Friday, 31 December 2010

Grousing About Famous Pubs

Famous Grouse Whisky and the Sunday Telegraph have run a poll to find the top 100 famous pubs in Britain, whether they be famous for historic or just quirky reasons. Two Southport pubs feature:

The Fishermen's Rest, Weld Road. The pleasant name, which suggests fishermen having a relaxing pint after a hard day's work, has a much more tragic origin. It commemorates the Eliza Fernley lifeboat disaster of 1886 when the boat foundered while trying to rescue people from the stricken Mexico of Hamburg and 14 crewmen perished. Their bodies were laid out in here, then part of the Palace Hotel (demolished in 1969, except for this building). The lost men are recalled by the 14 small brass mermaids which hold the bar handrail in place. I attended a centenary commemoration of this tragedy in 1986 held in the pub itself.

It's a while since I've been in here, but I recall it as a pleasant and comfortable smallish pub; I've been told that its real ale range has recently been much improved, although I have yet to check for myself.

The Lakeside Inn, The Promenade. This pub is described as the smallest pub in Britain and has a Guinness Book of Records certificate on the wall. It usually sells London Pride and Tetley Bitter. It has fine views over the Marine Lake and outside drinking areas, including a balcony that overlooks the lake. It was, I believe, formerly the club house for a sailing club before getting a pub licence. I recall going in there with my friend Sam a few years ago during the Waterloo Cup, hare coursing's big annual event. It was full of Irishmen and women all drinking either lager or Guinness; Sam and I were the only ones drinking ale. What sounded like illegal betting was taking place by mobile phones, and one Irish gent asked whether we were down for the coursing. "No," I replied, "we just live here." The room went quiet for a couple of seconds, after which we were viewed with suspicion and no one spoke to us again, probably seeing us as potential saboteurs or interfering journalists.

I was in there with my guitar on Christmas Eve, when we had a singalong session, but the pub is most popular in summer, as you'd expect.

Other pubs listed in the poll include Ye Cracke, Rice Street, Liverpool 1, formerly frequented by John Lennon. Always a good range of ales in here, and the walls have pictures by local artists. One room has been called the War Office for over 100 years ~ it was where people who bored everyone by talking about the Boer War were banished. This was the first pub in the centre of Liverpool that I drank in (December 1972, as I recall). In the 1990s, my union branch committee used to drink in here after our meetings.

The Philharmonic, Hope Street, Liverpool is justly famous with its ornate architecture, carved wooden panelling, art deco gates and famous marble gents toilets. It also has several real ales on. It was built by the original Robert Cain brewery in the 19th century, but has no link to the modern Cain's brewery; you can still see RC engraved in the stone work outside. John Lennon once said that the price of fame was "not being able to go to the Phil for a drink". It's simply the most spectacular pub I have ever been in.

The Lower Angel, Buttermarket Street, Warrington, was where I sometimes used to drink when a student in the 1970s; it is a virtually unaltered pub. In the 90s it was run by Charlie Oliver, who used to to run the Old Ship on Eastbank Street, Southport. Charlie always kept a good pint, and although he no longer has the place, the beer was good last time I was in there.

The survey is a just a bit of fun, not to be taken too seriously, although I am surprised the excellent Marble Arch in Manchester isn't listed. You can find the whole thing here ~ why not look up where you live?

Tuesday, 28 December 2010

Ale & Hearty - my 3rd issue

The Winter issue of our local CAMRA magazine Ale & Hearty, the third that I have edited, has recently been published. I am now learning the problems of taking on such a venture. People promise articles that don't turn up, so you have to write things at short notice to plug the gap. What I sometimes do is raid this blog to see if there is anything that I can adapt (there usually is); on the other hand, I have used in this blog one or two articles I wrote for A&H, but only after the mag is published. I don't think there is much overlap of readers, but if it was written for the mag, that's where it should appear first.

When taking over, I was warned against using pictures of local pubs on the cover, otherwise other licensees begin asking why it wasn't their pub. This at first seemed a strange constraint on a CAMRA publication, but I soon twigged that pictures of pubs aren't excluded: licensees that advertise with us put pictures of their pubs in their own adverts, so you can still see the range of good looking pubs in this area in every edition, and all of them pubs whose support helps keep the mag going. This can however make the question of what to put on the cover difficult. I had an idea last night in the Guest House while supping Everards Sleighbell: have pictures of views from pubs. With the range of pubs in our area - town centre, suburban, country, canalside, even seaside - that should keep me in cover pictures for a while.

So what have I changed since taking over? It's now officially a magazine, not a newsletter, and the title is in a much simpler and bolder font. I have ditched the Southport coat of arms, as we now cover most of West Lancashire and Formby as well as Southport. The political content (in relation to pub and beer related matters) is more overt ~ as a former union rep, I'm used to giving it straight. I've begun a couple of new series, such as pub crawls easily accessible by public transport, and relics of old breweries in pubs, and my friends Carole and Ian (aka Ale Ian), have written cheerful items about their beery adventures elsewhere in England. My articles on Real Ale & Real Music in pubs began under the previous editor Mike Hoey's stewardship. Old regular features still appear, such as Dave Williams' Classic Pubs of the UK and A. L. Guzzler's humorous view of the world. So it's not all change.

I was quite pleased with my article on a trip to Tetley's brewery in Leeds that we went on in November; as you'll know, the brewery will close next year. I went on the trip, despite not liking Tetley's much (although you wouldn't know that from the article) because it is a shame such an historical brewery, founded in 1822, is closing. I decided a photo of the brewery featuring CAMRA Branch stalwart, Mike Perkins who himself hails from Leeds, was a perfect cover picture. It was a very interesting day, with some nice pints in Keighley on the way back.

Now I'd better begin thinking about the Spring edition. It seems like back to square one each time!

Monday, 27 December 2010

Putting Roosters To The Sword

I took my 12-string guitar along to the Guest House on Boxing Day where the Southport Swords were concluding their customary day of dance. The pub was heaving with folkies, some of whom have left the area and aren't seen very often around here nowadays, so there's an element of reunion in this gathering. The Swords entertained the pub as usual, dominating proceedings while they danced, which they did in the pub because of the slippery conditions outside. After the folk musicians had disappeared, I played quite a few 50s and 60s pop and rock & roll numbers. It was all very jolly, made more so by the fine beer I was drinking: Roosters Oakey Cream 4.7%. It's a seasonal beer from the brewers of the popular Yankee, which tends to disappear quickly whenever it's on.

The website describes the beer thus: "Golden Promise malt. Hops are Liberty and Mount hood from USA. Nice, smooth, easy drinking beer with spicy aroma. Some vanilla oak flavour." In so far as I can relate to tasting notes, that seems not far from the mark. I'm hoping there'll be some left when I go along to the Guest House tonight.

Thursday, 23 December 2010

Baron's Bar Beer Competition

The Scarisbrick Hotel,
home of the Baron's Bar.
I've received an e-mail from George Sourbutts, the manager of the Barons Bar, one of our leading local real ale venues, giving me details of the 1st Baron's Bar Beer Competition, which will take place on Friday 14th January. This is to replace the Society of Independent Brewers (SIBA) competition and beer festival that took place in the Scarisbrick Hotel on Lord Street in Southport for many years from 2002, and which has apparently outgrown the hotel, resulting in a move to Manchester.

