Friday, 12 November 2021

Churchtown

Now the 2022 Good Beer Guide is officially published I can reveal that the new edition contains four pubs in Merseyside which I've never ticked.  The first was Jaxon's in Walton, covered last week.  Number two is a branch of Peaky Blinders in Churchtown, so two trains and a bus ride were required, all free on my new pass of course, to take me there.  (I promise I'll stop boasting about the pass soon eventually.)  

First, though, my Google maps research had thrown up a possible target of which I was previously unaware, and so I found myself strolling through the rather pleasant Botanical Gardens, to the Settle Inn:

I wonder what this building was originally?  Anyway, inside is one large high ceilinged room, sort of church hall or village hall, with a cafe counter and a bar counter at one end.  At this time of day (two thirty) all the other customers were on coffee and the like, but that didn't stop me from enjoying a pint of Shipyard.

This place is a rather clever combination of cafe and pub; they have live music in the evenings when I guess it's a lot more pubby.  The menu, of basics like pie chips and peas, looks good and good value.

Next, the Hesketh Arms:

The church next door had a wedding just finishing, and I worried for a moment that the pub might be full, for the reception, but then I saw the bridesmaids getting into cars, so clearly the festivities were elsewhere.

Last visited in 2013, this is an up market dining place under the Vintage Inns brand.  Nonetheless, quality real ale, I had Wainwright, is available and there was no attempt to persuade me to eat.

The interior decor here is very good but I suspect the antique features are all faked, although perhaps some of the wood panelling could be genuine. Very pleasant anyway, lots of small rooms partially knocked through (So totally unsuitable for a reception.)

It was quite busy for a wet Friday afternoon, a bit too early for dinner but too late for lunch.  Although, as soon as I'd typed that, meals came out for the next table.

Just across the road from the Hesketh is the Bold Arms:

Down market this one, but only in comparison to the Hesketh, otherwise it's a very pleasant Greene King food-led operation, with quite a lot of antique features inside, woodwork and leaded glass.  No change since my 2012 visit.

My pint of Abbot was good.  Very few customers at three, although I could hear some chatter, perhaps there is another busier room?

The real fire near my seat wasn't lit, but clearly they do use them sometimes, in fact I could see a basket of kindling and some fire tongs.  I always like a real fire in a pub, it lends some cosiness and comfort that you can't get any other way.

My exit via the gents revealed there is another side to the pub, but only one or two customers were in there.

Finally, on to the "prime objective", Peaky Blinders:

Never having watched the programme, I'm not sure how these places relate to the TV series, perhaps not at all?  Anyway, a pleasantly decorated room, u-shaped around the servery area.  It was converted from a bank, apparently.  The lampshades, especially the giant one above the counter, are very attractive.  

Four real ales were on offer and my pint of Landlord was spot on.

Not many customers at four on a Friday, one group of lads on lager was all I could see.  More people came in as I drank my pint, and gradually the place got less empty.

My seat by the window gave me a good view of the rain, it looks like I'm going to be getting wet on the way home.

Pub of the day: Difficult.  All were good in their own way.
Miles walked: Less than a mile.
Maybe coming soon: Garswood, Aigburth, Bromborough


Thursday, 11 November 2021

A Few In Town

Business took me into town, once that was completed there was no excuse not to tick a few pubs:  I started in Ye Hole In Ye Wall:

Nothing has changed in this wonderful pub, ticking over with a number of regulars enjoying cheerful chats on a Thursday afternoon.  Six real ales were on, I chose a lovely Trappers Hat.

A number of fine architectural features inside, including some impressive leaded glass in the partitions.  I'm not qualified to say how much is genuine antique.

On to the Slug And Lettuce:

No architectural gem, this one!

Not my sort of place, offering a plastic chain dining experience, but drinkers are totally welcome, and my Guinness was carefully poured and promptly served, so no complaints.

Quite a few customers in, both diners and drinkers, with most of the latter on cocktails and/or shots, apparently.

I tried to understand the market for a place like this:  Am I being over cynical in suggesting it is for people who are too scared or too snobby to go into Wetherspoon's? 

I was a little irritated  to see Christmas decorations up, but I fear my "Bah, humbug, it's only November" campaign is pretty much a lost cause.

Just across the road is the William Gladstone:

Quite similar to the last place in approach, I think, but with a few large screens showing cricket. A similar mix of diners and drinkers.  Christmas decorations, of course.

The food seems cheaper in here, £9 vs £11 for fish and chips, if I recall correctly.

There were three handpumps on the counter, but all had the clips turned.  I wonder if they do real ale at busier times?

