Date: January 2016
Location: 2 City Arcade, Birmingham, B3 3AG, UK

While their popularity in metropolitan areas in the US is undoubted, Barcades – the crossover between arcade games and craft beers – have been slow to spread to the UK.

The Brewdog chain of craft beer bars has something of a liking for pinball, as we shall see in an upcoming review, while Chief Coffee in London has gone down a different path by blending craft coffee and specialist teas with pinball.

Now a new location in Birmingham city centre has combined all these concepts into a coffee & tea shop/craft beer bar/pinball arcade called Tilt. Being a big fan of all four, we had to pay them a visit.

Knowing there might beer sampling involved, we left the car behind and took the train to Birmingham’s New Street Station. A couple of minutes later and we were walking between the bustling shoppers of New Street, which is where we saw the first clue to our destination.

A Tilt sign on New Street
A Tilt sign on New Street

Turning left, we walked up Union Street until we came to Birmingham’s tastefully-restored City Arcade building, which is home to Tilt.

City Arcade, Birmingham
City Arcade, Birmingham
The Tilt front window
The Tilt front window

Tilt opens at 7:30am to serve coffee to the workers in nearby offices and shops in the city centre. We weren’t that keen on an early start and got to Tilt at around 1:30pm on a Wednesday afternoon to meet with the owners, Kirk Sadler and Richard Kimberley.

The wedge-shaped interior is split into two areas. The pointy end contains the coffee shop and bar, while the broader part is home to the pinballs.

The seven pinballs
The seven pinballs

Most of the pinballs are provided by Pinball Heaven and we were joined at Tilt by its owner Phil Palmer, who explained how he plans to use Tilt to showcase the newest games from Stern and Jersey Jack. Game of Thrones and Kiss are here now, and when The Hobbit arrives in the UK it will be joining them in the line-up.

During our visit, these were the titles available to play:

  • Judge Dredd
  • The Addams Family
  • Game of Thrones (Pro)
  • AC/DC (Pro)
  • Kiss (Pro)
  • The Avengers (Pro)
  • Batman

The games were all in great condition and priced at what seems to be the standard in the UK: £1 ($1.50/€1.40) per game, or 3 games for £2.

Game pricing
Game pricing

What was interesting, and perhaps slightly worrying, is that with all the new machines in the line-up, the biggest earner is the 24-year-old game, The Addams Family.

There is seating in the pinball area, but most is found in the bar area which is around the corner and well insulated from the noise of flippers flipping.

The bar area
The bar area

The selection and quality of the tea blends and coffee beans is a prominent feature at Tilt. Teas such as Jade Tips, Canton Chocolate Tea and Organic Dragon Wolf sit alongside the more standard English Breakfast and Earl Grey on the menu.

Ten different teas on the menu along with some Lemon Bundt cake
Ten different teas on the menu along with some Lemon Bundt cake

A changing selection of different coffees styles is available too.

Two different coffees in the grinders
Two different coffees in the grinders
The espresso machine
The espresso machine

The tables and seats are designed with nostalgia in mind, both intended to be trendily reminiscent of school chemistry labs. Accordingly, the milk is served in a miniature Erlenmeyer flask and the sugar in a tiny glass beaker.

School-style tables with pinball and coffee wall decorations
School-style tables and seats, with pinball and coffee wall decorations

Tilt features eight craft beers, details of which are posted on the wall opposite the bar.

The eight beers available
The eight beers available

Details of the style, the brewery, the strength and some tasting notes are shown, along with the prices which are in keeping with the boutique, craft nature of the beers.

Details of four of the beers
Details of four of the beers

There’s a broad mix of styles, from golden ale through IPAs and dark lager to fruit beer and chocolate stout.

The eight beer taps
The eight beer taps in the window

There is also a big selection of bottled beers on the menu, along with a few wines and spirits.

More drinks available
More drinks available

When we first arrived and took our pictures there were few customers at Tilt, but it gradually got busier as the day progressed, with more people arriving to play the pinballs.

The seven pinballs at Tilt
The seven pinballs at Tilt

The owners have big plans for tilt. A monthly pinball league begins later this month with a ‘Meet the Brewer’ even in February, while, along with the pinball and bar areas we have already shown you, there is the potential to expand utilising the unused space on the floor below.

And that's not all
And that’s not all

There is another set of rooms downstairs, and while some of those are reserved for the unisex toilets and for some extra tables and seating, there is plenty of space to install a second bar and a bunch more games. At the speed Richard and Kirk work, it wouldn’t be a surprise if they had already rewired everything, redecorated, installed games and opened the new downstairs area by the time you read this.

Tilt in the City Arcade
Tilt in the City Arcade

Since it opened two months ago, Tilt has continued the trend of not only making pinball mainstream again, but making it legitimate too.

It’s not some seedy dimly-lit backstreet pinball dive bar. It’s unashamedly bright, modern, airy and clean, selling quality crafted drinks at premium prices, right in the city centre.

It’s just the kind of place pinball needs to be, and to be seen.

Tilt is open seven days a week, from 7:30am during the week, 9am on Saturday and 11am on Sunday. It closes at 11pm except on Friday and Saturday when it’s midnight.

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