Sunday 31 December 2023

End Of Year Report

2023 has been a bit of a "steady as she goes" year for the Merseyside Pub Guide:  The COVID restrictions are a distant memory, but we have the cost of living crisis to contend with instead.

This year I've managed to tick a pleasing forty-four pubs never before tried, bringing my grand total of Merseyside pubs to 1,465.  I was cheered to note that a significant number of the new ticks were new operations:

During the year I have logged a total of 264 visits to 255 pubs.  204 of these were "required", i.e. to pubs not ticked in the preceding five years.

People sometimes ask me which is my favourite Merseyside pub and I have managed to work out a "witty" answer, which is "The one I am in!"  I am not going to be so foolish as to try and come up with a pub of the year, although I was extremely pleased to see the Big House (Vines) in town rescued from its long decline:

I was honoured just a few days ago to get a mention in Pub Curmudgeon's blog.  Fame at last!  His comments reminded me of the uniqueness of my blog and the Merseyside Pub Guide:  I don't just collect good beer pubs or good architecture pubs, I target ALL pubs and am just as happy (well, almost) swigging Carling in a backstreet boozer as I am savouring Oakham Citra in an architectural gem.  I have yet to find any other website which covers all and any pubs in this way.

My beer-fuelled odyssey has been under way for over twenty-five years so it might be worth looking at some of the changes I have seen:

  • The smoking ban obviously had a tremendous effect.  I look back with some nostalgic fondness to entering a packed pub when you couldn't see the other side for the fumes, and much less fondly to picking up my coat the next morning to go to work and suffering the stink of stale smoke!
  • The demise of the real shithole has been a definite plus.  The pubs with fag-ends and vomit on the floor, surly bar staff and customers, and tatty furnishings have either cleaned up their act (and their vomit) or closed.
  • There are many many fewer customers.  In 1998 on a Saturday afternoon survey in, for example, Tuebrook I would expect to find them three deep at the counter, and once served I would have to stand.  These days it is very rare for me to fail to get a table to sit at.
  • Opening hours have reduced in many places so that a Tuesday afternoon research trip is in danger of being fruitless nowadays.
  • Of course, we've lost a lot of pubs over the years.  Of the 1,977 recorded in my database I have 874 marked as closed.  This number is likely to be lower than the true figure as I often don't learn that a pub has gone until I try to re-visit.

Finally, let me send all my readers my best wishes for the coming year.  I wonder if I can find pub number 1,500 during 2024?

Friday 22 December 2023

New In Walton Vale

The original plan for today was to get the train to Fazakerley for a number of overdue ticks working my way towards Walton.  But my preflight researches revealed three new bars at the end of that journey, so instead I headed straight to Walton Vale, and Fazakerley will have to wait for another time.

Just across the road from the classic post-war architecture of the Windsor, is Rooney's:

Sorry about the rather blurry picture.

Not very pubby, but this attempt at American styling is rather good.  Chrome tables, red white and blue seats, I really like it.  There's a mezzanine above the counter with a pool table.

Nothing American in the beer choice, I had my usual Carling.  If I were making suggestions I would say why not add a couple of American beers, that heavily advertised Brooklyn Lager or something you don't see every day like Sam Adams.  (They did have Budweiser but that's probably brewed in Burton!  Come to think of it, I bet Brooklyn Lager is too.  Checks internet...  Close, but no cigar!  Magor (Wales) and Wolverhampton respectively.)

Not many people in at half one on the Friday before Christmas, two groups one of which left just after I arrived and a couple of lads playing pool.  I was somewhat concerned about how busy things would be today and had decided my alternative plan of a few ticks in the city centre was unwise, but passing through Liverpool on my way here it seemed, if anything, quieter than a normal Friday.

Perhaps everyone is sick of Christmas already, or are they saving themselves for the weekend?  Personally I'll visit the local supermarket early on Saturday morning and then I won't leave the house again until next Wednesday, when the blood donors need me.

Next, ignoring the splendid building that is the Black Bull I crossed the road to the Tiny Tavern:

A well done shop conversion, one room nicely decorated with lots of plastic greenery and flowers.  Just a tiny nod to Christmas decorations; well done!

No real ale so I had another Carling.

The gentle music mixed with chatter between the barmaid and regulars.

A few doors down the road and directly opposite the Spoons is Cove Bar:

Another pleasant shop conversion with no real ale, so Carling again.  The Christmas decorations in here are much more noticeable, but very tastefully done, in fact beautiful, so another well done from me.  This year I haven't seen a single pub with excessive dekkies, have I touched lucky or has fashion simply aligned with my personal taste?

After writing the last sentence I thought about the phrase "touched lucky".  Google was no help at all but I think it is a phrase unique to Liverpool, meaning "been fortunate".

Quite a few customers in here, the loudest sound being animated conversations.

I looked out of the front windows.  The roads here were extremely busy reminding me of last Friday's bus problems, the difference being I can get a train home this time.  I hope!  Cancelled trains at Lime Street on Wednesday after a very good Birkenhead crawl resulted in a perhaps unwise extra pint in the North Western.

With three new shop conversions ticked, it seems only fitting to do a slightly older example of the species, the Vale Bar:

I think this is my favourite non-cask micro pub in Merseyside, there's something about the over the top decor (Not a square inch of the walls unused.) that make the place attractive, and it was full of happy chatter and happy regulars.  Perhaps I'm biased because all my visits have been after a few pints?

I had considered finishing my 2023 researches with some cask in Wetherspoon's, despite it not being a "required" tick, but this is much more fun.  What a fine boozer.

