Craft Beer

The Merseyrail Trail – Northern Line

With very frequent train services to the most densely populated areas of the region and with the two big draws of Chester and Southport I thought it was time to see if we could have our own “Rail Ale Trail”. I would like to make clear that when I had the inspiration for the trail I did a bit of research to see if a previous version had already been done and discovered that our local paper the Liverpool Echo had already printed a story involving rail trails written by Alistair Houghton; you can read about the original here. The trail I have decided upon is similar but also somewhat different, it will concentrate on one train line only for the moment; this line I feel offers the best in variety of places, ease of moving about and also change in scenery.

Please note that I will attempt to provide you with as much information on the pubs and bars as possible but do not wish to overload you with too much, as part of the fun will be experiencing these places for yourself.

The criteria used in selecting a destination pub were as follows:

1) Is there a pub within a reasonable walking distance of each/a train station?

2) Does the venue offer a good choice of beer and a unique environment?

With this in mind I initially settled on the idea of the Merseyrail Northern Line, between Southport and Liverpool.

Disclaimer

Before we start I would just like to make it clear that this blog post and this trail is not endorsed by Merseyrail or any of its associated companies, please respect the railway and its staff when travelling on the network. Due to unforseen circumstances i was not able to get good photo’s of all the locations i have temporaily used what is available on social media accounts until i can replace these with my own photographs. All information contained within is as up-to-date as possible, if you spot any errors please contact me directly and I will correct them if relevant. Thank you and enjoy reading!

Transport

Reaching the start of the Merseyrail Trail is very easy as long as you can get to a Merseyrail station then you can reach either end of the trail. And if you are travelling from further away outside of Merseyside again it’s not difficult as long as you can reach one of the main hubs such as Chester, Liverpool or Southport.

You can purchase a Merseyrail “daysaver” ticket which allows unlimited travel around the network, currently priced at £5. Up to date prices can be seen on Merseyrail’s website. Alternatively you can purchase a “saveaway” pass to cover both rail and bus services for £5.20 these are issued by Merseytravel the local transport authority. As of 2016 unless bought at a train station the Saveaway is now issued as a smart travel card called “Walrus” in a similar fashion to Oyster for travel around London.

Trains on the Northern line operate very regularly throughout the day Monday to Saturday, expect to see at least one train every 15 minutes operating in both directions, this will be reduced on Sunday’s and public holidays. As always check with the travel operator to see if there are any potential delays on your journey.

The Route

Accessibility wise most of this trail is quite flat. Please note some stations will have stairs; please check with each station to see if it meets your requirements if you have mobility restrictions. Most Merseyrail stations are staffed and they will be able to help you if required. For the most part the destination pubs at each stop are either outside the station or a few minutes walk. For full details on all Merseyrail stations Click on the Link here.

Southport – The Tap and Bottle

Located on Cambridge walk inside Wayfarer arcade, the Tap and Bottle is a recent welcome addition to Southport’s pub and bar scene. Just this year (2016) it has won Pub of the Year from the local Southport and West Lancs CAMRA. In the small but well stocked bar you will find four cask handpulls, six craft keg taps and bottles.

The bottle selection isn’t just limited to the bar, it’s also on display for you to peruse in 3 different shelved areas. The eclectic selection of bottle beers includes but is not limited to: British, European and North America bottles which can be both taken away as well as enjoyed in the bar. Seating is limited as is standing room during busy periods.

Cask beers on offer are a mix of local, regional and national brewers. Seating comprises tables, chairs, stools, plus one large table and bench close to the bar, handy in case you fancy plonking your bum down. A small upstairs area provides additional seating and displays the myriad of ales that have previously been available and also has an old school table arcade game cabinet!

The tap and bottle is very active on social media and within the local community, hosting bottle shares, meet the brewer events as well as a home brew club. There’s a real friendly chatty atmosphere to the tap and bottle and staff will always be on hand to provide helpful suggestions of beers to try regardless of you level of knowledge.

Tap and Bottles – 19 Cambridge Walks, Southport, PR8 1EN.


Birkdale – The Barrel House

Situated under a covered Victorian style shopping parade similar in style to the ones lining Lord Street in central Southport, the barrel house is a continental style café bar that has two cask ales on tap, as well as two other keg taps and a varied bottle selection is available to take out and drink in as well. On my visit the cask available was one local beer and one regional beer.

The range of bottles covers mostly Europe, the UK and North America. Seating inside is limited however in keeping with the continental feel there is additional seating outside on the pavement. There is a friendly, chatty atmosphere inside and despite its small size it feels light and airy. Don’t forget there is also the bottled ale section should you want to be more adventurous.

As the barrel house is a café style bar, food is available at certain times of the day, however snacks are always available. A large selection of newspapers is available to buy and read. Please note that the barrel house operates strict opening hours and last orders are 9.30pm

The Barrel House – 42 Liverpool Rd, Birkdale, Southport, PR8 4AY.


