Sunday 31 December 2017

End Of Year Stats

At the end of 2017 the scores were as follows:

Pubs in database : 1,840
Pubs known to be closed : 487
Pubs visited : 1,212
Pubs visited in 2017 : 132

132 is no-where near enough, but it is the highest annual total since 2004 when I did 320.  The following year I pretty much gave up regular research trips, and in any case I was out of the country for six months.  As you can see from this blog, I restarted weekly research in September 2017.  If I can keep going, I hope to do over two hundred visits in 2018.

Saturday 23 December 2017

Cambridge - Is There Anybody Home?

A survey well away from Merseyside, and I was expecting everywhere to be packed on the Saturday before crimbo but I was in for a surprise...

I started at the Live and Let Live. Is it open? This plain street corner building looked shut as I approached, but then as I recall it always does! Anyway, I tried the door and it was unlocked so I entered the pleasant antique interior to find I was alone. After a couple of minutes the barman appeared, and (after washing his hands) served me a beautiful pint of Oakham Citra, a long standing favourite of mine. Obviously first of the day, but he must have pulled it through before I arrived because it was spot on. With six or seven ales on this must use up a lot of beer!
As I enjoyed my ale, a regular came in and had a pint of Butcombe after his first choice, "free beer", was refused!

The decor, wooden floor, benches, tables and chairs and an old-looking wooden bar front, is all fake I think.

A few more people came in as I finished my ale.

Next, the Geldart.
Another classic street corner boozer, and once again completely empty when I arrived. Six or so real ales were on offer, this time I chose Adnam's Ghost Ship which was excellent, although the first taste was a little thin after the Citra (Which they also had here.)  The barman and chef had no-one else to serve until a regular eventually turned up.

I was intrigued to see the specials menu included zebra as well as horse, kangaroo, crocodile and buffalo! One or two meats I've never eaten!

Now, on to Calverley's Brewery where the limited opening hours luckily include Saturday daytime. Just a couple of plain rooms, whitewashed walls and wooden furniture. I started with a taste of their Cherry Sour which was so wonderful that I immediately ordered a schooner thereof, that is 2/3 pint*, without tasting any others. This place was also quiet, but a lot busier than the previous two.

They had one cask ale on gravity serve, perhaps I should have tried that, but the Cherry Sour was gorgeous!

*Actually, in Australia where I drank a lot of them, a schooner is 3/4 of a pint, so I'm wrong to call 2/3 a schooner.  Is there a correct term for the increasingly popular 2/3 measure?  Perhaps a "craft pint"??

Finally, the Kingston Arms, a pleasant comfortable boozer serving umpteen real ales. After the strong flavour of the cherry sour I chose something a bit plainer, a pint of Woodfordes Wherry which was excellent. Quite a few people were in, with mulled wine and mulled cider being sold along with the real ales.
The real fire and plenty of chatty customers made this the "warmest" pub of the day, although in actual degrees it was probably the coldest. Perhaps the first two were busier like this by now? (14:00) Or maybe not.

Tuesday 12 December 2017


And I thought it was cold in Garston!  Bright sunshine and a heavy frost saw me on my way to Bootle.  My first call was at Jollys, a 1950s construction I would guess:
Inside is a traditional two bar boozer, well looked after.  I'm not sure if the other side was in use as I joined three customers in the bar side, for a pint of the black stuff.
I suppose the Christmas music is now inevitable but, bah humbug, it's still two weeks away!  Later, one of regulars had a word with the barmaid and a quick fiddle with the computer saw Rudolf the Red Nosed Reindeer replaced by Nik Kershaw.

Having written well looked after, I took a good look at my surroundings and it's really spot on, the bench seats recently recovered, the vinyl flooring with a dark marble pattern was free of marks and scratches, and so on.

Next, a Wetherspoon's I haven't visited since 2004:
Behind the brutalist architecture, the Wild Rose (I was going to call it the Briar Rose but that's in Birmingham, I think.) seems smaller than the average spoons.  It was pretty busy on a Tuesday lunchtime, and there appeared to be a queueing system for food orders which I only noticed after I'd stood at the other end of the bar.  Luckily the queue didn't apply to drinkers so I was soon enjoying a gorgeous porter from Ringwood.  Watching as I drank, I realised there was no queue after all, it must have been a gang of diners all at one end of the bar.  Good!

There were plenty of real ales on, but they didn't seem to be selling much so it must be difficult to maintain quality.  Mine was great, anyway.

Twenty years ago this pub was the scene of a disagreement when the barmaid illegally refused to top-up some very short pints and was backed up by the manageress when we complained.  We didn't argue further, so avoiding an altercation, we just dobbed them in to Trading Standards and Wetherspoon's headquarters.  Today's measure was acceptable (By modern standards, he says grudgingly.)

