Thursday, 22 July 2021

Sunny Seaforth

Not really the right weather for a pub survey, but here goes...

Back in 2003 was the last time I visited the Seaforth Arms Hotel, the next time I was in the area it was closed.  It was in my list of "beautiful building, pity its gone" pubs so you can imagine my surprise when I received an email a few weeks ago (Thanks Euin) telling me it has reopened.  Definitely time for a visit:

Would it have been ruined by over-refurbishment?  Happily, no.  Perhaps Grade II listing has helped its survival.

Inside the impressive building a rather fine historic interior remains, including some excellent ceramics.  Only one small room in use, four regulars plus me.  The classic layout of a bar in the corner plus a corridor with lounge rooms behind served from the back of the servery is apparent, but most of the lounge areas on the other side of the corridor have been boarded off, and one of the hatches in the bar back has been boarded up.

Commercial radio and animated banter were the soundtrack.

I felt a bit exposed, perched on a stool at the side of the tiny bar room, and entered my notes on the tablet quickly and then put it away.  As usual, no-one took any notice of me and I needn't have worried.

Work up ladders was going on outside, perhaps a new pub sign is coming?  The current one looks blank.

On to the self-styled "world famous" Caradoc:

This place seemed exactly the same as it was in 2018 and I sat in a large well cared for room with pleasant plain decor, with a counter on a raised area along one side of the room.

Only three regulars plus me formed the custom I could see, but I could hear the clack of pool balls from the other room, which doesn't have a counter.

The only other sounds were quiet racing commentary from a TV at the far end of the room, and the locals' conversations.  One of them was called Phil, causing me to look up a few times when his name was called.

It was very hot in here and I looked forward to some cooler air on departure, but on stepping out of the door into the sunshine I found it felt hotter outside.  Phew!

Next, a geographical quandary; just 100 yards from the Caradoc is the Gateway Hotel, but I have it in Bootle.  One has to draw the line somewhere, but I'm not sure I've got this border right, so I have now amended the database to place this one in Seaforth:

Location notwithstanding, another one that's made it through lockdown apparently unscathed, and the great fun slightly quirky interior remains, well looked after.

The other side looked out of use, perhaps it is now a function room.

About five other customers, three generations of the same family I think, kept gentle chatter going in the background while I enjoyed another pint of Carling.

It seemed cooler in here than the last place, open doors at both ends of the room allowing a gentle breeze to freshen the air.  And also allowing the intermittent roar of Dock Road traffic in.

At this point I'm afraid I decided that the heat of the day (Speke airport were reporting 30C) was just too much, so I abandoned the plan for a long walk towards Bootle, and retraced my steps to Seaforth for a train home.

Pub of the day: Seaforth Arms Hotel, for its unexpected and very welcome return.
Miles walked: 1.1
Maybe coming soon: Southport or Liverpool city centre.

Friday, 16 July 2021

Birkdale Bonus

Now this is where the job of pub guide author becomes hard work:  I got off the train at Hillside and walked past The Pines and The Grasshopper, two Good Beer Guide micros which, when I was here in 2017, served excellent ale.  But I was targeting places visited longer ago, so I marched on and soon reached the Crown, last visited in 2012:

A standard Ember Inns, pleasant enough and surprisingly quiet on a Friday afternoon.  I had to wait briefly to be seated by an efficient waiter/barman who soon brought me my ale, with a CAMRA discount.

Doom Bar and Black Sheep were on the handpumps, I hesitated - Two in the afternoon on a very hot day? - but decided to risk it, and the Doom Bar was fine.

What is there to say about an Ember Inn?  They're all the same.

Immediately across the road is a new(ish) one (The signs say est. 2015) called Taylors, but as I'd arrived it looked shut.  I investigated on the internet:   Google had them open now, but Facebook said 15:00.  As I had never ticked it before I decided to dawdle over my pint until then, chatting to the waiter.  Would it be open?

Yes,  A brand new tick!  An excellent shop conversion, larger than most "micros" and unusually perhaps more like a traditional pub in layout and atmosphere.  Two handpumps, only one with a clip, and my pint of Pride Of Pendle was excellent.

