My preview copy of the Good Beer Guide arrived today, and I can report that twenty pubs have been dropped and twenty-one added in Merseyside since last year's edition.
Tuesday 13 October 2020
Time for one last crawl before I get locked down again. How about a few favourites in town?
Before anyone gets upset or offended, this is not a list of my top five pubs in Liverpool, it's just a few of my favourites.
I started at the Bridewell:
An efficient friendly barman soon had my order and allocated me a seat in one of the cells. Moments later the landlord bought me my pint of Kirkstall Pale, I think it was. He stopped for a brief chat about the current daft situation.
Plenty of chatter which was louder than the background music, mostly conversations about lockdown, of course.
Next, towards the waterfront and the Baltic Fleet. Curses! It's not open.
On to the wonderful Lion:
This architectural gem never fails to please, and although they had less ales on than usual, my pint of JHB, quickly brought to my table, was delicious.
Only one other customer in the bar side and, I think, just one in the lounges, I had thought there might be a bit of a pre-lockdown rush, but apparently not yet. I bet this evening is busier than usual.
The regular in the lounge departed, "Have a good Christmas" said the landlord. Cynical? Sadly, he might be right.
I enjoyed most of my ale in total silence, until the music suddenly started up, at very low volume.
Two more customers came in to double the trade.
Next door is the Railway:
Not as historic inside as the Lion but still a rather fine traditional interior, although I think all the etched glasswork is modern.
They seemed to be winding down for lockdown, the barman informed me they were out of Guinness and the last of the Doom Bar had just been poured. They still had Black Sheep and Tribute and the latter was spot on.
More people in than next door, with animated conversations mixing with the background music, but still no sign of a final rush.
The "Welcome back we've missed you" sign seems a bit ironic today, let's hope they get to use it again
soon this year.
Where next? How about the Excelsior:
All cask ales £2 until it's gone said the sign and I was soon served with a spot on pint of Shropshire Gold.
Only two other customers in here, and I got the impression one might actually be staff. Certainly no sign of the end of term rush that I had been expecting, I guess Merseysiders are resigned to their fate and don't see any reason to party. I can see their point.
For some years I've always felt this pub deserves to do better than it seems to achieve. It was a regular haunt of my Wednesday night friends for some time, but we eventually moved elsewhere, probably more due to the desire for a change than a problem with the Excelsior. In fact, given a few more weeks of opening I think we would have come back here, but that's obviously not going to happen in the immediate future.
Time for a "final" pint, perhaps just up the road in the Ship and Mitre:
I worried: What if my "last" pint is 'orrible? Or I can't get in? Back in March I really regretted that my last two drinks were Guinness in keg pubs, I don't want to make that mistake this time.
No need for concern! At just after three it was the quietest I've ever seen in here, with just a scattering of customers about the place. The beer I chose had run out but my second choice, Marstons Saddle Tank, was in fine nick. It's not looking good for this evening, with only two real ales left, and a number of keg taps out of action too.
As always, no music just chatter in here, and it's a bit more echoey than we're used to with so few people in.
There was some pulling through going on behind the bar, were they adding another cask ale or just cleaning the pipes ready for lockdown? The latter, I think, confirmed when some more lines were also flushed through.
A great pint in a favourite pub to end this drinking season, one can only wonder how long it will be before I get to drink in a pub again...
How about that! Five excellent pints in five excellent pubs, what more could anyone ask, but there was one more bit of excitement before I got home: They're filming something at St George's Hall, and I walked past a number of Gotham City police cars and buses.
There was quite a crowd of onlookers so I'm guessing there were some stars involved, I look forward to watching the film when it's on free TV in a few years time. The whinger in me wants to know why my pubs have to close but overpaid celebrities can still bring umpteen staff in to make a movie. A quick search of the internet revealed that they're filming "The Batman", particularly amusing since the auto spelling on my tablet insists on changing barman to batman every time I type it!
To end on a positive note, the table service today has again been exemplary, with every pub providing prompt service and a polite enquiry as to whether I'd like another as I approached the end of the pint. This is the one thing I'd like to retain long term from the current mess.
P.S. The new rules don't seem to add any travel restrictions, maybe I should move to somewhere where the pubs are still open?
Miles walked: 2.75
Have a good Christmas!
Saturday 10 October 2020
Judging by the news this could be my last survey for some time, in fact I did consider doing a crawl of my favourites rather than research today, but I resisted.
As last week, poor weather and doubts about opening scared me off the planned trip to Hillside, so once again I aimed for Mathew Street, but first there was a little call I'd been meaning to make for some time: A couple of years ago when I visited Kensington I got a comment on the blog pointing out that I'd missed a pub. Until then I hadn't been aware of the existence of the Liver Vaults. So, today I took a bus to Kensington and headed off down a side street with, to be honest, little expectation of success. Sure enough, it was closed although I couldn't tell whether permanently or just because I was too early:
On to Mathew Street, and I started in Legends:
A rather well done sports-oriented place, this, with genuine looking bare brick walls covered in TVs and sports pictures.
