Bacchus makes the grade thanks to its sheer wackiness. It’s one of those places that’s always fun to duck into with a visiting friend, if only to watch their reaction to the extravagant décor within. The bar is tucked away on the basement floor of the Burlington Arcade, a complex of hotels and shops in the centre of town, and located on one of Birmingham’s oldest streets. Dating back to 1398, this is a pub that’s taken the historical theme of the area and ran wild with it.
Cherry Reds is a comforting hotchpotch of laid-back boho design and your granny’s front room. If beers and ales whip you into a hoppy frenzy, you’ve arrived: to say that the list of permanently stocked bottles is extensive is to understate the matter. If you like strong darks, you’ll be particularly pleased to see Belgium’s Rochefort 10 Trappist featuring; we’re suckers for the depth of its creamy plum and blackcurrant notes.
One for the dancers, the rockers, the hipsters and the ravers, The Hare & Hounds has an eclectic programme of live music and party nights to cater for almost every taste. It’s also a great place to while away a lazy Sunday. King's Heath, the increasingly vibrant area to the south of the city centre, is where this musical mecca is found, in a Grade II-listed building sprawling across multiple floors and spaces.
Split into three distinct areas, the Lord Clifden is that rare beast – a pub that works in any season and allows permanent locals and transient JQ-dwellers to exist in mutual harmony. If you can get a seat, that is. We love long and celestial summer nights in the laid-back surrounds of the Clifden's garden. With guest DJs, table tennis, a seasonal BBQ and the all-important bar, you'll find yourself leaving hours after you intended and worrying about the explanation later.
Despite offering over a hundred beers, Pure is as often the pick of Brum’s gin-swigging contingent as it is the protectorate of boys’ business lunches or post-work ales.With local legends Purity Brewing partly behind the city centre’s industrial chic, the beer is unsurprisingly served right every time, and the drinks list includes a blackboard chock full of tasty surprises.
Welcome to the year-long beer festival that never stops. A familiar feature in CAMRA guides, The Anchor stocks a mind-boggling number of regularly rotating beers, ales (with a particular speciality in hard-to-find English traditional ales), draft ciders and perrys. The Anchor is big on organic, so expect oodles of choice in that department too.
Bargain beers and burgers abound at this University of Birmingham staple. As likely to be busy on a Wednesday afternoon as at the weekend, think hotly contested pool tables, footie-filled plasmas and alcoves big enough to hide from both if it's a quieter pint you had in mind. On the right night of the week, pints start from about £1.50, with higher-end world beers coming in at two for £6.50 all day, every day.
This Louisiana-themed bar calls itself ‘a pub with a twist’ and takes inspiration from the soulful, laid-back culture of New Orleans and Cajun country. The atmosphere is chilled out and sophisticated, and the décor is brilliantly rustic and vintage at the same time. New Orleans classics fill the cocktail menu. Try the mint julep (£6.25) – a refreshing bourbon and mint mix that’s the ultimate Deep South cooler.
A stalwart of Moseley’s zippy high street, The Fighting Cocks boasts a happy union of contemporary art, nineteenth-century features and an all-important beer garden. Pick from a minimum of 14 speciality beers, lagers and ciders or four real ales. The Cocks does a great job of sourcing unusual guest ales – we remember the Otley Brewing Company’s Saison Obscura with fondness – but as the sign says, when it’s gone, it really is gone, so take this as your licence to make frequent visits. And settle in – sofas rarely come deeper or more squishy.
This classic white villa just outside the city centre is home to a smart bar, substantial restaurant and multiple outdoor spaces. Try the Grand Gin as an aperitif or your just-because refresher. A large measure of Langley’s No. 8 is served with plenty of ice, fruit, juniper berries and a premium tonic of your choice and the results are as tart as they are tasty.
Quite possibly Birmingham’s quirkiest bar, The Jekyll and Hyde is also a specialist in the subtle science and precision art of gin. With hordes of fans the city over, this is a place that Brummies are rightly proud of. While the location is somewhat uninspiring – wedged between the old law courts and the Children’s Hospital at a far end of the city centre – The Jekyll and Hyde is a destination in itself.
The Junction is everything a neighbourhood boozer should be. A myriad of regularly changing real ales, board games aplenty, a Sunday roast as good as your mother used to make and a decent crowd any night of the week gives you little reason to leave. Housed in an iconic Victorian building, the Junction is also a serious player when it comes to Harborne's increasingly competitive Saturday brunch scene.
Our pick of the CBD's traditional pubs, The Old Contemptibles is just the right side of moody for a proper boozer. There's an eclectic range of real ales on offer – over one hundred varieties make their way through the pumps over the course of a year. And in case you're feeling thirsty already, take advantage of the online library of ales and Hop Circle app.
Built in 1862 and designed by Julius Alfred Chatwin (who also contributed to the design of St Philip’s Cathedral opposite), the grade II listed Old Joint Stock started out as a parson’s library before being turned into the Birmingham Joint Stock Bank. Many decades later, this eye-catching building now houses both a stylish bar that attracts suited financial workers and a small black box studio.
We think the Rainbow Pub may just qualify as the best-looking boozer in Brum. Stripped-back brickwork, enormous stained glass windows, over-sized vintage mirrors and some suitably dim lighting combine to make for a rather beautiful refurb. With the arrival of retro games consoles and a custom-built Doctor Who Tardis, a young, hipster crowd has staged a Rainbow takeover in recent years.
Chesterfields, Victorian tiles, a full-size red telephone booth and an illuminated tree are just some of the things you’ll find at Bitters ’n Twisted’s JQ outpost. With regular happy hours lasting distinctly longer than 60 minutes, you can afford to take a risk and try something outside of the ordinary, like the Aero Martini – creme de menthe shaken with white chocolate liquor and cream.
A serious boozer in the week and gloriously raucous come the weekend, The Victoria is our city-centre party pub of choice. Start things off with the resident real ale, The Victoria EPA, or one of three regularly rotating guest ales (think Thornbridge, Otley, Offbeat). And if the night is going that way, launch yourself into the recently revamped and suitably shiny Victoria Book of Cocktails, which is full of thoughtful flavour-filled punchy concoctions.
Country kitsch is given a rambunctious lesson in urban living at The Village – the chameleon of Moseley. Date night? Book a table at the restaurant, then cosy up in deep sofas by the log burner for a night cap. Impromptu catch-up with pals? Grab a couple of bar stools and some pints of Mad Goose IPA. Hangover to sort out? Grab one of the large squidgy booth areas and choose from brunch or some top-notch cakes.
One of Birmingham’s stalwart pubs, The Wellington is simple, unpretentious and stocks an impressive range of craft beers and real ales. The Welly, as locals affectionately call it, is at the top of Bennett’s Hill, a street branching off from the city centre core and leading up to the Colmore Row area. With a number of bars and restaurants in the area, it’s a good place to duck into on an evening bar crawl.
Comfort food of the very best variety dominates at this self-styled pub and eating house. Sink-into-me-and-never-leave seating coupled with roaring log fires and moody lighting make the White Swan a great pick for a winter session. Drinks-wise, there's a wide selection of ales, world beers and wines by the glass or bottle.