Thursday, 13 January 2022

Sunshine on Smithdown

Oh dear.  Thirteen days in to the year and I haven't done any ticks yet.  Dryanuary?  Oh no, I've enjoyed plenty of good ale this year already, just not in target pubs.  Five pints, all excellent, in Birkenhead yesterday for example - Wetherspoon's, Swinging Arm, Gallagher's if you're interested.  Actually, that day out with friends reminded me I need to do a Birkenhead trip to tick some pubs I wouldn't want to drag my pals to!

Anyway, I can't waste today's sunshine, so a train and a bus took me to the far end of Smithdown Road and I was soon in my first target, the Richmond Tavern:

This has always been a chain dining pub, but since my last visit way back in '06 it has been refurbished nicely and is now an Ember Inn.  The pleasant interior is in their usual style.

Eight handpumps on the counter with only about three operational; my pint of London Pride was excellent.

Not exactly busy at two on a Thursday afternoon, but ticking over, mainly diners finishing a late lunch I think.

I recall a visit here with friends many years ago on a wet and stormy night, where additional drama was provided by the occasional roof tile crashing into the car park.  We were glad we didn't come by car!

Now, down a side street to the never visited Fogherty's:

The style of the interior suggests the place has been here for a long time.  Has it?  Why have I never been here before?  Researches on Streetview show it back to the first picture in 2008, and checking my archives reveals it has been in my database for at least twenty-two years, so there's really no excuse for my failure to tick.

Anyway, a traditionally done boozer in a large L-shaped room, very clean and tidy, and ticking over mid afternoon with blokes of my age and older enjoying ale and chat.

No handpumps, of course, so I enjoyed a pint of Guinness.

They've still got plastic screens between customer and bar staff here, let's hope this nonsense is finished before too long.  I was pleased to see Aussie White on an optic behind the bar, it's getting harder to find nowadays.

Now, on to a place i didn't even know existed until I walked past it on the way to the Richmond, so it's a great bonus tick in 21st Amendment:

I don't know how to describe the decor in this large pub, but I like it.  Umpteen "Tiffany" lampshades, dark green tile work on some walls, dark wood flooring, comfortable bench seats along the walls.  It's all a bit eccentric and, to my mind, rather fine.

No real ale so it was Guinness again for me.

The large TV screen opposite me was showing a wood fire, but it didn't have the warmth of a real one!

Only a handful of customers, some gentle chatter mixed with the music.

In 1933, the twenty-first amendment to the US Constitution repealed the eighteenth amendment, and marked the end of prohibition.

Finally, just round the corner is the Dog House:

Big windows into the street on two sides of this rather fine bar with fun contemporary decor.  Too big to be called a "micro" but it's in that mould.

Two handpumps were operating, offering a hazy brew from local Black Lodge, and Doom Bar.  I've commented in the past that places like this should have an "ordinary" real ale for the customers who are scared of peculiar murky stuff.  This place has nailed it!  (I chose the hazy one, it was gorgeous.)

Not many customers at four, but gently ticking over.  It deserves to be busy later.

OK, time for home, I think.  There are enough bars around here to justify another trip, including Leaf, never visited, and the Tavern Company, last ticked in 1999.  Four ticks, three never done before and one of those never even heard of; a good result.

Pub of the day: Dog House
Miles walked: 1.2
Maybe coming soon: Garswood

Saturday, 18 December 2021

Aigburth - Bar Or Restaurant?

A recent report in Merseyale mentioned three new cask ale outlets on Lark Lane, so I decided to pay the area a visit.  The last Saturday before Christmas is not a good time to be out and about, and my train into Liverpool was full and standing (and late), but things calmed down once I was heading out of Central towards Aigburth.

My web research suggested all three were more restaurant than pub, but let's see...

I started at the Old School House:

Definitely more of a restaurant than a pub, but they were happy to provide me with a pint of White Rat which was gorgeous as always.

Quite empty at one on a Saturday with only a few tables occupied.  The waitress guided the scruffy pub researcher to an out of the way corner, so I couldn't see if the other tables were eating, but I suspect they were.

The decor, bare brick and white tiles, makes the place a bit echoey, I wouldn't like to spend too long in here at a busy time, without ear defenders!  Nonetheless, it was pleasant, warm and comfortable this afternoon.

Two more restauranty places to check out, next I crossed the road to the Ink In The Well:

Another one which is more restaurant than bar, but this time there's a small drinkers' area by the counter, to which the waitress guided me before bringing a pint of Boltmaker which, again, was spot on.

The down side of my comfortable seat was that I couldn't see who else was in, but at two on a Saturday I could hear a hubbub of cheerful chatter and the clink of cutlery on plates, suggesting the place was a bit busier than the previous tick.

I think perhaps the decider of the restaurant or bar question is that the handpumps here are hidden behind pot plants on the counter, so you have to lean over, or ask the waitress.  On the other hand, the waitress knew which cask ales were on, try asking in Wetherspoon's and see if they do.

The decor once again has some bare brick, this time mixing nicely with modern wood panelling.

I checked out the drinks menu on my table, it lists a good range of craft beers but doesn't mention cask at all, not the best way to boost sales.

Number three in the list is the Bookbinder:

Another restaurant/cafe, but once again happy to welcome a drinker, although there was significant delay before my pint of stout arrived.  I couldn't quite read the pump clip from my seat so I don't know whose it was, but it was gorgeous.

There were two handpumps, the other offered John Smiths, I didn't know they still make that in cask.

Quite a few eaters were in, the place was doing well.  I didn't see any other cask poured while I was here; it's surprising, and admirable, that they manage to keep the quality up.

Another potential pub/restaurant decider is perhaps a candle on the table, this one and the last had one!

That's more than enough restaurants, I think, so it's time for a pub and, if I'm honest, the real reason for today's excursion.  The only Good Beer Guide entry in Merseyside I haven't ticked is the Little Taproom on Aigburth Road:

An above average micro in my opinion, this, serving high quality real ales.  No free tables (of the three) in the front room, but there's more space in the back - Does it count as a micro if there's more than one room?

My pint of I forget what was lovely, anyway, (although my friend John would have complained it tasted of varnish) and I was entertained by listening in to two blokes playing some kind of trivial pursuit game.

Shortly after I arrived more customers came in, and all tables were soon occupied.

I noticed this place calls itself a "micro pub and distillery".  Do they really make gin in the back?

Having been awake since 4 a.m. to "enjoy" the cricket I was flagging a bit by now, so it was time to head for home. Four pints of quality ale counts as a very good day out, I think, even if three of them were in restaurants!

Pub of the day: Little Taproom
Miles walked: 1.25
Maybe coming soon: Garswood

Friday, 10 December 2021

Bow-Legged in Bromborough

Under the river and along to Bromborough, where I started by looking for the remains of the Archers, one that got away, I'm afraid.  I discovered it's completely gone now, replaced by a housing block called Archers Corner.  Here's a picture from 2012:

On to the main target of today's trip, the Bow-Legged Beagle:

The third member of the chain, I think, and this one has made it to the Good Beer Guide this year, moving it to the top of my target list.

Inside the former butcher's shop I found rough bare brick walls in a corridor bar with a small counter half way along.  The barman kindly handed me some paper towel as I peered through misted up spectacles at the four handpumps.  The decision didn't take long once I spotted Ossett White Rat, one of my favourites.  It was lovely, as expected!

The place was ticking over nicely, at three on a Friday, gentle conversation forming the soundtrack along with a wide ranging selection of music at a comfortable background volume.

I scanned the fridge full of colourful cans from various craft brewers, and my fondness for puns was tickled by "Reptile Dysfunction"!

Next, I ignored two nearby pubs visited in 2019 and headed along to the Merebrook, not ticked since 2012:

I seem to have selected the bar side here, a plain but pleasantly done room with fake parquet flooring.  Quite a lot of customers of all ages were enjoying a Friday afternoon in their local boozer, with chatter significantly louder than in the Beagle.  Racing and women's soccer were on the tellies, but I couldn't see anyone watching.

No sign of any handpumps, so it was Carling for me.

I've no idea what custom was like here two years ago, but it didn't seem like the pandemic was causing people to stay away.  Sadly, many pubs were struggling pre-covid, and so if ten percent of people decide not to come out it could push some places over the edge.  It will be interesting, and possibly very depressing, to monitor closures in 2022.

One of the regulars said "goodnight and god bless" to everyone as he left.  Seems a bit early, it's not yet four o'clock and it's not even dark!

After studying their web site I decided the nearby Dibbinsdale is now a restaurant, and so doesn't need a re-visit, leaving just one more overdue tick on this side of the Wirral, but it's a long walk from here and I'm afraid laziness and the fact it had started raining caused me to wimp out and go home!

Pub of the day: Beagle, of course.
Miles walked: 1.75
Maybe coming soon: Aigburth, Garswood

Friday, 12 November 2021


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


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.