A.J. Walker


Eek! It's August Already

It is August. It is AUGUST! What the absolute…

The year is speeding up horrendously. And to that end I've found I haven't done an ale blog for a couple of months. To be fair it's been a funny month or two, not helped by finally succumbing to the dreaded lurgy. I've been very lucky not to have contracted it before I guess. And I know several people who've had it several times. Even though I have now had joined that crappest of clubs I can still consider myself lucky in so much as whilst I tested positive for it for a week I never really fell ill. I only had a very slight fever and a runny nose (and even that only lasted one night). I thankfully did not lose my taste. What an horrendous symptom that is for those impacted by it. I mean imagine that a pint of Carling would taste as good as a Jaipur or a decent stout. What cruel punishment.

Having a couple of weekends not going out due to the lurgy I then fell off my bike and hit my head badly. So much blood was spilt I think I may still be half empty. So that was another weekend not out. This may partly explain my tardiness with the blog. Hell I need an excuse or two don't I?

There's not too much to report anyway. The usual suspects have remained as my regular haunts in Liverpool and I haven't had any away days outside of Merseyside recently: apart from the Great British Beer Festival (GBBF). I went there last week with the happy band from Neptune. I'd only been once before (around ten years ago) when it was at Earls Court. This time it was at Olympia.

Team meeting at Lime Street Station before the trek darn sarf.

It was a fun trip down (oh my, too many things to go into there) but we all got down in one piece and arrived at Olympia just as they opened the doors. It was a lovely afternoon trying a few beers from the range of bars there. It was a long but very enjoyable day – from Liverpool to London and back again in a day. Had some loverly beers from around the country (and Europe too). Note: I was surprised at how much keg there was (not pleasantly, or horrified, just surprised), CAMRA grasping the keg nettle?

Olympia: it's big here, innit?

I was equally surprised that the program had a list of all the bars and all the beers, but simply had the names of the beer and the ABVs. That was it, It would have been useful - nay, essential - to see (if not a detailed description) at least a style next to the name. There was no way from looking at the programme to tell whether a beer was a pale, a stout or a sour (or whatever) unless the name of the beer had the style of beer within its actual name ('X Brewery Pale' etc), Crazy really. I mean if you wanted to try a few wheat beers or golden ales you'd have no chance of finding them using the programme. Similarly the bar names were a little confusing; the Caernarvon Castle Bar wasn't for Welsh beers and the Caledonian Bar wasn't for Scottish ones. There seemed to be no rhyme or reason about where the beers were. At the end of the day you could easily miss a beer style you'd be interested in thanks to the strange idea of not telling anyone where the stuff was. That said there were of course shed loads of beers there and you weren't going to go thirsty.


There were as many food vendors there as bars too. If you fancied eating yourself around the world instead of drinking it, you'd have loads of options. The place was enormous and a couple of walks around it you'd have your ten thousand steps in and have earned the right to a a kebab and a pint. Probably.

So many food vendors. I've been calling these something else for years! Who knew!?

I saw on Instagram and Twitter so many people I know well (or just a little) that were there, but I seemed to do a good job of avoiding most of them (or they did of me). To be fair Olympia is a couple of aircraft hangars short of an airfield so it's dead easy to miss people (or hide from them). All in all it was a most enjoyable trip down to the smoke and I'd happily do it again; just preferably with a more useful programme – and hopefully managing to meet up with more people before seeing on Insta that I'd just missed them. Think all the team had a really good time. And why not? Not so incidentally Neptune were requested to showcase a lager on cask. So we were down there with not the famous Mosaic or a Abyss, but 'Evenflow' on cask: Who'd have thunk it? It was my first half there – and my last (and only) pint,

Neptune 'Evenflow' - a cask lager from up north, who'd have thunk it?

Promise my next blog won't wait two months. In fact I'm going to Manchester on Friday - so maybe it'll be within the week. We'll see.


A Day Out in Lancaster

With the unique (dare I say unprecedented?) double Bank Holiday of Thursday and Friday this week I decided to go on a day trip to make the most of it. For no particular reason I came up with the imaginary £20 and 2 hours each way limit for transport. This actually gave a few options but meant that other than Manchester, which I'd been to twice recently there was nowhere particularly good eastwards. For some (money grabbing) reason everywhere along the M62 corridor east of Manchester was dearer than £20 return. That left me with a few options north and west (and Wales), including; Conway, Lytham St Annes and Lancaster. I went for the latter, with more pub options when I got there. I'd been a couple of times before on CAMRA coach trips (back when they used to happen). It's a small city centre with loads of options and so it was that I made my last minute plan to go.

