Monday 7 April 2014


A trip to Earlestown on Saturday afforded me the opportunity to check out a couple of pubs I haven't tried since 2003.

The Newmarket is located on the corner of the market.  Most of the pub was closed, for redecoration, with just the front bar open, so all the tables were occupied and I had to stand in a corner and perch my pint on the window sill.  No real ale, unfortunately.  The dark panelled room was quiet except for background conversation.

Next, into the Rams Head.  Another pub retaining the classic layout with the 'posh' side served from the bar back, in this case through two bay-window-shaped hatches.  There's some rather fine green tilework in the corridor and the lounge.  The bar side, where I sat, is much plainer but still well cared for.  No real ale so Guinness was the order of the day.  Again, quiet conversation filled the room, as the regulars discussed the Grand National and participated in the pub's sweep.

Am I allowed to grumble about the lack of an apostrophe in the pubs name, or am I wasting my time?  Mind you, after that ugly double-hyphenation in the previous paragraph I've no room to talk!

Anyway, time to go home, noting that the Railway by the station is closed.

Friday 4 April 2014


There I was, leafing through the latest edition of MerseyAle, when I spotted a small paragraph in the Pub News section headed Real Ale in Garston, mentioning two pubs.  That's an improvement on my most recent visit to the area, back in 2009, and the pub I had real ale in then closed down in 2011.

So, skilfully avoiding most of the Ladies' Day crowds I took a bus ride to Garston.

I started in The Masonic.  On previous trips to Garston, I've either found this place closed, or not found it at all, so I've never actually been inside until today.  Here is a very pleasant back street corner house, retaining its traditional two bar layout, nicely decorated and well cared for.  I selected Old Hookey from the two handpumps on the bar  (There were four real ales on the blackboard so I assume there were two more pumps in the other bar.)  The Old Hookey, costing only £2.20, was a little cloudy - I think it needed another day to settle.

The place was quietly ticking over with not many customers in the side I selected, so in between watching racing on the telly I tried not to eavesdrop while the owner argued politely but firmly on the phone with the brewery about some cock-up or other.

Next, the Swan Inn.  This pub is something of a rarity nowadays, as it retains the classic layout in which the lounge side is served through a hatch in the bar back, across the corridor.  Of course, I went in the wrong door and found myself with a rear view of the only hand pump as I peered through the hatch, so I had to ask what was on before ordering a pint of Jennings' Cumberland.  I was alone in the lounge side but there were plenty of regulars in the bar, all of whom seemed to know each other and the barmaid, judging by the chit-chat I could hear.  The Cumberland was spot on.

Having visited my two objectives, I decided one more pub was in order, so I headed for The Mariners, located on the main shopping street.  Now this is a proper boozer, one long room busy with regulars who, again, all seemed to know each other and the staff.  There was one highly polished hand pump on the bar, which I suspect had not been used for years, so I had my usual pint of Guinness and settled down on the only free table to watch the flow of comings and goings in this pub "where everyone knows your name".

I know it's heresy in these modern times, but as I sat there I couldn't help thinking that the one thing missing from the ambience of this traditional down-market boozer was the thick fug of smoke that one always found in these places when I first started surveying pubs.  Somehow it seemed too clean and bright without.

Garston is a remarkable place for pubs, it only covers a small area - maybe 1/2 mile by 1/2 mile - and yet many pubs remain.  In addition to those visited I noted The Alexandra, The Palatine, The Derby, The George and The Dealer's Arms all open.