Thursday 15 December 2011


December's visit to the "vampires" provided an opportunity to try out Bier, the former Old Rope Walk on a side turning between Bold Street and Renshaw Street. In its old guise it was an ordinary street corner boozer, purveying only keg beer, decorated in standard pub style.

Bier, on the other hand, aims to specialise in beer. They have six handpumps, and I selected Ringwood Boondoggle, which was very nice. The barman had some difficulty getting anything near a pint into the dimpled mug, apologising that they're all like that today, we've just changed the gas. Hmmm. They also serve unusual draft lagers, and have a beer menu full of imported bottles.

The singular interior decoration consists of white ceramic tiles on a couple of walls, with the rest of the walls and all the woodwork painted battleship grey. Sounds awful, perhaps, but I like it.

Wednesday 23 November 2011

Research in Bebington

A quick trip across the water to examine a couple of pubs I've not visited before, starting with the Three Stags in Bebington. This turned out to be a standard member of the Ember Inns chain, doing a good lunchtime trade. They had about five handpumps and I enjoyed a pint of Thwaites' Wainwright.

Next I headed down to Lower Bebington village where I was very pleased to discover a pub I didn't even know existed, a fairly rare bonus nowadays, making The Chronicle number 1,756 in the database. A member of the Smith & Jones chain, it's another place concentrating on food but still managing a decent pint of Bombardier.

My third and final call was to Wetherspoon's John Masefield in New Ferry, a medium size member of the chain in a converted shop, serving the usual good value food and real ale. It opened in November 2007 so it's only taken me four years to get there. I had something very nice from Heywood's Phoenix Brewery.

Friday 18 November 2011

Two In Town

Back to Blood Donors again yesterday, so I had to replace lost fluids! I started in the Cross Keys which I haven't visited for ages. Nothing much has changed here, and it was busy with office workers on their lunchbreaks. Only one real ale was available, and I enjoyed a spot on pint of Deuchars IPA.

I needed to visit the Chinese supermarket on Upper Duke Street (Unfortunately they were out of Erguotou.) so a good opportunity to go to the Grapes on Knight Street, another one I haven't been in for a few years. Here once again I found little change, a tiny street corner pub serving excellent ales. One thing has changed though, last time I was there they had three or four handpumps, this time it was nine! I'd not got half way along the bar when I spotted the superb Two Tone Special Chocolate Stout from Northern Brewing in Northwich. No need to examine the rest of the options! What a wonderful beer, a very creamy dark stout, highly recommended. The pub was quiet on a Thursday afternoon, in fact at one point I was the only customer in the place. I'm a little surprised such a small place can keep nine hand pumps going, but if this sample is anything to go by they're doing a great job. Highly recommended, but I think you might be out of luck looking for a seat if there's more than a dozen people in there.

Tuesday 4 October 2011

Another New Wetherspoon's

I am told that Wetherspoon's have bought the Everest in Maghull, although there's nothing on their web site at the time of writing.

Monday 12 September 2011

Prescot Wetherspoon's

Latest news from the unstoppable pub chain is that they plan to open The Watch Maker on Eccleston Street in Prescot in early December. See you there!

Wednesday 7 September 2011

A Dash to Southport

Imagine my annoyance when I realised that one of the new entries in this year's Good Beer Guide was a pub in Southport which I had never visited. Time for an urgent train trip.

The Volunteer is just a short walk from the station. Outside it is a rather impressive building which looks like it dates from the 1920s I guess. Inside it has been knocked through to make one large open bar area, plainly decorated but well looked after. On a wet Wednesday lunchtime it was ticking over nicely with a number of regulars sitting at the bar. I got a slight feeling of the music stopping and everyone looking round as I went in, but they soon got back to their chit-chat while I settled down to a fine pint of Thwaites' Wainwright. I'm not entirely convinced that two real ales (The other was Lancaster Bomber.) is enough to merit a Good Beer Guide listing but the ale was spot on so who's complaining.

I moved on in the blustery wind to re-visit the splendid Baron's Bar in the Scarisbrick complex. Fun fake "baronial hall" decor and about ten real ales on tap. There comes a time in every man's life when he must admit that he will never again be the youngest person in the pub. I can report that I haven't reached that stage yet! (Technically, the barman was definitely younger than me so maybe this doesn't count!)

