Saturday, 4 January 2020

New year in Town - Part II

Another day, another varied selection of pubs in Liverpool, starting with a place I've never visited:  This used to be Tom Hall's until it went bust last year, now it's Jurgen's Bierhaus:
I pulled my hat down and hoped none of my Evertonian friends were around to see me as I quickly sidled in.

Inside I found a large cellar bar in three rooms, decorated with lots of LFC memorabilia, and mostly painted in their colours.

Surprisingly quiet on a Saturday afternoon, just seven people in the large "boot room" where I sat to enjoy my Guinness.  Live football on umpteen tellies, luckily silent, not Liverpool though.  I wonder if it'll be busy in here for the Derby tomorrow.  Sadly I'll be 200 miles away by then.

Mercenary as always, I can't help wondering how much Herr Klopp gets paid to allow his name and picture to be used.

Next, just round the corner to a place I haven't visited since 2012, Ma Boyle's:
Here I got a pleasant surprise, as there were three handpumps on and my pint of Lister's Christmas Ale (All the way from Sussex.) was excellent.  Many years ago this was a wonderful place for real ale, and on one occasion I was even allowed to pull my own pint, possibly the only time I've done that.  So you can imagine my disappointment in 2012 when there was no cask, and my pleasure today on finding it's back.

Quite busy with people drinking wine or cocktails, and eating - the menu looks tempting I must say.

Music at just the right volume plus happy chatter formed the soundtrack of this rather fine pub.

So, this place can go back on my list of Liverpool's hidden gems, although judging by the trade there's not much "hidden" about it.

Where next?  Although not due for a tick, the Pig and Whistle's not far:
A visit here is always a little disappointing as I can remember the historic interior before it was refurbished away back in aught five.  Nonetheless, it's still a pleasant boozer, and my pint of Unicorn, the only real ale available, was fine.

The tiny stage in the corner was equipped for a solo performer.  I guess they also do Karaoke and a sign says "NO VALERIE, NO ANGELS, NO BARBIE GIRL, NO 500 MILES"  That's a shame, with two of my favourites excluded.  (It's left as an exercise for the reader to guess which two!)  I've never sung Karaoke but one of those four is the one I'd probably choose if I was ever stupid/drunk enough to do so.

Pretty quiet in here, and by the time I'd finished my pint it was just me and the barmaid.

Finally, another Liverpool classic, not visited since 2014, the Carnarvon Castle:
This tiny gem was busy as always but I managed to find a seat to enjoy my pint of Director's and write this.

A lively throng of Saturday afternoon shoppers came in and out and as soon as anyone vacated a table someone else wanted it.  Sadly the ceramic frontage and the wonderful collection of dinky toys have long gone, but it's still a wonderful traditional boozer, long may it continue!

No music in here, just a hubub of cheerful scousers.  When I was younger a pub where you had to stand up was fine, of course, but nowadays I need a seat!  On the other hand, it's not often I'm the youngest person in the pub, but I may have been here!

I must say it's a little surprising here slap bang in the City Centre to find I've got no mobile signal.  (I wanted to check my train home)

Pub of the day: Carnarvon Castle

Thursday, 2 January 2020

New Year in Town

My first call of a couple in town was somewhere I haven't visited since 2011, The Bridewell:
Why haven't I been in this wonderful place for nine years, missing a number of name and ownership changes?  You can sit in a cell in this former police station, which has been very well done out since my last visit.

The friendly landlord pulled me a pint of a superb stout from somewhere.  There were five handpumps on, offering a wide selection of different ales.

Very quiet in here and with the music at a sensible volume the main sound was the cheerful landlord chatting with customers.

There's an upstairs as well, I think, but I didn't visit it.

On to the Hub, but it's not called that any more.  Albert's Schenke:
I marched past the "Please wait here to be seated" sign without noticing it, and joined the throng at the counter to order a beer.  Service looked a little slow, but in fact I soon had my drink and bagged one of the few empty tables.

Well well, it's changed a bit since I visited the Hub in 2011, but the one thing they've kept is a small range of quality real ales, I had an excellent pint of Liverpool Pale.
It's now decorated in a sort of German bierhalle style which I have to say I rather like.

