British summers can be unpredictable at the best of times but all the more reason to know the best sun traps and where to dart when the sun starts shining.
If you’re stuck in Brum, you couldn’t be further away from the ocean or a nice beach, so the next best thing? A cool beer garden or sun terrace to while away the day.
Brum has a great selection of watering holes, and in this article we suggest just a few of the cooler beer gardens and sun terraces around the city. We have selected large, small, cool and traditional outdoor spaces which we feel are worth checking out when those rays break through and you’re in need of a refreshing cold dink (updated 17th Aug 2014).
Birmingham City Centre
1. Marco Pierre White’s, The Cube. The Cube is that great big architectural box at the canal-side end of the Mailbox. If you take the lift to the 25th floor you will find Marco Pierre White’s rooftop bar & terrace, possibly one of the finest sun traps in the city and the views are far reaching across the West Midlands. Entrance is free, but dress smart during the weekend. The main bar serves cocktails, spirits, and a limited selection of beer and cider on draft. If you turn right out of the lift you’ll find the Champagne bar with even more impressive views!
2. The Wellington, Bennetts Hill. One of Birmingham’s most famous and long established real ale and craft ale pubs situated right in the heart of the city. The ‘Wellie’ is just off New Street and this old Victorian pub has a fantastic selection of real ales which are frequently changing. The elevated beer garden is a great little green oasis and gets very busy with office workers and real ale enthusiasts.
3. The Yardbird, Centenary Square. If you love live music, jazz, funk, soul, acoustic or just any kind of groove.. this is one of the busiest bars in the city centre and really worth a visit. Run by local entrepreneur Ollie Lloyd, the emphasis is definitely on live music and DJs 7 days a week. The outdoor seating area becomes extremely busy in the evening but it’s also perfect for a chilled beer in the afternoon whilst you watch the fast flow of footfall pass by, you can also pull faces at people drinking in Wetherspoons next door.
4. The Jekyll & Hyde. Part of the ‘Bitters ‘n Twisted ‘ venues around Birmingham, this small and quirky bar has an arty vibe with weekend DJs, a cinema club and Victorian gin parlour upstairs. The beer garden is compact but big enough to accommodate a small crowd of revellers. The artwork around the walls and inside provide something unique not just in Brum but for the UK. The cocktails are well worth the ten minute walk down Corporation St from city centre.
5. Browns, Spiceal Street, Bullring.The Bullring is a well known sea of large chain restaurants, and although Browns falls into that category of large chain style eateries, the location and design makes this bar a bit of an oasis in this busy shopping district. Browns restaurant & bar is situated in the ultra futuristic ‘Spiceal Street’ building. Cocktails, wine, spirits and the usual beers can be enjoyed on two levels of outdoor seating, the top terrace is great for families or large groups with table service available.
6. Gosta Green. A typical student pub inside a beautiful old Victorian boozer down on Aston’s university campus. The beer garden is quite extensive. There are two large seating areas in the back courtyard and possibly Birmingham’s only outdoor pool table (under a shelter). This is a ‘Scream’ themed pub so expect some BIG discounts. The real ale is fairly extensive and well looked after.
7. Chameleon Bar. The Chameleon is another city centre independently run venue which is home to DJs on a weekend playing classic dance music from the 90s to present day. The crowd tend to be more mature and expect smart dress with a touch of opulence with regards to interior. The usual cocktails and wines accompany some good food and the venue is run professionally. Expect a strict dress code on the weekend. The outdoor seating is surprisingly abundant here, with an outdoor terrace which runs the length of the bar and a section which overlooks the developing New Street Station and new John Lewis department store.
8. Sacks of Potatoes. If you’ve taken the ten minute walk from the city centre to the bottom Corporation Street to visit the The Jekyll & Hyde or Gosta Green, you may want to stop off at the old regular ‘Sacks of Potatoes’ on Aston University. There are always a great selection of real ales and ciders from around the UK with small quarter pint tasters available. The food is good standard pub grub and the outside seating overlooks a small park and is quite serene. There is also a small beer garden, but the best spot is out front where the ducks occasionally come to say hello.
9. The Old Joint Stock. A Fullers pub situated in a gorgeous old Victorian building with high ceilings and a view out over St Philips Cathedral and Colmore Row. A firm favourite for after work drinks in the heart of the city’s business district. The small but convenient beer garden to the rear is a perfect spot to retreat on a hot day.
10. Temple Street Social. Local DJ and businessman Paul Cook, has been working within Brum’s music scene for a very long time. His first venture, ‘The Sunflower Lounge‘ is a great success for live music and alternative indie DJs. Paul’s new venture ‘T.S.S.’ is more of a wine & cocktail bar in the heart of the city, and while there is no outdoor seating as such, this is well worth a visit when in town. There are huge sliding ‘floor to ceiling’ windows which provide a great place to people watch from the safety of the bar inside whilst still enjoying the cool summer breeze. DJs play anything from The Doors to the Smiths on weekends with classic movies playing later.
11. The Green Room Cafe Bar. In the heart of the Arcadian sits The Green Room Cafe & Bar. An old stalwart on the city’s bar scene and once home to Global Grooves record store, Green Room offers the usual bar style food & drink with an exposed outdoor seating area. People watching here is a fascinating sport, with the busy China Town, Gay Quarter and Entertainment District all on the bar’s doorstep, it’s a perfect spot to drink your green leaf tea or pint of lager and watch the world go by.
12. The Bureau Bar. The Bureau Bar is one of the city’s hidden secrets. It looks more like an office from the outside, but inside this stunning old Victorian building is a superb cocktail bar with a touch of opulence. Located in the centre of Birmingham’s business district, The Bureau boasts a compact rooftop terrace and beer garden which can be accessed by lift of the spiral staircase. If you’re looking for some interested rooftop views in a swanky location this should be on your list.
Birmingham’s Canal-side Bars
1. Brindley Place Bars. Developed out of some of Brum’s oldest industrial wasteland, Brindley Place now boasts a large selection of very fine eateries, restaurants, galleries and most importantly, canal-side bars. There are several well established commercial chain style wine bars with pleasant outdoor seating such as Bank Bar & Restaurant and All Bar One. Canal-side bars such as The Slug and Lettuce and The Pitcher & Piano (which has outdoor seating on two levels) are a popular alternative to Broad Street nearby. The Malt House is just across the water (with a great outdoor balcony) as is the Flapper Pub (a music venue where indie band, ‘The Editors’ first rose to fame).
2. Mailbox Canal-side Bars. The Mailbox is now a firm favourite on the city’s destination list when looking for a bite to eat or a drink. The development takes full advantage of its location next to the Birmingham Canal Navigations. Several bars and eateries provide a safe and relaxed space for diners catering for a variety of needs. Bar Room Bar can be busy with occasional dance DJs and Penny Blacks has a perfect canal-side location with a great range of real ales, wines and cocktails.
3. Canalside Cafe & Bar. This lovely little canal-side cafe and bar is a tiny but unique stop-off for walkers along this busy stretch of the canal which runs between Brindley Place and the Mailbox. The food has that simple home made feel and there are some interesting beers, ciders and wines available. If you can get a seat on a sunny day it’s easy to let the hours slip away as you people watch.
3. Fleet Street Kitchen & Bar. Located just outside the city centre on Summer Row is the Fleet Street Kitchen. This cool restaurant serves up some fantastic food and even better cocktails down stairs in the basement, but venture outside through the restaurant and you can sit outside above the canal whilst sipping your pina coladas.
The Jewellery Quarter
1. The Church Inn.There are only a hand full of rooftop beer gardens in the city, and this medium sized space above the Victorian Church Inn, Hockley, is ideal for an afternoon drink in the sun. It’s perfectly situated to soak up the rays until sun sets over what was once and possibly still is, the jewellery making capital of the world. The whole building has a very authentic feel with arty decor and some of the finest cocktails and ales served anywhere in the Midlands. Chefs take inspiration from New Orleans style soul food.