Hillside – The Grasshopper

Previously a branch of the bank of Liverpool, The grasshopper is named after part of that banks coat of arms and has literally just opened (as of 17th of March 2016). Based on the micropub model, the Grasshopper is decorated in a modern style with bare brick, white walls and beer related pictures on the wall. It is bright and welcoming inside with a small bar that stocks 4 cask ales and two keg beers. A big emphasis is currently placed on local ale, featuring as of my visit 5 breweries local to our corner of Merseyside!

Keg lagers were available as was wine. Again being a smaller establishment, seating and standing room are at a premium during busier periods. Despite only recently opening there were a few groups enjoying the atmosphere which was quiet yet chatty. It’s worth noting that children were welcome during the time I visited, so it’s a good place to pop in for a quick drink if you have children with you, but please note that all children must vacate the premises by 6pm.

The Grasshopper is also dog friendly. The possibility for the Grasshopper to extend into the neighbouring part of the building is also an option for the future, so hopefully it will prove popular enough to warrant this. Through the weekend opening hours will be 12-9.30pm. Weekdays will be 4-9.30pm Monday to Friday; these are of course subject to change. Bank holiday hours will be extended to weekend hours.

The Grasshopper – 70 Sandon Road, Hillside, Southport, PR8 4QD.

Side Step

Not too far from Hillside station is Royal Birkdale golf course which has hosted many prestigious International Golf competitions, why not tie in a visit to watching future tournaments with a beer in one of the local stops?


Freshfields – The Freshfield

AKA “The Freshie” is the largest pub on our trail and one of the only two chain pubs to feature on the trail. Located in the leafy suburbs near the Formby point National Trust site, the Freshie is very popular with locals, families and is a dog friendly pub. It has three distinct areas with the front of bar area being popular with drinkers, the restaurant area around the left and to the rear is for diners, and an additional seating area to the right is often popular with dog walkers and patrons watching live sport. A large garden to the rear and patio area provides an excellent place in summer to sit outside and enjoy the weather. Even in the cooler months it remains a pleasant place to sit if you don’t mind wrapping up!

Photo Credit: Kindly provided by Patrick at the Freshfield.

The Freshfield is owned by Greene King; however you’d be hard pressed to notice. Branding is very subtle. In fact i’d go so far as to say this is “The most un-Greene King like, Greene King pub” you could visit. Wisely the staff are afforded a large degree of freedom when it comes to choosing beer, up fourteen cask handpulls are available at most times with beers featuring from the immediate local area and also further afield. In fact the only clue that you’re in a GK pub comes from occasionally seeing their ales on the bar! Be warned though, being a popular destination not only for locals but those from further afield it can become very busy so plan accordingly. Quiz and live music nights are arranged by the pub but check with them for specific dates and times. Also keep an eye out for the Freshies own beer festivals which sees a stillage setup in part of the restaurant to augment the already impressive line up at the bar. Awarded many times by local CAMRA branches the Freshfield is a great halfway point in the journey

The Freshfield – 1 Massams Lane, Formby, L37 7BD.


Freshfields – Beer Station

What’s this two pubs within walking distance of the one railway station? When I initially set out to write this trail I knew that Formby would be getting a new micropub, though where it would be was initially unknown to me, since then Beer Station has opened up in the most perfect spot. Beating the Hightown hotel and Railway in formby for closest pub in proximity to the station, Beer Station is located a few steps from Freshfields station in a small suburban row of shops on the corner of Victoria Road and Freshfield Road sporting a classic British Railways style logo.

As is typical with the format of many micropubs Beer station is mainly one room. A small L-shaped bar hosts three cask pumps with a big focus on local beers from around the immediate region, also present on the bar are keg lines featuring Freedom Brewery ales including a lager, a selection of bottled beers, spirits and wines provide a good range of beverages for all tastes. Snacks are available including usual fayre as crisps and nuts alongside quality pies. The pub is neatly arrange with a few tables and a “comfy corner” which is of course in high demand! Walls are adorned with art and photographs from local artists and quite importantly there are also train times listed. Of course you could just wait to see the Level crossing coming down it really is that close. The Beer Station despite only being open a short time has become a bit hit with locals and can go from being quite to rapidly quite busy, it is popular with visitors to the beach and is a Dog friendly establishment.


Formby – The Railway

The second of only two chain pubs on our trail the Railway has been recently renovated by the Mitchell and Butler owned Ember inns. Five cask ales are available and are repeated twice on other sides of the central bar. The ground floor of the railway occupies what is primarily a dining space, tables are available but will be mostly occupied by people eating.

The large bar and area around it does provide accommodation for standing and the true front of the pub has a large terrace area overlooking the car park which is a pleasent suntrap during the warmer months. Inside it is very much in keeping with other Ember Inn format pubs. I counted at least 3 Fires so getting cosy in winter shouldn’t be a problem! On my visit 5 of the pumps were available however none were local ales and one was a cider. This will likely rotate and according to the local CAMRA branch local ales should be available often from Liverpool Organic Brewery.

Side Step

During your stops in Formby if you feel up to a walk you can visit Formby point coastline, at low tide you can sometimes find fossilised footprints of our ancient ancestors who walked there in ancient times, keep an eye out for the endangered native red squirrel in the pine forests or climb a sand dune to take in the big skies over Liverpool Bay.

