Monday 28 February 2022

The Book

The latest edition of the book of the Merseyside Pub Guide was published today, after a flurry of editing and typesetting last week.

This year's edition lists 1,892 pubs of which I have visited 1,370, on 288 pages.

You can order a copy direct from the printer by clicking here, or it's available from Amazon and other distributors.

Thursday 24 February 2022

City Centre

Before today's report a brief mention of yesterday when I and a couple of friends spent an enjoyable afternoon in Liverpool.  Not a pub research trip, so no detailed descriptions or photographs, but our itinerary was the Railway, the Lion, the Denbigh Castle, Ye Hole In Ye Wall and finally Wetherspoon's North Western before catching our trains home.

Excellent real ale in all locations, and all were reasonably busy except the Denbigh which was rather quiet despite serving what was possibly the beer of the day.  I think we're doing Birkenhead next week.

Now, my second visit to town in two days, this time to mop up a few places that I wouldn't necessarily lead my pals to.  First, Yates:

I was a little irritated to see a Cask Marque sign by the door, but no handpumps on the counter.  The bar staff were very on the ball, interacting with each customer was soon as they approached the counter.  It's too common to have to put effort into catching the eye of the staff before you can be served, but not here.  Perhaps it was just my incredibly handsome face?  No, the next customer was immediately snagged by another barmaid.

It was quite busy with the Thursday lunchtime crowd, lots of families dining.  The menu of standard chain pub food looks good value for the city centre, with my standard reference of fish and chips just £8.00.

The table I selected could have done with a wipe down but otherwise the staff were doing a good job clearing up as people departed.  As the diners finished their meals and departed the place gradually got less busy.

Next, on to Williamson Square, where there are three potential targets.  I started in the Shakespeare:

A rather pleasant modern place on three floors.  I remained on the ground floor where it was ticking over at two in the afternoon.  Interestingly, a couple came in for food and the barmaid advised them to go upstairs where it's "quieter and nicer" - And presumably someone else has to do the work!

Shortly after opening in 2008 they had real ale, but that has long gone I'm afraid.  The place is otherwise unchanged since my last visit in '09.  It shouldn't be my sort of pub, but I rather like it - I'm not sure why, perhaps the plain unfussy comfortable style of the place.

Outside the weather was sleet and sunshine, lucky I haven't got far to go.  Just two doors down is  Shiraz:

Isn't that a type of grape?  And/or a place in the Middle East?

What a good shop conversion this is, the ancient looking counter front is either second hand or a very good fake, the dark wood panelling and pews the same.  The bare brickwork on one side is surely fake, and as for the riveted iron beam in the ceiling I've no idea.  Anyway, taken altogether these make a great interior which I really like.  A lot of effort by someone who knows what they are doing has clearly gone in to design here.

No real ale, of course, and the three young bar staff had some trouble pouring a Guinness but their second attempt was spot on.

Only six customers in at three on a Thursday were surely not paying the wages of three staff but I'm sure it'll be busier later.  Another place where the staff are on the ball and efficient,

I noticed they've got those draft cocktail fonts on the counter, once again the temptation is to ask for a pint, but I won't.

The tellies in here were showing last night's Liverpool match, as were those in the previous two places.

A handful of customers added to the trade as I enjoyed my Guinness.

Finally, another very short walk, to Sweeney's Bar next door.  (See picture above.)

Good grief, the karaoke is very loud in here.  There were quite a few people in this tiny corridor bar.  After obtaining my Guinness I headed to the back where it was a little less noisy.  But only a little.

A proper boozer this, noisy and lively even at three on a Thursday.  And very cold, I must say - I kept my coat on.

The decor was a bit plainer than the last stop, but still well done.

The aforementioned karaoke seemed to consist of just one bloke, who I must say did a good job, ranging from Mr Bojangles to The Drugs Don't Work.

What does this place remind me of?  Cooper's is the nearest, I think, they always seem to have loud live music.  Actually, that one's overdue for a visit as well.  Maybe next time.

It occurred to me that a town centre mop up is quite a good thing in winter weather, with so little distance between ticks, so I think a few more might be coming until the weather improves.

Pub of the day: Shiraz
Miles walked: 0.5
Maybe coming soon: The new edition of the book is with the printer, so should be out soon.

Thursday 17 February 2022

All Hail Free Ale

I thought there might be a little gap between storms Dudley and Eunice suitable for a survey in Southport.  I was wrong.

I arrived in Southport to be greeted by torrential rain.  A brief bit of shopping in the precinct by the station allowed this to ease off, and I set out towards the sea.  Half way there, I was being shotblasted by hailstones and had to shelter in the amusements.

A minute later and it was very light rain, so I headed on, but the rain increased as I approached my first destination, the never before visited Guelder Rose:

This is a standard 21st century chain dining place, surprisingly busy at one on a cold wet Thursday afternoon with many families enjoying lunch.  I bet they didn't walk here in a hailstorm, only your scribe is that daft.

Wainwright and Pedigree were the real ales on offer, I chose Wainwright purely because the person in front of me had one.  It was of fine quality.

The carvery was doing a good trade, and the wafting smell was very tempting.

I kept an eye on the weather outside.  The rain seemed to have eased off but the wind was getting stronger.

Next, another chain place and another first tick, this time a Hungry Horse, the Waterfront:

You know what to expect in a Hungry Horse, and this was pretty much as predicted, but with one possible exception:  I have had poor real ale in other branches of this chain in the past, but the Greene King IPA here was spot on.

