What does the Jewellery Quarter in Birmingham taste like? According to Amy Seton, founder of The Birmingham Whisky Club located on the JQ’s Vyse Street, it tastes of craft beer, innovative cocktails and some really good whisky.
I was invited along to an exclusive event at The Birmingham Whisky Club last week, with some fellow bloggers, to Taste The Quarter, featuring a stunning selection of drinks from Burning Soul Brewery, The Vanguard at 1000 Trades, The Wilderness, Connollys Wine & of course, The Birmingham Whisky Club itself.
Burning Soul Brewery
We kicked off the night with Burning Soul Brewery, Birmingham based craft beer brewers. They have a taproom in the Jewellery Quarter, that’s full of experimental brews and an ever changing selection of beers made right here in the city.
We sampled the Meadowsweet Saison, a collaborative effort with Brad Carter from Carter’s of Moseley, made with locally foraged meadowsweet flowers and honey.
This delicious, sessionable beer is pleasantly sweet and spicy, with notes of honey, pepper and orange.
Want to try it? You’ll find Burning Soul Brewery taproom on Mott Street, B19 3HE. They’re open Fridays 4pm to 8pm and Saturdays from 1pm to 8pm.
The Vanguard at 1000 Trades
The Vanguard started as a pop-up at 1000 Trades, but has now cemented itself in the heart of the city and is staying right where it is, as a permanent fixture.
Specialising in Mead, owner Sam is famous for his meticulousness when it comes to ingredients, flavours and making great cocktails.
After a brief history of what mead is and why it was chosen as the star ingredient, we got to try some of the good stuff. First off was light mead from Shire Meadery.
Considering mead is made from honey, this wasn’t as sickly sweet as you might think. It had the sweetness of a dessert wine, but was also fresh with an almost sparkling mouthfeel. Considering I tend to prefer dry and bitter to sweet, I was surprised how enjoyable this was.
Our second drink was Kanpai to Sakura – a cocktail of gin, Honjozo sake, citric acid and homemade cherry blossom cordial. Sam talked at length about how a lot of the time, just because something is homemade, doesn’t mean it’s the best it can be. He’s proud to source the best of the best for The Vanguard, but when it came to the cherry blossom flavour he wanted to capture for this drink, he just couldn’t find it, so he made it himself.
He was right to as well. This drink was a real superstar, fresh and fragrant with that unmistakable cherry blossom sweetness. This was my standout drink of the night.
If you want to try it yourself, you can find The Vanguard on the top floor of 1000 Trades on Frederick Street, B1 3HE. It’s open Wednesday & Thursday 16:00 – 23:00, Friday 16:00 – 00:00 & Saturday 13:00 – 00:00.
The Wilderness is known for two things. It’s innovative tasting menus, and it’s outspoken staff. Dining at The Wilderness is an experience, where the same exacting precision applied to the food, also applies to the drinks.
James – drinks wizard for The Wilderness – brought along an amazing dry Martini with celery and heritage tomato flavours for us to try.
Designed to pair with a specific dish on the tasting menu, this one-off creation was a total surprise for the senses, especially the spritz of Laphroaig whisky which was totally unexpected in a gin Martini.
Having been to both The Wilderness and James’s drinks events before, I can hand-on-heart say that the drinks are some of the best I’ve had in the city. If you’ve not been, it’s an experience you absolutely must go before you leave.
The Wilderness can be found on Warstone Lane, B18 6JQ. You’ll need to reserve in advance to dine.
I’m not very au fait with wine – I’m more of a beer & spirits drinker. Chris Connolly of Connollys Wine on the other hand has an encyclopedic knowledge of all things wine that he’s happy to share. He brought along 3 wines for us to try on the night.
Our first offering was Domain de Pellehaut Blanc 2017, a French white that was really juicy and refreshing, with plenty of tropical fruit flavours. As a fan of tropical IPA’s, this was a great wine-based alternative for me.
The second choice was not so popular. This Cosmic Hand white from Elemental Bob is a ‘natural’ wine. Chris went into great detail about the differences (or not) between natural, organic and biodynamic wines, which was somewhat lost on me, largely because when it came to the tasting, I REALLY did not enjoy this.
On the nose, it smelt like a farmyard, and on the tongue it didn’t taste much different. The flavour for me was reminiscent of really ripe, farmy ciders which I absolutely can’t drink, so this one wasn’t for me at all.
Thankfully the final choice, a Wiener Trilogie, Weingut Wieninger 2014 was much more palatable. A rich, but easy drinking red from Vienna, which ended up with me, George of Caramel Latte Kiss and Emma of Miss Pond in fits of giggles singing Ultravox…
The newest member of the Connollys family – Arch 13 Bar – can be found on Livery Street, B3 1EU. It’s open Monday to Saturday 10:00 – 23:00.
The Birmingham Whisky Club
Our final stop on this tour was to Scotland, with some superb whisky choices from Birmingham’s resident whisky expert and The Birmingham Whisky Club founder Amy Seton.
I love watching Amy talk about whisky, her passion for it makes her animated and glowing, and I love listening to people who really know their stuff. Amy talked about the different whisky regions of Scotland and what that means in terms of style and flavour profile.
Her choice for the night was Edradour 10 year old, a single malt from the Highlands. Edradour is famed for being the smallest distillery in Scotland, and the small stills they use to distill the whisky are said to give it a rich and distinctive flavour.
Unfortunately for me, I had to shoot off just as the whisky started to flow. As a whisky drinker, this pained me, but alas I had a cat to feed, so I missed out on having a dram of this, but I’ll be damn sure I’m back to see Amy to try it very soon.
I’ve been to several of Amy’s whisky tastings before and I can thoroughly recommend them, regardless of whether you’re a whisky enthusiast or a total novice. Her knowledge is superb and there’s not hint of pretentiousness about it. Amy loves whisky, and she wants you to love it to. The JQ venue is beautiful too.
You’ll find The Birmingham Whisky Club on Vyse Street, B18 6HA. It’s open Wednesday & Thursday 17:00 – 23:00, Friday & Saturday 12:00 – 00:00, Sunday 12:00 – 18:00. You can also hire the venue for private events on Monday & Tuesday.
Although my Taste of the JQ ended a little more abruptly than I wanted it do, I had a fantastic time getting to taste my way around some of the quarter’s more innovative venues. There’s a lot more to the JQ than you might think.
Which venues will you be heading to?
I was invited to Taste the Quarter as a guest, therefore all my drinks were complimentary, many thanks to Amy for organising and all of the bars & venues that contributed their time and their produce. All opinions are, as always my own, and I was under no obligation to provide a positive review.