A.J. Walker

ReAleLiverpool

Five Go To Southport

'FIVE GO TO SOUTHPORT:
A BEERY ADVENTURE WITH SEVERAL UNEXPECTED TWISTS'

On Saturday five of us went along to Southport with the aim of having a couple of pints there then doing the
Southport Run on Merseyrail - taking in Birkdale, Hillside, Freshfield, and Waterloo. Through no fault of our own it didn't prove to be the case though…

Two of us went to the Shiraz for a Full English first up where I bumped into three reprobates from Neptune Brewery who were doing the exact same thing before taking their train east to go to Salford Beer Festival.

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The famous Shiraz stomach lining.

We then heading on to Central and met up with a couple of the lads on the Southport train. The fifth guy was running a tiny bit late and on the following train 15 minutes later.

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The Tap & Bottles, Cambridge Arcade

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Our first pint was a Red Ale from Reedley Hallows.

The four of us arrived in Southport just before 12:30 and headed straight to the Tap & Bottles. The weather was fabulous – especially given the wet and windy week we'd just had – it really was sunny Southport. The Tap was already busy, including with some Morris Dancers, and we ended up having to sit out in the arcade seating. There was much reminiscing about visits to the town by each of us, and also lamenting the demise of the Liverpool Branch CAMRA ale trips. The fifth member of our group duly arrived and got a quick half in before heading on to the self proclaimed 'Hidden Gem' of the Masons Arms.

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The Masons Arms – it's not that hidden.

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I'm pretty sure I've been with two of the guys to the Masons before, but everyone claimed that they had never been there before. The drinks of choice were Robinsons 'Dizzy Blonde' and Titanic 'Anchor.' It was good to see that it was busy too.

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The Guest House

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Another Red Ale.

Next up was the short walk, two small blocks away, to the Guest House. This time only two claimed to have not been there before. It's an old favourite that has won Southport Branch Pub of the Year award several time. Most of us drank a red ale (after three of us had drank a red ale, 'Armistice Day' from Reedley Hallows, at the Tap too) - 'Red Goose' from Old Mill Brewery.

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The Barrel House, Birkdale

Then it was back to the train station for the short hop (one stop) to Birkdale. There was a ten minute wait there and then we arrived in Birkdale in next to no time. The Barrel House is just a hop and skip from the station. It is a MicroPub and was full inside so we sat outside once again. This time with a pale ale from Twisted Wheel. I checked the time of the next train for our hop to Hillside and Grasshopper and we had about four minutes. We made it easily. But then it all went a bit Pete Tong.


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The unexpected visit to The Park, Birkdale

On the platform the sign said that the next train was twenty minutes away and not just a couple of minutes away as it should have been. There were plenty of people on the platform and faces of confusion abounded. Then the ticket guy came over and told everyone that the next train may be in about twenty or so, but might not be, Apparently we'd arrived on the last train to get there as the whole network had come to a bit of a halt following a fatality at Kirkdale. Although the station was on a different line the knock on effects were messy.

We decided to pop into The Park on the other side of the tracks, but even closer to the station than the Barrel. The beer choices were limited but at least one of them was '
Tribute' and most of us went for that. Back at the station and we had to wait a fair while. We decided to get a bit further up the line, closer to Liverpool, given the unknowns of the continued network issues. We went on up to Freshfield and the Beer Station. We went for Serious - 'Harlequin & Aurora' there. Tony fell for his usual love. A beautiful eleven week old border collie puppy.

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The last pint on the Run before going g back to Liverpool.

Back at the station we found the knock on effects were still evident – it was very busy again. When the train came it was pretty busy and with each additional station then on it got more and more packed. Each stop was taking too much time now and we weren't sure about how it would affect us later on, so we decided to head straight back to Liverpool on the train we were on rather than get off at Waterloo. It was a shame, but even then the adventure wasn't over yet. We'd decided to get off at Moorfields and go to the Denbigh Castle, then maybe the Ship and Dr Duncans. But the train gods were having none of that.

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Beer Station, Freshfield

We stood up as we approached Moorfields and about a third of the train looked like they were to get off. But as the train stopped the doors failed to open. We were there for several minutes and there was no movement of the doors and no announcement on the intercom. Nope. The train just went on to Central after its stop. We were left none the wiser as to why the doors never opened.

And so we never made it to those three pubs. We went into the Head of Steam and ended up having just a few there before going our separate ways. Another couple of people joined us there (having got back from Birmingham). All in all it had been a pretty good day, but it was a bit of a shame about how it became messed up. Then again there had a been a fatality on the line so we can't exactly complain about it overly can we?

