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Tuesday, 31 December 2013

Hello 2014

I noticed my tally of unique hits reached 60,000 yesterday. Contrary to what my mickey-taking niece suggested, I set the counter to exclude my own visits. I'll be keeping ReARM going because, even though the beer-related posts are the ones that attract most comments, I do know that quite a few people who don't write anything use the blog to find out about local music events. That's fine, being one of the main reasons for the blog in the first place. So ...

Monday, 30 December 2013

A real ale revolution?

Tesco's beer buyer, Chiara Nesbitt
Hyperventilating headlines ask: "Could beer replace wine as the UK's festive tipple of choice?" Apparently, in the last full week before Christmas, Tesco sold 1.5 million bottles of "real ale"*, the most it has ever sold in a seven-day period. It has been suggested that the increase is partly due to food and beer matching, which I'm told means more than just a pint of bitter and a packet of crisps. Pale ales are said to go with fish, while malty beers are better for turkey and goose, as well as being a choice for those who dislike wine. The increasing availability of real ale in pubs and the work of CAMRA are also credited.

One news report says that, "Surprisingly, demand for the drink is highest among younger consumers - a sea change in attitudes given that until recently, ale was considered the preserve of older male drinkers. As a result, stores are now stocking a huge variety of different ales, with Tesco alone increasing its offering from 20 types in 2006 to 350 brews in 2013."

However, don't get too excited about this boost in sales, because the most popular ales have been Old Speckled Hen, Newcastle Brown Ale, Theakstons Old Peculiar, Fullers London Pride, and Badger Fursty Ferret - all worthy, but certainly not the most interesting beers around. Tesco ale buyer Chiara Nesbitt said: "Sales of bottled ales have been growing steadily since the mid-noughties but this is by far the highest demand we have ever seen in Christmas week which would indicate that people will be drinking it with their roast turkey." Perhaps, although it's also worth noting that Tesco saw Wine by the Case sales rise by 29% in November.

It is nonetheless an interesting development, although I do wonder whether bottled ales are seen as a premium product worth splashing out on for Christmas; if so, how many of these drinkers will revert back to their slabs of cooking lager once the New Year holiday is over? I've no idea: wait and see, I suppose.

* I wrote 'real ale' in inverted commas because the figures include brewery conditioned ales that aren't actually real, being pasteurised and filtered.

Sunday, 29 December 2013

The Young 'Uns

Bending over backwards to entertain you
The Bothy's first guests in 2014 are The Young ’Uns (Sean Cooney, David Eagle and Michael Hughes), who have quickly become one of the most popular and entertaining live acts today. With talent combined with enthusiasm for traditional song, they bring freshness and energy to their arrangements of harmony songs, both with and without accompaniment. Their repertoire ranges from traditional sea and working songs to more recent compositions, all delivered with a combination of originality, irreverence and humour.

They come from Teesside and in 2012 recorded a new CD on their new record label, London's Navigator Records, called When Our Grandfathers Said No. They will taking pre-orders for their next album Never Forget in January.
  • “I think they’re really superb” - Mike Harding, BBC Radio 2.
  • “One of the most popular and entertaining live acts on the folk scene today” - Jez Lowe.
  • “Singing brilliant songs as they should be sung – a great live act” - Fay Hield.
  • “A fantastic repertoire, intricate and pleasing harmonies and fantastic patter to boot” - Bromyard Folk Festival.
They're at the Bothy on Sunday 5 January 2014 at 8.00pm in the Park Golf Club, Park Road West, Southport, PR9 0JS. On line tickets.

Saturday, 28 December 2013

Post-Christmas musings

This time of the year between holidays is always a bit strange. If you're off work, you tend to forget the days of the week over the holiday period, and when Christmas Day is midweek, as it was this year, the weekend between then and New Year can get a bit overlooked. I suggested to a friend that we'll meet as usual in the Guest House, and he looked surprised and asked why. I replied because it's Saturday. "Oh yes," he said vaguely.

With family visiting, I haven't been to the pub as often as I might have done normally, and in fact I was driving at the end of Christmas Day and so had severely limited my intake. In Liverpool on our customary pre-Christmas pub crawl on the 19th, my impression was that there were fewer people out than in previous years: the pubs were busy, certainly, but it wasn't as frantic as usual. It was a similar experience on Boxing Day in my local, the Guest House, which is usually heaving even before the Southport Swords arrive to do their longsword and morris dances. In fact, apart from a from a few musicians, the place was almost empty when I arrived, although it did fill up later. I can only conclude that in the present economic climate, people are hanging on to their pennies.

As for beer, one of the Christmas offerings on Boxing Day was Southport Brewery's Santa's Brew, described as: "Toffee sweet malt with a touch of butterscotch. Also, present is a peppery grassy hop." They say tastes vary, and I found it more dry than that description suggests. It's a light-coloured beer, not very Christmassy to me, but I liked it nonetheless, and being on the £2.50 handpump was a plus. When it ran out, it was replaced by the darker and definitely more toffee-ish Piddlemas from Wyre Piddle; pleasant enough, but I preferred the Southport beer. On the Liverpool pub crawl, I thought that the Oakham Citra that we had in the Fly In The Loaf was the best pint of the evening, and probably the best I've had for a while.

Monday, 23 December 2013

ASA bans accurate advert

An advert for the Let There Be Beer campaign has been banned for implying alcohol helps overcome nervousness and is linked to social success. It showed a man nervously meeting his girlfriend's father and a woman drowning in office work - both apparently liberated from their stress by a glass of beer.

Personally, I find the advert a bit silly, but it will be obvious to most people that it's not meant to be a serious documentary on modern life. The objections were made by the Alcohol Concern Youth Alcohol Advertising Council, which I assume is an organisation for trainee busybodies. The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) ruled that the advert linked alcohol to social success and helped overcome problems. As alcohol can do both of these things in my actual experience (as opposed to just an opinion, which is what the ASA based its judgement upon), I don't see it as misleading. For example, as a trade unionist, I sometimes found that seemingly intractable disagreements at a meeting could be resolved over a few pints in the pub afterwards, and who hasn't relied on Dutch courage in social situations, at least occasionally? The post-work pint, a decreasing occurrence nowadays, has long been a way of relaxing after a stressful day. 

Anyway, here is the censored advert in all its glory - what do you think?

Saturday, 21 December 2013

Celebrate Solstice!