Next it was time to choose a pub at random so I selected the Oast House which I haven't visited simce 1998 when my notes grumbled about the poor quality of the real ale. No danger of a repeat of this problem, because they don't sell any any more. A plain back street boozer with Sky Sports on the telly and just a few regulars in. Unusual sight of the day was the regulars and the barman playing snakes and ladders, for money!

Tuesday 6 September 2011

Good Beer Guide 2012

The new edition of CAMRA's Good Beer Guide arrived today. In Merseyside eight pubs have been dropped from the guide, and there are fifteen additions.

Which pubs are they? You'll have to buy CAMRA's book to find out!

Friday 2 September 2011

Liverpool One Bridewell

I've been meaning to visit here ever since it was Colin's Bridewell some years ago but never quite got round to it. Colin's became a restaurant for a while, but the latest (and apparently best) use of the site is as the Liverpool One Bridewell.

The building is a former police station dating from mid 19th century. The splendid interior has a vaulted brick ceiling and features a number of cells where you can enjoy your beer.

The real ale, from the Liverpool One brewery plus guests, is excellent and there's a reduction for CAMRA members. I had a pint of the superb Stout Mary from Ilkley Brewery. My pint was carefully filled to the top so I was rather surprised when I sat down to realise it was in an oversize lined glass. Is this the only place in Liverpool that still uses them?

By the way, the word bridewell isn't in my dictionary, but it seems to mean a prison or police station. Bridewell Palace, built in London during Henry VIII's reign, was later used as a "house of correction". It burned down in the great fire but was rebuilt and continued to be a prison until 1855.

Monday 18 July 2011


Those who have studied the Merseyside Pub Guide will already be aware of my fondness for Coopers on Cases Street, and as time goes on we can also add rarity to its attributes.

This tiny two-room boozer is always packed with happy drunks, no matter what time you go in. I was there on a recent Monday afternoon and just managed to squeeze in. The live singer was belting out an Abba song (Ten minutes later she was serving behind the bar.) No real ale any more, so I just stood in a corner with a pint of Guinness. and soaked up the atmosphere.

Truly a classic English boozer, you just don't find them like this any more.

Some years ago, when 24 hour licensing was being discussed, I suggested this would be the first 24/7 pub in Liverpool, and I can imagine it being just as lively with just as many drunks at five in the morning. That hasn't happened, in fact the whole 24 hour thing seems to have been a damp squib - Is there anywhere open all night?

Victoria Cross

Located at the junction of Victoria Street and Sir Thomas Street, this corner house has gone through a number of changes of style and name. It started as the New Court, but that was before my time, I think, as I never went there. As Ned Kelly's it was a fun plastic Australian bar, decorated with the inevitable stuffed crocodile and kangaroo (wearing boxing gloves). I didn't visit the short-lived Reuben's Bar, but recently I had a pint in the latest incarnation, The Victoria Cross. The Antipodean decor has gone, replaced by a pleasant plain interior. I was pleased to see four hand pumps on the bar, although three had the clips turned round. The fourth provided a mediocre pint of Bass.

Thursday 14 April 2011

Red Biddy

17 across in today's Times Crossword:
"Extremely cheap booze embarrassed old woman (3,5)". Easy peasy - it's Red Biddy.

This set me thinking, what exactly is Red Biddy? I vaguely remember it being on sale in Yates's Wine Lodges, but I never drank any. Google was unusually totally useless, suggesting a mixture of red wine and methylated spirits, which I don't think Yates's would be allowed to sell!

Actually, it would appear to be an Australian fortified red wine, the red equivalent of the more well known Aussie White, which I have enjoyed in Yates's on occasion.

Does anyone know if the modern tarted up Yates's still sell either of these?

Friday 18 March 2011

Officers Mess

Blood donors again today (I hope they don't read this blog!) so a chance to check out a pub in town. This time I selected the Officers Mess on Victoria Street. It opened earlier this year, I believe, and I'm not sure what was in this building previously. I had it noted as a renaming of the Beaconsfield on the corner, but in fact it is a couple of doors down Victoria Street, and the Beaconsfield continues to operate.

Anyway, this afternoon I found a pleasant comfortable basement bar, sadly devoid of customers, serving a small range of real ales - I had Young's - and also offering a good selection of imported bottles. I wonder if they have the special glasses for the Kwak? The menu looks good, with traditional pub fare perhaps tending slightly up market. There's also a room upstairs which I didn't visit.

