Tuesday 29 May 2018

Bootle to Seaforth

I headed out in the glorious sunny weather, to Bootle.  My first target was the Alexandra:
A bit of a sixties shed from the outside, inside I found one plain clean and tidy room, with a dozen or so locals enjoying a Tuesday lunchtime drink.

In view of the warm weather I eschewed my usual Guinness and went for a pint of Carling instead.  It must be summer - the glass came out of the fridge!

Gentle background music mingled with the chatter of the regulars, which included a lot of swearing - Mainly from the "little old lady" in the corner!

On to the Salisbury:
A much older building, here, but very little original remains inside, except the wall tiles in the gents.  My notes from 2003 describe it as a three room pub, it has been opened up somewhat since then, creating a big space around the multi-sided counter. 

There were only two or three regulars here, and this time the swearing came from the barmaid, who was passing on some gossip relating to behaviour after the reds' disaster on Saturday.  One of the regulars apologised for her language and told me not to be frightened.  (Any attempt to blend in on my part always fails as soon as I order a drink in my "southern" accent.  They immediately know I'm a stranger.)

The traditionally decorated interior is particularly well done in here.

My 2003 report also referred to the peculiar bar stools, and they're still here, a design I've seen nowhere else.  (I also noted a parrot, this doesn't seem to here any more.)

Next, the Queens:
I correctly selected the bar side where a few regulars were propping up the counter but there was no sign of any staff, after a while one of the locals shouted the barman/landlord.  There was a gruff response, but then the phone rang and he proceeded to answer it.  Eventually, my friend at the counter went round behind and poured my pint of Carling (Being allowed to help yourself is the ultimate accolade for a regular, I've never got anywhere near that level!)  As he finished pouring, the barman arrived, so there was no problem about who to pay.

Some property program on the telly provided the sound here, mingling with the chat of the three regulars.  The partly opened up layout retains two sides and two counters, and is very pleasant.

The TVs were switched to racing from Redcar, where it was so foggy that we, and the commentator, couldn't see the horses.  Nothing like the glorious sunshine here.

As I drank my lager, the barman set to work taking down red and white paper chains, perhaps another leftover from Saturday's match?

When I'd finished I visited the gents, which was very tatty and the tiled walls were black with mould.  Quite a contrast with the rest of the pub.  As I emerged, one of the regulars grinned and said "crackin' in there, in't it!".

I headed down to the eternally busy "Dock Road", here called Rimrose Road, and the Gateway Hotel:
I entered this rather down at heel looking building to find a completely deserted very well done two sided boozer.  The signage outside suggests their main source of income is the rooms upstairs, certainly my custom won't be paying the wages bill today.

I must say the higgledy piggledy slightly chaotic interior rather appealed to me, it probably has a good atmosphere when there's a few customers!  It really is a well done pub.

I drank my fourth Carling and watched some antiques-related show on the big screen.  Eventually, someone came in, doubling the custom.  He was soon joined by two friends (and a dog), and then another couple came in, so suddenly it was "busy"!

Finally, just across the junction is the Caradoc:
Another one with a rather down at heel exterior, in fact when I took the photo I thought it might be closed, but round the other side the door was open, and one of the rooms was clean and tidy and operational.  Just four regulars were sat at the counter, I chose a comfortable bench seat opposite the bar to drink my fifth Carling.

The conversation here ranged over the pruning of apple trees and multiple other topics, liberally sprinkled with swearing again, of course.

Tuesday 22 May 2018


After a somewhat disrupted train journey (Another Delay Repay claim is in.) I eventually reached sunny Southport.

I started my researches in Cambridge Arcade, but not for me the excellent ale in the Tap and Bottles.  No, I had to do the Hungry Monk next door:
Here I found a rather quaintly decorated restaurant with a good selection of keg beers on the bar.  I had a Blue Moon for the first time, not as nice as Hoegaarden in my opinion, and it definitely doesn't need that slice of orange in it - why do they do that?  I've been seeing this beer on tap more and more often in all sorts of places, but I've never seen anyone drink any!