It's the Winter Solstice today, and here's a seasonal tune for all pagan and druid music lovers. After all, the pagans had been celebrating the mid-winter for millennia before Christmas made an appearance on the calendar. From now on, the nights will be drawing out again. Thinking about celebrations, I've seen plenty of beers for Christmas, but none for the solstice.

Friday, 20 December 2013

Last couple of events of 2013

A sword lock - you can
see one on Boxing Day
At this time of the year, with all the additional festivities going on, some of the usual events either get lost or don't take place. Here's a couple:

On Sunday 22 December, it is the Christmas Party night at the Bothy Folk Club in the Park Golf Club, Park Road West, Southport, PR9 0JS. There will be seasonal songs, food, and the venue serves Thwaites real ale.

Southport Swords Day of Dance on Boxing Day: our local Longsword and Morris side will dance at the Albert by Southport station early lunchtime, at the Bold in Churchtown at late lunchtime, and at the Guest House, Union Street, Southport mid-afternoon. This being the Swords, more precise timings aren't possible. There is also usually a bit of a music session in the Guest House too, along with up to 11 cask beers.

In terms of local folk/acoustic events, that's it until January.

Monday, 16 December 2013

Plastic glasses jeopardise GBG entry

The Southport Swords dancing in the
Baron's Bar in pre-plastic days
The Baron's Bar in the Scarisbrick Hotel in Southport has long been a haven for lovers of real ale in Southport. In the 1970s, it was the only place you could get Boddington's beers in the town and in 1990 it sold Boddingtons Bitter, Ruddles County, Tetley Bitter, Theakstons Best Bitter and a guest beer - nothing special nowadays, perhaps, but exceptional at the time. Recently it has had eight handpumps in use and was voted into the 2014 CAMRA Good Beer Guide (GBG).

This long-standing real ale track record is probably coming to an end, and the hotel has only got itself to blame. A few months ago it adopted a policy of plastic glasses in its ground floor bars, which includes the Baron's Bar. Initially staff were blaming Sefton Council, but this turned out to be completely untrue. It may have arisen from a request by the police, but no one seems to know for certain; my guess is that it is a policy centrally imposed by Britannia Hotels who now own the formerly independent hotel. I'm not sure why anyone would require the Baron's bar to use plastic glasses, as many of its customers have tended to be of - shall we say? - mature years, and I have never seen any trouble there. It is a residential hotel, and if I were staying there, I'd be miffed to be expected to drink out of plastic; there's already one complaint about the plastic glasses on Trip Advisor.

I was talking to a friend yesterday who has been there more recently than I have, and he said that the range of real ales is very poor and no longer particularly well kept. I'm not surprised: most real ale drinkers I know would prefer glass. Although the Baron's Bar is cheap, the Sir Henry Segrave is nearby with beer in real glasses at usual Wetherspoons prices, if low cost is a criterion. We discussed the problem at a recent local CAMRA meeting and I proposed that our Branch officers approach the hotel about the issue and that if we don't receive a satisfactory answer, or if they won't speak to us, we delete it from the GBG. I've held off writing about this in the hope that the situation would be resolved satisfactorily, but it seems that the Baron's Bar no longer wishes to be taken seriously on the local real ale scene. Well, that's their loss.

Friday, 13 December 2013

Mandela tribute in Woolworth's

Members of the Soweto Gospel Choir posed as customers and shop workers in the Woolworth's Parkview store in Pretoria to sing this tribute to Nelson Mandela. The song is Johnny Clegg's Asimbonanga, written during Mandela's inprisonment as a call for his freedom. Beautifully sung - definitely real music - and it's a pleasure to see the reactions of all the customers. I just can't see it happening over here in Tesco's though. There's a translation here.

Tuesday, 10 December 2013

Local music events

December gets busy but here is a selection of local music events over the next week.
    Starting with an evening for a good cause: tonight The Corduroy Folk Club is hosting an evening of folk music to raise funds and supplies for the Southport Soup Kitchen. Group songs in between some fabulous solo performances from 7.00pm until 10.00pm. Drop in for a drink or stay all evening but please bring a donation for the soup kitchen. The performers will include: David Hirst, The Dharma Bums, Keith Price, Pete Rimmer, Kevin Littlewood, Will Simmons, Chris & Siobhan Nelson and Bill Hackney. The venue is Shush Hair and Beauty, Liverpool Road, Birkdale, across the road from the Crown Pub.

    Lion singaround this Thursday 12 December from around 8.15pm. Free - all welcome, even if you don't want to sing. Lion Tavern, 67 Moorfields, Liverpool, L2 2BP, right by the station.

    This Sunday at lunchtime, there will be carol singing in the Fishermen's Rest, Weld Road, Southport. This annual session was run for many years by our friend Jeff Stoker, and we are carrying them on in his memory.

    On Sunday evening there will be a residents night at the Bothy Folk Club, Park Golf Club, Park Road West, Southport, PR9 0JS. The club's team of residents will have a chance show off! Thwaites real ale.

    Next Monday, the 16th, there will the usual 3rd Monday acoustic music session in the Guest House, Union Street, Southport from c. 8.00pm. Up to 11 real ales.

    For more events, click here.

    Monday, 9 December 2013

    Drink driving - a genuinely tough approach

    A seasonal topic
    There has been some discussion on Curmudgeon's blog about the thorny subject of drink driving. It's a topic I have written about before several times (including  here), and I tried to comment on his blog, but it wouldn't let me for some reason, so this is an expanded version of what I was going to write there. One comment below his post drags out that old chestnut about reducing the limit to zero.

    As a drinker and a driver, I don't approve of driving over the limit, but reducing the limit to zero is a cheap and easy way of appearing to be strict while doing nothing whatsoever. The idiots who have a skinful will take no more notice of a zero limit than they do of the present law. The only people who will be affected will be those who carefully stay within the limit. But the desire to be seen to be doing "something - anything" about the problem would have been satisfied, until it eventually becomes clear the nothing much of value has been achieved.

    So what would I do? I'd keep the law as it is for first offenders, because most of them never do it again; they learn their lesson, and the ban, fine and hefty insurance premiums are punishment enough. In terms of modifying unacceptable behaviour, in most cases the present law does the job.

