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

Saturday 7 August 2021


Following on from last week's trip to Hoylake, I decided to continue to search out Good Beer Guide pubs I've not done before, so I headed east in intermittent rain to Newton-le-Willows.  If I'd known it was racing at Haydock today I would have chosen somewhere else for a survey, the train was jam-packed.

First I headed to the Millstone:

Unfortunately it was shut, although it looks like it might be operational, I might have another try later.

Back under the railway and on to the Kirkfield Hotel:

Many years ago, I ignored this place, dismissing it as a residential hotel.  Then, for a number of years, it stood derelict.  So, you can imagine my surprise when it arrived in the Good Beer Guide last year.

It's still a hotel, but the multi-roomed lounge area has two bar counters, one of which supports a selection of handpumps.  My pint of Cheshire Cat was lovely. 

Initially crowded, the place calmed down as large groups headed off towards the racecourse.  How they got there I don't know, a lot seemed to be waiting for nonexistent taxis.  I hope I can finish today's ticks before they come back!

The decor here is modern plain, with the usual pastel coloured walls, and some areas of bare brickwork.  Altogether very well done.

I peered out of the window, the rain was getting heavier and the bridesmaids were getting wet at the wedding over the road.  I dawdled over my pint in the hope it would ease off.

So, after the initial wobble, a good start to the day:  A great pint in a GBG pub I've never visited.

A walk to the far end of the high street took me past a number of targets for later and on to the Oak Tree:

This pub has rather good antiquey decor with some old-ish features retained, although the knocking through has destroyed any historic value.  Two handpumps but no clips, so I just had fizz.

There were still a few besuited groups in here, were they waiting for the rain to stop before heading to the track, or perhaps they'd decided not to bother and have a pub crawl instead.

About half the tables were occupied, with a wide range of customers, and gentle chatter filled the room with muzac in the background.

Now, in heavy rain, back in the direction of the station, and soon a bedraggled wet figure approached the Firkin:

Ten handpumps on the counter, how do they manage to keep the quality high with so many, I wonder?  Suddenly, amongst the array of no doubt tasty beers I'd never heard of I spotted Bass.  It would be rude not to!  It was good but, I think, lacking in flavour a little? 

As my Bass was being poured I studied the blackboard.  An 11% coffee stout looked very tempting, could I resist staying for another drink?  We'll see...

Gentle conversations and the click of dogs' feet on the floor were the only sounds here; the dog that came to visit me was, I discovered, wetter than I.

As I enjoyed my ale, more and more people came in, until the place was quite full.  The rain eased off and the view of the street got brighter.

Over the road to the Pied Bull:

My researches on streetview had shown this place as a building site, so I was very pleased to see this was for a splendid external refurbishment.  The wet weather meant it looked deserted until I opened the front door and found a very busy room pretty much unchanged since my previous visit, filled with happy diners and echoing with chatter.  No clips on the four handpumps so I had Love Lane for a change.

I wasn't allowed a table without consulting the waitress, so I sat at the bar.  Actually, I'm not sure there were any free tables anyway.

No less than six staff were busy organising food and drink, and I was in pole position to observe their work, I watched all sorts of drinks being prepared, including a shot glass of something inside a glass of Red Bull.

I must say, the custom in here was amazing.  Admittedly, I don't often survey on a Saturday, but at three o'clock I didn't expect to find myself in party central.  Good news for pub survival, all they need to do now is add real ale.

Someone ordered a wine so posh it had a cork; the waitress made a right pigs ear of opening it.

Next, Stocks Tavern:

The down market end of the Newton experience, but there's nothing wrong with that.  This is a well done plain two-sided boozer, and it was very busy at four on a Saturday.

Rugby was on the tellies but the commentary was drowned out by cheerful chatter from the many customers.

Three handpumps on the counter but I suspect they are purely decorative, so this time I had a Guinness.

The staff were very busy keeping a constant stream of drinks leaving the servery.

It's great to visit a busy pub like this; while I do like hiding in a quiet corner of an empty pub on a Thursday afternoon, we really need places to be busy to keep them going.  This one and the last are certainly managing that.

Now comes a choice:  Do I try the Millhouse again, or just head for home?

I took the lazy option.  On my way to the station I noted that the former Legh Arms, which was a building site for many years, has completed its transformation to residential use:

Pub of the day: Firkin, for the wide choice of beers.
Miles walked: 1.3
Maybe coming soon: St Helens, Thornton Hough