Asked Dr. Google and found a few choice places and knew I'd just wander into a few more. Seven or eight pubs was on the cards. And so it proved.



First up was the
Lancaster Brewery tap house at the railway station itself called the 'Tite & Locke.' They had three of four hand pulls on – and I went for a 'Lancaster Red' to commence the trip, sitting outside at the front of the station (there was another drinking area in a cordoned off area on the platform itself – if you wanted to watch trains coming and going. Or if it was raining.).


Had a gander at the phone and made sure I knew where I was heading. Couldn't be more simple: out the station then left when you hit the road to cross the bridge back over the railway line then down the hill… and in all of a hundred metres or so you'd be in town. After not even leaving the station and getting my first pint in I was prepared for a longer walk to get the second. But it was the first pub I hit that I went for: the
Merchants 1688. Ended up with a hoppy choice from a brewery I hadn't had before: a 'Duo DDH' from Gan Yam Brewery. It was pretty busy out the front, where there was plenty of seating and it was nice day. There was a very big group on a mage crawl of their own (they'd been sat outside the Tite & Locke too). Heard them say they were going to The Pub next, so made a mental more to go elsewhere – as getting served behind them could have been painful.



Third up was another stone's throw away and a nice old pub: the
Olde John O'Gaunt. Ended up with the Oakham classic 'JHB.' Got asked if I was a CAMRA member for a discount. I thought I'd rid myself of the look, but apparently the look sticks. When I pointed that out she said I didn't look like I was, so I guess she just thought I was off the age. Ho hum.


Had to pop into a shop next to get some cards to send (not postcards, it wasn't a holiday). I crossed the road after that to go into the
Brown Cow. It was a Thwaites pub. Choice was maybe a bit limited, including an 'IPA' that was 4% - my nemesis. It's just a pale as far as I'm concerned when the abv is so low. Anyway, I did go for it as the choices were pretty limited and in any case a session beer was wise when I was after all on a session. Had a nice chat with the Canadian barmaid. There were no other customers in at the time, but she said it did get very busy at night (partly at least due to Karaoke – I'd evidently timed my visit perfectly).


I then proceeded to walk in and out of two pubs without partaking (same ole beers) in the Pendle Witch and the Toll House. Next up was then the
Water Witch where I sat by the canal watching barges go by, whilst supping on a Durham Brewery 'Saison D'Oligana.' Five pubs in and I hardly broken a sweat – if I was a step counter then 10k steps was going to be a push.



Pub 6 was the White Cross, further back up the canal from the Water Witch, which would allow me to swing back into town over the bridge to make a good circuit. It was nice to sit outside by the canal once more and watch the steady foot traffic go by along the tow path. Wrote out my cards to send all the way back home whilst drinking a Wye Valley 'HPA'. For a change I had stamps: miracles do happen.



I only had two pubs to go (on the basis I find nine pubs sound a bit much, even though I could easily have programmed them in). And I really enjoyed the next one, which was a little first floor brewery tap for the
Accidental Brewery. The owner was working there and was a nice guy to chat to. He even follows me on Twitter apparently. The brewery is not from Lancaster but from Morecambe. There's a few more people in and around Lancaster than Morecambe so he rightly reasons it has more chance of a going concern in the city. Good luck to them. It was keg only but I survived it.


Eighth and last up was on the way towards the station and another old one: The Borough. Had a Bowland 'Mosaic Pale' – another 4%: just what's needed on a long day out. Session over… well until a final pint in Dr Duncan's on my return to Liverpool. All in all I most enjoyable day.

A Good Couple of Strolls – Part 2

A Two Day Wander Around Liverpool & Manchester

After Friday's stroll around Liverpool it was time to travel a little eastwards; to Manchester. I caught an early afternoon train to Manchester Victoria. Starting from Victoria it was a no-brainer to start the trip of with a pint in the famous and fabulous
Marble Arch. I started with a decent session strength ale from the Marble Brewery, 'Persephone.' I'd have liked to have stayed for another but like Friday I'd intended to have a decent length walk taking in quite a few pubs. So I headed the short walk back along Oldham Road and went to The Angel. Had a nice chin wag with a few people in there including a City fan in a Grealish shirt. Once I'd finished my Saltaire 'South Island' and after much talk about this epic football season (and a mutual like of all things Frank Turner) it was time to move on.