If I've read the e-mail correctly, I've been invited to be a judge. I must check that it's not been sent to me in error; if not, it sounds interesting. The New Year Beer Festival begins immediately after the judging ~ I'll give more details when I have them.

P.S. Yes, I've checked and I am to be a judge. I'm looking forward to it.

Wednesday, 22 December 2010

Matthew Brown remembered

Matthew Brown was a brewery established in 1875; it moved to the Lion Brewery in Blackburn in 1927. Matthew Brown produced a standard bitter and mild, which they sold under the name “Lion Ales”, advertising them as “the Pride of the North”.

In 1984 it was taken over by Theakstons of Masham, Yorkshire [see comment below], which was itself taken over by Scottish and Newcastle (S&N) in 1987. Despite repeated assurances from S&N about the future of the brewery, they closed it down early in 1991, thus confirming suspicions that they had only wanted Matthew Brown’s pubs, not the brewery. After the closure, former Matthew Brown pubs tended to stock Theakstons beers.

Southport had several Matthew Brown pubs: the Mount Pleasant, the Windmill, the Upsteps, the Railway in Ainsdale and the Park Hotel in Birkdale spring to mind, and the first three still have Lion Ales windows. The picture shows a Mount Pleasant window with attractive art deco lettering.

Tuesday, 21 December 2010

Number 60 in the top 100!

I've received an e-mail from Wikio News saying that this blog has entered the Wikio UK Rankings. I've jumped straight in at 60 in the top 100 of wine and beer blogs. I'm quite surprised because I didn't think my little local blog about beer and music, mostly around the area where I live, would ever be on their radar. It's you who read ReARM who have done this ~ thanks very much.

The rankings are updated every month, so now I'm going to be on tenterhooks: will I go up or down? Or will I even drop out altogether and just be a one hit wonder?

If you want to look at the competition, just click on the Wikio badge on the right.

I'm ridiculously pleased with this, I suppose, seeing that my friend Tandleman is at number 7. Perhaps I need a "Kind Hearts And Coronets" approach to climbing this greasy pole!

Monday, 20 December 2010

Winter ales

It’s the time of year when pubs begin stocking winter warmers and Christmas ales, many with witty seasonal names and novelty pump clips. I don’t mind that as it all adds to the seasonal atmosphere. The idea of brewing beers specifically for Christmas is a relatively recent one, and it’s mostly microbrewers or regional brewers who produce them. It’s harder for the large brewers to produce beers in small batches, as they’re not really set up for it.

It seems to me that some brewers simply tweak one of their normal brews and give them a seasonal name to sell as Christmas ales. These can be pleasant enough, but don’t taste particularly seasonal. Others do make special beers, either in terms of the strength and full-bodied character needed for a true winter ale, or in the flavour: at the extreme, they can taste like liquidised Christmas pudding, fine for a pint or two, but not beers you can drink all night. Spices are sometimes added to Christmas beers to give them that seasonal flavour, with cinnamon and ginger being particularly popular. Others go down the winter warmer path, producing stronger, dark beers, sweet and with a bit of body. A winter ale shouldn’t really be thin.

Winter warmers go back a long while. Beers were brewed to celebrate the winter solstice in pagan times and monasteries used to brew special beers to honour the birth of Christ, but that tends not to be the motive nowadays. The idea is that a strong dark beer warms you in winter, whereas in summer, you want to slake your thirst in the warm weather with lots of less strong, light summer ales. The first winter warmer I ever had was in the Old Ship in Eastbank Street, Southport; it was brewed in the 1980s by Walkers of Warrington, was dark, quite sweet, and around 6%. The brewery recommended serving it in halves (at 60p a half, as I recall), but we in the Old Ship were made of sterner stuff and insisted on pints. Some beers in the winter warmer style are sold all year round, such as Theakstons Old Peculier (5.6%) and Robinson’s Old Tom, which is a toe-curling 8.5%, which I once drank all afternoon and then completely lost the evening. My favourite winter ale last year came from regional brewer, Thwaites, called Good Elf and was a fairly sweet 4.9% mild with a touch of spice, very easy to drink.

It’s difficult to list these beers, because some are brewed for just one season, then the following year the brewer tries something different, but you’ll have no trouble spotting them, as there seem to be more every year. This year, our own Southport Brewery is producing Old Shrimper, which is 5.5%, rich, dark and fruity - a real winter warmer - and Santa’s Brew, 4.2%; worth keeping an eye out for them again this winter. Come on pub companies and pubs: order local beers, and reduce your carbon dray print!

It’s fun trying the various Christmas and winter ales that come out. Enjoy your Christmas and stave off the winter cold with these special beers. A pint of good winter warmer with friends in a cosy pub when it’s cold outside is a fine way to spend an evening, and the way the weather's been recently, we need them more than ever.

For a great range of winter ales, go to CAMRA's National Winter Ales Festival in Manchester from 19 to 22 January.

Saturday, 18 December 2010

Days by Kirsty MacColl

Kirsty MacColl was a great singer, songwriter and interpreter of other people's songs and doubtless everyone has already overdosed on Fairytale of New York ~ a great song she recorded with the Pogues, but grossly overplayed at this time of the year, along Slade, Wizzard, Wham!, Paul McCartney et al.

I personally love her cover of the Ray Davies song, Days, so simply for that reason, here it is.

Kirsty MacColl died 10 years ago today.

Friday, 17 December 2010

Voices at the Door: Midwinter Songs and Carols

The excellent Coope, Boyes & Simpson are joined by Fi Fraser, Jo Freya and Georgina Boyes for this concert of winter songs and carols at Wigan Parish Church tonight 17th December at 8.00 p.m. The church is in the centre of Wigan, just a few minutes' walk from the train stations and the bus station. Tickets are £12-50 in advance, £15 on the door.  Contact: dcartlidge@hotmail.co.uk or phone 01942 824 291.
Some good pubs in the area ~ see my Wigan pub crawl for details.

Thursday, 16 December 2010

Microbrewery Planning Permission Sought in Parbold

Ken Worthington of Wigan CAMRA has sent me the following interesting piece of information:

The owners of the Wayfarer Pub and Restaurant in Alder Lane, Parbold, have applied for planning permission to convert a nearby cottage in Alder Lane into a microbrewery. They hope to produce 20 barrels a week, five for the pub and the other fifteen for sale locally. As things stand, no final decision has been made on the application yet.

Pleasing news if it comes off, especially after the launch of the new brewery in Burscough.

Wednesday, 15 December 2010

Burscough Brewery Launch

A view of one of the rooms
in the Hop Vine
I've had an e-mail from Kirk Harrison who tells me that the brand new Burscough Brewing Company is launching its first beers on Saturday the 18th December at 1.00 p.m. They are:
  • Priory Gold 3.8% (a pale session beer with a distinct bitterness and hoppy citrus notes).
  • Ringtail Bitter 4.2% (a triple hopped ruby ale with well balanced bitterness and fruity notes).
The new brewery is located in a cobbled courtyard to the rear of the Hop Vine pub and is housed in old stables. This is the second brewery in our area and is a welcome addition to the local real ale scene.

Finding it: the Hop Vine is on the main road through Burscough, the A59, and is a couple of hundred yards from Burscough Bridge station and about half a mile from Burscough Junction. The train journey from Southport is about 13 minutes. Postcode: L40 4BY.