I seem to recall coming in here back in 1998 when it had just opened as a Hog's Head, casks of  ale were on display behind the counter, and the cellarman made a right pigs ear of tapping one while we watched.  Beer spraying everywhere!

I watched the cricket for a while, Pakistan vs Australia, I was sorry to see England knocked out while I was in Gallagher's yesterday.

As I enjoyed my pint of Love Lane, the cellarman appeared and started pulling through two of the handpumps, so I guess real ale will be on soon.  Sure enough, Doom Bar and Hobgoblin Gold became available a few minutes later.

Finally, the Rose and Crown.  Sorry, too dark for a photo, winter is really closing in!

I wasn't sure this place had survived the pandemic, but it was open and busy at four.  Last visited in 2016, I'm pleased to report nothing has changed, the (probably) historic woodwork is still wonderful, especially the arched entrances between the rooms.

Quite a lot of customers were keeping the place busy, and happy chatter was matching the music.

Football and racing on the various TVs here, where's the cricket?

Pub of the day: Ye Hole, obv.
Miles walked: 1.6
Maybe coming soon: Southport, Aigburth, Garswood, Bromborough


Friday, 5 November 2021

Walton

I headed by train to Walton, the last time I'll have to pay as I get my pass on Monday!  My first port of call was the Prince Alfred, not open last time I was here, but it seems to have been renamed:

Much of the signage calls it Fratelli but, as you can see above, at least one sign still says Prince Alfred.  Perhaps they didn't have a long enough ladder!

Inside I found an unexpected interior, very nicely done with a small-ish bar side, and the remainder laid out as a restaurant, the whole looking rather good.

Only one other customer in at three on a Friday, I hope they get some diners later.

In keeping with the restaurant vibe, the background music was classical piano, a nice change from the usual pop.

Three more lads came in to join the one at the counter as I enjoyed my pint of lager, pleased to have ticked a "pub" not visited since 2004.

Quite a long march, next, to the Cuckoo Hotel.  To be honest, I came here for a picture of a closed pub, but no, it's open:

A perfectly good two sided boozer, with quite a few customers on a Friday afternoon.  Two different racing channels on the tellies, both silent, and some of the regulars were taking an interest and filling in betting slips.  In fact, the quiet corner I'd chosen was right in front of the betting slips rack, causing a number of people to apologise and reach over my head!

The pale grey and dark grey colour scheme is very well done, the interior looks like a 1960s refurbishment with matchboarded walls and counter front and a false ceiling over the servery.  I didn't look in the other side.  Another one last visited in 2004, so long overdue.

Now, on to the real reason for today's trip, a brand new (to me) place, Jaxon's:

Sorry about the picture, it was getting a bit dark by now.  A rather good micro this, quite small but not the smallest I've seen.  Plenty customers in at half four, but still a few free tables.

I succumbed to the temptation of an apricot, peach, lime and cheesecake (Or something like that) beer called Oscillate Wildly which was rather good but a little too weird for my taste, perhaps. Better than the Carling in the last place anyway.  Actually, it got better as I drank and by the end I was really enjoying it.  It came from Team Toxic, who are something to do with Liverpool Brewing Company.  I was pleased to learn that, by chance, I'd chosen a local brew.  One of the other casks was from Big Bog, also local, the other two were from breweries I didn't recognise.

As I enjoyed my pint the place was gradually filling up, soon there were no free tables.

I looked round:  Oh dear, I'm the only one in here old enough for a bus pass!

I resisted the temptation of Big Bog Kaleidoscope at 6.5% and headed on, to Wetherspoon's:

For some reason this is the least recently visited pub in the area, so let's tick it.  At five on a Friday it was, as expected, pretty busy, but there were still one or two free tables, one of which I bagged after I'd got my pint of Black Sheep Dead Parrot, which was rather tasty.

Not much food trade here, in fact I couldn't see anyone eating, just a large quantity of happy drinkers of all ages.

My mind wandered onto the subject of busy pubs.  On Wednesday I was in the Ship and Mitre which was packed because Liverpool were playing, but we still managed to find a table and enough seats.  Rewind twenty or thirty years, and it would be standing room only, as would any pub on a Friday evening. Now that I'm officially old, I don't think I could cope with that!!  So, did the pensioners in the 1990s stay at home on a Friday, or did they stand with everyone else?

Good night John-boy.

Pub of the day: Jaxon's
Miles walked: 2.5
Maybe coming soon: Southport, Garswood, Aigburth

Tuesday, 2 November 2021

2022 Good Beer Guide

A satisfying thud on my doormat this morning heralded the arrival of the new Good Beer Guide.

A quick scan of the Merseyside pages revealed that eight pubs have been removed and nine added since last year, giving a total of 73 entries.

As I say every year, if you want to know which pubs they are you'll have to buy the book when it goes on sale later this month.

Saturday, 30 October 2021

Three Golden Ticks

I recently added some software tweaks to my mapping system, so I can now see a map showing, for example, only pubs which I think are still open and I haven't visited in the last five years.  This allows me to spot clusters of desirable targets which would otherwise get lost in the background.  One such cluster lead me to Tuebrook, and I started at the Clifton Arms:

No one behind the counter, so I stood and waited.  Eventually a regular took pity on me and poured me a Carling.  He couldn't use the till, though, so I had to wait a little longer to pay.  The barman returned from the cellar, he was out of change so I got twenty p off!

Knocked through but retaining three distinct areas, this is a rather fine locals' boozer, and I haven't been in here since 1998.

Plenty of regulars chatting and giving the place a lively feel.  Perhaps I'm biased because it's 23 years since I was here and therefore it is a very desirable tick, but I like this place.

As I departed I could hear the roar of the crowd at Anfield.  I strolled on, passing the now closed Park:

Onwards towards another one not ticked since 1998, the Belmont:

Another plain but pleasant pub, busy by 2021 standards (I bet it was three deep at the bar last time I was here, if it was a Saturday afternoon.)

Liverpool were already two goals up by the time I settled down in a quiet corner with another Carling.  All the wall decorations were LFC, at least where I was sitting.  I particularly liked "Win or lose I'm on the booze".

As I enjoyed my pint I wondered why this pub and the last one have not been visited for so long.  I've been in all the others in Tuebrook, including a number now closed, multiple times since 1998, so how did these get missed?  I've no idea!

Liverpool got to 3-0 but then "computer says no".

Next, I took a fairly long march, past a few places ticked more recently, to one I've never visited.  Could I make three great ticks out of three?  YES!!!  The Liver Vaults:

If a pub last visited in 1998 is great, then one never visited at all is wonderful.  Exactly three years ago today an anonymous comment on this blog drew my attention to this pub, which was missing from my database.  I tried to visit during partial lockdown back in October last year but it was shut so I wasn't very confident of a positive result today, but I was in luck.

Another plain but well looked after two sided back street boozer this, again busy by 2021 standards, the only sound I could hear was multiple animated conversations.  The bench seat where I sat was rather overdue for recovering, but, as always nowadays, everything was clean and tidy.  Halloween decorations were everywhere of course.  (Oh well, at least it stops them putting the Chrimbo deccies up.)

Liverpool now 2-2.

Bearing in mind today's excellent results I wondered ... Could I invent a points system for ticks?  One point for each year since I was last there, and perhaps thirty for a pub never visited.  That gives 76 for today, not bad for only three pubs.  This could get complicated:  Add 20 for quality ale, add fifty for free ale, add 10 for attractive architecture, and so on and on.  I'll give it some more thought once sober, but I suspect it'll be too much like hard work.

Pub of the day: Too close to call.
Miles walked: 2.3
Maybe coming soon: Garswood.


Thursday, 30 September 2021

Two Trips To Town

On Wednesday I was in town for a pub crawl with some friends, so it wasn't a proper survey - I don't want to sit there ignoring the gang and making detailed notes like I do on a research trip.

We started in the always beautiful Philharmonic Dining Rooms:


This is undoubtedly the most famous pub in Liverpool (Although I renew here my assertion that the Big House is just as good.)  My pint of London Pride was the best I've had for ages, the last few have seemed a bit bland but this was very tasty.  We started in Brahms, but the music was too loud for conversation so we moved to the billiard room which was a lot more peaceful.

Next, we moved on to Ye Crack


Only two ales on, one was a stout of some sort that I probably would have enjoyed but my friends wouldn't, and a pale one, from Spitting Feathers I think, which came out very cloudy.  (No complaint, the barman's reaction was "I'm sorry, it's gone".)  We thanked him and moved on round the corner to the Pilgrim

Only one handpump in operation here, but after a taste we ordered pints and it was very good.  I have said before that one quality real ale is all you need.

Next we headed to the Fly In The Loaf (Photo from 2018):


Titanic White Star was on offer so we ordered some.  "Just to warn you, it's naturally cloudy", said the barmaid.  "It is???", I replied, startled by this new information.  We had some anyway and it tasted fine, but I'm sure this is a problem with finings or something else in the cellar, I've never had a cloudy pint of White Star before.  A new variation on the old "it's supposed to taste like that" nonsense when you return a pint of vinegar, I suppose.  Nought out of ten, I hope they're not in the new GBG!

We moved on to somewhere you never see cloudy ale, the famous Roscoe Head.  I've noted before that the only problem with this pub is it's always full, this time we got the very last table and enjoyed pints of Landlord while rehearsing the old argument about that rumour that it's pasteurised; I remain unconvinced.

Next, heading towards home we tried the Crown, but it was very busy and noisy so we skipped it and finished with a great pint of Abbot in Blacklers, which was also very busy (we had to search all round the pub for a free table).  I must say, on a Wednesday afternoon in October I didn't expect to find pubs so busy and lively, clearly the new normal is the old normal in central Liverpool.  A great afternoon out with some friends.

On to Thursday:  Having spotted a few interesting targets yesterday, I headed back into town to mop some up.  Little did I realise how much mopping up would be required!

I started with a visit to Chinatown to replenish my stock of Er Guo Tou Jiu, and then I walked in increasingly heavy rain up to Hope Street, to start in the Liverpool Arts Bar:

One large open room with an island servery I in the middle, and a stage at one end.  No one performing at two on a Thursday, unsurprisingly.

The decor, of modern style with the occasional exposed steel joist where they knocked two rooms into one, is perhaps what one would expect of a place with this name, and is very pleasant.  I sat, rather damp to say the least, on a comfy leather sofa and sank a tasty pint of Mahou, a Spanish lager I think.

Less than a dozen customers were here, so the two bar staff were hardly pressed.  One group, of five women, were making enough noise to fill the room and drown out the piped music.

The rain was pouring down by now, luckily my next call was just across the road, at Keystone:

This was formerly the Clove Hitch, which I never visited.  It's now a rather well done conversion of an old house into a pleasant multi-roomed pub.

The super-friendly barmaid welcomed me and soon poured me a spot on pint of Trappers Hat.  I told her I'd just been over the road, but the beer was better here and she told me they've got five handpumps.  I must have missed them, very poor performance by your pub researcher!

She also told me that it was free ale this evening to celebrate their birthday.  Curses, another opportunity missed!

Quiet conversations mixed with Beatles music as I enjoyed a fine pint, while my coat dripped on the wooden floor.

I could see out of the window that the rain was showing no sign of easing, but it's not too far to the next target, Frederiks:

When I was last in here, Blakes in 2004, I noted the then fashionable exposed air conditioning ducts and the wood and quarry file floor.  The ducts haven't survived but the floor is the same in this rather well done up market bar.  At half three on a Thursday it was me and four or five staff, who were all busy setting up so I guess it'll be busy later.

Not my sort of place, really, but I have to say the interior is very pleasant.  The real fire surrounded by comfortable-looking sofas is a great feature.

The menu looks tempting, pizzas and fried chicken being the main items.

By the time I'd finished my Love Lane four other drinkers had come in, quintupling the custom!

Now, time to head back towards my train home, but there's one more required tick, the Rocking Horse:


(Picture from earlier this year.)  One large open room with a long counter along one side, and a stage at the end.  A rather quirky mix of (fake) bare brick walls, wooden counter front, and naked air conditioning ducts and beams above, makes for a rather fine style, in my opinion.

I noticed there are four handpumps on the counter, I wonder if this place has ever done cask or were they installed purely for appearance?  At least I spotted them this time!

A massive telly dominated the room, showing cricketers skiving off due to bad light, and lots of smaller screens surrounded the room.

The drunks at the next table soon gave up singing along with the background music and left, reducing the noise level by quite a few dB and leaving me to listen to music and background chatter.

As I finished my Guinness a fella with a guitar was setting up on the stage.

How about that?  Three never visited places (taking my total to 1,352), and one last ticked in 2004, that's a good result for a wet Thursday.  And I've cleared the whole of Charlotte Street at last.

When I got to Lime Street, my ticket was too soggy to go in the gate!

Pub of the days: Roscoe Head
Miles walked: 4.15 (Both days)
Maybe coming soon: Garswood, Tuebrook

Saturday, 18 September 2021

At Last, the News Room

I went to St Helens, hoping to finally tick off my one remaining Merseyside Good Beer Guide pub, but first I headed north from the station, to the Union Inn:

To be honest, I was pleased but quite surprised to find this one has survived, but just as I noted in 2004 it's a pleasant plain two sided boozer, well maintained, clean and tidy.

I was the only customer at one on a Saturday, moments later another came in, followed a few minutes later by two more.

The three handpumps appeared to be decorative, so I had a lager.

DJ Dave (That's his van) was setting up for karaoke later.  No, wait, he's dismantling so it must have been yesterday.

Just a short distance along the road is the Rockware Pub, which used to be a social club.  As I expected, it is closed, although the builders van and drilling noises from inside suggested I shouldn't completely write it off yet:

Next, across the town centre to two targets both of which were last visited in 1999, firstly the Wheatsheaf:

Unfortunately, as has happened before here, it was shut although looking like it is still operational.  Clearly I need an evening visit to tick this again.

So, to the Royal Tavern:

Last time I came along this street, the building was covered in scaffolding, with a major refurbishment under way.  Happily it is back in action this time and I entered a busy lively multi roomed pub.

Again no real ale so it was another pint of fizz for me.

I noticed the fella ahead of me at the bar had two pints of Guinness mixed with bitter.  I didn't catch what they call that here, when I was in the States I often had a "black and tan" but that's different in that the Guinness was poured over a spoon so your pint had separate layers.  Pittsburgh (and probably other places) bars often have a bent spoon hanging by a chain next to the Guinness tap for this purpose.

No seats available in the front rooms, but fortunately there were some empty tables in the back, so I settled there to write this, surrounded by TVs showing the racing.

Saturday afternoon in St Helens, noisy, lively, friendly.  Some things never change, thank goodness.

A quick recheck of the Wheatsheaf, just in case it opened at two, but no, so on to one never ticked before, Ice Bar Cafe:

This wasn't actually on my target list, I had it down as some kind of late night place, but clearly I was wrong.

No cask of course, so another Carling for me, and I sat on a stool at the last available table.

Rather fine modern style decor in here, with mosaics and mirrored columns making for a very pleasant appearance.  Racing on a number of large tellies was actually being watched by many of the customers, who occasionally nipped out, presumably to a nearby bookies.  No women at all, the place was full of blokes of about my age, so I fitted in well - until I started writing on my tablet!

The racing commentary was mostly drowned out by multiple lively conversations, in this popular friendly boozer.

Moving on, I noticed that the Kazbar has changed its name, and it's now called Mollies, but I only ticked it off three years ago so I passed on towards my prime target for today, the News Room.

Bugger me if it isn't shut.  AGAIN!  Am I condemned never to tick this one?  It's the third or fourth time I've tried, and I've never seen it open.  Maybe they only open when CAMRA turn up!

Oh well, just a couple of doors up is the Talbot, where at least I know I can get some decent ale:

It seems to have gained the tag "new" since I was last here.  I went in the bar side, for a change, where I enjoyed a pint of Blonde Witch, sitting next to a giant screen showing, you've guessed it, racing.

There were only one or two others with me in the bar side, but I could hear multiple conversations elsewhere in the pub.  They still have the problem here that you can't tell what ales are available on the other side without asking, but that is a minor nitpick in a pub serving quality ales.

Two foreigners (Eastern Europe I think) joined us in the bar side, to play pool.

Time for home, I think, but hang on, the News Room is now open, only half an hour or so late, so I have to tick it:


Above average decor for a micro, in my opinion, in this tiny shop conversion.  My pint of Salopian Lemon Dream was possibly a bit tired, presumably first out of the pump today.  I'll be interested to see if they are in the next GBG, due out next month.

Three other customers were with me in the small room.

So, rather disappointed with the quality of the ale - I enjoyed the Talbot's much more - I contented myself with the satisfaction that, at last, I've ticked every GBG pub in Merseyside, just a few weeks before the next edition comes out!  Not very impressive compared with the bloggers who are aiming to complete the whole guide.  I've set myself an objective of clearing Merseyside a lot more quickly next year, we'll see how well I do!  

As I neared the end of my pint a number of other customers came in, suddenly the place was busy and lively.

Another customer had three pints of one of the cask ales while I was here so presumably that one was alright, my mistake was not asking which one was selling!

Time for home, definitely this time.

Pub of the day: The Talbot for ale quality, or the News Room for the tick.
Miles walked: 2.2
Maybe coming soon: Garswood

Thursday, 9 September 2021

Crosby

In intermittent showers I aimed for Crosby, getting rather wet on the way from Lime Street to Central.  Once at Crosby I headed first to the "Barbie" which I expected to find closed and it is, with a For Sale board on the front:

Next, on to the Royal Oak:

A well maintained interior with multiple rooms partially knocked through to create a comfortable pub, pretty much unchanged since my previous call in 2004.

Last time I had real Boddingtons, this time no real ale and the lone hand pump looks like it hasn't been touched for some time.