Very busy in here, there were only a few free tables, and the majority of people seemed to be drinking rather than eating, perhaps not surprisingly at three in the afternoon.  The only sound was a loud hubbub of happy customers.

After a while I realised why I like this place so much:  It reminds me of "German" bars I've frequented around the world, the Paulaner Brauhaus in Beijing being a particular favourite.  Of course, none of those places serve real ale!

The area around here is full of new eateries and bars, so perhaps it's time to try one new to me; how about Lock and Key:
I think this is mainly a "boutique hotel" (whatever that means) but on the ground floor is a rather well done tiny bar with a couple of Love Lane brews on tap.  Very nicely decorated, I'm not sure how to describe the styling, apart from "pleasant".

Despite it being a cold grey Thursday afternoon, the place was ticking over nicely although not full, and the quiet background muzac was mostly drowned by conversations.  Custom thinned out as I enjoyed my beer, at least one of the clients was only here for a coffee and the free wifi. 

Pub of the day: The Bridewell

Tuesday, 22 October 2019

City Centre Again

Another Tuesday afternoon in town started in a famous one, Ye Cracke:
For a moment I thought this might be shut, but the door pushed open and in I went.  Only three customers in the place on a Tuesday afternoon.  I selected Phoenix White Monk and the landlady poured it, took my money, and then looked closely.  "I'm just checking to see if it clears", she said, and it soon became obvious that it wouldn't.  "It only went on yesterday, someone must have knocked the barrel when we had a delivery this morning."  "This is another pale one" she continued, and pulled me a pint of Dogs Bollocks I think it was, before turning the clip round on the Phoenix.

Always a pleasant place for a nice drink, this, with a surprising lack of tourists today.  I relaxed in one of the larger rooms and enjoyed my ale.

Just a few yards down the road is the Pilgrim:
Even quieter than the Cracke, just the barmaid and me in the large downstairs room.  Three real ales were on, I chose Lancaster Amber, and it was in good nick.

Once I was served the young lady busied herself putting up Hallowe'en decorations.  Too early in my opinion, but not as bad as the Brook in Cambridge where I grumbled to the barman about their decorations the week before last.

No one came and no one left... - No, let's not do that again.  A bit lacking in atmosphere, of course, with no-one in, but I bet it's fun on a Friday night.  I can't recall if I've ever done it at a busy time, I vaguely recall a dispute about short measures a very long time ago.

Just a short walk to the Grapes, just to take a picture because whatpub says it doesn't open until later:
But hang on, the lights are on and I can see people inside, so I can go in after all. 

My recollection of this place from 2016 could be summed up as "Great ale, bit of a dump".  They've changed one of those and kept the other - Yes, it's now great ale in a very pleasant pub.  And they've knocked through into next door creating a comfortable space.

I ordered a pint of Loch Fyne "Jarl or Yarl, however it's pronounced".  The landlord/barman didn't know either.  Either way, it was gorgeous.

Just a few other customers, their chatting at the counter mixing with the music.

Now for a complete contrast, in to Brewdog:
Slightly busier than my previous ticks, but still pretty empty, just the occasional customer going to the counter.  One came in with his bike, now that wouldn't be allowed in a traditional pub!

It's always a bit risky, I think, to get advice from the barman, but my half of 8.2% Sink the Pink, from German brewers Brlo, was truly exceptional.  It's got that sweet tang of a barley wine, with some fruity flavours as well.

Next, something else different again, Red Dog:
Last time I was here, back in 2004 when it was called Bar VR, I was rather disparaging about a plain down at heel bar with customers to match, but I didn't recognise anything this time. 

A rather well done food and drink place, with dark wood panelling, all modern I think, on two floors.

Totally deserted at five on a Tuesday, three staff and me!

No real ale of course, so I selected at random something called Wild River, which turned out to be brewed by Fullers and rather tasty.

The music mixed with the staff chatting, and fiddling with a wonky Magners font, eventually patched up with some sticky tape.

Pub of the day: The Grapes
Miles walked: 1.7

Thursday, 12 September 2019

Good Beer Guide 2020

The new Good Beer Guide is out, and I can report there are seventeen deletions and fifteen new entries in Merseyside this year.

If you want to know which pubs they are, you'll have to buy the book.