So, a great result for my last survey of the year.  (That's last survey and certainly not last pubs!)  THREE brand spanking new ticks taking my score of new ones this year to 44 for an all time total of 1,465 pubs visited.  All those stories about pubs struggling and yet I can find six new ones in eight days.

Let's see how frantic things are as I make my way home on so-called Black Eye Friday...  The answer is the train from Lime Street was so quiet I got a table to myself.

Pub of the day: Vale Bar
Beer of the day: Carling
Miles walked: Less than 1.
Maybe coming soon: Fazakerley, Crosby, Egremont, Wallasey

Saturday 16 December 2023

West Derby or East Of Eden

Another day, another bus ride, this time towards West Derby.  It was a lot shorter and quicker than yesterday's and I was very soon at my first target: Just across the road from Alder Hey Hospital is a new tick, the Eden Bar.  Damn, the shutters are down!  I hadn't managed to find the hours on the web but I thought I was safe on a Saturday afternoon.  I passed here on the bus at about the same time last Saturday and it was OK then.

Oh well, on eastwards through pleasant suburban back streets to a pair of pubs across the road from each other.  First, the Royal Standard:

A very nicely done Greene King operation with plenty of customers in a very pleasant pub partly knocked through but retaining separation between areas.

Only one operational handpump, offering IPA, and initially it served cleaning fluid.  The friendly barmaid headed down to the cellar and returned, grumbling about the stairs, to pull a couple of pints through before serving me with a spot on one.

Fish and chips is £12.19 on the menu of pub standards, what an odd price.  The food arriving at nearby tables looks good.

The gentle muzac mixed with family chatter and the occasional gurgle of a baby as I reflected on my recent drinking experience.  I know some readers of this blog pity me as I guzzle pint after pint of Carling but it occurred to me that since the lager in the Sheil Park last Saturday I have drunk twenty pints in umpteen pubs, all cask and all high quality.  I wonder how long I can keep that up?  I fear I know the answer, and I predict at least one of the next two ticks will be keg only.

Across the road is the 1930s gem of a building that is the Crown Inn:

Every time I come here I mention that this pub appeared as the Swan in Brookside, many years ago.  The interior retains quite a lot of original features including leaded glass work and dark wood panelling and partitions.  It has clearly had the layout of the rooms modified over the years, but it is still split into two sides with limited access between.  What a nice pub, it seems more clean and tidy than I remember from last time.

Banter amongst the regulars mostly drowned out gentle football commentary from the telly, there was also racing on another screen.

As predicted it was a pint of Carling in here, oh well, my cask streak couldn't go on for ever.  Actually it was tangy and refreshing and I really enjoyed it.  Will I get kicked out of CAMRA for writing that?

I looked at the racing on the telly.  Is it snowing there?  No, I think it is poor reception.  I'm surprised there is analogue transmission anywhere in the chain nowadays, surely all satellites send digital.   My best guess is that the picture does the last leg from the satellite box to the telly by analogue UHF and the cable is defective.  It's quite hard to buy a telly that will receive analogue TV now, I managed to find one on Amazon recently when I had a need, and it is now installed in my workshop.

Next, down the road to the Bulldog:

Another Carling here, despite this being a Greene King pub.  The enormous knocked through interior has been well looked after and looks very nice.  Not busy but there were enough customers to keep the lone barman occupied with a steady flow of custom.

No sound except cheerful chatter as I relaxed in a quiet end of the pub with comfortable booth seating.

I admired my surroundings.  This is a beautifully done out boozer and I really hope it does well and survives long term.  I wonder what it's like on a Saturday evening?  Hopefully busy.

I checked my map.  With only a tiny extra walk I can go back to the Eden to find my bus home, perhaps it opened at two or three.

I'll have to check when I get home but I think today's three ticks (so far) mean I've reached my 2023 target of two hundred "required" pub visits.  If so, I can relax for the remaining two weeks of the year, although that doesn't necessarily mean I won't do some more.

Anyway, back to Eden Bar.  Aha!  The shutters are up:

Inside I found a well done shop conversion rather nicely decorated with some dark wood panelling and dark blue walls.

No cask but it didn't take me long to spot Tiny Rebel's Clwb Tropica on tap.  Always a keg favourite this, fruity and sweet.

The barman searched for a matching glass, and failed.  "It's in there somewhere" I suggested helpfully.  "I don't work here I'm just covering", he explained.  My pint in an unbranded goblet was fine.  Although I do admire pubs that serve beers in the correct glass, it tastes just as good without.  I'm reminded of classic bars in Belgium which have a hundred beers on the menu and still manage to find the proper glass for each one.

The music here was provided by the barman's phone, so had to stop abruptly when someone phoned him up!

How's that!?  Annual target exceeded and one new tick, number 1,462.  Time for home.  If I don't do any more before Christmas, have a good one and I'll see you next year.  Don't forget to support your pubs in January, they're FOR LIFE, NOT JUST FOR CHRISTMAS!

Pub of the day: Bulldog
Beer of the day: Clwb Tropica
Miles walked: 1.8
Maybe coming soon: Kirkdale

Friday 15 December 2023

The Black Horse At Last

So, the question is "What idiot goes on a long bus ride across the grid-locked Wirral on a Friday afternoon in mid December?"  And of course the answer is your intrepid reporter.

After an appallingly slow bus trip I eventually reached Heswall where I was hoping for some brand new ticks, starting with the Harry Beswick, a new pub opened last month by Hyde's:

Aiming at the pub food market this was naturally very busy on a pre-Christmas Friday but luckily I managed to grab a recently vacated table to enjoy a fine pint of Hopster.

