Out and About

Places to visit, Pub crawls to wander

Mapping Merseysides Brewers

Just how many Breweries are there in Merseyside and its neighbouring areas? listing them is easy. There are a quite a lot of them now!, in the course of creating this I found some I didn’t know about myself!

Merseyside is a bit of a catch-all term, some people dont even like it. but being a geographer i find it useful for describing the area surrounding the Mersey estuary and Liverpool bay area. When deciding which areas to include i decided that no where further than the western most point of the Wirral, Just beyond the south of Chester city, St Helen’s, and the shoreline of the Ribble would provide a decent boundary.

You can click on each individual brewery to get information on them. For clarity i have not included brewers that have ceased production such as Cains. I recommend viewing the map in a full new window or tab to get a better view of the area.

Did i miss anywhere? if so please let me know!

I produced the map using google maps. This is strictly for informative purposes, enjoy!

The Legal bit: All logos and images used are the property of their particular owners. Kind permission has been given from the brewers to reproduce them on my map project, this has not been created for profit or any commercial means, and is purely informative.

If any of your information is incorrect please contact me and i will resolve this.

If you wish to change any imagery or add some photos please contact me and i will add them.

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”

Chester Pub Crawl – 2015 edition

Chester is not just a great British city for history and swarms of tourists it’s also a great place for us beer lovers. There are lots of great pubs and bars in and around its ancient city walls. I tend to go a few times a year since its so easy to get there on public transport. You can either come home at the end of the night or stay in a cheap hotel it’s quite easy given the distance of Chester from the other Merseyside settlements.

Getting there as mentioned previously isn’t difficult. My preferred way is via train, you can reach Chester from any of the Merseyrail stations, you may have to change once or twice but trains are very regular and prices are quite reasonable, just over £5 for a saveaway ticket to get you there and back. Please note that currently the last train to Liverpool leaves Chester at 11pm (23:00) daily.

The Route

The route I have come up with is quite a simple one that involves the periphery of the Chester city walls, I suppose you could call it a walls pub crawl if you wanted, there are many variations on the route and this should serve as a rough guide, indeed it’s entirely possible to miss out whole sections of the crawl by going through Chester city centre. You can always plan to revisit missed pubs on subsequent visits and I’m confident you will return!

If we are to base our starting point at the train station you can either go left or right, if it’s a sunny day then you are in luck as there are ample places in the city you can enjoy the sun in the great outdoors. This article will proceed in a clockwise direction but of course you can go whichever way you want, I myself generally prefer a anti-clockwise route.

The Old Harkers Arms

This is a suitable first stop on a clockwise tour. Set in an old warehouse the Harkers has a handsome bare brickwork interior and exterior during daylight hours it can seem quite roomy when it’s not too busy, during later hours when it gets busy it really gets busy with people spilling out on to the canal side area. Over 8 hand pumps are present with a good variety of local and national ales, often from Weetwood or Spitting feathers brewery, food is also served and looks and smells quite tasty i also believe there are craft bottles beers available. The beer seems to be quite well cared for and since its popular it maintains a good turnover. Harkers though isn’t cheap, it’s probably one of the more pricey boozers in Chester but if you like a good range and a good pint you can’t grumble, so make your choice and kick back by the canalside in summer or warm yourself inside with the rest of the throng.

The Cellar Bar

With a licence til 2.30 its one of the later openings in the Chester pub crawl, it’s a small two tier bar with unsurprisingly a Cellar cum second bar downstairs, the main action remains at street level where 3 hand pulls provide good solid cask ale selections and a fine assortment of kegged draught craft beers and bottles too. The Cellar also plays host to regular live music and has a pretty friendly and lively atmosphere, it reminds me very much of Stamps Too in Waterloo. If you’re looking to really switch up your choice of beers on your trip its a worth adding this to your route.  The Cellar bar was  voted Chester & South Clwyd branch Pub of the Year 2014 (CAMRA). Seating is mostly of the stool and high table kind so be prepared to stand if its busy. To my mind its one of the most successful bars in our corner of the Northwest to blend together well cared for cask ales and a great range of kegged craft beer. The cellar is a real fave of mine on the Chester circuit, try not to miss is. If your taking the tour in an anticlockwise route I suggest visiting the cellar last its later opening will allow you time to head back and enjoying a drink before retiring to the night.

The Boathouse

watch the world float by at the boathouse

You’ve got a bit of a walk ahead of you now as you make your way down to the wonderful River Dee, you can take a direct route through Grosvenor Park if you wish or follow Dee Lane and Grosvenor park lane, either way eventually you will come to JW Lees Boathouse, nestled right up against the river (and sometimes in it during flood!). A large family style pub with multiple areas there is a long bar in the middle and impressive views of the river where you can watch people simply messing around in boats. Only JW Lees Beers are available on the hand pulls, I’m not a big fan of them myself but you can’t complain at having a pint down by the river on a sunny day. Expect this to be very busy during weekends and especially during good weather.

Update 2015: Recently a large disused canal boat has been moored outside and converted to extra seating, so you can enjoy being right on the river and not just next to it. Just don’t fall in.