Tuesday, 27 August 2019

Nobody Home in Liverpool

A random City Centre selection of visits started at the Fly in the Loaf:
No change in here since my last visit back in 2008, and nothing to contradict my notes about a lack of atmosphere, because there was only me and the barman in.  I'm surprised they don't do better than this at one on a Tuesday, perhaps everyone is partied out after the Bank Holiday.

Obviously, I had to have Okell's Bitter from the selection of handpumps, it was spot on.  The barman busied himself putting out menus (The food looks good value for central Liverpool.) and sorting behind the counter, while I sat alone and enjoyed my ale.
Someone cleared his throat.  No one left and no one came.
(Adlestrop, Edward Thomas)
As an aside, I think I've learned something here: I usually spell it "no-one".  Of course, one could ask, if "someone" is correct, why isn't it "noone"?

Hmmm.  Fly in the Loaf Est 1927 says the sign on the bar front.  I'm guessing that's the bakery 'cos I know it isn't the bar.

Finally the quiet was broken by the chef who came out for a chat with the barman.  I don't think my pint will pay their wages!

Next, the Flute:
I first came in here when it was the Flute and Firkin, back in 1999.  The post-firkin incarnation is a rather well done large open room with a wooden floor.  Umpteen TV screens provide various sports, mostly horse racing this afternoon.

One barman and four customers here, it's doing slightly better than the Fly!

Only one handpump in operation, I decided not to risk it and went for lager instead.

The signing of the gents leaves a little to be desired.  Luckily for me one of the other customers did a tour of the room and then asked the barman, so I knew where to go when it was my turn.

On to the Hope and Anchor:
Oh dear.  Two staff and me.  Where is everyone?  This student-oriented place has fun attractive decor, all it needs is some students.

No real ale, so I had a half of something very tasty from Brewdog.  But it was way too warm.

Two more people appeared, but they turned out to be more staff, possibly one was an interviewee.

Actually, I've no idea what a student in 2019 wants in a bar, and I didn't even like student bars when I was one all those years ago - My favourite drinking hole then was a traditional street corner boozer.  So I use the phrase student-oriented from a position of ignorance.  I'm guessing a place like this is hanging on for a sudden flood of custom at the end of September when term starts.  Perhaps it'll be packed in freshers week (Do they still have that?)

As I finished my beer, one of the staff set to painting some furniture.

Where next?  I wasn't expecting any new ticks today but hang on, what's this?  The Casa Bar.  How many times have I walked past?  Sorry, I forgot to take a picture.

I'm not sure why I've never been in here before, I think I had some idea it was a restaurant or something, but in fact it's a pub plain and simple.  No real ale so I had Guinness for a change.

This was busy compared with all the previous ticks, with about twenty customers adding chatter to the background music.

A staircase leads to the cellar bar, but I didn't venture down to check it out.  No one went down or came up while I was there.

Rather unusually for 2019, the pub has multiple signs advising that it is cash only.  I wonder if anyone comes in and then leaves because cards are no good;  probably not very often.

The holiday weather is over, it's raining, but just across the road is the wonderful world famous Philharmonic:
What can I say that hasn't already been said?  An architectural gem, one of the most beautiful pubs in the world, and quite busy with tourists as you would expect.

I selected a stout from the array of handpumps, and it was superb.

I sat in Liszt, I don't think I've used this room before, with a wonderful stained glass window in front of me; "Music is the Universal Language of Mankind - Longfellow".

Next, another chance to tick off a never before visited bar, up a back street resisting the temptation of the wonderful Roscoe Head and on to the Scholar:
Back to the tumbleweeds again, just me and the barmaid in this rather nicely decorated one room pub which I guess is aimed at the student market.  Presumably it'll be busier once the term starts.

Finally, time to check a new sighting - Grand Central, the former Methodist hall, now has Smokie Mo's neons over the doorway.  But it's not actually open on a Tuesday afternoon.  So on to the beloved Crown:
It's always difficult to photograph this pub without getting run over, especially when it's at the end of a seven pub crawl, so the photo is from 2002.
Once again, what can I say that hasn't already been said?  Well, the new arrangement with an extra side door into the front room also features a re-shuffled counter, the real ales are now in one row in the middle, there used to be two groups of handpumps with keg fonts and a till in between.