A handful of drinkers in the sunshine outside, and only one other customer with me inside, I hope it gets busier later.  Again I'm surprised at the lack of custom, is everyone waiting for freedom day?

A long walk brought me to the George, not visited since May 2000:

But unfortunately it's closed, probably permanently?  But what's this across the road?  The Woollen Pig Tap and Bake House:

Well I never!  I'd not even heard of this one so that's a real bonus.  Lots of people sitting outside but I headed into the rather warm interior, which is 50/50 cake shop and pub.  And there on the counter is a handpump, from which I had a fine pint of Southport IPA.

I tried not to drool too much as I admired the cakes and donuts in the cabinet in front of where I sat; they certainly looked tempting.  Hot food was also on the menu, from soup of the day to pie and mash.

A steady stream of drinks headed out of the door to the many customers outside, keeping the waitresses busy, I think I was the only one daft enough to sit indoors.

I noticed they open at eight in the morning, I wonder if one can get a pint then?

Next target was another new tick, the Beer Den:

I was slightly concerned here that it might be full, but in fact there were a few free tables inside and I was soon signed in and served a pint of Parker's Centurion.

More like a standard micro, this one, a small interior, pleasantly decorated, plus tables outside on the pavement.  Once again it was a bit warm (The room, not the ale) and I would have headed outside but all the tables were occupied.

Chatter, music on the radio, and the clink of the dishwasher being loaded formed the soundscape in here.

Time to walk to Birkdale for the train home.  I'm not really built to jog to the station after four pints, but I made it with seconds to spare.  Can I cross my legs until we get to Central?  

What an excellent result today:  Three places never before visited, including one never even heard of, taking my total to 1,342.  And four pints of quality real ale.  My decision to eschew the two micros at Hillside was vindicated.  On the other hand, one more pub added to the ever growing closed list.

Pub of the day: Too close to call.
Miles walked: 3
Maybe coming soon: Seaforth

Thursday, 15 July 2021

Common

Here's a pub that I walk past numerous times every week, but have never been in.  I rectified that omission with a visit to Common in Huyton's shopping precinct this afternoon:

(Picture taken last year.)

Inside I found a very well done stylish conversion of a former bank.  Actually, it was my bank, and I think I'd rather have access to a local branch than this bar.  (I ensured this problem would never happen again by moving to a bank which has no branches at all!).

The menu looks rather good and most of the three or four customers were eating, it wasn't very busy at four on a Thursday but I imagine it's a lot more popular later.

No real ale, unsurprisingly, so I had something tasty from Staropramen, promptly served by a friendly barman/waiter.

Tuesday, 29 June 2021

A Rake's Progress

Trains took me to the last station before the Cheshire border, Eastham Rake.  I wonder what Rake means in this context, there's also a Brombrough Rake two stations along the line.

I started at the New Rake Hotel:

I was very pleased to find nothing has changed since 2015 when I was last here.  This one of an increasingly rare breed, a 1950s/60s (Actually, it opened in 1960 I believe.) estate boozer which retains a lot of its original decor.  An art Deco style lantern above me, dark wood panelling on the bar front and some of the walls, bench seats all around the room.  I suspect there might have been some knocking through, but other than that a lot looks original. (But what do I know?) 

Back in the eighties when I lived in Manchester my local looked exactly like this inside, except of course for the clouds of smoke.  It was demolished years ago.

Just like my local back then, there was no real ale so I enjoyed a refreshing pint of Carling.

The staff (Landlord and landlady?) were cheerful and friendly, despite my failure to sign in.  A few regulars were creating gentle background chatter, one said she had come in early so she could get home before the football fans come in.  I'd forgotten there was a match later, I'll have to see if I can complete my researches before the crowds appear.

A bloke accompanied by a young girl came to the bar.  A small Coke with a straw ... And five Jaeger bombs.  "Starting early", commented the landlord.  I assume he was with a group outside, unless all five were for himself!

Next, on to the village centre and the Hooton Arms:

A rather good country pub this, in the beautiful village of Eastham.  The football fans were already arriving, and all of the tables were marked as reserved, mine from 4.30.

