By Adrian Tierney-Jones 12:35PM BST 28 Apr 2011
It sits on a nondescript road, its solid confident Victorian architecture towering over the bland Sixties boxes that surround it. The simple quote “You Brew Good Ale” is proudly painted across its brow, a Shakespearean exhortation (from Two Gentlemen of Verona, if you want to establish the context) to enter and cast all the cares of the day behind.
On a Saturday lunchtime, it’s not a difficult decision. I push open the door and walk into a lively hum of conversation.
The Vine is the brewery tap for Batham’s, which produces its traditional Black Country mild and bitter in the adjoining brewery. It moved here in 1877: this was originally a slaughterhouse, hence the pub’s local nickname, the Bull & Bladder. They did a good job of converting it and, thankfully, have had the good sense to leave it be.
Inside it’s a wealth of Victorian pub ambience: green tiled front corridor, coloured and engraved glass partitions, mirrors, ornate carvings, a massive mahogany fitting behind the bar counter, sparkling and shining with bottles and mirrors.
The front bar is a parlour-like den of dark wood and framed photos. Regulars sit and contemplate their pints; but the moment you order a pint, you’re initiated into Clan Vine. It’s one of the friendliest pubs I’ve ever been in.
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“Come far?” asks the chap next to me, in a rich Black Country burr. I tell him that I’ve made a bit of a pilgrimage and he nods approvingly. “We get a lot of people coming here from all over the country; they like the fact it’s a proper pub.” He lifts up his glass of mild — dark with crimson edges glittering in the light.
In the lounge across the corridor, the hubbub is more controlled as voices discuss football prospects and racing tips. A man in the corner tucks into his cheese and ham cob with obvious delight. There’s a family room next door with children eating pasties and chips. The back bar features that most pleasurable of equations: Saturday lunchtime civilisation = a pint and a paper. Batham’s Mild is light, creamy, crisp and biscuity. If you hanker after something stronger, try the sprightly Best Bitter with its cream cracker dryness of a finish.
Grub is straightforward but filling (served solely at lunch): pasties and cob rolls are simple pleasures but I plumped for the magnificence of faggot and chips (£2.50).
You do brew good beer, Batham’s, and The Vine is a good pub. Better than good actually — it has a quality of timelessness that marks out the very best of English pubs.
The Vine, Delph Road, Brierley Hill, West Midlands (01384 78293)