Just off the main street I aimed for the Beaconsfield which now seems to be called Beaky:
Inside this large social club sort of place I headed for the small lounge bar, once again clean and tidy, where I joined two other customers and the barmaid who, after I was served, went back to chatting and warming herself on the radiator.  With only four of us in the place, I was inevitably drawn into a cheerful conversation about Christmas dinner and presents.   Eventually, I escaped.  "Are you going back to work?"; "No, just to another pub!".  Inevitably, I only came up with a better reply half an hour later:  I should have said "This is work." and showed them the book.

On in the arctic conditions to the Cat and Fiddle:
Unusually located in the bottom of a tower block, this rather good pub is totally unexpected if you haven't been here before.  All four handpumps were in use, but my pint of Liverpool Organic 24 Carat Gold was hazy and well past its best.  Very disappointing, I probably should have rejected it.

Perhaps it's time I sorted out how to submit beer scores on, this was definitely a 1.0, or even 0.5, I think.  Of course, that is to miss the point of whatpub, I would also need to put in 4.0 for the porter in the Rose, and 0.0 for the other two.

Quite a few people in the place, both groups and loners, were keeping it ticking over, but no-one wanted real ale.

I left to find it seemed a bit warmer outside, maybe, and it was raining.  I headed quickly to Oriel Road for trains home.

Friday 8 December 2017

The Bullring Bar

Blood donors again, then up London Road to the Bullring Bar:
One large open barn of a room, with comfortable booths lining the walls, pleasantly decorated and ticking over nicely on a very cold Friday afternoon.  Background music mixed with cheerful chatter and the click of pool balls on the two tables, as I settled down with my Guinness* which costed only £2.50.

Intriguingly, the rear part of the room has a high ceiling with large skylights, and a glazed floor - I couldn't see what was below as it was frosted glass.  I wonder what this was before it was a bar.  Hopefully street view will tell me when I get home...  And the answer is, it used to be the Blind Tiger Bar, so not a new place after all.
* I wonder if I can get them to sponsor this blog, as theirs is the beer which gets the most mentions!

Tuesday 5 December 2017

Free Beer in Grey Garston

A chilly grey day saw me on the bus to Garston, and I soon reached my first destination, the Dealers Arms:

This place has been thoroughly done up since my last visit, I think, creating a very pleasant two sided pub, although hiding the dark wood panelling. There were no other customers at two on a Tuesday. I ordered a pint of Guinness and after a short delay the barmaid returned with a half-full glass, "I'm sorry, we've run out and the delivery hasn't come, you can have this for free." So I did! The pub was rather chilly inside, otherwise very comfortable and, as is usually the case nowadays, spotlessly clean and well cared for.

I have always had a suspicion that a pub which has "run out because the delivery hasn't come" is actually on its last legs and the non-delivery is because they haven't paid the bill. But I have no evidence to support this theory, and in fact a Manchester pub I used to drink in regularly which was always running out of Guinness is still going strong years later.

A short step down the road to the Mariners, a one roomed local with traditional decor. Unlike the last place, it was doing a good trade with lots of regulars chatting. Clean and well cared for again, the atmosphere was warmer both literally and figuratively, as I relaxed and consumed a paid-for pint of Guinness. It's unusual to see a pub which has none of the three bog-standard keg bitters, Tetley, John Smiths, and Worthington. Instead, they have Banks's Amber.

Next, across the road to the George.
Another cheerful local boozer, two sided, and in the middle of redecoration - I was a bit worried about touching the paintwork in case it was still wet - It wasn't. Again, a quiet background of chit-chat created a friendly atmosphere, although it wasn't as busy as the Mariners. Various regulars came in and out, not all for a drink.

It's hard to assess the quality of the interior in mid redecoration, but assuming they replace the paint-spotted upholstery when the work on the walls is complete, it will be very pleasant. My enjoyment of another Guinness was perhaps slightly reduced by the paint smell but I can't really complain about that.

That completed the main street in Garston, so I headed off into the side roads for my next targets.
The Derby is another street corner local, also ticking over nicely on a Tuesday afternoon. Once again, spotless and well cared for with the quiet background chit-chat making a friendly comfortable atmosphere, although the music was perhaps a touch loud. The friendly and efficient barmaid was busy sorting out one of the regulars' phones with a new SIM card, in between serving everyone.

Next call was the Palatine, which has a rather odd interior, and with just two other customers the atmosphere was a little on the dead side. Nonetheless the place was, as with all today's ticks, spotless and well cared for. There were lots of adverts for food at cheap prices, I wonder how that works on a quiet Tuesday: Does the barmaid fire up the grill/microwave when necessary, surely they can't afford a cook on standby?

More customers came in while I drank another Guinness. I think we were all following The Chase on the telly.

Of course, the down side of researching a pub guide is that sometimes you have to miss out good pubs in order to tick off others, so the two pubs I didn't do in Garston were the Good Beer Guide listed Masonic, and the rather fine Swan, both of which were offering real ale last time I visited them.