Not much original architecture inside, I think, but it's certainly very pleasant, and the bar staff were already being kept busy, I bet they'll be working even harder later on.  Anyway it's good too see a pub doing a brisk trade on a Tuesday afternoon, even if it is only a one-off.

Loud mostly football related chatter drowned out the background music as I enjoyed my excellent pint of Landlord.

The music was from MTV, I thought they were all reality shows nowadays but apparently not.  They played my suggestion for the new English national anthem, Vindaloo by Fat Les!

I doubled back to the Montgomery which unfortunately isn't open on Tuesdays at the moment:

So, back over the borderline between ancient village and 50s estate, and on to the Argyll, hidden behind the trees:

A nicely done sixties estate pub, well looked after and very comfortable inside.  

There were quite a few customers outside, less inside, altogether enough to keep the barman busy.

My pint of Ossett Yorkshire Blonde from the only operational handpump was decidedly past its best, I'm afraid.  Last time I was here, in 2015, they didn't have any cask, and I would have been better sticking to keg again this time.  I resisted the temptation to ask for a takeout so I could pour it on my chips later.

The big screen was set up ready for the footie, I'm guessing it will be busy in here come kickoff time.

Once again I observed how the table service rules can be handled well:  A solitary drinker on the far side of the room waves his nearly empty glass which is enough to get him another pint.  It's a shame that some places are just not coping as well as this, requiring one to mess about downloading apps, and it's always a different app to the one you used in the previous pub.  It seems to be the chain places that are the worst at this, with the honourable exception of Wetherspoon's.

More people came in as kickoff got closer, and the background music was replaced by the inanities of the overpaid crisp salesman.

Now I've got a choice:  Only three pubs done, do I go for a long walk and join the footie fans for another tick or two, or do I just go home.  I'm afraid I took the lazy option...

To punish me for that decision things started to go wrong:  First, my mask broke as I took it off on exiting the pub.  Second, it was a bit further to the station than I thought, and I arrived there at ground level at the same time as my intended train arrived on the bridge - no chance of catching it.

Pub of the day: New Rake for its classic architecture and all-round atmosphere.
Miles walked: 3.0
Maybe coming soon: Southport.

Wednesday, 16 June 2021

Waterloo

Regular readers of this blog (In the unlikely event that there are any.) will be thinking "Why Waterloo, he was only there last year?" and they'd be right, but I had an appointment nothing to do with pubs, so while I'm here it would be rude not to tick some pubs.  In any case, if all goes to plan I should be able to avoid the ones I visited in 2020.

I started at the Liver:

A moment's concern when they weren't open at 12:03, but a minute later the door was open and I wasn't even the first one in.

I was promptly and efficiently signed in and served, and moments later I was enjoying a pint of Yardbird from Greene King.  First out of the pump on a hot day is always a little risky but this was spot on, and at cellar temperature.  And with a 10% CAMRA discount - As always I forgot about this, but the barman offered.

I idly wondered about having some lunch.  Do they do food?  I looked around but couldn't see any menus etc. so perhaps not.  Internet says they do.  I guess the current regulations mean you can't put menus out on the tables.

I say this every time I come here, there's something special about the Liver that I can't put my finger on, but whatever it is I love it.

There were very few customers at twelve on a Wednesday, I hope they are busier later.

On to the other end of the main street, and the Marine:

Last time I was here this had been renamed as Champs, and was a rather good but totally deserted sports bar, if I remember correctly.  Now it has reverted to its former name and the sporty theme has gone, leaving a well done food-oriented place which was doing a decent trade at one o'clock  although there was plenty of room for more customers.  

The two handpumps at the end of the counter were in use, sadly as kitchen roll holders, so I had a nice cold pint of Guinness.

No doubt about food here, I was offered a menu as soon as I sat down.  The selection of pub standards looks good.

They've got building work going on, mainly outside I think, so there was a steady flow of electricians carrying drums of cable and ducting through the pub.  They were extending the cover on the garden and adding an outdoor giant screen, I think.

Next, the Raven:

More of a down market boozer, this one, but none the worse for that.  A few blokes in, some playing pool, and the music was a bit on the loud side.

