Monday, 24 September 2012

Cains no longer able

I visited two real ale pubs today, the Railway in Formby and the Arion in Ainsdale, both of which have improved dramatically in recent years. The Arion had been closed down for 18 months until about a year ago, and some of us thought it might have been closed for good. It now serves four real ales and is happy with the way they're selling. The Railway has increased its range considerably in the last couple of years and regularly has 6 to 9 real ales on at any time.

Both licensees commented that more women and young people were choosing real ales, especially as there was more variety nowadays. What interested me most was that both licensees independently stated that they had stopped stocking Cains beers because of a serious decline in quality, with even casks bursting open and spraying their contents all over the cellar. My own impression as a drinker was that quality went seriously downhill after the reverse takeover by Cain's of Honeycombe Leisure went pear-shaped and the business went into administration, hastened by an unpaid tax bill.

I particularly used to like Cain's FA, Triple Hop and Sundowner beers: I haven't see the last two for a while, but I did try the FA a few months ago in the Guest House in Southport, and it was still disappointing. A year or two ago I tried a new beer, Liver Bird, in Cain's Brewery Tap, but wasn't impressed at all. You don't see Cain's beers around as often as you used to; I haven't seen it in the Cain's pub on Renshaw Street, the Dispensary, for ages. Apparently when Cain's was in turmoil, they got permission to buy their beer from anywhere just to keep the pub open, and neither the licensee or the customers particularly want Cain's back, leading to the bizarre situation that a Cain's pub that has won CAMRA Liverpool's Pub of the Year award in Liverpool doesn't actually sell Cain's.

I know that Cain's has recruited a brewer from Brain's of Cardiff. I must give their beers another go to see whether this has led to any improvement, but even if it has, the problem for Cain's is that a bad reputation is very hard to shake off. It's sad that the company that inhabits the former home of the legendary Higson's beers has come to this sorry state. I expect that the production of own-brand tinned beers for supermarkets, which has always constituted a large proportion of Cain's production, is what keeps the company afloat.


  1. Cains ruined the Ship Inn (Blood Tub)when they took it over as part of the Honeycombe reverse takeover. Customers refused to drink their beer and went else where (my self included). Things got so bad in the end it actually had to close for a while. It's back in the Good Beer Guide this year, but funnily enough doesn't sell Cain's beers.

  2. Poor beers, the one that I did like, Mild, is no longer brewed. Liverpool Organic have stepped into Cains' shoes as the favourite local brewery. I don't see any future for Cains' cask beers.

  3. David: they did the same to the Thatch & Thistle which, in real ale terms, has never recovered.

    Birkonian: I remember trying their mild at the brewery before they launched it and really liking it. The brew they launched wasn't the same, but pretty good anyway. That was of course under previous ownership.

  4. I was in the Brewery tap a couple of weeks ago, and had 2 different pints, and I was pleased to describe them as both 'Pretty good'. Which damns Cains with faint praise, as LOB regularly nail 'bloody amazing' in my book.

    I hope Cains can survive and they deserve a place alongside the local upstarts, but Cains don't exactly seem to be putting much effort in.

    Did they launch a new beer at the Liverpool Beer Festival this year, only for it to be universally judged as disgusting?


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