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?