Friday 31 December 2010

Now It's "The Barker's Brewery"

According to Wetherspoon's web site the new branch in Huyton will be named The Barker's Brewery, and not The Baker's Brewary as they were calling it last week.

It's still scheduled to open 23 January, subject to licensing approval.

Wednesday 15 December 2010

Cains In Trouble Again

Today the Post are reporting that Cains are once again struggling to continue trading, with auditors reporting there is uncertainty about their survival.

It was only a little over two years ago that the current incarnation of Cains was created from the the previous company which had gone into administration.

Sunday 12 December 2010

The Beer Economiser

Yesterday I travelled over to Yorkshire where I enjoyed some beers in a few pubs. I won't put the reviews here since it's well out of the area, but the trip did remind me of a question which has bugged me for some time: What is the status of the beer economiser?

For those who've never seen one, a beer economiser (or Autovac) is a system which collects the overspill as a pint is poured and recycles it by mixing it with fresh beer as the pump is operated. It is traditional in Yorkshire and parts of Scotland I'm told.

My personal philosophy has always been that a bit of dirt is good for the immune system, so I have no complaints, but I must say I'm surprised that more people (Not to mention Environmental Health.) don't object to drinking beer that has washed over the hands of the serving staff. Perhaps most drinkers aren't even aware of the system?

I found one web site which claimed these were no longer legal, but I find that hard to believe since I observed them in a number of pubs. UPDATE: I have communicated with the Environmental Health team responsible for the area I visited and they confirm that economisers are used and are legal.

How to spot an economiser

1. There is a square metal funnel below each swan-neck.
2. The barman/barmaid seems very wasteful of beer. They often give a hefty squirt from the pump before putting the glass under, and any excess head is dealt with by pulling more beer and letting the head overflow.
3. If the beer is too lively, larger quantities may be pulled with the glass held aside, driving the excess gas out before recycling.
4. I'm told they have a distinctive noise as the valve opens and closes, but to be honest I've never noticed.

Thursday 9 December 2010

A Couple in Town

Blood donors again, so I surveyed a couple of pubs, starting with the William Gladstone on North John Street. I'm fairly sure this used to be the Hogshead or was that on the other corner, now Slug and Lettuce? Anyway, I haven't visited under this name. A busy popular food-oriented two floor place, nicely decorated especially the chandeliers. Three hand pumps on the bar, including one of the weird Bombardier ones that confused me in Rainhill yesterday. Unfortunately "No real ale, we're waiting for a delivery" so it was my favourite fallback, a pint of Guinness.

After a bit of shopping I headed for the New Penny Farthing. I haven't been in here since 2002, and after quite a long period of closure this year it has re-opened basically unchanged except for a new carpet and a new coat of paint. The clientele were just as 'liveley' as before.

Wednesday 8 December 2010

A Survey in the Cold

Nothing to do this afternoon so I donned my arctic gear (slight exaggeration) and headed out into the bright sunshine to crunch through the snow and ice up to the station. A quick train ride took me to Lea Green, and then it was a short walk to the Millhouse, a pleasant comfortable pub concentrating mainly on food, which was ticking over on a cold Wednesday lunchtime. A generous supply of Timothy Taylor's beermats but no real ale to be seen.

Next, back towards the station and the Bull & Dog, another pleasant comfortable food-oriented place with no real ale. I was pleased to see that instead of the usual unfriendly "No work clothes" the sign on the lounge door said "Gentlemen in work clothes please use the bar." The bar was much plainer than the larger lounge side, and featured a vinyl floor. Once again, food sales were slow but steady - not bad for a cold Wednesday.

One stop on the train and I was in Rainhill where I headed for the Black Horse. Yet another food-oriented pub ticking over at two on a Wednesday, but this one has some decent ale, including one called Black Horse brewed by George Wright. There was a strange font on the counter for Bombardier, featuring a tall stand with an illuminated sign on the top which made me think it was keg at first glance, but behind was a tall handle and a standard swan-neck so probably cask after all. Some kind of marketing ploy trying to look modern, I presume, but in my case it lost them a potential sale!
UPDATE: The following day I saw another one of these, and I can confirm it is apparently a traditional hand pump hidden behind a marketing sign.

Next and final pub was the Commercial round the back of the station. What a surprise: By now it was half past two on a still bitterly cold Wednesday afternoon, and yet the place was busy. I collected my excellent pint of cask Tetley Bitter and perched on a stool by the only unoccupied table. They have a small range of real ales, including Tetley Mild. What is the secret? How do they get so many people in? It's a mystery to me, but I've always liked this place with its beautifully preserved interior and exterior, so long may it continue.

Sunday 5 December 2010

Wetherspoon's The Baker's Brewary

Latest from the Wetherspoon's web site is that the former Wheatsheaf in Huyton will open as The Baker's Brewary on Sunday 23 January 2011. See you there!

I don't know the derivation of the rather odd name, is it just a typo?

Friday 26 November 2010

The Lord Warden

I've been a regular visitor to the The Lord Warden on London Road in Liverpool City Centre for a number of years now. We used to go on a Thursday evening for the free quiz and decent beer.

The beer quality slipped in 2006 and got to the stage where I ordered keg rather than risk another pint of vinegar.

