Wednesday 26 November 2014


A bright and sunny but somewhat chilly day saw me taking the train to Formby where I hoped to fill in a few gaps in the guide.

I started at the Railway, located conveniently adjacent to the station.  My last visit here was as long ago as 1998 so it was well overdue for a re-visit.  It's now a member of the Ember Inns chain which despite being a food-oriented organisation usually means a decent pint of ale, and I was not disappointed.  There are about twelve hand-pumps all told, although by no means all in use.  The ales on offer were mainly standard national brews - nothing wrong with that -  and I selected a pint of Tribute which I was pleased to note came in a Tribute glass.

The interior decor of Ember Inns pubs always seems to be the same, a sort of contemporary style, slightly up market.  I was pleased to note that, apart from a small display advertising Christmas meals, the Christmas decorations had not yet arrived.  The place was pretty quiet, perhaps unsurprisingly on a cold Tuesday afternoon, but there was a steady trickle of custom.

If a visit to the Railway was overdue, then my next pub was doubly so, because I've never been to the Royal before.  Here I found a large free-standing building containing a pleasant pub with the standard two-sided layout.  The bar side, where I first entered, is somewhat plainer than the nicely done lounge side.

Initially I could see no handpumps in the bar side until I spotted one at the back of the bar with a London Pride clip on it.  I suspect this is merely a signpost to indicate real ale is available, although I suppose it could be an operational pump.  Anyway, I strolled round to the lounge side where the barmaid was, and found two handpumps.  Unusually for me I skipped the London Pride and stuck to the Cornish theme of the trip so far with a pint of Tribute from St Austell Brewery.  (Which I had the pleasure of visiting a few years ago.) It was spot on.

I selected a table at the far side of the lounge from where I could observe activity, but there wasn't any; the majority of the few customers preferring the bar side. 

I checked out the menu - standard pub food at good prices - and noted the pub was not apparently part of a chain.

Pub number three was the Village Inn, located in a former shop in Formby centre.  Not only have I never visited before, but this pub wasn't in the guide at all until I discovered it on Google streetview while planning the trip.

Here was a large, well cared for, plainly decorated room with TVs showing sports scattered around.  Definitely a "wet-led" operation this one, and no real ale either, so I settled for a Guinness.  There were plenty of  mostly cheerful drinkers in the place, many of them older than I, and more came in to join the throng round the bar as afternoon turned to evening.

The Christmas decorations were up, by the way.

So far in my wanderings I had walked past the Cross House Inn twice, and to get back to the station I had to pass again, so at last I went in.  This has a proper restaurant area, with diners being shown to their tables by waitresses, but it's still a true pub as well, with seating and a telly for non diners.  Various real ales were on offer and I finished the day with a pint of Titanic's Lifeboat.
The interior is very nice, with lots of wood panelling, and some fairly tasteful Christmas decorations (Bah!  Humbug!  It's still November!)

When I arrived I noted that the food operation was not doing well, as I could see no-one eating, but as I got further down my pint a steady flow of customers appeared for the restaurant.

Time for the train home, noting that with two new ones today I've now visited 1,167 pubs in Merseyside, and there are 1,786 listed in the guide.

Saturday 8 November 2014


For absolutely no reason whatsoever, I headed towards Crosby for an afternoon out.  I took a bus ride from Liverpool, giving me the opportunity to update entries in the database along the way:  Lambeth - tinned up, Lighthouse - closed, Prince of Wales - building site, Knowsley - closed, William Shakespeare - open and so on, all the way to Crosby.  In all I noted information on 22 pubs.

Once off the bus I headed for Stamps, a small two-floor pub/bistro (That's what the sign says - I didn't see anyone eating.) serving a range of excellent real ales.  I had a wonderfully tangy pale one called Solar Glare from Shiny Brewing in Derby.

I wasn't quite truthful when I said 'no reason whatsoever' because my next destination was that most annoying of phenomena - A pub in the Good Beer Guide that I've never heard of.  This particular example of that rare classification is The Liverpool Pigeon, a self-proclaimed "Micro Pub" located in a former shop. 

Here, I found a single open rather bare room with a parquet floor.  In the corner a small counter offered an impressive selection of real ales, I selected Hawkshead's Windermere Pale.  I was rather impressed when the barman came over a minute later to double check on the quality of my drink, because mine was the last one out of the barrel.  Even being extra-critical because he'd asked, I couldn't fault the ale.

When I arrived there were only about four others in, and it did seem to be lacking a little in atmosphere, but I bet it's a lot better later on.

One very special feature of this place is the use of oversize lined glasses so you actually get a full pint of beer.  This has become very rare nowadays, and I have pretty much abandoned my campaign for a full pint because it was going nowhere, so it was a pleasant surprise to find the larger vessels here.  It felt slightly odd to hold the bigger 22 floz glass in my hand, and I had to struggle to suppress a tut-tut when someone passed by my seat carrying two pints with a generous head on each.

Note - They have limited opening hours and don't open until 4 on weekdays.

My third visit was to the George Hotel, located right in the centre of Crosby in a good-looking stone and half-timber building.  I haven't visited this pub since 1999 and I was pleased to see the wood panelling inside was still there.  In fact, the interior doesn't seem to have changed at all except that the "Surfeit of bunting, brewery adverts, disco lights and hand-drawn posters" which I grumbled about in my previous report have been substantially toned down, making the place even more attractive.

Only one real ale was on offer but as Bombardier has always been a favourite of mine one was enough.  I was somewhat startled to find the price was only £1.89, this must be one of the cheapest pints around nowadays, and on top of that they offer a buy four get the fifth free loyalty card!

On the ceiling I noted a number of disco lights and glitter balls which threatened deafening music later on, but at the time of my visit, about five on a Thursday, there was no music at all, and the pub was filled with the pleasant background hubbub of cheerful drinkers.