By the way, while I'm writing about beers, I had a pint of Titanic Cappuchino yesterday.  Although I'm generally fond of unusual beer flavours I have avoided coffee ones after I had one I really didn't like years ago.  I don't know why I suddenly decided to break that rule yesterday but I'm glad I did because this one was gorgeous - A beer of the year, I think.

A steady stream of dining customers were keeping the waitress busy and I must say the food smelled good!

Next, on to Lord Street and another crucial "In the GBG but I've never been" place, Peaky Blinders:
(I don't think the painter was deliberately attempting to photo-bomb my picture.)

By the way, there are still four more Good Beer Guide entries for me to visit before I've done them all, which probably puts me behind many of the more well known pub tickers, such as Retired Martin and BRAPA.

This is a very pleasant modern place where the large shop windows make the inside very sunny.  I bet it's not so good on a stormy January day!  Not very busy on Tuesday afternoon, and most of the dozen or so customers were sitting outside in the sun.  Inside, just three of us.

I didn't see any other cask served from the five handpumps while I was there, but my pint of Landlord was good.

They've got another branch down in the "brewery village" or whatever the area round Cains brewery is called, I'm told there are umpteen bars there that I need to check out.

Directly across Lord Street is Punch Tarmey's, and the Cask Ales sign drew me to another never visited tick:
A rather good Irish pub here, with a boxing theme to much of the decor in the totally fake but well done interior.  I guessed Punch Tarmey was an Irish boxer, but a quick Google suggested it's a totally made up name for a chain of Irish pubs.

Six handpumps on the bar, with four having clips, and I selected Salopian's Gold, which was spot on.

The menu on the table suggests food is an important part of the business, but a hand-written sign at the door said "No food today".

I noticed the barman was wearing a shirt which was branded for the Bold Hotel across the road, so I guess they own this place.

Only about three other customers were here so the soundscape was piped music and the traffic outside.

I was intrigued by the "dimple" pint mugs used as candle holders on each table, the lower half is white with melted wax, and the upper half smokey black.  Better than using them for beer, anyway!

Next, across Lord Street again, to the Corridor Bar:
This place lives up to its name, and is a very long narrow room, with a counter along the back half.  Once again the vast majority of the customers were sitting on the tables outside, in fact I was alone in choosing a bench seat indoors.

Four handpumps offered a range of ales I'd never heard of, the one I chose was in perfect condition.  I looked at the menu on my table and I must say it looked rather good value, although no-one was eating while I was there.  After I'd typed that, someone made a complicated food order which was efficiently handled by the staff.

The best piped music of the day, I think, including Bowie and Thin Lizzie.

Saturday 19 May 2018

New Ones in Liverpool

I have been neglecting the many new bars in Liverpool itself, so I thought I'd do a few on a Saturday afternoon.  I started at the decidedly unexciting exterior of the Black Lodge Tap Room:
Inside, I found a bare room converted from an industrial unit I guess.  There's a small brewing kit at the back and side of the room - Is that all they need?

I selected a 2/3 of a very tasty Blueberry Stout, from the choice of about ten taps.

There were a couple of customers on the tables in the street, and two more sat at the bar chatting to the barman.  Other than those the place was empty, perhaps unsurprisingly just after opening on a Saturday afternoon.  I imagine it's a lot busier later - I hope so, anyway.  Not really my sort of pub, I must say, but they brew and serve quality beer if my sample was anything to go by.

On to the Refinery:
Once again, not my sort of place, but worth visiting for the guide.

Occupying the ground floor of a large plain new block, this is a pleasantly decorated up market place aiming at selling food and expensive cocktails.

On entering, I spotted three handpumps but with no clips so I selected Meantime London Pale from the small selection of keg taps - The Guinness was out of service.

Having sat down I spotted there were three more handpumps at the other end of the bar - obviously I give up too easily.  Later, two women ordered real ale and judging by the palaver, involving two bar staff and a visit to the "cellar", I was probably better off with my tasty keg.

