Friday, 12 November 2021

Churchtown

Now the 2022 Good Beer Guide is officially published I can reveal that the new edition contains four pubs in Merseyside which I've never ticked.  The first was Jaxon's in Walton, covered last week.  Number two is a branch of Peaky Blinders in Churchtown, so two trains and a bus ride were required, all free on my new pass of course, to take me there.  (I promise I'll stop boasting about the pass soon eventually.)  

First, though, my Google maps research had thrown up a possible target of which I was previously unaware, and so I found myself strolling through the rather pleasant Botanical Gardens, to the Settle Inn:

I wonder what this building was originally?  Anyway, inside is one large high ceilinged room, sort of church hall or village hall, with a cafe counter and a bar counter at one end.  At this time of day (two thirty) all the other customers were on coffee and the like, but that didn't stop me from enjoying a pint of Shipyard.

This place is a rather clever combination of cafe and pub; they have live music in the evenings when I guess it's a lot more pubby.  The menu, of basics like pie chips and peas, looks good and good value.

Next, the Hesketh Arms:

The church next door had a wedding just finishing, and I worried for a moment that the pub might be full, for the reception, but then I saw the bridesmaids getting into cars, so clearly the festivities were elsewhere.

Last visited in 2013, this is an up market dining place under the Vintage Inns brand.  Nonetheless, quality real ale, I had Wainwright, is available and there was no attempt to persuade me to eat.

The interior decor here is very good but I suspect the antique features are all faked, although perhaps some of the wood panelling could be genuine. Very pleasant anyway, lots of small rooms partially knocked through (So totally unsuitable for a reception.)

It was quite busy for a wet Friday afternoon, a bit too early for dinner but too late for lunch.  Although, as soon as I'd typed that, meals came out for the next table.

Just across the road from the Hesketh is the Bold Arms:

Down market this one, but only in comparison to the Hesketh, otherwise it's a very pleasant Greene King food-led operation, with quite a lot of antique features inside, woodwork and leaded glass.  No change since my 2012 visit.

My pint of Abbot was good.  Very few customers at three, although I could hear some chatter, perhaps there is another busier room?

The real fire near my seat wasn't lit, but clearly they do use them sometimes, in fact I could see a basket of kindling and some fire tongs.  I always like a real fire in a pub, it lends some cosiness and comfort that you can't get any other way.

My exit via the gents revealed there is another side to the pub, but only one or two customers were in there.

Finally, on to the "prime objective", Peaky Blinders:

Never having watched the programme, I'm not sure how these places relate to the TV series, perhaps not at all?  Anyway, a pleasantly decorated room, u-shaped around the servery area.  It was converted from a bank, apparently.  The lampshades, especially the giant one above the counter, are very attractive.  

Four real ales were on offer and my pint of Landlord was spot on.

Not many customers at four on a Friday, one group of lads on lager was all I could see.  More people came in as I drank my pint, and gradually the place got less empty.

My seat by the window gave me a good view of the rain, it looks like I'm going to be getting wet on the way home.

Pub of the day: Difficult.  All were good in their own way.
Miles walked: Less than a mile.
Maybe coming soon: Garswood, Aigburth, Bromborough


Thursday, 11 November 2021

A Few In Town

Business took me into town, once that was completed there was no excuse not to tick a few pubs:  I started in Ye Hole In Ye Wall:

Nothing has changed in this wonderful pub, ticking over with a number of regulars enjoying cheerful chats on a Thursday afternoon.  Six real ales were on, I chose a lovely Trappers Hat.

A number of fine architectural features inside, including some impressive leaded glass in the partitions.  I'm not qualified to say how much is genuine antique.

On to the Slug And Lettuce:

No architectural gem, this one!

Not my sort of place, offering a plastic chain dining experience, but drinkers are totally welcome, and my Guinness was carefully poured and promptly served, so no complaints.

Quite a few customers in, both diners and drinkers, with most of the latter on cocktails and/or shots, apparently.

I tried to understand the market for a place like this:  Am I being over cynical in suggesting it is for people who are too scared or too snobby to go into Wetherspoon's? 

I was a little irritated  to see Christmas decorations up, but I fear my "Bah, humbug, it's only November" campaign is pretty much a lost cause.

Just across the road is the William Gladstone:

Quite similar to the last place in approach, I think, but with a few large screens showing cricket. A similar mix of diners and drinkers.  Christmas decorations, of course.

The food seems cheaper in here, £9 vs £11 for fish and chips, if I recall correctly.

