Saturday 30 July 2022

Fourteen Hundred

Back to Prescot only two weeks after my last visit.  The buses are on strike so I had to take the train, a less frequent service and a longer walk.

I started by checking the Mermaid Tavern, located in part of what was the Red Lion.  I had noticed it, not open, last time but they're ready now, having launched just eight days ago.

Very pleasantly done out inside with comfy leather sofas and bare brick walls.  Is that parquet floor genuine?  I think so.  Did the Red Lion have such a floor?  I don't remember.

No cask, so I had Guinness, at five quid the most expensive I've bought for some time - I can't see your average Prescot woolyback paying that much!

Only one other customer at half twelve, a scruffy bloke* watching the footie on the telly and muttering to himself; now that's more like the sort of clientele I expect in this friendly down market town.  He had a pint of something lager-coloured but it wasn't going down very quickly.

[* To be fair, no scruffier than me.  Except I won't wear shorts in public in the UK.]

Built on a hill, I remember the Red Lion had rooms on different levels.  As they've only used about half of the old pub, everything is on the same level here.

Next, just off the main shopping street is Lord Strange:

Opened in 2019, this splendid shop conversion has managed to survive through COVID.  The draft beers seemed to all be German lagers including one I've never heard of (Maxlrainer), except for the Guinness tap.  I chose the always good Erdinger, shame they don't have the Dunkel which I like even more.

Six quid for my pint, again we're not aiming for the local drunks here.

There's more seating upstairs, and quite a few tables in the (pedestrianised) street but with only one other customer these aren't really required at one on a Saturday.  Also upstairs is a display of optician's equipment from the building's former use.

My Erdinger came in the proper glass, of course, but it was a promotional one with a picture of Herr Klopp who I think is still the manager of a local football team.  It also had a pint line.

That reminds me of something from a couple of weeks ago:  I enjoyed a pint of the wonderful Cain's F.A. in Doctor Duncan's and it came in a proper F.A. glass.  I was surprised to see a crown stamp on the glass, is this a positive result of Brexit - we can have British markings on glasses - I wondered.  No, according to the barman they acquired loads of old glasses when they took over the defunct brewery.

The rain that had been threatening arrived as I finished my pint, but it was only very light.

On the main shopping street, I found Eden:

The tiny downstairs space was mostly full of a hen party, I paused for the "sorry, private function" but it didn't come, in fact I was called to the counter by one of the staff.  I nearly baled out when there were no fonts on the counter, but then spotted a number of taps on the bar back.  

My pint of "Eden" was a rather good Pilsner, and was "only" £4.50.

Unable to find a seat as the live musician was setting up in the only free corner, I retreated upstairs where I sat alone on the tiny mezzanine.  The barmaid followed me up to provide a candle on my table, not really necessary!

Downstairs remained busy, with loud conversation echoing around the space, and mostly drowning the quiet background music.  Then the musician started.  A bit loud, perhaps, but he was rather good*.  Jamie Higgs, it said on his guitar.

[* Until he did Coldplay, we get more than enough of that crap on the wireless.  Having said that, his rendition of I Will Fix You was much better than that whiney multimillionaire.]

So that's 1,399 pubs ticked, can I complete the century?

Of course I can, there's another bar on the same street, called Spanish Caravan:

Another shop conversion, with a pleasant interior plus tables out on the street.

There seemed to be some kind of private function going on upstairs, and there were no vacant seats downstairs so I took my schooner of Estrella 1906 outside, luckily the rain had stopped.  They wouldn't sell me a pint of this rather wonderful beer, probably wisely as it's 6.5%, so I paid £5 for a schooner.  Unusually dark for a lager, and very tasty, I certainly recommend it.  I think you'd probably call it a Bock?

I enjoyed the full continental experience, with shoppers passing up and down the street while plenty of customers sat with me in the open.  Two attractive young ladies on stilts proceeded past, promoting local entertainment and pausing for selfies with children and adults alike.  I wonder how long this sort of activity can continue?  Hopefully indefinitely.

Having achieved the fourteen hundred milestone, I think I'll head for home.  Prescot seems to be a place of contrasts nowadays, mixing the down market boozers I visited two weeks ago with up market cafe bars.  What a great combination.  When was the last time I saw live music at two in the afternoon?