The Ship Inn

a roaring fire and a giant pint (not actually giant)

A walk along the River Dee is in order now to reach the next port of call (nautical pun intended) you have two choices here you can either cross the magnificent Queens Park suspension bridge and hug the river bank on the other side or take the walk along the Chester city walls side, either way you get some cracking views like the photo at the top of this page. The ship Inn was disused for a number of years until it was recently brought back to life, a single large bar dominates downstairs while upstairs food is served in a restaurant section (you can still eat downstairs of course). One great dominating feature is the large fireplace which is a real welcome sight and feel on a cold winters eve. One regular ale is on offer with 2 guests usually available these are again from local and national brewers and kept very well. You can enjoy another view of the river from the back of the pub, alas there is no beer garden. Enjoy the mellow atmosphere and when your ready were off over the old dee bridge.

Update 2015: on numerous re-visits to the ship its clear that the pub has been taken over by Thwaites, and/or it appears to have changed managers several times as well. Since our first visit the pub had a somewhat uncertain outlook and seemed to stock just mostly Thwaites beers. However as of Winter 2015 it has had another makeover. The downstairs has been made more bright and welcoming and the beer list has seen some improvement with inclusions of local brewers and some nationals. sadly it seems the original fireplace shown in the above photo has been remodelled but a member of staff assured me the fire would still be in use during cold days. The ship inn is still very worthy of a visit and more support and suggestions from customers may improve the beer range in time.

The Bear and Billet

another roaring fire to enjoy in the winter

Walking back over the old Dee bridge towards the Bridge gate section of Chester walls mind the road as there is only one pavement, your next stop is one of the few Okells Outlets here on mainland Britain, and a fine stop it is too! A large imposing listed three-story white and black timber-framed building, if you have an image of the inside of a British pub this might fit its description with a fireplace and low exposed beams all around, drawing an eclectic mix of young and old, the bear and billet is warm and welcoming, especially in winter as you can no doubt see from the rather cosy gentleman in the above photo. The bear and billet have 5 pumps on offer 1 serving a regular Okells beer and others from local and national sources. Food is also available. Upstairs is a larger seating area if downstairs is a bit too busy for you. When your ready to move on head up bridge street and cross the road to your next destination.

The Cross Keys Inn

The most northerly of Joules Breweries pubs is a one room red brick pub opened in 2012 with an old-fashioned Victorian style interior with wooden panelling and etched mirrors. There’s even a retro Carling black label tap on the bar! upstairs is a function room christened as another pub “the slaughtered lamb” which hosts traditional pub games according to the website. Initially i have missed the cross keys off on previous visits but we popped in again during December 2015 to see how it was getting on. The beer on offer is Joules own beers mixed with local and further away beers. its only the second place outside of Yorkshire i have seen Fernandes brewery beers, the first being the dispensary in Liverpool which seems to have a monopoly on it in Liverpool. The beer has been well-kept the atmosphere during the festive period was busy but not ruinously so. Other times the cross keys can be a nice place for a quiet contemplative pint. I’ll definitely be back more often! Next stop requires you to cross over bridge street for another short walk.

Spitting Feathers Brewery Tap

the historic interior of Gamul House

A short bimble up lower bridge street will bring you to Gamul house, home to the Spitting Feathers Brewery tap, the first one for the brewery until 2014 when a second was opened in West Kirby. Careful of the steep steps up to the entrance, this Grade II listed Ex-Jacobean dining hall has quite some history behind it, one famous visitor included Charles the First (who may or may not have had a pint while there). The main hall in which the bar is located is a vast space with large ceiling and ornate sandstone fireplace. Beers are of course from the Spitting feathers brewery but also makes room for many national and local breweries some of them Micro’s. As with many of the other pubs in Chester quality food is available and the menu changes regularly, the ambience of this very old building is worth staying for to soak up for a good while. but when your ready mind those steps again on your way down! Note the tap can fill up very rapidly at the end of race days. Food is available during peak hours.

The Architect

a real sun trap is to be had at the architect

Taking a route across the roundabout towards the Roodee (aka Chester racecourse) you will find the Architect. Recently renovated by pub co Brunning & Price the former home of Thomas Harrison, fellow Yorkshireman and architect who worked on two bridges in Chester (amongst many other things) and then designed and built himself this fine home. Which today is the pub! A white building with added red-brick extension this pub has a HUGE garden (and it is HUGE). Looking out onto Chester racecourse (aka the roodee), expect the architect to be very busy when any kind of event is on at the racecourse. The garden is a real sun trap so if that’s your sort of thing you may enjoy a few hours at the architect. Styled as a “Classic pub restaurant” the building is split into two, with the red brick extension playing host to the bar and associated area. The rest of the house proper is given over to rooms for dining, it does feel a bit odd wandering through what used to be someone else house looking for the loo while people dine away in side rooms! two regular ales are served one from a local brewer, weetwood when i last visited and up to five other guest ales so choice is pretty good, however this is a very upmarket place and prices reflect this as such. The architect is definitely worth a visit for a good pint, an excellent view and also by all accounts good grub.