A new landlord in 2007 restored the real ale, but a further drop in ale quality and customer numbers in 2009 saw the place dying on its feet. Sometimes at 9.30 on a Thursday evening it was just my friends and I and the barmaid. The response to falling income was to put the price of the beer up, but with cheaper drink just across the road this reduced the customers even more. Eventually came closure, and to be honest I thought that was the end, but no: Earlier this year it re-opened after a rather good tidy up / redecoration.

We tried it in August and unfortunately got pints of vinegar. Eventually we gave it a second chance yesterday and were rewarded with some excellent Timothy Taylor's Landlord, for a very reasonable £2 a pint. Worryingly, at one point in the evening there was only one other drinker in, but the custom did increase later.

UPDATE Jan 2011: I've been in a number of times since the above was written, and found spot on beer and more customers.

Thursday 11 November 2010

The Beaconsfield

I was in town today for a blood donor session, so on the One Pint Out - One Pint In principle I needed to visit a pub.

The Beaconsfield is a basement bar located on North John Street, and I haven't visited since 1998 when it was called Cains and was a pleasant pub concentrating on live music. Now, it's plain but very well cared for, with a lino floor around the bar and on the dance floor, and a raised carpeted area with some very comfortable leather sofas and armchairs. No real ale I'm afraid, the lone highly polished handpump appeared to be purely decorative.

The place seemed a lot smaller than I remember, did I really see Professor Longhair perform in here? There hardly seems space for a band and an audience! There was plenty of room on a Thursday afternoon, though, since I was the only customer.

Tuesday 2 November 2010

Rainhill Beer Festival

Rainhill Rotary's 8th Annual Beer Festival will be held at Prescot Leisure Centre on 11th to 13th November. I'm afraid work and other commitments will probably preclude my attendance.

See for details.

Tuesday 26 October 2010

Cafe Culture?

Yesterday morning I wandered into Wetherspoon's on Charlotte Street just before nine in the morning, and I found "cafe culture" in full swing. There were a couple of boozers (Or three if you include me.) in, but a couple of dozen people taking breakfast, drinking tea and coffee.

This reminds me of the excellent cafe/bars one finds on the continent where people come for coffee and croissants in the morning and return for beer in the evening. If you stay in a cheap hotel in Belgium you'll often find yourself joining the regulars in the bar for breakfast.

So, is Wetherspoon's move to seven a.m. opening a step towards 24 hour pubs? The difficult part is how you make the transition between a pub full of drunks at two a.m. and the pleasant atmosphere I found in the morning. Or would the drunks gradually stagger away as the night progressed?

Friday 22 October 2010

Crown Catastrophe!

The Crown on Lime Street has long been a favourite of mine. Wandering in at about half nine last night I was appalled to find a towel over the handpumps. What a disaster! As they used to say in the papers, we made our excuses and left.

Update: I'm pleased to report that real ale was back on the following day.

Monday 18 October 2010

JD Wetherspoon Coming to Huyton

I've just had an email from Wetherspoon's Head of Property and Acquisitions to let me know they've bought the Wheatsheaf (formerly the Rose and Crown) in Huyton and hope to be open by Christmas.

Mossley Hill

The weather was good on Sunday, so it was time to go out into the sunshine and do some exploring. A train took me to Lime Street where I bumped into old colleague Mike who was waiting for a friend before going to the match, and we had a quick chat, mainly about pubs and blogs. A Manchester-bound train then carried me one stop to Mossley Hill station. I passed by the Rose of Mossley (Wasn't this formerly called just The Rose?) and continued to my first destination, which wasn't a pub at all.

I've never been to Calderstones Park before so had a good wander round this pleasant green space. The buildings looked a bit tatty but otherwise the formal gardens were well looked after. I always thought the Calder Stones were a myth but there they were, six neolithic boulders, hidden in an almost-derelict greenhouse. Time for a drink...

I haven't been in the Half Way House on Woolton Road since 1998, but it hasn't changed much. It was crowded with footie fans watching the derby on the TV. I quickly got a pint of Greene King IPA and found a pillar to lean against (No chance of a seat) and started to look around in between keeping an eye on the match. That's odd, why's that bloke wearing dark glasses indoors? And that feller, and him and him and her over there too, they've all got the same design of dark glasses on. Most peculiar! The penny soon dropped, this is the first time I've met Sky's 3D TV in a pub! The screen I was watching was normal but theirs had a strange double image on it, unwatchable without the glasses. It'll never catch on. Anyway, back to the pub: Pleasantly decorated and retaining some old woodwork, it's absolutely enormous, with three large rooms on the lounge side, a smaller bar side, and a large restaurant area at the back which was also very busy. My beer was in excellent nick. Everton won by the way.

Next, I headed along Queens Drive to the Childwall Fiveways. Wetherspoons took it over earlier this year but they haven't done much to the already very nice interior. This place was a regular Friday night haunt of mine back in the 1990s. Much quieter in here than the Half Way House but they were still doing a good trade in Sunday dinners. As usual in Wetherspoon's there were four people behind the bar but only one actually serving and I had to wait five minutes for my pint of Abbot.

My next pub was The Turnpike on Bowring Park Road. Another one I haven't visited since 1998 but showing little change in style. One very welcome change, they've gained real ale which wasn't available last time.

I nipped across the road to Broad Green station for a train home.


The Merseyside Pub Guide has been going for twelve years now, so I thought it might be time to move into the twenty-first century and add a blog!

Hopefully this will let me reveal to the many visitors to the website just how I go about researching the information. And also allow me the occasional (I promise) editorial rant.

Of course, it'll also allow readers to provide their own input in a more public way than previously.