The Railwail -Duke Street, Formby, L37 4AS.


Hightown – Hightown Hotel

A truly eclectic multi-purpose establishment, the unique multi-roomed and levelled Hightown Hotel is home to not only the village pub but a community centre, a chemist, computer classes, library and a talent agency! Numerous military artefacts dot the establishment thanks to being a neighbour of the army’s Altcar Rifle range and nearby RAF Woodvale. Despite its size the Hightown Hotel has a real warm and cosy character, mostly populated by groups of locals keeping to themselves.

Photo Source: The hightown hotel Facebook page

You should find six cask ale pumps from national, regional and local brewers, however availability depends on demand. A large beer garden is located right outside the main entrance and is very popular in summer. Food is available throughout the day and many live events take place as well, please check with staff or posters inside. According to CAMRA’s Whatpub website the Hightown Hotel was in the past owned by Bass and was a reform school for Liverpool Education Authority in the early 20th century. Rather than a house of unruly schoolchildren you will now find an establishment that is really at the heart of its community.

Hightown Hotel – Lower Alt Rd, Hightown, L38 0BA.


Blundellsands and Crosby – The Corner Post

Another recently opened micropub on the local scene. In a previous life the Corner Post was, believe it or not, a Post Office and a post box still sits proudly outside on the corner. The Corner Post hosts four cask ale pumps with regularly changing ales, often with more than one from a local brewer. The Corner Post provides not only cask and bottled beers but wines spirits and drinks to its customers so there is a good chance that everybody will find something to enjoy.

The micropub formula remains the same and there is no music, no TV and conversation is king. Tables dot the outskirts of the interior and provide a little extra standing room should no seating be available, the pub remains light and well lit with lots of old photos of the area and Post Office related prints dotting the walls. Basic bar snacks are available supplemented by fresh pies from local bakehouse Satterthwaites. The Corner post is another pub that does a good job of keeping people up to date via social media especially twitter and facebook. And Like several stops on the route, dogs are welcome. A warm friendly atmosphere and a well kept choice of cask ales make it a worthwhile penultimate stop on the trip.

The Cornerpost – 25 Bridge Road, Crosby, L23 6SA.


Waterloo – Stamps Too

Photo Source: Stamps Too Facebook Page

Located on South Road in Waterloo just yards from the train station, Stamps Too is a popular local bar and live music venue, most weekends and some week nights feature live music acts. The single long rectangular bar can quickly fill up during these live music periods so if you really want a seat you will have to be there early otherwise it’s down to luck.

Photo Source: Stamps Too Facebook Page

The L shaped bar displays its cask wares on the short end and up to four can be available. One of these ales will often be a local beer with several coming from elsewhere in the North-West or a national brewer.

If you’re looking for a bit of entertainment to end your night with, Stamps Too is a great place to do so. Please check with the establishment to find out what upcoming acts will be performing. Stamps Too does stay open beyond 11pm but please remember to check the departure of the last train! It’s quite easy to get caught up in the atmosphere of stamps too and find yourself running to the station! Should you find yourself unfortunately without a train buses do run towards Liverpool from here and Taxis will be reasonable alternative as well.

Stamps Too – 99 South Rd, Waterloo, L22 0LR.

Side Step

While you are at either Crosby or Waterloo maybe even consider a walk to the wide sandy beaches to get some fresh air take in a lovely sunset or see the Iron men that dot the beach as part of Anthony Gormleys “another place” installation


Moorfields Extension

Now at this point I would think eight destinations along the northern line is a suitable amount to provide a well paced day, however if you are looking to extend your trip or are looking for a central meeting point you can easily do so by riding the train all the way back to Moorfields station in the centre of Liverpool. Getting off at Moorfields provides you with a myriad of choices to either finish the Rail Ale Trail with, or a gateway to continue exploring Liverpool’s famous pubs. Below is a list of my recommended stops within easy walking distance of the station that fit in with the flow of the trail. There are many other great pubs and bars at this end of the city and of course beyond so feel free to explore.

The Lion Tavern

The Lion was recently shut for a short period over the summer of 2016 due to a disagreement with the previous managers and the pub co that owns the premises, since then the pub has re-opened under new management with a commitment to keep things as they were but improve things where possible. The information below reflects the Lion as it was before the temporary closure, and will be updated if need be asap.

Just a few short steps from Moorfields is the Lion tavern, named after one of the first locomotives to work the Liverpool to Manchester railway. A Grade 2 listed building and with an interior deemed of historic importance by CAMRA, the railway has a central bar serving one large room from a long bar, as well as two smaller rooms via serving hatches. Eight cask hand pulls are available and usually has at least one local beer on offer alongside other regional and national brews. You will also find the pubs own house beer “lion returns” brewed by George Wright brewery in St Helens.  Home made hand raised pork pies are also available should you fancy a treat.