There were three handpumps on the counter, but all had the clips turned.  I wonder if they do real ale at busier times?

I seem to recall coming in here back in 1998 when it had just opened as a Hog's Head, casks of  ale were on display behind the counter, and the cellarman made a right pigs ear of tapping one while we watched.  Beer spraying everywhere!

I watched the cricket for a while, Pakistan vs Australia, I was sorry to see England knocked out while I was in Gallagher's yesterday.

As I enjoyed my pint of Love Lane, the cellarman appeared and started pulling through two of the handpumps, so I guess real ale will be on soon.  Sure enough, Doom Bar and Hobgoblin Gold became available a few minutes later.

Finally, the Rose and Crown.  Sorry, too dark for a photo, winter is really closing in!

I wasn't sure this place had survived the pandemic, but it was open and busy at four.  Last visited in 2016, I'm pleased to report nothing has changed, the (probably) historic woodwork is still wonderful, especially the arched entrances between the rooms.

Quite a lot of customers were keeping the place busy, and happy chatter was matching the music.

Football and racing on the various TVs here, where's the cricket?

Pub of the day: Ye Hole, obv.
Miles walked: 1.6
Maybe coming soon: Southport, Aigburth, Garswood, Bromborough


Friday, 5 November 2021

Walton

I headed by train to Walton, the last time I'll have to pay as I get my pass on Monday!  My first port of call was the Prince Alfred, not open last time I was here, but it seems to have been renamed:

Much of the signage calls it Fratelli but, as you can see above, at least one sign still says Prince Alfred.  Perhaps they didn't have a long enough ladder!

Inside I found an unexpected interior, very nicely done with a small-ish bar side, and the remainder laid out as a restaurant, the whole looking rather good.

Only one other customer in at three on a Friday, I hope they get some diners later.

In keeping with the restaurant vibe, the background music was classical piano, a nice change from the usual pop.

Three more lads came in to join the one at the counter as I enjoyed my pint of lager, pleased to have ticked a "pub" not visited since 2004.

Quite a long march, next, to the Cuckoo Hotel.  To be honest, I came here for a picture of a closed pub, but no, it's open:

A perfectly good two sided boozer, with quite a few customers on a Friday afternoon.  Two different racing channels on the tellies, both silent, and some of the regulars were taking an interest and filling in betting slips.  In fact, the quiet corner I'd chosen was right in front of the betting slips rack, causing a number of people to apologise and reach over my head!

The pale grey and dark grey colour scheme is very well done, the interior looks like a 1960s refurbishment with matchboarded walls and counter front and a false ceiling over the servery.  I didn't look in the other side.  Another one last visited in 2004, so long overdue.

Now, on to the real reason for today's trip, a brand new (to me) place, Jaxon's:

Sorry about the picture, it was getting a bit dark by now.  A rather good micro this, quite small but not the smallest I've seen.  Plenty customers in at half four, but still a few free tables.

I succumbed to the temptation of an apricot, peach, lime and cheesecake (Or something like that) beer called Oscillate Wildly which was rather good but a little too weird for my taste, perhaps. Better than the Carling in the last place anyway.  Actually, it got better as I drank and by the end I was really enjoying it.  It came from Team Toxic, who are something to do with Liverpool Brewing Company.  I was pleased to learn that, by chance, I'd chosen a local brew.  One of the other casks was from Big Bog, also local, the other two were from breweries I didn't recognise.

As I enjoyed my pint the place was gradually filling up, soon there were no free tables.

I looked round:  Oh dear, I'm the only one in here old enough for a bus pass!

I resisted the temptation of Big Bog Kaleidoscope at 6.5% and headed on, to Wetherspoon's:

For some reason this is the least recently visited pub in the area, so let's tick it.  At five on a Friday it was, as expected, pretty busy, but there were still one or two free tables, one of which I bagged after I'd got my pint of Black Sheep Dead Parrot, which was rather tasty.

Not much food trade here, in fact I couldn't see anyone eating, just a large quantity of happy drinkers of all ages.

My mind wandered onto the subject of busy pubs.  On Wednesday I was in the Ship and Mitre which was packed because Liverpool were playing, but we still managed to find a table and enough seats.  Rewind twenty or thirty years, and it would be standing room only, as would any pub on a Friday evening. Now that I'm officially old, I don't think I could cope with that!!  So, did the pensioners in the 1990s stay at home on a Friday, or did they stand with everyone else?

Good night John-boy.

