As a company, J. D. Wetherspoon has its fans and its detractors, so a couple of nights ago, I decided to try Southport's two Wetherspoon's pubs, the Willow Grove and the Sir Henry Segrave. The Willow Grove had only Greene King Abbot Ale and Ruddles Best Bitter on. Unusually, the Abbot lacked any strong flavour, and I wondered whether it had been put on too soon. The Ruddles is typical of many beers of around 3.7% strength: nothing to dislike, but not very interesting either.
On to the Sir Henry Segrave. I first tried Davenports Irish Whiskey ale. The staff member warned me it was cloudy and offered a taste. I bought it, knowing that a haze need not spoil a beer, but I found it utterly lacking in any distinctive flavour at all, which was especially surprising given its name. The woman who served me said it may have been put on too soon; I'm sure she was right. The Ruddles Best was positively murky and I didn't have it, but I noticed that the pump clip wasn't turned around to show that it was unready. At this time, I also overheard another staff member tell a customer that the Whiskey Ale was meant to be cloudy. The Marston's Pedigree was no more than adequate and the best beer in either of these two pubs was Robinson's Trouble and Strife, which had a light copper colour but with quite a pleasant, distinctive flavour. I don't think that one good beer out of the five I tried constitutes a good hit rate. If Wetherspoon's wants to be taken seriously by the discerning drinker in Southport, it will have to do rather better than this, especially with its beer festival coming up soon (15 April to 4 May). It was certainly a cheap night out - £1.89 for a 5% beer, Abbot Ale, is good value for money - but enjoying a drink is not only about price.
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