Pleasant rather bland chain pub decor in here with no Christmas decorations apart from a very nice tree.

I noticed there was no music that I could hear, just a lot of cheerful chatter.  Looking round I couldn't actually see as much food as I expected, I suppose at half two I've missed the lunchtime rush.

Next, a walk down a very steep hill to Lower Heswall and the primary target of today's excursion.  I've descended this hill at least twice before and found the Black Horse to be shut.  Last year's failure was entirely my own fault, I got here at two despite the notes in my bag saying that it didn't open until three.  Would I be luckier today?  I arrived at 14:59 to see the front door being opened.  A quick picture and I was in.

One customer had managed to get in ahead of me while I was taking the picture but needless to say the large comfortable multi-room pub was otherwise deserted.

I worried about it being the first out of the pump but my Wainwright was spot on.

The other customer downed his pint (cider I think) quickly and by quarter past I was alone apart from the barman who was busy sorting nuts and bottles behind the counter, and slicing lemons.

I'm not surprised they don't open earlier, no more customers appeared until half three when two turned up, and then another.  I must say this is a rather pleasant boozer and I hope it does well at busier times; it deserves to.

Out here in the back of beyond there's no signal, so I couldn't check my sneaky plan of catching a bus back to Heswall to save walking up that hill.  Do I drag my pint out - The buses are only once an hour - or get the exercise?

I decided to be lazy and take the bus up the hill.   Big mistake, it didn't turn up.  A local advised me that sometimes it doesn't bother.  After standing for fifteen minutes I gave up and climbed the mountain anyway.  To be honest, it wasn't nearly as hard as I remembered, and soon I was in my next target, the Beer Lab:

Way too dark for a picture by now, that one is from five years ago.

This pleasant plain micro was full of happy regulars, I managed to perch at the corner of a table and enjoy a great pint of Peerless Triple Blond.

People arrived and people left, all the arrivals being greeted by their friends.  No one took any notice of the blogger writing his notes.

The blackboard of bottles and cans looks quite impressive here, they've got favourite Rochfort 10 for a start, also Kwak (Have they got the stupid glass?)

I pondered the torture of the bus ride home.  Might it be worth dawdling over my remaining drinks in the hopes that the traffic will have eased?  When will that be, midnight??

Next, how about another brand new one?  The fourth member of the Bow-Legged Beagle chain opened here earlier this year, my only worry being that it might be too full at five o'clock.

(I took the picture earlier in the day.)

Inevitably it was busy and I had to stand at the bar to enjoy a gorgeous coffee stout from Vocation.  Merseypub's Second Law (If you are going to put an unusual flavour in a beer, it should slap the drinker in the face; a "hint" is no good at all.) has been followed with this ale, it has a wonderful coffee flavour.

Coincidentally, I finished a crawl in Manchester on Wednesday in the Britons Protection with the very same beer, I think.  You don't get a blog entry for that trip because the details are all lost in an alcoholic haze, I know we started with Jaipur (6%) and Wobbly Bob (6%) and then four more pints mostly 5% or above.  I'm surprised I managed to get the right train to take me home.  Thanks for a great afternoon out, Mike.

Anyway, back to the Beagle:  People came and left but I wasn't on the ball enough to bag a table so I just had to stand at the end of the counter.  A Christmas party of women came in, a bottle of white wine kept them happy.  Maybe I should have worn my t-shirt again today?  It feels a bit fraudulent in pubs that I've never visited before.

Pleased to see they've got real Budweiser on draft, although I really hate the branded bucket they seem to serve it in here.

Time to head for home after a very successful day with three new ticks taking my total to 1,461, and I was especially pleased to finally get in to the Black Horse.  As I had hoped, the traffic had eased by now and the bus back to Liverpool had no problems and made it in record time.  I couldn't say the same for the trains home from Lime Street, mine was eighteen minutes late.

Pub of the day: Beer Lab
Beer of the day: Vocation's Coffee Stout
Miles walked: 1.7
Maybe coming soon: West Derby, Kirkdale

Saturday 9 December 2023


For today's crawl I headed to Kensington, starting my research at the long closed Phythian:

The surviving pub sign gave me hope for a moment that I might be in for an unexpected bonus, but no.

On to Boaler Street and the Newsham Park:

It looks like it might still be operational, but not open at half one on a Saturday.  I don't think I'll be back in this area any time soon, so it's their loss.  Oh well, on to the Sir Walter Raleigh:

And this one is open.  A pleasant pub knocked through into one room, nicely decorated but with the lights low because Liverpool was on the tellies with most of the customers watching.  I noted a rather good ceramic fireplace surround in the back part.

As I am pleased to have recorded a number of times this year, the Christmas decorations are tastefully restrained and look very good.

The projection TV screen at the front of the pub is truly enormous, it really fills the entire wall.  I remember last time I was here, in summer 2018, they were installing this or a similar screen in the back of the pub, and I joked with the installer that it wouldn't fit.  His reply was "I've told them!"

What a great traditional pub this is, a proper local's boozer.  Long may it continue.

Next, down to Prescot Road and the Vinebrook:

On my previous visits I have noted that this is a football fans' pub and I recall many years ago during the Euros finding all the regulars with red white and blue face paint and silly hats.  Today was no exception, and the place was busy with noisy Liverpool fans, all very happy as their team was now winning.  No face paint this time!

I watched the last few minutes of a rather scrappy game until the whistle went with 102 on the clock, welcomed with a very loud cheer.  More cheers when we learned that that LFC were now top of the league, albeit possibly for only two or three hours. 

The atmosphere gradually calmed down a little but it remained a lively pub, another proper boozer.

