Just before Christmas we got the opportunity to visit The Anchor in Digbeth to meet the new owner Jules and the cellar man Jason (The Beer Wizard) and learn a little more about what they have in store for this famous old Brummie boozer.
TAKING ON A LEGEND
An Inn has been on the present site since approximately 1803, with the current building standing since 1901. The heritage building passed into the hands of the Keane Family in 1973, with Gerry Keane taking over from his father in 1983. Under his stewardship he bought the Freehold in the 1990’s and it would eventually be named Birmingham CAMRA Pub of the Year four times.
After raising one family and beginning to raise another Gerry made the decision to sell up in early 2016. He wasn’t content with handing it over to anybody, instead choosing to sell to somebody who would respect the old building and maintain its independence.
Jules has been in drink and hospitality business most of his working life beginning at TGI Fridays on the Hagley Road, 22 years ago, before taking his interest in cocktails and spirits to Bank, Ronnie Scotts and Red Bar among others. During this time the main focus of his drinking in terms of beer was mainly lager and Newcastle Brown Ale but when he became part of the Bitter ‘n’ Twisted chain and took over as manager of the Victoria he found a bit of a taste for real ale in the shape of Wye Valley.
He then moved on to the Botanist for a while, did a bit of freelance work, but the yern to have his own place was gnawing away at him, so when he heard Gerry was selling, his interest was piqued and he saw his next challenge, the chance to run a proper boozer.
“He liked what I wanted to do with it, and was glad it was me, not a big company or brewery”
To begin with quite a bit of work was needed in the cellar along with general cleaning, tidying, a lick of paint here and there but his ethos was not to change the fundamentals of the pub.
“We didn’t want to reinvent the wheel; it just needed a lick of paint and a bit of love”
The Anchor had been known for the quality of its beers, re-establishing this reputation was a key part of their future plans. Who better to work magic on the cellar than The Beer Wizard himself Jason Green.
Having started in the trade as a glass collector he has had an extensive and varied career in the beer industry beginning at Beefeater steakhouses before getting cellar training with M&B which took him up and down the country where he developed an enjoyment of looking after beer, learning many of the tricks of the trade, and developing a few tricks of his own (remember he is a wizard). He has worked in both the independent and corporate world leading him to The Victoria, where he first met Jules, and was part of the team that helped The Vic become a great beer venue for a while as they we were able to bring in some great beers from across the country.
RE-IMAGINING THE LEGEND
The team took over The Anchor in August 2016 and immediately began their work.
“Walked in on the 8th August and immediately headed down to the Cellar and start cleaning…from 12 hand pulls at the time we condemned 5”
The team built a relationship with Marston’s who helped replace much of the equipment. The main bar area remains largely the same, with many of the period features still in place. The focus of the back room is a bit more youth oriented, hosting DJ’s, musicians and comedians and a small room is available for community groups and organisations free of charge. Future plans include opening up the kitchen to serve food, and improving the rear of the building to create a beer garden.
The bar now hosts 6 cask and 3 interesting Keg, including Marston’s, Wye Valley and a rotation of local beers including Fixed Wheel, and beers from further afield such as Brodie’s. If the beers sell well, there is space for up to 4 more cask beers and 3 more Keg. Beers in the fridge include Beavertown, Magic Rock and Moor Beer Company to name a few. The Team at The Anchor are focused on bringing the best to their customers; this included beers, but also includes a carefully chosen selection of whiskey, gin & wine along with other quality spirits. Jules also works his magic on a unique selection of cocktails and Boilermakers (Whiskey and Beer Mixes named after staff members).
The team at The Anchor are determined to make a success of the venture with a focus on quality products and great service, something Jules has a track record of delivering.
“We want to make sure we have something for everyone. We want to do it well.”
We leave the final words to Jules and Jason, with their mission for the Future of The Anchor.
“We are going for the ‘Cheers’ feel…We want to be people’s favourite boozer”