I visited the Craven Arms after hearing about it through both TripAdvisor and CAMRA Birmingham's Pub of the Year nominations. It has been quite highly ranked by both so it was with quite high expectations that I made the effort to give it a try, despite it being quite out of the way compared to anywhere else nearby.
Well, beautifully traditional from the outside, The Craven Arms is a proper old fashioned pub. Inside it has all the stuff you'd expect from just such a place. If you've ever been to The Wellington, The Post Office Vaults, The Black Eagle or The Old Contemptibles then you'll feel right at home. Or at least, perhaps you might feel at home so long as you get a warmer welcome than my girlfriend and I did. I don't expect some sort of King's welcome and admittedly, we went on a Tuesday afternoon when the place was like a ghost town saloon, but you'd have thought the barman might have been a bit happier to see some extra trade coming in. After the other patrons had stopped staring at us we made our way to the bar where I looked over the range of real ales. There was a good selection, but unfortunately for myself most of the tasting notes read "dry" or "hoppy" where I prefer darker beers. I went with the Mild in the end which was very good and well kept. Although it was a shame that we had to disturb the barman from his conversation with (I presume) a regular. He might have been having a bad day or something but we definitely felt from his surly attitude that we should just drink up and leave.
Which is exactly what we did. Even after returning our empty glasses and thanking the barman we didn't get any sort of acknowledgement, let alone a "Thanks." I've drank in some lovely pubs in the past but I wouldn't consider this one of them. It's a shame really because I would have loved to stay and try all the other beers regardless but thanks to the barman (whom I also believe to be the manager) and the general lack of atmosphere we didn't feel comfortable in doing so. In terms of beer quality from the pint I had, the pub is doing something right. And I'm sure on a Friday or Saturday night the Craven Arms is buzzing with activity but sadly I have no wish to return at all.
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