One efficient barmaid was providing table service, the card machine was broken so I paid with real money, the first time I've done that in a pub for ages.

Was that an Aussie White I saw being poured?  I wasn't sure it still existed!  I didn't see who was drinking it - not really a blokey drink is it - so I imagined a granny sitting out of my sight round the corner, but I never saw her.

Two policemen came in just as the barmaid disappeared out the back.  When she came back they discussed some crime prevention scheme and exchanged contact details.

Now, on to the Alexandra:

Another down market boozer in terms of clientele, perhaps, but beautifully decorated and maintained.  No cask, of course, so another Carling for me.  Quite a lot of people in, for the first time today the main sound was animated chatter, generally drowning out the music.  

The barmaid was on the ball, as seems to be the norm nowadays, and almost instantly I had my lager.

Definitely the busiest pub I've visited today, and it's still only two o'clock.  Silent football on most of the tellies, but royal Ascot in front of me.

Now this is how table service restrictions should be handled:  The regulars stand up and approach the counter, but not close, place their order and then the barmaid delivers the drinks to the table.

I discussed surviving the pandemic with one of the regulars, and then it was time for the train home.

Pub of the day: The Liver.
Miles walked: Hardly any.
Maybe coming soon: Undecided.

Friday, 11 June 2021

New Brighton

On a rather grey but warm Friday I headed off to New Brighton.  The trains were quite busy.

I started in the Three B er I mean the James Atherton:

The temporary renaming as the Three Bellends has ended but there's still plenty of the related publicity material about the place.  I haven't been in here since 2006 when it was called the Railway, so I didn't really know what to expect.  What I found was a rather well done two room pub with, oh joy, the handpumps in use, and I was soon enjoying a fine pint of Hawkshead Pale.

Almost no other customers at two thirty, rather disappointing I think, quality ale needs drinkers.

Decent rock at a comfortable level was pretty much the only sound in here.

Next, let's try the Harbour:

Apparently not open at the moment although it looks to be operational, so on to the New Brighton Hotel:

Back in '03 when I was last in here it was an Irish style pub called Peggy Gadfly's.  I'm not sure why I've always missed it on subsequent trips to the area; possibly it was only open in the evenings, as indeed it is now Monday to Thursday.

Anyway, well worth another visit, the decor in the multi-roomed interior is rather good, not over the top just comfortable.  The theme colour is grey which seems to have become very popular in recent years.  Contrasted by a little mauve lighting.

Three handpumps on the counter but no clips, so I resorted to the black stuff.  

Again very quiet, only three other customers, chatting to the barman.  If we don't get more people out drinking on a Friday afternoon there are going to be a lot more pub closures to come.  Come on folks, I can't do it on my own.

The floor show arrived, landlady and friend and the handyman who was installing glass rails.  The banter was highly entertaining.

I was intrigued to see a font for draught cocktails on the counter.  I wonder what they taste like?  Can I have a pint?  Wisely deciding not to pursue that line further, I moved across the road to the never visited Homebrew Tap:

They don't exactly have a spectacular exterior style do they, this small chain?

A well done shop conversion, actually two shops knocked through, almost next door to the Bow-legged Beagle.  Sadly, no cask ales today, two naked handpumps on the counter and the friendly barman said they're just waiting for a delivery.

Instead, I selected a hazy pale from Magic Rock called Murk-Life Balance which was great, with a flowery hoppy flavour.

Continuing today's theme, only two other customers at four on a Friday, I'm getting more and more worried about the future of these places.

Next, I abandoned my pub ticking principles and headed next door to the Bow-Legged Beagle, last visited only nine months ago:

What a contrast with next door.  Running out of tables, outside and in, and the barman was constantly busy serving.  Clearly this is where everyone goes to drink!

Four handpumps in use, some great selections including Ossett Butterley and my choice, Peerless Oatmeal Stout, which was very good.

The soundtrack in here was animated chatter, I think there might have been some music underneath?  Actually, on further listening, no there isn't.

As often happens in micros, most of the customers know each other and the friendly efficient barman, Pete.