Tuesday, 14 December 2010

Pub Crawl In Preston

This time, the pub-crawl is by bus, as the Southport to Preston train line was one of Dr Beeching’s casualties. The quickest way to get there is by the Stagecoach X2 express bus, which takes 47 minutes from Southport monument to Preston bus station. Note that the last bus back is 18-20 (18-15 Saturday and 18-05 Sunday) so this is a daytime crawl. Dave Thackeray accompanied me on this trip in early November 2010.

Dave and I were both impressed by the friendliness of the staff and other customers we chatted to in all the pubs we went into. It was a miserable day with heavy rain, but we had a good time. Too good a time, as it turned out: we had to run to catch the last bus to Southport.

The numbers refer to those on the map.

1.  The bus station, where a sign encouraged us to use the subway (see picture).

2.  The Grey Friar, 144 Friargate.
A typical open plan Wetherspoons. The Wetherspoons beer festival was in full swing, and there were 12 varied cask ales on, not local. The one we tried were in on good condition. I had the Titanic Wheat Porter, while Dave had 3 different beers in thirds.

3.  The Old Black Bull, 35 Friargate
A mock Tudor pub with a small front vault and several other drinking areas, one with a pool table. This pub is completely free of tie for cask beers. When we visited, there were 8 real ales on, not local, including Downtown German Pale Ale, Hop Star Pretty Witch, Hawkshead Windermere Pale, Phoenix, Northern and Coastal Kernow Maid.

4. Dog and Partridge, 41 Friargate
A one-room pub with a rock jukebox, popular with local rock fans. The landlord has apparently been here for 30 years. The beers were in good form, and included Holts Bitter, Adnams Bok Bier (which was very nice), Bowland Sawley Tempted, Tetley Dark Mild and Old Rosie cider. They get the beers from the SIBA list.

5.  The New Britannia, 6 Heatley Street
Just round the corner from the Dog and Partridge. This is a one-room bar with 7 ales and a cider: two beers each from Prospect, Hop Star and Fuzzy Duck (one of which was a stout), and Old Rosie.

6.  The Black Horse, 166 Friargate
A Grade II listed building, this pub has an impressive interior with tiled walls, beautiful woodwork, a mosaic floor and a very tall bar. There were seven beers from the Robinson’s range on sale. Although tied to one brewery, the beers we tried were well kept, and the pub is worth visiting for the architecture alone.

7.  The Market Tavern, 33-35 Market Street
This is a small local in a pedestrianised area by the Victorian outdoor market. They have three hand pumps, a German weisse on draught and a good range of Continental bottled beers – a good destination for those who like try something different. There are two intimate seating booths, although we stood at the bar. The beers on sale were: Green Room IPA, Tring Side Pocket and Brains Dark.

Sunday, 12 December 2010

Jean's Christmas Pub Crawl

Every year, Jean Pownceby, CAMRA Liverpool Branch socialite, organises a pub crawl in Liverpool shortly before Christmas.  These are not generally for the faint-hearted, but they are for those who like to have a bit of fun ~ and sample good beers along the way, as all the pubs serve real ale. Apart from anything else, Liverpool has a great buzz in the run-up the Christmas, the streets and pubs being full of people out to have a good time as only Liverpool people can. My write-up of last year's bash is here. This year's is on the 23rd December.  Here is the route:
The Globe is a wonderful little local in the heart of the city,
just across the road from Central Station.

Wednesday, 8 December 2010

It was 30 years ago today

As I'm sure everyone will know, today is the 30th anniversary of the shooting of John Lennon. It wasn't the first time our generation had lost one of its heroes; we'd also lost Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Mick Taylor, Sandy Denny, Keith Moon and Gram Parsons, just to name a few, but none had been murdered - that's why Lennon's death was such a shock. When we learned the reason, it was even worse: the killer simply wanted to be famous, to be someone. This is surely the nasty side of the coin of craving fame for its own sake, devoid of any real achievements. Compared to now, celebrity culture was in its infancy in 1980, but even then a nonentity was so desperate for fame that he decided to kill one of the most famous musicians on the planet.

I heard the news on Radio 1 just as I was about to get up to go to work. I couldn't take it in and didn't get up for another hour; I only just got to work on time. Our office at the time had a lot of staff in their teens and twenties, and Sue, who worked on the section nearest the door, said sadly as I walked in, "They'll never get back together now, will they?" Another friend - not particularly a Beatles fan - told me that when his wife said that Lennon was dead, he wasn't surprised, assuming a drug overdose, but was stunned to hear it was murder. One very young woman, a massive Beatles fan, was in uncontrollable tears and had to be sent home. And so it went on throughout the day.

It seems strange to reflect now on the impact that piece of news had, completely disproportionate when you think of the innumerable tragedies caused by wars, massacres and natural disasters since then. It must be that for many of us it was an awful end to an important and formative part of our childhood, combined with complete incomprehension as to why anyone would want to murder a Beatle.

Tuesday, 7 December 2010

House arrest ends with Lion singaround

A window in the Lion Tavern
I'm not used to flu - I don't normally get such things - but a friend of mine who's a nurse says that's what my symptoms probably amount to.  In the last few days I've missed seeing UFO live in Liverpool, my folk club, a live band in a local pub, my monthly singaround in the Guest House, and I'm missing a real ale pub crawl in Liverpool today, which is taking place as I type this. I'll also miss a CAMRA meeting in the Guest House tonight.

I do feel slightly better today, and if that continues I should be able to run my singaround in the Lion in Liverpool this Thursday, my first outing - apart from a hurried trip to the supermarket - for nearly a week.

So, if you fancy performing or just listening, and drinking good beer too, meet me in the Lion, which is just by Moorfields station, on Thursday from 8.00 p.m. There are usually about eight varied cask beers on.

Monday, 6 December 2010

Saving the Arts

I am deeply concerned by the consequences of the recently announced Comprehensive Spending Review for many reasons but, in terms of the remit of ReARM, by their certain assault upon the arts. Whether you're a regular arts fan of any description, an occasional gig goer, or working in the arts in the UK, the outlook is not good. For example, your council might run an arts centre and other activities under the general heading of 'arts', despite having no legal obligation to do so, because it improves the quality of life of the people living in the area, as well as helping artistes make a living. But the spending cuts are going to change this.

Arts practitioners and educators from primary schools to universities will be affected, as will galleries, studios, libraries, museums and so on:  all will be affected wherever public money (i.e. our money) is involved.

Cutting the arts is seen as a quick fix to saving money, and people often go along with the notion that they are a superfluous luxury, forgetting the consequences in terms of loss of employment in the sector and the impoverishment of our cultural life. But unless we are content to bring up a Philistine next generation for whom artistic attainments are to be passive - such as watching X Factor, or some big name band on an over hyped national tour with high prices to match - then we shouldn't accept these cuts unchallenged.

For more details, and to show your support, go the the I Value The Arts website.

Tuesday, 30 November 2010

Becconsall to be demolished?

The closed down Becconsall in Hesketh Bank, which I have written about several times previously, is under risk of demolition within the next couple of weeks. The developers have knocked down most of the mature trees on the site and have posted a Notice of Prior Application to demolish the building later in December, without a Planning Application, and even though they don't exclusively own the land. 

The campaigners, led by Mrs Mc and her daughter Una, are trying to find out exactly how this has come about so suddenly with no prior warning. They don't want the large site simply to be turned into yet another housing development while the village has no communal amenities - pub, meeting place, etc - at all. Una is contacting the entrepreneur who had expressed an interest in reopening the pub to see where he or she stands on this matter.

Altogether, this is a worrying development.

