Friday 27 October 2017

Even Newer Penny Farthing

I was rejected by the blood donors today due to dental work, so somewhat cheesed off I headed for a pub I noticed the other day had reopened.

The New Penny Farthing closed in 2016 and to be honest I assumed it was to be demolished, but I was wrong:  Instead, walking past once a week, I saw the exterior cladding of the 60s construction removed and then gradually replaced by new glazing, until finally it opened as the Courtyard.  ‎The inside ‎has been totally gutted to create a bare brick and concrete decor to which has been added contemporary fixtures and furniture.

I was somewhat startled to find three handpumps serving beers from Liverpool Organic and the one I tried was spot on.  They seem to be aiming at the cocktail crowd but at noon on a Friday I was perhaps unsurprisingly the only customer. The menu consists of light bar snacks and platters.

What a contrast to the New Penny Farthing, which I recall as a rough-and-ready boozer with cheap beer and free butties.

The barman, with no-one to serve, was sorting out behind the bar, I noticed he'd got a whole box of lemons and another of limes. I wonder how long it'll take to use them all up?  He sliced a couple of each for now, throwing away yesterday's leftover slices.

There's another bar upstairs which I didn't visit, and a pleasant looking patio area at the side.

Thursday 26 October 2017


The journey to Liscard seemed to take for ever (Little did I know...), with a very slow train and then a bus under the river but eventually I arrived at the town from where it was a short walk past umpteen pubs - To be visited later today or on a subsequent trip - to the Primrose:
This is something of a gem from the architectural point of view, inside and out.  The pub was re-built in the early 1920s and is well preserved.  Excellent ceiling plasterwork, dark wood panelling, leaded glass, and an impressive fireplace are all original, and only slightly spoiled by Hallowe'en decorations. The fire wasn't lit but it looks like it is used sometimes.

No ale, so I sat down with a Guinness to admire the decor. It was quite quiet at four on a Thursday, but gently ticking over with a number of regulars leaning on the bar and laughing and joking with the friendly barmaid.

Time to retrace my steps back towards Liscard in the strengthening drizzle, pausing first at the Saddle Inn:
Not an architectural gem but nonetheless nice-looking inside and out. The sign outside says hand pulled cask ale but there didn't seem to be any so it was Guinness again. Just a few locals chatting while I watched Tipping Point on the telly (And typed this.) A real stove in the fireplace added to the pleasant feel of the interior, which features fake beams. Every beam carries a different drink-related quotation. I think most of them are already in my list for the quote of the day on the main website's home page.
Irritatingly, as I swigged my pint, a bloke who had been sitting at the bar disappeared and after a few minutes added a pump clip to the solitary handpump.

Like the last one, this place was spotless and well cared for inside.
The "restaurant rooms at the rear" which I described back in 2004 didn't seem to be in use while I was there, the lights were off although the way in wasn't blocked.

Next, the Royal Oak, never before visited:
It's hard to describe the interior here, one large room with very pleasant traditional-ish decoration. I wonder if anything is original (Assuming the building has always been a pub.) Perhaps the matchboarding or the ceiling plasterwork? I'm pretty sure the imposing stone and brick fireplace complete with pillars, is modern, anyway.
Custom consisted of a handful of regulars sitting at the bar watching racing on the TV, while I took my Guinness to a comfortable quiet corner at the front of the pub.  Quiet until the local youths decided it would be amusing to tap on the window, anyway.  They soon got bored when I ignored them.

Finally, time to head for the real reason I'm here in Liscard, another Good Beer Guide entry I've never visited, the Lazy Landlord.  Sorry, no photo, it was dark by now.  A well above average micro-pub in my opinion, 5 handpumps, plenty of space and seats, and no dogs!  The walls featured a fine display of breweriana including a collection of illuminated keg fonts.  The custom consisted of a few regulars chatting (Mainly about real ale pubs in the Isle of Man), and me hiding in the back enjoying a perfect pint of Windermere Pale (One of my favourites.) while being warmed by the "fake" stove.

Time to go home, leaving umpteen Liscard pubs for the next time. At this point I made a schoolboy error and jumped on the first bus with Liverpool on the front, which proceeded to take me on a convoluted route in the opposite direction. When it eventually reached Leasowe, still going away from Liverpool, I abandoned it and got a train back to civilisation instead.

