Re-opening time

It’s not all bad news for publicans. Dave Woodhall visits the revitalised Woodman. 

Anyone with an interest in good pubs and decent beer will be heartened by the re-opening of one of Birmingham’s landmark pubs.

The Woodman in Curzon Street, on the edge of the city centre, had lain derelict and with an uncertain future since closing in 2009.  However, thanks to the indefatigable Nigel Barker, who has made it the third of his Birmingham Inns hostelries, the Woodman re-opened last night and has a bright future ahead.

First impressions are that it isn’t new at all. There might have been a vague odour of newness, but it was a far cry from the smell of paint and new carpets that indicate many new or refurbished pubs. The bar retains many of its original features, and the new stuff doesn’t jar with fittings that have seen better days but look all the better for it. This is a pub that doesn’t look as though it’s been shut, or indeed has seen many changes since it opened in 1897. It is still a classic example of the James & Lister Lea terracota style of pub which remains arguably the most enduring style of architecture in the city.

There’s a couple of smaller rooms for anyone who wants a quieter drink and the building is about as eco-friendly as it’s possible to get in a late Victorian building of this size. Central heating pipes utilise heat drawn from the cellar operation while what was once 4,000 watts of lighting now uses a fraction of that.

As for the most important parts of the place, there are ten handpulls in operation and the two I tried on opening night (Castle Rock Black Gold and XT 1) were as well-kept as you’d expect from the owner of the Wellington and the Post Office Vaults.

With this and the recently opened Cherry Red on John Bright Street, plus the intended bar owned by the award-winning Purity brewery, options for drinking in the city centre are getting better all the time.