“You come in on your own and you leave on your own” – Richard Ashcroft.
My latest trip back to England threw up undoubtedly more surprises than my backpacking glory days in that country. I spent a few days back in Birmingham. It’s a city I’ve been to many times of course, mostly to visit and hang out with Lock In Lee Adams. Indeed Lee, and Birmingham have featured manys a time on my blogs and books from Europe’s (former) longest bar to an 8-0 away win at Birmingham City FC to touring the nearby hat-trick of West Bromwich Albion, Halesowen and Shell Corner. Here are a few of those memories…
One of my best friends here for a hat-trick of decades is Lock In Lee Adams, who I met while studying at Bournemouth University. We were in The Lock In (a spoof Big Brother) together. That story did feature a bit on my blogs down the years and is also a Chapter in Don’t Look Back In Bangor.
Again we met up in 2023 on this jaunt, including an epic Black ⚫️ Sabbath Pub crawl on Black ⚫️ Friday 2023, the day I launched my new book, The Black ⚫️ Volume. As well as eating Black pudding, I opted again for a pint of black ⚫️ 🍺Guinness and this was a special one. We poured it ourselves at Autobrew. Yes, we visited the UK’s first EVER self-service bar! It’s housed in the building below…where those arrows are on the left hand side (or you can also enter from the Custard Factory side).
What Is Autobrew?
Autobrew is the UK’s first self service bar. You don’t need to talk to anyone. You just walk in, buy your beer, then pour it yourself. Here’s their website and their craic.
Getting To Autobrew
We walked it from Central Birmingham. It’s an easy 15 minute walk from the centre to the quirky neighbourhood of Digbeth. It’s actually also not far from Birmingham Coach station, and is also on route to Birmingham City FC. Eventually, at Saint Andrew’s. Also nearby are the quirky districts known as The Chinese Quarter and Gay Village. We backpacked them both as well on route as they are art and have dozens of murals to admire.
Once you arrive in Digbeth, prepare to be charmed by its art and calm. This is yet another part of Birmingham that many backpackers avoided. Digbeth in short, is an artistic neighbourhood, with streets full of quirky art, murals and pubs in every nook or cranny. Courtyards spring up out of nowhere from US president murals to Spiderman to scrap metal crushed cars against a wall. Not surprisingly, there’s also an art college here, never mind a load of bars, cafes and of course the UK’s first ever self-service bar, Autobrew.
Plus, it’s also the home of custard! You can tour The Courtyard at the Custard Factory here. Which is opposite Autobrew!
How Autobrew Works
You walk in through the door (opening hours listed below) and you simply collect your card from the bar, top it up (cash or card payments are accepted) and then you easily pour the drinks yourself. There was a staff member working here at the time, and it was the cool artist Robbie Jeffcott. Rob has created a few of the murals nearby, including the classic Ozzy Osborne one in the courtyard by the pub. I caught up with Robbie for a chat.
If you don’t feel confident to pour your own beer, a staff-member can deliver them to your table via their order system. Cans and bottles from the Craft Fridge are also available for drinking inside or takeout, but it’s always cooler to pour your own. Plus you can grab your own coffee and snacks too using the card system.
We were only having a pint each so we paid the exact price of one pint of Guinness, and one pint of Ale on the card. You stick the card above the taps and pour away! I was with my Polish friend Rafal and we just decided to have one chilled out beer here, for the memory, for the quirk. Prices will obviously vary depending on the beer. My Guinness was £6.80, Rafal’s was slightly cheaper. Of course my Guinness was easy to pour given my backpacking barwork experience in 5 countries.
For those who have never poured a beer before, it’s six easy steps written above the taps, so enjoy!
The novelty won’t wear off. This is a cool new thing! I loved it!
Slainte! Cheers! Na Zdrowie!
Here are the details of Autobrew, England’s first Self-Service Bar:
Monday – Closed
Tuesday – Closed
Wednesday: 4pm – 11pm
Thursday: 4pm – 11pm
Friday: 2pm – 12am
Saturday: 12pm – 1am
Sunday: 12pm – 6pm
Phone: +44 7832 322765
Here are some videos from my visit to Autobrew, England’s first Self-Service Bar: