A.J. Walker


A Shrewsbury Stroll

I didn’t think it was that long ago that I went to Shrewsbury but it was last May and on a damn hot day. A largely greyer colder day this time, but it was dry and there were moments of blue sky. On the train the land all the way from Liverpool to Shrewsbury was wet to the point of flooding in much of Cheshire and Shropshire. It’s been a very wet couple of months after all. Last time I went I visited twelve pubs, which is more than my usual visit crawl. I think eight is about my usual.

There was no planning this time—as usual lately. To be fair when I got up I’d considered going to several other towns, but again with the speed of getting there (I generally aim for 1.5 hours or so each way) it was attractive. As it happened it was almost ballsed up by a Stagecoach driver at the very start, She’d taken over on the bus just past my first stop and got confused about which way to go. She ended up driving back towards Fazakerley Hospital where the bus had just come from. After some shouting from many of the passengers she realised the error or her ways (literally) but had to continue up to the hospital to turn. Suffice to say this accidental diversion meant I missed my train and had to go for a later one… Still I was lucky with the trains I ended up taking and it didn't much impact on my day out.

A Macclesfield Trip

On Monday I took a trip out to Macclesfield for the first time under my own steam (well using the railway to be fair). The last time I was in Macclesfield for beers it was on one of the Liverpool CAMRA coach trips—not exactly sure when, but those trips stopped eons ago (if I look up some old photos I dare say I wont have a beard and indeed the photos will be sepia toned).

On the way. Piccadilly for the Doncaster train

It’s not a bad distance from Liverpool and easily accessible by train with relatively regular departures from Lime Street requiring a change at Piccadilly. The whole journey takes less than 90 minutes.

Didn’t do too much research (none) into where to go at all before making the trip. I knew there were plenty of ale pubs in a short distance from the station. I could make my plans once in the town and then just go with the flow. Started in the Waters Green Tavern, which is a stones throw from the station. They had three of their hand pulls on (out of many more) because it was a Monday after all. They had Sarah Hughes’s mild on but I wasn’t going to start the day of with a 6% ale. Ended up going for an Ossett
Most instead. Checked a few webpages and maps out and picked an approximate route to go on. As it happened that was almost straight along the road parallel with the rail line (Sunderland Street).

Waters Green Tavern

George & Dragon (Robinsons)

Second up I headed over the road to the Old Millstone which you can’t miss as you head out of the pub (or indeed the station). It had been a recommended pub on one webpage, but it proved only to have two (currently) unused pulls, so it was a walk in and an about turn. Crossing back over the road I’d just left I head back onto Sunderland Street where there were to be several options on the day. I headed into the first open pub I got to (the Queens was shut) which was a Robinson’s pub, the George & Dragon. There were just two taps on which were both Robinson’s of course. I ended up with a
Dizzy Blonde. It had a nice feel about the place and a mix of old regulars and a couple of passers by like me.

The Jolly Sailor

Third was straight down the road—after passing the Treacle Tap, which didn’t open to later (3pm)—and a nice old pub called the Jolly Sailor. It was all national brands (Tim Taylors, Wainwright, Black Sheep etc). Ended up with a Boltmaker and had a good chin wag with a local and the (I assume) landlord. You could see the next pub through the window, which was The Fountain. This is now a Bollington Brewery pub. They had six hand pulls and ten keg lines. I had (shock horror) a keg
Fictions-Flat White. A very drinkable coffee pale (must be the rage these days).

The Fountain (a Bollington Bar)

A keg up

Redwillow (next to the Fountain). Unfortunately closed on Mondays.

I had been looking forward to going to the Redwillow bar next door. But unfortunately I discovered it is closed on Mondays. Unlucky! (maybe a wee Google search earlier would have avoided my disappointment. Then again I'd have just been disappointed earlier on instead. Anyway just up the hill a little (opposite a Wetherspoons) is Alfreds, a Hydes pub. Ended up with an
Original there—one of their two hand pulls. It’s a bright roomy place and there were a few people in there. I decided to head back to the Treacle Tap. Had a nice chinwag with the couple working there. It is a Buxton Brewery pub (Buxton is about 12 miles east of Macclesfield). Had a pint of Deepdale, a gluten free session IPA.