While I was enjoying my ale, a peanut butter milk stout was added to the blackboard.  Sounds great, but it's time to go.

Pub of the day: Bow-Legged Beagle
Miles walked: Only 0.7 today.
Maybe coming soon: Waterloo

Wednesday, 19 May 2021

... And We're Back

Finding myself unexpectedly in Rainhill I set out on a quick survey.  Not properly planned, this one, so I was expecting to find some places shut, and sure enough the Holt was, although it certainly looks operational:

A short walk down the road brought me to the Rocket, and it's open:

My first pub research visit of the new era.  (I've been in - or outside - quite a few over recent weeks, but mainly for social reasons rather than research - Lowlight was sitting outside the Fall Well with my hand over my pint to keep the rain out; highlight was my first indoor pint in the Ship and Mitre on Monday.)

I still haven't got the habit of the new arrangements:  I remembered to wear a mask and then walked up to the bar and ordered a pint.  The cheerful barmaid patiently explained the rules, probably for the hundredth time.

No real ale, it looks like the handpumps went in the refurbishment, so I was back to the old familiar Carling.

The interior has changed a lot since my last call, back in 2016, knocked through into one U-shaped room surrounding the servery.  Very nicely decorated in restrained style, perhaps a little "identikit" but very well done.

Only a few customers in, but not bad for half twelve on a Wednesday I suppose.

On to the Victoria:

This one hasn't changed since last time (also 2016), the decor is not quite as"new" as in the Rocket, but still very pleasant.  No sign of any handpumps here either (I've got a suspicion this might become a theme in my researches now.) so I had another lager.  Again, customers were sparse, surely not enough to pay for the two friendly efficient staff.

Even in a fairly empty boozer I must say it's good to be sitting inside and absorbing the atmosphere.  The soundtrack in here was a music channel on the tellies, mixed with the happy chatter of the bar staff, obviously pleased to be back on duty.

As I finished my pint I wondered how many more of the Rainhill hostleries would be open?  Would I find some real ale?  Let's see...

On to the Commercial:

Open?  Yes.  Cask?  YES!

This pub - one of my favourites - never changes, thank goodness, and I was soon ensconced in one of the side rooms with a fine pint of Wainwright.

They've gone mad on the social distancing in here, with miles of hazard tape marking off alternate sections of the bench seating round the room.  I wonder how long into Friday night that'll last!

Not very busy, unsurprisingly at two on a Wednesday, but I could hear mixed chatter from the regulars scattered around the wonderful interior of this architectural gem.  An important part of the conversations was along the lines of "you have to sit down, she'll take your order" as people got used to the hopefully temporary rules.

I must admit I was somewhat concerned about this pub's survival a few years ago when it closed for a few weeks with a banner advertising new owners, but apparently I was worrying unnecessarily.  I note it is on CAMRA's list of historic pub interiors, but not (yet) listed.

Next, the Coach And Horses, but the blackboard says opening at 4.30.  So, on to the Black Horse:

A pleasant food-oriented pub with standard "Sizzling" decor inside and out, pretty empty at this time on a Wednesday.

I spent an annoyingly long amount of time wrestling with installing the app so I could order, I should have said no and given a manual order instead.  No real ales on offer in the app, to be honest I didn't actually check the counter for pumps.  Once I'd sorted out my technology, my lager was promptly delivered, but this isn't really what I want in a pub;  I look forward to ordering at the bar before too long.

A few more customers came in, and had a lot less trouble with the technology than I did.

So, my first survey post lockdown.  How was it?  No real problems, but I am a little worried to note that all four of today's ticks had real ale last time I visited but we're down to just one now.  I hope that as things settle down and restrictions are further lifted we will see more cask.


Pub of the day: The Commercial by a wide margin
Miles walked: 2
Maybe coming soon: New Brighton

Saturday, 1 May 2021

Blown Out at the Bombed Out

I nipped into town with the objective of collecting a brand new tick which I'm told serves real ale.  The train journey was extremely crowded, they've had years to sort out the new trains of but still we get a six car train with everyone crowded into three carriages.

