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.
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.
Miles walked: 2.2
Maybe coming soon: Garswood