I eyed up the weather out of the window.  The rain was intermittently heavy and I haven't taken a picture yet, I need to cross the road.  As I departed the rain almost stopped allowing photos of this and the next pub.

On to the architectural gem that is the Kensington:

Another friendly lively traditional boozer, perhaps not quite as busy as the Vinebrook.  This one has kept quite a few original features and is on CAMRA's list of historic pub interiors, I think.

I sat in the front lounge, a small room with some wood panelling, and a tiny counter served via a small hatch in the bar back.

There was a bowl of chocolates on the counter so I helped myself to one to accompany my third Carling of the day.  I remember being surprised to find cask ale and waitress service in here many years ago, causing a pub crawl of half pints to be paused.

The TVs here were showing rugger, not many of the customers seemed to be paying attention.

It was warmish in the lounge, none of the pubs so far have suffered from the chill I've grumbled about in the past.  The majority of the regulars seemed to be keeping their coats on, but I was comfortable in just a tee-shirt (No, not that one; it would be a bit hypocritical, I think, to wear it in a pub I haven't been in for over five years!)

The next location along is the Sheil Park:

Too dark already for a picture, this one is from my previous visit.  Definitely no chance of a blue sky like that today, with storm Elin passing through.

One large open room with a high ceiling in this rather fine traditional boozer.  They have the same rugby on as the Kensington, I don't think anyone was watching.

The Christmas decorations in here were the busiest I've seen this season, but still mostly tasteful.  Perhaps the greenery, silver balls and flashing lights along the front edge of the counter top are a little too much, but apart from that the place is beautifully done.  The not oversized tree is especially attractive, although I do wonder if, had this been the first pint of the day instead of the fourth, I might have described it as excessive.

Shall I do another tick?  No I think I'll get a bus home before the weather worsens.

Pub of the day: Kensington, for the architecture and the free sweet.
Beer of the day: Carling
Miles walked: 1.2
Maybe coming soon: Crosby, Heswall, Kirkdale

Wednesday 6 December 2023

The Pub Is For Life, Not Just For Christmas

Now here's something rarely, if ever, seen on this blog.  Yes, it's a picture of me!

I was in the Vines enjoying a pint or two of an all-time favourite beer, Oakham Citra.  They also had another of my favourites, Titanic Plum Porter, so I was spoilt for choice.

Despite my tee-shirt, the Vines this evening was much busier than usual, with a surfeit of once-a-year customers clogging up the counter, ordering cocktails, and raising the noise level substantially.  Many Christmas jumpers were in evidence.

As a consequence, my friends and I have cancelled our Wednesday evening get-togethers for the remainder of the year and will be undertaking afternoon pub crawls instead.

Please make sure you support your pubs all year round and not just in the holiday season.  USE IT OR LOSE IT! 

Tuesday 28 November 2023

Allerton Road

Non-pub-related activities last weekend and next are keeping me away from my researches (Although not from pubs!)  so, unusually, I set off for a survey on a Tuesday.  Train and bus carried me to Allerton Road where there are umpteen targets awaiting my attention.

I started in the John Brodie:

Years ago this was a Yates's, and in some ways it hasn't changed since then; the decor is very pleasant, with chain pub styling.  Obviously it's not the same wallpaper and carpet after twenty-odd years and everything looks well cared for and tidy.  The Christmas decorations here are understated and tastefully done.

Sadly, the three handpumps all had clips turned round, so I had a Guinness.  Perhaps I would have got cask ale later in the week?

Plenty of customers at two on a Tuesday, but room for many more.  Diners and drinkers in about equal proportions.  The menu of pub standards looks good value, with fish and chips under a tenner.

I noticed a Deliveroo guy come in to collect an order.  I must admit I'd never thought of ordering pub food to be delivered, seems like a good idea.  I usually use delivery services for food from takeaways where I can't be bothered to go out and get it.

Next door is the Allerton Oak:

I haven't visited this place since February 2000 when it was an American-themed bar called New York.  What do we get twenty-four years later?   Bugger!  It's not open.  Is this the down side of a Tuesday survey, or is it no longer in action?

Just a few doors down is a place I didn't know existed until I got here, Mooneys:

Research shows this was formerly Mezz, a long closed one I never visited.

What a pleasant Irish bar this is.  Rather odd decor, I particularly liked the part where they have made a giant hole in the wall plaster to reveal the underlying bricks.  The hole is irregularly shaped and the contrast between the carefully painted plaster and the naked bricks creates an interesting feature.

Not many customers in, about five I think, but enough to create a background of lively chatter which also included the staff, mixed with Sky Sports News and a racing channel.

A mic stand, mixer and speakers at the front imply live music but I guess Tuesday afternoon is not the time for this.

Bonus points here because there are no Christmas decorations.  It's still November, after all.

By the way, in the cold weather today I'm happy to report both pubs so far have been pleasantly warm inside.

Across the busy road and into the next call, Three Piggies:

Another warm one despite the wide windows onto the street, in fact one of the waitresses added some wood to the stove shortly after I arrived.

Three handpumps offered ales from Mobberley, I chose Bunji which turned out to be a rather fine sweet pale ale, almost a toffee flavour instead of the citrus one might expect.

More of a restaurant in style, here, but at three on a Tuesday I couldn't see anyone eating.  The decor, a mix of distressed wood, bar brick and some white ceramics, is rather fine.

The background music was mostly drowned out by happy conversations.

I had a quick look at the cocktail menu.  Why does no one do a bloody Mary, my favourite, any more?