    The problem lies with those who haven't learnt from being caught and who never will. I'd propose three strikes and you're out. A lifetime ban for any driver found driving over the limit on 3 separate occasions (or perhaps even 2; I'm not fixated on 3). If found driving during a lifetime ban, prison. If found driving during an ordinary ban, automatic lifetime ban. The fact that you would be able to progress quite easily from the present law for a first offence to prison would certainly have a greater deterrent effect than making the limit zero. Drivers have a licence to drive on the road, and the word 'licence' means permission, not entitlement. A lifetime withdrawal of permission for those who repeatedly put other people's lives at risk by taking a dangerous piece of machinery onto the roads while unfit is in my opinion quite reasonable. It's no good being sorry after you've killed someone.

    All we need now is enough traffic police to apply whichever law we have, as there clearly aren't enough now.

    Friday, 6 December 2013

    Nanny gets ready for Christmas

    Often known to happen after drink
    Now that it’s nearly Christmas, the West Lancashire Community Safety Partnership has issued the ritual Christmas warning about the horrors of drinking. Apparently, you might:
    • Be ill.
    • Become a victim of crime.
    • Have an accident.
    • Get into a fight.
    • End up in casualty.
    • Lose your friends and possessions.
    • Accidentally set your home alight.
    They then go on to warn about the perils of preloading - which they acknowledge many people do for cost reasons - as it often results in people drinking too much before hitting the town. Good idea; I must try it some time.

    But they do also say: “We are not trying to stop people having fun and we really want everyone to have a good time at Christmas.” So not all doom and gloom then.

    It’s interesting that they mention cost as a reason for preloading, seeing that groups like them usually claim that alcohol is far too cheap in this country. And if drinkers are finding alcohol in pubs and clubs too dear, it’s partly because anti-alcohol groups have campaigned for higher prices. Some mixed messages there, I think, or more likely, muddled thinking.

    There are two comments beneath the article: one says “nanny state” and the other “Why doesn't the West Lancashire Community Safety team get a frigging life and stop patronising me!!” Good question.

    Tuesday, 3 December 2013

    Maggie is the final guest

    Maggie Holland
    The Bothy's final guest of 2013 is Maggie Holland. She has been in many blues/folk line-ups since the late 1960s (more details on her website), and more recently has become established as singer-songwriter, accompanying herself on guitar and five-string banjo. In 2000, she was awarded the BBC Radio 2 Folk Award for the best song of 1999 for A Place Called England. She has appeared on her own at the Bothy previously a couple of years ago, and in the duo, Hot Vultures, with Ian A Anderson in the 1980s. This gig was originally meant to be with Shelagh MacDonald, but as Shelagh cannot make it, it will now be solo.

    It's at the Bothy Folk Club, Park Golf Club, Park Road West, Southport, PR9 0JS this Sunday 8 December at 8.00pm. Tickets are available on-line. Thwaites real ale on sale.

    The Bothy will continue with a resident singers night on the 15th and the party night on 22nd. It will then close for Christmas, reopening on 5 January with guests, The Young ‘Uns.

    Saturday, 30 November 2013

    Getting the vapours

    Sucking on a biro? No, using an e-fag
    Funny: I was thinking of writing a few words about e-cigarettes when Curmudgeon pipped me to the post.

    I was in the Endeavour in Whitby last August when I glanced to my left and saw what seemed to be a woman smoking, and so looked again more closely. She laughed and said, "You thought I was smoking a cigarette, didn't you?" I had to agree, but was interested, as I hadn't seen one close up before: they do look superficially like cigarettes and emit something that looks like smoke but is apparently water vapour. As far as I can see, they can pose no risk to the health or comfort of third parties. So why are they being banned?

    Mitchells and Butlers, Wetherspoons and now Fullers have forbidden the use of e-cigarettes in any of their pubs. The reason is that it apparently causes anxiety to other customers, and the staff are under enough pressure as it is without having to check what people are using. While it's understandable that licensees would want to avoid the draconian penalties for contravention of the smoking ban, these aren't covered by it so there's no legal problem. It's just that you can't tell from behind the bar what the customer is using.

    ASH (Action on Smoking and Health) are surprisingly sensible on this issue, cautioning businesses against introducing bans too hastily:
    • Not all e-cigarettes look like tobacco cigarettes.
    • Forcing people who are trying to quit to go outside with the smokers seems unfair, and may sabotage their efforts.
    • If e-cigarettes become licensed as a medical product, they could become less of an issue over time.
    Perhaps the solution would involve banning only those that look like cigarettes, so that the problem of differentiating them from ordinary cigarettes would vanish in a puff of vapour.

    Friday, 29 November 2013

    RBS "stole" real ale hotel

    The Bold Hotel, Lord Street
    The Bold Hotel is a familiar sight on Lord Street, Southport. It is a residential hotel with a real ale bar and an outside seating area overlooking the town's main thoroughfare that, as you'd imagine, is very popular in summer. According to the former owners, Eddie and Cheryl Warren, their business was forced into administration by the Royal Bank of Scotland, leaving them more than £1 million out of pocket after borrowing from the state-owned bank. The trauma has cost them their livelihood and their marriage.

    According to a report by Business Secretary Vince Cable, the alleged scam worked like this: RBS engineered businesses to default on their loans and then to moved them into a special division called Global Restructuring Group. Once there, the businesses were then hit with exorbitant rates and fees, which caused some of them to collapse, at which point RBS bought their property and assets on the cheap.

    Eddie and Cheryl bought the hotel for £3.7 million in 2007, £1.2 million of which was their own money and the rest financed by an RBS loan. After the hotel was put into administration, West Register, an RBS property company, bought the business for a mere £1.4 million. Eddie and Cheryl insist that the hotel never ceased to be profitable, with Eddie adding simply, "They stole it."

    It brings it home to you when items on the national news are reflected in businesses you are familiar with, and in this case have been drinking in. I hope that Eddie and Cheryl, as well as others who state they have been ripped off by RBS, get some justice. If Vince Cable can achieve that, I'll give him more credit than I've granted anyone in his party since the general election.

    Thursday, 28 November 2013

    Drink driving hotspots

    According to a recent survey, drivers who live in the countryside are twice as likely to be charged with driving under the influence of drink and drugs than town dwellers. The survey was conducted by price comparison website, MoneySuperMarket, based on an analysis of almost 12 million insurance quotes on the site in a 12-month period. The worst areas are the north of Scotland and mid-Wales which both have a conviction rate double that of Greater London. Breaking down the stats further by postcodes shows that Scotland and Wales still dominate the top 10 with Aberdeen, Inverness, Dundee, Kirkcaldy, Cardiff and Swansea all featured, whereas at the bottom end of the table you'll see central London, Bradford, Liverpool and Manchester.