The large open room was fairly empty, with most of the background chatter coming from one large party.  (The tables outside in the sunshine were much busier.)  There was a steady stream of cocktails and bottles of fizz leaving the bar.

Now, on to the prime objective of today's trip, one of those annoying "In the beer guide but I've never been" places, Hard Times and Misery:
Another un-imposing exterior, and inside is a tiny room with just eight seats and a little counter at the back.  Real ales are served by gravity from the cask, I selected a stout from Salopian.  The friendly barman offered me about 2/3 of a pint in a dimple mug, saying sorry it's run out, you can have this for the price of a half - bargain!

After I'd paid he started to remove the cask and realised it wasn't empty.  Replacing the filter in the tap didn't help, it turned out the remaining beer was full of sludge.  I was able to report that my "half" was spot on, anyway, the filter had done its job.  After two keg beers it was nice to have something less gassy.

When I were a lad, the smell of jos-sticks meant only one thing, but perhaps I'm just showing my age.  Unusual, anyway, to have one burning in a pub.

A group of six people arrived, filling the room completely.  Once served they moved to the equally small upstairs room.

The barman/cellarman moved on to tapping a new cask and was annoyed to find it was cloudy.  He joked that he could write "unfined" on the sign and no-one would know.  I must emphasise it was just a joke, and he left the cask unserved, pending further investigation.

They are planning to open a branch on Moor Lane in Crosby soon, I look forward to checking it out.

Tuesday 15 May 2018


The weather was bright sunshine as I made my way to Wallasey for a walk into the middle of nowhere by the sea, where I found the Derby Pool, a pub I only discovered yesterday thanks to whatpub.com:
The terrace outside was popular in the sunshine, inside I found very well done contemporary decoration in this former swimming pool.

The real ale choice was limited to Doom Bar, but it was in fine condition and served in a Doom Bar glass, much better in my opinion than a choice of four tired ales.

I sat in a quiet corner and watched a steady stream of customers coming in.  They seemed to be about 50/50 diners and drinkers, with most of the drinkers heading outside to enjoy the sunshine.

The Derby Pool was a popular attraction for locals and tourists, a large open air swimming pool with art deco buildings built in the early 20th century.  It was named after a nearby racecourse built in the 17th century by the Earl of Derby.  The racecourse is long gone, and the pool closed in the early 1980s after suffering repeated storm damage.  Luckily the buildings were saved, and now form this pub.

The quiet muzak moved on to "Seasons In The Sun" so it was time to go!

I strolled back to suburban Wallasey, and the Nelson:
This splendid example of brewers' Tudor looks a little out of place in a suburban street.  The inside is well done, it has been knocked through creating one open L-shaped room, pleasantly decorated.  Some bits of original wood panelling and ceiling plasterwork have survived.

Operating under Greene King's "flaming grill" brand, they are aiming at diners, and most of the handful of customers at two on a Tuesday seemed to be here for the food.  A couple of GK brews were on handpump, plus Doom Bar.  My pint of IPA was perhaps a trifle warm but otherwise spot on.  Remarkably, it cost only £2.19.  (And the food looks very good value as well.)

Gentle chit-chat and muzak formed the soundtrack here.

On to the Farmers Arms:
In a beautiful interior with lots of original features, I sat in a lounge served from the side of the servery across a drinking corridor, where I was surrounded by original wood and leaded glass work.

My pint of Anchor from Titanic, assiduously topped up by the friendly barmaid/landlady, was not bad, but perhaps a little past its best.  (Writing this blog I often worry about the terms for the people behind the bar.  It's a bit insulting to refer to a landlord or landlady as barman/barmaid and it's often hard to tell the difference during a brief visit.)

The background music mixed with the chit-chat of the regulars.  Eventually, two of them joined me in the side lounge.

Finally, the Lighthouse:
Good grief, Greene King seem to be taking over the world, that's three out of four today!  This one has the "Time well spent" branding.

