Monday, 30 March 2020

Lockdown Update

The last two pubs I visited were the Oak Tree and the Swan in Huyton, in the afternoon of "Lockdown Friday", the 20th of March.  The landlady in the Swan was busy putting up Mothering Sunday decorations, not knowing they wouldn't be used.

I was tempted to nip to Wetherspoon's in the evening for a farewell pint or two of decent real ale, but in the end I didn't bother.  I may come to regret that more as the weeks drag on into months.

Today (Monday) I headed into town on the train to visit the Blood Donors.  The city was very quiet, of course, with all pubs shut, but I was particularly concerned to see the Vernon Arms was boarded up - They're obviously not expecting to re-open any time soon, if at all.

By the way, if you're short of supplies, the Lidl on Lime Street had plenty of bread, milk, eggs, rice and toilet rolls, a few bags of pasta and even some antibacterial liquid soap.  And it wasn't busy.

Thursday, 12 March 2020

Waterloo

Gosh, it's windy here, perhaps I should have selected an inland location for today's survey!  Anyway, the sun was shining brightly as I started a mopping-up operation in Waterloo.  I've been here a few times in recent years but there's still a handful of places overdue for a revisit.  I started in the Old Bank:
Something strange in here.  Either my memory from 2011 is faulty or the place has been gutted and remodelled.

The interior now is extremely well done in traditional pub style, with lots of dark wood panelling and some glazed partitions.  The more I look, the more I think it is all new, in which case they've done a superb job.

Two clips on the pumps, and my pint of Titanic Steerage was excellent.  Most of the regulars were watching the horse racing (Cheltenham Festival), and my change came with a sweepstake ticket offering a free pint if my horse won, but it didn't.

The sound in here was lively chatter amongst the cheerful regulars, with racing commentary in the background.  What a great pub.

Just two doors down is Wetherspoon's Queens Picture House:
A quick scan of the counter here, and it was another Titanic brew which caught my eye, so I had an excellent pint of White Star which I must say tasted just like the Steerage I had before.

As you would expect in a spoons, the place was busy with a wide spectrum of customers, but not so busy that I couldn't find a comfortable seat.

The quirky decor is rather good in here, I sat in the side room which has bare brick walls and a skylight to let the sunshine in.

My next target was another pub not visited since 2011, the Lion and Unicorn:
They certainly like their pubs in Waterloo!  Another busy lively boozer with the soundtrack a mixture of cheerful chatter and racing commentary.

No real ale in this one, so I had a pint of Foster's for a change, Australian fizz instead of the usual Canadian.  (Yes, I know they're both brewed in England.)

No matter which way I looked there was a screen showing the racing, I couldn't avoid it.

That's the three pubs here overdue for a visit ticked off, what should I do now?  I decided to finish in one which has changed its name since my last visit.  In 2018 it was Stamps Too, now it's the Waterpudlian:
Apart from the name, nothing seems to have changed here since my previous visit.  The decor is exactly the same, in fact there's still a Stamps Too sign, and most importantly the real ale continues to be excellent.  Another favourite of mine, White Rat, was on so no difficulty in choosing what to have.  And it was great.

Only two other customers, which is a shame; this place deserves more.  Happily, as soon as I'd written that another one came in, followed moments later by some more.

Time to head home.

Pub of the day: The Old Bank for it's brilliant rebuild.
Miles walked: Only half a mile today.
Maybe coming soon: Thornton and Crosby.

Thursday, 5 March 2020

Saint Helens West

A bus ride in bright sunshine carried me to some overdue ticks in the South west of St Helens, and I started my researches in the Eccleston Arms:
In the twenty-two years (!) since my last visit this has moved up market and it's now a rather posh looking dining place. They also have accommodation upstairs.

Two handpumps on the counter, I'm afraid my pint of Lancaster Amber was of poor quality, probably first out of the pump today.

There were a few groups of diners scattered around the four areas, I sat in the front room in splendid isolation. The Muzak was pleasingly quiet.

Just a short walk away is the Bird i'th Hand, another pub last visited in '98:
No problems with the real ale here because they didn't have any, so it was a half of fizz for me.

Outside, as you can see, this is a rather fine inter-war roadhouse, I don't think much if any of the interior is original apart from the doors and windows, but it's very pleasant. It has been mostly knocked through but pillars and some glazed wood panelling keep the separation between areas.

