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15 years a drinker in Liverpool – part 1

The following post is about the author’s experience of living and drinking in Liverpool for 15 years, a second piece will follow at a later date charting the change in brewing in the city over those 15 years.

The students are back! That seems to elicit mixed responses from people in the city, cabbie’s love it, pubs love it, drivers nearly run them over because they’re either too busy gawping at what a wonderful town it is or they are all rather inebriated. Love them or loathe them they bring a lot of money into the city and also an injection of outside life beyond the M57.

15 years ago I was one of these fresh-faced students, eager to experience a new way of life and be out from under the loving thumb of my lovely parents. In those 15 years I have seen this city change a lot, most memorable being the capital of culture year of 2008 and the wholesale renewal of the paradise street project which in my opinion did tidy up that end of the city a bit. Fun anecdote I once got lost and drove completely by accident through that pedestrianized part of town and into the old bus station much to the bemusement of the bus drivers. This was very early on a Sunday morning so no one was about at least!

an unflattering photo of the author, not at least because of the bottle of reef and the huge flip mobile phone.

One thing that has changed dramatically in the last 15 years is the beer scene in the city. once it was dominated by one brewery namely Cains, but since I moved here we have had an explosion in the amount of people brewing commercially in the city and its surrounding areas, people’s drinking habits have changed too, not content to just keep downing mass-produced lagers people are moving onto a more interesting and flavoursome product.

So what were my experiences? Not auspicious I’m afraid.  I seem to recall bottles of Stella and a shot cocktail in Baa Bar once being £1.50 phenomenal value for a student basically looking to get plastered, the aptly named “brain damage” was usually my favourite. I’ve some quite fond memories of “Wonderbar” or “Wonderbra” as we called it (yes we thought we were hilarious), it was loud, sweaty difficult to get served in and a Liverpool FC player got assaulted outside it once. Regular haunts would also include double vision on a Monday at the Students guild, Tuesday was and probably will continue to be Blue angel night aka “The Raz”. Where beers were £1 at the time and music was as cheesy as a block of cheddar. Everybody sadly remembers how sticky the floor was downstairs since “Raz Juice” was a super strength adhesive formed from a cocktail of human sweat, various alcoholic beverages and whatever liquid was dragged back from the basement toilet. Friday would be “Crunch” at Liverpool Hope University College (as it was known then) where I studied. Beer was cheap as were the laughs, £1.50 for a pint of Carling if I recall, we don’t know how the land lady got it so cheap and we didn’t dare ask.

My real “local” was a tie between the Hope and Anchor at the time a “scream” pub and the Cambridge on mulberry street. Both were about 10 minutes walk from our student flats, my friend Bob’s water polo team was sponsored by the pub and this would often net us a silly discount on jugs of lager. That’s pretty much all I remember of Bob’s birthday, probably because of the jugs. Quiz nights at the scream pub were a regular fixture too but if we fancied somewhere more down to earth we headed to the Cambridge which was (and still is) a nice quiet backstreet boozer. A good jukebox and dartboard meant students and faculty were kept happy.

A slight detour away from the city I can remember a geography field trip to Wales where on the last night everyone was allowed to cut loose, the university transit van was fired up after 20 minutes of failed starts and one of the staff drove several students to nearby Barmouth to collect a shopping list of alcohol. Now seeing as there were only 7 lads on the whole trip and we were all forced into one small room together we became friends pretty quickly and all decided to just club together and get a silly amount of booze. So we ended up with I believe 32+ cans of fosters and two bottles of Jack Daniels. I still shudder to this day remembering the unopened cans of fosters rolling up and down the aisle of the coach on the way home the next day.

Profits spike for Barmouths off-licences

This pattern continued pretty much for all three years of university and afterwards, I would manage to blag my way into student haunts for another two years after uni but that couldn’t last forever and im glad it didnt. The main drinking locations in town were just not fun any more to me, being squeezed like a sardine in a noisy sweaty bar and trying to get served was not my idea of fun. Concert Square and dale street were just getting way too fighty. During that time I had been cheating on town with someone else, and it was called Lark Lane.

Lark Lane has been written about many numerous times and all repeat the same sort of descriptions Well my description would be its like a village high street. It was pretty bohemian back in the early 2000s and still had that village street vibe, our next part of the story involves being stuck here for a long amount of time. Time after time we would pile into Maranto’s on a weekend and then if we felt brave we would head to town. And then one day we just decided to do a pub crawl up the lane, it opened our eyes to a more eclectic bunch of watering holes, soon we were regularly hitting Keith’s at last call, which was one of the few places around stocking Efes at one point. We would also join the united nations like throng of folk in the Albert.