Only one other customer at half three, he was concentrating on the golf on the telly, so I wandered to a different part of the pub to drink my lager.  Shortly after, another customer came in, making three.

The Beatles were replaced by the Stones, perhaps a little loud for an empty place.  About half way down my pint, the music gave up and I was treated to that rarest of pub soundtracks; total silence.  

I sank my lager at a leisurely pace since my next target opens at four (I hope).

I arrived at the Corner Post at 16:03 but I wasn't the first in.

A rather fine shop conversion this, and clearly popular;  another two customers came in before I'd consumed more than an inch of my Liverpool Brewing Cascade, and then another a couple of minutes later.  All were regulars who chatted to each other and the landlord.

I checked the weather radar and there were some nasty cells around, would I get soaked later?  It's a long walk to the next pub!

The Cascade ran out as I finished my pint, the last but one pulled was excellent which I think indicates skilful cellarmanship and a good turnover.

The rain continued so I had to deploy the umby[1] on the longish walk to the Liverpool Pigeon:

This hasn't changed much since my last visit in 2014.  My guide entry from then is rather telling:  "Branded as a "Micro Pub" this place is a former shop in a parade."   Of course, the micro pub was a new concept back then and this was the first one in Liverpool, so it was all a bit new to me.

Anyway, here in 2021 it was ticking over nicely and my lovely pint of White Rat (It gets everywhere!) was in an oversized glass, so that plus hasn't changed either.

I considered heading for home, using the weather as an excuse for curtailing my researches, but as the time to move approached the rain eased off, so I headed on to Stamps:

This quirky place doesn't seem to have changed since I was last here.  "Only" four real ales this time, I resisted the White Rat, and chose one I'd possibly never had before, Abbeydale Deception, which was lovely.

Quite a few customers in at six in the evening, but plenty of room for more.  The background music was mainly drowned by chatter.

My grumbles about the weather were put to shame by the discovery that Wirral train services were disrupted due to flooding!  Lucky I didn't do Rock Ferry this week!

There's one more pub around here last visited in 2014, so it would be daft to miss the George:

Unwisely, perhaps, I requested the only cask, it took two staff and a visit to the back to decide whether it was actually available, and I was asked to taste it to check because neither of them knew whether it was on or not.  To be fair, it was a spot on traditional bitter so 10/10 for ale, 0/10 for bar staff knowledge!  One decent cask ale is enough, but your people need to know!

This classic interwar pub (I guess) has retained some original features, which are somewhat marred by bunting and other brewery publicity.

It was surprisingly empty for a Thursday evening, I was expecting to find more people here.  I get the feeling that some big company is losing money, there were more staff than customers.

Across the road is the former Exchange, last ticked in 2002, which according to the signs is soon to reopen as Suburb 24, I'll have to come back and tick it in due course:

By the way, some of today's ticks were last done on one of my early blog entries in 2014, why don't you boost my stats and read that next?

[1] For non-locals, umby is Scouse for umbrella.

Pub of the day: I can't choose between the Corner Post or the Pigeon
Maybe coming soon: St Helens
Miles walked: 2.8

Thursday, 2 September 2021

Classic Boozers In Rock Ferry

Under the river again, this time to Rock Ferry.  Across the road from the station was the Rock Station which I first visited in 2003 and more recently in 2015.  My internet researches had led me to expect it to be closed, in fact it's completely demolished, with only a sign frame and a cache of kegs/casks remaining (Aren't the aluminium kegs valuable and stealable?)

Next, down towards the river.  Annoyingly I'd forgotten that the straight road from the station to my next destination has an impassable break where it crosses the bypass, so I had to fire up Google Maps and take a diversion.  Eventually, I reached my next target, the Refreshment Rooms:

Happily, this place is unchanged since my previous visit, in 2015.  It's mainly oriented towards food, but welcoming of drinkers as well.  Table service only - I was soon allocated a table (Reserved from 4.30) and enjoying a pint of the house beer, HMS Conway, a rather good "ordinary" bitter brewed by Lees.

The maritime themed decor (But they've also got a model Liverpool tram for some reason.) is pleasant and at two on a Thursday afternoon there were a fair number of mostly dining customers, keeping the chatter level up.

I must say the food arriving at the next table looked and smelled good, scouse, fish and chips, bangers and mash etc.

Next, a short stroll to the Derby Arms:

Places like this are getting rarer, here's a classic pub with beautifully cared for decor, and lots of regulars enjoying their local at three on a Thursday.  Many of the denizens were older than I, but there were younger ones as well, a good cross section.

