Wednesday 29 June 2016

The University and The Georgian Quarter

Time for a pub survey in Liverpool with a couple of friends.  We met up in Wetherspoon's impressive North Western, conveniently located at Lime Street Station.  At 2pm on a wet Wednesday it was pretty busy but we found a table and enjoyed 'Spoons usual food and drink.

Next, a walk in intermittent rain through the university (I've always used the main road in the past and so hadn't seen some of the impressive buildings here before.) to the Augustus John.  We all selected the same beer from the two or three handpumps and sat down.  The pub wasn't busy and the TV showing cricket was over my head and so not too distracting.  Unfortunately the beer was somewhat past its best, and rather cloudy - Probably the end of the cask.  This was particularly disappointing as I've always had excellent ale here before.

As we were finishing our drinks an enormous number of young students came in, and they were queueing six deep at the bar as we left - Thank goodness we didn't arrive then.

The next call was the Cambridge, another student pub.  I was a little worried in case the other half of the throng at the Augustus John had got here before us, but fortunately they didn't come this way and this small plain boozer was pretty empty.  The one hand pump served a rather bland Marston's Bitter.

On to the Caledonia.  In my experience this place has always been a bit of a dump, both before and after the fire, and today was no exception with a smell of mouldy floor-mop about the place, and a floor which could have benefited from the attentions of the same.  In contrast, the beer, selected from a small range of uncommon ones, was excellent as always.  In my opinion, dogs in pubs, if permitted at all, should be seen and not heard.

The problem with the Belvedere, our next port of call, is that it's way too small, so you always seem to be squeezing past people just to get served.  A bit of an architectural gem this one, but it seems to be looking a little threadbare in places.  Not so the beer, which was excellent.  And it came in a lined glass - I think this might be the only pub left in Liverpool that still automatically gives you a full measure, by using oversized glasses.

Next, the Pilgrim.  My beer guide notes an incident where I was refused a top-up on a very short pint here, but to be fair that was back in 1999 so I think it's time to forgive them, as I've had no problems subsequently.  Anyway, down the steps in to a dark cellar with a small bar in one corner, fairly empty with just a few other drinkers in the place.  No complaints on the measures this time, and good beer.

Not far away is the Grapes.  Well known for its wide range of quality real ales, this is another place where a bit more care on the cleaning and maintenance front is required.  We sat in a quiet corner which had a tiled floor with a number of the tiles missing or loose.  In fact the whole place has a tatty feel, and would benefit from a lick of paint.  As to the beer, I didn't like mine, I forget the name, at all but I think this was a matter of personal taste rather than there being anything wrong with it.

To finish the day out we decided on somewhere more predictable than the last few pubs, so headed to Wetherspoon's Lime Kiln for a pint of Abbot at only £1.99.  Last year this place appeared on a Wetherspoon's list of branches to be closed, but I gather they have now purchased the property and reprieved it.  The prices are much lower than in the other city centre 'Spoons.  It was certainly doing a good trade at half past six on a Wednesday evening, and we had to go upstairs to find a place to sit.

Saturday 25 June 2016

Real Ale in Rainhill

A short train ride took me to Rainhill, where there are a number of pubs which I haven't visited for a long time.  Passing the Commercial (A favourite of mine, but this was a survey trip!) I strolled down Warrington Road in the pleasant midday sunshine until I reached my first target, the Ship Inn.

My last drink here was way back in 1998, when it was a Henry's Table place, serving Higson's and Tetley's.  Eighteen years later I found it has joined the Ember Inns chain, and they have applied their standard decor inside.  Some people dislike Ember's identikit "modern contemporary" style but I find it pleasant enough.  And of course, you can  usually rely on them to provide some decent beer.  As the first customer in the pub at a couple of minutes after twelve I had to risk the first beer out of the pump, but my pint of Landlord was spot on.  As I believe is now fashionable, I was offered the choice of a dimple or an ordinary glass.

After a few minutes of having the pub to myself other customers began to arrive, dining families and what looked like guests for a nearby wedding.

In line with almost every real ale pub, the board listing the real ales was put on the wall with good intentions but was now somewhat inaccurate with the pump clips telling the true story.  Still, a good choice of mainly national brands except for one from Liverpool Organic.  And their own Ember Pale Ale which is brewed by Black Sheep.  There's 20p off a pint for CAMRA members, and on Mondays all real ales are £2.49.

A short walk from the Ship took me round the corner to the Manor Farm, an antique building in pleasant green surroundings.
The farm was built in 1662 and was converted to a pub by the late lamented Burtonwood Brewery in 1978.  There's a restaurant upstairs but I stayed in the bar on the ground floor where food is also available - The menu looks good but I didn't sample it.  The interior features plenty of low beams, and a well you can look down!

A range of about 3 real ales was on offer, and I chose Hobgoblin which was in good nick.

On a Saturday afternoon the place was very quiet, with just a few other customers, some having food, and the only thing to watch was the staff trying in vain to get one of the TVs going ready for the football later.

The CAMRA discount here is limited to after 8 pm on Mondays to Wednesdays.

My next walk was a longer one, all the way round Rainhill to the other side, passing a number of very posh residences on the way.  Eventually I reached the Rocket, a bit more down market than the previous two places.

This is more like a traditional boozer, featuring a plain bar side with pool table and darts board and a comfortable lounge side.  As usual I guessed the wrong door and found myself in the bar, but it was pleasant enough, if perhaps a little threadbare in places.

To my surprise I spotted a lone hand pump with a Doom Bar clip.  One pump pubs can often be a source of poor beer but not in this case, and I enjoyed a good pint from Cornwall.

The pub was pretty quiet, with no-one watching the football on the telly (It wasn't one of the 'home' teams.).  Eventually I was joined by the resident old codger who imparted a tale of smoke like fog on his journey to the pub.  As I finished my pint two fire engines passed by, supporting his story, and when I left the pub smoke could be seen and smelled, although I couldn't actually see where the fire was.

I headed back towards the station but I had one more target in mind so I called in to the Victoria.  My first visit to this large pub back in 1998 caused me to describe it as youth-oriented and grubby.  Luckily things have massively improved since then, and in 2004 I recorded real ale and pleasant decor.  This time I found that one of the rooms has been split off to become a restaurant area, which was closed on Saturday afternoon.

Food is also served in the large bar room, which was busy with drinkers and diners, but not too busy for me to be quickly served with a fine pint of Deuchars IPA and to find a table to sit at and reluctantly watch a bit of football.  (I'm one of those people who, if there's a TV in my eyeline, cannot resist watching it - Very annoying for someone trying to have a conversation with me if the telly's over your shoulder!)

And so ended an enjoyable survey, on which I was pleasantly surprised to get four pints of good real ale in four pubs.  I dragged my gaze from the TV and marched back to the station, and home.