I started a survey in Hoylake with lunch in Wetherspoon's Hoylake Lights, accompanied by a pint of Coach House Blonde.
A pleasant modern one this, not quite as busy as I expected on a Friday lunchtime, but ticking over nicely. I guess some of the tourist traffic has been reduced by today's horrible weather.
As with all spoons, a wide variety of customers were drinking and eating, the all day brunch seemed particularly popular. And tempting, but I'm trying to cut down a bit so limited myself to a wrap.
Next, just along the road is the Ship:
A very pleasant pub, which has a very good beer garden - But not in today's weather. Sadly, completely deserted at one o'clock, doesn't anyone else want a fine pint of Landlord? Apparently not.
Oh no! There's a Dutch-style chip van in the car park. And I've already had my lunch. Can I resist chips with sauce andalouse? That's a favourite I haven't tasted for many years. Oh well, at least the ale is good.
The two staff busied themselves cleaning tables and chairs thoroughly. There was a sign on the door asking people to wear masks, which I ignored. It's about time they peeled all that hazard tape off the floor, as well.
Not much else to report on in the empty pub, the Olympics were on telly, silently, while the music was a bit loud, and in the case of one track, much too sweary for radio!
Next, the beautiful Plasterers Arms:
Off the beaten track and hidden up a back street, I sometimes wonder how this hidden gem survives. I guess the answer is that it is a wonderful pub. The interior decor is half timbered in historic style but I suspect it's all fake, pleasant nonetheless.
Excellent ales were on offer, including the splendid White Rat.
Sadly, once again there was hardly any custom early on a Friday afternoon, just one regular standing at the bar while I enjoyed my ale, and actually he might be the landlord?
Why is it I keep seeing Ossett White Rat? It's hardly a local brew but I've had it in a number of pubs in Merseyside recently. It's one of my top ales so the more the better as far as I'm concerned.
As I was walking here I noticed a bar not in my database - The Trappist House:
Good grief, a Belgian bar with a beer list to match! Just a shop conversion, decorated to look like a Belgian bar. Surprisingly busy, and most of the indoor tables were reserved, luckily I found one free until four.
I perused the extensive beer menu, avoiding the stronger options, this is bar number four today, and I want to do another before I go home. Aha, an old favourite, Lindeman's Kriek, will do nicely. But they haven't got any, losing points for that, a real Belgian bar always has everything in stock!
The only cherry ones we've got in stock are the strong ones, said the waitress, so I, perhaps unwisely, tried Delirium Red, which was a gorgeous 8% one. Wonderful! I've had Delirium Tremens before (The beer, not the medical condition, although now you mention it...) but this one was new to me. Served in a Delirium glass, of course; and the bottle delivered to my table. The brewery logo, by the way, is a pink elephant!
The two barmaids were dashing about frantically to keep everyone served, and doing a good job.
I looked round. They've got ten on draft, including Westmalle and Kasteel Rouge - which was the other cherry option.
Next, I perused the beer menu a bit more. There's Rochefort 10, which I have sometimes described as my all time favourite beer in the world. Maybe next time... (I could see plenty of them, in fact the whole Rochefort range, in the fridge.)
This is going down quickly despite its strength, I thought, before I realised half my drink was still in the bottle.
What a great place, I'll be back before long I think, for a one bar excursion.
Before leaving I noticed they've got some of the famous Kwak glasses, I must try that - I'm fairly sure I have drunk some Kwak in the past, but never out of the "flask". I've always suspected that it's just for tourists, like Scotland's deep fried Mars bar, but I'd love to try it once.
Finally, on to the original reason for my trip today, the Black Toad:
A Good Beer Guide entry that I've never visited, and the guide is almost a year old. So, a long overdue pint here. More of a standard shop conversion micro pub this one, actually two shops I think, very pleasantly done out.
A good range of cask was on offer, I'm afraid my pint of Peerless Triple Hop tasted a bit thin after the Delirium, but after a few mouthfuls it was lovely.
Quiet background music mixed with cheerful chatter in here. Like in the Belgian bar, groups of Wirralites were commencing their Friday festivities.
In summary, Hoylake must be one of the best pub towns in the whole of Merseyside, with a Belgian Bar putting them well ahead of all the competition. [Always end your blog posting with a contentious assertion, to encourage feedback.] I've had four pints of quality cask, and a bottle of Belgian nectar, and ticked two places for the first time, you can't get a better pub survey than that!
The rain which had been threatening all day had now arrived so I was going to get a little wet on my way back to the station. After all that gorgeous ale, who cares? As my friend John says, "skin's waterproof".
Miles walked: 1.2
Maybe coming soon: Southport