Sunday 13 March 2011

Updated Book Available

The 2011 edition of the book of the Merseyside Pub Guide has just been published. You can order a copy direct from the printers.

It has 217 pages of reviews and pictures, listing 1,748 pubs, all in a handy spiral-bound A5 book.

Go on, buy a copy and make my day!

Thursday 17 February 2011

Meeting My Waterloo

Yesterday was nice and sunny so I headed out for a research trip, to Waterloo. I emerged from the station to see the sad sight of the Alexandra closed and tinned up. I wandered down to the Volunteer Canteen, but unfortunately it was shut. Outside the Old Bank the sign promised local cask ales and indeed they had three from Liverpool One on tap. I enjoyed a pint of Kings Regiment. This pub has hardly changed since I visited in 1999, and once again I was the youngest customer. The walls are cluttered with music and football posters and memorabilia giving the place a slightly untidy appearance at first glance, but actually it is spotlessly clean, well maintained and comfortable.

My next call was at the fairly new Stamps Too where I found a long narrow one-roomed pub which manages to squeeze a stage for live music along one side. Six handpumps on the bar offering various unusual beers, I had a pint of the excellent Allgates' Citra.

At the top of South Road sits the splendid old building that is the Liver Hotel, another pub I haven't visited since '99. The interior is very pleasant. Real ales on offer were Tetley, Cains, and Black Sheep, and I chose the Tetley, a long term favourite of mine.

Next, round the corner to the Ferndale Lodge. A total contrast this one: Plain, down market and slightly scruffy; and no chance of real ale. Back in the late 90s there was a chain of pubs like this around Liverpool called Oak Lodges, all looking exactly the same. Some of them remain but there is no longer any sign of chain branding, so I don't know if they are still connected.

My final stop was in the Lion and Unicorn. Once again, little change in the ten or so years since I was last here: A large, open, pleasant enough one room boozer where I was a little surprised to find a choice of Greene King's IPA and Old Speckled Hen on hand pump. I chose the IPA for a change.

P.S. Did you know it was Sir Arthur Conan Doyle who first used the phrase "To meet our Waterloo" in The Return of Sherlock Holmes in 1909?

Saturday 12 February 2011

Closing Time

Closing Time is the title of an excellent book of photographs of closed Liverpool pubs taken by Kevin Casey. The wonderful shots of architectural gems and plain sheds in various states of decay certainly brought back some memories for me, and I recommend you take a look.

Of the eighty pubs featured, I have drunk in sixty-five, a figure I feel few could match!

Tuesday 8 February 2011

Beer Of The Year?

Perhaps it is a bit early in the year to be announcing a winner, but I was in the Dispensary yesterday where I had a pint of the superb Plum Porter from the Titanic Brewery. I know fruit beers are not to everyone's taste but I am fond of them, and this is one of the all time greats. Titanic's normal Porter is an excellent beer in its own right, and the addition of plums makes it truly wonderful.

I strongly recommend you seek this one out and give it a try. I guess it's a seasonal brew but Titanic's web site seems not to have been updated since last summer, so I'm not sure. Maybe it's a one-off - I hope not.

Thursday 3 February 2011

All Bar One

I visited the recently opened All Bar One on Derby Square today. This used to be the Goose at the Queens which was a pleasant place serving excellent real ale, now it's part of the All Bar One chain. More of a restaurant than a pub, they nevertheless served me a decent pint of Thwaites Original at the bar and I sat at a table in the almost empty ground floor. The decor is pleasant enough and like the menu is somewhat up market. They also serve breakfasts, I quite fancy going in for eggs Benedict some time. I didn't explore the upstairs part.

Sunday 23 January 2011

The Barker's Brewery, Huyton

I paid a visit to this branch of the Wetherspoon's chain on their opening day today. For those familiar with the Rose and Crown or the Wheatsheaf, what was the lounge side is now mainly the kitchen, and the pub area consists of the former bar side, plus the bullnose and the far end of the lounge side.

On their first day they were doing a roaring trade in both food and drink, and I predict they will do fairly well in the longer term. The only whinge I overheard was the lack of free tables.

Real ales on the first day were Barker's Brewery Bitter (Brewed by George Wright), Cains Bitter, Cains IPA, Abbot, and Ruddles Best Bitter. The prices were above average by Wetherspoon's standards, with the cheapest - the Ruddles - at £1.75. Those I sampled were spot on, as expected.