    It's not not surprising that rural areas are likely to feature in such lists with pubs generally much further apart, poor or non-existent public transport and a police presence that is much thinner on the ground. All this, however, doesn't fully explain why parts of Scotland and Wales are so prominent, seeing that England too has remote, rural areas, as well as 88% of the UK's population: on the basis of sheer numbers alone, I'd have expected a greater English presence in the top 10.

    Can we accept as an explanation that in those areas of Wales or Scotland, you can be even more remote than in England? I don't think so because if you fancy wandering out for a pint, a pub 10 miles away in North Yorkshire is as inaccessible on foot as a pub 30 miles away in the Scottish Highlands, but it could be argued that if you're prepared to drive while over the limit, you may have a longer journey with a greater chance of being breathalysed. Perhaps, but in my view it's more likely that the police being thinner on the ground through trying to cover a larger area might encourage more people to take the chance.

    The loss of many village pubs certainly won't have helped. Curmudgeon has blamed such closures, at least in part, on the denormalisation of alcohol by campaigners, which has led to a decline in people being prepared to drive after drinking within the legal limit, thus reducing trade in rural pubs. Fewer rural pubs will mean that many of those prepared to drive after drinking over the limit will have longer journeys.

    I'm not making excuses for drink-driving, as my previous posts will make clear (click here if you wish to see them): attempting to understand why something happens doesn't constitute approval. I do wonder, however, whether people who like a drink take the proximity of a decent pub sufficiently into account when choosing where to live, whether in the town or the country, bearing in mind an increasing number of country homes are occupied by incomers. I once visited a college friend who enjoyed his beer and who had moved with his girlfriend to Solihull (admittedly not very rural); he soon made the welcome suggestion that we go for a pint. After 10 or 15 minutes' walk, we reached a pub, but he said that it was no good. After more than half an hour's walk, we reached somewhere reasonable. I asked him why they hadn't chosen a house closer to a pub. He looked at me incredulously and said that you don't take that kind of thing into account when finding somewhere to live. I pointed out that if he'd played golf, he'd have chosen a house near a golf course.

    Back to the survey: although it makes interesting reading, bald statistics can't come up with any explanations, and my own attempts are little more than informed guess work. Contacted for a response, the Institute of Advanced Motorists, a self-appointed driving club, began by stating the obvious: "Lack of public transport is no excuse for any (rural) driver to risk a journey under the influence. Offenders may think they stand more chance of getting away with it in quiet rural areas but these roads are actually the most dangerous, with more fatalities than on city streets."

    Okay so far, but then the nanny state tendency came out with: "A hard day's work may seem a good justification for a quick pint on the way home but responsibility for your and others [sic] safety comes with every driving licence." In other words, a quick pint on the way home is going to endanger yourself and others, which misses the point that the survey was about people being over the limit. Having a go at legal drink-driving does not address the real problem of those who will get behind the wheel no matter how much they've knocked back.

    Wednesday, 27 November 2013

    The Lion in Burscough to close

    I've just heard from a regular that the Lion pub on Liverpool Road South (A59) in Burscough will be closing for business within a day or two. The present manager, Mr 'H' Botha, is unable to carry on paying the high rent to Enterprise Inns and therefore he is calling time before he loses any more money. 'H' has worked tirelessly to turn this pub around, he has invested a large amount of his own money in completely refurbishing the beer garden and decorating the inside of the pub. He was promised a refurbishment of the pub and car park by Enterprise Inns, but it didn't happen. The Lion always has one cask beer on and he'd had plans to add another in the future. Significantly, the area manager is known to have stated that the last three managers of the Lion have failed to turn the pub round and he was considering selling the pub for other uses.

    The Lion used to called the Red Lion and efforts have been made appeal more to the food market, although I've heard it suggested that unfortunately it may have lost a bit of its 'pubby' character in the process. Perhaps, but I can't judge I haven't been in there for a while. It's a familiar, but nonetheless still sad, story of pubcos throwing licensee after licensee into a pub and hope that one sticks, and if they don't, they've had a few more months rent. Equally familiar are the promises of work that will be done, promises that are kept until the potential licensee has signed on the dotted line. It doesn't matter to them if in the process someone loses his or her savings and is thoroughly disillusioned in their ambitions to run a pub. 

    Let's hope that Mr 'H' Botha and the Lion don't just become more dismal stats. We don't need any more Tesco Expresses.

    Saturday, 23 November 2013

    The Doctor Who Good Drinking Guide

    The 23rd of November is of course the 50th anniversary of the greatest day in television history: the launch of Doctor Who. There aren't many references to the demon drink in the series, but I've retrieved these from my data memory banks. 

    Description of photo at end of post
    The Doctor (William Hartnell) is offered some alcohol by the dentist Doc Holliday before a tooth extraction, but he replies that he never touches the stuff. (The Gunfighters)

    The Doctor (William Hartnell) raises a glass, looks direct to camera and proposes a toast to everyone at home, the episode being broadcast on Christmas Day 1965. Presumably alcohol-free, in the view of his earlier statement. (The Dalek’s Master Plan)

    Ben Jackson, one of the companions of Patrick Troughton's Doctor, drinks some beer in 17th century Cornwall. Excellent reason to have a TARDIS: I want one. (The Smugglers)

    At the end of The Daemons (a Jon Pertwee adventure), it is suggested that Brigadier Lethbridge-Stuart of UNIT (United Nations Intelligence Taskforce) might join in some Morris dancing. He replies, "I'd rather have a pint" (a daemon drink?) and heads towards the Cloven Hoof pub. He might have decided differently if he knew how much Morris dancers like real ale.

