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 writing drivel 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 from an architectural point of view.)  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 (No, it wasn't his.) was too loud for conversation so we moved to the billiard room which was a lot more peaceful.

Next, 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 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


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 phrase.  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