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The Black Country has got some of the best boozers in the country. But how many of them are in Dudley town centre? The Stirrer’s been to find out.

The one thing you can say about Dudley is that it’s not hard to find a pub; we trawled half a dozen within a ten minute stomp, and we reckon there must be a few more to discover.

We kicked off at the bottom end of the town with the Station Hotel on Castle Hill, which has a recently refurbished lounge serving bar meals and a separate restaurant.

I’m not sure what it was like before, but the makeover has given the place a slightly soulless air - although it was noticeably female friendly, with women outnumbering men by about four to one.

There was nothing to suggest it was a lesbian bar, either, so it’s presumably a place where young women obviously feel confident they won’t get hassled (or asked too many question about their age…?)

All in all, though, despite the promising girl/guy ratio it was nothing special; alright for a pint, but not much more.

Up the hill, across the bus station, and onwards to Pub 2 - The Castle on the High Street. Now this was much more like it. Thumping 80’s disco, overweight girls with bunny ears, and the bar bathed in a purple strip lighting. Even better, we were refused entry.

Granted, the arrival of half a dozen blokes might have put off the doorman, but the official reason was that one of us was wearing trainers. Hmmm. Let’s just say we were grateful.

The Malt Shovel on Tower Street was another rich experience; a rough n’ ready (but friendly) old-style working class boozer dominated by the karaoke man who walks around the floor encouraging the regulars to sing and dance.

Don't get on the wrong side of the landlady either. She's got the kind of tattooed knuckles you don't mess with.

This is a pub where customers have to be warnedthat only alcohol bought on the premises can be consumed there. For those who haven’t brought their own, the Hanson’s Mild is worth an investment.

A real throwback, but a collectors item for those who had only previously seenalehouseslike this in“Saturday Night And Sunday Morning”.

The Old Priory in New Street was altogether more upmarket, and boasts an unfeasibly large collection of old-time memorabilia, much of it focusing on Laurel and Hardy.

It was the busiest place we visited but although the beer’s OK - we sampled a rich-tasting pint of Old Speckled Hen - by now we were starting to get the impression that Dudley wasn’t quite the pub nirvana we'd been hopingfor.

The Courthouse only confirmed the impression. Satisfyingly huge cheese and onion cobs, and The Pogues on the jukebox couldn’t make up for a deathly atmosphere. While we were there, the landlord refused to serve a customer for being drunk. Until then, we hadn’t realised this was a problem for a pub.

And so to The Fellows on The Broadway. Nothing to complain about, with a decent pint of Timmy Taylor’s Landlord, but although it was busy it somehow lacked a real buzz.

Overall, Dudley disappointed. There are some decent pubs in the town but not, in our experience, any great ones.

Disagree with The Stirrer’s recommendations? Know any other places we should try? Leave a comment under Pub Crawls in The Miscellaneous section of our messageboard.

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