If the buzz around The Canal House in Birmingham is anything to go by, this place is one of the most hotly anticipated openings of the year. Rumoured at first to be a Pirate themed bar, the New World Trading Company (owners of The Botanist and The Alchemist brands) have lovingly restored the old James Brindley pub and opened it as The Canal House.
I was invited to a VIP launch event last week, where I was treated to a beer tasting on a barge, as well as dinner with drinks, to experience everything The Canal House has to offer.
We kicked things off with a barge trip from the Mailbox up to The Canal House, with a mini beer tasting on the way.
Beavertown Gamma Ray is a favourite of mine. As an APA lover, it’s one of my go to beers for that dry hopped, tropical fruit flavour. Good start!
Keeping with the fruity theme, next up was Magic Rock High Wire, a grapefruit infused pale ale that is stupidly good. I’d been wanting to try this for ages, and I wasn’t disappointed. It’s another great session ale that’s as sour and it is dry and fruity. Plus the can is awesome.
Lastly we had a change of tack, moving onto the coffee infused Einstok Icelandic Toasted Porter. The only way I can describe this is the Espresso Martini of beers. It’s rich and dark, with a distinctive coffee flavour. By the time we’d tasted all 3, we were just pulling up to The Canal House, which looked fabulous, with lots of bare brick and green stained wood.
It had started to rain by the time we arrived so I didn’t linger outside for too long. We were welcomed in with a smile and took a seat at the bar while our table upstairs was prepared. We didn’t have to wait long and were shown to a lovely table, with double doors to an outside balcony right next to us. The rain had somewhat scuppered the view, but it was lovely nonetheless.
As we were all in the mood for beer, we instantly picked up the beer menu, also known as The Anthology of Ales.
I’m not exaggerating when I say this was a small book, full of interesting beers in a variety of styles. I have long lauded The Wellington and The Woodman for their selections of beers, so I have to say I was very impressed to see these kinds of beers in a mainstream sort of venue.
There were so many that we wanted to try, or had heard of but never seen on a menu, that we decided to go for 2 rounds of 3 beers and try a bit of each. We were especially interested in the Budwar tank beer, which is bought directly from the Budwar brewery in the Czech Republic, driven to The Canal House and stored in their own tanks, so it’s super fresh.
Although some of the beers we wanted to try weren’t available on the night we went, the staff had great knowledge of all the beers and styles, so were able to recommend alternatives with ease, which was much appreciated.
We spent so long deciding which beers to try that it took us an age to order our food, so we ordered some nibbles while we looked over the menu properly.
We went for pork scratchings (it would have been rude not to…) and whitebait as Vicky really fancied some fish.
The pork scratchings were really quite impressive, served still slightly warm and with a hint of chilli and spring onion. The apple and fig ketchup was really indulgent too, with a lovely sweetness to contrast the salty scratchings. The whitebait were also great, freshly fried with a crispy coating.
Once we’d had a look through the menu, we all found something to our liking. The food menu is similar to those at The Botanist and The Alchemist, with hanging kebabs and plenty of grill options. I went for the baked camembert to start, and rotisserie duck leg for main, with a side of posh chips with garlic, rosemary and cheese.
The baked camembert was beautiful, with warm, gooey cheese infused with rosemary. It was served with herb croutons and apple slices, where if I’m really honest, I would have preferred just a hunk of really good quality bread, but it didn’t stop me from enjoying it.
For our beer round, we had Grapefruit Lucky Jack, Lindemans Gueuze Cuvée Renée and Redwillow Perceptionless. Lucky Jack was a great little fruity number that I could easily enjoy for a summer session. Perceptionless was a fantastic beer, a real hazy American style IPA, but the standout of this round was the Cuvée Renée.
In the Anthology, this is described as the Champagne of beers and it certainly felt like a treat, served in a Champagne-esque foil topped bottle with a satisfying fizz and tartness.
Onto our main courses, I was a little taken aback by my generous portion of duck!
I was expecting one duck leg, but was presented with two, winner! The duck also came with a quinoa salad and a lovely, sticky sauce.
The duck was cooked really well, good seasoning, with crispy skin but still slightly pink inside. I wasn’t enamoured with the quinoa salad, but the posh chips were a delight.
The fries had the skin on, which I’m always a fan of, and the addition of the herbs and cheese made them feel more special than a bog standard side of fries.
It was a big dish which I must admit, I couldn’t quite finish. In truth, one duck leg would have been enough with the fries and salad, but it was good to have a generous portion on offer.
For our second round of beers, we had Duchesse De Bourgogne, Budwar tank beer and, for dessert, Wiper & True Milkshake.
None of us liked the Duchesse unfortunately. I’m not averse to a sour beer, but this genuinely tasted like balsamic vinegar! I couldn’t drink it, but I did childishly dunk a chip in it which was surprisingly nice! The Budwar tank beer was lovely too, really smooth with a good malty flavour.
After such a big main, we didn’t have desserts, so we shared the Wiper & True Milkshake.
A creamy milk stout with a velvety feel and a chocolatey taste, this was more than enough for dessert, but I doubt I could drink too many!
Lots of other bloggers have been posting about extravagant cocktails, which I didn’t have any of on this occasion, as I was so pleased to see such a great selection of beers to play with, but I’ve been told they were impressive to look at and tasty.
With extremely full bellies and substantial beer jackets, we nipped out to the balcony in the rain to check out the canal view before heading off. In better weather, it would be really lovely up there, and definitely feels like a world away from the gimmicky bars of Broad Street just a stones throw away.
I have to say the hype around the place has been quite unlike other new openings in the city (well done to their PR team!) and the beer tasting on a barge was a unique and fun way to launch.
While I don’t think The Canal House is particularly radical, as it’s not too far away from what NWTC have done with The Botanist and The Alchemist, it is a beautiful venue. It’s so good to see the James Brindley restored to some of its former glory, and with a good menu of classic dishes and a really impressive drinks menu, I think it could be one of the most popular openings of the year.
Have you been yet? What did you think?
Disclaimer: I attended the VIP launch of The Canal House as their guest, so my meal, drinks and beer tasting were all complimentary, many thanks to the team there. I was under no obligation to provide a positive review, and all opinions are, as always, my own.