    UNIT requisitions a pub, the Fox Inn in the Scottish village of Tullock, as a temporary HQ when combating the alien Zygons. With the help of the Doctor (Tom Baker), they soon let Zygons be bygones. (Terror of the Zygons)

    The Doctor (Tom Baker) says, “Let’s try the pub”, and heads towards the Fleur-de-Lys to learn why the village he's found himself in is deserted. It turns out the village is a fake, part of an evil plot to take over the world by aliens, the Kraals, who even go to the trouble of devising fake McEwan's Export bar towels for the bar, clearly an essential detail for global domination. (The Android Invasion)

    Pat Rowlinson, owner of the Gore Crow Hotel, invites the Doctor (Sylvester McCoy) to try Arthur's Ale, a real ale brewed on his premises: “We’re in the CAMRA guide”, he says proudly. That would have convinced me, but the Doctor opts for a glass of water and soft drinks for his disappointed young companions, Ace and Shou Yuing, which he pays for with a £5 coin. That sounds a lot, but remember it is in the future and proof that CAMRA will be around for a good while yet. (Battlefield)

    The Doctor (Christopher Eccleston) states he has taken part in drinking contests with former Prime Minister David Lloyd George, who apparently drank him under the table. Name dropper. (Aliens of London)

    My bottle opener
    The Doctor (David Tennant) pretends to be drunk in order to outwit the clockwork androids who have his companions, Rose and Mickey, prisoner. What looks like a glass of wine is in fact anti-oil that puts one of the droids out of action; the others teleport away. (Girl In The Fireplace)

    When Craig Owens tells the Doctor (David Tennant) that he belongs to a pub league football team at his local, the King's Arms, the Doctor assumes that he means a drinking competition. (The Lodger)

    WPC Gwen Cooper drinks a large beer (relax, she’s off duty) as Captain Jack Harkness tells her all about Torchwood after she saw them in action. She finds out too late that he has laced her drink with an alien substance that’ll make her forget everything she’s witnessed and everything he's said. He needn't have gone to all that trouble: a few WKDs would have done. (Torchwood: Everything Changes)

    If you can think of any other examples, please tell us below. Before watching the show later today, you might want to have a look at Boak and Bailey's beer blog where you'll find a post on Beer and Doctor Who Matching.

    The photograph shows Patrick Troughton (The Doctor), Frazer Hines (Jamie McCrimmon) and friends enjoying a Guinness over lunch during the filming of The Invasion on location at the Guinness brewery in Park Royal, now demolished, not by aliens but by Diageo.

    Friday, 22 November 2013

    More real ales at the Mount

    The Mount Pleasant
    Jo the licensee at the Mount Pleasant on Manchester Road, Southport, has e-mailed me to say that they now have three handpumps installed and there are two changing real ales in addition to the - until now - sole real ale, Sharps Doom Bar. At the time Jo contacted me, the guests on sale were Hobgoblin and Blonde Ambition. Sharps will remain the fixed real ale.

    This is a pleasing development in a pub that at the beginning of this year sold only the Tetley's. When Doom Bar replaced it in February, cask sales went up, which supports my long-held view that Tetley's is nowadays a very poor product, not half the beer it used to be.

    The Mount is a large, well-maintained pub in a residential area close to the town centre, known for good food, showing films (it was The Great Gatsby yesterday), live music on Saturday evenings, plus quiz, poker and karaoke nights. It also has a nice conservatory to one side, a separate bar area and a function room upstairs. Increasingly worth a visit by real ale drinkers.

    Thursday, 21 November 2013

    Beer advert withdrawn after protests

    I'm confused. This is a Lidl advert advertising a German beer called Perlenbacher, and it has been withdrawn because it has caused offence. If I were to guess why it caused offence, I might go for one of these:
    • It suggests that women are a piece of property to be bagged up with the shopping. Or
    • It depicts a young woman who looks as though she has a serious eating disorder, thus setting a bad example.
    It's neither of these. A charity called Trans Media Watch says its supporters have made complaints to the Advertising Standards Authority about it because it could put transgender women in danger. Trans Media Watch stated:

    "We found the ad to be deeply problematic because the slogan 'unexpected item' implied deceit on the part of the person it depicted. The myth that trans women and cross dressers present as they do in an attempt to seduce straight men is sadly still widespread and is commonly used to try and justify aggression against them. Promoting this myth puts trans people in real danger."

    In general, most of us can understand the reasons why people say they are offended, even if we don't agree. For example, everyone understands why some women don't like the name of the Slater's beer, Top Totty, including those who think it's just a bit of fun and the protesters are humourless. You don't have to agree with something to understand it.

    Because I don't look at that picture and think, "That's a transgender woman", I simply don't understand how Trans Media Watch did. To me, she is a young woman who looks very underweight. And I'm wondering whether I'm the only one who has never heard of the widespread myth that trans people aim to seduce straight men.

    My view of the advert is that it's crass with a feeble attempt at a joke that doesn't work: for that reason I have no problem with Lidl withdrawing it, but I still don't understand the protests. What am I missing?

    Wednesday, 20 November 2013

    Cains brewery village plans approved

    Cains workers demonstrating after being
    sacked without notice or compensation
    The plans by the Dusanj brothers to convert the old Cains Brewery site in Liverpool into a brewery village and tourist venue have been approved. The brewery was closed 6 months ago with debts of £8 million (previous post here) and the workers laid off in a particularly shabby way without compensation (previous post here). The BBC report briefly describing the plans and their approval by the council is here.

    Both the Liverpool mayor, Joe Anderson and the MP for Liverpool Riverside, Louise Ellman, have welcomed the proposed redevelopment, even though partners and operators for the cinema, hotel and supermarket have yet to be found. The BBC article states that the existing Brewery Tap pub would also be restored to produce traditional ales. This sounds like a microbrewery to me. One of the owners, Sudarghara Dusanj, claims the redevelopment will attract 2.5 million visitors per year, benefiting the city's economy by £25 million. If you accept that, consider the following:
    • The Dusanj brothers have gone bankrupt twice in five years, not a track record to give potential investors and partners confidence.
    • The brothers originally stated that Cains beers would be brewed elsewhere under licence. While this is not an adequate substitute for a brewery on the site, it never happened.
    • The Cains brand was run into the ground after the first bankruptcy and I was told that the beers were made using the cheapest ingredients they could find. Previously good beers became very poor.
    • 38 staff were made redundant without payment and had to claim payouts from a Government fund.
    We're never going to get the brewery back as it was, so I hope this scheme succeeds, but given the brothers' record, I'm not putting any money on it.

    Tuesday, 19 November 2013

    Not just a numbers game

    We're often told that X number of pubs are closing every week, and I'm sure these figures are correct as far as they go: I have long wondered how far they do go though. Are the figures gross or net? Do they offset the number of new pubs and bars opening against the losses, or does the number refer to closures only without any account taken of new licensed premises? I'm fairly sure it's the latter. If so, are the prophets of doom talking down the state of pubs and bars in the country?

    The Sparrowhawk pub sign
    I've previously written about pubs we have lost locally this year, the Plough and the London, and I've also written about the new Marston's pub, the Guelder Rose, which opened recently. Another new real ale outlet is the Sparrowhawk, which has just opened in the former Tree Tops Hotel on Southport Old Road. The owners, Brunning and Price, state that it will be "a traditional pub restaurant serving high quality fresh food, along with a decent range of cask ales and wine". I've been told the range of cask ales is good, but with prices at around £3.60 a pint, it is clearly catering for foodies and special events, such as weddings and christenings, rather than the ordinary drinker.