Route Deviation

Now at this point you can take a route direct along the historic city walls of Chester to the north from the bottom of the architects garden, straight up to the next pub, Telfords Warehouse

Alternatively you could divert off into the city centre and visit some of the other pubs, these will be covered later on.

Telfords Warehouse

Wander north along the walls and then zig zag your way across the assortment of bridge that cross canals and railway lines to find Telford’s Warehouse, situated right alongside the Shropshire Union Canal. The building is of course linked to famed industrial revolution engineer Thomas Telford, designed so canal boats could dock directly within its structure. Today the warehouse operates as a multifunction venue but is well-known within Chester for being a place for Live music and art. But of course it does sell fine beer too three regular ales are available alongside plus three guests making for a pretty good range, wide open glass windows give a good view out onto the canal and tow-path, seating is also available outside, though mind the canal itself unless you want to go for a dip in the water. A lot goes on at the Warehouse from Live gigs to salsa classes so it’s quite a busy place! food is also available and from having looked at the menu myself it looks quite tasty. Though Telfords warehouse is right on the furthest reaches of this crawl it is well worth visiting!

PLEASE NOTE: there is an admission charge after 9pm owing to the fact it is a live events venue

The circle is complete

now if at this point you are more or less ready for home you can make your way back to Chester railway station along the city walls, taking a route back along Brook street you can pop in the last pub before ending your circular route alternatively you can dive back into the city centre, this deviation will be covered a little later on. If you are heading onwards to Kash from Telfords you can either walk the wall or follow the canal, the canal is the easier more direct option.

Kash Taprooms

Sat somewhat unusually on its own wedged between brook street and a dual carriageway Kash charts its own independent course as a good establishment to enjoy both cask ale and craft beer, they even have their own brewing kit which you pass on your way in. selling its own Redball ales alongside sister Blueball and a plethora of local and national cask and craft there is a good choice available, on a few occasions I have noticed beers tend to lean towards the strong end of the spectrum so be forewarned! but that’s not to say lighter ales are not available also. A neat little sun terrace is available by Kash’s front entrance, the staff are friendly and knowledgeable about what they stock so don’t be afraid to ask if you’re not sure, home cooked food is available and the interior is quite eclectic with barrels for tables and colourful murals on the wall. this is a great place to end your crawl or start it depending on which way round you are doing things.

City Centre Diversion

if along your circular walk of Chester you want to cut it short or add more to the route you can’t go far wrong taking a diversion through the city centre, there are many pubs in the city centre selling a good range of beers, you can see a concise list of these on both the what pub website, and Chester CAMRA’s own printable guide for the city. On my Updated 2015 crawl I now just recommend the Pied bull listed below.

The Pied Bull

Personally I think no visit to Chester is complete without popping in the pied bull. Known for being the longest continually licensed premises in Chester and home to its own microbrewery it’s a great traditional pub, I have eaten and enjoyed the pubs own produce and i was pretty chuffed with it, staff were really friendly even suggesting other places to visit and i was even offered a sample of a beer yet to come on direct from the cellar! The Pied Bull is an old coaching Inn that dates from 1155 so its got quite a bit of history embedded in the walls, and also some ghosts apparently, the only spirits i have seen though are in optics behind the bar! The atmosphere is warm, cosy and friendly so i think it’s a great place to duck into during a cold winters eve, warm up with a Pied Bull pint, 4 hand pulls are on offer including at least one regular beer from the pied bull microbrewery itself. If you like history and beer that hasn’t travelled far the pied bull is a worthy addition to any crawl in Chester.

In Summary – The last train home

Right first things first, if you are going home by train make a note of when the last train leaves! because getting to Chester station can be a hike from certain places and unless your staying for the night you might not want to be caught out!

Chester really is a cracking place to visit for a pub crawl any time of year, in the summer you can enjoy the many outdoor venues and the riverside in the sun and in the winter many cosy welcoming fireplaces beckon you inside for a good pint and a warm place by the fire, getting to Chester is easy, getting around Chester is relatively easy as well so there is no excuse for not going, whether you live somewhere on the Wirral or within the Greater Liverpool area it’s easily in reach, you could always stop a night or two and enjoy many of the places at a steadier pace as well. You don’t have to follow my route exactly I encourage you to head off the beaten track and find new places, there are several places I’ve omitted either because I don’t think they fitted with the flow of the crawl or because i just didn’t like them. that doesn’t mean you wont, don’t be shy and go for a wonder!

Weekend Wanderings: Waterloo Beer Festival & Mad Hatter Brewtap

So over the weekend quite a lot was going on in the area! we had beer festivals, Brewtap openings and meet the brewer events, I only managed to get to two events myself but it was a great weekend by all accounts judging by discussions I’ve had with people and from what I’ve seen on social media.

Waterloo Beer Festival #7

Seven Waterloo beer festivals already? seems like only yesterday i went to my first one! I remember hearing a story from someone that the very first one was very quiet, its good to see its gone on to be popular and maintained that popularity it would have been a shame for it to have fallen by the wayside! The Bi-annual event held in Old Christ church in Waterloo was again great fun and busy on both days i visited, with good music on, generous amounts of beer and good food its hard to go wrong, and when your done you have the whole of Waterloo and Crosby to visit as well.