Thomas Rigby’s / Lady of Mann

Rigby’s and the lady of Mann may appear to be separate bars but are both owned by Okells an Isle of Mann Brewery and are one of the few outlets in mainland UK that stock their cask beers. Rigby’s recently underwent a refurbishment to spruce up its interior. Cask ales are now easier to view and choose as they have taken centre stage at the bar and here local, regional and national beers often rub shoulders. The range of craft beers has also been improved in both bottle and keg form. Food is served regularly and the establishment is quite popular with city workers and when sporting events are on. Across the large courtyard is the Lady of Mann which offers a more relaxed open plan atmosphere and a more modern feel. Three cask ales are usually available with some more unusual offerings that you may not find in its sister establishment; craft beers are again available in keg and bottle form. As mentioned before the two premises share a courtyard this is very popular regardless of the time of year and in summer despite the urban environment can be quite the sun trap!

The Ship and Mitre

With an Art Deco style exterior and one of the largest beer ranges in the city centre, the Ship hosts a real bonanza of cask lines, keg lines and bottles. Supporting all sizes of brewers, from small local micros to big name nationals, the Ship has regular organised festivals such as Belgian, American and British real ale. The centre bar dominates the middle of the pub while two large front and rear rooms provide lots of seating. Don’t be surprised if you still find it busy despite its size as its very popular stop on local pub circuits. Food is served regularly.

Dead Crafty Beer Co

Just recently opened Dead Crafty is a modern dedicated craft beer bar. New and unusual craft beer offerings will be available from not only the UK but from around the globe. The bottle selection also adds more depth to the choice and also the option to allow take-away. The long bar is uniquely constructed of flight cases as is the tap selection behind which currently features 20 keg lines! The team running it are dedicated beer fans and will always be happy to hand out advice on what beer to try. Tasters are available and beers are served in 1/3rd and 2/3rd glasses. If at the end of your long trip you want to switch things up a bit dead crafty will help you do it!

Advertisements

West Kirby Pub Crawl – 2017

The prom of West Kirby faces out to where the dee estuary meets the irish sea.

If you’re looking to travel as far west as possible for a pint in the Merseyside area you can’t get much further than West Kirby. Nestled in the top left corner of the Wirral peninsular West Kirby is a small town that enjoys a great clutch of places to drink, and is a great place for a day out to boot. You can walk out to Hilbre island, accessible only during low tide. (Please check tide times so you don’t get cut off! you already knew that though didn’t you?). Take in one of its famous sunsets, or the view from its hills just above the town by the memorials.

Getting there is a doddle either by Train, Bus or Car, when using public transport please note when the last outbound journey finishes, unless your local West Kirby is one of the areas most extreme geographical points! If you’re visiting from Liverpool I recommend using Merseyrail train services as the trip is quick and cheap. The only disadvantage is that as of this date trains to Liverpool do finish at 11pm

As with previous Pub crawls I have published please note that places are included and excluded at my own choice, you are as always encouraged to explore. I believe that this route provides a good representation of what is available in the area.

If you believe there are any mistakes or corrections please contact me directly.

The Route

The route is circular in nature and can easily be completed in an afternoon or a whole day depending on how long you wish to spread out your journey. The route is quite hilly so if there are any mobility issues you may wish to plan accordingly. The number 437 bus can take you some way around the hill to the back of the Viking pub cutting out some of the hill but not all of it. Sadly since my last visit two destinations have permanently closed, it now leaves West Kirby with no decent Pub or bar serving cask/craft beer along Bank Road. I have modified the route accordingly but have also included a route that takes in the sea front of West Kirby which on a good day provides splendid views over the Dee Estuary towards North Wales and Hilbre Island. The sunsets in this part of the world are noted to be quite good.

The West Kirby Tap

Photo Credit: @wirraledrinker

On arrival at West Kirby Station take a right and a short walk up grange road to your first pub on the trip. Painted a shade of red that wouldn’t look out-of-place in a Mediterranean village its difficult to miss! The brewery tap has only been open a few years and is  Spitting Feathers second outlet pub the first being located in Chester. It has already become very popular amongst Wirral’s beer lovers and has been awarded by the local CAMRA branch.

At any time there should be 8 hand pulls available one often with a real cider. Blackboards above the bar display what is currently available be it draught, bottles or spirits. Another neat addition is small kilner jars filled with the beers to show you what colour they are, if you’re the sort of person who leans towards a particular end of the beer spectrum. Staff are quick to turn around beers that have finished and helpful in giving advice on your choice. In my experience the beers have always been in very good condition and a varied range has usually been available. A good range of Craft bottled and canned beers are available as are several foreign beers from Europe. Gin is also available owing to the recent resurgence and popularity of Liverpool Gin.

small plates are available and the bread cheese and meat platters are quite popular. The pub itself is quite open but also has cosy areas to settle down in, it looks and feels warm in winter and in the summer you can enjoy the large open front windows or sun yourself outside on the pavement. Entertainment is regularly planned so if you enjoy a bit of music with your drink you wont be disappointed. The tap is also very active on social media and today its something that pubs and bars cannot afford to ignore. So follow them on twitter and Facebook to keep up to date

The Dee Hotel

Once you have left the Tap, continue to backtrack towards the station, follow the main road as it curves around the station, opposite the bus stop you will find the large front of the Dee hotel.