Pub of the day: Jaxon's
Miles walked: 2.5
Maybe coming soon: Southport, Garswood, Aigburth

Tuesday, 2 November 2021

2022 Good Beer Guide

A satisfying thud on my doormat this morning heralded the arrival of the new Good Beer Guide.

A quick scan of the Merseyside pages revealed that eight pubs have been removed and nine added since last year, giving a total of 73 entries.

As I say every year, if you want to know which pubs they are you'll have to buy the book when it goes on sale later this month.

Saturday, 30 October 2021

Three Golden Ticks

I recently added some software tweaks to my mapping system, so I can now see a map showing, for example, only pubs which I think are still open and I haven't visited in the last five years.  This allows me to spot clusters of desirable targets which would otherwise get lost in the background.  One such cluster lead me to Tuebrook, and I started at the Clifton Arms:

No one behind the counter, so I stood and waited.  Eventually a regular took pity on me and poured me a Carling.  He couldn't use the till, though, so I had to wait a little longer to pay.  The barman returned from the cellar, he was out of change so I got twenty p off!

Knocked through but retaining three distinct areas, this is a rather fine locals' boozer, and I haven't been in here since 1998.

Plenty of regulars chatting and giving the place a lively feel.  Perhaps I'm biased because it's 23 years since I was here and therefore it is a very desirable tick, but I like this place.

As I departed I could hear the roar of the crowd at Anfield.  I strolled on, passing the now closed Park:

Onwards towards another one not ticked since 1998, the Belmont:

Another plain but pleasant pub, busy by 2021 standards (I bet it was three deep at the bar last time I was here, if it was a Saturday afternoon.)

Liverpool were already two goals up by the time I settled down in a quiet corner with another Carling.  All the wall decorations were LFC, at least where I was sitting.  I particularly liked "Win or lose I'm on the booze".

As I enjoyed my pint I wondered why this pub and the last one have not been visited for so long.  I've been in all the others in Tuebrook, including a number now closed, multiple times since 1998, so how did these get missed?  I've no idea!

Liverpool got to 3-0 but then "computer says no".

Next, I took a fairly long march, past a few places ticked more recently, to one I've never visited.  Could I make three great ticks out of three?  YES!!!  The Liver Vaults:

If a pub last visited in 1998 is great, then one never visited at all is wonderful.  Exactly three years ago today an anonymous comment on this blog drew my attention to this pub, which was missing from my database.  I tried to visit during partial lockdown back in October last year but it was shut so I wasn't very confident of a positive result today, but I was in luck.

Another plain but well looked after two sided back street boozer this, again busy by 2021 standards, the only sound I could hear was multiple animated conversations.  The bench seat where I sat was rather overdue for recovering, but, as always nowadays, everything was clean and tidy.  Halloween decorations were everywhere of course.  (Oh well, at least it stops them putting the Chrimbo deccies up.)

Liverpool now 2-2.

Bearing in mind today's excellent results I wondered ... Could I invent a points system for ticks?  One point for each year since I was last there, and perhaps thirty for a pub never visited.  That gives 76 for today, not bad for only three pubs.  This could get complicated:  Add 20 for quality ale, add fifty for free ale, add 10 for attractive architecture, and so on and on.  I'll give it some more thought once sober, but I suspect it'll be too much like hard work.

Pub of the day: Too close to call.
Miles walked: 2.3
Maybe coming soon: Garswood.


Thursday, 30 September 2021

Two Trips To Town

On Wednesday I was in town for a pub crawl with some friends, so it wasn't a proper survey - I don't want to sit there ignoring the gang and making detailed notes like I do on a research trip.

We started in the always beautiful Philharmonic Dining Rooms:


This is undoubtedly the most famous pub in Liverpool (Although I renew here my assertion that the Big House is just as good.)  My pint of London Pride was the best I've had for ages, the last few have seemed a bit bland but this was very tasty.  We started in Brahms, but the music was too loud for conversation so we moved to the billiard room which was a lot more peaceful.

Next, we moved on to Ye Crack


Only two ales on, one was a stout of some sort that I probably would have enjoyed but my friends wouldn't, and a pale one, from Spitting Feathers I think, which came out very cloudy.  (No complaint, the barman's reaction was "I'm sorry, it's gone".)  We thanked him and moved on round the corner to the Pilgrim

Only one handpump in operation here, but after a taste we ordered pints and it was very good.  I have said before that one quality real ale is all you need.