Friday evening at the WBF

Friday along with saturday are probably the two busiest days, for obvious reasons. This year it featured extended sunday hours to coincide with the may bank holiday weekend. It was certainly very busy on friday seating as usual was at a premium so we ended up getting a wobbly stand up table, everything that i went for on friday night was still on and in good condition. As usual upon entry you can buy tickets, pickup your program and festival glass which you can take home as well.

Organisation: papers please

Waterloo Beer Festival is pretty well publicised, Tickets are easily available and convenient to get via Eventbrite who seem to handle most of the ticketing for all the local beer festivals, if it’s not broke eh? they only bother you will have is if your printer runs out of ink!

A full sheet of 8 for £12 (£1.50 a token) and smaller denominations were available, the simplified pricing is some of the best from any festival i have been too and its remained so for several years, only going up in price from £10 to £12 recently, there is no difference in strength of beers affecting the price its a flat price for everything, which for you the punter means no odd-numbered boxes left over!

the sun puts in a brief appearance illuminating the lovely interior of old christ church

I have to tip my hat to whoever does the program for WBF because being honest? the beer descriptions are better than what you get in the Liverpool Beer Festival program! furthermore its a lot more easier to read, yes i suppose that’s being a bit pedantic but the CAMRA LBF program is like a wall of text with no information on some stuff.

I opted to leave my glass behind this year for practical reasons, i had nothing to carry it home in, didn’t want to lug it around and also i am running out of room for glasses in my house!

Munchables

A familiar trio of treats were available as usual over the weekend, Liverpool Cheese Company were on hand with a wide selection of cheeses breads and crackers, and friendly advice to anyone without the slightest idea of what cheese to go for. Peninsula Pies were back as always with their Awesome sausage rolls, pasties and pies. I’ve said this before and ill say it again i wish they had an actual shop because i would rent a van and buy a ton of their sausage rolls they are that damn good. And last but not least Liverpool Cake Co were on hand to satisfy your sweet tooth after the savouries, i had a cupcake myself on friday evening and it was quite nice!

Peninsula Pies and Liverpool Cheese Company

I think i should mention as well that initially Liverpool Cake Co were posted in a side room off the main floor of the church, i got the feeling that they were not getting much attention because of this, thankfully by saturday night they had been moved into the main area, im not sure why they were not put in their to begin with but good that it was rectified! On sunday Peninsula Pies had completely run out by 4pm sadly, I almost started crying over that! seriously I love those sausage rolls! I wish they would always have more available but I don’t know the first thing about catering so can’t really comment!

The Beer

The most important thing of course and why you actually come to a beer festival! 154 real ales were listed in the program 8 Keg craft beers were also available along with 20+ ciders and perries and Liverpool Gin was also available for those who fancied a bit of a change

From what i recall of the two visits I didn’t have a bad drink at all, speaking with some fellow drinkers recently it seems to be that you rarely get a bad drink now, that is a beer that just doesn’t taste nice at all, beers now often range from excellent to average, and if you have a bad beer, chances are it just wasnt kept correctly! if this little theory of mine is right then its good news as it means that not only is the quantity of ale on its way up, the quality standard is remaining high!

Having said that nothing much grabbed my attention this weekend, everything was consistently good, i still recall getting some smoked brews at the winter WBF last year they really stood out to me, still there were lots of very nice brews in particular i loved the Mad Hatter ESB, York Brewery Finishing Touch, RAW majic mild ale and Tiny Rebel Beat Box

Festival glasses with contrasting ales, and the infamous wobbly table.

One thing i felt compelled to mention and, im thumbing through my battered program just to check, yes there is quite a lack of stouts at this particular WBF, only 8 in total i believe. Now I didn’t get around to having more than one on Friday and was hoping to have another sunday, but it seems Merseyside stout lovers hammered the few available ones over the weekend and alas there was none to be found! not even any on the south road pubs afterwards! now 8 might sound like a lot to some folk but compared to the amount of other pale ales available at the festival its not that much! i wonder why there were so few stouts?

Is it because were heading towards summer and people are in “summer mode” that’s an imaginary thing i dreamt up where people drink lighter coloured beers in the summer? Regardless i liked all the beers i had.

By Sunday though the previous few days and extended hours had taken its toll on the beer range and it was severely reduced by the time we got there, of course we still found some good drinks but  it made choosing a bit of a headache! since you had to make multiple back-up choices! I attended a previous years sunday session and don’t remember it being as hammered but this was winter! maybe the extended hours brought out more folk?

If you’re looking to get the first dibs on the beer and not wanting to worry about stuff running out you should ideally aim to go between Thursday and Saturday, stuff will certainly start to run out saturday, I didn’t observe anything sold out on Friday.

Music for the masses

Over the course of the festival entertainment was provided by 6 groups/entertainers with 3 squeezed into the extended sunday session. On Friday the Penniless Tenants were in-house providing us with some great folk tunes, especially appreciated by some of my friends of irish descent, on Sunday we enjoyed a bit of swingology and The Rip Roaring success, who were my favourite of the night, mixing early 20th century music and some well-known favourites such as Johnny Cash etc.

