Issue 293
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OFF THE BEATEN (TRAIN) TRACK

"That's not a hidden gem," we say through gritted teeth as yet another article on the best things to do in Birmingham tries to convince us that, oh we don't know, Adams is somehow an unknown treasure. But last weekend we really did unearth a hidden gem. Sadler's Brewery is just 25 minutes from Snow Hill station and if you like bookcases that are also secret doorways, you're going to love this.   
Deep in Black Country territory but right next door to Lye train station, you're pretty quickly sent back in time. Not literally, that would be dangerous. Cobbled pavements, deep brown brick buildings, a red phone booth frozen in a different age, the paint flaking from the decades of sun and rain. A Sadlers-branded double decker bus and a single decker sit side-by-side in a courtyard that could easily be part of the Black Country Living Museum, just five miles north.    
Founded in 1861 by Nathaniel Sadler and later expanded by Thomas Alexander Sadler — you're going to hear the name Sadler a lot — the brewery supplied its twelve tied public houses, the most famous being the Windsor Castle Inn, Oldbury, the original brewery tap house. It's still run by the Sadler family and is well worth the 10 minute stroll from the brewery. The brewery itself is now under the management of Chris Sadler, a sixth generation brewer and the man whose idea it was to produce a Peaky Blinders black IPA in 2014.
It was a masterstroke quickly outselling all other Sadler's beers put together. They now have Peaky Blinders lager, gin, whiskey (with an 'e') and stout. But one trick ponies these guys ain't. On our visit the standout beers were their 1861 White Beer and an American IPA called Dakota. So why the Peakys obsession? The most famous of all Birmingham's gang leaders back in the Peaky-era was Billy Kimber. Kimber was a direct relative of Chris Sadler, and the gangs back in 1900 regularly visited the Sadler’s pubs.      
Back to the present day — we won't be telling you how beer is brewed. Mainly because we don't know. We've always put it down to some kind of wizardry but the tour of the brewery will show you how Sadler's wave that very wand and once you're done, there's a raft of beers to choose from at the bar area that was "accidentally" made by Chris. Accidentally in that they never planned for it to be a bar. They finished development work on the new brewery area and ended up with a room that made for a peachy little on-site pub.
It's not our favourite room, though. Not by a long stretch. We've had a long held theory that nowhere near enough bookcases are also secret doors. Open this beaut and you'll find a stunning oak and leather secret bar. Ox blood wing back chairs, carriage clocks, candle sticks, a piano. An aged whisky, bourbon and small batch gin bar makes a small corner of this room its home and a window peeks out over the new brewery below. A genuine hidden gem inside a genuine hidden gem. We could while hours away in here. 
Sunday tours include a really rather excellent smoked meat roast. Joints of pork belly, turkey and gammon are cooked on-site with Blackwood barbecues by chef Jim Thornton who cut his teeth at both iterations of the brilliant Butcher's Social — Harborne and Henley. The gravy flavour was so deep that at one stage we swear blind we caught it reading Nietzsche. All this while two guys play an outstanding acoustic guitar set, until you're ready to return to the present day. Dazed and confused in all the right ways.      
Tours run every Saturday at noon, and monthly on Sundays. You get the tour, a smoked meat ploughman's, plus two pints on Saturdays (£20), or replace that ploughman's with a roast on Sundays (£25) — next happening September 8.

CHATTERS WITH BRADDERS


Cycling in Birmingham can be an almost daily life-or-death experience, and we say this with none of our usual hyperbole. It's grim out there, kids. Keep safe. But Bradley Wiggins took cheating death on two wheels to the next level in a career that saw him become our most decorated Olympian, smashing wrists and collar bones as he went. The five-time gold medallist is the only cyclist who has won World and Olympic championships on both the track and the road along with winning the Tour De France. And that, in our eyes, makes him superhuman. Wiggo will be taking questions at Bradley Wiggins: An Evening With, at the Symphony Hall on Sept 20. We'll be the ones on the front row asking if he's ever been to Snobs. Tickets (£35.50)

DANCING TO DEATH


From an idyllic harvest scene, all the way to a forest haunted by the spirits of jilted brides and wronged virgins, Giselle covers off heartbreak, death, betrayal *and* all the prettier sort of classical ballet feels you want from a night with Birmingham's most royal of ballets. The second act is notoriously difficult to perform, with a high octane troupe of ghostly maidens seeking out revenge on any male that ends up in their forest, forcing them to dance until they drop down dead (ever so balletically), from exhaustion. The vertebrate tingling Royal Ballet Sinfonia orchestra is on — capital T — Tunes, performing the happy, hopeful, terrifying, moody score. At the Hippodrome from September 25 to 28, tickets are from £15 rising to £46.
Venue: Eat Vietnam, 1422 Pershore Rd, Stirchley, B30 2PH; Instagram
Choice: Tamarind chicken wings (£6) Chooser: Our guest, Helen

