Beer and bicycles

The Birmingham microbrewery scene has taken off in the last few years, maybe a bit behind other cities, but we’re getting there and this week it’s Birmingham Beer Week.

The first ever celebration of the brewery scene in the city sees a number of exciting beery happenings, from talks in breweries, to street parties and walks around the city centre showcasing the area’s pubs of the past.

On Saturday 22, to prove their dedication to all things ale, a group of cyclists, or at the very least people who own bikes and know roughly how the pedal bits work, turned up at the Two Towers brewery to start off on an exciting cycle around some of the city’s best microbreweries.

Beer bike ride2Organised by Cycle Birmingham and Beer Yeti, the ride included in the ticket price a free beer and a talk at each of the stops on the way, with some cycling in between. As I have a bike and also like beer, I offered to go along on the ride as one of the middle markers. I am selfless and did not just do for the promise of a couple of free halves of beer, no matter what anyone else might say. Being middle marker is a difficult job which involves looking behind me and saying yes loudly when our glorious ride leader James asked if everyone was there. They almost always were and I take particular pride in the fact that no one fell into the canal on my watch. Not even me.

The ride kicked off in a sensible manner, with 25 cyclists drinking beer before pedalling away. Darren from Two Towers brewery and their pub The Gunmaker’s Arms gave a talk about the history of the brewery, including some interesting insights into why the names of their beers. Did you know that some episodes of The Muppet Show was filmed in Birmingham? Me neither, but it’s true and that’s why one of their most popular beers is called Complete Muppetry. Who doesn’t want to ask for that at the bar?

Beer bike ride1

All of the beers that the Two Towers brews are vegan – you can read more about the brewery and their pub in my previous post here. I tried half of their Chamberlain pale ale. I always go for pale ale if I don’t know what to have, in the probably incorrect assumption that it will be lighter in flavour than anything really dark. As amazing as chocolate stouts always sound, I can’t handle anything too heavy.

After an hour of boozing, I mean learning more about Birmingham’s beer scene, the ride started and we all wobbled off through the city centre to the canal to make our way to the next brewery, Thousand Trades Brewing Co in Hall Green.

Beer bike ride3

Sadly none of their beers are vegan friendly, however they did supply a massive box of samosas (food of kings and the correct accompaniment for beer drinking) so I was satisfied and forced to be sensible and not drink lots of beer before getting back on to my bike. Not everyone was as sensible as me, but still we were able to negotiate the rest of the route without any accidents.

After an hour and a good talk about the brewing process later, we got back on our steads and headed off to the last stop on our whirlwind cycle tour of the city, Birmingham Brewing Company. On an industrial estate at the back of Stirchley high street, the brewery has a tap room that is open to the public and feels like a real hidden gem. It opens 4-8pm on Fridays and from 12-5pm on Saturdays on selected dates – check out their website for more details.

All the beers from Birmingham Brewing Company are vegan friendly and I tried their Gold Brummie, which was really nice and very drinkable. Can you tell I know very little about beer other than I like it? Ok good, as long as we’re clear. Their beers are available at The Gunmaker’s Arms at the moment if you can’t make it to their tap room but fancy trying their beer.

Beer bike ride4

The microbrewery scene has blossomed in Birmingham recently – as Darren at Two Towers told us, there are now 12 or 13 breweries in the city and all the big boys have left. This is great news for vegan beer lovers as lots of craft ales are vegan friendly, either eschewing the fining process altogether (which traditionally uses isinglass, or fish swim bladder to clear the beers) or using a vegan substitute like seaweed. Plus, they know exactly what goes into their beers so you can get a definitive answer to the question of whether a brew is ok for vegans and vegetarians, rather than the blank stare this enquiry usually elicits.

Beer bike ride5

Never fear if you missed the bike ride on Saturday, there are a load more beer based events happening up until Sunday 30th July, check out the birminghambeerweek.uk website for more details.

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