Pub of the day: Difficult to choose one, the Spanish Caravan stands out, because it was number 1,400.
Miles walked: 1.2
Maybe coming soon: Crossens, Southport, Heswall

Thursday 28 July 2022

Wood Street

There are plenty of pubs in central Liverpool overdue for a visit, so I headed into town, and took a stroll up Wood Street.  I started my researches near the top end, in Belgica:

Here I found a pleasant split level interior, the walls covered, of course, with Belgian signs and posters, some beer related.  The ceiling was barrel vaulted brickwork, presumably genuine.

The place was deserted apart from two customers, with no one serving.  I eyed up the beers on offer while I waited for the waitress who took some food to the other customers and then returned to the counter to serve me a Delerium Red, in a proper glass.  Delicious!

The background music was rather good, although not noticeably Belgian - Probably just as well, non stop Plastique Bertrand would soon irritate, I think.  I'm probably demonstrating my ignorance of music here, I can't think of any other Belgian musicians.  Pause ... slaps forehead!  Of course, the wonderful Soulwax.

I took a look at the beer menu.  A bit short for a Belgian bar with only thirty or forty beers, but they've got my favourites in bottles including Rochfort 10 so that's good as far as I'm concerned.  I also perused the food menu, very tempting but where's the moules?  And more importantly, the sauce andalouse.

So should I stay here and get drunk on 11% trappist beer?  Perhaps not.

While I'm in the area it would be rude not to go in the famous Swan Inn, so I did:

Nothing changes in here, I'm glad to report, including decent real ale, I had Wobbly Bob.  Just a handful of customers at one on a Thursday, but significantly more than in the Belgica.

The rock jukebox was doing its stuff as always, this is definitely not the pub for a quiet conversation!  The really heavy metal is not to my taste, but it also played slightly gentler tracks such as Sweet Home Alabama, I enjoyed Lynyrd Skynyrd live twenty-odd years ago.

It's not just great cask in here, I noticed:  They've got Erdinger and Erdinger Dunkel on tap, the latter is uncommon on draft in this country I think.

Next, further down Wood Street is the never visited Woodys:

Before the apostrophe police come crashing through the door, I should point out that the rule for the Merseyside Pub Guide is "as written on the sign".

I wasn't sure what to expect here, thinking it was some sort of night club, and I was surprised to find it open at two in the afternoon, but it was, with about a dozen customers keeping the place ticking over.

The dark atmospheric interior is rather well done, I think, but despite the "sports bar" branding, all the TVs are showing "Magic TV".  Actually, they play a good selection of music, I think I'm suddenly in love with Dido.

One customer sitting at the counter was very drunk and very noisy, the remainder enjoying their drinks quietly.

I had a Guinness here, and it was only £2.70.  I thought it might be a bit thin after 7.5% and 6% beers but in fact it tasted as good as ever.

I continued down Wood Street and the next new tick was Soho:

I've never been in here before.  Soho is a rather odd place, with a large outdoor area in front, and a rather well done nightcluby interior with the largest number of glitter balls I've ever seen in one place.  Half two on a Thursday is not really the best time for a place like this, and there was only one other customer.

Nonetheless, as I sat alone bathed in the sparkles from the glitter balls and listened to Don't Look Back In Anger I must say I rather liked the place.  I bet at eleven on a Friday night it's really lively.  (Actually, I'm showing my age here - It'll probably be dead at eleven, and get busy after 1 am!)

My Guinness cost a lot more than in Woodys, at £4.50, perhaps they don't want the down market drunks here!  It was served in one of those "hard plastic" glasses which feel like glass until you lift it half empty and nearly throw it over your shoulder.

Good grief, it's only half two and I'm well bevied, there's only one thing to do, drink more...

At the bottom of Wood Street is O'Neill's:

It's twelve years since I was in here, and it hasn't changed a bit.  Still an above average "Irish" pub, better in my opinion than most.  Obviously I had another Guinness.

The background music was gentle here, often drowned by the cheerful chatter of the customers.

I see they've got one of those bubbling Corona fonts I wrote about the other day, I reckon the bubbles on display are nothing to do with what you actually drink, at least I hope so.