Maybe a dozen customers in at one thirty and the barman quickly brought me a pint of Carling.
The tellies I could see were showing horses, but the one behind my head was on a different channel. The other customers, mostly men of around my age, chatted and swigged their lagers.
Just across the road is a place, never ticked, that has had a number of names, the latest being Strawberry Fields:
Not sure this is really a pub, it's more of a cafe, part of a Youth Hostel. When was the last time I was in one of those, I wonder? Probably more than forty years ago.
Pleasantly decorated in modern "industrial" style with a fine quarry tiled floor, is it fake?
There's was a slight delay while the keg was changed but my tasty pint of Goose IPA was soon brought to my table by an efficient waitress. And it was only £3.37.
I glanced at the TV which was showing Sky News. Pubs in Liverpool to close from Wednesday, they predicted. Disappointing but not surprising.
Gentle background music and two or three staff busy wiping surfaces and chatting were the sound in here. The other two customers were dining, their burgers making me feel a pang of hunger.
I was rather amused by the menu on my table, apparently they do an "all day breakfast" from 8am to 11am.
I had this recorded as closed, the former Beaconsfield, but it's back in action and very nicely refurbished inside, I must say.
Once again, prompt efficient service, and I was soon enjoying a pint of Blue Moon, which cost five quid.
The half basement is very well done out with some nice ceramics on the counter front and some rather good decoration including a great mural of the Beatles crossing a zebra crossing in the style of the famous Abbey Road album cover, but it is located on the street outside here and they're heading towards this bar. Lots of TVs were showing footie.
The two staff were kept occupied with orders for cocktails, and once again they clearly demonstrated that table service can work well, unfamiliar though it is to British pub customers. A friend of mine commented a couple of weeks ago, when our drinks were delivered to our table, "I could get used to this". Perhaps table service in pubs will be, long term, a positive outcome of the current crisis.
I checked my previous notes for this place. I think I saw live music here many years ago. It hardly seems big enough.
Over the road is the entrance to a bar I've never visited (or even heard of), the Wall Of Fame:
Annoyingly they didn't seem to display an NHS code so I had to use their own track and trace to sign in, no idea if it worked.
Noisy music and louder chatter filled this remarkably popular bar which has bare brickwork and coarse wood decor. Very nicely done but I couldn't work out what the theme was. I guess it's music. The array of album covers, the motorbike covered in fairy lights, all made for a great appearance. Physically it's located immediately above the Cavern Pub I was in last week and it runs through the building to a second entrance on Victoria Street.
They'd run out of Carling so I had something from Camden Town which tasted like it was the first one they'd poured for days. And it cost £4.80.
Not my sort of place but being this busy at three on a wet Saturday afternoon they must be doing something right. I say busy but there were plenty of empty tables so they could easily accommodate lots more people, but nonetheless the two bar staff were fully occupied serving drinks.
Is that rain I can see outside? Perhaps that's why the scantily clad young ladies headed for the door and then returned to rejoin their friends.
I finished my pint and headed out by the other door, on Mathew Street:
It occurred to me that this might be my last survey for some time so I skipped the target ticks such as the Gladstone and headed back towards Lime Street, and a final visit to the Crown, so at least I could finish with a decent pint. Sorry, no picture, it's hard to get a good shot without risking getting run over, especially four pints into a survey!
It was quite busy, although I'm sure it would have been a lot busier on a Saturday afternoon pre-covid. My Landlord was quickly delivered to my allocated table in the back room.
I await with some trepidation Monday's announcement
Miles walked: 1.7
Maybe coming soon: Who knows?
Monday 5 October 2020
Blood donor day again, and a chance to visit a pub which has changed name and gained real ale since the last time I was there, so I headed for the Denbigh Castle:
Only one other customer in here at half one on a Monday. I zapped the NHS code and chose a table where I was quickly provided with an excellent pint of Dissolution IPA from Kirkstall. What a great tasty ale, quite sweet but still hoppy.
They've got five handpumps, three had clips, Banks's Amber and one I couldn't read from my seat being the other options.
I was trying to remember what this place was like last time I visited, in 2012, when it was called Jupiter's, but I couldn't visualise the room then. I suspect it's been totally remodelled since. Anyway, now it has pleasant slightly dark decor with a pale wood floor.
I hope they get enough customers at more popular times to keep the quality ales flowing.
There's no sign to indicate the way to the gents, I eventually worked out it's downstairs where there is also another room with a counter and two handpumps, obviously not in use at this time.
