A.J. Walker

ReAleLiverpool

January 2023

Wolverhampton & Birmingham

I went Wolverhampton on Saturday to watch Frank Turner at KK's Steel Mill (a fab gig, of course). It's not like I could commute back so I said for a night in Wolverhampton. This gave me the opportunity to visit a few good pubs in both cities.

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Wolverhampton

First up I wanted to catch some of the Liverpool match, so choices of pubs were limited. I ended up on a 'Neck Oil' in the
Royal London (whilst the match v Chelsea ended up 0-0 - again). It was only around the corner then to the Posada. A lovely wee traditional pub, with Wye Valley 'HPA' on cask. From there it was a short stroll down the quite icy street in lovely sunshine, to the Lych Gate, by the lovely 15th century church (St. Peter's Collegiate Church). It's a Black Country Ales pub, and I went for a BFG. Walking back past the railway station I headed to the Great Western (not a Wetherspoons even if it sounds like one) a Holden's pub. Ended up with an XB and a Golden Glow and chatted to some nice people. Then it was time to head to my hotel before a curry and the gig. A very nice day (apart from the football).

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'Neck Oil' and an all too familiar nil nil in Royal London

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The Posada

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The Posada

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The Lych Gate Tavern

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I'm in the Midlands. You can tell.

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The Great Western - definitely not a 'Spoons

Pubs visited:

  • Royal London
  • The Posada
  • Lych Gate Tavern
  • Great Western
(oh, and KK's Steel Mill for the gig)

Birmingham

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The Wellington

Didn't have any luck finding a bus back to town so ended up getting my steps in by walking up to the station. I got there before 11am which meant I couldn't head back into the Great Western for a Bathams, without hanging around. So I headed for a train to Birmingham. In theory there were quite a few close together, but there were multiple problems including non-running trains, two carriage (already full on arrival trains) and late running ones. That said I got to Birmingham in decent time. In fact most places were closed as they all seemed to be opening t midday.

I walked past a few pubs which I knew I'd be getting to later and ended up with my first pint in the ever reliable
Wellington. There were already a few people in. I had a Salopian 'Fault Line.' I then went back out around the way I'd walked earlier and went into the much anticipated Colmore. The Colmore is a Thornbridge pub. Hey, cool. Had a Jamestown first but couldn't not have a Jaipur, to could I? Lovely looking pub - loved the stone topped tables. Chatted to some people there its get a heads up on where to go. They were pretty much confirming my route anyways.

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The Colmore

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The Colmore is a Thornbridge pub, can you tell?

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It's a Jaipur

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A Jaipur and a book, what could be nicer.

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Purity Ales

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Cheers, Birmingham

Next was two pubs just around the corner, the Purecraft Kitchen & Bar, a Purity Ales pub, and the Sommar, a craft pub. Had an Ubu in the Purecraft and an Arbor 'Mosaic' in Sommar. Managed to read some of my new book, 'Shards of Earth' by Adrian Tchaikovsky. The book, as the day., was shaping up well.

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Sommar craft ale pub

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An Arbor 'Mosaic' in Sommar.

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The almost hidden Post Office Vaults.

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No food, but they do good beer a plenty


Down the steps by Sommar the Post Office Vaults was obviously next. Had an Oakham 'Pendulum' there. Decided not to stay too long in Birmingham as I wasn't too sure how reliable the train would be after the morning's examples (and it being a Sunday, which somehow means all timetables are theoretical, or work of art. Headed back around the roads to the Head of Steam, where I had a Siren 'Lumina.' Then it was to Bacchus., a Nicholson's pub, where I had a 'Dark island' from Orkney Brewery. The venue is a little disappointing, but I have nice memories of the place. Finally a lovely small bar in an arcade, which I'd been to before, 'The Good Intent' where I had a ' Crazy Sheep' from Craddock's Brewery. I'm glad I made my way up there as it would have been a bit of a downer to end with the Bacchus.


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The Great Western (again) Arcade. Home to the Good Intent.

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Last pint of my Midlands trip: a Crazy Sheep at the Good Intent. Cheers!

A short walk (the whole visit was (good job I got my steps in on the morning walk in Wolverhampton)) to the station and I got myself a handy Too Good to Go from the Pasty Shop and then caught the train, which ran on time and wasn't just two carriages long. Hallelujah! Oh and lastly, thanks to Frank Turner for a fabulous gig on Saturday night - and giving me the excuse to get down here again. It's been a while.

Pubs visited:

  • Wellington
  • The Colmore
  • Purecraft
  • Sommar
  • Post Office Vaults
  • Head of Steam
  • Bacchus
  • The Good Intent

ReLancaster

I went to Lancaster last June and decided to go again this week. It's a good place for a few beers as there are enough different venues for a good walk and the city is small, so getting around in good time is easy. Went on Trainline the evening before and booked my tickets and was good to go the next morning.