Friday, 26 November 2010

Political incorrectness gone mad?

This story should make you pause next time you feel tempted to use the cliché, "political correctness gone mad". A woman who uses a wheelchair tried to use the disabled toilet in the Coronation pub in King Street, Southport. She found the toilet was so cluttered that she was unable to turn her wheelchair around; the problem was brought to the attention of the management. On a subsequent visit, despite phoning the pub in advance to remind them, there was no improvement and when a friend of the woman complained, she and her group were effectively banned. If they didn't like it, they were told, they should take it up with the brewery, which was Greene King. The full story appears in the local paper, the Southport Visiter.

I note that the article does not say that the Visiter contacted the pub for the other side of the story, so it is possible that this is an incomplete report. If it is accurate, it's quite disgraceful, but how can we be certain? I assume the Visiter didn't ask the pub for a comment, because if they had, they'd have said so, even if the response was "no comment" ~ and if they didn't, why not? I do feel inclined to give this story some credence, because it would be a bizarre complaint to go to the papers with otherwise, but my doubts remain.

I remember in the 1980s the Old Ship in Eastbank Street, Southport, having a fully equipped disabled toilet situated up a flight of three stairs. The pub has been rebuilt internally two or three times since then.

Thursday, 25 November 2010

Roy Bailey at Southport's Bothy

This Sunday 28 November, veteran folk singer Roy Bailey will be playing at the Bothy Folk Club. Known for his political songs, Roy is no rent-a-slogan type ~ his songs cover all aspects of human life, and that inevitably includes topical and political issues. He rejects the term 'protest singer', declaring instead that he is a dissenter. He has performed many gigs jointly with Tony Benn.

Wikipedia states: "In the 2000 Honours List, he received the MBE for services to folk music. On the 23rd August 2006, he returned the MBE in protest at the United Kingdom government's foreign policy with regard to Lebanon and the Palestinian territories."

Uncompromising, yes, but also a great entertainer. It begins at 8-oo pm and is likely to be a popular night, so I suggest you arrive early.  That's in the Park Golf Club, Park Road West, Southport, PR9 0JS. You can buy tickets on line HERE.

Here he sings Palestine, with Tony Benn sitting to the left . Unfortunately the sound is low volume.

Tuesday, 23 November 2010

Happy Birthday Dear Jukebox

It's the jukebox's birthday ~ 111 years old today. The world's first jukebox was installed at San Francisco's Palais Royal Hotel on 23 November 1899. The term "juke box" comes from the African American phrase "juke joint", which was a place with music, drinking, dancing and gambling, sometimes doubling as a brothel; the word "juke" originally meant disorderly, rowdy, or wicked, but later meant to dance. I wouldn't be surprised if it also referred to sex, like "rock & roll" originally did.

Although I like live music, as this blog attests, I don't think you can beat a good juke box in a pub . It's a pity that there aren't so many of them around now, piped music or big screen TV having moved in, but I can think of a couple of good ones, like the one in the Mason's in Southport.

It's also 47 years today since the first episode of Doctor Who was broadcast, with the best theme tune ever (composed by Ron Grainer and realised by Delia Derbyshire).

Monday, 22 November 2010

Disappointing

Last Friday was the Dave Hockley Tribute Night to raise money for Queenscourt Hospice. Dave, a friend of mine, and indeed of many people on the local music scene, spent his last days there in 2008. Thanks to those who did come to a varied music night, and also to the performers who all played for nothing, but regrettably there weren't many people there, despite the extremely worthy cause and a lot of local publicity.

There was Children In Need on the TV, of course, but would that really have prevented people coming out on a Saturday night? I really don't know. It was profoundly disappointing for Jason who organised the whole evening, which included a massive buffet, much of which will have gone to waste. But what can you do?

Thursday, 18 November 2010

Lancashire Week 20 to 27 November

Lancashire Day is held on 27 November. It commemorates the day in 1295 when Lancashire sent its first representatives to Parliament. I have recently been involved in controversy in the local press by writing that Lancashire has been in Merseyside since 1974. I don't intend to repeat the debate here, just to point out that there are a number of events to celebrate our Lancashire heritage. I was born in Liverpool, Lancs, and despite my notoriety among the Friends of Real Lancashire, I intend to join in.

22 to 27 November:  Lancashire Beer Festival in The Barons Bar, Scarisbrick Hotel, Southport, with 14 Lancashire beers:
  • Arkwrights - Run of the Mill & Trouble at Mill
  • Cumbrian - Loweswater Gold & Melbreak Bitter
  • Greenodd - Best Bitter
  • Kirkby Lonsdale - Monumental & Ruskin
  • Lancaster –Amber, Black & Red
  • Lytham – Blonde, Gold & Lowther
  • Southport - Cloghopper
  • Winster Valley Best Bitter & Old School Bitter
Mon 22 November: Sir Henry Segrave, (Wetherspoons), Southport, Lancashire beers throughout Lancashire Week.

Tue 23 November: The Guest House, Southport. Annual Lancashire Night with The Southport Swords, Lancashire food and beers, proclamation read at 9-00pm by Ainsdale Town Crier, Stuart Elliott. Prize for the Best Dressed Lancastrians, sponsored by Southport Brewery.

Sat 27 November: The Inn Beer Shop, Lord St, Southport. Lancashire beers, themed food, quiz and proclamation.

Sat 27 November: Scarisbrick Hotel, Southport, 12-30 pm Tarleton Brass Band followed by the reading of the Lancashire Day Proclamation at 1-00pm then Lancashire beers,complimentary food in Barons Bar.Lancashire beers in Barons Bar from Monday,November 22nd with Lancashire Quiz and prizes on Thursday,November 25th.

Sat 27 November: Sir Henry Segrave: The Tarleton Brass Band from 2-00pm with Lancashire beers, charity raffle, quiz and reading of the proclamation.

Sat 27 November: The Hop Vine, Burscough, "Lancashire Neet", traditional Lancashire beers, food and entertainment featuring The Late Poets, Stone the Crows and reading of the proclamation by Don Evans, West Lancashire Town Crier at 9-00pm. Selected Lancashire beer at only £1-50 per pint and prize for the best dressed Lancastrians.

Tuesday, 16 November 2010

Two special concerts this week

Pete Coe and the Peacemakers ~ double bill in Liverpool
Pete Coe's website describes him as "a one man folk industry". He is a singer, songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, broadcaster, dance caller, teacher, and folk club organiser. Always worth seeing ~ wonderful music & a great stage presence.

The Peacemakers have been called "Liverpool's own English folk/world beat orchestra". They make a big sound that gets feet tapping and brings a smile to your face.

This unique double bill is on at the Casa, Hope Street, Liverpool (near the Philharmonic pub) this Saturday 20th November at 8.00 pm. Admission £6 (£4 concessions). Proceeds to the George Strattan Memorial Scholarship and Merseyside CND.

Dave Hockley Tribute Night ~ Southport
The annual Dave Hockley Tribute Night takes place this Friday 19th November from 7.00 pm with local artists Shot in the Dark, Speechless, The Runnies and Nev Grundy (who?) at St Teresa's Social Club, Upper Aughton Road, Southport. Small admission charge - all proceeds to Queenscourt Hospice, where Dave spent his last days in 2008. Dave was a prolific song-writer, poet and a friend of many on the Southport music scene ~ some of his original songs will be performed. Website dedicated to Dave - it's slightly out of date.