Next we headed to the Fly In The Loaf (Photo from 2018):


Titanic White Star was on offer so we ordered some.  "Just to warn you, it's naturally cloudy", said the barmaid.  "It is???", I replied, startled by this new information.  We had some anyway and it tasted fine, but I'm sure this is a problem with finings or something else in the cellar, I've never had a cloudy pint of White Star before.  A new variation on the old "it's supposed to taste like that" nonsense when you return a pint of vinegar, I suppose.  Nought out of ten, I hope they're not in the new GBG!

We moved on to somewhere you never see cloudy ale, the famous Roscoe Head.  I've noted before that the only problem with this pub is it's always full, this time we got the very last table and enjoyed pints of Landlord while rehearsing the old argument about that rumour that it's pasteurised; I remain unconvinced.

Next, heading towards home we tried the Crown, but it was very busy and noisy so we skipped it and finished with a great pint of Abbot in Blacklers, which was also very busy (we had to search all round the pub for a free table).  I must say, on a Wednesday afternoon in October I didn't expect to find pubs so busy and lively, clearly the new normal is the old normal in central Liverpool.  A great afternoon out with some friends.

On to Thursday:  Having spotted a few interesting targets yesterday, I headed back into town to mop some up.  Little did I realise how much mopping up would be required!

I started with a visit to Chinatown to replenish my stock of Er Guo Tou Jiu, and then I walked in increasingly heavy rain up to Hope Street, to start in the Liverpool Arts Bar:

One large open room with an island servery I in the middle, and a stage at one end.  No one performing at two on a Thursday, unsurprisingly.

The decor, of modern style with the occasional exposed steel joist where they knocked two rooms into one, is perhaps what one would expect of a place with this name, and is very pleasant.  I sat, rather damp to say the least, on a comfy leather sofa and sank a tasty pint of Mahou, a Spanish lager I think.

Less than a dozen customers were here, so the two bar staff were hardly pressed.  One group, of five women, were making enough noise to fill the room and drown out the piped music.

The rain was pouring down by now, luckily my next call was just across the road, at Keystone:

This was formerly the Clove Hitch, which I never visited.  It's now a rather well done conversion of an old house into a pleasant multi-roomed pub.

The super-friendly barmaid welcomed me and soon poured me a spot on pint of Trappers Hat.  I told her I'd just been over the road, but the beer was better here and she told me they've got five handpumps.  I must have missed them, very poor performance by your pub researcher!

She also told me that it was free ale this evening to celebrate their birthday.  Curses, another opportunity missed!

Quiet conversations mixed with Beatles music as I enjoyed a fine pint, while my coat dripped on the wooden floor.

I could see out of the window that the rain was showing no sign of easing, but it's not too far to the next target, Frederiks:

When I was last in here, Blakes in 2004, I noted the then fashionable exposed air conditioning ducts and the wood and quarry file floor.  The ducts haven't survived but the floor is the same in this rather well done up market bar.  At half three on a Thursday it was me and four or five staff, who were all busy setting up so I guess it'll be busy later.

Not my sort of place, really, but I have to say the interior is very pleasant.  The real fire surrounded by comfortable-looking sofas is a great feature.

The menu looks tempting, pizzas and fried chicken being the main items.

By the time I'd finished my Love Lane four other drinkers had come in, quintupling the custom!

Now, time to head back towards my train home, but there's one more required tick, the Rocking Horse:


(Picture from earlier this year.)  One large open room with a long counter along one side, and a stage at the end.  A rather quirky mix of (fake) bare brick walls, wooden counter front, and naked air conditioning ducts and beams above, makes for a rather fine style, in my opinion.

I noticed there are four handpumps on the counter, I wonder if this place has ever done cask or were they installed purely for appearance?  At least I spotted them this time!

A massive telly dominated the room, showing cricketers skiving off due to bad light, and lots of smaller screens surrounded the room.

The drunks at the next table soon gave up singing along with the background music and left, reducing the noise level by quite a few dB and leaving me to listen to music and background chatter.

As I finished my Guinness a fella with a guitar was setting up on the stage.

How about that?  Three never visited places (taking my total to 1,352), and one last ticked in 2004, that's a good result for a wet Thursday.  And I've cleared the whole of Charlotte Street at last.

When I got to Lime Street, my ticket was too soggy to go in the gate!