UPDATE: Since this article was originally conceived JD Wetherspoons have decided to sell off several of their pubs, the dee is one of them and will close in the future. What date has been chosen for the Dee’s closure remains unknown, until then it is open for business! What will become of it is unknown though it is speculated it will return to a hotel.

Next on your route is the Dee Hotel. follow the road to the left as it curves around past the train station and municipal buildings. cross the road and you will see the classic Tudor styled front of the Dee Hotel. During the 1930s the hotel was expanded so today the interior of the Hotel is quite large and spacious and is similar in style to many other JD Wetherspoons outlets. The area closest to the bar is invariably the busiest so if your after a quiet drink you may want to move to one of the outlying areas of the bar. Several hand pumps are available dispensing regular ales as well as guest ales, usually at least one local ale, in previous visits I have seen offerings from both Peerless brewery and Cheshire Brew Bros.

On my previous visits the majority of the ales have been available and have been in good to fair condition, if sometimes a bit too cold. Food is served until late, and is standard Wetherspoons menu. A small back yard terrace allows you to enjoy the weather. The Dee did until recently have a social media presence but this seems to have disappeared, possibly due to the impending closure.

The White Lion

 

Turning right out of the Dee you can now walk uphill and around the corner to your next stop, please take care crossing the road here. The 200-year-old sandstone white washed white lion stands out like a beacon on the corner so its difficult to miss! As just mentioned the white lion is fairly old and has a great warm, solidly built traditional free house feel to it. Exceptionally cosy in the warm winter months thanks to its hobbit hole like nature and real fires, the white lion is all bare stone and wooden beams. It’s a great example of  a classic British pub. The white lion is a pub for all seasons with a large beer garden at the back which is a great sun trap in the warmer months, its also full of all sorts of quirky garden decorations.

Black sheep bitter and Directors Courage best bitter are the regular ales on but there are also 2 guest beers on at a time as well, often one from a local brewer. I have seen beers from Frodsham brewery and Peerless in previous visits. While the White lion may not have a massive variety of Ale available it has been consistently good when I have visited, and has a look, feel and atmosphere unique on the circuit.

The Viking (Formerly The Hilltop)

After leaving the White Lion please head up hill until you reach a T-junction. you may then turn left onto Black Horse Hill road, a short walk down hill will then take you to the Viking.

Now re-opened after an extensive refurbishment the Viking is a large gastropub owned by Celebrity chef and local lad Simon Rimmer. If you have ever visited the Elephant in Woolton Liverpool the formula is somewhat similar here. Inside the Viking the pub has been opened out into one large room with a mixture of modern and retro fixtures, a single large island bar dominates the centre of the Viking with 5 Cask hand pulls displayed on the end facing the door and other keg taps on the longer sides.

Local beers often mix with beers from further afield. One of the unique selling points of the Viking is that Tank Budweiser Budvar is available, an unpasteurised keg beer shipped as fresh as possible direct from the Czech Republic. Outside a large beer garden is on offer to take in the views across the peninsular east towards Liverpool. Note this beer garden will get very busy during summer months.

I would categorise the Viking as a gastropub and despite just opening has been very busy on each visit so please be aware of this affect on seating, during weekends and evenings it is very popular with families during the day and into early evening, after 9pm it becomes an adult only venue. Should you wish to grab some food on your travels the food in the Viking is great value and has something for everyone.

After leaving the Viking you will need to walk back up the hill a short distance, you will then need to take a left onto the A540 Column Road and then a Right down Village road.

The Ring o Bells

Continue to follow the road as it winds it’s way down hill and you will reach your next stop. Nestling on the corner of Village Road and Rectory Road is the mock-tudor styled Ring o Bells. Regardless of which route you take both walks to the ring o bells is a enjoyable affair, as this is the older leafier part of West Kirby. Indeed the pub dates from 1801 and is one of the last two remaining original village pubs. Currently a Greene King pub this operates more of a family dining pub in keeping with other similar Greene King pubs.

There were 8 hand pulls on during the last visit the majority taken up by Greene King’s own ales there were others sourced from national brewers as well. A generous wooded beer garden sits just next to the pub and is very popular during good weather. recently there have been strides taken to try to improve the beer range and organise small beer and cider festivals. Beer quality is usually good if maybe occasional a bit too cold. Recently the cask hand pulls have been moved to the top most tier of the two tier bar. this is immediately visible on your right as you enter.

Owing to the nature of the pub expect it to be filled with mostly families during the evening and weekends. so seating may be at a premium if many people are eating.

Hickories Smokehouse

Just down the hill and around the corner from your previous stop is Hickories. This was previously known as the Moby Dick pub built in post-war style. Now owned by a small USA Smoke-house restaurant chain the hickories is often genuinely rammed at weekends, with tables usually booked weeks in advanced. It is a nice place to grab a bite to eat, but be warned if you don’t book ahead you could end up waiting a long time for a table owing to its popularity. Noise is also something you may want to be aware of because of its popularity, open kitchen, TV’s and family friendly atmosphere it can be quite loud at weekends. Don’t let this put you off though as it’s a nice place to visit for a drink on the route and the food is very good! outdoor seating is also available.