I headed for my preferred seat in the back room.  The pub was doing nicely, with plenty of customers, mostly eating.  What hasn't changed is the quality of the real ale, my pint of, er, I've forgotten what - something pale and hoppy, was excellent.

Pub of the day: Jointly the Crown and the Phil.
Miles walked: 1.5

Saturday, 24 August 2019

Sunshine On Wirral

The Merseyrail strike being called off the plan was back on, and a series of trains carried me to Heswall station, from where a pleasant one mile stroll through the sunny countryside took me to the village of Barnston and the Fox & Hounds:
Here I found a large country pub aimed mainly at diners, of which there were already a few at a quarter past twelve.  The bar room is a beautiful antique space dedicated to drinkers.  The rest of the rooms are a little more modern in styling, still very pleasant.

Quiet jazz music was the sound here, with conversations in the background.

Six real ales were on, I had a great pint of Landlord.  I perched at a high table near the counter and watched the activity as waitresses dashed about.  Something was wrong with the printer, resulting in some drinks orders going missing.

Next, another walk through the countryside to Thingwall and the never before visited Bassett Hound:
Here I found a Greene King chain dining pub, with a very pleasant knocked through interior.  There are some very old wooden beams in the ceiling, but I think they might be decorative rather than genuine.

Abbot, IPA, Landlord and St Austell's Liquid Sunshine were on handpump, my Cornish pint was very good.

At one on a Saturday afternoon the place was almost deserted, the waiting staff messing about and chatting because they had no work.  This really is a well done pub, I hope it gets more customers later.

How's the cricket going?  At lunch England only need 348 more to win!  Oh dear!

A number of people who had been drinking outside carried their ale inside.  Had it started to rain?  I couldn't see out from where I was sitting and I wondered about getting wet as I have another significant walk to the next tick.

I needn't have worried, it was still unbroken bright sunshine as I set off towards the former Cherry Orchard, now just known as the Toby Carvery Arrowe:
I was a bit concerned that with the name change this had crossed the line from pub to restaurant and that they would no longer welcome drinkers, but I needn't have worried.  I walked up to the counter and ordered a lager.  The three handpumps were clearly purely decorative.

I sat in the "quiet side" where there were very few people, the dining area at the other end of the pub was busier, and the chatter of happy diners mixed with the clink of cutlery and crockery, under the quiet muzac.

A steady stream of people came to the counter for drinks, were they also drinkers like me or diners coming back for another drink?

First sighting of a "Book now for Christmas" poster this year!

Next, a shorter walk to the Arrowe Park:
Another GK chain, Hungry Horse this time.  As I entered I failed to spot the handpumps and ordered a lager, but I later saw all the clips were turned round, so no loss.

A standard Greene King food pub, clean, tidy, nicely decorated and well maintained as they usually are.  Mid Saturday afternoon it was ticking over and most of the customers I could see were not eating.  Perhaps the diners were in the other side of the large building.

Now, a choice:  Do I head to the Stirrup which I believe to be closed, just to get a picture?  I haven't got one from my 2010 drink there.  Or do I go straight to the next target?

Long way round, of course:
Looks a bit sad, doesn't it.

Next, on to the Woodchurch:
In contrast to the previous pubs today, this is a down market plain clean and tidy estate boozer.

A dozen or so locals were keeping the place going.  I had another lager and sat in the bar side.  There is another side but I'm not sure if it's operational.  I'm no expert but it looks to me like the original 60s decor and layout have been refurbished away.  I must say I have grown to like the new Carling glasses, decorative and easy to hold.

The main sound in here was the juke box, with chatter underneath.  Thankfully Sky Sports News on the big screen was silent.

England only need 302 to win now.  Anyone with a ticket for Monday, time to make alternative plans I think!

Another quandry:  The next step is a short walk to the main road, where I can get a bus back to Liverpool.  Do I get off that bus and nip up to the Wirral Hundred to tick off another pub I've never visited?  If I don't do it today it'll be an odd isolated one requiring a special trip.  But can I drag myself off the bus home?