No real ale, so I parked myself in a side room with a pint of Carling.  Conversations and the click of pool balls were louder than the music.

The first time I came here, three years ago, I was somewhat startled to find it open, hidden as it is up a side street surrounded by new housing.  I was less surprised this time, because I could see then that it was a great local pub, with enough regulars to keep it going as long as the people running it maintained the standards.  They clearly have.

Next, continuing to circle around Rock Ferry station, I headed to the Rockvilla while the formerly grey weather changed to bright sunshine.  Not visited since 2003, what will I find?

It's been done up since I was here, rather good rough wood and bare brick decor.  Again doing a good trade on a Thursday afternoon, although the loud drunken noise of one group made it sound busier than it actually was.

The Rock, as they almost certainly don't call this part of Wirral, is clearly the place for traditional boozers, in both meanings of the word.  Another classic, this.  And I've got another two which I expect to be similar to try before I go home.

About 50% of the regulars, and also the excellent barmaid, headed to the door for a smoke while I swigged my Carling.

Still circling round the station, I aimed for the Lord Napier:

Another traditional pub, unchanged since I was here in '18, but sadly deserted, none of the lively custom of the last two ticks.

I could see one other customer in the other side of this two sided boozer, but apart from him it was just the barmaid/landlady and I.

The only sound was "Now 80s" on a telly in the corner of the well cared for lounge side.

For a change, I had a Guinness here, there was a handpump but with a blank clip;  I've got a feeling that was the same last time I was here.

The bloke in the other side, ordering another pint, caught my eye and called hello across the servery.  Was he just friendly or did he mistake me for a regular?

Time to aim towards home, but I've saved the pub by the station for last, for bladder comfort reasons.  So, in to the Bedford:

It seems to be also known as Luke's now.

My 2015 notes described this as a plain well cared for multi-roomed boozer, and in 2021 it's exactly the same.

My pint of Carling was extra cheap because it's happy hour on Thursdays!  

There were enough customers to fill the room with chatter, but it wasn't packed at five o'clock.

Yet another "down market" pub doing good trade at a non-peak time, just like the others today, clean, tidy and deservedly popular.

Pub of the day: Refreshment Rooms for the ale.
Miles walked: 3
Maybe coming soon: St Helens, Woolton

Thursday, 26 August 2021

Wirral Sunshine

Today I again targeted a Good Beer Guide pub I've never visited, and with the weather set fair it was the ideal time for a Wirral countryside trip.  The bus seemed to take for ever, but at least it gave me the chance to spot the post-lockdown status of a number of Wirral pubs.  Every one I saw was still operational, a surprising and pleasing result.  Eventually, I reached the Red Fox:

An enormous house dating from the second half of the nineteenth century, containing a Brunning and Price multi-roomed food oriented up market place, with umpteen handpumps offering a wide selection of ales, mostly from nearby breweries.  The interior has been excellently preserved and it's very pleasant.

My spot on pint of Brightside Odin had covered 51 beer miles according to the sign, and was one of the most travelled on the list.

At three on a Thursday afternoon they were doing a good trade, although there seemed to be more cars in the car park than there were people inside.  Perhaps everyone else was out on the terrace.

Very quiet background music was mostly hidden by gentle conversations and the clink of glasses behind the counter.

Another new GBG tick, there's only one left to do, so I might even complete Merseyside before the new edition comes out in November.

Next, an extended rural stroll, risking being mown down on the roads with no pavement (It could have been a friendly toot from the van driver but I don't think so.) to the Wheatsheaf which I last visited in 1999:

Wow, what a gem this is, a proper country pub with a thatched roof tucked away in the village of Raby.  The interior features classic wonky beams, and some very old looking wooden seats.  

Four or five handpumps, but I didn't look further than Titanic Plum Porter, which was lovely but perhaps not the best choice on a hot day, Trappers Hat being more appropriate.  £4.50 is a bit steep for Merseyside, I must say.

Gentle conversations were the only sounds in here, as I enjoyed my ale.  Sandwiches and chips were delivered to a nearby table, and suddenly I felt very hungry!

I wondered how many thatched pubs there are in Merseyside; the only ones I could call to mind were the Scotch Piper in Maghull and, much nearer here, the Devon Doorway.

Another rural walk in blazing sunshine, this time on much quieter roads, took me to the village of Thornton Hough and the Seven Stars, where I unaccountably forgot to take a picture, so I've stolen this one from the pub's web site:

Another great rural pub, the beams perhaps not as wonky as the Wheatsheaf's.  Only eleven years since my last visit, and it doesn't seem to have changed since then, remaining very pleasant and comfortable.