A Hydes pint in Alfreds

I decided to go to just one more pub, the Castle. This is a nice old two room pub just back by the station—slightly up hill from Waters Green Tavern and the Millstone. If I’d had more inclination to have a couple more I would have headed further round to R&G’s Beer Vault or maybe back to Waters Green for a Sarah Hughes. I thought better of it this time. I’ll be back some other time (and next time not on a Monday so I can go to Redwillow).

Treacle Tap (a Buxton Brewery bar)

The Treacle Tap

IMG_20240219_175200_057 copy
Last, but not least, The Castle

In summary a nice few pubs a short trip rom Liverpool. Definitely worth checking out.

The pubs I visited this time, in order, were:

Waters Green Tavern
George & Dragon
Jolly Sailor
Treacle Tap

The White Hart: and The Engineer

I’d such a soft spot for the Keystone and I was so disappointed when it closed back in May 2022 (see a short blog on its farewell here). I remember being at the last drinks in there with a few of the regulars, and it was the feeling of a wake: sadness tinged with smiles for the memories. The follow up place was more food focused and didn’t hang around long at all. Last week the latest incarnation which appeared from the flames of the phoenix erupted onto the Liverpool scene as the White Hart and, its smaller sister pub, The Engineer. And I can report that they both look and feel fab. If you don't know where they are the White Hart is on Hope Street sandwiched between the Everyman and the Casa, and the entrance for the Engineer is on Arrad Street, which is parallel to Hope Street behind the WH (although the Engineer can also be accessed through the WH) Another sister pub—the Queen of Hope Street—is a few doors down on the corner opposite both the Philharmonic Pub and the Philharmonic Hall.

The White Hart, Hope Street

Those familiar Keystone/White Hart steps

As a sister pub to the Red Lion, Vines, Queen of Hope Street et al it has much of the same form of decoration with dark wood, plenty of paintings & prints, stuffed birds and animals and the like along with the candles and wood fires. The White Hart in particular looks like it has been there, in its current form, for years—much like the Red Lion did when that appeared on Slater Street. They’ve put up plenty of dark wood and some shelving around the edges of the rooms so there’s plenty of places for you to drop your drinks on—and for them to put those essential candles on—which are a necessity in this series of pubs). They’ve knocked a wall down near the bar too. With the decor and darker colours the phoenix process has produced it is amazing how much such a relatively small space has changed (see pics below). The room on the left as you come seems a little smaller than it was due to the changes to the edges of it. I used to come to the Open Mic here, hosted by John Witherspoon, and it hard to see if it could work in there now. That is not a negative though, as the room feels very homely—especially with the heat from the obligatory wood fire.

FirstRoom WH
The first room on the left as you enter the White Hart

Last time I played open mic at the Keystone, April 2002. Looks a lot different now (the pub, not me).

Six cask lines on the WH bar

There are rooms upstairs in the White Hart and even a second bar (not sure when it is planned to be used during the week). The downstairs room which used to host some events is not in use now, indeed it may be that it disappears as the cellar will probably need to be extended to keep all the drinkers happily watered. The main bar on the ground floor is just where it was in the Keystone
era and there are now six cask lines. It is very much a wet led pub, so much so that the kitchen that was used during the earlier iterations has been fitted out as a separate pub: The Engineer. As mentioned earlier accessed from Arrad St or through the WH: access through the conservatory. It has four cask lines, with a similar choice of beers to the WH. There’s a set of stairs above the street entrance which lead up to a mezzanine where there are three small rooms (formerly offices/storage for the kitchen) not that dissimilar in vibe to the cells in the Bridewell. There’s also a few seats and casks for putting your drinks on along the mezzanine corridor itself. Each room has a TV, so if your in a small group you may be lucky enough to claim a room to watch the footy (or a.n.other sport, of course). There’s also a TV above the door to the conservatory. There are several TVs along the the centre of the conservatory fixed to the ceiling.

Spot the difference—I may be in both. (Keystone above, WH below)

The view from above on the mezzanine in the Engineer

Four cask lines on in the Engineer.

It’s only been open twelve days or so and I’ve been three times. Each times it’s been very busy. Each time the service has been excellent. And each time I’ve ended up meeting some lovely people. So although it may not be the Keystone, it is boss to see it back in use and I’m sure it’ll survive significantly longer than the last venue did (sorry, I can’t even recall its name).

Well done to all involved in the design and implementation of the works involved with the new venues: and best of luck. See you soon. Again.