I went into town by my (not so) trusty No.17 and time knew time was going to be tight to get the train. Decided to get the train one hour later and it'd give me the time for a proper Full English at the (always) trusty Shiraz Palace. The later train would get me in for noon anyway, which is early enough. And the breakfast was way better than a sandwich Meal Deal. It only actually takes about an hour and quarter to get from Liverpool to Lancaster (including the change at Preston), which is pretty damn fine in my book.

Got some reading in 'The Subtle Knife' Phil Pullman (the second of the HDM trilogy, my third book of the year. Didn't need to spend the time researching where to go having been there last year. I was aiming to go to several of those same pubs (especially those in close proximity to the station) in any case and then throw in a few new ones for good measure. Decisions to be made on the hoof; with the knowledge you can always stick with exactly the same route (which was excellent) in any case.

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The first three pubs ended up being the same as last time. The 'Tite & Locke' which is a Lancaster Brewery pub accessible from the station itself: me Twitter buddy had been passing through the station on a journey southward earlier and said it'd be waiting for me. So first up was a
Lancaster IPA. There were several people already in there and a large group of men expanded on the adjoining table every time a train arrived.

I walked out and across the bridge towards the centre and inevitably headed into the Merchants for the next one, a Bank Top '
Palomino. At 5% or so I was wondering about it if I was to do eight pubs or so, but with too many Xmas beers on the options although numerous were limited. Unfortunately it coincided with a sudden sneezing fit. I get them rarely, but when they do they can last rather long. Suffice to say I was annoyed with it, as I dare say others were too. But what can you do? Asked about other pub options for cask and they pointed me to the places I knew, but always worth asking in case something new has popped up or a pub has changed. One of them was The Sun, which I hadn't gone to last time.

The John O'Gaunt isn't far away and is a proper old pub - so of course I headed there. There were a few people in there. There weren't too many ale options, but I was happy enough as there was
JHB from Oakham. Had a look at Google Maps and figured out my next couple of pubs, namely the nearby Sun Hotel and then the Three Mariners. Both of which looked decidedly good options - and it'd be nice to go to some new venues for me.

In the
Sun I had another Lancaster 'Snowdrop'. It's another Lancaster Brewery pub. Just a wee bit of reading of the Knife. The walk to the Three Mariners is short from there just over the main road towards the River Lune. In the Mariners I sat near the wood fire which was warm and smelt lovely. It's a Robinsons pub. I ended up drinking a Robinsons brew for the pub (aka' The Three Mariners' of course). There was a good number of people in there including a few American students from the Uni talking football - it was good to hear they were going to watch lots of lower league matches around the country.

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At this point I was beginning to worry about my phone battery. My ridiculously heavy battery pack was charged up but either the cable wasn't working or the charging point was all linted up. I needed to get it sorted - and soon; the downside of having your train tickets (or any tickets for that matter) on your phone is if it dies. More stressful than you need.

I decided to head back into the town centre and find a place selling a cheap cable: and hope. Walked around the main road a little and headed into the Bobbin. An old, large pub., Had an interesting time in there watching and listening to some of the customers there (I could tell you some things I saw there: flipping 'eck!). The barman helpfully rooted out a pin for me to have a dig at the charging port but whilst some lint did reveal itself the charger still wasn't working. It was defo the cable that needed replacing. Had enough charge left to check out Google Maps again and find where the Poundland was. It'd have to be the next place before the pub. To be sure I could keep it going. And thankfully Poundland and the cable worked out pretty damn fine. I was saved.

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Next up I went along to the
White Cross where I was able to discover the cable worked; thank you Poundland and cheap Chinese cable makers! Again there were a few Christmas beers on, which wasn't what anybody really needs, so I ended up with in a Salopian 'Shropshire Gold'. After here I was aiming for the Accidental Brewery which was advertised as opening at 6pm. Headed down there about ten minutes early, but there was no lights on. So I popped around the corner to The Borough, where I went for a dark beer for a change; a Swan Black from Bowness Bay Brewery. It was very quiet in there (though a few people had just left as I was getting in). Back around the corner and the Accidental Brewery was still not open and no lights on. Perhaps the January opening was a little different than the norm.

Decided to head back home, unless I passed a pub that screamed at me to get in there. So hopped on over to the station (without seeing said screaming pub) and took the next train home. When I'd left Liverpool it had been a beautiful blue sky morning, it was grey all day in Lancaster, and then on my return it was biblical rain. Could have done with waders. Ran through the deluge into Dr Duncan's and caught Man City on the telly box losing in the League Cup, which was nice. And what did I end up drinking? A pint of Lancaster. In all I'd visited eight pubs in Lancaster having got a train one hour later than I'd originally booked and got the return an hour earlier than booked too.