Where next?  If the Allerton Oak had been open I would have been in number four now and could have headed home, but now I'll have to walk a bit further for one or two more ticks.  Not far away is a tempting target I've never been in, so let's try the Crafty Swine:

Gosh!  Two brand new ticks in one day.  I've got no idea how to describe the decor in this place except to say that I like it.  Quite a large space, with only two or three customers I'm afraid.

Just one handpump with a clip (and one without) but the Wild Swan was very good.  They mainly concentrate on craft ales.  If I'm allowed to criticise, I think with fourteen keg taps they could put on a few "odd" options.  For example, last Friday in Track Brewery Tap in Manchester I had some 12% imperial stout which was absolutely gorgeous.   Not for everyone, of course, but with fourteen options you could spare one or two for "stupid" beers like that.

I looked up the Wild Swan on t'internet.  It's Thornbridge, of course, I should have recognised the pump clip.  Then I would have known it was tasty, I've never had a Thornbridge brew I didn't like.  Jaipur, of course, is a favourite, but there's also a wonderful chocolate one I think?

Christmas decorations in here were once again restrained and therefore excellent.  

I wonder what this place was before it was a pub?  I'll check streetview when I get home...  In 2008 it was a bar called Mustard, which I never ticked.  Before that it was Holyoake Hall, a Co-op building which was a dance hall in the 1960s, hosting the Beatles a number of times. 

Time to go home?  Perhaps one more brand new tick before I go, Leaf:

I did the branch in town some time ago but I've never been in this one, so let's see what we get.  D'oh!  It closes at four and what time is it?  Four.  

Oh well, I'll head for home then.

Pub of the day: Three Piggies
Beer of the day: Thornbridge Wild Swan
Miles walked: 1.3
Maybe coming soon: Undecided.

Saturday 18 November 2023

Northern Bootle

On a grey Saturday I made my way to Bootle for some overdue revisits.  I started by walking north, passing two targets that I'll come back to later and on to the Queens:

The For Sale sign was concerning but the door was open and inside I found a plain traditional two-sided boozer, with no customers visible at one on a Saturday afternoon.  Perhaps there were some in the other side.

The barmaid had to nip down to the cellar before pouring me a Carling, which cost £3.45  Two other customers joined me while I was waiting.  "Do they sell Guinness" one enquired.  I was about to tell him I hadn't been in here for over five years but I spotted a Guinness tap on the other counter so I was able to point that out.

I settled under the telly showing racing and took in my surroundings.  Like all these "basic" boozers these days, it is nicely done out, clean and tidy.  In the very grey weather it was quite dark until the barmaid turned the lights on.  No Christmas decorations; good.

Was this the one with the disgusting gents with mould-covered walls last time I was here?  I recall a regular saying "crackin', isn't it" when I came out of the gents last time.  Let's see what it is like now...

Well the gents here is very good, in fact in a triumph of good taste they've even got the same tiles on the wall as in my bathroom at home!  So am I remembering the wrong pub?  On examining my records I find that my memory is correct, so they've done a very good upgrade.

Next I retraced my steps towards Bootle, and stopped at the Salisbury:

The large interior is plain, pleasant enough, and almost completely deserted with just two other customers.

My Carling (£3.20) came in a branded glass, but it wasn't the odd shaped one I'm used to (which I had in the Queens).  I hope this is an older style and not a new one, as I really like the ones, I don't really know how to describe them, that have a "waist" half way up which has a ribbed surface for extra grip.  I wonder if I can find a picture:

Maybe I should start collecting branded glassware, or at least pictures thereof.  Come to think of it, my collection of beer festival glasses means I have no room for more, so perhaps just pictures.

Heating in here was provided by a couple of portable Calor Gas heaters, lucky the weather is warmer today than yesterday.  I suspect it'll be very cold in here come some real winter weather.

A few more regulars turned up while I drank, but the place was hardly busy.

Next, a classic sixties building, the Alexandra:

Another perfectly fine interior, in fact I think this one is better than the previous two.  At least a dozen regulars were creating a background of cheerful chatter.

My Carling (£3.20 again) came in my preferred glass this time.

OK, I am probably biased due to being three Carlings to the good, but this is a really great pub, a true classic.  Perfectly clean, very tidy, cheerful regulars, warm and comfortable, what else could one ask for?

Regular readers are probably expecting a rant about Premier League point deductions at some time today but I don't really understand what Everton are accused of so I'll keep my own counsel for now.  Except to say ... No No, must resist.

The jukebox moved on to someone's rendition of that wonderful song From A Distance.  Bette Midler's version wasn't as good as Nancy Griffith's original, but it's still a great song.

Now here's something I've not spotted before:  In amongst the greengrocers' apostrophes on the signs on the bar back is a notice stating that all spirits are sold in 50ml measures; so effectively everything is a double.

Next, through the centre of Bootle passing the post-Wetherspoon's Wild Rose which seemed from the outside to be doing very well, and the overdue for a visit Addison Arms and on to the even more overdue Beaky:

This is, or was, a social club of some sort, and still has the format of a small bar and a larger function room.  No hint of any membership requirements as I headed into the bar for another Carling. (£2.30, non-preferred branded glass)

The bigger room was laid out for a do of some sort, but maybe it always is.

About a dozen regulars were in the bar chatting and one or two were watching the racing on just one telly.

Lovely and warm in here, so much so that I felt myself in danger of nodding off, which is not good at half three in the afternoon!  I think it might be time to head for home.

I got back to Lime Street to find that the next three trains home have been cancelled.  I suppose that's what you get for letting the government run the railways.  Surprisingly, the train I eventually caught wasn't as jam-packed as I expected, clearly the majority of customers have already learned that there is no point relying on the train.