As I said in the last place, I expected it to be quiet on a cold windy wet February Thursday, but it was doing a good trade, again mostly family diners.  It would appear that this end of the pub trade is surviving well.

I noticed behind the counter that they have the same "Logwood" food order software as Wetherspoon's do.  I could see four tables highlighted in pink, meaning the food is ready.  Perhaps another waiter is needed.

Next door, the Bliss Hotel advertises a rooftop bar - Perhaps not today!

Annoyingly, the Victoria across the road doesn't seem to be open, despite their website saying 12 and Google saying 2pm.  For some reason this one has never been ticked.

Onwards, to an odd cul-de-sac called Cable Street which mixes three pubs, one chicken shop, and residential properties.  The Fox and Goose and the Ship and Anchor were shut (I think a summer visit may be required)

... but O'Leary's was open, so I headed in to this pleasant "Irish" bar.

To be honest, I can't remember anything from a visit on a pub crawl in the last century, but I rather like this place this time.  The inevitable Irish clutter on the walls seems to have been done with better than average taste somehow.

Sadly, only two other customers when I arrived, and one more just behind me, were not keeping the barmaid busy.  I hope it does better later.

I headed out.  What the!?  The sun was shining!!

Where next?  So many targets from which to choose...  How about The Old Bank?

No real ale, but an impressive choice of craft ales (And Guinness) from which I picked one at random which was delicious.  The friendly efficient barman knew about the beers and advised me.  (Perhaps he was a little disappointed when I said mine was a random choice?)

Up market in appearance (and price) in a wonderful room which, I guess, was a bank.  A bit echoey, I bet it's noisy at busy times.  The lampshades are particularly fine.

The only other customers were a family group with a number of young kids.  Not really the target demographic, I would have thought, but they seemed happy so who's complaining?  The atmosphere did tend towards that of a nursery school at one point, but the little-uns were eventually corralled in their proper place, and then departed at which point it suddenly got a lot quieter.

The barman apologised for the noise, and brought me a free beer as compensation.  Not necessary but very welcome.  Cheers!

Three brand new ticks, the other one new in this millennium, and a free drink, that's a good score I think, so time for home.  I walked back to the station in bright sunshine, a great contrast to the weather earlier.

Pub of the day: The Old Bank.  Splendid architecture and free beer!
Miles walked: 2

Thursday 10 February 2022

Old Swan

Bright sunshine today as I took a short bus ride to Old Swan.  I was here only six months ago ticking outliers and oddities, but it occurred to me yesterday that it is four years since I visited the main pubs in Old Swan.

I started in the Millfield Inn:

One of the former Oak Lodge chain (See this blog passim) with their usual "traditional" decor and split level interior.  Down market, maybe, but warm, comfortable, clean and tidy - Although the plethora of arrows for the COVID one way system could do with being peeled off the floor.

Early on a Thursday afternoon it was ticking over gently with a number of regulars drinking and chatting.

Racing commentary mixed with the chatter, until it was drowned out when a customer fired up the Jukebox.  Play That Funky Music, White Boy.

My mind drifted to the umpteen pubs like this I drank in back in the 90s.  So many of them have gone, sadly missed.  It's pleasing to see "plain" boozers continuing post COVID, I was afraid they would all be lost.

On to the Old Swan:

Is this district named after the pub or vice versa, I wonder?

The pleasant interior in plain style contained a lot more customers than the previous place.  Once again no real ale (I'm not expecting any at all today) so I had a Guinness.

I sat in one of an unusual row of booths which have those annoying high chairs where one's feet don't reach the ground.  Why?  The high chairs are each for two people.  Each booth has its own telly, plus mains and phone charger sockets.  According to the signs you can "Reserve a booth for any occasion!"

There was a massive speaker on the wall above my head, luckily playing quiet background music.  Looking round the room I could see two different horse races and a footie match on various TVs, fortunately all silent.

Again, I was warm (-ish) and comfortable in a well cared for pub.

Looking around I could see a number of customers were actually watching the racing, presumably they had placed some bets.

The pub drunk came over for a chat.  Impressively bevied at half two in the afternoon, he was leaving before he got thrown out, he told me, and heading to the Masons (I might be going there later) even though their ale is more expensive. After instructing me to take care of myself, he weaved his unsteady way towards the door.

Next, I took a look at Brambles.  Would it be open?

Of course it is!

Looking a bit more threadbare than last time I was here, and with only a handful of customers, this one is doing less well than the previous places.  

The plain decor would be rather good if it received a lick of paint and some new carpet.

Silence reigned until a girl used the jukebox, after which the music was louder than is necessary in an empty pub.

The four other customers were gathered around the pool table.  Was the barmaid one of the players?  Yes.

I wonder if the Albany is open?

Once again, did I need to ask?  This rather unusual pub which looks like a few terraced houses from the outside has slightly chaotic decor inside, rather fun I think.  There's a small performance area at one end, containing a drum kit and some microphone stands,  do they have live music or is it just fun decor?

Quite a few locals in at four on a Thursday, keeping the place ticking over nicely.

I've always been rather fond of this pub, something about its hidden location up a quiet cul-de-sac and its external appearance as a couple of terraced houses lead to a great surprise when you find a proper, comfortable, friendly pub inside.  Many years ago I think it had real ale, I'm afraid that has gone but it remains a fine traditional boozer with what appears to be a good team of regulars.

Pub of the day: Albany
Miles walked: 2
Maybe coming soon: I've been saying this for months, but it's still Garswood.