Rip roaring success take the spotlight

The size of the church does mean if you want to enjoy the music your best being closer to the stage, as the PA can struggle to fill the air in-between, we did struggle to hear it a bit further away on friday, so sunday we got close up to enjoy the tunes!

Volunteer Army

Again all the volunteers did a great job, helping the uninitiated, offering opinions on brews and keeping the whole process running smoothly. I felt sorry for the poor fella calling time at both sessions, the ringing of the bell was met with the inevitable chorus of good-hearted boo’s from the crowd and the gentleman had a good chuckle over it!

In Summary

Waterloo beer festival remains a great place to go to, it’s well organised, fairly priced, has a good selection of beers, Cask, Keg, cider and now Gin, the catering is super. If i had one suggestion to make it would be could someone please pretty please make scouse for the winter one? The festival also has what i consider a more relaxed atmosphere than the Liverpool Beer Festival and even when its busy it’s not so bad you can barely move. I would certainly recommend going to more than one session as well if you can, going to the sunday session especially which is not as busy if you prefer things quiet and you also have ample time to explorer the local pubs and bars in the area.

Before you go!!

Personally I don’t think any visit to the Waterloo beer festival is complete without going into at least one of the local areas fantastic pubs and bars, there are quite a few to choose from and all within walking distance or one train stop away. Not only that but there are some good quality eateries around the area as well to fill any hole in your belly

I have a selection that i prefer myself which you can read here, but you can also use the Local CAMRA branches pub passport maps as a good basis to go off or the CAMRA whatpub website. This weekend when coming out on both Friday and Sunday we headed to the South road in Waterloo, my two choices are generally music themed but if your after a nice quiet pint you can’t go far wrong with a walk to the Volunteer Canteen (aka the volly).

First to the old bank for a pint and then onto one of my favourite places Stamps too, a mecca for real ale and music fans, Stamps Too regularly hosts live music, has a good consistent range of excellent ales and are very often Local Ales (LocAles)

Live Music and Good Beer staples of a good diet in STAMPS Too

I have never had a bad night in Stamps too the beer is consistently well-kept by the staff, there is usually a good range of beers on from light to dark, unfortunately for me this weekend there was no stout! However the ales that were on were great, over the weekend period beers from Southport, Brimstage, Burscough and Purple Moose brewery were all on, the golden sands by Southport was quite delicious.

The dockers belting out some cracking tunes on sunday

Sundays music was by far the best for me the lads from The Dockers Band were on the stage, three talented lads who can knock out a fantastic tune, they had stamps suitably head bobbing and foot tapping until close of play when we sadly had to jog for the last train!

full of beer, song and food, now you can’t do much worse than that can you?

Mad Hatter BrewTap

This weekend also saw the inaugural opening of Mad Hatter Brewing Co’s own Brewtap premises in the Baltic triangle, Mad hatter will soon be moving fully into the new premises on the corner of Jamaica Street and Watkinson street, once things are settled down there should be more regular openings of the Brewtap so you can enjoy the creative magic right at the source.

A good selection of the Mad hatter range was available, in both Cask, Keg and bottled form, we plumped for a Liverpool best which was very satisfying, there was also Wapping rye smile, showing the continuing strong links with Mad Hatter and Wapping breweries.

mad hatters new brewtap

A regular theme ive noticed over these last few years are how unassuming and humble most of the places are local breweries occupy, half of the time you’d probably not even know they were there as you drive or walk by, this is in stark contrast to the red brick behemoth of Cain’s old brewery, the giant Tetleys plant i remember from back home in Yorkshire and also the Black Sheep Brewery which i had the pleasure of a tour of once.

I think it’s reassuring, in a way, there’s a down to earthness about it all, ill be looking forward to seeing more of the brewplant as it gets put in, a few fermenting vessels were present when we visited and although we only had time for one pint, it left me thirsty for another visit which i hope won’t be too long! So best of Luck to Gaz and everyone at Mad hatter with the new location!

May Madness approaches!

well there is a busy weekend approaching here in Merseyside and the surrounding areas, several beer festivals and events to please your hop soaked taste buds in! here is a very rough roundup, and my apologies if i miss anything, let me know and ill update!

Waterloo Beer Festival

a bustling evening session at Waterloo

I’ve actually lost track of how many Waterloo beer festivals I’ve been to, it’s that many! WBF ties for best festival in the area for me (with the LCBF) it’s a great mix of good size venue, friendly atmosphere, great entertainment, wide-ranging beers and lovely food. Some tickets may still be available the festival runs from thursday the 1st of May right through to the 4th on Sunday with an extended session for the final day. I’ve always enjoyed the Waterloo beer festival and i am looking forward to this one, there will also be a Keg bar this year but don’t expect to see Carling on tap only quality Craft Beers will be available!

As it’s in a church and the weather hasn’t quite settled down yet you may want to bring something warm if it gets cold, although being from Yorkshire I’m made of hardy stuff, anything above zero is tropical to me!

