Shropshire, Staffordshire and the Black Country are not short of breweries so why not try something a little more local, with a little more heritage? Check out our pick of the best.
Banks – Wolverhampton
Mr. Thomas Banks, a true West Midlands family man, first established Banks & Co. as a firm of maltsters in 1840. In 1875 the company founded the now famous Park Brewery in Wolverhampton. This site is still the home of Banks's today, with many of the buildings remaining intact, including the old chimney that can be seen on the city’s skyline.
It may seem unbelievable, but a pint of Banks's cask ale could be fresher than a pint of milk in the fridge as this live cask ale is best enjoyed within three days of opening.
Banks's are part of the Marston's group who are the UK's leading independent brewing and pub retailers, the largest brewer of cask beer in Britain, and an award winning real ale producer. They use the unique quality spring water from the Trent Valley to produce stunningly bright beers. See www.marstons.co.uk.
The famous Banks's Mild remains a favourite with a spicy Indian dish and as the fastest selling in the Midlands - grab one while you can.
Two Towers – Birmingham
The Two Towers Brewery is named after the towers that J.R.R. Tolkien allegedly used as inspiration for his famous trilogy. The Brewery produces a range of ales that are based on traditional recipes that evoke the true flavours of fine English cask ales.
Based in the heart of the old industrial base of Birmingham, the brewery's ales are proudly associated with the illustrious historical characters and features of Birmingham and reflect the richness, quality and heritage synonymous with a city that became known as the workshop of the world.
The founders, Mark Arnott-Job and Trevor Harris, have spent over 20 years developing a range of recipes, trying to find the right combination of ales that present a full flavour and a smooth, balanced finish.
Holdens – Dudley
The family-run company founded in 1915 is one of the oldest and best-known in the area. They established Holden’s Bottling Company in 1943 and it's since gone on to provide a continuous quality service to the UK brewing and drinks industries.
During the war years local RAF bases were supplied with Holden's and over the years the estate grown. The family currently own 20 pubs and Dragon’s Blood, one of their beers, is back by popular demand. A Golden Amber Premium beer with a confident hop quality and fruitiness dominating, the finish is intense, hoppy and fruity.
Hobsons – Cleobury Mortimer
Established in 1993 by the Davis family, Hobsons Brewery is one of the leading producers of beer in Shropshire and possibly the most sustainable brewery in the UK.
The success of the award winning brewery, has been largely down to a strong culture of supporting the local region, people, and resources. Hobsons live by a simple ethos: using locally sourced ingredients where possible, being unique in the way they approach business and brewing, upholding honest and ethical standards, putting customer first, and being sustainable and regenerative in their practices.
Their champion Mild has a smooth character with notes of chocolate malt which gives it plenty of flavour and aroma.
Bathams – Brierley Hill
Now in their 136th year, Bathams are a family born to brew. No fewer than five generations have been involved in creating this legendary beer of the Black Country and their Bitter is regarded by some as one of the finest in the country.
This would never have happened if it was not for the particular taste buds of pub regulars in a quiet Worcestershire village, and the brewing skills of Mr Arthur Batham. There are eleven pubs operating in the Black Country under the Bathams name, the most famous being the ‘Bull and Bladder,’ formerly known as The Vine Inn on Delph Road in Brierley Hill which fronts the brewery.
Bathams Best Bitter is straw-coloured initially seems sweet, but a complex dry, hoppy taste predominates not long after the first sip. Regarded as one of the best examples of traditional Black Country style bitter, it is great with a lunchtime snack and with cooked beef.
Enville – Stourbridge
Brewing quality cask ales for the licensed trade since 1993, Enville have had a long association with the small village of Enville in South Staffordshire and have a growing range which satisfies a wide range of tastes.
Aswell as the popular Enville Ale, an increasing number are enjoying other unique offerings including Enville Ginger, Enville Gothic and Enville White, which have become firm favourites with customers. The original brewery in Enville village, based at The Stamford Arms Hotel, ceased production in 1919 due to loss of manpower in the war. Now known as the Enville Estate, the men used to receive tokens as part of their wages which could be cashed at the brewery for the appropriate volume of beer.
Now based in Stourbridge it is still described as the Beekeepers Ale due to the logo. Enville Ale today is still based on the 19th century recipe; it is light in colour with fruity notes and a hint of sweetness to compliment the dry hoppy taste. envilleales.com/home.html
Kinver Brewery – Kinver
Kinver Brewery is an award winning independent brewery based on the outskirts of the picturesque village of Kinver, South Staffordshire. It is close to Kinver Edge and the Rock Houses which are renowned beauty spots and owned by the National Trust.
The brewery was only established in 2004 by Dave Kelly and Ian Davies, with the first beers being launched to the general public at the Dudley Winter Ales Fair in November of the same year. Extra supplies had to be drafted in after quickly selling out.
Last year saw Kinver ‘Over the Edge’ become champion beer of the West Midlands, a strong 7.5% light coloured winter warmer brewed between November and March.
Sadlers – Stourbridge
The award winning Windsor Castle Brewery is situated in the heart of England’s famous and industrial ‘Black Country’.
Founded in 1900 by Nathaniel Sadler, the brewery supplied its twelve tied public houses, the most famous being the Windsor Castle Inn in Oldbury, the original Brewery tap house. Now situated in Lye, near Stourbridge, it has once again become a thriving family run microbrewery, supplying pubs with Sadler’s award winning ales throughout the Midlands and all over the UK.
Jack’s Pale Ale is one of the Brewery’s signature beers - it is a pale, hoppy ale with a crisp and zesty character. You can even go and ‘Brew a beer for a day’, which makes a great gift. www.sadlersales.co.uk/index.php
Salopian – Shrewsbury
Salopian Brewery was established at The Old Dairy on the outskirts of the medieval town of Shrewsbury in 1995. Since then, the brewery has become synonymous with the production of top quality consistent beers. Capacity has been increased twice to keep up with high demand, with production now topping 80 barrels a week.
It is well known for producing unusual beers, mainly based on continental styles. They pride themselves on the uncomplicated, natural and traditional way their beers are produced.
Darwin's Origin is an eclectic mix of hops from across the world; however this blend produces a beer that offers something for everyone. It is a copper colour boasting a crisp, fruity and refreshing but also has a juicy malt background. It has won regional and national awards three years running. www.salopianbrewery.co.uk
Woods – Craven arms
Started by the Wood family in the stables of The Plough Inn in Wistanstow, South Shropshire in 1980, the Wood Brewery sold its first pints at the pub next door. That beer, a lovely chestnut-coloured pint, was called Wood’s Special which they still brew today.
They produce 110 brewers’ barrels which is nearly 4,000 gallons and supply a healthy number of free houses including Wetherspoons and other big names in the pub industry. The established best sellers ‘Shropshire Lad’ and ‘Shropshire Lass’ are highly successful and offer contrasting but complementary flavour experiences. “Lad” is a well rounded malty flavour which is reminiscent of the county and the rural lifestyle. It is pale, crystal and its chocolate malts combine a sweetish flavour followed by a subtle bitterness with fruity overtones. The traditional hops are from the neighbouring hop fields of Herefordshire and Worcestershire. www.woodbrewery.co.uk