First up, a 'Persephone' in the Marble Arch

Next up was the lovely
Crown & Kettle. It's on a busy corner and may not exactly be a desirable garden location but the outdoor seating area is a decent size and set back from the roads so that the traffic doesn't impact on you. My pint here, the third, was the lovely 'Sonoma' from Track. After a chat to a couple there it was time to move on to the next place. And on this occasion I went to the Castle Hotel. The choice of beer wasn't as broad as in the previous places but I ended up with a nice 'Raspberry Pale' from Titanic which I hadn't had for a while.

Marble, Angel, Crown & Kettle, Castle

Like all the other pubs the fifth pub was not far away either. It was time to go to the
Port Street Beer House. There was seating area out the front and in a back yard. I headed to the yard with a pint of Thornbridge 'Wild Swan' - I was taking in some pretty top breweries as well as pub. A light rain began whilst I was sat out there: I was definitely getting the whole Manchester experience.

Next up was going to be the
Beatnikz just a few hundred metres away. It was a shame to see that the brewery had announced their closure in the last few weeks, but good to see the venue was remaining open. However when I walked down there I spotted the Northern Monk Refectory, which hadn't actually been on my radar originally. I headed on in there first although with no pump clips on the four hand pulls I initially thought they had no cask on. Seems strange not to label them from both a customer's point of view and the guys & gals pouring the beer out unlabelled. I don't confess to understanding the logic in that. Anyhoo I bought a pint out of one the unmarked hand pulls – and I assume/quietly confidently that I was poured the right one: a Little Faith Hazy Pale. It's a big ole place and I guess it'd be a popular venue.

Port Street, Northern Monk, Beatnitz, Piccadilly

The Beatnitz then became my penultimate destination. A single colourful room with high stools and big tables. I went for 'Zero-Zero' from one of my favourite breweries, Arbor. Then it was time to walk onwards towards Piccadilly for my train, but not before heading on into the Piccadilly Tap for my final destination. A bit dark and dingy after the lightness of some of the other places, but plenty of lovely ale to choose from – and a seat at the large bar. The last beer was a bit stronger than most of the others at 6% but the 'Hopfordian' was from another good local brewery; Thirst Class.

It was then time to head on into the train station and discover which of the Liverpool trains were to run and which were to get cancelled. It had been a short train journey into Manchester, it was to prove to be a more difficult return. Thanks Northern. Well, thanks for one half of the journey.

It was definitely a very good pub walk. The longest walk was that from Victoria to the Marble Arch, then it was just a question of a little zigzagging towards Piccadilly. I'd happily do exactly the same crawl next time. Though of course I'd need to check out some other places, wouldn't I?

Good Couple of Strolls – Part 1

A Two Day Wander Around Liverpool & Manchester

Well I'd resolved myself to return to Manchester for a wander around the area between Victoria and Piccadilly stations, after visiting a few pubs in the more central area in late March. Originally intended to go out there on Friday, but the day started slower for me than I'd want and I'd have ended up with a later start in Manchester than ideal so I changed my Friday plans to a few pubs in Liverpool instead – with the intention of an early-ish finish so that I'd get up there on Saturday instead. So how did I do?…

Friday was a nice walk around many of my favourite Liverpool pubs. And yes, I know I do need to add a few Liverpool pub crawl maps to the existing maps page. Hopefully should get those sorted within the next week. But you can be pretty sure these pubs all have a good chance of being on said crawls. Wasn't planned but let's face it I can walk around Liverpool city centre with my eyes closed. Admittedly I'd probably walk into a wall early doors and then find myself in A&E so keeping my eyes open was deemed preferable on this occasion.

I started at the beautiful, and much improved,
Doctor Duncan's as this is right by the Queen's Square bus station – so it's always a great place to start or end with (or both if you do a circular walk). I'd decided to have just one as I was going to get around to a few pubs (probably) and next up was the short walk to the Sanctuary. It had just got its bright rebranding on over the windows and they've thankfully removed the old branding off so that people can see in and out of the place. The old branding was nice looking but didn't do the pub any favours with passersby unsure of what the place was like. It was the end of the first full week of its reopening (after a brief opening on the Easter weekend). Had a nice chat with a few people in there and enjoyed some good tuneage (and even mastered some Spotify things between us - every day is an education). I'd decided to go to the Bridewell so of course had to break up the walk with a halfway stop in the Head of Steam (for a Neptune/Thornbridge 'Coronado Breeze). Didn't quite crash a leaving party for Siobhan that was just starting when I was leaving. It's a shame to see her go, but it's always nice to see how close the team who work at the HoS are.