I checked the menu, it looks rather good I must say.  And good value.

Anyway, time to head for home even though it's only a quarter past three.  A splendid crop of three new ticks taking me to 1,397.  The next two I've got lined up require the bus strike to be settled.

Pub of the day: The Swan Inn
Miles walked: 1.5
Maybe coming soon: Crossens, Southport, Heswall, Prescot

Saturday 16 July 2022

A Trip To The Theatre - Or Not

I headed to Prescot with the aim of checking out the new Shakespeare North Playhouse which opens today.  If it has got a bar I could get a new tick?  There was a queue to get in, so I didn't bother!

Just round the corner is the Old Mill:

A pleasantly decorated interior here, it's hard to put a name to the style.  

I selected a handpump from three Hydes' brews but "we're not having cask until next week".  So I ordered a Carling.  A regular butted in recommending Dock 4, Hydes' own lager; "go on, give him a taste".  The barmaid did, and it was OK so I switched to that.  "And it's cheaper", my new friend added.

I headed for one of the seating areas.  "Members only" said a woman there, I hesitated and she added "only kidding".

There were plenty of regulars keeping this cheerful friendly place going at one on a Saturday.

I checked the queue, it was longer, so on the the Deanes House:

No change in here since my 2018 visit, except the handpumps seem to have disappeared.

Pretty much deserted, perhaps three other customers, only just outnumbering the two staff, so not doing so well on a Saturday afternoon, with no atmosphere at all.

Perhaps it could be full for LFC home games, St Helens rugby and other sporting events, but I get the feeling this kind of pub is in decline.  No food to bring in the families, no cask for real ale fans, sports is the only thing they offer and everyone's got Sky nowadays (Except me).  On today's evidence, the daily boozers prefer the Old Mill, and who wouldn't?

Where next?  First another look at the queue - same length - and then on to the Hope and Anchor:

Similar in some ways to the Deanes, yet somehow more pubby and friendly.  Once again two staff but this time six or seven customers, so doing slightly better.   Still worryingly empty on a Saturday afternoon.

The plain traditional decor is well cared for, and I think that's a real stone floor, and not the usual vinyl nonsense.

Next, the Bard:

There's only one thing wrong with this tiny shop conversion, and that is that it is too popular.  I remember struggling for a seat last time I was here and it looked like being the same this time, but as my excellent pint of Shakespeare's Blonde was being poured, some people departed leaving a free table which I soon nabbed.

As you might expect, the walls are covered with your favourite (He certainly isn't mine) author's quotes.  I noticed a "greengrocer's apostrophe" in one, but whether the Bard himself erred I could not say.  (Subsequent research revealed that the apostrophe was used in plural's in some early edition's of his work's.)

Next, the least recently visited pub nearby is Wetherspoon's, so that's where I'm heading. Really, I ought to walk a mile to the Holt, last visited in 2015, but I can't be bothered.

Actually, I eyed up the beer list here in the Bard and was tempted to stay for another, probably Tiny Rebel's lovely Clwb Tropicana, but I resisted.

The Watch Maker:

Sometimes the requirements of pub ticking mean I have to walk past the cask pub and have a lager down the road, it is pleasing when it works the other way round.  Amongst the ales on offer was Shakesbeer, celebrating the theatre's opening.  When I noticed it was brewed by Peerless I knew it would be good and indeed it was.

The pub was busy but not packed, with plenty of food coming out of the kitchen, I don't really understand why my shares are going down, surely if people are worried about inflation they are more likely to come somewhere cheap, and it's the expensive dining places that will see a drop in trade?

So, in conclusion, I failed on the prime objective because I didn't go inside the theatre, but I did visit five pubs last ticked in 2018, so that's a pretty good result.  I also had two pints of quality real ale.  On the down side, the Holt, last visited in 2015, now sits alone, miles from any other wanted tick.

Or does it?  On my walk to the bus stop I passed no less than three bars I've never heard of, so clearly Prescot deserves another visit, sooner rather than later.

Pub of the day: Wetherspoon's
Miles walked: 1.1
Maybe coming soon: Crossens, Southport, more Prescot

Thursday 7 July 2022

A Twenty-One Gun Salute?