2008 capital of culture had come and gone and we had also started visiting the Fulwood on Aigburth road near the vale end, remembered as Baz’s by many it’s probably were things started to change drinking wise. Sat in the fridge was a bottle of Cains export lager, proudly bearing a stylised Union Jack, an export British lager? it warranted investigation. It was a lovely drink and quite different from the usual fizz we had become accustomed to. About that time Aigburth cricket club hosted a beer festival, I remember it being not a particular busy affair, the power even went out twice which resulted in the usual bemused rounds of applause.

RIP Cains gone but not forgotten

Here at the cricket club is where I started drinking real ale full-time. And what was the momentous first? it was a black sheep, why? Well I’m from Yorkshire and i had actually drank it before! After that i tried another, and then another and hey this stuff isn’t bad? A few of my friends took a little bit more persuading but they too had a sip of a black sheep and found it quite nice, that was the day the dam broke. It was also roughly the same time that local pubs and bars were cautiously starting to stock real ale and different beers from around the world and curious things called “Craft beers” from the USA.

Back on Lark Lane the old masonic pub had gone through a few different incarnations under a local bar groups ownership. It reopened as The Lodge ale house and kitchen and had draught real ale hand pulls! We found a new home. For a few years we were happy regulars a good bar manager kept the cellar in order and even though a lot of people might say the choices of ale then were not exciting, at that point in time all the names of these brewers and beers was new and interesting. Once we propped the bar up for a night and decided to go through the whole range of ales. It was a good night. Though I’m not exactly proud to say we probably hit 16 pints of real ale! A well stocked range and a decent jukebox kept us happy and just up the lane other places were starting to stock better ranges of ale, we drank bottled real ale in Keith’s, Black sheep in the Que Pasa and whatever happened to be on in The Albert. Eventually Bier opened up on Lark Lane and completed the circuit, its wider range of world beers and cask ales and more youthful appearance made it another go-to place, though we still regularly ended in the lodge.

At one time this was extremely sophisticated for me

Time keeps on slipping as seal once sang and despite Lark lanes ability to swallow mobile phone signals it couldn’t halt the passage of time. Things started to change-up lark lane around 2010, it’s just an observation of mine though I have had heard other people mention it too. The atmosphere had changed, you can check the local papers old articles to see how arrests and fights had increased. Certain places also had their hours curtailed. I blame this on two things; Lark Lane had become more widely known across the city so more people were coming to visit, and also a few other local pubs and bars had shut forcing their regulars to migrate, what used to be known as Akis at the bottom of the lane was in my opinion a bit of a scally magnet. With it shutting the old clientèle started visiting the other places on the Lane. It was time to move on.

While all this was going on we had started to drift back into town becoming more aware of the good pubs in town and the even better choice of beers. It was now well into the second decade of the 21st century and we had become regular patrons of the pubs in the city centre, developing our own favourite routes and haunts. Now we regularly hang out in pubs and bars in the Dale Street and Hardman Street areas and a bit less frequently the Baltic triangle. Each area has its own distinct atmosphere and hostelries and I had grown to appreciate them. These places felt a lot more “right” and were a big contrast to where I was visiting in my student days. We also discovered another gem back out in the suburbs. Pi bar had arrived on rose lane and filled the gap of a friendly down to earth place to enjoy well looked after good beers, without the need of travelling into town. Currently I think I’ve checked in more beers through untappd in the Pi Bar than anywhere else (126 as of 1st october!).

The ill fated bottle of tactical nuclear penguin

Becoming more confident about what i was drinking I decided to go for broke one birthday, i asked my mother to get me a bottle of Brewdog tactical nuclear penguin. One of the strongest beers for sale at that time (and not cheap either). I hadn’t quite got the hang of darker beers yet or even beers of that strength but i dove in at the deep end. Eventually when i got around to having it I was astounded at its strength and how more like a spirit it was. Unfortunately the next day I was violently ill. Either it was the beer itself or something I ate but it really put me off finishing off the bottle. Brewdog supplied a stopper for the bottle as it wasn’t recommended to drink it in one go! so I dutifully put the stopper in and laid the bottle down in my fridge, this may have been my undoing. For in the morning the bottle had blown its top and the fridge was a beer tainted wasteland. I salvaged what was left in the bottle but again I was quite ill and pretty put off the beer. To this day it still sits in my fridge laughing at me.

Beer festivals soon became the next thing to visit and the first “proper” festival I visited was the 2011 Liverpool CAMRA branch annual beer festival in the crypt of the catholic cathedral. I had caught the festival bug, and now regularly go to festivals in the city and the surrounding area, I’m also finding that there are maybe too many to visit! Next year I am hoping to start visiting a few outside of Liverpool, possibly the indy man beer con.

