Friday, 30 July 2021

Belgium!

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:

Sorry about the picture, it's the best I could do without a tow-truck.

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".

Pub of the day: Pleased though I was to discover a Belgian bar, this has to be the perfect Plasterers.
Miles walked: 1.2
Maybe coming soon: Southport

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.