When you have finished at the festival don’t go home straight away as the surrounding pubs in Waterloo have a lot to offer, visit Stamps Too and The Old Bank on the south road for nice beers and excellent music afterwards or head to the Volunteer Canteen for a nice quiet pint if that’s more your style, Crosby is only a bus/train ride away too, head to the Liverpool Pigeon for another quiet quality pint (closes at 9pm though so be aware!) or visit the first stamps for more entertainment. You can see my suggestion for a pub crawl for the area here, also you can consult the local camra branch pub passport map or the whatpub website.

You can purchase tickets and get more info on the festival through the link below, and MANY local brewers products will be in attendance!

http://www.waterloobeerfestival.com/

Mad Hatter Brewery Micro Brewtap opening

reproduced with kind permission from mad hatter brewery

As the lovely poster above tells you mad hatter brewery will be enjoying its inaugural opening of their Brewtap this weekend in the fantastic Baltic triangle, these initial few days are to promote the business and Brewtap which will be getting more definite opening hours soon, beer will be available on Cask, Keg and in bottle on the days, and you can even buy some to take home!

Mad Hatter have been another great local success story for Liverpool and celebrated their first birthday in February and within that time have already taken their place amongst the pantheon of excellent brewers in our fair city. I’m hoping i can sneak over to the open weekend at some point i got tickets to two sessions at Waterloo, why not stop by mad hatters brew tap on your way to one of the other events this weekend and say hello? Or stay for a few hours and then pop around to visit the other places in the excellent triangle like camp and furnace and the Baltic Fleet pub? you’d be mad not too (pun intended).

Liverpool Cricket Club Beer Festival

As mentioned by me previously there will be a festival on at the cricket club running from the Thursday the 1st of May to sunday the 4th of may. There will be day and evening sessions on the friday and sunday, Live music appears to be on the cards for saturday but there is no information about entertainment at other sessions, typical beer festival food will be available and there will also be some cricket matches on at the same time by the looks of things, i am unsure if your entrance to the festival will allow you to see the matches but it would seem silly if you can’t.

you can buy tickets on the below link and there is more information on the official page

http://www.liverpoolcc.ticketsource.co.uk/

http://www.liverpoolcricketclub.co.uk/lcc-beer-festival-is-back-lccbeerfest/

St Helen’s Mild ale trail

St Helen’s CAMRA branch will be hosting a mild ale trail this friday night, meet at the Cricketers pub at 7.30 on friday evening 2nd of May, for more information please contact the St Helen’s CAMRA branch, they are quite active on twitter and Facebook!

Get out and about

If you’re not going to any events in particular it’s still a good time to get out and about and enjoy a drink or two, support your local pubs, support your regulars. Head to a new place like Chester, or Southport or West Kirby and Hoylake, even if you just pop to a beer shop and stock up for a drink at home your supporting an independent local retailer and in turn is supporting a brewery that makes proper good beer.

Have a good weekend and remember drink responsibly, drink good beer!

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

http://www.peerlessbrewing.co.uk/

https://twitter.com/PeerlessSteve

https://www.facebook.com/pages/Peerless-Brewing/178035068888683?fref=ts

https://twitter.com/Gallaghers_pub

http://www.gallagherspubandbarbers.com/

http://www.swingingarm.co.uk/

https://www.facebook.com/TheSwingingArm

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.

Republic of Liverpool Beer Festival

Another new beer festival to add to this years ever-expanding list of beer festivals is ROLFest (nothing to do with Rolf Harris)

ROLFest will be running from the 25th to the 27th of April, which forms a nice bridge between the CAMRA festival and the Ever approaching Waterloo festival, it’s the inaugural Republic of Liverpool beer festival so if you can, get your self along and support another fine festival, alas i myself will not be able to go.

full details of the festival and how to buy tickets can be found on their website: http://www.rolfest.com/

in summary though they expect to have 70+ Real Ales and Ciders, 50 of which to be dispensed by hand pump instead of direct from the cask (the method a friend of mine prefers), there will also be food and entertainment at each session.

The festival is to be held at St Luke’s parish hall next to the church its self. located just in the centre of Crosby its easy to reach, if your feeling up to it as well don’t forget you can visit the other great pubs in the local area on the same day, checkout my own suggested pub crawl here.

One of my first posts was saying how blessed we are for festivals in the Merseyside area, i reckon we are fast becoming the beer festival mecca of the UK!

I wish ROLFest a succesful 3 days and hope to see it next year when i might be able to visit!

Crosby and Waterloo Pub Crawl – updated 2015

hmm tides coming in, best go the pub and dry off… (photo G Hutsby)

Right on the northern fringes of the Merseyside metropolitan area sits Waterloo and Crosby, wedged up against the Irish sea its a great place to visit for a day out and even a few pints!

Depending on your direction of travel there are a few ways to get to Crosby, its very accessible by Train, Bus and car. My own personal recommendation is to take the train, the northern line services are excellent and there is a train every 15 minutes. Grab yourself a travel pass so you can hop on and off as you choose, especially if your not to keen on some of the longer walking stretches.

Waterloo train station and Blundellsands & Crosby station serve their respective areas. Waterloo’s station puts you right on the south road which is awash with great pubs in the area. Blundellsands and Crosby station is a short 10 minute walk from the centre of Crosby, pubs are a little more spread out in this area.