Liverpool CAMRA beer festival in the catholic cathedral crypt

The next part of my journey saw me becoming a lot more open-minded towards what I drank. Kegged craft beers and bottled craft beers started showing up more after 2010. I was somewhat snobbish about it to begin with. I felt that cask real ale was the pinnacle of beer and could not be beaten. I was wrong and happy to admit to it, after trying various domestic and import bottles and keg beers over the years i quickly accepted that it was just as good as real ale. I became a proponent of just “good beer” I also changed my outlook on mass-produced lagers like Stella and Bud. I still wouldn’t drink it but came to appreciate that although its mass-produced it’s still made to a particular set of quality parameters. I also started developing a taste for darker beers. initially like some people I thought Guinness was just Guinness and not stout, or porter. Now when it gets towards the end of a night I often change-up what I’m drinking and I will often look for a nice stout or porter.

Over the years drinking in the city I’ve had the honour of meeting a lot of new people who have very quickly become good friends. I often see the same faces out in town and at beer festivals, and regularly join up with them during days or evenings out. There is nothing wrong with having a quiet beer on your own, but its startling just how social the beer scene in Liverpool is there are home-brew groups, groups encouraging more women to drink good beer, student societies, there are even days where you can take your dog with you and meet other owners. Anyone moving to Liverpool and wanting to get involved in the local beer scene will find plenty of opportunities to meet new and like-minded people. There’s nothing quite like sharing good beers with good people! And there is no place quite like Liverpool for a place to enjoy a beer.

What will the next 15 years be like for drinkers in Liverpool? who knows! wondrous variety I hope. If I had to forecast or possibly dream I’d like to see it catching up to Leeds with regards to the craft beer scene. And it looks like its well on its way.


Sober October confusion

October is upon us, the shops are filling with Halloween tat, low yield explosives are on sale and Christmas is hovering in the background waiting to pounce. This month sees the start of “stoptober” and “go sober October”

The first is an initiative run by the United Kingdom’s health service and if you look at its official website has smoking clearly in its sights. The second is run by Macmillan cancer support charity.

There is a bit of confusion flowing around social media at the moment people seem to be declaring stoptober is in support of not having a drink through the whole month, clearly this is not the case by looking at the official website aims. So how has this been appropriated and linked to having a dry October? I have no idea.

The Macmillan one is at clearer on its aims and it wants people to go dry for a month from alcohol and get sponsored for it. Proceeds go towards the charity. you can read about it here

So we have a case of an NHS campaign getting labelled as a stop drinking campaign and a big national charity jumping in on it too with their campaign.

The idea behind a dry October for charity or any month for that matter (I’m looking at you dry January) is flawed. Yes it is most definitely a noble cause but its whole execution is wrong. In an unintentional way it targets those in the pub and bar trade, starting with the brewers and other producers right up to the guy serving you in the pub. It’s usually most obvious in January as people are recovering from over doing it over the festive period.

The Irony is that Pubs and bars contribute a lot to charities. From the collection tins on the bar to whole charity nights there must be a substantial amount raised during the year from drinking establishments that goes towards local and national charities. So why fight against that? Why not work with pubs and bars? Heck I went to a charity beer festival in the summer that i know will really help out the community centre it was hosted in.

At the very least the industry does not need another group telling people not to go out for a drink! It’s hard enough during January they don’t need another potentially dry month.

So why not instead of abandoning the booze for a month just give to charity anyway? Or be a real anarchist and host a charity night in your establishment for these very charities!

I also have a sneaking suspicion though that people attempting the go sober for October are probably not serious pub goers anyway? There wont be much hardship if they only go out once a month will there?

Think locally at St Georges Hall beer festival 2015

a busy previous St Georges hall beer festival in grand surroundings!

St Georges hall beer festival 2015 is on this weekend! If you didn’t get any tickets commiserations. I myself am not going this time owing to festival fatigue. The beer list was released just a few days ago and includes many of the new breweries in the local area. Even though I can’t attend there are several I can strongly recommended you try ill list those below. Many of these are newer brewers and have only just started operating this year.

Ladies that Beer

Worth mentioning as well to any female visitors is are you a lady that likes beer? or are you curious about trying some at this festival? If you are Ladies that beer will be at the festival on Friday evening between 7-7.30pm! Ladies that beer are a welcoming group who want to encourage more women to drink good beer, and can offer you great advice on beer styles and brewing. They are very active on social media and host regular events for members. you can chat with them direct by clicking the links to Facebook and Twitter. Check your program for where they are located within the beer festival and go say hello!

Uh yeah but I just drink lager – an appeal

Some bottled continental lagers will no doubt be available but please don’t waste the opportunity at the festival to sample the ales available. The main thing is do not be afraid or embarrassed to ask what to try! That’s what the volunteers are for! If you traditionally prefer lagers try starting with something pale or lighter coloured and maybe move up to more amber coloured beers. If you like a strong hoppy lager try some IPA’s.