My arrival at Hightown station was heralded by a fusillade of gunfire, presumably from Altcar Barracks; or were the locals just celebrating the demise of an unpopular leader?

I set off on a one mile rural stroll along roads mostly without pavement; I had to step into the weeds each time a car approached.  I made it to target number one unscathed apart from some nettle stings.  The never before visited Pheasant:

Here I found an up market dining pub very well decorated.  Three handpumps on the counter offered Wainwright, Doom Bar, and Landlord, but only Doom Bar was available.  Only one out of three often indicates they are not really interested in cask quality so I ordered a pint with some trepidation, but I needn't have worried, it was good.

Not many customers were here at two on a Thursday, and all those I could see were eating.  Actually, there were quite a few cars in the car park, so probably more people in than I thought.  The interior, though knocked through into one room, has kept some of the interior walls, breaking up the space into separate areas, so quite a few people could be hidden from me.

There wasn't a food menu on my table so I couldn't comment on the offer, but I suspect it's up market and fairly expensive.  I checked the internet: Fish and chips £14.75

I retraced my steps back to Hightown, and the Hightown:

I think it's had another refurbishment since my last visit, in 2017, and the inside is beautiful.  The colour scheme is shades of grey, of course, inside and out.  

Aside:  This fashion for grey is going mad.  Luckily I like it; in the last few months I've had some work done in my house, and you'd struggle to find anything coloured in the tile showroom or the carpet showroom.

Once again, only one handpump in operation, and it is offering Theakston Summit, specially brewed to be served chilled says the pump clip.  And it was poured in a chilled glass as well. Hmmm.  Actually, leaving my preconceptions aside, it was a very tasty hoppy brew which I enjoyed after my long walk back from the Pheasant. 

There was a singalong going on in one corner of this wonderful pub, quite a large group accompanied by a number of ukuleles.  I was going to write "singalong for the elderly" but they did Blowing in the Wind which is closer to my era!  Last time I met a singalong it was songs from the forties in the Durning Arms in Edge Hill, back in 1999.  Actually I think it was more than a singalong here, more like a choir practising; sometimes they stopped mid-song and talked a bit and then carried on.

The fortunately silent telly reported the comings and goings at Downing Street.

What time is my train to Formby?  Curses!  No internet on my phone nor on my tablet.  Oh well, there's a train every 15 minutes, I'll just have to go when I'm ready, and take my chances.  In accordance with Sod's Law, there was a train at the platform as I stepped out of the pub, no chance of catching it so I had to wait for the next one.

From Formby station it is not far to walk to another new tick which opened in 2020, I believe.  The Tin Shed:

A standard micro-pub shop conversion this, nicely done.  Four handpumps, three in service, and my pint of something from Hawkshead was very good.

Four other customers were here at half three, two enjoying the same cask as me, the other two on red wine.  

Unlike some micro-pubs this one doesn't offer a range of craft ales, in fact I couldn't see any.  Nothing wrong with that, it's quality cask that's most important, and they've got that nailed.

A new entry for my collection of amusing pub signs:  Drinking can cause memory loss... or even worse, memory loss.

Once again, no mobile data, what is it about this area?  Or have I failed to pay my bill?

Three fine pints of cask so far, where should I go next?  There a Wetherspoon's just round the corner but wait, to get there I have to go past the Village Inn last visited in 2014 so I'm afraid that takes priority.

Well, that was the plan but what's this?  Woodwards Winebar:

That most desired discovery on these research trips, a place that's not in my database!

A well decorated shop conversion with some very comfortable sofas as well as more standard seating.

Aiming for a different market from the Shed, this one has no cask so I had a Guinness. Looking round, other customers had wine or gin or coffee.  It's after four now and the place is quite busy, definitely the most "bustling" pub so far today.

I could go home next, but why not tick off the only other target in the area?  (All the other pubs, excellent though some of them are, have been visited in the last three or four years)  So I carried on to the Village Inn:

Now this is most certainly the opposite end of the market from where I started in the Pheasant.  A nicely done interior with lots of tellies showing racing, everyone drinking lager. (Except me, I had another Guinness)  It doesn't seem to have changed since I was here in 2014.

