Wellington, Bennetts Hill, Birmingham. (c) pumpclipmusuem.
The Wellington is now the only pub we head for before (and after if time permits) Birmingham and Villa away matches. It's not the easiest to find if you don't know the awful pedestrianised centre of the third city, but make sure you do (B2 5SN). It's just up from a small and reasonable Wetherspoons, The Briar Rose, but unless you arrive in Birmingham at daft o'clock there's no need to risk Spoons ale as the Wellington opens at 10am. The grand terrace townhouse exterior is a pleasant enough, but the interior is nothing to write home about, apart from the bar...
Wellington bar. (c) maeib's Beerblog.
As you survey the bar, a glance to your right reveals the day's offerings on a giant electronic screen with ales rated according to colour: from A, the light ales, to E, the porters and stouts. Prices are city centre standard but they are well worth it as the ale is well sourced, well kept and turns over so quickly you rarely, if ever, come across a duff pint. A nice feature is that their website displays the days' offerings, so that technically-savvy beer boffins, hop heads, scoopers and piss pots can plan their visit with almost military precision.
Wellington electric screen. (c) www.thewellingtonrealale.co.uk.
Regular ales include Purity Mad Goose, Wye Valley HPA, and Black Country ales like Pig on the Wall and BFG. There are another dozen ale handpumps for rotating guests and three ciders on handpull. The Wellington also keeps an incredible number of ales in stock as listed on their website. Thankfully it's not gone the way of some of Manchester's finer real ale pubs and focussed too much on food - in fact it doesn't do hot food at all but encourages you to bring your own in. The Wellington is a hugely popular place on weekend evenings (witness the odd moaner on Beer In the Evening), but if you have any nous you'll be heading here at 10am on a Saturday or Sunday to work your way through their fine ale in the relative quiet.
Wellington beer board. (c) www.thewellingtonrealale.co.uk.