The decision was helped when the first bus to arrive wasn't to Liverpool, so I rode a few stops and then jumped off and walked up to the Wirral Hundred:
I'm told this pub was built in the late 1970s, a rare time for pub construction.  I felt the outside looked a little scruffy in places, but the inside was very tidy and pleasant.  The style and layout inside are possibly original.  Was it always one open room like this?  Probably.

No real ale, so time for another lager.

Quite a few regulars were creating a gentle hubub of chatter.  Meanwhile, the cricket was on the big screen, so I could watch a little of England's humiliation.  Actually they seemed to be postponing the inevitable quite well.

Time to go home.

Pub of the day: Fox & Hounds for the beautiful bar room.
Miles walked: 6.3
Maybe coming soon: Whiston

Tuesday, 6 August 2019


Not so far afield today, just two stops on the train and a short walk took me to the impressive building that is the Grapes:
This rather fine construction, which I'm guessing dates from the 1930s (But I could be decades off.) contains a standard Greene King chain pub with the "Pub and Carvery" brand.

It was ticking over fairly quietly at one on a Tuesday, mostly with diners.  My pint of some summer-themed ale was not at its best, I'm afraid.

The large open knocked through interior retains some old, possibly original, features; dark wood panelling and matchboarding.

Next, the Wellington:
Another rather wonderful building, this time almost Baronial in style and, I suspect, also dating from the 20s or 30s.

Any history inside has mostly been refurbished away, I think, although the odd old-looking feature remains, such as the entrance doors and their stylish handles.  Could the leaded windows be original as well?

A Greene King dining place once again, this time with no obvious brand on the menu.  Pretty empty, but with a few groups finishing their meals.

I selected Landlord, and it was maybe a touch on the warm side but otherwise excellent.  Keen to play with my new toy, Google Pay, I was disappointed to find there's a £5 minimum on card payments here, so I had to use real money.  If Wetherspoons can accept cards for a £1.79 pint, why can't everyone? 

Now, the longest walk of the day, on towards the centre of Prescot, and the Royal Oak:
A rather good two sided boozer this, well cared for and full of happy regulars.  OK, not exactly full, but doing pretty well for a Tuesday afternoon.

Two handpumps, one clip turned round, so lager for me.

The music, a good selection including The Who, was very quiet, almost drowned by the lads playing pool.  (Lads?  They're as old as I am.)

On my last visit, in 2012, I particularly noted this place as spotless and well cared for, and it still is.  Plenty of other places could take lessons on maintenance and cleaning from this pub.

Just a short walk away is Tommy Hall's.  But it's not called that any more, it's been formalised as the Thomas Hall.  I can remember when it was the Hare and Hounds:
Did it always have that splendid Knotty Ash Ales sign on the front?  Ah, there are a number of old pictures of the pub on display inside and the answer is no, it was covered over by a sign saying Tommy Halls and before that Hare and Hounds.

Inside, this two sided traditional boozer hasn't changed at all.  Plain, clean and tidy, but not as immaculate as the Royal Oak.

Half a dozen or so regulars were keeping it ticking over, and providing gentle chatter underneath the racing commentary.

No real ale so lager again for me.

Next, over to the other side of Prescot, and the Clock Face:
No changes since my last call in 2015 here, a fine interior and quality Thwaites real ales make for a good pub.

The layout is partly knocked through but retains separate rooms.  Only three or four customers at four in the afternoon.

I would have thought a building like this would be a real money spinner as a dining pub, but apparently not.  There was no sign of menus, nor of anyone eating in the mostly-deserted interior.

Finally, a double back to a pub I've just walked past, the Sun Inn.  I hadn't noticed before the large sign on the end of the building.  Shame it's obscured by a billboard.  And a blank billboard at that.
What a great pub this is.  The lounge side consists of three rooms served from a counter in the corridor. 

Pretty quiet at half past four, although a noisier group came in just as I was retreating to the cool quiet empty back room with my excellent Oakham Bishops Farewell.

The gang soon moved to another room, and peace descended once again, with distant chatter and very quiet music mixing with the sound of traffic - My chosen seat had a straight line view along the drinking corridor to the open front door and the street.

Six pubs visited, no new ones but they were all at least four years since my last visit, mostly more than that.  So, time to get the bus home (Perhaps via the chippy).

Pub of the day: The Sun Inn without doubt.
Miles walked: 2.5