West Kirby

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.

West Kirby Oktoberfest

The weekend around the 18th of October this year saw the first Oktoberfest beer festival in West Kirby to help raise funds for Westbourne Community hall, beer and charity? you can’t say no to that! Beer drinkers are usually a very charitable lot. I popped over to see what was going on!

Even though it was called Oktoberfest the actual real Oktoberfest (In german terms) had been over for a week or so, and there were no european beers on, but who cares about that? unless your very anal about these sorts of things, what was on offer was a greatly organised setup, great beers, satisfying food and toe-tapping entertainment.

Westbourne Community hall is funnily enough down Westbourne road in West Kirby, a mere stones throw away from the Train station, so getting there is no problem, and if any festivals are held there in the future i can assure you that it’s an easy place to get to from anywhere on Merseyside and the Wirral.

Tickets were easily available online via the now ubiquitous to local beer festival goers eventbrite, they were also available in several local businesses and priced very reasonably at £5 popping into the event was straightforward, hand in your tickets, pickup your festival glass and program and then exchange your hard-earned pounds for beer tokens, a typical format. Beers were priced at £9 for a set of 6 tokens making each drink £1.50, quite reasonable in my books! I am unsure whether or not your glass was to take home or not it wasnt mentioned to us, im quite sure it was but sadly i and my friend had no safe means of getting them home, also our cupboards are now bulging at the seams with beer festival glassware!

Now having experienced disappointment at the previous beer festival at St Georges hall with regards to the quality of beer i was curious to see the setup and taste the beer. No stillage was present at the Westbourne hall, however a bar had been built virtually the whole length of the side room and all beer was dispensed from hand pull.

This was great because you could easily match up your choice in the program to what was on the bar, sometimes matching up a beer number to the cask is a bit of a “where’s Wally” affair at some larger festivals, no such issues here, and if you decided to just browse you could easily do that. Tastings were offered by everyone who served me a very welcome thought, i was usually quite happy with my choice having been given several suggestions on what to try before hand by reliable peers. I didn’t have a bad pint all night, even the drinks i would class as average or OK were still nice to drink, so whatever was being done to make sure the beer was at least in top condition worked, im assuming that behind the bar was some sort of cooling system, so whoever sorted that out, well done!

Of all the beers i had my favourites worth mentioning were: Domino Welsh stout by big hand brewing, Autumn breeze by Arundel brewery, Olive Branch by Mr Grundy’s, Nova by Bristol beer factory and finally Dark Mild by Bank top brewery a category winner of this years GBBF.

I would like to just point out again that i throughly enjoyed every beer at the festival, the ones mentioned above stood out the most. And I think that a good testament to the folks who organised the festival that all the beers were kept consistently good and providing a good range of light session ales through to dark strong stouts.

Food was provided by Latitude of West Kirby and you can see the menu below!

I grabbed myself a pulled pork batch (or bap or bun…) which was very satisfying while my friend managed to scoff both meat options over the course of the night and was quite pleased with them. There was also a pub quiz on over the period of the festival, in the form of a question sheet left on your table to fill out over the course of the night should you wish to enter, the only downside to this is that everyone could google the answers on their phones if they wanted to! I at least knew the answer to two of them straight away!

#5 being the prancing pony and #9 stones was first brewed in Sheffield, if I’d got that wrong i’d have probably not be let back into Yorkshire! This is actually the first festival i have been at to feature any sort of quiz and i think its something that other festivals could include! but it would have to be done live to avoid mobile internet cheating if possible!

Entertainment was supplied by Mersey Morris dancers early in the evening and then later on by reckless elbow a local folk band. Now I don’t get Morris Dancing myself its a really odd English peculiarity, i wont criticise the fellas who entertained us because even though some were thrice my age they are a damn sight more spritely than me! I cant help think they were a bit ignored at first by the crowd who were more happy supping their beers and chatting amongst themselves, its possible the hall was almost a tad too small for them, but by the end of their set they had several audience members helping out and everyone was having a good chuckle, one of their sticks did go whizzing past me but no harm done!

Reckless Elbow came on for their set a little later on in the evening, and while we didn’t stay to hear the whole set through i really enjoyed the music and it rounded out a good nights worth of entertainment for a small beer festival, counting the numbers in the program there were 37 beers on which isn’t bad at all! not forgetting there was cider and other alternatives available too then I think this was a very succesful event!

I’d certainly be very happy to go back for another even in the future, if you organise things right you can always visit the festival and then have a walk around the many other lovely pubs and bars in the West Kirby area and even hop the train to a few in Hoylake.

So Kudos to all the volunteers and organisers of the West Kirby Oktoberfest, I think you did yourself proud! and I think it just goes to show that you don’t need a massive venue with a huge list of beers to have a succesful beer festival!

Last thing worth mentioning is whoever put the copies of merseyale out on the table was a genius because what was inside this issue? the responses to the article made by Wirral CAMRA members labling the Wirral as a “real ale desert” this has become amusingly known as “Desert Storm” to some, well folks who thumbed through it could make their own mind up. I’d like to point out that Wirral Camra did nothing to publicise this event, compared with one of their neighbouring branches who actively promote other beer festivals even those not directly affiliated with CAMRA