Saturday 21 October 2017

Towards Tuebrook

A fairly short bus ride took me in the direction of Tuebrook, and I jumped off when we reached Queens Drive, to visit the Jolly Miller.  Here it is in 2003:
and now:
This looks like it was once an impressive inter-war roadhouse and my notes from the last millennium enthuse about the art deco inside, but most of the history has been erased, inside and out, except for a few remaining bits of carved woodwork, especially the toilet doors, in the knocked through interior.

The three handpumps were offering Old Speckled Hen (Coming soon), Old Spooky Hen (Coming soon - I'm not sure if this is a Hallowe'en joke or a real beer.), and Greene King IPA, which was of good quality.  Unusually, I couldn't see any keg bitter.

A standard member of the Flaming Grill chain with a good value range of standard pub food, and at 3pm on a Friday it was ticking over, mainly with diners, and gradually getting busier as I enjoyed my pint.

I remember visiting here on a hot day many years ago to be told there was no draught beer at all because the chiller had broken. The barman said you can have some warm Pedigree if you want - I can't remember if he charged us for it. It hadn't had time to go sour or anything, but it wasn't very enjoyable - an interesting experiment though.

Just across the road (actually it involved three separate pedestrian crossings to get over the eternally busy Queens Drive.) is what I know as the Stag and Rainbow:
Almost all the signs now say Beefeater, but the old name remains over the front door.  It almost looked closed from the outside, but pushing open the door revealed the gentle murmur of chatting diners.

The decor is pleasant contemporary; no history here, I guess it was built in the 1970s or 80s.  Just two handpumps, one blank and the other with a London Pride clip turned round, so I had to make do with a Guinness.  Everyone else was there for the food, I think.

I could have walked but I lazily took a bus into Tuebrook itself, and the Flat House.  Not much difference between the 2003 and present time pictures:

What a contrast from the previous two pubs:  Loud chatter, shouting and laughter, and two cheerful friendly barmaids rushing up and down each serving two people at once to keep everyone in drink.  Exactly the same as last time I was here years ago, apart from the lack of smoke.

Someone left just as I was served, so I got a seat.  There was a steady stream of ins and outs, most of whom knew each other, it was just like boozers used to be!

A loud cry of "Anyone want any stuff?" and suddenly quite a trade in tins of salmon, chocolate biscuits etc was going on behind me.

I'm always concerned by a "For Sale" sign on a pub, let's hope this place continues.

By the way, if you're not familiar with the term flat house - I'd never heard it until I came to Liverpool - it means exactly what it says, an ale house with a flat frontage in a straight terrace, as opposed to the more common "corner house".

A little further along West Derby Road, the Victoria has long been converted into a shop.

I continued down the road, past at least eight fast-food emporia to a corner house, the Park.  I didn't take a picture this time, but here it is in 2003:
It must have been altered since my last report which referred to a lounge side, as it now seems to be all one room.  Not quite as lively as the Flat House, but still busy with noisy locals, and I had to hide in the back corner to find a seat.  The slightly manic, over the top, friendly barman gave me someone else's Guinness to save waiting for mine to settle.

I was particularly amused by the cable-tv cable which enters the premises through an antique extractor fan.  Saves drilling a hole, I suppose, as long as no-one turns on the fan!

Wednesday 18 October 2017


Not a research trip, just some drinks with friends in a few pubs.  We started with lunch in Wetherspoon's Brass Balance.  Since the closure of the other 'Spoons in Birkenhead (Some dispute over a rent increase, I'm told) this one is even busier, and at 1pm on a Wednesday it seemed to be full of babies.  We bagged the last free table.  Despite being busy, service was prompt.

Next, round the corner to the Lion:  Back in May I was surprised to find four handpumps in operation here, all with beers from Purple Moose.  This time I was disappointed and perhaps less surprised to find no real ales.  There was also no-where to sit as a big chunk of the front area has been taken up by a pool table, so we headed on.

We passed the long closed Crown and Cushion, and Copperfield:
The next destination was the Swinging Arm:
The Hobgoblin ran out but the one pint left was OK, so no problems with turnover here.  The rest of us had Hobgoblin Gold instead.  The quirky decor is great fun, in this rather odd pub.  It was very quiet on a Wednesday afternoon, although we weren't quite the only customers.