Once I'd escaped from the station I marched hopefully up Renshaw Street to the Bombed Out Church:

This has been open as a cafe for some time, I think, and I recently learned that they do real ale so time for a visit.

Unfortunately it is reservations only on Saturdays, apparently, so I didn't get my tick.  Hmph!  I'll be back, perhaps when it is a bit quieter.  Irritatingly I could see umpteen empty tables.

So, where's the nearest real ale?  The Dispensary, of course:

Only my fourth visit here since lockdown!

They were doing a decent trade at 12:30, but with plenty of free tables, so I was soon enjoying a pint of favourite Oakham Citra in the chilly breeze.

I must say I am looking forward to two weeks time when I will be able to sit in comfort inside pubs instead of freezing on a wobbly bench in the street!

Where next?  There's another new one, well a new name anyway, just round the corner so I headed for the Coach House:

Formerly Hard Times And Misery and then Dickens and King, this now belongs to the Angus on Dale Street.

The waiter reeled off a list of real ales I didn't recognise and Inferno, another Oakham brew, so I selected that one and it was very good, although I still prefer my favourite Citra from the last place.

Again, ticking over nicely but with plenty of free tables.  This place, usually the smallest pub in Liverpool, has benefited from the current situation as they have a lot more space outside in the street than they have inside.  I wonder if they will be allowed to occupy half the width of the road long term.

Town was getting a bit busy, what with a kill the bill march and Saturday shoppers, so I decided to beat a retreat at this point and headed for home.

Pub of the day: Dispensary
Miles walked: 1.5


Thursday, 15 April 2021

It's Been A Long Wait

When I ended lockdown at ten on Monday morning at the Huyton Wetherspoon's I was not a little disappointed to find that they hadn't got any real ale; "we only tapped it yesterday".  Monitoring the (unreliable) app showed that today they might have a guest on, but I had things to do in town so hopefully I could get something decent.

Having quickly completed my shopping, I headed for the Bridewell.

Arriving on the dot of twelve noon, I was offered a selection of tables; I chose one inside the yard, out of the cold breeze.  The efficient waitress handed me a sign-in slip (Surprisingly, it didn't ask for my phone number) and fetched me my first pint of real ale this year.

I started with the excellent Kirkstall Pale, followed just fifteen minutes later by another of the same.

A brewery delivery provided entertainment as casks were thrown down the hatch, which was in the yard right in front of me, and there was a steady trickle of customers arriving and being allocated tables.  The friendly cheerful staff (It's always been like that here.) were chatting to customers and promptly fetching drinks as required.

I resisted the temptation to just stay here all afternoon, and headed on to the Baltic Fleet.

Plenty of free tables here, but the few in the sun were all taken.  The waitress soon came to take my order, and started the list of real ales, but I stopped her at the first one which was Trappers Hat, a favourite of mine.  

Not my ideal pub experience, in a chilly breeze with the traffic whizzing past but the beer was wonderful and, after all, that's why I'm here.

Plenty of empty tables at one o'clock, I hope they're getting enough customers to keep going.  I noted there were quite a few tables under large umbrellas, useful to know if it's raining.

Hypothermia was beginning to set in - Roll on 17th May when we can sit inside - so I headed back towards Lime Street and the train home.  But diverted via the Dispensary.

Here I signed in using the NHS app before being allocated a table.  Once again I didn't get the full list of ales because the first one was Oakham Citra, another of my favourites.

Most, but not all, of the tables were occupied, there won't be much room for more customers.  None of the tables had umbrellas, being your own if it's raining!

Once again a delivery arrived, in this case a truck full of gas cylinders.  Only two for this pub.

So, in summary, three great pubs, four great pints, but very cold.

Pub of the day: All three were wonderful but I'll choose the Bridewell, simply because it was first.
Miles walked: 2.2


Monday, 8 February 2021

New Book

The latest edition of the book of the guide was published today.  Not really the best time for new version, when I haven't been in a pub yet this year, but at least I had plenty of free time to do the typesetting and so on.

This time, I've gone for a simple paperback format.  The book lists 1,868 pubs of which I have visited 1,337, on 258 pages.

You can order a copy direct from the printer by clicking here.