Beer wise owing to its north American styling you will find several USA beers available. On my latest visit I found Brimstage trappers hat and one house cask ale has been available “Hickories Old” which is brewed by Weetwood in Cheshire. USA craft beers are available bottled however and the other usual suspects are also available at the bar.

Full Circle

Once you have left Hickories your route is complete. From this point you can return to any of the other establishments in the crawl if you have a favourite and you would like to spend some more time there. The map included with the trail takes in a route returning to the station via the excellent promenade where you can get some fresh air and enjoy the fine views across the Dee Estuary and out to sea. Should you however wish to take a shorter route it is possible to make your way via Ashton Park back to the centre of town.

Despite the loss of two unique venues on the route (Curio and The Hilbre). West Kirby is still a fantastic beer destination for Merseyside and the Wirral. Easily reached from most parts of the region and has a great array of pubs and bars, and also individual eateries. It’s entirely possible to visit other nearby destinations too, Hoylake also has a few noted pubs. The crawl is suitable for any time of year, if however you fancy taking in some of the views of the Dee, the sea or views from the top of the hills you will of course benefit from it being a clearer day.

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.

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.

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.

St Georges Hall Beer Festival 2014

The second of two new beer festivals that were born last year the St Georges Hall Beer fest is set up in the eponymous 160 year old neoclassical building, a grand setting just like the Crypt Location for CAMRA’s beer festival, arguably one of the largest beer festivals in the city, last year over 5,500 people visited the inaugural festival, myself included. Numbers were expected to exceed that this year, it certainly felt like it did. read on to see how the second outing for the festival shaped up.

Organisation: papers please

As is quite the norm now for local beer festivals the tickets were available from many places, chiefly online via the eventbrite website, and ive never had an issue with it (unless your printer runs out of ink), it’s a good smooth process and it works! tickets were available on the door to some sessions.

And as usual for these events swapping your tickets and hard-earned pounds at the door will net you a festival glass, program and book of 8 tickets for £12, smaller denominations were available though. pricing was helpfully flat across all beers, other than bottles of continental lager for the unbeliever.

After navigating the corridors of st Georges hall the vast majority of this years action took place in the cavernous great hall, food was available in side rooms and the beers were readily accessible, in the previous year keg beer and entertainment had been relegated upstairs to the concert room. This year entertainment was in the great hall itself but more on that later.

The large open space made itself well suited to hosting a large number of casks on the stillages and long rows of shared tables and benches, though these filled up quickly on friday evening when we visited it wasnt to hard to find somewhere to sit down if you needed, you could also this time step out onto the top of the steps outside the hall facing the plateau if you fancied a breather.

Hats off again to whoever designs and writes the programs for the festival, they are usually packed with all the info you need and the really important information the beer tasting notes and colour are clear. new for this year were abbreviated notes such as adding IPA to denote an india pale ale, and ST for a stout, and so on. it might not be necessary to veteran drinkers but i think it’s a good idea to help out all the newbies. I myself used it when quickly scouting the program while mixing up my styles.

Munchables

Perennial beer festival favourites Peninsula Pies, Liverpool Cake Co and Liverpool Cheese Co were all present again to satisfy whichever tooth was itching for food. I myself grabbed the last sausage roll of the night! and still lovely it was too! last year the Blackburn hotel was present providing some warmer foods such as scouse, something i would have liked to see again, but the spread of food on was enough to satisfy most!

The Beer

284 real ales were available this year up on last years 260 odd, again keg beer has made a welcome addition to the setup, cider is as usual available and so is Liverpool Gin.

Now im going to get right to the point the beer this year was just not good, the quality was quite poor, i am not the only person to comment on this several friends have agreed with this assessment and also some total strangers at the festival and on social media. Liverpool Organic have themselves admitted it was not that good, it seems whatever options were used for cooling did not work out all that well this year. I can’t remember too clearly what last years beers were like so it’s not fair to compare them to a previous session. However when compared to the Waterloo beer festival and Liverpool Craft Beer expo there was something definitely amiss, beers just didn’t taste as vibrant or were straight up warm. something we all know real ale shouldnt be. It’s good that Liverpool Organic have commented on the quality i hope it can improve for next year but i fear the actual problem is St Georges hall itself. Its huge, and when the light comes streaming in through the windows straight onto the casks it cannot be doing them any good.

Were there any stand out beers on this year then? well because of the overall disappointing quality its hard to decide. A week previous I tasted Wapping breweries Amarillo Pale ale at the Baltic Fleet Pub, home of the brewery, it was a lovely pale with a  intriguing woody resinous smell and taste. Angus the chief brewer of Wapping suggested trying it at the festival to see how its quality held up moving from source to stillage. I can honestly say it was affected, while it was definitely a nice pale that unique smell and taste had gone. So i had a feeling from that point on things might be affected by the environment the ales were in. Probably Bristol Beer Factories Sorachi was the best ale to me, it was recommended to me by a friend who was volunteering and it didn’t disappoint, im finding something of a taste for sorachi myself.