Inside the large classic sixties or seventies pub building I found a thoroughly knocked through and modernised interior.

At the bar, I was surprised to find not the "standard" GK selection but, along with their IPA, a number of guest ales, and I selected something from Speke's Big Bog Brewery.

Although clearly aiming for diners, most of the handful of customers inside at three were drinking, I think.

I noticed an old fella who was fast asleep with a half-finished pint of cider on his table.  Actually, having said "old" he probably wasn't much older than I am, perhaps that'll be me in a couple of years time?  Or a couple of hours time?

Monday 14 May 2018

Sanctuary Tap

Today I followed a Blood Donor session with a visit to the new-ish Sanctuary Tap on Castle Street:
Inside I found a small corridor bar with the now near-ubiquitous 'industrial' decor of bare bricks and air ducts, and retro lightbulbs.

There were three handpumps on the bar, and I selected Windermere Pale, a long standing favourite of mine.  For a fairly weak beer - 3.5% - this has bags of flavour and it was in good nick here.

Apart from one or two people on the benches outside I was the only customer at about two on a Monday afternoon, presumably they do better at more popular times.

I wonder if this place is connected to the similarly named Sanctuary Bar on Lime Street?  A quick scan of the internet suggests it is not.

Tuesday 8 May 2018


Contrary to the poor weather forecast I left home in bright sunshine.  It was raining gently by the time I reached Kirkdale.  My first target, the Knowsley, was shut, I think permanently:
Something seemed unfamiliar as I approached the Saddle Inn:
It took a while for me to realise that last time I was here it stood alone in the middle of a large area of waste ground.  Now, houses have been built around it.  Luckily, in the middle this gem survives.  Inside some original features remain, including corridor ceramics, and leaded glass in the wooden partition which separates the corridor from the bar room.  The lounge is served via a hatch in the partition.

The keg bitter was not one of the common three - Tetley, John Smiths or Worthington.  Instead they've got Trophy - I didn't know it still existed!

Not surprisingly, I was the only customer at two on a damp Tuesday afternoon.  Two different racing channels on the TVs and Smooth on the wireless, both at low level, were the only sounds as I sat in the peaceful well maintained bar.

Next, the New Halfway House:
I've not been in here since 2003 when it was a member of the Dickie Lewis chain.  Not much has changed since then, it remains a pleasant friendly well looked after two sided boozer. 

Unlike the Saddle, there were a number of customers in here, so quiet  chit-chat was the dominant sound, with muzak in the background.

By the way, for non Liverpudlian readers, Dickie Lewis is the nickname for a "well endowed" statue located over the entrance of Lewis's department store in Liverpool.  (He's also the "statue exceedingly bare" in the song In My Liverpool Home.)  A bar across the road took this as its name, and later a chain of down market pubs all over Merseyside became Dickie Lewis's.  I think the chain has gone now, and all the pubs have lost the name.

The Fountains Abbey was shut, although it looks like it might be an operational pub still:
I walked on, getting wetter in the rain, to the St Hilda:
My notes from 2004 included the word grubby.  Definitely not the case nowadays, like almost every pub it's well cared for and spotless.

A handful of regulars were making plenty of noise, banter and chit-chat drowning the background music.  Good grief, is that the Bay City Rollers?  I think it is!

There's a tiny stage in the corner of the front room, just enough space for karaoke or a singer, but not a band.

Bradley's (formerly the Pacific) looks to be closed:
I carried on to the Clock:
In this friendly two-room pub the music was turned up a little, mostly drowning the chatter of the three regulars, who were stationed at opposite ends of the bar and consequently had to shout at each other.

Two more locals came in while I drank, keeping the pub ticking over.

A sign advertised cask ales, and there were two handpumps on the bar, but they were clearly out of use.  Perhaps on match days?

I've got a guilty secret fondness for over the top country music, and Coward of the County followed by You Picked A Fine Time To Leave Me Lucille was the best music of the day!

It's a long time since I've seen a Guinness and black served in a pub.