Free beer

I've just received an e-mail telling me that I've won a free pint in Ember Inns' NovEmber Beer Festival. I simply print off the voucher in the e-mail. I wonder what's to stop me printing a dozen vouchers?  These are the beers on offer:
  • Thornbridge Wild Swan white gold pale ale 3.5%
  • Stonehenge Old Smokey malty and dark 5%
  • Project Green - the freshest beer in the land 4.5%
  • Davenport's Fox's Nob deep copper ale 4.4%
  • St. Austell Black Prince fruity black mild 4%
  • Brewdog Trashy Blonde statuesque fruity ale 4.1%
  • Copper Dragon Black Gold a 19th century recipe, 3.7%
  • Liberation Ale all the way from Jersey, 4.0%
  • Fraoch Heather Ale, with real heather, 5%
  • Alton's Pride, Champion at the Great British Beer Festival 3.8%
  • Wolf Brewery Granny Wouldn't Like It, fruity and dark red, 4.8%
  • Rampant Gryphon, sip gently, 6.2%!
It looks a rather good selection. My nearest Ember Inn is the Railway, 7 miles away in Formby. I'll hop off the train next time I go to Liverpool.

Sunday, 14 November 2010

Liverpool Beer Festival 2011

The CAMRA Liverpool Beer Festival will be taking place from 24 to 26 February in the splendid surroundings of the Liverpool Catholic Cathedral crypt. Why mention this now so far in advance? Because it's a ticket only do, and your only chance to buy tickets is fairly soon on Saturday 4 December: you have to queue between 10am and 1pm at the Gibberd Room in the cathedral. Why they don't just put the tickets on line with WeGotTickets or some similar ticket agency is beyond me - it's so simple and people wouldn't have to make a special journey to Liverpool - but that's how it is. Full details are on the website.

Other ways to get tickets include being matey with a Liverpool branch member or volunteering to work. Otherwise, tickets are £7 for each session, and as they still close in the afternoon between 4pm and 7pm, the afternoon and evening sessions are completely separate - you can't drink through from one to the other.  CAMRA members get a discount in beer vouchers (£2, I think).

This festival has a large range of beers and the venue is wonderful. Plus, when they chuck you out, there are some great pubs in Liverpool. If you can't get tickets, the Ship and Mitre on Dale Street usually has a beer festival on at the same time, but even if they haven't, their beer range is exceptional anyway.

Friday, 12 November 2010

Liverpool Folk and Roots Festival

I've only just heard about the Liverpool Folk and Roots Festival, described as "a celebration of the history, social significance and abiding presence of folk music in Liverpool". Yes, folk music in Liverpool is more than just In My Liverpool Home and Maggie May. The festival runs from 13th to 20th November in several venues, and includes an Irish music night, Chris Wood, Songs of the Sea, an Americana night, and much more. Some interesting nights there.

Full details and tickets are on the festival website. Obviously quite a lot of work has gone into organising this, so I'm surprised I've not heard about it before today. Still, better late than never.

Wednesday, 10 November 2010

Brewdog Punk IPA

Considering all the fuss that's made about Scottish brewery BrewDog (much of it by themselves), I bought a bottle of Punk IPA, currently in Tesco's for £1.39. The label describes it as a post modern classic pale ale; I've never really been sure exactly what post-modern means, and I'm even less sure how a beer can be post-modern. Still, the label goes on to say:

This is not a lowest common denominator beer. This is an aggressive beer. We don’t care if you don’t like it. We do not merely aspire to the proclaimed heady heights of conformity through neutrality and blandness. It is quite doubtful that you have the taste or the sophistication to appreciate the depth, character and quality of this premium craft-brewed beer. You probably don’t even care that this rebellious little beer contains no preservatives or additives and only the finest fresh natural ingredients. Just go back to drinking your mass-produced, bland, cheaply made, watered down lager and close the door behind you.

Amusing tongue in cheek arrogance, except this brewery's style of self-publicity is becoming slightly irritating (I have written about BrewDog previously - see the posts here).  The beer is 6%, full-flavoured and extremely hoppy, and kept its head right to the bottom. I enjoyed it, but perhaps just for a change rather than all night. Immediately afterwards I went to the Guest House where they had Liverpool Organic Brewery Liverpool Pale Ale (4%), an excellent pint that tasted to me like a rather more subdued version of the Punk IPA - there was definitely a stylistic similarity. I decided to stay on this beer, but found it had run out. Adnams tasted rather ordinary afterwards.

Tuesday, 9 November 2010

Steve Ashley this Sunday

Steve Ashley is returning for a solo concert at the Bothy Folk Club this Sunday. His reputation for writing contemporary songs inspired by English traditional songs dates to 1974 with his debut album, Stroll On. Since then his songs have been recorded by many leading folk artists including Fairport Convention, Anne Briggs, Dave Pegg and PJ Wright, The Arizona Smoke Review, Martin and Jessica Simpson, Grace Notes, Phil Beer, Maggie Boyle and The Bushwackers. Fire And Wine has long been one of my favourites of his songs - I like the opening verse being sung acoustically, leading to a folk-rock peak.



As usual, the Bothy meets at the Park Golf Club, Park Road West, Southport PR9 0JS, beginning at 8.00 pm sharp.  Thwaites real ale too.

Sunday, 7 November 2010

Clashes

I hate it when events I want to go to clash.  Tonight, for instance, Andy White appears at Grateful Fred's in the Freshfield Hotel, Massams Lane, Formby while the Bothy Folk Club meets as always at the Park Golf Club, Park Road West, Southport with a singers night (free admission for performers).  Grateful Fred's will be moving to the first Thursday of the month in the New Year, thus avoiding such clashes.

On Thursday this week (the 11th), my singaround in the Lion Tavern, Moorfields, Liverpool will begin at around 8.30pm, while on the same day at the Park Golf Club there is a concert featuring Cara Luft (scroll down to 1 November for details), highly regarded former member of the Wailin' Jennies.

You pays your money and you takes your choice - except of course the singaround is free, as is the Bothy if you perform.  But I'd go to them all if they hadn't clashed!

Friday, 5 November 2010

Hung out to dry

One thing that often irritates me about pubs is the inadequacy of the washing arrangements. Some people deal with this by simply not washing their hands, but if you do want to, it's often not easy. One of the worst examples I know is a pub in Liverpool pub where the wash basin has the hand dryer immediately above it and both are situated in the short passageway between the gents and the main room of the pub; while you use the sink and dryer, no one can enter or leave. The dryer is, frankly, rubbish too.

I wonder at the mentality of building a gents that can accommodate half a dozen or more people, but which has only one or two sinks, and a single dryer, sometimes over the sink. Hand dryers can often take more than a minute to dry your hands properly, which isn't very useful in a busy gents.  If everyone queued for the dryer, you could in theory be waiting 10 minutes; perhaps it's just as well everyone doesn't wash their hands! The best hand dryers I've come across are in Wetherspoons; they dry your hands in seconds. The worst are almost completely ineffectual.

My local has disconnected the hand dryer and replaced it with paper towels, and it seems to me that more people wash their hands as a result. I remember when pubs used to have blue roll towels, and my subjective impression is that more people would give their hands a quick dip under the tap and use the roll towel. I think washing facilities are used more when the process can be completed very quickly; you don't have to queue to wash and dry your hands at home so why should you in a pub?

Another failure is when there is a warning sign over the sink that the water is very hot, but there is no plug, so you have a choice of scalding yourself or washing your hands in cold water. It's not as though a plug costs a fortune.