A couple of dozen customers, all male, marked this as a classic or throwback boozer, reminiscent of many I drank in back in the 1990s.  (Actually, there were two women in as well.)

On a technical side point, I noticed one of the TVs was showing "snow", I didn't think that still existed in the digital era.  Perhaps they still feed analogue UHF to some of the older displays?  A minute later it was showing Wimbledon.

Three quality pints and three new ticks is a good score - Only six more to get fourteen hundred!  Let's go home.

Pub of the day: The Hightown 
Miles walked: 3.6
Maybe coming soon: Crossens

Saturday 2 July 2022

Classic 60s Estate Pubs in Kirkby

Two trains delivered me to Kirkby station from where it's only a short walk to what was the Mariners when I was here ten years ago.  Now it's the Mainbrace:

Apart from the name there's no change in the intervening years, it remains a beautifully maintained 60s estate boozer with a knocked through interior creating one large open l-shaped room.

Ticking over nicely at one on a Saturday, with locals aged eight to eighty, and some kind of event in one corner involving a buffet.  Shall I steal a buttie?  I think not.

I am predicting that my next three targets will be very similar to this one, although remembering back 25 years when I was a regular drinker in Kirkby I seem to recall the Mariners was the nicest of the pubs in this area.  It had carpet when the others were lino!

Next, the Fantail:

It is less common nowadays to have a bookies in the pub car park, but they've got one here.  A bloke was standing by the pub doorway monitoring my approach as I photographed the pub, sometimes this is a bit of a warning sign, I have been shouted at in the past - Why are you taking a picture of me?  No such aggro here and as I approached the entrance he struck a pose and asked "Where do you want me?"

Another 60s estate pub, this time there's no carpet at least in the bar side where I joined a dozen or so regulars.

In what I suspect will be a common theme of today's trip, the interior is again clean and tidy and well maintained, although if I'm nitpicking the bench seat I sat on was due for a recovering.

My beer was poured in a glass from the fridge.  Totally unnecessary in my opinion, it just increases the condensation dripping on the table.  Luckily beermats were available to soak it up.

I looked around the room at the nine other customers; all seemed to be on Carling, as was I.  See, I do know how to fit in!

On to the Johnny Todd:

This one looks a touch down at heel from the outside, but the knocked through interior is rather well done and very well cared for.  The bare brick walls look good, but it's only wallpaper!

On my previous vist ten years ago this was called the New Johnny Todd, and the name remains in some signage, but mostly it's back to the original name.  Johnny Todd is a sea shanty, the melody of which was used as the theme tune to Z-Cars, some of which was filmed here in Kirkby.  It's also the theme tune of Everton.  (Er, the football team not the place.)

The quietest pub so far, only three or four other customers were with me, watching Wimbledon on multiple tellies.  The previous two places had racing on.  Three more blokes later added to the custom.

Now, on to the most important target of today's excursion:  I last drank in the Falcon in 1998, would I be able to tick it again 24 years later?

Oh yes.

Once again, a plain but well cared for 1960s local pub.  This time there's a kids party in one side, the screaming occasionally disturbing the peace in the other room.

I was particularly intrigued by a picture on the wall.  Six naked women sitting on the edge of a pool, viewed from the rear.  Each woman had a Pink Floyd album cover design drawn on her back.  I delved in my memory, I've got Atom Heart Mother, ???, Dark Side, WYWH, The Wall, and Animals.  Since I put away my vinyl and ripped all my CDs on to hard disk, I listen to the jukebox and never look at the sleeves any more.  I guess this is one of the reasons why vinyl is making a comeback.  I cheated via Google, the one I couldn't get was Relics, of course.  Actually, I'd thought "See Emily Play", but I couldn't tie it to an album name.  A quick search of the internet reveals that I'm probably the only person who hasn't seen this image before.

The noise from the party was rather loud, I must say, but four or five regulars and I put up with it.  The buffet certainly smelled good.

Well, four boozers, three last done in 2012, the other 1998, that's a good result for the stats.  I think a bus home is the best thing to do now.

Pub of the day: Four well cared for classics, the prize must go to the Falcon for the desirability of the tick.
Miles walked: 1.5
Maybe coming soon: Formby, Crossens