a pint on its own was £2.15.

I took a look around the Art Museum too, just opposite the beer festival venue. It is as an impressive any art museum of its size.

I became bored with the idea of the festival. So I decided to have a few 6.8% IPAs at the Court House instead. Meanwhile, I spoke with the locals about the ghostwriter in the pub. One of these chaps introduced me to a book on Dudley (see www.nedwilliams.co.uk for details). He also advised that I take the bus into Wolverhampton instead of making my way back to Dudley Port station.

When I travelled back on 27 November 2010, I ditched the idea of travelling to Dudley Port first. Instead, I travelled directly to Wolverhampton, using the bus service. The day saver from West Midland travel was £3.30 and too around forty minutes.