These are not trivial matters - they are potentially health issues, and I am surprised that some pubs' washing facilities are actually legal, bearing in mind that the staff often use the same facilities as the public, so I would have thought that food hygiene laws would apply. I certainly recall that women would object to going into certain pubs because of the state of the toilets, but nowadays it's an issue men take more interest in than they used to. It's long overdue for some pub owning companies to clean up their act.

For obvious reasons, I can comment only about gents toilets!

Tuesday, 2 November 2010

Alcohol "the most harmful drug"

The news has recently been full of the report in The Lancet that alcohol is the most harmful drug. The routine shock-horror clichés have followed as the news media simply grab the headline and swallow the propaganda of the anti-alcohol campaigners, who unsurprisingly have welcomed this report, but whose own motives are never questioned.

The report actually said that "heroin, crack cocaine, and metamfetamine were the most harmful drugs to individuals whereas alcohol, heroin, and crack cocaine were the most harmful to others". One of the reasons why alcohol scored so highly was because of its widespread use, much wider than other drugs. In other words, it has a greater effect because more people use it. The harm to others includes alcohol-related crime and disorder, domestic violence and the overall cost to the tax payer such as policing and NHS costs. I doubt that they offset alcohol tax against that.

While no one can dispute that misuse of alcohol is the cause of many problems, the grossly oversimplified reporting of a detailed and careful piece of research means that what has come to us is little more than propaganda. Unfortunately we have a generation of politicians who live by soundbites and policies made on the hoof (such as the child benefit fiasco) and a Daily Mail-style version of this report will probably constitute a detailed government briefing nowadays.

I wonder whether researchers get fed up with their meticulous work being condensed into screaming headlines to further other people's agendas and sell newspapers?

Monday, 1 November 2010

Cara Luft in Southport

Cara Luft was a founder member of the Canadian folk trio, The Wailin' Jennies. She left them in 2004 to pursue a solo career. For more information, go to her website.

Thursday, 28 October 2010

The 24/7 Sobriety Programme

In South Dakota, they are tackling alcohol-related anti-social behaviour by a novel approach that they call the 24/7 Sobriety Program: breathalysing offenders twice a day, every day, morning and evening. If they don't turn up, they'll be arrested. If they show any alcohol in their system, they have to wait for 15 minutes when they are tested again. If they fail a second time, they are taken into custody, all their possessions are taken from them and they are put in prison clothing. Then a judge will decide how long to imprison them: 24 hours to a week, depending on the person's history. More details are on the BBC website - click here - with a short video news report.

Why am I reporting this here? Because the scheme has caught the attention of politicians here in Britain, who could be just daft enough to give a try. It might be operable in small, rural American towns, but I can't see how it could transfer to our more heavily populated towns and cities, which are geographically much closer together than American towns. And with cut backs, where will they find the police officers to chase up those who don't turn up? The police can't keep up with those who breach their ASBOs now.

The London mayor is considering applying the scheme to certain drink-related crimes such as drunken violence. Predictably, the BBC website then goes on to quote government stats:

"In July 2010, the UK Home Office reported that the total cost of alcohol-related crime and disorder to the UK taxpayer was estimated to be between £8bn and £13bn per year. And in 2009, almost one million violent crimes were alcohol related, with a fifth of all violent incidents taking place in or around a public house or nightclub."

What is the net cost of alcohol-related problems after alcohol tax and duty are taken into account? And I note that 80% of all violent incidents don't take place in or around a public house or nightclub.

I'd be surprised if any schemes like this see the light of day over here, but you never know!

Monday, 25 October 2010

Licensing reform ~ tortoise or snail?

The Green Man from the Southport
Swords and me in the Baron's Bar.
A few months ago, I signed a petition on the No. 10 website to urge "the Prime Minister to stop criminalising live music with the Licensing Act, and to support amendments backed by the Culture, Media and Sport Committee, and the music industry, which would exempt most small-scale performances in schools, hospitals, restaurants and licensed premises."

Under the current Licensing Act, brought in by "New" Labour, a performance by one musician in a pub, bar, restaurant, school or hospital not licensed for live music could lead to a criminal prosecution of the event organiser. By contrast, amplified big screen broadcast entertainment is exempt. The reason given was noise levels, which is laughable when you compare the sound levels produced by unamplified musicians with the deafening racket caused by sport on a giant TV screen and the pub crowd watching it.

The reply just published is that the Coalition is committed to cutting red tape, to encourage live music and is keen to find the best way forward. A number of options are being considered and the Minister will make an announcement in due course. The full petition and response are here.

So, no further on since I last wrote about this on 28 July, when the government said they were looking into this matter "as quickly as possible". Now they say their response will be "in due course". As this rate, I expect the next announcement will say we'll get their proposals "in the fullness of time".

Sunday, 24 October 2010

George Hotel & a relic of Whitbread

I was in the George Hotel last night for an open mike night run by Mick Cooper; it turned out to be a good, varied evening with local band the Runnies, Pete Rimmer and Bill Hackney, and me (well, you can't have everything). There were also several enormous plates of free sandwiches, courtesy of the management and very welcome.

The pub is a friendly local, pleasant inside with some original, or at least fairly old, features, and a completely separate taproom. If only it sold real ale ... So I drink the Guinness in there, which generally tastes as good as anywhere else I've drunk it, and better than some, so I assume they keep their lines clean. I did catch the last bus to the Guest House for a couple of pints of the real thing.

It used to be a Whitbread house, shown by this large stand-alone trade mark screwed to the divider between two seating areas. No one laments Whitbread, notorious for their tour of destruction of dozens British breweries, and infamous for Trophy Bitter, a mediocre keg beer. They sold their breweries and pub estate a good few years ago, and now claim to be "UK's largest hotel and restaurant company". While they're not missed, many of breweries they closed still are, such as Higson's of Liverpool.

It is a nice trade mark though, steeped in history. It's a pity a brewing legacy of more than 250 years is besmirched by the memory of their predatory antics during the last half century.

Friday, 22 October 2010

LocAle - what is it?

LocAle is a CAMRA accreditation scheme to promote pubs that sell locally brewed real ale. At the CAMRA AGM in 2008 in Cardiff, the scheme was launched nationally at a seminar (or 'workshop' as we must now ludicrously call them) that I attended.   The theory goes like this: the scheme builds on a growing consumer demand for quality local produce and an increased awareness of green issues. Everyone benefits from local pubs stocking locally brewed real ale because:
  • Public houses, as stocking local real ales can increase pub visits.
  • Customers who enjoy greater beer choice and diversity.
  • Local brewers who gain from increased sales.
  • The local economy because more money is spent and retained locally.
  • The environment due to fewer ‘beer miles' resulting in less road congestion and pollution, i.e. reduced carbon dray print.
  • Tourism, due to an increased sense of local identity and pride - let's celebrate what makes our locality different.
I have noticed that locally produced beers tend to be particular popular: Southport beers always go down well around here and local drinkers are proud of their local brewery. Even some people who don't drink real ale are pleased it's there and doing well ~ local pride isn't dead.