Flicking back through the program i can see a decent spread of ale colours, some beer festivals are guilty of having barely anything above an amber colour on offer so it was good to see a nice range of milds, stouts and porters on offer.

One thing that i noticed was missing before i even got to the festival was the unusual absence of Liverpool Craft Beer Ales. It’s rare to not see them at a local festival, I don’t know why they were absent, i was told there was nothing untoward about them being left out of it, but it is the first time it’s ever happened. Hopefully its just a blip, its good to see local brewers working together and complementing one another.

Music for the Masses

Last year the entertainment was situated up in the concert room, which would make sense given the title of the room but a curious one considering few people would probably wander up there, i felt a bit sorry for the groups and artists up there. This year entertainment was moved down in to the great hall and oh dear it didn’t really do it much justice. I think once again the problem here is St Georges hall itself. When the entertainment started we were sat right at the back by the organ and try as they might the band just couldn’t be heard at the back over the chattering masses and echoey acoustics of the hall. The only real option was to move closer to the band if you wanted to hear them. penniless Tenants were in session on every night excluding sunday, im not a big fan of irish folk music but they were enjoyable to listen to and certainly folks didnt want them to pack up at the end of the night.  Other entertainers included Uke Box, South London Jazz orchestra and Pete Brown spoke at the festival on Friday day session.

Volunteer Army

Despite the disappointing quality of the beer and the entertainment struggling against the halls acoustics one thing you cannot fault is the reliable unsung heroes who turn up to these events ready to help out, serve you a beer and offer advice and banter on whats on. There were many familiar faces from other beer festivals in the region. without these people it simply wouldn’t happen so we should always be grateful for their attendance!

Feedback and other issues

If your still reading then I thought id make a little extra section for more constructive feedback rather than just summarise what happened. As I said you can’t fault the organisation of the event or the staff and volunteers but the beer quality took a real knock this year, so too did the entertainment in my opinion.

I cant help but wonder then  is St Georges hall really suitable? it certainly packs people in if that what your after but does it lend itself to the storage of beer? cooling seems to have been an issue and what with the warm sunny september we have had it doesn’t seem to have done the ale on the stillage any favours, anyone who has visited St Georges hall before knows it’s a wonderful open grand hall but sunlight certainly streams in, and sunlight is one of the big enemies of beer.

Most beer lovers know that Cask beer doesn’t usually keep for more than 3 days or so once its been tapped. So why is there a trade session on Wednesday when the main bulk of the festival takes place over 4 days? why not do away with the trade session all together so it gives the Ale less chance to start deteriorating? or even maybe limit it to a Friday Saturday and Sunday? or Thursday to Saturday? I Previously had mixed feelings about the rotation method at Liverpool Craft Beer Expo but wonder if this sort of thing would suit a larger beer festival?

One other thing that really irked me and a few others is the inclusion of a VIP section. This is the only beer festival i have ever been to that has had one and i think it is a very bad idea. The enjoyment of quality beer should bring people together, it should be inclusive, not exclusive, coming to a beer festival all suited and booted and hiding away in a room with other people goes against the principle of a beer festival and for me that’s to enjoy good beer, food and music at a big social occasion. I would like to see the removal of the VIP section from future festivals, they have no place at them as far as im concerned, while we are on the subject of VIP’s i cant help but think that there is a creeping amount of corporatism (is that even a word) creeping in? Sponsorship may be important to some of these events but did anyone at the festival even pay attention to the sponsors? I didn’t. Maybe therefore my argument above is moot? I just worry that VIP areas and Corporate sponsoring is a slippery slope.

The last thing that i think was a bit of a let down was some of the people at the festival, its great to welcome new people to the festivals, but when they are holiday drunks who only drink a few times a year and spend the entire night drinking a bottle of lager i have to wonder why they came? I saw people barging into one another in the corridors and people arguing about seating and proceeding to take seats even when they were for people who were already there, indeed this happened to me. I’ve never seen one bit of a trouble at a beer festival and the atmosphere was still better than any saturday night in concert square but there just seemed to be something missing at this years St Georges festival.

Maybe we could have beer festival mentors? “have you been to a beer festival before? no? ok would you like me to tell you how to get the most from it?” something like that maybe! Personally id stop the sale of bottled continental lagers and wine, its a beer festival for crying out loud. maybe that’s a tad too draconian?

I’m not sure what a good fix would be for the entertainment, moving it back upstairs is an option but again it puts it out-of-the-way for most people, maybe the PA system needs a helping hand? get a few more speakers in about the place, the issue with that is then just like in a noisy pub everyone is fighting to be heard. It’s a difficult one that I don’t have a real suggestion for.

Ill end now by at least saying remember it is only the second year that such a festival has been put on in St Georges hall, not everything will go right first two times, and from it the organisers will no doubt learn lessons that will hopefully improve upon it for next years festival, you wont have to wait to long as a winter ales festival is set to be run in January, being a fan of winter ales im strongly considering getting myself a ticket! Its no easy task organising a beer festival, so lets see how things get on next year for St Georges beer festival?!