The last two Saturdays have involved local trips out to
Chester and Southport. Wherever next? And what will befall us during the trip next time?

A Most Short Trip Out

On Friday I was out with a few mates and we decided between us to pop over to Chester on Saturday for a couple of pints. And it nearly proved to be not much than that: much to my surprise. To be fair there was a mixture of tiredness and other stuff going on so in the end instead of the normal 6-8 pubs I'd end up doing on a day trip we just went to four. Yes, FOUR.


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Still, it wasn't a bad day out. We started with The Brewery Tap the Spitting Feathers pub, and then it was across the road to the Cross Keys (a Joules pub). From there we went up to Cavern of the Curious Gnome, which was a new one to my mates, and then finally we popped in the Cellar on the way back to Liverpool. We were back in Central by about 7pm. So early. I went off to the Head of Steam, where one of my buddies came with me (after he had declared he was going to the toilet at Central Station).

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And I finally ended up with a couple in Dr Duncans, where I bumped into a couple of Americans I'd met on Thursday night. They were over for the footy (Liverpool v Southampton) from Pennsylvania. That's commute. They were a great couple, who very much loved Liverpool, saw a good game, and adopted Dr Duncan's as their local while they were here. Had a couple of good chats with them covering all sorts of subjects (including Liverpool, beer and football of course: and writing (Doug is a screenwriter)). Hope to bump into them again when they are next over – or if I accidentally end up in Pennsylvania for a spell. Pubs are great aren't they? Never know who you are going to meet.

A good day. It was short in Chester, but lengthened in Liverpool.

The Southport Run

Hey, it's been a while since I've done a blog. The last one was following the Beer Quarter walk around Dale Street (the less said the better about completing the challenge for a draw that never happened. Ho hum.). Anyway another wee crawl was undertaken on Friday. It was an all dayer, which is best – as it means the beers are spread over a longer time. Cramming beers in faster is a recipe for disaster after all. Nope, it was the always spot on Shiraz breakfast for stomach lining followed by the train to Southport. After a few beers in Southport it was then the train back to Liverpool with a few hops off at choice locations.

I've done the Southport run a few times. The first time was many moons ago with me buddy Ken and a group of his mates from Bootle and its environs. That time we had to wait in Southport for a late comer – so we ended up having about 8 beers before even getting back on the train for the hop off and on part of the trip. Given the group I was with it was largely Guinness on the menu for yours truly too. Like I say it was a long time ago. Indeed most of the pubs I went into this week (seven out of ten) weren't even in existence back then.

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After the Shiraz it was straight to Southport using a Saveaway ticket. Didn't do many in Southport as I wanted to ensure I got back on the train at a decent time. Went to three pubs. First the Tap & Bottles – which would always be my choice if I could only do one pub in Southport – where I had a Salopian 'Neewollah.' (halloween backwards). Then it was Mason's Arms, where I had a Robinsons 'Dizzy Blonde' and chatted with some nice people with a similar outlook on getting around and about for ales. Finally it was the Guest House for a Phoenix 'Pale Moonlight' before getting on my bike (not literally) to the next venue.

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The Barrel House in Birkdale was next up. It's a very short walk from Birkdale Station and had a nice couple of beers on, including Twisted Wheel 'Footsteps on the Dance Floor'. Loved the blues music which was on at the time as much as the beer. It was a short walk back of course within the half hour to get the train to Hillside and the Grasshopper. It was again a wee walk and one pint - it was 'Quagmire' from Big Bog. I missed out the next station and headed straight to the Beer Station at Freshfield. It really couldn't be much closer to the station, which makes it ideal for the Southport Run. And the beer is alway excellent. It is such a popular bar the main risk is trying to find a seat. Neptune 'Mosaic' was on and I had to stop for two didn't I?

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Didn't bother with Formby or Hightown and headed straight to Waterloo. There are so many options around South Road and on this particular occasion I chose not to go to the Volunteer (I usually would go there). This time I went to the Trap & Hatch where I had '
HDA No.1 Ernest' from Buxton Brewery, then Four Ashes, and the Old Tap (Vocation 'Heart & Soul'). It was great to have some lovely beers and meet some great people.

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Finally it was back to Liverpool Central. I popped out to the Head of Steam in the hope of finding 'Midnight Rider' on – the Ossett and Neptune black IPA collab – and I was in luck. It was a nice way to end a great day out.