The local CAMRA branch defines LocAle as beer brewed up to 35 miles away from the point of sale. Any pub that always serves beer brewed within that limit is entitled to accreditation, with posters and window stickers to tell customers that they support local breweries. Here are the local pubs accredited so far:
  1. Barons Bar (Scarisbrick Hotel), Lord Street, Southport.
  2. Formby Conservative Club, Three Tuns Lane, Formby.
  3. Guest House, Union Street, Southport.
  4. Hop Vine, Liverpool Road North, Burscough.
  5. Prince Albert, Wigan Road, Westhead.
  6. Scarisbrick Arms, Black a Moor Lane, Downholland.
  7. Ship Inn, Rosemary Lane, Haskayne.
  8. Slipway, Crabtree Lane, Burscough.
  9. Volunteer, Eastbank Street, Southport.
See? In the interests of fairness, I even mentioned the Tory Club on this blog! I've been reliably told it's very nice inside. If more pubs are awarded LocAle, I'll let you know.

Wednesday, 20 October 2010

Third of a pint v. try before you buy

Woman with a third pint glass.
I've noticed that my local, the Guest House, has recently begun to offer beer in thirds of a pint so that drinkers can try beers they're not sure about. While I know some people who like the idea, personally I'd rather buy a pint for that purpose. It's obviously a good idea for those who don't want to risk being stuck with a drink they don't like, and who find that even a half is too much of a leap in the dark. Fair enough ~ each to their own. I can also see that drivers wouldn't want to risk wasting much of their legal 'allowance' on a pint they mightn't like.

There are those who advocate pubs going further than this and operating a "try before you buy" policy, where you are given a small free sample. It is argued that this will encourage more people, particularly women, to try give real ale a go. It seems such a simple and obvious idea that you might expect it to catch on, but I can see reasons why it isn't as good as it sounds.

Firstly, it will cost the pub money, especially if hopping along the bar trying out beers until you find one you like becomes a regular occurrence in your pub. Several free samples will soon add up to a pint - £2-50 to £3 lost. With the outrageous mark-ups that Pub Cos put on their supplies to pubs, the margin of profit on a barrel is not large and could be seriously eroded or eliminated by free samples, which would surely lead to higher prices.

Secondly, my beer festival experience is that it tends to be the more experienced real ale drinkers who ask for samples; the person tentatively looking at the array of beers not knowing which to buy won't usually ask for one unless it's offered. This suggests to me that it would tend to be the experienced drinkers who would ask for samples in pubs, not the novices, so I'm not convinced this would usher in legions of new women real ale drinkers. Besides, waiting to be served behind someone who is going through the beers, sniffing, sipping and holding them up to the light, is not what I want to be doing in a pub. And there would always be the selfish oaf who would insist on doing that three minutes before closing time, not caring about the queue waiting to be served behind him. It's no good saying there should be more staff ~ perhaps in an ideal world there should, but most of us know the precarious financial state of many pubs.

Thirdly, while a sample may let you know you'll strongly dislike a particular beer, it may not do other beers justice. Sometimes it takes several mouthfuls rather than a quick sip before my palate adjusts to a beer, especially if I've just finished one with a very different character. As a result, I've sometimes been initially disappointed with a pint, only to find I quite like it about a quarter or a third of the way through.

If a pub feels confident it can afford to offer samples, then that's all well and good, but I don't think it's reasonable to expect this to become general practice. That's why I welcome the use of third pint glasses, even though I doubt I'll ever use them myself.

Not all third pint glasses look like the one illustrated; many just look like very small halves.

Monday, 18 October 2010

Ewan McLennan at the Mount

"Place To Be" returns with a special guest singer a week tomorrow - Ewan McLennan, who has been  performing at many festivals, clubs, and concert halls across the country over the last year. Radio 2’s Mike Harding said "he sings beautifully, with great sincerity, great empathy, he's terrific!”, while his classical-influenced folk guitar playing has been described as “stunning”. His music has been shaped by traditional music from around Britain and beyond, with a particular focus on the music of Scotland where he was brought up. But Ewan has developed a unique sound of his own in which traditional songs rub shoulders with his own self-penned songs.

Ewan is an up-and-coming young folk performer.  You can see him in the upstairs function room in the Mount Pleasant, Manchester Road, Southport, PR9 9BD, which is a short walk from the town centre. Admission is £7.50.

Friday, 15 October 2010

Down in one!

A true story about Steve Tilston (Bothy guest this Sunday - see previous post) that I heard at Whitby a few years ago. He was half watching Mastermind and one of the contestants was asked who had written the song "Slip Jigs and Reels", recorded by Fairport Convention. Steve, who had written it, suddenly began paying attention and willing the contestant to answer.

"Was it ... was it ..?" At this point Steve was on tenterhooks.

"I think it was Steve Tilston."

Steve cheered, jumped up, grabbed a glass from the table for a celebratory drink ... and downed his daughter's contact lenses in one.

Thursday, 14 October 2010

Steve Tilston in Southport

Singer, songwriter and guitarist Steve Tilston is the guest singer at the Bothy this Sunday. Already well-known to Bothy regulars, Steve has a longstanding friend of the club for many years and headlined at their 40th Birthday celebrations. Born in Liverpool but raised in Leicestershire, he writes intelligent songs and sings them well, accompanying them with what I regard as an impressive guitar style.  Two of his songs, "Slip Jigs and Reels" and "Naked Highwayman", were recorded by folk-rockers Fairport Convention, and his song "Here's To Tom Paine" was adopted as an anthem by the Tom Paine Society. It should be an excellent, and undoubtedly popular night, so get there early (or you can buy tickets on-line here).

The evening begins at 8.00 pm at the Bothy Folk Club, Park Golf Club, Park Road West, Southport, PR9 0JS. Thwaites real ale on sale.

Tuesday, 12 October 2010

Wigan Pub Crawl

Wigan has a varied selection of good pubs. You can get there easily by train from Southport (c. 30 minutes), Manchester, Liverpool, and Preston. All pubs were surveyed on 14 August, and the numbers refer to those on the map. The furthest pub on this crawl is just over 10 minutes’ walk from the railway stations.
1. Swan and Railway, 80 Wallgate
This is an attractive pub just across the road from North Western station. It has a beautiful large stained glass in the bar showing a large swan and some little trains, a separate public bar and it retains a lot of original features. It is listed as doing B&B. Outside smoking area.

Beers on sale were: Jennings Honey Bole, Ringwood Old Thumper (not often seen in this part of the world) and Banks Original.

2. The Berkeley, 27-29 Wallgate
Just across the road from Wallgate station is the Berkeley, an open plan bar that was once a coaching house. It has a function room upstairs, from which you can watch what’s going on down below. It is a sport-oriented pub with a Wetherspoons style of decoration but with lighter wood and it has its loyalty card for discounts on drinks, which they call the Berkeley Card.

The beers on when we called in were: Prospect Nutty Slack, Prospect 120, Cameron’s Nimmo XXXX and Bateman’s Thirsty Work.

3. The Boulevard, 17-19 Wallgate
This basement pub is surprisingly large and has a large room to the rear where entertainment is sometimes provided. A wall is covered with pump clips showing the beers that previously been on. It opens late (4pm Mon to Thu; 2pm Fri to Sun) and stays open late too.

The beers on were Thwaites Original and Liberation, George Wright Drunken Duck, Phoenix Wobbly Bob, and a real cider called Old Timer.

4. The Moon Under Water, 5-7a Market Place
Wigan's first J D Wetherspoon’s outlet, converted from of a building society, a tailor's and a photography shop. It is a fairly typical ‘Spoons with the usual beers plus: George Wright Longboat and Pure Blonde, Moorhouses Witch Hunt, Stonehenge Danish Dynamite and Saxon Archer.