On to Gallaghers:
This place has lost its claim to fame because it no longer does haircuts, but the ale continues to be excellent, so I'm happy.  It was good to hear Poly Styrene on the background music, as I enjoyed a fine pint of something hoppy.  Oh yes, it was Salopian Oracle.

Next we passed by the Bierhaus:
I suppose I'll have to survey this place sometime, but I can't say it's high on my list of priorities!  We carried on to the wonderful Stork:
The superb interior and quality ales never change in this favourite of mine, well deserving of its entry in CAMRA's National Inventory of Historic Pub Interiors.

Finally, having exhausted our list of real ale pubs in Birkenhead, we returned to the Brass Balance for a couple of my favourite Titanic Plum Porter before getting the train home.

Thursday's research trip is postponed due to a bus strike.

Friday 13 October 2017

Brass Monkey

Blood Donors today, so as mentioned on Wednesday, I went back to School Lane and the Brass Monkey.  Pub number 1,837 in my database, and the 1,204th to be sampled.

I'm not sure what this place is aiming to be.  On Wednesday I peered through the window and assumed it was a craft bar, but I was completely wrong, there were no craft beers, and no bitter at all.  They seem to aiming for the cocktail market - Is there one?

The bar is larger than it appears, with a long back room.  The pleasantly quirky decor is bare brick and white tiles and, inevitably, retro industrial-style lighting.  The tiled floor is fake - it's vinyl.
Amongst the comfortable bench seats and chairs there are two swings suspended from the ceiling; probably not a good idea after a few pints.
It was hard to distinguish spare staff from customers as I swigged my Heineken, I think I was the only actual customer at 2pm on a Friday. Perhaps it does better in the evening.

Having written the above, I returned my empty glass to the bar and headed for the gents.  En route, I discovered a side room in which two groups were drinking cocktails.   On returning to the front, four or five more customers had just come in, so it's clearly nowhere near as quiet as I thought.

Up The Junction

To Sutton for today's research trip. Where? It's often known by the name of its railway station, St Helens Junction.
I was a little concerned as I left the station, as I hadn't done my full research before leaving home, but things started well: I strolled through the back streets until the Boilermakers Arms hove into view, and it was open:
Inside I found a partially knocked through room, pleasantly decorated and clean and tidy. The handpump on the bar was purely decorative, so I ordered a Guinness. This came out of a can, I'm afraid, and even worse it included some of the leftovers from a previous serve. It was somehow zizzed up by a Guinness-branded gadget on the bar. Annoyingly I didn't pay enough attention to this intriguing process. It tasted OK anyway, and I sat in a corner to observe the few regulars, some chatting at the bar, others at the back in isolation.
A large array of lights and a couple of hefty speakers suggest it'll be noisy on a Friday night. (Nothing wrong with that, I won't be here.)

Update:  The mystery device is called a Guinness Surger.

Another back street stroll took me to the Victoria as was, now called the Little Pig:
Another plain friendly two-sided boozer, well cared for inside and out, and surprisingly busy at four on a Thursday. They seemed to have the same Guinness gizmo on the bar, so I had a lager instead. Everyone in the pub knew everyone else, except me of course.
I remember noting on previous research trips back in 2004 that we were often greeted with "Hello lads, are you lost?", presumably because no-one ever goes to Sutton unless they live there, and if you live there they already know you. I also noted that the locals were always friendly, and it seems they still are, although when six of them joined me in one of the lounge rooms I felt a bit of a gooseberry.
One of the regulars was so drunk he could hardly stand up, there was a loud crash as he left heading for home, I hope it wasn't him falling over in the street.

I walked on through a post industrial wasteland to the Glassmakers Arms, which is long closed.

So, on to the Red Lion:
This was previously described by me as the pub with no name, because in 2004 it looked very tatty outside and there was no name sign at all:
It's now a Holt's house, well looked after and correctly labelled. A handpump offered Holt's Bitter but I didn't like to risk it, so, as they had a proper Guinness font I chose that. The bar side was quite busy with chatting regulars so, not wishing to be a gooseberry again, I headed through to the quieter lounge to write this. At one end of the room was a stage with an enormous screen, and the barmaid came in and put racing on, despite the fact that I was the only person in there at the time. Luckily it didn't have any sound.  Later she switched it to a music channel and turned on the sound, but not too loud.
The room was decorated with Halloween stuff, surely two weeks or more early.