The trip this time was as follows:

  • Tap & Bottles
  • Mason's Arms
  • Guest House
  • Barrel House
  • Grasshopper
  • Freshfield
  • Trap & Hatch
  • Four Ashes
  • Old Tap
  • Head of Steam

Will sort out a Southport Run map at some point. I promise it is always a nice day out: even without seeing the sea (and preferably ensure any accomplices arrive in good time so you don't have eight pints in Southport before starting back to the 'Pool).


The Beer Quarter

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A group of pubs situated in and around the Dale Street area of town have recently grouped together as Liverpool Beer Quarter, which you may have seen on Twitter (and I dare say Facebook) with their cheerful looking logo. We are living through interesting and difficult times and forming a collective to market these pubs perhaps more widely can not be a negative. It will be interesting to see where it goes in the future, but this weekend they have had their first 'festival.'The pubs have done various things within the weekend including Meet the Brewer events and discounts beer.

I caught some music in the Angus and the Cross Keys on Saturday, but my main objective this weekend was to visit the ten pubs to fill a card (which has gone into a draw for some prizes). Needless to say I visited the ten (over two days).

Of the pubs in the Quarter there are two or three I don't go to often – in particular Shenanigans (which doesn't do cask ale), the Cross Keys (a bit out on limb in office-central) and the Saddle (which doesn't really do cask ale (Doom Bar)). I do like Shenanigans though. Vibrant, an attractive building and some good music too – you can always get a good Guinness there or you maybe lucky with a keg or bottle.


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First up was the Ship & Mitre where I took the opportunity to get some loaded fries with cheesy garlic bread. Hey, it's tasty, good stomach lining and wards away vampires. Next was the short hop to the Excelsior. I was given the Beer Quarter card there and my first stamp. I'd missed the card (and hence stamp) in the Ship. Not the end of the world as it was an excuse to revisit there – and it is most accessible. I wasn't aware of the card before I received it, but once I had then it was Challenge Accepted!

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Pub 2 (the Excelsior) or Pub 1 according to the new card.

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Shropshire Gold in the Excelsior.

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Two down, eight to go.

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The Lion Tavern

Next up was the Vernon a little further up Dale Street. I bumped into a Twitter buddy there (Bill) who was doing a walk around the same pubs in the opposite direction to me. Then it was on to a regular haunt of mine – the Angus, where there was a singer on strumming his stuff whilst hiding behind some plants. Following the Angus it was the first veer off Dale Street to get to the beautiful and ever popular Lion on Moorfields before heading out to the most isolated of the pubs –the Cross Keys. Again there was a good musician on there.

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The Angus (there's a musician there somewhere).

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The four ales on in the Angus.

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Having a moral panic in the Denbigh Castle.

The last two stops of this group of pubs was the excellent Denbigh Castle (the sister but to the Bridewell) and then finally the Saddle.

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Anyone seen the Cross Keys? It's somewhere around here.

It was good to see that there seemed to be a good coordinated social media management of the weekend with the hashtag #beerquarterliverpool (not sure why it wasn't Liverpool Beer Quarter like on the logo). I guess you should keep an eye on the hashtag to see how things progress with the Dale Street collective.

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Back at the Ship. I've done the ten.

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A nice building – and helped by a bright blue sky.

On Saturday I popped into the two/three pubs I hadn't done on Friday and got my card fully filled up with a schooner of Double Barrelled 'Parka' in a most packed Dead Crafty and a keg beer in an equally busy Shenanigans. Lastly it was the Ship again to get the missing stamp before walking across town to the Arts Club to catch the wonderful 'The Heavy North.'

It was a nice walk around the ten pubs. Good luck to all of them in these difficult times. Hope the collective creates a little bit of magic for them. Why not go and have a walk around them too?
I went to the ten pubs of the Beer Quarter in the order as follows:

  • Ship & Mitre
  • Excelsior
  • Vernon
  • Angus
  • Lion
  • Cross Keys
  • Denbigh Castle
  • Saddle
  • Dead Crafty
  • Shenanigans
    • and Ship & Mitre again…

Not Quite Clitheroe

Went To Conwy By Mistake

Haven't written or uploaded a blog for a while as I had problems with my FTP. Got some help from Andy at
One.Com in the end and got it sorted (for now). Thanks Andy. Andy's are good, ain't they?