Crunchy, sticky umami deliciousness is the technical way to describe what Ming and the team is doing with chicken wings at Eat Vietnam, which opened quietly on Stirchley high street in July. And ordering wisely with their eyes, each of the packed tables was sure to order the peanut-laden, plump pieces of joy. This was our second visit to the former pop-up's new permanent digs, and in under a month the flavours have transformed from pleasant to proper fragrant and punch-packing. The turmeric fried fish (£7) now comes with a zingified salad, the crispy belly pork (£8) sits in all the right chilli oil sort of territory and we can't tell you what the charred romanesco cauliflower steak (£7) is up to because it had sold out, in that actually very reassuring way that fresh food should. Based on our first visit, do get the cauli goodness if it's on, though. Coming with coconut and chilli, it's one of a good number of vegan options that also include a banana blossom curry and shiitake pho (each £9). The modest and simple but attractive spot is still waiting on its alcohol license, so you have a good excuse to top and tail your feasting with Stirchley's ever-growing beer game. Oh, and
the menu is super subject to change, so don't go cursing us if things look a little different by the time you get there — we have the feeling this ain't a kitchen that's going to be resting on no laurels. Opening times

FREE AND FESTIVALY


We spent a little too much of our working week deciding which of Urban Cheesecake's mountainous creations to use by way of intro to Birmingham Airport's 80th bash. To celebrate its burst into octogenarianism, the team is putting on a completely free festival and you're invited. On Sept 1 at Sheldon Country Park, expect a silent disco, circus demos, live performances, a proper old school funfair, and all the street food you'd expect — Urban Cheesecake's cherry, chocco, truffley creation being our big pick. From 11am til 5.30pm, register here for the latest.

SPHERE WITHOUT FEAR


With friends like ours, who needs enemies? Back in 2014 we had to retire from rollercoastering completely when they systematically enforced us to occupy front row seats on all of Alton Towers' most gruesome rides. Retire, that is, until we got to take our thrills from a plush leather seat without leaving the ground. Combining VR, motion and SFX, Spheres at Vortex allows you to spin (and squeal) high above make-believe cities, coil down corkscrew water slides, or race your pal in a spaceship shoot 'em up. Choose between twelve games and simulations — prices start at £6.

FILM PICK: ONCE UPON A TIME IN HOLLYWOOD



Who’d have imagined Quentin Tarantino would turn in what could be his best non-Nineties film right here in 2019? Leonardo DiCaprio and Brad Pitt co-star as an over-the-hill actor and his stunt double, both the wrong side of 40 and feeling it. Meanwhile, Margot Robbie’s Sharon Tate is at the other end of Hollywood’s pipeline, strapping in for a lifetime of stardom she has no idea will be cruelly cut short. That’s about it, setup-wise: this is a series of vignettes, by turns hilarious, disturbing and increasingly deranged until we arrive at an ending that is… well, this is a Tarantino film. After a series of period pastiches from the big man that have felt more and more bloated and forced, this is a relaxed, confident film that you almost wish you could live in. Worth it for Pitt’s wardrobe alone.

At Cineworld at Resorts World. Get a VVIP card, which includes 20% off cocktails at Sky By The Water and all this. Mention 'I Choose Birmingham' at guest services (ground floor) before 8pm on Aug 26 to get your card.
 
Digbeth Dining Club has made it to the ripe old age of seven. Join 'em this weekend for all the food with Trinity Street closing for the p-tay.
It's our personal hell but in case it's your personal heaven, tickets are on sale for bottomless, singalong cinema in the form of Mamma Mia. At the Botanical Gardens on October 12, tickets are £15.
Cheeseburger pizza is available by the slice, with OPM and Poli on creation. On Tuesday from 5pm 'til sell out at Poli's York Road pad. Cannoli for pud. Full menu
You've got until the end of the month to try out a bit of urban beaching care of Touchwood's Costa del Solihull. It's 95 whole miles closer to the city than Weston-Super-Mare.
The new Moseley opening from Mich-starred Chef Robert Ortiz, Chakana, has now got a Twitter account. The Peruvian place and most exciting imminent opener is planning to launch towards the end of the summer.


"It is nice to be recognised for actually achieving something in life as opposed to spending seven weeks in a house on TV with a load of other muppets."


Bradley Wiggins



 
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WORDS: Tom Cullen, Katy Drohan, Andrew Lowry

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