Next target was the Bowling Green which I found boarded up:
Here it is in happier times, in 2004:

I headed back towards the station, taking a slight deviation via the Prince of Wales, which is now a convenience store.  I must say it's a shame they've rendered the rather fine 30s brickwork:

Finally the Vulcan Inn:
I resisted the temptation of getting some free food by joining the wake in the lounge side (Have I told the story of sticking my foot in it in Hoylake? Some other time, maybe.), and headed for the plain tiny bar side, full of locals but not so full that I couldn't get a seat. The telly over the counter was showing the local news, but no-one was watching.
Don't you just hate a pub where there's no signs on the toilets? Luckily there was no-one in when I opened the door of the Ladies.

Finally, back to the station. The painted sign on The Wheatsheaf, along with the brewery name Greenalls, is still visible on the pub which I think closed long before I started researching.

I think today's research provides further proof that my assertion that the traditional street-corner boozer has gone is premature, and in places like here and Clubmoor they're surviving well. In fact, apart from the lack of smoke nothing seems to have changed since I was last here in 2004

Wednesday 11 October 2017

City Centre

Not a pub research trip today, but a few drinks with friends in Liverpool:  We started in Wetherspoon's splendid North Western where service was efficient as usual, and I enjoyed an excellent pint of Abbot and some food.

Next, we headed on to the new Head Of Steam.  I'd been to the previous incarnations of this location a few times although I'm not sure I collected all of The Old Monk, Barracuda Bar, Varsity and Abbey.  The inside has been totally remodelled and the bar has moved from one side to an island configuration in the middle.  The new decor is bare air conditioning ducts, corrugated iron ceiling and the nowadays inevitable retro industrial lighting. 
More importantly, on the bar was an enormous array of handpumps all offering unusual real ales.  The keen friendly barman provided advice and tasters while we made our choices.  I selected an elderflower ale against his advice, it was pretty good but I could see his point about an odd aftertaste.  If you don't want real ale they've got an impressive selection of keg draughts including Chimay Rouge and Delerium Tremens from Belgium.  If that's still not enough choice there's hundreds of bottles from all over the world listed in the beer menu.

Having praised the beer choice, I should add a small negative note:  Many people like real ale but are not knowledgeable and are unhappy faced with a dozen ales they've never heard of.  I'm sure these people would be pleased if one of the pumps carried an "ordinary" choice, maybe the ubiquitous Doom Bar or Old Speckled Hen or Bombardier?

On a Wednesday afternoon custom was very limited with only a handful of drinkers, I hope it does better at other times or they'll never keep this many ales drinkable.  (Actually, one of the lads said one of the samples he tried was pure vinegar, I didn't try it myself.)

A total change of style for pub number three as we nipped round the corner to the Old Post Office.  Recent reports (Probably Merseyale) said they've got real ale and sure enough there were Doom Bar and Greene King IPA handpumps.  The Doom Bar was of good quality.  This is a plain, traditional boozer and was busy with a lively afternoon crowd, almost all older than me, who presumably wouldn't like the atmosphere (or lack of) in the Head of Steam.

I noted the Brass Monkey next door to the Post Office, one I've never visited so that'll go on the to do list.  From the outside it looked like a craft operation.

The plan was to do the Globe next, but it was doing so well that there was nowhere for us to sit down, not even in the back room, so we moved on.  Into one door of the Midland, no handpumps so straight out of the other door and into the Central.  In here there were four handpumps and I selected a spot-on Bombardier.  The barmaid asked if we'd got a CAMRA card and provided the money off when I produced mine.  I tend to forget to ask for a CAMRA discount, especially in pubs I don't often visit, so it was good to have it offered.

While enjoying our pints we discussed the splendid interior of this pub.  I have always thought of it as Victorian cut glass and wood panelling, but my friend spoiled this by opining that this area was heavily bombed during the war and there's no way the glass could have survived.  Certainly some of it appeared to be modern fake cut glass.  Beautiful in any case.  The pub was steadily ticking over with a range of customers.

On to Wetherspoon's Blackler's, which was busy as always, for another pint of Abbot.

Finally, one of my favourites in Liverpool, the Crown.  Architecture lovely as ever, and they seem to have slightly increased their range of real ales - we had Landlord.  Compared with the days when they had the cheapest real ale in Liverpool and you had to elbow your way to the bar it was worryingly quiet.  I suppose all the "professional drinkers" have gone to Blacklers now!