Volunteers will offer you a taster before you commit so don’t be afraid to try a few. Just don’t take the piss and ask to try 10! When you sample what is out there hopefully it will open up for you a whole world of different tastes to enjoy.

Recommended beers to try

So below I am going to suggest which beers by brewer to try while at the festival, some I have had in person others I think sound interesting, I will of course indicate which ones I have actually tried.

Neptune Brewery

Located in Maghull, Neptune just started producing full-time this year. They offer a great broad colour range of ales to choose from. Neptunes ales are becoming available on draught at pubs and bars around the region. And are also available bottled in many of the local beer shops to try at home Neptune also do not use Isinglass finings which is great news for those with specific dietary requirements!

  • Amberjack 4.5% – an easy drinking with nice bittering and a marmalade like finish.
  • Riptide  3.6% – English bitter, which is nicely balanced and very sessionable
  • Triton 4.4% – pale ale, good hop flavouring and nice light biscuity finish

Keep an eye out in the pubs and shops for the “thick and twisted” and abyss these are both very lovely dark beers. Also worth trying is AmberJack’d a stronger version of the already tasty 4.5%.

Red Star Brewery

Bridging the gap in the West Lancashire plain and based in Formby is Red Star another Merseyside micro-brewery. With a solid small core range they are quickly becoming regular features in many of the local pubs and bars, bottles again are also available in the many local beer shops too.

  • Partisan 5.4% – strong-tasting and complex malty brew with nice bittering, smooth.
  • Weissbier 5.3% – a new ale, unfiltered and unfined so naturally cloudy, wheaty body and fruity.
  • Formby IPA 4% – tweaked since my last tasting but had lovely toffee malts.

Keep an eye out locally on draught or in bottle for Hurricane a strong bitter which punches way above its weight, bit of trivia the partisan is quite popular amongst some eastern European football fans!

Rock the Boat

Another micro-brewer who has just commenced operation this year is Rock the boat, working out of a 16th century wheelwright’s workshop in Little Crosby Village. Currently working with a good core range at the moment there maybe a stout on the horizon soon!

  • Bootle Bull 3.8% – a great traditional bitter which leans more towards malts than hops, don’t miss.
  • Dazzle 3.6% – a well bittered pale with a nice initial bite to it.
  • Liverpool Light 3.4% – very sessionable and refreshing pale.

Also try the mussel wreck at the festival i have not tried this myself yet but is a 3.9% golden ale. Hopefully bottles will be available soon to take home!

Liverpool Craft Beer Co

Established in 2010 and operating from the railway arches on love lane, LCB have become a local favourite amongst drinkers, pubs and bars in the area. they have a core range supplemented by changing seasonal and one-off special brews. Please note I have not tried any of the beers below yet sadly, however knowing the good work the brewery puts in I can recommend them easily!

  • Hinnomaki Wheat 4.7% – Hefeweizen style ale, so naturally cloudy and fruity
  • Pzyk Diablo 4.8% – a tea infused ale brewed for liverpool festival of psychedelia
  • Springbok 4.6% – a pale ale which i believe has been brewed with south African hops

LCB bottles are readily available in many outlets across the region to take home. American Red is one of my favourite beers that LCB produce and keep an eye out for their oatmeal stout!

The Melwood Beer Company

Up and running since 2013 and based in the picturesque Knowsley parkland area. currently operating out of the old Cambrinus premises. A regular fixture in many of the pubs and bars in Liverpool and the surrounding areas, a regular range of beers with a tie to music are brewed along with one off brews.

  • High Time 4.2% – rarely brewed on cask a good sessionable pale.
  • Jester 4.4% – made with the new English jester hops (unsampled)
  • Life Of Riley 4.5% – balanced pale ale (unsampled)

Melwood beers are also available to take home bottled from stores in the area.

Liverpool Organic Brewery

Festival organisers LOB have a large range of beers to sample, some have been available in hand pump dispense in previous years so keep an eye out for these! Based close to the Leeds & Liverpool canal LOB is currently one of the longest-serving breweries in the city and brew a large range of beers.

  • Kitty Wilkinson Chocolate & Vanilla Stout 4.5% – a lovely stout with choc malts
  • Bier Head 4.1% – based on an old Higsons recipe.

Bottles of the entire range are very easy to find in local beer shops.

Peerless Brewing Company

Operating since 2009 Birkenhead based Peerless has recently expanded its capacity and is a popular fixture in pubs on the Wirral and on the Liverpool side of the Mersey. A core range of beers is regularly produced along with seasonal’s and one-off’s, they hold regular brewery tours and “thirsty Thursday” open nights.