Pub of the day: Alexandra
Beer of the day: Carling
Miles walked: 2.2
Maybe coming soon: Kirkdale, Fazakerley, Wavertree

Friday 17 November 2023

Mancunian Miscellany

After completing some non-pub-related business in Glossop* I headed for the enormous Holt's house on the corner at the centre of this attractive town.  I've never been in the Norfolk Arms before:

I chose a pint of Two Hoots from the small range of cask ales, and it was excellent as expected.  And it came in a Two Hoots glass.

The beautiful interior of the pub is partly knocked through but still has some separation.  Most of the customers were dining groups.  I had look at the menu of the usual pub standards plus some less common options, I don't often see Wexford chicken.  Fish and chips was fourteen quid, so not at the cheap end of the spectrum.

The Christmas decorations were tasteful and not over the top, although I still want to say "Bah! Humbug!  It's only November".  This year's fashion seems to be greenery with gold and silver balls, the versions I've seen so far have all been nicely restrained.

Posters show they have live music in here this evening.  I wonder what kind of songs a "male vocal entertainer" does?  I'm going to guess Dean Martin and Frank Sinatra, but the poster doesn't give any clues.  It could be Morrissey and Liam Gallagher for all I know.

Next, the only Good Beer Guide pub in Glossop I haven't ticked, Bar 2:

A standard shop conversion micro pub this, but somehow better than most.  I selected Ossett Silver King from the range of cask ales, tasty as always but not as good as favourite White Rat, which was on the coming soon list.  (By the way, further to my comments in last Thursday's blog, this week the Big House had White Rat back on.  Yippee!)

All the other customers in here were locals and regulars, and chatted with each other and the barmaid while the solitary pub blogger sat on a comfortable bench seat and wrote his notes.

It wasn't very warm in here; everyone kept their coats on.    I realise times are hard in the hospitality business and fuel prices are high, but people will stop coming if it's not comfortable.  There's something very special about a warm pub on a cold day.

Next door is Bar 1, a wine and cocktail bar, not open when I arrived.  There's an interior doorway connecting the two.

Now, off to Stalyvegas.  This part of the day didn't go exactly to plan.  Stepping out of the pub I spotted the bus just approaching the stop.  Drat, missed it, or have I?  The traffic lights were in my favour and I made it to the stop before the queue had all got on.  A good start to the journey.  Last time I did this move I seem to recall a pleasant bus ride of thirty odd minutes.  That must have been a quiet time because today it took more than thirty minutes in heavy traffic just to get out of Glossop.  My upstairs at the front seat offered a fine view of the cars queuing into the distance!  Eventually the traffic eased and we reached Stalyvegas at last, over an hour later.

I initially resisted the obvious choice here and instead tried a place not ticked before, the Old Thirteenth Cheshire Astley Volunteer Rifleman Corps Inn:

I think they chose the ridiculously long name specially because they are next door to Q which has the shortest pub name in the country.

Anyway, a pleasant enough one roomed boozer, maybe a bit down market but, having said that, actually rather nicely done.  And it was warm!

Two handpumps and I selected Tiger Rut from Millstone, which wasn't too bad but perhaps slightly past its best?  Actually, a tired ale always gets worse as you drink it, this one got better in the second half.  I think that means my initial assessment was just plain wrong, and the ale was good.

Next, I can't come to Staly without visiting one of my favourite pubs in the world, so in to the Buffet Bar:

Wonderful as always, this place, and doing a good trade, although I think when I started coming here many years ago it would have been necessary to push just to get in the door at five on a Friday.  No need for pushing today, and I even got a table to sit at.

Continuing today's theme I can report that the place was comfortably warm, with a real fire in the main room.

I had somebody's Cherry Vanilla Porter, pretty good but could do with a bit more cherry I think.  I've said it before and I'll say it again; if you're going to put a strange flavour in a beer, it should smack the drinker in the face.  "A hint of ..." is no good at all; I want lots of flavour!  Titanic Plum Porter is a fine exemplar.  Today's ale was close, but need a little more cherry to be truly great.

The soundscape here was some background music completely drowned out by cheerful conversations.

What a wonderful pub.  I would have stayed here longer and perhaps enjoyed some of their famous black peas, but Northern's cancellations would have left me stranded, so I enjoyed my pint and then headed off by train.  I'll be back in a couple of weeks for an annual reunion to which I've been going since 1980.  Gosh, forty-three years!

Next, a short train ride for a new tick, the Victoria Tap.  (Sorry, no photo.)  Run, I believe, by the same people as the Piccadilly Tap, this one is actually in the station building, occupying a space which has been offices for a long time, I think.  A great addition to Victoria station, offering six handpumps and about twenty keg taps. On a Friday night they could do with three times as much space!  I had J W Lee's Plum Pudding, a long standing Christmas brew always tasty.

One tiny room plus quite a lot of space outside in the cold, I managed to stand in the corner, it's certainly too chilly outside.  There was a waft of cold air every time the door was opened, but for the rest of the time it was comfortably warm in here.

This is one of those rare pubs which doesn't have any toilets, you have to go out and use the station's facilities.  After which I headed for home.

* Yes yes, thank you pedants, I know Glossop isn't in Manchester.

