Students are annoying: they sit around in groups wearing clothes that blogs tell them are cool, quoting Noel Fielding (probably, I haven’t listened since 2006), and have endless conversations that are inextricably pulled towards them all listing their fucking A-Level results. You don’t want that sort of thing putting you off your beer, so here’s where to go for a pint in Brum without seeing the skinny-jeans of anyone doing a degree in Meeja Studies:
The Mailbox, Royal Mail St, B1: Students are poor, one way to keep away from them is going somewhere “exclusive”. The Mailbox isn’t really exclusive, it tries to be but anywhere that has a Cafe Rouge and a Nandos isn’t trying too hard. It is a posh Nandos, though. It’s almost guaranteed that there won’t be any students sipping the champers in Bar Epernay — this bar does have a touch of exclusivity. The sandwiches have berries that you’ve never heard of snuggling up to little-known European cheese, beneath a crust of crusty brown. Sitting astride the rotating baby grand in hockey team jerkins sipping a half of lager would be frowned upon.
Bull Ring Tavern, Digbeth, B5: Fear of the working class is another trend shared by students. Even those that are working class feel embarrassed at whence they came. The rough words of those that work in hi-vis, the slightly damp beer-mats (or beer-mats at all, they’re a dying breed) or a jukebox with something other than Shine 8 on it, fighten the hell out of your average stude. The Bull Ring Tavern is a wonderful place, where real conversations flow
The Square Peg, Corporation St, B4: It is, they tell us, the longest bar in the World, but don’t let that fool anyone. It’s very rarely open all the way down, the staff will leave unsuspecting students standing hopelessly at “closed” portions, waiting in vain for a Wetherspoon’s beer-and-burger deal. It always used to be a little bit rough too, and a “hard pub” is not a place for a student.
About 15 years ago I was showing a new house-mate round the city, she was not a native, and I was showing her the bright lights of town. Being student types, no night out would be complete without going somewhere cheap first to get drunk, so this Saturday night, we were up the bar in the Square Peg, about 8 o’clock. I was just warming her with tales of how Brum wasn’t as bad as it was painted, when without warning the guy next to us picked up his pint and glassed the next guy along.
Now, this wasn’t accompanied with the usual ruckus that precludes a glassing — no shouting or even raised voices, he simply weighed his options, weighed the glass, took a last slurp and slammed it into the side of the bloke’s head. The most laid-back glassing I’ve ever seen.
Of course there was a bundle afterwards, but the bouncers bundled them both outside (and obligatory leave-him-he’s-not-worth-it woman), to sort it out amongst themselves.
Swift reaction from the bouncers, the same ones that had stopped me going in a few months before due to me wearing ‘sports colours’. I pointed out to them that it was a Brooklyn Dodgers baseball shirt and I was unlikely to run into a load of rival fans, they let me as long as I “stood behind a pillar”. Later that night I did have a row with a baseball fan in the ‘Rock Cafe’ on Paradise Circus.
Church Tavern, Church Rd, B42: Students are attracted by the bright lights, particularly when they’re flashed at them at 50p-a-shot discos with antipodean names and nights where Hawaiian shirts are encouraged. So, why not go the opposite way and head for some subdued lighting, and piped music: a place where napkins over your shirt to battle gravy are de rigeur? A trip to the suburbs, where all that is nice and quiet lives, far away from the edgy city centre and you’ll find yourself at The Church Tavern in Perry Barr. As an added bonus the pub plays host to a Wacky Warehouse, so it’s mainly full of divorcee dads with nowhere to take their kids early evening. By 9pm it’ll be just you and the bar staff, apart from the middle aged bloke dressed as spiderman and clinging to the chimney.
This post first appeared in Area Magazine, in 2008. Would you believe not much has changed?