Only having one drink in a place does make the time go pretty fast but enables another few pubs. Who'd have thunk it?

Bridewell was really busy. Of course with its makeup of all the cells it can fill up quite quickly (and empty out just as quick I guess). Ended up perched at the end of a bench under cover outside next to a big group of oh-so-young students. Went for a nice pint of Five Points XPA there. Then it was up to the Grapes. Hey, it's already sounding like a top crawl isn't it? And lo! they had Coronado Breeze on too. May have been taking it easy with the relatively low pintage but it could be made all the more dangerous with this second 5.7% of the day. Bumped into a couple of good mates there and had to stop for another then (only a half).


Then it was time for the short walk further back along Roscoe Street to the famous Roscoe Head. Had a lovely pint of Oakham 'White Dwarf' (thankfully in the sweet spot for a session ale at 4.3%). it was around 8pm at this time and I was conscious of hopefully getting to Manchester on Saturday so I only had time for one more pub. I'd kinda been guilted into going to the Coach House after the barmaid had collared me about going when I was in the Angus earlier in the week. It's only a wee hop, skip and a jump from the Roscoe so I did my duty by a stop there for a pint of Liverpool Brewing 'Liverpool Pale'. That's a lot of Liverpools in one sentence and that had been a lot of Liverpool in one crawl. If I hadn't had Manchester in mind I would have walked up the hill a bit to the Belvedere, but I'll save that one for next time.

If you know the pubs then you'll know that is a pretty decent set of hostelries. If you don't then take a look at the
maps (or your handheld super genius with Apple/Google Maps) and get yourself down to a few them. You could do worse. And not a Wetherspoons in sight.

Part 2 of the city strolls of Liverpool and Manchester will be the Other Place. And I'll sort that tomorrow. For now I am psyching myself up for the last match of the Premier League season.

All Too Early Closing

Last Sunday was a very sad day for me and many others who frequented, or worked, at the Keystone: it closed for good. There had been a few rumours over the preceding month but it was only formerly announced on Tuesday and then closed just five days later. It was very much one of my go-to pubs in Liverpool so will create a big hole for my visits into town. I've read books there, listed to music, written stories, and of course played some music too. My Thursdays in particular will be much the poorer with the demise of the pub and John Witherspoon's open mic.

There is hope that the open mic will move to another local pub. I hope it can.

The Keystone garden.

The venue has gone through several iterations over the years, probably most notably the Clove Hitch, but opened last year as the Keystone when the pubs were only allowed to serve in outdoor settings. Its garden at the back made the place one of the few ale places available during this time. I found it early doors in those initial daft cold months of those stupid rules and fell for the place immediately.

A pint in the conservatory. Very good place to write.

I used the indoors for writing a few times. It was a good environment for it and the music didn't tend to be too loud.

A burger and a pint before going to the Arts Club for the Magic Numbers gig.

The Tempo roasts were mega.

They went through a few in house food providers like Boffo Burger and more recently Tempo kitchen. Those burgers were lovely, and the Sunday lunches by Tempo were awesome.


There was always a great mix of people in the pub. Locals, regulars, and some students (thankfully not too many of them of course). There were plenty of events that used the Keystone. In addition to the open mic there were regular quizzes, open mic comedy, film nights and Meet the Brewer events. All the people involved in this will miss the Key all the more.

Which Scrivener project to open? When the weather was okay you could write outdoors too.

It was such a shame to see if go from my perspective but of course it was worse for the staff. It was good to hear that Charley, Ryan, Ben, Jess and all were able to get at least some work in other places within the week of being told of the closure. And I can only wish them all the best for the future. The beer, the music, the events and the food all made the place but the staff truly made it a great place to go.

Went to the Keystone on the last afternoon to help drink the place dry. You have to pitch in at times like this.

Farewell to the Keystone and good luck to all who sailed in her. Now, what am I doing on Thursday?