Pub of the day: Stalybridge Buffet Bar
Beer of the day: J W Lee's Plum Pudding
Miles walked: 1.3, and most of that wasn't for the pubs.
Maybe coming soon: Bootle, Kirkdale, Fazakerley

Saturday 11 November 2023

Kirkdale and Walton

On a sunny autumn afternoon I set off towards County Road without making much of a detailed plan.  There are so many "required" pubs around here (About twenty) that finding some not open will not be a problem.  From Kirkdale station I skipped the Peacock because it has already been ticked this year and carried on to the Hawthorne:

A large well appointed boozer this, two sides plus another area which today was set out for some kind of function.  (Baby shower I later learned by listening in to the chat at the bar.)  Everywhere is nicely decorated, wood panelling and stained glass, and is that counter front genuine 1930s/50s or is it a 1980s re-creation?  Either way, the whole place is attractive and pleasant.

Only a handful of customers, watching the early match on the telly or chatting to the bar staff.

I avoided messing up the party area and sat in a corner with the footie fan, to enjoy a fine pint of Guinness, which only cost £3.35.

Next, towards County Road, with the Stuart on the way.  Sadly estate agents' signs warned me that I was probably too late for a revisit and sure enough the doors were all closed.  A sad loss, this one, I remember an interior retaining the classic layout with lounges served from a hatch in the bar back across a drinking corridor.

I carried on to County Road and the Black Horse:

A Greene King outlet with no real ale so it was another Guinness for me.  (Over four quid this time)  This large pub has a very well maintained interior in traditional style and I sat in the impressive "concert hall" area which has a high arched roof with a square stained glass lantern.  The modernisation has not been kind to this feature, with a servery extension and the kitchen occupying part of the space, but at least they didn't demolish it.

I looked at my marked up map with orange highlighter indicating all the required ticks.  Today really would have been a good time to revert to a half in each pub, but frankly I can't be bothered, and anyway it takes me a whole pint to write this drivel.  So you can expect further visits to this area in the near future.  Thinking about it, I need to come on an Everton home match day, as some have limited opening hours.  Why didn't I do that last Saturday?  Who knows!

A family group with a number of very young kids arrived and occupied part of the room.  It's good to see people still come to the pub for a family outing. The little ones were well behaved, I'm pleased to report.  These are the people who will be keeping the pubs going twenty years from now!

Next, on to the Top House.  Another estate agent's sign caused a moment of concern, but it was on the next door building, and the pub was open:

A beautifully cared for traditional boozer ticking over with a number of regulars chatting with the friendly barmaid who soon poured me another Guinness.  (£3.70 I think)  I sat in a quiet side room, the two bar layout of this pub has obviously been modified over the years, so historic features are thin on the ground, but it is very pleasant.  My guide entry from 2018 called this a "backstreet gem", you can't say fairer than that.

The early match continued, but hardly anyone was paying attention, sometimes I wonder whether the pub gets any value from their (presumably expensive) subscription.  Do they get the occasional more "interesting" match - Top of the league and/or a local team - in their package?  Wolves, who I'm guessing were the underdogs, equalised near the end and then scored a winner in injury time, to the general approval of the clientele here.

After the Top House one can only really go on to the Bottom House, more correctly known as the Anfield Hotel:

Curses!  It's shut.  Handwritten signs in the window say Open 12 November, so it should be back in action tomorrow.

Back to County Road and in to what used to be the Glebe, now Bernie May's.  My picture was very blurry so here's one from 2018, it hasn't changed much:

This knocked through pub with very good contemporary decor was remarkably busy, probably because they've got the Everton match on.  So my comments last week were well wide of the mark!  Just a moment!  Five minutes in to the match and it's already one each?

The majority of the customers in here were watching the football, but by no means all of them.  Racing fans were watching the horses on other screens, and others were just chatting with each other.

There's something special about a boozer on a Saturday afternoon, with blokes (they're all blokes) enjoying lots of beer, and the sports on the tellies.

Is it time for home?

Pub of the day: Bernie May's, for the atmosphere
Beer of the day: Guinness
Miles walked: 1.9
Maybe coming soon: More Kirkdale, Wavertree

Thursday 9 November 2023

New Brighton

I commenced a tour of pubs near but not in New Brighton at Stanley's Cask:

What a beautiful pub this is.  Mostly knocked through and nicely done throughout.  And, even better, White Rat on one of the four hand pulls, and it was delicious.  (I was disappointed to find the Big House had run out of White Rat yesterday evening.)

I tried to remember what this place looked like last time I was here, in 2017, it doesn't look familiar.  Has it been further improved since then?  Very good, anyway.

Very gentle background music mixed with conversation as I enjoyed my pint.

A thought wandered into my brain:  I haven't seen any Christmas decorations yet.  Excellent!  How many more pubs before I see some holly?

Next, a short stroll to ... what's this?  I've never heard of the Phoenix, is it new?

Subsequent research on the internet seems to show that I've missed this one; it has opened and closed since I was last here.  Oh well, on to the Sandridge:

A very pleasant two sided interior in this boozer, no cask on offer so I had a Carling.  Just a handful of customers, the one sitting near me was watching the racing closely.

Did I comment in a recent blog about the increased appearance nowadays of beer specific glasses?  I've noticed that a pint of Carling now usually comes in a Carling glass, as it did here.  Twenty years ago it would have been an unbranded sleeve or nonic.  I saw in Wetherspoon's trading update yesterday that some of the spending on existing pubs is for "glass racks above bars (To cater for increased usage of brewers branded glasses)".

Now, another short walk to the Telegraph.  The internet says it opens at two; does it?

Yes.  "Only" two cask ales on offer, but one was my second White Rat of the day.  Yippee!  In a branded glass again.

Only two other customers, I think, in this large two sided pub.  It's done out in a sort of food place style, I think, but there was no sign of any menus.  The beer garden looks very pleasant but today is not the weather for that!