  • Fusion 3.5% – session pale ale with a blend of UK hops
  • Peninsula IPA 5.7% – popular and robust smooth IPA with biscuity malts.
  • Waimea 3.7% – an amber New Zealand hopped ale (unsampled)

Peerless bottles are available in many shops around the area and are also available direct from the brewery as are some mini kegs for home use. I recommended trying the Red Rocks, Paxtons peculiar and the lovely oatmeal stout.

Brimstage Brewery

Based on a farm in the heart of the Wirral and founded in 2006, Brimstage have a solid core range of ales that are found regularly around the Wirral and Merseyside. Bottles are easily found in many of the shops in the local area.

  • Rhode Island Red 4.0% – a pleasant red ale that is malty and sweet
  • Scarecrow 4.2% – marmalade coloured fruity session ale
  • Trappers Hat 3.8% – smooth and easy drinking session ale.

Oyster catcher is also a nice stout to keep an eye out for

Cheshire Brew Brothers

Located just outside Ellsemere Port and opened within the last few years Cheshire brew bros have become a regular fixture in bars across the Wirral and Cheshire, and produce a regular range of core ales.

  • Cheshire Best Bitter 4.5% – English style bitter which is a bit more malt forward
  • Earls Eye Amber 3.8% – tasty amber tinged beer with a slight smokey after-taste
  • Roodee Dark 4.0% – lush dark ale with hints of coffee

Bottles are available to take home in many of the shops around the region.

In Closing

I hope that you do enjoy your time at the festival, enjoy the quality local beers from our local brewers, get some local food and have a great time. But don’t forget if you enjoyed what you had, SUPPORT your local brewers, drink their beer, follow them on social media, and interact with them. These people are not sat in an Ivory tower they are regular working people like you and I and it’s us buying their beer that keeps them in business and keeps the lovely beer flowing. Support your local brewers and support your local pubs! Because lets not forget Liverpool and its surrounding areas are chocker with great places to drink.

Liverpool Food and Drink Festical 2014 – brief roundup

Liverpool Food and Drink fest has been and gone again, and it would be safe to say most people left fed and watered very happy! Since i chat mostly about Beer that’s what ill be concentrating on but ill mention the food briefly

I booked for the sunday session with 2 other friends, £5 was the entry fee online for this last day, i can actually remember when the food festival was free. I suppose with growth and popularity comes the inevitable requirement that your going to have to pay to get in some day. Located in the open northern half of Sefton Park the area was loosely arranged into certain areas such as a market place, street food and other vendors. One observation was that it was becoming a bit too corporate now, and thinking back i think they are right. It’s a fine balance i suppose from those people comes the big money, but when they overshadow all the independent places it becomes less eclectic.

Either way there was a decent spread of smaller liverpool food vendors and larger ones. The food was nice but honestly nothing to shout about, burgers, burgers, burgers, pulled bloody pork everywhere (note i like pulled pork). There was a bit of eastern variety but not much else. i suppose you have to retain some familiarity to not put some people off.

Anyway im rambling, so the food was ok but what about the drink? well there wasnt that much in my observation! if i am wrong please correct me. Present from my memory was Lancaster Brewery’s own tent, Bierkeller, Liverpool One Brewery, The Ship and Mitre beer tent, The Hub, Bier and Tavern Co.

Initially i was worried the Ships beer tent wouldn’t be making an appearance this year as it was missing on the food fest website (either that or im blind). But i found out in the week leading up to it that it would be. The ships tent was usually always busy right up until the last hour when it got quieter. there was a good range of pumps on mostly mirrored on the left and right. Mostly light coloured ales, and one darker ale from Liverpool Organic in the form of their stout, there was good bench seating outside the tent and if all the beer vendors hadn’t started closing by about 5pm i probably would have had more than two drinks sadly!

Lancaster brewery mostly had their range of own ales on and some ciders but since that’s not my thing right now I didn’t venture in. It was nice to see Liverpool One brewery present their small bar had a couple of ales on and their own ale had sold out shortly after i had arrived. Apart from Liverpool Craft beers being present on at The Hubs stall that was pretty much it real ale wise. After thatt it was the ubiquitous big name brands on tap or euro beers.

I popped briefly into bierkellers tent but when i saw that the first few taps were fosters and John smiths i walked straight back out.

I think next year the Food festival needs to have a dedicated drink section. It would be great to see some of our local brewers having a few stands, even if it’s just selling their own bottled beers to take home that would complement the festival nicely and give a bit more variety. I think it would be great if there was a home brewing section too? I know that there is a new group of Home brewers springing up in the area, would be good to see them too!

So in the style of my old P.E. reports from school

“good effort but must try harder”

Back in Black for summer?

Us brits seem to have an internal switch over mechanism for summer, certainly the weather starts to get better, temperatures go up, there are several subtle signs if you know where to look.