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”

Pub Focus: Pi Rose Lane

One of the things i wanted to do occasionally while posting on this blog was to focus on the odd pub every now and again, I’ve not done it yet so why not start now? so here we go!

My part of south liverpool is not exactly awash with fine places to drink, it’s a bit of a wasteland really.  There have been several pubs that have come and gone from serving real ale, and forget craft you’d probably get an even more sideways look asking for a bottle of brewdog.

Garston at one point had a few real ale pubs, And there is an enclave of decent little boozers in Woolton, the Cobden comes to mind and the recently renovated elephant is resurgent. Lark Lane is probably your best bet but i personally have fallen out with the place, the atmosphere seems odd recently can’t quite put my finger on it and i think the quality of beer served in the pubs on the lane has dropped dramatically.

So where do you go? in to town? well maybe you just feel like a nice quiet evening session in comfortable surroundings, in that case, wander up (or down) Rose lane, just by the Junction of Rose lane itself and Templemore avenue is “Beer in the Burbs” hub Pi.

A spin-off from a successful enterprise of another bar named Pi in Chorlton, Pi is fairly new to the Liverpool drinking scene, but in that time it has doubled in size (thankfully!) and sneaked its way into many people’s hearts.

view towards the bar, the second room is through the passage to the left, toilets at the rear

Pi is pretty unassuming from the outside, occupying spaces previously held by two shop units, step inside and you will find the first original room consisting of the bar and several wooden tables and chairs and benches by the window. during the night it’s warmly lit and quite cosy especially in winter months. the bar and its beers on show dominate the back wall of the building. Adorning the walls throughout the bar are various tin signs from abroad and domestically with various famous beer brands (don’t expect to see carling though).

Through a side entrance to your left is the second room which is a bit more airy than the original bar entrance. toilets are to the rear of the main bar for gents and in the new extension for the ladies. For those of you who like to smoke the only place to do so is outside the front door, there are no heat lamps or awnings so suck it up if you want to light up!

Owing to its popularity Pi can get pretty busy and space at the bar will fill up quickly. Before the extension next door the main room could very easily get rammed, making it difficult to get around or get a drink, not only that it could get pretty uncomfortably warm, thankfully Pi was able to expand next door and get some much-needed breathing room. Amusingly no sooner was this open, regulars were soon jokingly asking when the upstairs area would be open, this mysterious place is currently out-of-bounds (que suspenseful music).

With a name like Pi you’d almost be forgiven for asking if they serve food? (they certainly dont sell mathematical constants) Well yes they do if your feeling peckish?! You can tuck into some basic bar snacks but for something more substantial the Bar is stocked with Pieminster pies, the availability of different pies changes as regular as the beer and are priced quite reasonably and have always been very tasty and fulfilling. If a pie in pi (bazinga) isnt your thing the staff will frequently ask if you would like some complimentary nuts with your drink (im usually nuts enough).

so its welcoming and comfortable, the food is nice and what about the most important thing? the beer!

Resident cask hand pulls – apologies for the poor quality image

There are 4 hand pulls available 3 reserved for cask beer 1 for a cask cider, they is usually always one beer on offer from Tatton Brewery usually the blonde which is a decent session beer to get you started, the others vary from location but you can find local beers from the north-west and Wales on sale fairly regularly. There is also Draught keg available, no mass produced watered down lager nonsense here, it’s all craft brewed or good quality continental offerings, most recently Camden town have taken over two taps on the bar, one a real fave of mine is the ink stout, the glass for which is a bit of a weapon! a wide variety of bottles from around the world are on offer, most come from the beer heartland of europe but they range as far as Oceania.

Pi’s Keg draught features resident beers and guests.

The choices of beer for Cask, guest keg and guest bottles change very frequently so there is usually something new to try every time you visit, the set bottle menu has not changed to my knowledge in about 2 years but if I am mistaken please let me know, note that this doesn’t detract in any way from whats on offer, I still haven’t tried everything on there. I did have a Kwak once but don’t remember much afterwards!

Delerium Tremens – one of Pi’s regular bottled beers

Final thing to mention are the staff, they are friendly and knowledgeable about the beers, i have to give them credit as they cope well when it gets particularly rammed during busy periods. I could be accused of bias here but what the heck, i know a senior member of staff at the bar, when you visit places regularly you get to know people of course! This person runs a good bar! I’ve never had a bad pint and if he suspects that something isn’t quite right he doesn’t serve it or will let you know about it. I’ve also known them to but bottles of guest beer away for regular customers so they don’t miss out! Now that’s damn good service to me.

Pi should be on any list of good pubs in the Merseyside area, it certainly is on mine, so get yourself down with an empty belly, order a pi, read the blackboards and menu and drink some damn good beer!

Getting There:

Pi is located at 104-106 Rose lane in Mossely Hill, south Liverpool, L18 8AG.

Several bus routes pass by Pi, including the #61 #81 #81A #173 and #201

Mossely Hill train station a few minutes walk away and trains run from Lime street station.

Opening Times

Pi is open 7 days a week, from 11am until late.

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?

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!