There are two more "near New Brighton" pubs on my target list, so a slightly longer walk down to the waterfront took me to the famous Magazine:

This wonderful pub is well known as a provider of real ale, and it is also famous for always having Bass on, so that was my choice, a pint of this brew which is fairly rare in Merseyside.   And it was gorgeous.

I retreated to a quiet back room, but I could still hear chatter in various other areas of the pub.  This one is busier than the previous three, chit chat and the occasional bark mixing with quiet muzac.

Just next door is the Pilot Boat but despite the sign saying it opened at twelve and the lights being on, the doors were shut, so it was time to head towards home.

Rather than returning the way I had come I decided on a pleasant stroll along the shoreline and then up through New Brighton's town centre.  Here I found a slightly unexpected bonus:  Tallulahs Emporium:

According to my database, this never visited pub was formerly the Corner House, then Tallulah's, then closed, and finally re-opened.  I'm not sure how accurate that history is, but it is always good to get a new tick!

What I found was a pleasant high ceilinged room, or rather rooms, and a good looking counter with about eight keg beers on, I selected the tasty Pilsner Urquell.  I noticed the sign on the wall, which the friendly barman had pointed me to when I couldn't read the pump clips, spelled it Urqell but the branded glass (See what I was saying before) confirmed the correct spelling with a U.

A good handful of customers were keeping the place ticking over, conversation mixing with pleasant music.  I noticed some signs promoting live music here, obviously not on a Thursday afternoon.  I've often thought that if one of my local pubs did live music I would be in there every week, but sadly Huyton isn't that sort of place.  Yet.

Time for home.  Some superb ale, and a brand new tick (Number 1,456), what a great day.

Pub of the day: Stanley's Cask
Beer of the day: Ossett White Rat
Miles walked: 2.2
Maybe coming soon: Kirkdale/Walton

Saturday 4 November 2023

Near Old Swan

On a day of rubbish autumn weather I headed for some overdue ticks in the vicinity of Old Swan.  I was expecting just "routine" pub visits, but I was in for a surprise.

I've done all the pubs in the middle of Old Swan recently so I headed along Prescot Road aiming for the Derby Lodge.  First, I wanted to confirm that the former Corner Tavern is closed, and it is:

Having photographed the Corner and the Derby I carried on to the next pedestrian crossing to get over the busy road.  While I'm here I might as well go a few yards further to see what the state of the Old Stanley Arms is.  My last visit was back in 2002 and it closed not long after.  Much to my surprise I found it open, now called Mr Smiths:

Well I never!  What a great bonus tick this one is;  I never thought I'd see it open again.    Mind you, the area has got form in this regard; I remember walking up Green Lane a few years ago to photograph the closed Melbourne only to find it open.

Plain well decorated and maintained rooms in this classic ordinary boozer.  I tried to recall what it looked like 21 years ago,  but failed.

Just four regulars were chatting with the friendly barmaid who soon provided me with a pint of Carling.

Across the road was the Stanley, this has been derelict for many years and is now covered in scaffolding.

Back up the road to the Derby Lodge:

A plain comfortable boozer this, ticking over at two with a handful of blokes aged between ten and seventy watching the early match.

Again, the place is clean and well cared for although the carpet is getting a touch tired in places.  Unchanged since my last visit, in 2018, two rooms with counters, plus a back room.

Above the counter was an Everton flag.  Are LFC fans welcome as well, I wonder?  Luckily today my teeshirt is blue!

My next move was up Green Lane where there were two pubs about fifty yards apart.  Surely they can't both have survived COVID?  Yes they have; I started in the Melbourne:

Another classic boozer this, with plain but well maintained decor in two rooms.  And it's had an external repaint since the last time I was here.

Man United had managed to win the early match in injury time, again footie was on the tellies here.

The dominant soundtrack was animated chatter, plus the weirdo in the corner talking to himself.  I was sitting in the quieter side room with just two others, there were a lot more in the other side.

One bloke departed, leaving me with just the wierdo.  Should I join his chatter?  I didn't.

The tellies switched to rugger, of course the three o'clock soccer matches are not legally available.  Years ago pubs could buy dodgy decoders or cards and show all matches but maybe that doesn't happen any more.  I remember being in a pub in Tuebrook and fifteen minutes into the match the illegal feed went off.  There were a lot of disgruntled fans!  I'm guessing it was a deliberate tactic to change the encoding so that pirate decoders would stop working right in the middle of the match.

Just a short walk now, to the Wellington:

Having purchased yet another Carling I had to retreat to the back room because there were no seats available in the front bar, where everyone seemed to be watching the racing on the telly.

Another classic boozer this, with more traditional styling I think.  The back room was fairly empty, just three other drinkers and I shared plenty of space.

I seem to remember coming in here on a very chilly day and enjoying a fan heater in the front room, no need for that today as the whole pub was at a comfortable temperature, if not exactly warm.

Definitely a horses pub this,  Everton went 1-0 up  then 1-1, then back to 1-0 thanks to VAR and no one noticed, while they all watched the horses at Wetherby.  I apologise for the excess of footie coverage, especially as I know absolutely nothing about the subject, but a friend who lives in West Wales and is an Everton fan is here for a visit and we enjoyed a few pints together last night.  He'll be at today's match so I have a special interest in how the blues are getting on.

What a pleasant pub this is, regulars chatting to the barmaid/landlady, lots of customers watching the racing, what more could one ask for on a Saturday afternoon?

Having found more pubs open than expected, I didn't need my fallback options, Cask and the Stag and Rainbow, so I might as well head home now.

Pub of the day: Mr Smiths
Beer of the day: Carling
Miles walked: 1
Maybe coming soon: New Brighton