2. The Lord Clifden.Few pubs in Brum can boast a dedicated beer garden full of greenery which is designed with DJs in mind. The Lord Clifden is part of the micro ‘Urban Art Bar’ (U.A.B.) chain in the city. With graffiti inspired artwork, vintage decor and a regular list of DJs spinning house to funk, soul to disco in the back courtyard, this gritty gem of the Jewellery Quarter is really worth exploring, oh and the Sunday roasts here are legendary.
3. The Red Lion. Another of the U.A.B. pubs, this cool little boozer is tucked away in the heart of Jewellery Quarter and has some refreshing real ales on tap. The pub is music orientated with DJs and occasional events up stairs. The beer garden out back is small but a sneaky little hide-away and a perfect spot to enjoy the mid day sun.
4. The Rectory Bar. The Rectory is a unique restaurant and vibrant bar in a city centre location overlooking St Pauls church. The Rectory Bar & Restaurant in the calm oasis of St Paul’s Square on the edge of the historic Jewellery Quarter, is all about relaxed, sophisticated drinking and dining in stylish, modern surroundings. There is limited seating out front but a secluded court yard to the side provides a peaceful sun trap with a great selection of drinks on offer.
5. The Black Eagle, Hockley. Just as you start to head out of the Jewellery Quarter towards Smethwick there lies what is reputedly one of the Midlands finest real ale pubs. The Black Eagle is surrounded by factories and industrial units but don’t let that put you off. A regular winner of CAMRA awards this friendly little local has a smoking area and leafy little beer garden to tempt you outside.
6. Virtu Bar. Situated in the heart of Birmingham’s Jewellery Quarter, Vertu Bar has restored and extended one of the quarter’s traditional buildings. Serving food, real ales and good wine there is also a decent sized roof terrace with some great views of the surrounding historic buildings.
7. The Actress & Bishop. One of the city’s most established live music bars, The Actress & Bishop remains a solid indie venue with DJs and live musicians performing regularly and opening until late most nights of the week. The outside seating offers a perfect location to soak up the relaxed atmosphere of St Pauls Square, busy on weekends and more chilled during the week.
8. The Queens Arms. This great little boozer sits at the gateway to the Jewellery Quarter. Inside you can expect real ales and a cosy atmosphere, while out back lurks a cool little beer garden with T.V. and a distinct vintage feel complete with old cinema seats.
1. The Old Crown, Digbeth. Promoted as Birmingham’s oldest working pub, The Crown is a Jewell in the heart of industrial Digbeth and the Irish Quarter. Many improvements have taken place over the last year with a new innovative coffee club and some sumptuous pastries and pies on offer in a rustic ‘deli’ style. At long last this old coaching inn is having some much needed tlc to the interior, and one of the features worth checking out is the partly covered beer garden. A great pub with a big heart en route to the Rainbow venues.
2. The Rainbow Warehouse Mezzanine. The Rainbow venues consist of: a great music pub with back courtyard, the cellar door club, side street/courtyard and the warehouse venue. The warehouse is mainly open weekends for various live music and house DJ events, but the most recent addition to this is the mezzanine & rooftop garden. Obviously you need to be attending an event to gain access to this rooftop space but what a perfect way to end a summers evening overlooking the city skyline with underground dance music as an accompanying sound track.
3. The Spotted Dog. A fab old Irish boozer and a traditional one at that. This old pub has an authentic feel and often plays host to live music and other social events. This makes the list as it has a rather large covered beer garden which is suitable if you want to sit and drink outside when there’s a chance of rain, which is most often in the UK. Just go in for a drink anyway!
4. Alfie Birds. Situated in the heart of local arts emporium ‘The Custard Factory‘, Alfie Birds venue, restaurant and bar has an endearing charm offering gourmet eats & beats to warm the cockles of any weary passer-by. The bar brings great food, drink, music and art to Digbeth, stimulating the cultural heart of the city’s original birth place. The waterside outdoor terraces and beer garden are set within a large and superbly charming factory courtyard (keep an eye out for the white doves nesting high up).