So, in summary, it was good to see different establishments doing OK on a wet Wednesday afternoon, but the lack of custom in the Head of Steam didn't look good.

Wednesday 4 October 2017

Cabbage Hall

I started on a bus to Tuebrook. The driver got lost before we'd left Huyton!  I noted some pubs in Tuebrook for future visits but I walked up Lower Breck Road towards Clubmoor to continue my research from a few weeks ago.

On my way, I unexpectedly came across the Claremont:
This pub sort of falls through the cracks between areas, and I haven't been here for nineteen years, almost to the day. There was a Doom Bar pump on the bar but in this sort of place I'm not prepared to risk it, so I stuck to the black stuff. I can't actually remember my '98 visit, but judging by the notes nothing has changed: "Pleasant decor, friendly staff and a free jukebox in this traditional two bar local." is exactly right, and the juke box is still free. The pool table I also noted then still dominates the bar side, with bench seats along the walls. The place was a little threadbare in places, but spotlessly clean. As I swigged my Guinness a scruffy bloke came in attempting to sell tobacco, you don't often see that nowadays. None of the regulars were interested, so he went out again. These street corner boozers are becoming rarer nowadays and I was pleased to see this one apparently doing well and keeping up the traditions.

I was a little worried taking my picture of the pub, as it's just across the road from a school, and at home time the road was busy with little'uns, In the twenty-first century you can get into trouble for taking pictures outside a school, but luckily the passing policemen didn't react.

Moving on to my intended target area, my next call was at the impressive building that is the Cabbage Hall:
There are various theories as to how this place got it's name, my favourite is that a large house nearby had stone pineapples decorating its front wall (I notice these seem to be in fashion again nowadays.) and the local residents, never having seen a pineapple, christened the house Cabbage Hall.  This has become the name for this part of Liverpool, as well as the pub.
Anyway, having spent a number of years closed it has re-opened as a food-oriented "bar and grill". Inside is a nicely decorated (Although the floral wallpaper is a bit strong.) mostly knocked through pub aiming at diners and almost completely empty. I was pleased to see handpumps on the bar for Black Sheep and Landlord, but the barmaid advised me they're only available on match days (Anfield is just up the road.), so I had to have another Guinness. I checked the menu and the standard pub grill fare looks excellent value for money. As afternoon moved towards evening more people came in, most ordering food. I was somewhat irritated to see that the umpteen TV screens, showing a constantly rotating display of adverts for the pub, included one for their "new" real ale.

Just a short walk to the start of Townsend Lane, and the Stadium.  I had noted this on passing by a few weeks ago as a new pub, but further research (Actually, a big sign on the front.) revealed it to have been the Cockwell Inn. A large plain open room with a wooden floor. The seats, tables etc are all spotless and well cared for, obviously some effort goes into keeping the place in good nick. On a Wednesday at 5 pm there were only a handful of customers to keep it ticking over but I bet it's busy when there's footie on the telly, and the dance floor and large speakers suggest noisy nights at the weekend. Another Guinness for me, while I hid in a quiet corner and wrote this.

Over the road to the Willow Bank, where I found a smallish front room ticking over with a steady trade. I settled in a corner with yet another Guinness - By the way, watch out for the sloping floor!
A mum came in with a youngster and a baby in what passes for a pram nowadays. I was relieved to see the blue alcopop with straw was for her and not the kids! My notes from 1998 refer to an impressive back room so I had a wander round to find it's still there, complete with arched beams and a stage, although much smaller than the image in my mind which had grown somewhat over nineteen years.

Time to go home, but I noticed on my map there was one more pub in the area, and I didn't want to come here again just for one.  Furthermore, it was a pub I'd never visited.  The clincher was the prospect of walking back to Tuebrook in the rain, so I headed for what used to be the Winchester, now the Townsend Lane.  My fifth Guinness only cost £2.30, and it came with a raffle ticket but I've no idea what for.  It was number 219 if anyone's looking for the winner.
Another plain friendly clean and tidy street-corner boozer, maybe they're not as rare as I thought, with a handful of regulars in the bar side. A regular trickle of locals came in, and this time the "salesman" was offering shampoo, again I have to say perhaps they're not as rare as I thought.

Finally, I walked back to the bus home; happily the rain had stopped so my extra pub was definitely worthwhile.