Anyway, so to last week. I decided to go to Clitheroe on Wednesday. It's a bit of a hike by multiple trains (three each way) which eats into a fair bit of time (about 2 hours and 20 mins each way, if you are lucky). But as it transpires trains were not the problem; buses were. Multiple buses didn't turn up and then the one I got on got stuck on the East Lancs coming into Liverpool when cars repeatedly wouldn't let the bus out. People, you should let buses out. Nasty people some of those car drivers. I ended up getting to Lime Street about 5 minutes late (having built in loads of extra time, in theory to catch the 09:36 train).

There wasn't an option to work around it to get to Clitheroe at a decent time (next trains would work out 2 hours later, and it's not like you can just add 2 hours to the later train – it would already have been the last) and the trip was therefore off. It was still early though, so I resolved to go somewhere else that would get me there around the time I would have arrived if the buses had been friendly. I ended up deciding it would either be Lytham-St Annes or Conwy. In the end I chose the latter.

The good thing about that was there was time to get in a full English breakfast first at the Shiraz. There is no finer stomach lining. The train trip itself is a pretty quick and reliable affair (dangerous to say just as you get on the train, but okay after the trip of course). There are lots of train options. Ultimately it was Liverpool Central to Chester and then hopping on a Holyhead train. The train I got from Chester didn't stop at Conwy but stopped at Llandudno Junction just a short walk across the bridge towards the castle. It was a brilliant connecting train.

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The famous Full English at the Shiraz Palace (I still miss the Williamson Square Shiraz)

The weather was good and the journey was spot on and rapid. The strangest thing was looking out the window and seeing all the streets I used to deliver to when I delivered parcels for Amazon across North Wales. Virtually every estate, indeed street, I knew from delivering or driving down. The view on the right side of the train was largely of the Irish Sea. Like I say; a good trip. They even had trolley service.

I got off at Llandudno Junction (which I'd delivered to) and the path takes you to the main road from the car park and opposite the entrance is a pub (which I've delivered to). There's a short walk to a cup-de-sac which has a supermarket entrance. There's a funeral parlour and some residential properties (which I've delivered to). Hell you get the picture – it's a well trodden path for me.

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Conwy Castle from the bridge (Llandudno Junction is a short walk over the bridge; handy if your train doesn't stop at Conwy)

I crossed the bridge taking in the views in the dry and light wind. It wasn't Clitheroe, but there was a castle – and it had been a good call to go to Wales for a change (a recent change obviously).

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The castle and the first three of six pubs of my day out.

First up had to be the Liverpool Arms partly for the name and partly because is it next to the harbour. Spoke a little to the dray who was making a delivery from Purple Moose Brewery. Seemed a thoroughly nice chap as, like Andys, I'm sure most of them are.

Walked straight up the High Street past the Castle Hotel and other pubs and went to the Bank of Conwy. Lovely spot. Good to see it hasn't changed from earlier visits. Then it was a short walk, albeit by a circuitous route, to The Albion. It was spot on as expected (although one of the beers they had on had a Christmas name): points off for that – it's September.

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The last three pubs of my not quite Clitheroe day out.

It was another short walk (hell, the whole afternoon was – it's not a massive town centre) next to the Erskine Arms. A quite posh looking pub within a hotel. Had another nice pint there (a Purple Moose) before moving back downhill down the High Street. This time I went into the rather posh looking Castle Hotel. Had a really good chat with a young couple who'd travelled up from Cardiff. The man did some creative writing and the woman was a singer-songwriter – I mean how could you not have a nice chat?!

Lastly venue was the Blue Bell (and yes, I'd delivered Amazon stuff there a lot before) which was a nice almost end to the walk. The George & Dragon next door was closed so I headed back up the High Street, where I put my head in the Old Mail Coach, but it was Doom Bar only so there was a sharp exit and I headed back to the Bank, which after all was next to Conwy station,


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The brilliant statues and embossed (something or other) at St Thomas church. The walls are the defensive town walls.

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Lovely local pint in the Erskine Arms

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Conwy Station – home time

You can never get away from Liverpool totally. After going to the Liverpool Arms at lunch time I bumped into two of the Liverpool Head of Steam staff at Chester station. It can sometimes seem a very small world. Went to Dr Duncans for one when I got back as I feel a day's beer trip should take in seven pubs and I'd only done six in Conwy (and none in Clitheroe),

All in all a very good day – and Clitheroe is there for another day (indeed so is Lytham). If the buses and trains permit.

So the pubs, in order, were:

Liverpool Arms
Bank of Conwy
The Albion
Erskine Arms
Castle Hotel
Blue Bell
(and the Bank once more)