A Trip to Salford & Manchester

On Saturday I was over in some Manchester postcodes for Salford Beer Festival and some farewell pints for a colleague. It was a good trip in both regards.

It was my first time over at the Salford Beer Festival. Last year I went to the Wirral Beer Festival which clashed with it as it did once again. And so I began this year and last with some stomach lining kindly provided at the Shiraz, which I had along with my mates who were all going to the Wirral Fest. After that I wouldn't be needing much later—and maybe no dinner either.

The Shiraz Breakfast Prescription Hug

Three of the Neptunians on the trip took the rather nice, very fast, and pretty damn full, Newcastle train. The previous train had been cancelled so this was inevitably to be packed all the way.

The Sleek Train To An Afternoon Ale

A speedy Uber picked us up at Manchester Victoria and whizzed us of efficiently to
Hemsley House for the festival and we were quickly in the groove. I spent most of my time in the second smaller room which housed the cask ales, the larger room of the Masonic Hall was the keg room. It was a busy session with all the seating taken. Thankfully I'd had my knee injected (and emptied of fluid) the day before and standing all the session actually didn't prove to be an issue. I'd taken charge of a pint glass rather than one of the smart schooners of course. But I didn't have a single pint whilst I was there (or two thirds; at least not a requested one). I always find myself drinking quite slowly at festivals and it was proved to be the case again. The only one keg I had was the Neptune 'Secret Beach' which was brewed for the festival and is a lovely Californian Pale (i'd had the cask version the night before in the Neptune Beerhouse). I had the keg whilst in the large oom to view the raffle draw—and sing along with the Wurzels and everyone there (apart from a rather perplexed Liam) 'I Am A Cider Drinker' ooh arrh, ooh arrh ay!

The Cask Room of the Salford Beer Fest

In front of the bar at Salford Beer Festival

I didn't win the raffle.
Ooh arrh, oh arrh No!

At the end of the session it was time to get out of Salford (isn't it always the case?) and go over to our third city of the day, Manchester (I'm counting Liverpool of course). It was another Uber which arrived quickly. But then the traffic of Manchester intervened and we spent a lot of time not moving anywhere at all. I guess it permitted us to gain a thirst. We were only to go to two pubs in the evening though. First up was the excellent Gas Lamp, on Bridge Street, where we met up with Chess for her farewell pints.

We sat in the white tiled back room for a couple of beers and a good chinwag, whilst battling through the noise (it was packed and I think the tiles make the room an effective amplifier). After a few pints it was time to move on. Outside a passerby was stopped to take a shot of us when we left and to be fair I think he did a fine job with the available entourage. The next pub was never in doubt—you can't go to Manchester without a visit to the City Arms. After standing up all afternoon at the fest it was good to be able to get seating at both pubs. Perhaps it was a shame though that there were no further Wurzelling.

A plethora of Neptunians

Then it was time to go home (in my case via Dr Duncans; it is next to the bus stop of course). Two things I learned on the day were: that Uber is really rather good and I should download the app (even if Manchester traffic isn't), and that Salford Beer Festival is a mighty fine institution. All in all an excellent day trip.

A Sunday Trip to Stafford

Thought I'd go somewhere I haven't been to on my tod before. Other than a CAMRA coach trip or two (way way back) I'd only been through Stafford on the train when travelling down south really. It's only just over an hour (64 minutes to be precise) from Liverpool Lime Street to Stafford on pretty regular trains (often the Birmingham New Street train). Got a few people to guess where I was heading on Twitter and no-one got it. Said it was somewhere I hadn't been etc which ruled out a surprising number of places I've been to over the last year. It turned out to be a beautiful start to the day when I arrived at around 11:40 and the walk out from the station takes you straight out into the lovely Victoria Park, alongside the River Sow, which made it doubly nice.

It was Stafford, folks.

Victoria Park welcomes you right out of the station.

A canalised section of the River Sow through Victoria Park. Gotta love a weeping willow.

I hadn't done much research on the pubs before hand other than to use a Google Maps search (i.e. 'Stafford Real Ale Pubs') to make sure there were at least a few to keep me occupied. At first glance there certainly seemed enough to keep me out of trouble for an hour or six anyway.