    Does this mean that locally we have a net loss of zero? In one way, yes, although there is certainly no exchange of like for like: both our new pubs are heavily food oriented, while those we lost were traditional pubs: this neatly illustrates the changing face of pub going. There must still money in pubs, seeing that the Guelder Rose was built entirely from scratch while the Sparrowhawk was a very expensive refurbishment, but neither will ever be a local. Considering the style of establishments that are opening and closing, I take the view that our net loss is indeed actually two.

    Very few pubs close completely unmourned, so in a way the figures do reflect the level of losses of unique places where some people loved to spend their time, meet their friends and down a few beers that they presumably enjoyed, whether or not the beer was real. If you've lost your comfortable, old, local, traditional boozer, a new smart food oriented pub restaurant or bar can never be a replacement, so in answer to my question at the end of the first paragraph, I'd say no.

    Monday, 18 November 2013

    You should be dancing, yeah!

    I've been asked to issue a reminder about this ceilidh, or barn dance, if you prefer. In view of the weather, they're holding it in St John Stone Social Club rather than a barn. It features the Gallimaufry Big Band (even more musicians for a bigger sound!). Phone Clive or Pete for tickets. Real ale? I wouldn't have thought so, although there is a bar.

    Pete Morton and Roger Wilson in Southport

    Roger Wilson (left) & Pete Morton
    Pete Morton and Roger Wilsonthis is a new project of traditional songs, tunes and dance from two experienced and respected folk performers, both of whom have appeared at the Bothy before, although not as a duo. From the big ballads to the finest tunes, from gentle love songs to the bawdy, Pete and Roger come together to share their love of the tradition, playing, singing and dancing their favourites from both the British Isles and North America with two fine voices, a fiddle, harmonica, guitars, a broomstick and a dustpan and brush! (so it says here anyway)

    I've seen them separately and rate both highly. What this collaboration is like I've no idea, but I can't see that it will be anything less than thoroughly entertaining, and probably rather more.

    They're on this Sunday 24 November at the Bothy, which meets at the Park Golf Club, Park Rd West, Southport, PR9 0JS. Thwaites cask ale. 8.00pm start. On-line tickets.

    Saturday, 16 November 2013

    Beer festivals - campaign or commerce?

    2014 marks something of a landmark for CAMRA Liverpool and Districts: they are finally putting some of their beer festival tickets on line. I've written about this a few times in recent years, particularly here, provoking quite a hostile reaction from a couple of members of that branch. In addition to some flak aimed at me, Doug Macadam, the chair of my own CAMRA branch (Southport and West Lancs), was harangued while working at the Liverpool beer festival and, for some reason, Ken and Carol Worthington of Wigan branch, friends of mine, were questioned too. All a gross overreaction: it was only me shouting my mouth off.

    However, much as I'd like to think this blog is highly influential, I feel that Liverpool's move to on-line ticketing has less to do with anything I wrote and more to do with the festivals being run by Liverpool Organic Brewery and others in the city, all of whom effortlessly put their tickets on line. For some reason, CAMRA are still having their sales day, although this time it will involve queueing in the Augustus John pub near the cathedral rather than in the freezing cold outside the crypt, but on-line sales do mean that if you live further afield you have a chance of getting a ticket.

    Which brings me to the question of price. Liverpool CAMRA will charge £7 a session. This is comparable to the Liverpool Organic Brewery's charging of £7 a session for their festival in the Old Christ Church in Waterloo and £8 for their festival in St George's Hall and their festival in the Black-E next month. I appreciate that these venues don't come cheap, and the success of these festivals suggests that there are enough people around able and willing to pay such prices.

    Perhaps we should remind ourselves why we have beer festivals. In their current form, they were invented by CAMRA in the 1970s as a way of campaigning, the idea was to show people that the range and - sometimes - quality of real ale could be much better than what they were used to locally. CAMRA's job has changed but is still necessary, as every year a new generation of drinkers upon reaching 18 is subjected to expensive advertising campaigns for the latest fad drink: it was alcopops for a while, but now it seems to be fruit or pear ciders. Some say CAMRA's work is done because real ale has been saved, but no situation is static: vast drinks corporations will always try to steer young drinkers towards high profit, mass-produced and easily handled products. They do this because real ale has a lower profit margin and is less easy to look after.

    I am unsure how festivals charging £7 or £8 fit in to the campaigning ethic. Liverpool Organic Brewery can rightly point out that they are a business, not a campaign, but CAMRA can't say the same. Look at these other CAMRA festival prices as a contrast:
    • Manchester (300+ real ales) next January: entry £2 to £5; CAMRA members free on 2 out the 4 days.
    • Wigan (70+ real ales) last March: entry £1 to £3; CAMRA members free at all times.
    • Southport (50+ real ales) last month: entry £3; CAMRA members free at all times.
    While it is generally true that the majority of people at festivals are already committed real drinkers, even though most of them aren't CAMRA members, I wonder whether the high admission prices being charged by all festivals in Liverpool will discourage those who might want just to find out about real ale and cider; will these festivals increasingly cater only for the converted? In my opinion, they will. Having to buy tickets in advance increases the tendency of the festivals to become drinking extravaganzas for the knowledgeable, seeing that most ordinary drinkers, whether they drink real ale or not, don't usually plan their drinking sessions weeks or months in advance. The three festivals listed above don't have advance tickets and, with lower admission charges, are more likely to cater for those who decide, perhaps at the last minute, "Come on, let's go and see what this beer festival's all about."

    But I don't want to be too churlish: Liverpool CAMRA has after 2 or 3 years of "looking into" on-line tickets finally taken the plunge. It wasn't so bad after all, was it?

    Having said all that, it is a well-run festival in a great venue, and it's not my intention to discourage anyone from going. I am simply reflecting upon what I see as a shift away from campaigning.