Apropos of nothing, I was thinking I never get any stares when I'm writing on my tablet in these pubs.  This seems a bit odd, as I occasionally got a reaction when writing in a notebook years ago, including being accused of taking notes for "the social", in a pub just up the road from here.  My theory is that most people have a child or grandchild or nephew/niece or whatever who spends lots of time playing with a tablet, so it's just "normal" and they don't see it as a threat, unlike a notebook.

Thursday 3 May 2018

Return To Waterloo

A Thursday survey again this week, and Merseyrail soon whizzed me to Waterloo.

My first destination was the Royal Hotel:
I've walked straight past on a number of previous occasions because this is a residential hotel, but having learned that it did real ale I paid a visit.  Just one handpump on the counter, which provided an excellent pint of Dazzle from Crosby's Rock The Boat.

There was almost no-one in the comfortable lounge at 3pm, with just a little conversation under the muzak.  I sat in a leather armchair and enjoyed my pint.

On to another tick that's not a pub - Bar Bodega:
A rather fine "Spanish Cantina" this, aiming at selling tapas and the like, but the comfortable small room is welcoming to drinkers as well.  No "standard" beers (Except for a Guinness Surger), but a few taps offered San Miguel and a couple of other presumably Spanish beers I'd never heard of, plus Love Lane from Liverpool Craft, which I must say is rather fine, if a little gassy for a real ale drinker.  Extra points were earned for serving it in a Love Lane glass.

The four other customers nibbled food while I relaxed on a comfortable leather sofa and enjoyed my ale.

Next, a proper pub at last, the Raven:
A bit more down market, but still pleasant, friendly and welcoming.  A gang of regulars, mostly seated at the counter, created a background of chatter at a similar level to the music.

The tellys were showing snooker but I don't suppose anyone was taking any notice.  (Do we really need to see the player picking his nose, I wonder?)  Actually, I quite enjoyed watching the snooker, improved by the lack of commentary, while I drank my Guinness.

On to the Four Ashes:
Here I found a standard micro-pub shop conversion serving perfect real ales.  I was the only customer a couple of minutes after opening time (5pm), so I got chatting to the landlord.  Our discussion ranged over breweries, Merseyside pubs and other topics.  Sadly no other customers came in while I enjoyed my superb porter from a brewery I've now forgotten (The problem with spending the whole visit chatting to the landlord is you don't get to write any notes!)  I hope they get more custom later, we need places like this to be successful, no telly, no music, no karaoke, perfect ale, that's what we want!

Finally, the Trap & Hatch:
A sign outside advertises their dog-friendliness, always a minus point in my book.  Three handpumps on the counter in this small shop conversion, I chose something I've never heard of from a brewery I've never heard of, Wild Weather Ales, which the barman - after consulting t'internet on his phone - advised me is in Reading.  I don't often come across unfined beers so the cloudy look was perhaps a little off-putting, but it tasted wonderful.

Unlike the Ashes there were a number of customers (and well behaved dogs) in this one, I'm not sure what they're doing different, perhaps it's just the location on the main shopping street as opposed to "round the corner".  All the customers, except me of course, seemed to know the staff.
Now I'm asking questions, I never thought I'd ask them before
Like "why" or "how" or "what am I doing it for?"
[Ray Davies - Return To Waterloo]

Wednesday 2 May 2018

A Full Pint in the Ship And Mitre

Some pubs never get mentioned in this blog because I go there with friends for a drink rather than for research.  You can spot these on the main web site, they just say "Visited" rather than giving a date.

Anyway, the wonderful Ship And Mitre has long been a favourite, and recently it's gone up another notch in our estimation because they are using lined glasses.

One worrying note - they are currently using glassware from their last beer festival, I hope they don't revert to brim measure when these eventually run out.

In any case, the beer in here is great, so getting a full pint is icing on an already excellent cake.

I think this is the only pub in Merseyside still using lined glasses, so they deserve our support.  If you go in, make sure you tell the staff how much you appreciate getting a proper measure; and make sure you don't request a top-up!