The Route

Route Length 2.5 miles approx. suggested time allowance 5 hours.

My own personal route is as follows, of course don’t be afraid to explore and check out other pubs in the area, you can use the fine Liverpool pubs passport available for free from the Liverpool CAMRA branch website or use the handy http://whatpub.com/ from CAMRA as well, which also has a mobile website, handy when you are out! Please remember this route is of my own opinion, places are included and excluded at my own choice, I believe that it offers a good spread of experience and beer quality. You are of course encouraged to have a wander around and explore places for yourself and discover something I might have missed. Directions on the map are a rough guide feel free to take another route if you wish.

1. Liverpool Pigeon

The pigeon has been open only a few short years and was initially the areas only micropub. In that time it has garnered a lot of fans and two pub of the year awards from the local CAMRA branch. Because it is a micropub opening hours are not the same as your standard boozer. Cask ales and real cider are on offer, as are bottled beers from the continent, but you will not find any mainstream lagers, keg products alcopops or spirits. There is no music, no TV and no live entertainment, nice surroundings and conversation rule the roost at the Pigeon. Beer changes very frequently the selection tends to come from other North West England and national brewers, furthermore its all served in over-sized pint glasses! It can tend to get quite warm in the pigeon when there are plenty of people in seating is limited to you may struggle to find some where to park your bum if it is busy.

The staff are big on quality here, on a previous visit the first choice drink had only just gone off, the gentleman behind the bar serving me let me know, asked me if I wanted to try it and if I was unhappy he’d swap it immediately, it didn’t seem right so a replacement was soon whipped up, a lot of other pubs could learn a lesson from this small establishment.

Full details and opening hours can be found here: http://liverpoolpigeon.co.uk/

2. Stamps

A short bimble up Liverpool road northwards will take you to the next nearest port of call Stamps.

The original stamps is a two tier building right at the junction of Crosby town centre’s main roads to Liverpool and Southport. Stamps is a great little venue for live music, every time i have been there is usually some entertainment on, whether that entertainment is to your liking is of course a matter of taste. Within recent years Stamps have started a brewery auxiliary located elsewhere in Merseyside, it supplies not only to the Stamps but to other pubs, eateries and bottle shops. Six handpulls are present with at least one stocking a Stamps brewery beer. There is also usually one national beer present. On my visits the beers have been in good to OK condition. While the choices on offer may not ever be mind blowing its a good reliable place for a nice drink. And one of the few live music venues in the area!

Seating during busy periods can be at a premium it’s often quite lively and noisy with the crowd and visiting bands competing for the airwaves so if you’re a quiet pub lover this may not be for you unless you get there before any entertainment starts.

3. Crows Nest

Coming out of stamps you will need to navigate your way over the road system nearby towards the direction of Victoria Road, once you round the corner you next goal will be in sight.

The Crows Nest gives off the aura of a typical community pub, its warm and welcoming and has been pretty busy the previous times we have dropped in. The pub is set out into three distinct areas a snug area which you might typically enter if coming down victoria road from Crosby town centre, a back lounge and then the main bar area. It is possible to be served from all three of these areas, however be careful of fellow drinkers hiding behind the door in the bar area, a polite sign will ask you to knock before entering so you don’t whack someone with the door.

You wont find any mind-blowing choices of real ale here, but what you will find are a decent variety of national brands and pretty well-kept to boot, I’ve usually gone for the Theakstons and its one of the nicest pints of it I have had outside my native home land. There are tv’s for showing sport etc and the crowd is quite friendly.

To reach your next destination follow Victoria Road until it forks left and becomes College road until you reach the roundabout, head across this along Mersey road, until you meet the next roundabout, take a left turn onto bridge road and keep an eye out for the post box.

4. The Corner Post

In a previous life the corner post was a post office at the end of a terrace row, hence the corner post! and the post box outside kinda gives it away too. The Corner Post only opened in 2015 and has rapidly become a popular place for local drinkers and those from a far. Being a micropub it does not have extended opening hours, typically it is open from late afternoon until 9pm at night. please check their social media accounts for accurate hours. Basic bar snacks and quality local pies from Satterthwaites of Crosby are available should you fancy a bit of snack.

5 handpulls dominate the tidy corner bar, which regularly host many local beers, a cider and a beer from elsewhere in the country, it has to be said the Corner post does a very good job of supporting Merseysides local breweries and especially those in close proximity to the pub. A smaller selection of bottled beers are also available. Wine and Gin are also available, Micropub purists may scoff at this but I can see the advantages of offering an alternative to those who maybe in a visiting party and really don’t feel like a beer. It doesn’t detract from this being an ale destination whatsoever.

Being a micropub emphasis is put on the care of the beers, and while I have only been a handful of times in 2015 they have always been in great condition during visits. The corner post does an excellent job of updating customers and followers via social media as to what is on the bar through the week. more so than some other local pubs! so follow them to see what’s on the bar. A excellent addition to the local pub scene and the growing collection of Micropubs in the area.