Harborne & Barnt Green
1. The Plough, Harborne. The Plough is run by Adam Johnson, formerly of Global Grooves and the legendary Circo Bar (pulled down for what is now the Radisson Hotel). This stylishly quirky pub is situated at the bottom of Harborne High Street and is a well loved and long established haunt for those in the know. The food menu is about as good as it gets for pubs with locally sourced produce, free tables can be hard to find on a weekend. It’s a quirky and cool vibe inside and out with a top notch refurbished beer garden. You have everything you need here in this cosy suburban boozer-cum-bar, worth the journey on the no. 29 bus (especially for acoustic nights and the weekly quiz).
2. The Bell Inn, Harborne. Harborne is one of Brum’s leafiest suburbs and tucked away in a quiet corner is The Bell. This pub sits in a semi-rural location next to St Peters Church, in fact you would find it hard to believe you are in a city at all. The old country lane which leads to The Bell is surrounded by greenery, a cricket ground and the peaceful Grove Park is nearby. The Bell has a tiny bar serving a selection of wholesome real ales, but inside there is ample seating. On a sunny day, the large outside terrace overlooks an old bowling green (which is still in regular use) and St Peters Church overlooks the green. Possibly the most serene setting for a pint in the city.
6. The New Inn, Harborne.Another of the ‘Bitters ‘n Twisted ‘ venues is the New inn. Once a busy locals pub, now a haunt of the wealthy Harborne high society, but you can still find the odd local and the pub these days is certainly more student friendly. There are plenty of seats on two sides of the pub and a large bowling green which doubles as a village green on sunny days, very family friendly and popular for picnics.
9. The Junction. A busy Harborne pub with character. You’ll find some great ales, ciders, wines and spirits in this renovated town centre boozer, the beer garden is small and quaint.
17. The White Swan, Edgbaston. On the border between Harborne and Edgbaston sits the elegant White Swan, one of the city’s best kept secrets. Here you can enjoy the large outdoor garden area which compliments this well loved relaxed and historic Birmingham pub.
22. The Barnt Green Inn.If you fancy a very short drive south of the city to rural north Worcestershire, Barnt Green and Alvechurch are host to some particularly lovely old world pubs, and perhaps the one with the finest beer garden is that of the Barnt Green Inn. An old coaching inn with wonky windows and a reasonable selection of real ales and wines, it’s hard not to fall in love with this ancient pub. It’s a mere five minute walk from Barnt Green train station too!
1. The Fighting Cocks. Beloved of Moseley’s colourful community, The Fighting Cocks has become somewhat of an icon in this trend-setting Birmingham suburb. Original 1800 period features are set against a contemporary design, providing a perfectly offbeat backdrop to the friendly banter drifting over from the bar. The beer garden is a welcome retreat from the hustle and bustle of the front bar and Moseley High Street.
2. The Bulls Head, Moseley. Definitely one of Brum’s more colourful and musically rich pubs is the Bulls Head in Moseley. Run by local musician and DJ, Adam Regan has transformed this old Victorian pub into a mecca for the cool and quirky. The small beer garden provides access to an elevated terrace, just the job when things get hot and sweaty inside. If you love live music then also check out the Bull’s awesome sister pub The Hare & Hounds in nearby Kings Heath.
3. The Prince of Wales. Serving beer since 1861, this smashing pub is arguably one of the best drinking establishments in the UK. Why? Out front is the real ale bar, an old style boozer in the heart of Moseley with all the characters you would imagine propping up the bar. Then there is the fabulous Victorian cocktail bar and beyond this, a cigar shop, a wine stall, a beer garden, events marquee and a Hawaiian beach bar and lots of quirky events, just superb!
1. The Duke Inn. Sutton Coldfield is a rather posh royal suburb of Brum and believe it or not, it’s quite difficult to find a good pub to rival those in towns such as Harborne and Moseley, but the Duke would certainly be at home in either. A small pub inside, with a slightly London feel about it, but walk out back and the beer garden is extensive with benches and a friendly relaxed atmosphere, don’t forget the suncream!
Everyone has their own favourite pub and there are plenty of ace beer gadrens on the periphery of Birmingham, in the Black Country, Solihull, Lichfield and the counties of Warwickshire, Staffordshire and Worcestershire, but that would be another article in itself. Enjoy Brum in the sun.