    Friday, 15 November 2013

    Lancashire Day 2013

    Thanks to proud Lancastrian Jeff Carter who has done his usual fine job in compiling this information. As I was born in Liverpool, Lancashire, I always like to take part in these local celebrations of our history.
    • Guest House, Union St, Southport, Lancashire Night with Southport Swords,Tuesday 26 November in aid of Queenscourt Hospice. Proclamation 9.00pm by CAMRA stalwart Stuart Elliott.
    • Inn Beer Shop, Lord St, Southport, Wednesday 27 November. Lancashire cask and bottled beers, Lancashire music and nibbles.
    • Barons Bar, Scarisbrick Hotel, Lord St, Southport, Wednesday 27 November: Lancashire Day Proclamation at 1.00pm by Don Evans, West Lancashire Town Crier; Lancashire beers.
    • Sir Henry Segrave (Wetherspoons), Lord St, Southport, Wednesday 27 November. Lancashire beers and charity raffle.
    • Sandgrounder, Lord St, Southport, Wednesday, 27 November. Lancashire Day menu and 2 Lancashire cask ales at £2 per pint.
    • Crown, Station Road, Croston, Wednesday, 27 November. Lancashire Day menu 4.30pm to 8.30pm: Lancashire Hot Pot or Delway cheese board; two for one offer.
    • Hop Vine, Liverpool Road, Burscough,Wednesday, 27 November, Lancashire Night. Lancashire and Burscough brewer beers.
    • Hop Inn Beer Shoppe, Burscough St, Ormskirk, Wednesday, 27 November. Lancashire beers, quiz and nibbles.
    • The Ship, Wheat Lane, Lathom, Thursday, 28 November. Lancashire themed quiz night from 9.00pm.
    • The Grapes, 67 Town Road, Croston, Sunday 24 November: Celebrate Lancashire Day, Regional Morris Dancers, Croston Drumming Band, Indoor stalls include Delway cheese, Lancashire crisps and Bretherton Bakery, hot pie and peas and tables (bookable) for traditional Sunday lunch. Tel: 01772 600 225.

    Apologies

    Sorry I've not posted anything for a while, but I've been feeling somewhat under the weather. I've been having sneezing fits, which on a couple of occasions have gone on all day, along with something that was a bit like a cold, but wasn't.

    Don't you sometimes look back to the days when a cold was a cold, and when it was over, it vanished?

    Thursday, 31 October 2013

    Keeping your spirits up

    Be careful ordering spirits at the bar
    I'm one of those who regrets the importing of American trick or treating for Hallowe'en, but the fact is that to young kids nowadays, that's the norm. So I gave up moaning about it a few years ago after telling three charming tiny witches on the doorstep (with a beaming mum a few steps away on the pavement) that I had nothing for them: I felt quite mean seeing their disappointed faces. What's a bag of sweets once a year? At least they still call them sweets, rather than candy.

    Afterwards, I'll stray to a couple of local hostelries to seek out some Hallowe'en beer; there's usually two or three on in the Guest House. It's a market Wychwood and Moorhouses have tried to corner, just like Guinness has bought all the rights to St Patrick, but you can't keep good microbrewers with highly developed punning abilities down. At least it will be more fun than watching Halloween Part 23 The Revenge or whatever.

    Tuesday, 29 October 2013

    Blonde Ambition

    A nice surprise when I went into the Guest House in Southport last night was the sight of Samuel Adams Blonde Ambition on the bar. This is a real ale, 4.5% strength, produced by Shepherd Neame in collaboration with the American craft brewer, the Boston Beer Company. The website states that beer uses equal measures of American and British Cascade hops, with Yakima Valley Cascade, also from America. As you'd expect, it was fairly dry, golden-coloured ale which I found slipped down very easily, some might say too easily considering its strength. Judging by the way the hand pump was being hammered, quite a few other drinkers felt the same way. It has more character than some golden beers produced by regionals, such as the popular Thwaites Wainwright, a beer I like well enough but don't find exceptional; or Robinson's Dizzy Blonde, which borders on the bland.

    I found it interesting that the term "craft beer" was unequivocally featured on a real ale pump clip: two fingers to those who wish to differentiate between real ale and craft beer. This beer also demonstrates that the stuffy old regionals can match the micros when they choose to. In July I briefly alluded to a similar co-operative venture between Adnams and the Firestone Walker Brewing Company of California. While the regionals' main money is still in producing the standard beers we associate with them - and it's easy to forget in our real ale bubble how popular those beers are - it's good that they're willing to give something different a try, and doing it so well too.

    Sunday, 27 October 2013

    Stepping up to the mike

    They move the pool table for the open mike
    I was in the Upsteps in Birkdale on Tuesday for the open mike night run by Sue Raymond. There were some good acts on. One singer-guitarist was excellent, playing old-style rock & roll and blues. I was very impressed, and I overheard him being asked at the bar later, "My friend says you used to in the Real Thing. Is it true?" His reply was "Yes, but it was a long time ago." I can believe it, and I was glad I wasn't going on immediately after him. When I did go on, I gave in to requests to do some Buddy Holly, even though I'd intended to do something more modern (i.e. from the 1970s).

    The pub usually has one real ale on from Caledonian. Recently it's been XPA; I'm not a great lover of Caledonian beers, but this wasn't too bad at all.

    The open mike night is every Tuesday evening in the back room. I'll continue going, even if that guitar whizz keeps on turning up! I'm not jealous, not at all.

    Saturday, 26 October 2013

    The mag that never was

    On 6 October, I published the cover of the latest issue of our local beer magazine, Ale & Hearty, which we had hoped to have printed in time for the Sandgrounder Beer Festival last weekend. Unfortunately, we couldn't get it printed in time for the festival, which has necessitated changing the front cover and a couple of articles. Here is the new front cover showing how it will appear within the next few days in a pub near you, providing you live in the in the Southport and West Lancs area, of course.

    The picture is of the now-closed London Hotel, estd. 1866

    Friday, 25 October 2013

    Wrong messages

    There has been no spam posted in this blog for ages - until this week when I've had two items. One that I've just deleted was from a Liverpool business woman. Does she really think it's a good idea to advertise her driving school on a beer and music blog? 

    Sending all the wrong messages ... (et cetera ad nauseam)

    P.S. 28 October: I've just deleted more spam from a different driving school. Do they actually look where they're posting their spam?

    Roy Bailey - still dissenting

    Roy's Below The Radar album (2009)
    For more than 50 years, Roy Bailey has been one of the British folk and acoustic scene’s most admired performers. He began, as so many veteran folkies did, performing skiffle in student union bars, later developing a love of traditional songs and the stories they tell, finally developing a unique repertoire of songs of dissent and hope. In 2000 he was awarded an MBE for services to folk music, an award he later returned in protest at the government’s foreign policy. In 1990, Roy and Tony Benn first presented their show, The Writing on the Wall, for which the duo won Best Live Act at BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards in 2003. The show has been performed to enthusiastic audiences the length and breadth of the UK, from 300 people in working men's clubs, to an estimated 9000 people at Cambridge Folk Festival in 2000. Roy's association with Tony began in 1976 and they have worked together on various programmes ever since.