5. The Volunteer Canteen

A fairly long walk along bridge road in the direction of Waterloo is now required, please note this road despite being long and straight changes name several times along its length but the bearing remains the same until you come across Wellington street on your right. Follow Wellington street and take a left onto East Street, your next stop should now be in sight. Please note if you wish you can return to Blundellsands and Crosby station to get the train to Waterloo if you dont feel like the walk.

The Volunteer Canteen affectionately known as the “Volly” its a traditional style pub in a grade 2 listed building. The Volly is a quiet community pub so there is no music or TV. I have only visited the Volly a handfull of times myself. It’s a fantastic looking pub on the inside dating back to 1871 and was previously owned by Higsons Brewery of Liverpool, the inside. Typical bar snacks and food are available, there are 4 handpulls and usually one is from Liverpool Organic Brewery. The Volly has won several awards from the local CAMRA branch over the years. Beer was of a good standard on our two previous visits and table service is still available, a rarity in British pubs nowadays.

6. The Old Bank

“Its a bit of a mad house this place! I like it!” i immediately said to myself when i first walked in the old bank, music blaring from a band on stage, Local characters having a natter loudly with one another and the walls cluttered to the celing with various Music and Football (mostly red sorry blues!) paraphernalia. The old bank is certainly very lively! if you prefer quieter places then the old bank may not be for you. You may prefer to return when there are no bands on but even then it can be quite busy. Beer on offer is usually one or two pumps from Liverpool Organic Brewery and one or two national ales and is well-kept. of all the pubs on the crawl its probably the second most “spacious”, cosyness is the running theme here I think!

7. Stamps Too

Sister pub (or should that be sequel?) to the first stamps you visited, Stamps too really is one of my favourite pubs in the area, its got a great atmosphere, a terrific selection of Beers, a lot of them local and well-kept (by my standards at least) and has some cracking music on. Like a lot of the places on the route it has a fantastic character of its own, checkout the wall of barred famous (infamous) people for a good chuckle! The acts that are on vary massively but we have really enjoyed the music when we have visited, seating is at a premium so be prepared to stand! the beer is usually of a wide colour range there are often lighter coloured ales coupled with a stout so you can give your taste buds a workout. As with the other live music places on the crawl if it’s not your thing you can pop in when its quieter, ive visited stamps too when i’ve been cycling in the area it’s still a great place through the day but i think its heart and soul is best seen when its jam-packed with heads bobbing to good music and clutching a nice ale in your hand.

In Summary – Last Train Home

If your making Waterloo the last part of the crawl and you came by train make sure you check the time of the last train! I enjoy this particular route around Crosby & Waterloo, the walking distances and breaks in between, including the train journey help to add a break into your drinking. Of course if your feeling brave you could go on the train further onwards, although I remind you to drink responsibly of course!

Enjoy!

Pubs are full of surprises

Last night me and a friend went for a wander around Liverpool’s pubs specifically in the Georgian quarter. Our first intention was to visit the new Everyman theatre bistro, the old one holds semi-mythical status amongst Liverpool drinkers, my memory of it is quite vague as i only visited twice so i cant say i hold it in much high regard as i never went enough to form an opinion.

Anyway! the new bistro is quite nice, very modern of course when we visited there were 4 ales on the hand pump including Liverpool Organic Brewery’s “Everyman Ale” a nice session starter but a tad too cold for me, i know someone else who made this observation as well. It was quite pricey too, probably one of the more expensive places to drink real ale in the city, but its only just opened so lets see how things progress.

We didn’t have time to sample the others as we moved on to the 23 Club which was pretty busy for a Thursday evening, a nice pint of Tiny Rebel Hank was on here. We tried Frederiks a new place on Hope Street that has opened in the building once occupied by Korova again quite modern on the inside and for the beer drinker it sells mostly draught craft beers and bottle craft as well, its a nice place to pop in for a craft beer but again a bit on the pricey side.

Moving on down to the Fly in the loaf for a couple of drinks, which is soon to be undergoing a refurb, im not quite sure why myself as its not like the place is falling to bits, hopefully it wont be shut too long as the range of real ale and craft beer is very good here and the staff really know their stuff. Its also one of the few places in the city that was an outlet for Wapping beers, which we sadly wont see any more now since Stan the head brewer has retired, however the final brew “the end” from Wapping will be on sale this weekend so grab a pint of Liverpool’s brewing history while it lasts.

we popped in the Pilgrim which we hadn’t frequented for a while next and then onto the ever colourful Ye Cracke. Afterwards we decided to mosey up to the Caledonia for a few final beers, and what we discovered is what prompted me to write about it today.

Upon going into the Cali my friend pointed out that some of the folks from the Loose Moose band were present (whom we are big fans of) and they were having an impromptu acoustic session in the corner, it was brilliant, quality beers in fantastic surroundings and all to the sound of sweet live music! This is what i love about pubs you just dont know what you are going to find when you go in sometimes! The Caledonia was threatened with closure last year, everyone rallied around the good ship and its staff saving it from closure, this is the sort of thing that makes pubs worth saving!

So thanks to all the pubs for the great night we had, and special thanks to the Caledonia and Loose moose for the unexpected but fantastic entertainment!