Only a handful of customers were in, quiet chatter mixing with the music.
The menu of pub food standards looks good, and good value. The font on the name sign had led me to believe this is another Greene King chain pub, but the menu suggested it might be independent?

On to the Black Bull:
Completing a very satisfying trio of pubs not visited since 1998, this one is housed in a splendid inter-war building even better than the last one. Inside I found the interior is a mixture of original features and more modern parts.

No clips on the handpumps again, I had Guinness this time.

At three on a Thursday afternoon the place was pretty empty, in fact at one point I think I was the only customer in the room.

This large room was only a small part of the building, I suspect there are other rooms perhaps closed on a weekday afternoon, or permanently. On the other hand, I could hear voices from elsewhere so maybe they are in use.

My next target was a never before visited pub which I expected to be closed, the Glassblower:
And indeed it was.

Now time for a treat, CAMRA's national pub of the year 2018 and still great, the Cricketers Arms:
I was pleased to find this place continues to be a real ale fans' heaven, and my pint of Jarl was perfect. Served in an oversized glass as well.

No audible music in here, the soundtrack was cheerful chatter from the many customers, certainly the busiest pub of the day so far.

It's pleasing that, away from the town centre, hard work and quality ale can make a successful pub, long may it continue.

Pub of the day: Obviously the Cricketers.
Miles walked: 2.3

Tuesday, 18 February 2020

Childwall and Broad Green

A train and a bus took me into Liverpool's inner suburbs, specifically Childwall and the Halfway House:
I entered the bar side to find no staff and only one customer, sitting at the counter.  "You'll get served quicker in the other side", he advised, so I went through the corridor to find a much busier lounge side, with more than half of the tables occupied by diners.

Pedigree and Doom Bar were on handpump and my Pedigree, served in a John Smith's conic, was a little over-chilled and tasted rather bland, where's the Burton Snatch?

Gentle background music mixed with the chatter of happy diners as I enjoyed my pint.

It's almost ten years since my last visit here, when the place was packed with people wearing 3d glasses watching footie on the telly.

Next, a stroll through up-market suburbia to the Childwall Abbey:
This place was substantially refurbished in 2018.  I can't recall details from my previous visit in 2006 but I get the feeling the interior is less "historic" than it was, although it's certainly very pleasant.

Despite being branded a Marston's house, they didn't have Pedigree on, my pint of Bombardier was fine.

Again, gentle muzac and cheerful chatter were the soundtrack here.

At this point, something I love about my life in Liverpool happened; a former work colleague walked in.  Pub research was put on hold for an extended catch-up session.

I said goodbye to Alby and headed on to Wetherspoon's Childwall Fiveways:
The Fiveways was a regular Friday night haunt of mine thirty years ago, and inside it hasn't really changed, a rather good fake traditional style pub with dark woodwork and leaded glass panels.

My pint of a stout from Big Bog was excellent, pint of the day so far.

The pub was, as you expect in a 'spoons at half term, busy with families enjoying food and drink.

My mind wandered: When I was five years old I don't think my parents would have considered it appropriate to take me to a pub - It's interesting how the norms have changed in the intervening years.  All the little ones today were reasonably well behaved so I didn't feel their presence detracted from my enjoyment of the boozer in any way.

Onwards along Queens Drive, to the Rocket:
A well cared for modern construction which, I think, replaced a pub of the same name demolished for the construction of the adjacent M62.

Fairly quiet at five on a Tuesday but still ticking over. I checked out the menu which I must say looks to be good value; my standard reference, fish and chips, is only £7.69.  I couldn't see anyone eating, though.

No real ale, so a half of Canadian fizz sufficed.

Just a hundred yards or so to my final call, the Turnpike, it was OK when I set off but I was being shot-blasted by hail by the time I got there.  (Too dark for a photo, I'm afraid.)

Concentrating on their food offer, the place was quite busy, family groups and couples enjoying their dinner from the standard pub menu.

Just one real ale was on offer, my pint of Doom Bar was in good nick.

The quiet background music was completely drowned out by chatter and the rattle of crockery.

I forgot to look for the time capsule to be opened in 2045 that I noted previously, I hope it's still here.

Pub of the day: Childwall Fiveways because it provided the pint of the day.
Miles walked: 3.4 (Would have been less if I hadn't caught the wrong bus!)

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