The pub has an upstairs side entrance which leads to the Wiend, an attractive open area that resembles a village green with a large sculptured head that is actually a fountain, although there was no water when we were there. The next pub is near the Wiend.

5. The John Bull Chop House, 2 Coopers Row
Situated down a narrow alley off Market Place, this is a local rock pub with an excellent jukebox: “Baba O'Riley” by The Who was playing as we were being served, followed by “Snowblind” by Black Sabbath. Despite its rock pub reputation, the clientele was quite mixed when we were there.

The beers that were on were Thwaites Bomber and Wainwright, and apparently Original is usually on too. Please note that this pub tends to serve real ale only at weekends.

6. The Anvil, Dorning Street
This popular, multi-award winning pub is close to the bus station. It has an outside drinking area to the rear. The beers available when we visited were: Allgates All Black, Dark Star Meltdown, Roosters Yankee, Allgates Twitter and Bisted, Ossett Yorkshire Blonde and Hydes Original. Also on sale are six draught continental beers through tall silver fonts on the bar, and a range of bottles too.

7. The Tudor House Hotel, New Market Street
Apparently a former nunnery, this pub is popular with students and plays an active role in the local live music scene. It has a dark interior and an outside drinking area to the rear. When we were there, they were serving; Acorn Barnsley Gold, Timothy Taylor’s Landlord and Moorhouses Pendle Witches Brew.

If you’ve time to spare at the end of this crawl, you can always return to the Berkeley or the Swan and Railway for a final drink, as both are only a minute’s walk from the railway stations. The final train back to Southport is 11-15pm, except on Sunday when it’s 9-13pm. Thanks to Ken and Carol Worthington of CAMRA Wigan Branch for their help in researching this crawl.

Monday, 11 October 2010

4th Lion singaround

My fourth singaround in the Lion Tavern in Moorfields (just yards from the station) will take place this Thursday the 14th from around 8.00pm. As usual there will be a choice from up to 8 real beers and, I hope, a variety of performers (we've had between 6 and 10 so far). Unamplified, completely informal, free and usually with sandwiches provided by the pub, it will be held in the cosy back room with the glass dome.  And as the last train back to Southport is after 11-30pm, no need to dash off early, unless you have work the next day, I suppose.

Performers and non-performers equally welcome.

Friday, 8 October 2010

Jocktoberfest!

The Baron's Bar in the Scarisbrick Hotel, Lord Street, Southport, is a noted real ale bar in the town. It will be holding its annual October beer festival next weekend between Thursday 14th and Sunday 17th October. This year, as a tribute to the Scottish brewing industry, there will be a Scottish theme to the festival ~ hence the name Jocktoberfest. An interesting idea, although I'm not entirely sure about that name, but moving on ...

These are the beers that will available:
  • Atlas - Latitude 3.6% from Kinlochleven, Argyll
  • Cairngorm - Sheepshaggers Gold 4.5% from Aviemore
  • Caledonian - Oktoberfest 4.5% from Edinburgh
  • Fyne Ales - Pipers Gold 3.8% from Argyll
  • Harviestoun - Haggis Hunter 4.3% from Alva, Clackmananshire
  • Highland - Scapa Special 4.2% from Swannay, Orkney
  • Houston - Blonde Bombshell 4.0% from Renfrewshire
  • Inveralmond - That's The Spirit 4.5% from Perth
  • Kelburn - Pivo Estivo 3.9% from Glasgow
  • Orkney - Dark Island 4.6% from Quoyloo, Orkney
  • Stewart - Edinburgh No.3 4.3% from Edinburgh
  • Strathaven - Clydesdale IPA 3.8% from Lanarkshire
  • Tryst - Drovers 80/- 4.0% from Larbert, Fife
  • TSA - Bannockburn 4.2% from Throsk, Stirlingshire
  • Williams Bros - Midnight Sun Porter 5.6% from Alloa, Clackmananshire

Thursday, 7 October 2010

Pub company's negligence kills licensee

I've written before about how pub companies treat their licensees with utter contempt, but Enterprise Inns have reached a new low. They have been fined £300,000 plus court costs for the failure to check gas appliances in more than 400 of their pubs, one of which was the Aintree Arms in Bootle. In November 2007 the licensee Paul Lee died of carbon monoxide poisoning when he fell asleep in a room heated by a faulty gas fire that hadn't been checked since 1979; the flue was found to be completely blocked.  Enterprise admitted breaching Section 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974; it turns out that they had ignored a written warning from the Health & Safety Executive in 2001. As more than 400 pubs were involved, it can't be dismissed as a one-off failure, but must be seen as systemic risk-taking to cut costs.

Greg Mulholland MP has demanded that Enterprise CEO Ted Tuppen to “accept his moral responsibility and resign”. An Enterprise spokesperson replied: “Mr Tuppen does not think resigning is an appropriate course of action.” This is typical of the blame-free attitude adopted by senior business people in this country, for whom the concept of taking responsibility is utterly alien. It's like the bankers who destroyed the economy, but still felt they deserved their bonuses (and many got them). But here, even when a life has been lost, the "it wasn't me, guv" attitude prevails. The fine is less than a third of Tuppen's annual pay and pension package of £970,000. In contrast, Paul leaves behind three daughters, one of whom remains severely traumatised.

Personally, I feel this should be a case of criminal negligence, but the problem as I understand it is that for a prosecution to succeed, you have to prove the individual was by his personal actions or negligence to blame; general responsibility as a CEO isn't enough in our legal system. Perhaps it ought to be. Over to you, Greg Mulholland, MP.

Tuesday, 5 October 2010

George Rides Again

I've just received an e-mail from Mick Cooper reminding me that the acoustic open mike night in the George is on again this Saturday. The George is on the corner of Cemetery Road and Duke Street, and it begins at around 8pm. Free admission. Mick and his band will be acting as hosts, and they are well worth listening to in their own right.

This week is a busy one. Here are some other events in Southport:
  • Singaround in the Mason's on Anchor Street tomorrow evening (Wednesday). Free.
  • Claire Hamill at the Bothy on Thursday. Park Golf Club, Park Road West.
  • Singers night at the Bothy on Sunday - performers get in free.
Click here for a more complete list of events.

Monday, 4 October 2010

Farewell To Booze Cruises?

Apparently the appeal of the booze cruise is fading. I never knew anyone who actually went on one, but in the North West we're a long way from the South coast ports. Booze cruising had its biggest effect in the South East, with the local pub industry and Kent brewer Shepherd Neame vigorously complaining about the high rates of alcohol duty that encouraged this traffic and damaged their business - not that the government took the slightest notice of their campaign. Recently, however, several supermarkets in Calais, such as Tesco, Sainsbury's and Oddbins, have already closed, and others report steeply declining sales, so it looks as though trips across the Channel to stock up for parties, weddings or Christmas may be a thing of the past.

As well as the recession, several other reasons are suggested for the decline:
  • The increasing cost of fuel.
  • £75 average cost of return travel by Eurotunnel or ferry.
  • Drop in supermarket prices in Britain, such as 3 bottles of wine for £10.
  • The strength of the Euro against the pound.
However, if minimum pricing of alcohol is introduced, it may make booze cruises viable again, especially for people who live in the South East. The increase in VAT to 20% next January may do the same thing, and thus a measure to raise extra government revenue could actually succeed - except that the government concerned would be French! The old law of unintended consequences yet again.