After the last two places, only two handpumps seemed a bit disappointing at first glance, but of course one quality real ale is all that is needed, and my Trappers Hat was gorgeous.  I noticed most of the regulars seemed to be drinking lager, that's a bit of a shame.

Again, quiet background music was mostly drowned out by cheerful chatter.  It was past five by now, and the place was ticking over nicely although by no means full.  All the regulars knew each other and chatted (I was sitting in the "bar side")

When I sit in a lovely pub like this I briefly wish I lived in a village with a great pub, but in reality it wouldn't work, I can't see every pub survey beginning with a one hour bus ride!  Just not suitable for my lifestyle, which requires easy access to a train service and shopping without the use of a car.  Oh no, I'm writing about "lifestyle", and after only three pints; better go home!

I contemplated extending my researches but there weren't really any nearby options, so I simply chose the long bus ride back to Liverpool.  Would my bladder cope?  ... It did.

Three beautiful pubs, one never before visited, three excellent pints, some beautiful countryside in the sun, what more can one ask for in a pub survey?  A free lift home?  No chance!

Pub of the day: Too close to call, all three were great.
Miles walked: 3
Maybe coming soon: St Helens

Friday, 13 August 2021

Knotty Ash and an Old Swan Bonus

Other stuff took me to Knotty Ash, so it would be daft to miss a few pubs long overdue for a visit, starting with the Wheatsheaf:

To be honest, I can't really remember what this was like when I was here in 2003.  I think it's lost some of its old features in an excellent refurbishment, but it still has a lounge side with no counter, and some Joseph Jones & Co Knotty Ash Brewery windows.  I'm guessing the table service I noted in 03 has also gone, although there was a steady flow of food coming out of the kitchen, keeping a waitress busy.

Three handpumps on the counter, but all had the clips turned round, so I had a refreshing lager.  A bit disappointing when there's a Cask Marque sign on the door.

The tables outside were busy, with most people dining, inside was not as busy but still a few people drinking in the bar side.

Next, just a little way along the road is the Lord Nelson:

Again, I can't remember back to '03, but I suspect the traditional multi-room interior is pretty much unchanged, apart, of course, from good maintenance.  It's certainly very nice, anyway.  No suggestion of real ale here, so another pint of fizz to keep me going.

A number of older-than-me regulars were chatting, mostly hiding the quiet music.  I couldn't see how many people were in the other rooms or the back yard, but judging by the number coming in for a drink or to visit the toilets I guess there were quite a lot.

What a great example of a local boozer, this, friendly and lively on a Friday afternoon.

Next, I had to tighten my resolve, as there was a target not visited since 1998 not too far away, but I had to walk past umpteen open pubs, including at least one with real ale, to get to the Glasshouse:

Curses!!  Too late.  Whatpub has it open in 2020, but sadly it's boarded up now.

I headed back to Old Swan, where there are a couple of places not visited since 2017 but wait, what's this?  Victory from the jaws of defeat - An unknown one!  Hoggin's:

An "Irish" pub in a shop conversion where the friendly barmaid informed me they'd opened last year, as she poured my Guinness (What else?)

Rather well done plain decor in here, resisting the temptation of over the top fake Irish nonsense.

Busy at four on a Friday, with almost all the tables occupied, and the quiet background music drowned out by animated chatter, which included a lot of swearwords.

Obviously I'm biased because this was a totally unexpected bonus, but something about the atmosphere here endeared it to me, the friendly staff (two) chatting with the regulars making for a comfortable experience.  I was waiting for someone to ask what I was doing with the tablet, so I could explain the guide, but no one did.

Next, a place last visited in 2017, but renamed since, the Old Tavern:

This used to be one of the early micro-pubs, opened in 2016, when it was called the Ale House.  Sadly, it would appear that it wasn't successful in the cask ale format, and under the new name it's all keg.  Nothing wrong with that, my Camden Pale was delicious, but I must comment that it is neither old nor a tavern.

The pale was served in one of Camden's rather unique glasses, like a standard conic but short and fat.  Very unusual and I quite like them;  they seem to fit my hand very well.

Nowhere near as busy as Hoggin's, but still ticking over OK, the rather eclectic music (That means, music I don't recognise.) was mostly louder than the conversations.

I eyed up the counter as I enjoyed my hoppy beer:  Eight taps, two I've never heard of - Pardal and Mago Lager.

Time for home.

Pub of the day: Hoggin's, because it was an unexpected bonus.
Miles walked: 2.1
Maybe coming soon: Thornton Hough, St Helens