Car windows start to be cranked down more and more gradually until everyone has their arm out of the door in an attempt to get truckers arm from the sun, Summer time by Will Smith seem to be on the radio every time the sun comes out from behind a cloud, Crocs become sadly more common (the shoes not the animal), Girls start to dress down more (happy days) and so do some men (oh good lord put a shirt on man no one wants to see your tattoos of your bull terrier).

To beer drinkers a subtle crawl of the summer can be the increasing number of lighter coloured ales, regardless of variety things begin to start getting paler as the sun marches higher into the sky, and i have to wonder why? is there some internal prehistoric mechanism that says “no dark stuff for you now boyo! its straw coloured all the way!” is it some subconscious hive mind interaction between breweries that paler stuff is the trend in summer? Who knows but it does tend to happen.

I was inspired to write about this after witnessing a conversation on twitter between a few peers and the 23 Club bar in Liverpool:

I think it’s a pretty astute observation. my esteemed twitter pal @wirraledrinker had been enjoying a black IPA on one of th warmest days of the year. who cares what the colour is its if the taste is good, I’ve actually recently started developing a taste for milds, against the advice of me dad (to be fair milds may have been naff back in his day who knows). If you are to look back at my recent feed of drinks on untappd i like to think its a distinctly ecclectic affair.

its like a Benneton advert for beer! with darker beers rubbing shoulders with lighter and amber coloured ales.

within the last few months during the good weather i have enjoyed the following:

  • Milk Stout – Liverpool Craft Beer Co
  • Black Perle – Weird Beard
  • Dark Arts – Peerless Brewing Co
  • Table Porter – Anspach & Hobday
  • Derby Stout – Mellwood Beer Co
  • A Wee Bit – Williams Bros/Brooklyn Brewery
  • Dusk – Cross Bay Brewery
  • Baltic Night – Compass Brewery

Maybe its the maltyness in darker beers or the perceived stodgyness of them that puts people off drinking them in warmer weather, but many darker ales, especially milds have a sweet smooth taste that is as good as an ice cream in hot weather. It’s good to see so many local brewers here in Liverpool have been continuing to kick out darker brews over the summer alongside the usual stuff, and i encourage you to not just give in to the hops and pale colours the next time your out. Try to alternate what you’re having, i find swapping from hoppy ales to malty ones a good break for the taste buds, it also lets you appreciate the taste of the different styles better in my opinion.

one things for sure, lighter coloured ales don’t disappear in the winter, so why should darker ales be sidelined in the summer?

Thirsty Thursdays in a not so dry desert

In a unasuming industrial unit down a quiet Birkenhead backstreet Peerless Brewing Company open their doors (or should that be shutter?) to the ale fans of the area to pop in, see the brewery and most importantly enjoy the lovely beers on offer!

When we visited our first Thirsty Thursday it was also a first for actually going for a drink over the Mersey, and it didn’t disappoint! First off it’s a simple running order no entry fee to get in the brewery, a large swathe of the peerless range on offer (many of them award winners) and only £2 a pint, you can’t knock that! there are basic bar snacks but the folks at Peerless don’t mind if you bring along your own grub, a group near us seemed to have brought along a veritable picnic! good thing i had some tea before I came out!

First up for the night was Boston Red the newest seasonal brew by peerless and another addition to the baseball themed lineup, it’s an American hopped malt ale, red colour and a fruity hop finish. it was a good start to the night, after that a Paxtons Peculiar which is one of my favorite peerless brews a well-balanced beer with a light malty biscuit finish, followed by a Red Rocks named for the red sandstone found around the Wirral namely around Thurstaton hill and Hilbre island, another fave of mine. The penultimate ale was Storr which is an old norse word for great or strong, Storr is the brew which takes the longest time to complete and is a Lager Pilsner, i wasnt particularly fond of it myself though it was a clean sweet tasting brew! Finally finishing of drinks in the brewery was oatmeal stout a firm favourite amongst local drinkers in the area and it was in top form at the source!

where the magic happens, watch out for yeast farts….

During the night all the staff were friendly and welcoming, one lady very helpfully recommend a couple of other pubs in Birkenhead to try before we caught the train home. Steve even gave us an impromptu talk down in the brewery which was very informative and humorous, topics included the grief brewers had to go through with Her madges customs and excise (booooo) and yeast farts!

Getting to sample the end product actually in-house surrounded by all the impressive brewing kit was a great experience all rounded off by the staff being great hosts. Time waits for no drinker though and as last orders were called we decided to amble off in the direction of Hamilton Square.