  • Tite & Locke
  • Merchants
  • John O'Gaunt
  • Sun Hotel
  • Three Mariners
  • The Bobbin
  • White Cross
  • The Borough
(and Dr Duncan's!)

Was another excellent trip. I'll be back again before too long - probably with a few mates too.

Wet January 2

As I said in the last post, I went to 48 different pubs last January in a one man cosmic quest to spread the love of ale selling hostelries (largely around Liverpool). This year Covid is in the background (along with countless other lung, heart and general malaise apparently). On New Years Day last years I probably only saw about ten people out across four pubs. This new year looked better. The fear of Covid has reduced for many (perhaps to complacency, but hey, we won’t know for a few years yet).

So this year there will defo be a few more people out than this time last year; at least initially. Now the issues of pubs and all hospitality venues is different: it’s the cost of living crisis - and specifically the cost of beer too. Raw materials for making beer are rising significantly like so many other things (well nearly everything) and the cost of energy is of course ridiculously expensive. Making beer uses a lot of energy both to heat and cool. The price of beer therefore can only go up for a while at least, just as people have less money to spend. An unfortunate double whammy. So yeah, the pubs and breweries will suffer one way or another for an indeterminate period. Some people will want to go out but won’t afford to, or at least will go out less regularly.

This last few years has been one Black Swan event after another, ain’t it?

Anyway, am I aiming to get to something like last years 48 pubs in the month? Well short answer is: probably yes. In fact maybe this year I’ll make it the round 50 just for the hell of it. There’s a couple of pubs I went to last year which either are no more or have stopped selling cask so I’ll have to find a couple of alternatives to fill those gaps (I guess Albert Schloss will be one of those).

I’ll have to let you know how I get on as the month progresses. But suffice to say I’m currently well on track as I’ve already been to 24 different Liverpool pubs. Of course that means most the low hanging fruit has already been taken. But I’ve got some more to get to over the next week or so. Oops, in fact as of now I've been to 26 pubs.

Missing: A Kindred Spirit

It’s 2023. As a kid I grew up watching Space 1999 and found the year an enticing one of excitement and adventure. Then I guess being a kid life was all an adventure. And 1999 has since been and gone (well gone), much like the feeling the hope and excitement - and hair options. So many things are now in the rear view mirror; including 2022. This time last year I was in the first week of my quest to go to as many Liverpool pubs as I could early in the year. I actually made it to 48 different pubs in January. Which was pretty good going in my one man fight against Dry January and the Covid Business Effects.

This year I’m yet to decide (or at least announce) whether I have any similar goals. It is patently a different environment we are in now than this time last year; some things better, some worse. But more of that another time.

Unfortunately first off I must write a wee bit about a missing man who is a kindred spirit in Liverpool: Matthew Dillon. I’ve always just known him as Matt. The pubs I frequent across the city were similarly destinations for Matt. Many is the time I’ve walked into a pub he was in, or he walked into after I'd gone in. I frequently bump into him in the Head of Steam, the Fly, Grapes, Dispensary, Roscoe, (the Keystone, back in the day), the Sanctuary… well, you get the picture. He’d always be wearing a cap or woolly hat. And he'd always be approachable. It was a trademark.

Matt Poli
Merseyside Police Tweet this week

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Matt at Carnival Brewery

He is a quiet, unassuming fella, with a love for real ale and a wander. And at 6.1 feet was hard not to notice even if he was never animated in drink.

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Matt at the Keystone on the last day of opening (at the back next to me)

On Monday he apparently went out as per norm for a standard wee trip out. It is not clear where he went out. I’ve heard he was considering Southport, but I consider it unlikely given Bank Holiday travel issues and the unknowns there would be on which places would be open etc. That said, maybe he took the opportunity on a day off to go and investigate Southport. So it can’t yet be discounted.

Apparently he’d been messaging on WhatsApp that he’d head home on the 80 bus – and he was last on WhatsApp around 10pm or so. It appears he didn’t get home that night, and wasn’t in work the next day. Since then on Instagram and Twitter (and Facebook, which I don’t have) countless people have been posting pictures of Matt and requesting any information you may have, as have I. I find it difficult to believe no one saw him out on Monday.

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Matt at the last day of the Keystone with trademark hat


Both Merseyside Police and Liverpool Echo have published photos and a request for information now. Surely some info must be out there and be forthcoming.

So I can only ask again: Did you see him about on Monday, and if so where and at what time? Or have you seen Matt since? Any information could be useful, however early in the day, as it helps build up a timeline and rule in and out potential locations for him and therefore focus investigations. His family and friends are worried and we all want a positive resolution to this as soon as possible.

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Poster in the Fly in the Loaf.

Please think: were you out (maybe watching the Liverpool match on the telly) and did you bump into him? I was in Dr Duncan’s watching the match and didn’t see him there.

If you have any information please contact Merseyside Police @MerPolCc, Call 101, or report sightings via
orlo.uk/CZBnK