Time for a pub survey in Liverpool with a couple of friends. We met up in Wetherspoon's impressive North Western, conveniently located at Lime Street Station. At 2pm on a wet Wednesday it was pretty busy but we found a table and enjoyed 'Spoons usual food and drink.
Next, a walk in intermittent rain through the university (I've always used the main road in the past and so hadn't seen some of the impressive buildings here before.) to the Augustus John. We all selected the same beer from the two or three handpumps and sat down. The pub wasn't busy and the TV showing cricket was over my head and so not too distracting. Unfortunately the beer was somewhat past its best, and rather cloudy - Probably the end of the cask. This was particularly disappointing as I've always had excellent ale here before.
As we were finishing our drinks an enormous number of young students came in, and they were queueing six deep at the bar as we left - Thank goodness we didn't arrive then.
The next call was the Cambridge, another student pub. I was a little worried in case the other half of the throng at the Augustus John had got here before us, but fortunately they didn't come this way and this small plain boozer was pretty empty. The one hand pump served a rather bland Marston's Bitter.
On to the Caledonia. In my experience this place has always been a bit of a dump, both before and after the fire, and today was no exception with a smell of mouldy floor-mop about the place, and a floor which could have benefited from the attentions of the same. In contrast, the beer, selected from a small range of uncommon ones, was excellent as always. In my opinion, dogs in pubs, if permitted at all, should be seen and not heard.
The problem with the Belvedere, our next port of call, is that it's way too small, so you always seem to be squeezing past people just to get served. A bit of an architectural gem this one, but it seems to be looking a little threadbare in places. Not so the beer, which was excellent. And it came in a lined glass - I think this might be the only pub left in Liverpool that still automatically gives you a full measure, by using oversized glasses.
Next, the Pilgrim. My beer guide notes an incident where I was refused a top-up on a very short pint here, but to be fair that was back in 1999 so I think it's time to forgive them, as I've had no problems subsequently. Anyway, down the steps in to a dark cellar with a small bar in one corner, fairly empty with just a few other drinkers in the place. No complaints on the measures this time, and good beer.
Not far away is the Grapes. Well known for its wide range of quality real ales, this is another place where a bit more care on the cleaning and maintenance front is required. We sat in a quiet corner which had a tiled floor with a number of the tiles missing or loose. In fact the whole place has a tatty feel, and would benefit from a lick of paint. As to the beer, I didn't like mine, I forget the name, at all but I think this was a matter of personal taste rather than there being anything wrong with it.
To finish the day out we decided on somewhere more predictable than the last few pubs, so headed to Wetherspoon's Lime Kiln for a pint of Abbot at only £1.99. Last year this place appeared on a Wetherspoon's list of branches to be closed, but I gather they have now purchased the property and reprieved it. The prices are much lower than in the other city centre 'Spoons. It was certainly doing a good trade at half past six on a Wednesday evening, and we had to go upstairs to find a place to sit.