We popped into Gallaghers well-known as a place of good beer and haircuts, yes that’s right haircuts you can also get a shave if you like! though that does requires booking. Gallaghers doubles as a barbers and is an award-winning local so its really worth a visit, it was towards the end of the night so it was quite quiet when we arrived however it still gave us a chance to enjoy the surroundings of the pub and the beer, i had a Queen Rat by the Rat brewery from my native Yorkshire, a chocolate porter that was very scrumptious. the bar is decked out in various bits of military paraphenalia, photos and paintings and i could have stayed and looked at them for ages but we had to get one more in before last orders!

Not to far a walk from Gallaghers is The swinging arm “wirrals friendliest rock venue” according to the website and although it was pretty devoid of people at this point in the night the staff were very obliging in serving us a nice pint. The Swinging Arm wears its love for all things rock on its sleeve and i love it, its a great big open plan pub with a great big view of the magnificent waterfront in Liverpool, great beer, great music, great surroundings and a great view! Here i managed to squeeze in one more Peerless brew in the form of Full Whack, this was a real smooth beer with a real kick on the end of it.

One hour is too short a time to enjoy the two above pubs so i plan to go back in the future and also explore further afield maybe towards West Kirby as well. A great night is to be had though pop along to peerless brewery for the next thirsty thursday and then visit some of the other great local pubs in the area its well worth the trip!

Real Ale desert my arse….

Handy Links

Expedition to the desert

Feeling the blues from the 4 day easter weekend? fear not, the last Thursday of every month Peerless Brewing Company hold “Thirsty Thursdays” at their brewery on Pool St in Birkenhead. I only became aware of it myself after the ill thought out article by Wirral camra stating that the Wirral was a “real ale desert” (it isnt).

Basically on the Thursday afternoon into evening Peerless throws its doors open to the public and lets you into the Brewery to try their beers and see the goings on inside the brewery. All beer is £2 a pint, there will be no food but bar snacks available, and NO ENTRANCE FEE.

This particular Thirst Thursday will see the introduction of a new brew “Boston Red” an 4.5% american hopped malt ale, red in colour with a fruity finish, something im looking forward to trying.

the brewery in pool street is quite close to Birkenhead centre and the docks in Birkenhead, it’s about a 10 minute walk from Conway Park station, the session starts at 4pm, so there is really no excuse!

I’ll write-up about the Thirsty Thursday Later on.

Wapping Russian Imperial Damson Stout

Its been some time since i wrote about a specific beer, but this Wapping stout is a cracking beer and has a great story with it to boot so why not write about it?

From the Cellar under The Baltic Fleet pub this brew was lost for quite some time! it seems it was misplaced amongst the variety of other wonderful stuff concocted in the Fleets cellar by Stan and Angus, hence its title 2010 vintage! and its bloody nice! Beer doesn’t really “go off” as such so it’s quite fine to drink and it was a cracking brew. Dark and rich with smooth malty flavour, a sweetness on the end from the damson and a very subtle hint of smoke. This is a when its gone its gone brew unless Angus decides to brew some more (and then lose it for a few years hehe!)

I recommend picking some up if you can! I got my bottle from the Delifonesca branch on Sefton Street (it used to be the Harry Ramsden’s remember?). It may be available elsewhere

Some news relating to Wapping is that previously brewing was to stop at the pub and move in with Mad Hatter, this will not be happening now as Angus will be taking over from Stan who has now retired (im not sure he can i think he loves it too much!) and moved to Melwood beer company. There will still be collaboration brews with Wapping and Mad Hatter, so in a good way we have got the best of both worlds in my opinion, and i wish both breweries a continuing busy and prosperous future!

An Interesting Few days

Over the course of a few days the local CAMRA branches; Liverpool and District and Wirral and Merseyale seem to have done their best to court a bit of controversy. Where did it all start? well innocuously it started both with the Pub of the year announcement. I also shouted out on twitter for some suggestions on where to drink on the Wirral, this led to a fantastic response from several people of where to visit. It also opened a pandora’s box which doesn’t seem to want to shut! (not without good reason though)

All the while through this the local CAMRA branch and the local beer publication merseyale have continued to subtly insult craft beer. when i started this i intended it to be a mostly informative, light hearted ramble about drinking in the Merseyside area. However i am getting tired of the outmoded attitude of Liverpool CAMRA branch, im glad i havn’t joined CAMRA now! considering the great work CAMRA has done in its 40 years it could do with a serious attitude check and maybe move with the times.

anyway in summary here is what has happened over the last few days

Liverpool Pigeon announced as POTY 2014

you can read about why CAMRA chose the pigeon on their own website, this choice has proven contentious amongst local drinkers as the pigeon is not technically in “Liverpool” as such but also because it hasn’t even been open a full year. Again in the article the local branch trys to get the boot in one of the positive comments made in reference to the pigeon is “not having any keg products on sale” really? because all keg products are like carling arn’t they?