Saturday 3 October 2020
My objective for today was to update my records and score some ticks along the touristy hell that is Mathew Street. Alternative plans for Birkdale were abandoned due to the weather forecast, some doubt about what would be open, and problems with the train service.
Failing to keep to the plan of doing overdue re-visits and brand new ticks, I succumbed to temptation and started in the wonderful White Star:
Only a few customers in, chatting to the efficient landlady in the front room. I was banished to the rear on my own. My pint of the only real ale on, from Otter, arrived at my table almost before I had taken off my mask and coat. And it was spot on.
This pub has long been a favourite of mine: Back when I first lived in Liverpool (Good grief, is it twenty three years?) a Saturday shopping trip usually began with a pint in here.
I don't often come into town on a Saturday nowadays, but I'm fairly sure it would normally be busier than this. The landlady chatted to a regular, she's going to try the new rules for a week and see how it goes, it may not be worth opening.
Next, I wandered the length of the famous street making notes and getting wet, before heading into the Cavern Pub. I'm afraid the heavy rain meant some photographs are missing.
Here I had to fill in a form despite signing in using the NHS app. Isn't that against the rules? I also had my temperature taken, a first for me.
There were a about a dozen customers in the basement room the walls of which are packed with music memorabilia. The loudest sound in here was the two bouncers chatting at the top of the stairs. The background music was good stuff, naturally with a Beatles bias.
The tourists chatted quietly and enjoyed their drinks, as I did mine. The two handpumps were shiny but clipless so I had cooking lager, of Australian branding here. My order was taken quickly and delivered promptly.
Considering this place is mainly a tourist trap I must say it is well done. There's a small stage for live music.
Across the road the Cavern Club wasn't open, but next door to it was Sgt Peppers.
It's always pleasing to get a brand new tick. The barmaid/waitress offered me a QR code that didn't work in the NHS app but then found the right one. She took my temperature and quickly fetched me a pint of Canadian fizz which cost £4.50.
This bar has one largeish room with a big stage at one end and a counter along one side. Like the previous place it is obviously aimed at tourists, but well done. The decor is modern, with (fake?) bare brickwork walls, exposed air conditioning ducts and retro light bulbs. Plenty of Beatle stuff on the walls, including a walrus' head, fake I hope. The yellow Submarine style mosaic behind the bar is particularly good.
Only a handful of customers were in here, I suspect they need to be busier than this to make money.
As I approached the end of my pint someone was setting up equipment on the stage, so I guess there's live music soon.
I could hear the rumbling of the Wirral Line trains below, many people will tell you these were the reason for the destruction of the original Cavern Club, but there's a bit more to it than that.
I wanted to tick the never visited King John next, but it wasn't open yet, so next door and part of the same complex is Rubber Soul, not visited since 1998:
A quick sign in using the NHS app and once again service was prompt and efficient. Did she say £2.50 for a pint of Carling? A bit cheaper than Sgt Peppers then!
This was the busiest place so far, with quite a lot of people scattered around the rather dark atmospheric room. Back in '98 I described this as a disco but that was on a Friday night and a long time ago. I am wondering if the King John was then part of the same place?
Lots of different footie matches on the tellies defined the atmosphere here, the customers almost all older blokes. The quiet background muzac mixed with animated chatter at various tables. Surely they can't all be households?
Contrary to my predictions, the rain was getting heavier, storm Alex apparently.
Next door, in fact part of the "Rubber Soul complex", King John was now open, so I went for the brand new tick:
What a surprise! A totally fake but rather well done "baronial" or maybe "cathedral" style room, with crossed swords, stained glass windows, suits of armour, a fantastic carved wood bar back and even a set of organ pipes, all combining to make a great fun interior. I'm not sure the Tiffany lampshades really fit, but it really is a fine example of pub design.
Once again my temperature was checked before I sat down and ordered another Carling which was promptly brought to my table. Three handpumps on the counter but all with the clips turned. Only £2.30 for my pint, with a friendly warning that the price goes up when the match starts.
Only two other customers just half an hour after opening, hopefully they get more as the afternoon progresses.
The sound in here was football punditry on the multiple tellies, with chatter in the background.
My table was directly underneath a heater, so I had to shuffle along the bench seat a little to avoid the hot air.
Particularly impressive was the barman/waiter coming over to see if I wanted another pint before the price went up, that's proper service.
A few more customers came in just as Everton's match commenced. I could see it was chucking it down at Goodison, so probably outside here as well. After ten minutes of the match it was time to get wet and walk back to Lime Street for a train home.
I must say, all the places I visited today were coping well with the new rules and handling table service efficiently, unlike Wetherspoon's Blacklers where my friends and I waited a thirst inducing thirty-seven minutes for a round on Wednesday evening.
Today was my first survey carrying the NHS App. It's good of them to provide me with a log of the day's ticks, in case I can't quite remember where I went!
Miles walked: Just one.