Pub of the days: Roscoe Head
Miles walked: 4.15 (Both days)
Maybe coming soon: Garswood, Tuebrook

Saturday, 18 September 2021

At Last, the News Room

I went to St Helens, hoping to finally tick off my one remaining Merseyside Good Beer Guide pub, but first I headed north from the station, to the Union Inn:

To be honest, I was pleased but quite surprised to find this one has survived, but just as I noted in 2004 it's a pleasant plain two sided boozer, well maintained, clean and tidy.

I was the only customer at one on a Saturday, moments later another came in, followed a few minutes later by two more.

The three handpumps appeared to be decorative, so I had a lager.

DJ Dave (That's his van) was setting up for karaoke later.  No, wait, he's dismantling so it must have been yesterday.

Just a short distance along the road is the Rockware Pub, which used to be a social club.  As I expected, it is closed, although the builders van and drilling noises from inside suggested I shouldn't completely write it off yet:

Next, across the town centre to two targets both of which were last visited in 1999, firstly the Wheatsheaf:

Unfortunately, as has happened before here, it was shut although looking like it is still operational.  Clearly I need an evening visit to tick this again.

So, to the Royal Tavern:

Last time I came along this street, the building was covered in scaffolding, with a major refurbishment under way.  Happily it is back in action this time and I entered a busy lively multi roomed pub.

Again no real ale so it was another pint of fizz for me.

I noticed the fella ahead of me at the bar had two pints of Guinness mixed with bitter.  I didn't catch what they call that here, when I was in the States I often had a "black and tan" but that's different in that the Guinness was poured over a spoon so your pint had separate layers.  Pittsburgh (and probably other places) bars often have a bent spoon hanging by a chain next to the Guinness tap for this purpose.

No seats available in the front rooms, but fortunately there were some empty tables in the back, so I settled there to write this, surrounded by TVs showing the racing.

Saturday afternoon in St Helens, noisy, lively, friendly.  Some things never change, thank goodness.

A quick recheck of the Wheatsheaf, just in case it opened at two, but no, so on to one never ticked before, Ice Bar Cafe:

This wasn't actually on my target list, I had it down as some kind of late night place, but clearly I was wrong.

No cask of course, so another Carling for me, and I sat on a stool at the last available table.

Rather fine modern style decor in here, with mosaics and mirrored columns making for a very pleasant appearance.  Racing on a number of large tellies was actually being watched by many of the customers, who occasionally nipped out, presumably to a nearby bookies.  No women at all, the place was full of blokes of about my age, so I fitted in well - until I started writing on my tablet!

The racing commentary was mostly drowned out by multiple lively conversations, in this popular friendly boozer.

Moving on, I noticed that the Kazbar has changed its name, and it's now called Mollies, but I only ticked it off three years ago so I passed on towards my prime target for today, the News Room.

Bugger me if it isn't shut.  AGAIN!  Am I condemned never to tick this one?  It's the third or fourth time I've tried, and I've never seen it open.  Maybe they only open when CAMRA turn up!

Oh well, just a couple of doors up is the Talbot, where at least I know I can get some decent ale:

It seems to have gained the tag "new" since I was last here.  I went in the bar side, for a change, where I enjoyed a pint of Blonde Witch, sitting next to a giant screen showing, you've guessed it, racing.

There were only one or two others with me in the bar side, but I could hear multiple conversations elsewhere in the pub.  They still have the problem here that you can't tell what ales are available on the other side without asking, but that is a minor nitpick in a pub serving quality ales.

Two foreigners (Eastern Europe I think) joined us in the bar side, to play pool.

Time for home, I think, but hang on, the News Room is now open, only half an hour or so late, so I have to tick it:


Above average decor for a micro, in my opinion, in this tiny shop conversion.  My pint of Salopian Lemon Dream was possibly a bit tired, presumably first out of the pump today.  I'll be interested to see if they are in the next GBG, due out next month.

Three other customers were with me in the small room.

So, rather disappointed with the quality of the ale - I enjoyed the Talbot's much more - I contented myself with the satisfaction that, at last, I've ticked every GBG pub in Merseyside, just a few weeks before the next edition comes out!  Not very impressive compared with the bloggers who are aiming to complete the whole guide.  I've set myself an objective of clearing Merseyside a lot more quickly next year, we'll see how well I do!  

As I neared the end of my pint a number of other customers came in, suddenly the place was busy and lively.

Another customer had three pints of one of the cask ales while I was here so presumably that one was alright, my mistake was not asking which one was selling!

Time for home, definitely this time.

Pub of the day: The Talbot for ale quality, or the News Room for the tick.
Miles walked: 2.2
Maybe coming soon: Garswood