I would like to take this opportunity to say i love the pigeon, at the risk of repeating myself I am pleased the pigeon has received recognition, I agree with some of the stuff in the CAMRA article, last time it was visited i got the last pint out of a barrel and was asked if i wanted to try it and if it wasn’t satisfactory i could change it. Thats great service! I’d strongly recommended a visit to the pigeon and other pubs in the Crosby and Waterloo area they are fantastic.

Runners up this year were The dispensary and The Belvedere


the latest edition of merseyale is available in local drinking establishments now and available on-line for you to read, and I really insist you do.

Brewdog battles

For starters there is a piece on the new Brewdog bar which is soon to be opened in Liverpool, a large contingent of people are very happy about this, yes Brewdog can seem like they enjoy courting controversy and have “attitude” but its good to have another outlet of good quality beer. But do they take the opportunity to welcome them? No. They bang on about how Brewdog made real ale once but switched to craft which is apparently in CAMRA circles the equivalent of being a Judas, they continue to say that Brewdog make strong beers and seem to suggest that its the only reason they are famous. Brewdog have done their best to say one of the reasons for their bars is to educate people on good beers, a noble cause but Merseyale says:

if  the mission is education then why seek to  locate  their  bar  in  the  premier binge  drinking  zone  in  Liverpool which is a designated CIP and has experienced a 25% rise in assaults. There are many other Liverpool city centre  locations  which  would  suit an  educational  mission  aimed  at people with money to buy and sit and savour the expensive BrewDog beers. Which begs the question “so why  go  there?” It  couldn’t  be money could it?

Binge drinking zone? so what the hell happens at a beer festival? bloody grow up!

Wirral Wanderings

well now this has caused the biggest stink this week, and as i mentioned it all started with me trying to find out what are good places to drink in West Kirby and Hoylake. It ended in the self crucifixion of the area by the Wirral CAMRA members! I will point out that this wasn’t written by Merseyale but published in it, this particular piece was written by Wirral CAMRA members likening it to a real ale desert (because decent craft or keg doesn’t count remember in their book)

I won’t quote a particular section fully you can read that yourself but in a nutshell the Wirral CAMRA members have said if you want to get at real ale you need to go to Chester or Liverpool for better choice and quality. Quite a self defeating attitude for a organisation intended to correct these sort of inadequacies?

And the beat goes on

the above little snippet was taken only just yesterday from the districts facebook page, a thinly veiled kick in the ribs to craft/keg beer again from CAMRA! no mention of the silly import taxes that foreign beers have when they enter the UK. and who drinks a whole pint of some of this stuff? its nice to enjoy as a half or a 3/4 pint!

Over the last few days its become clear to me that CAMRA and Merseyale are becoming something of a dinosaur, we all know what happened to them, failure to adapt. CAMRA has done a sterling job in 40 years of helping to preserve certain beer styles which might have been lost forever, they campaign for drinkers and publicans, yet this outdated attitude to craft beer, keg beer or whatever you want to bloody call it is getting silly and childish. If CAMRA is to survive another 40 years i think it needs to look now at being more inclusive, maybe it should just be the campaign for real beer? or the campaign for good beer?

and as for Merseyale? shockingly i enjoy reading it, it can be very informative, i enjoyed the piece on Wapping brewery, but it can be VERY opinionated and very high and mighty case and point:

Readers of MerseyAle will be aware that “craft beer” is a meaningless  term  which  has  no definition of what it means, unlike real ale.  See MerseyAle Spring 2012 edition page 29, entitled ‘Craft Beer – Keg Beer by Another Name?

Unfortunately you cannot currently get at previous versions of merseyale on the camra website possibly due to a technical error. But if you can get a hold of the issue i think its a worthy read, because it seems the pro craft beer opinion is simply swept under the rug.

Merseyale could do with being a lot more broad-minded and less biased.

Grimbergen Double-Ambree

well my first blog brew post is a euro beer, and there’s nowt wrong with that! I don’t often drink beer from the continent, usually because im quite happy drinking British cask and craft and American craft. But i often enjoy the likes of a De Koninck or a kwak when in places such as the Pi on Rose Lane!

I picked up tonight’s bottle in Morrison’s supermarket of all places! nice to see the supermarkets stocking more than just crates and crates of ubiquitous lager!

The label description once found buried amongst all the other languages on offer describe it as; “Full bodied amber beer with a rich mouth feel. If offers a mix of sweet and bitter flavours with subtle notes of caramel” I can certainly agree with that its got a lovely texture to it, deep and rich, if there is one thing that puts me off something straight away its a watery weak taste. It might appear too dark for some but really its a lovely brew definitely worth a try if you enjoy your malts over hops or if you just had something crammed with hops and you want something at the other end of the spectrum.