Bird in Hand

Black Country Ales 'BFG'

First up I went to the Bird in Hand. A spot on old pub which was busy with locals and doing in a good trade in lush looking Sunday lunches. I had a pint of Black Country Ales 'BFG', whilst trying hard to not be tempted by the gorgeous smells of the beef and Yorkshire puds. Black County Ales were to be in several pubs on the day; Stafford is only 15 miles from Wolverhampton. I watched the end of the India innings in the cricket world cup, where England appeared to be doing quite well.

Sun Inn, a Titanic pub

Loverly outdoor areas at the Sun Inn, while the sun was out.

The market town of Stafford isn't exactly overwhelming and a walk around the pubs would not prove too long at all. Next up was the Titanic Brewery owned pub, 'The Sun Inn' at the southern side of the town. There were lots of Titanic options of course, and i went for an '
Iceberg' there and sat out in the covered area of the garden (which was large). It was a lovely day after all and it would be rude not to take advantage of it.

The Picture House


Inside of the Picture House.

After this I headed back more centrally. I almost walked past the Wetherspoons—because of my general aversion to them not because I almost missed it—but I thought it looked an interesting building (another old cinema). I went in the Picture House check it out and I did get myself a St Austell '
Average Joe'. I supped it quickly and got out. It was a nice building and I liked all the old film posters on the walls, but it never feels right being in one (a Wetherspoons, not a cinema). It wasn't very busy in there, and the food didn't look half as appealing as those dinners in the Bird.

Pubs. Use it or lose it.

The Market Vaults

It was almost Halloween, can you tell?

Next up was the Market Vaults in the centre of the town (by the market, the clue is in the name dontcha know). A nice traditional pub. Quiet with a just a few regulars in and only the one beer (a Jennings '
Cumberland') and a hand written pump clip. Listened to the cricket for a while and found England were capitulating in embarrassing fashion. This truly has been a World Cup to forget.

Shrewsbury Arms

It was only a short walk to the Shrewsbury Arms, which looked a pub not to be missed. Everton were on the telly, but despite that I really enjoyed this pub. Got talking to a large (three generations) family in there about beer and football. Was very good. Meanwhile England lost in the cricket and Everton won v West Ham (whilst Liverpool were winning 2-0 v Forest).

Ye Olde Rose & Crown, Ye Closed on Sundays


I aimed to head on up to the Greyhound and Railway for my last two pubs so was going to take in Rose & Crown, a Joules pub. The flaw in the very loose plan was that it was Sunday and the pub is closed on Sundays. A shocking state of affairs. A shame as I like a Joules. It also meant my mid walk pub choice between the Shrewsbury and the Greyhound was a trifle limited. I ended up in Hogarth's. A nice enough pint of Theakston's '
XB' while I watched a very bad Man Utd capitulation to Man City as if they were the English cricket team. Not a great pub (very much a chain vibe along the line of Primark meets Wetherspoon with a dollop of Woolworths (without the pick & mix). Still, like I say the one beer they had on was fine and seeing Man Utd suffer is never a bad thing.

The Greyhound. The clocks changed last night. Was going dark early.

Headed north, just beyond the ring road and past the surprisingly central Stafford jail to the Greyhound. The weather was going downhill quickly after the blue sky start rain was definitely coming. A nice pub, where I had a pint of Oakham '
JHB' and saw the end of the Man derby (btw Liverpool had gone on to win 3-0 in the end). From there I was to head to the Lamb, where I found no ale on and walked straight out then I had to negotiate some road works to get over to the Railway Inn. This was to be my last stop, but I ended up chatting to some locals and the landlord--and playing some Warren Zevon on the jukebox—whilst having the more than adequate Butty Bach.

I timed it well to take the short walk to the station (hey, it was the Railway Inn, it wasn't going to be far) and get the on time train back to Liverpool. Glad it was short in the rain too.

Having made it to eight pubs, some of which were better than others, it had proved a very good day. And at only an hour (+4 minutes) from Liverpool I'd definitely recommend it. The pubs were:

Bird In Hand
The Sun Inn
Picture House
Market Vaults
Shrewsbury Arms
Railway Inn

I'll probably put up a map at some point.

And the five I'd most recommend are the Bird In Hand, Sun Inn, Shrewsbury, the Railway, and the Greyhound. If I was going on a Saturday I'd add the Rose & Crown Joules pub and jib the Hogarth's (unless it was needed to watch the footy or something).