    Approaching 78 years of age, Roy remains committed to his lifelong principles of equality, liberty, justice and internationalism. He is a member of the current Anti-Capitalist Roadshow along with many of this country's finest socialist folk singers and songwriters.

    I recall Roy once stating that he didn't accept the term 'protest singer', as the term was inadequate. He said, "We are dissenters" - suggesting that dissenting from a system that throws up injustice is more powerful than merely protesting against its worst excesses. 

    You can see Roy in Southport this Sunday 27 October at the Bothy Folk Club, Park Golf Club, Park Road West, Southport, PR9 0JS, starting at 8.00pm. On-line tickets. Thwaites real ale. Loads of free parking.

    Local pub awards, October 2013

    These are the local CAMRA awards that were presented last Thursday at the Sandgrounder Beer Festival. I'm pleased to say that three of the winners are less than a mile from where I live, although that's definitely not why they won.

    Licensees Of Excellence
    • Eddie Loftus - Fishermans Rest, Birkdale
    • Steve Gregory & Simon Cox - Freshfield, Formby
    • Gail Heyes - Guest House, Southport
    • Mike McCombe - Hop Vine, Burscough
    • Peter Bardsley - Inn Beer Shop, Southport
    Best Country Pub
    • Ship, Lathom - Ray McKintey & Dave Coyle
    Best Community Pub
    • Zetland, Southport - Dennis Rowley & Karen Arrowsmith
    Best Newcomer
    • Will McCombe - Hop Inne Bier Shop, Ormskirk
    Best Bar Persons
    • James Cox - Disraeli’s, Ormskirk
    • Adam Clark - Freshfield, Formby
    • Kerris Halsall - Hopvine, Burscough
    Special Award To Celebrate Fifty Years In The Licensed Trade
    • Fred Hook - Guest House, Southport
    Special Award For Outstanding Service To Promoting Real Ale
    • Joe & Janette Anderson - formerly of Lakeside Inn, Southport.
    One of the awards made last week 

    Wednesday, 23 October 2013

    Manchester Beer & Cider Festival 2014

    Advance notice of the replacement for the National Winter Ales Festival in Manchester next January.

    When CAMRA decided that it was time that the National Winter Ales Festival's nine-year tenure in Manchester came to an end, there was some degree of outcry both from those volunteers who had pulled the festival together for many years and from the drinkers who had enjoyed the annual January festival.

    Nine months on from the final event in Manchester, that decision by CAMRA may well have been the best thing that every happened for festival goers in the region - without it, the Manchester Beer & Cider Festival would never have been conceived. The new festival takes the same slot in the January calendar (22 to 25 January) and is shaping up to be Manchester's biggest and best ever beer festival. The biggest coup for the organisers was securing the amazing setting of Manchester Velodrome for the event - not the adjacent café used for the small warm up event in August - the actual Velodrome itself. As a building, it's simply stunning to stand inside that track and marvel at the scale of the place - and that's without any beer in it.

    Set on the floor inside that steeply banked track will be the largest range of beers and ciders ever offered in Manchester. There will be well over 300 cask conditioned craft beers alongside a bar full of real ale in a bottle (drink in or take away) - every beer that is ready for sale will be available from the first session until it is sold. The cider and perry bar is expected to offer at least 75 different ciders and perries - all made from fresh apple or pear juice.

    If the best of British beers isn't enough, then the 'Bière sans Frontières' bar will be importing the very best beers brewed for Germany's Oktoberfest alongside Belgian, Dutch, Czech and American beers - far too many to mention. Some of the most cutting edge breweries in the country including Marble Beers, Hawkshead, Liverpool Organic and Ilkley Brewery will be hosting their own bars offering a larger range of their beers than the three main cask bars can accommodate plus offering the chance to meet their brewers.

    In total there will be no fewer than 16 bars to visit. Surrounding these are some 1700 seats from where visitors will be able to look over the festival floor and watch cyclists riding the track. The Great Britain Cycling Team have training sessions on the track twice a day which will continue throughout the festival alongside other clubs and taster sessions.

    The festival kicks off at 4.30pm on Wednesday 22 January and runs through until Saturday evening. The Velodrome is easily accessible via Manchester's Metrolink tram network - its own Velopark station is served by trams every 12 minutes - with the 216 and other bus routes from Manchester even more frequent. CAMRA Members will be entitled to free entry all day Wednesday and Thursday with discounts on entry at all other times.

    To find out more, visit the festival website, and for all the latest news follow the festival on Facebook or (if you must) on twitter on @mancbeerfest .

    Thursday, 17 October 2013

    New Southport pub - the Guelder Rose

    The Guelder Rose, Marine Drive
    Southport's newest pub, the Guelder Rose, was opened on Monday by the Mayor of Sefton. Built by Marstons, it's on the Marine Drive next to Southport Pier and close to Ocean Plaza with its shops, restaurants, cinema, 10-pin bowling alley and Premier Inn. As it looks out over the Irish Sea, you can sit and gaze at the pier as it stretches across the sands and perhaps even catch a glimpse of the tide on one of its flying visits; on a clear day, you'll be able to see Blackpool Tower. No doubt the outside drinking areas will be very popular in the summer.

    It's a food-based pub with play areas for children, but also sells real ale. On opening day, it was selling Hobgoblin, Pedigree, Jennings Cocker Hoop and Brakspear Bitter, a predictable choice from the Marstons stable. They have suggested they might try to put on a beer from the local Southport Brewery; in view of where it is, I'd suggest Golden Sands.

    The building is reasonably attractive in a corporate new-build sort of way, certainly better than the huge sheds that make up Ocean Plaza. No one lives in the area and it's too far from the centre of town, or indeed any other pub (except the newish Waterfront on the Promenade, also a food-orientated place) to become a local, but I expect it will be popular with visitors in the summer and anyone who uses the various Ocean Plaza attractions throughout the year.

    Tuesday, 15 October 2013

    Slops revisited

    I wrote a post 6 weeks ago, called Pouring the slops back into the beer, which was a general account of how hygiene in pubs has considerably improved in recent years. I cited one exception, the autovac, a device used in some Yorkshire pubs for recycling beer from drip trays back into the lines. I was slightly surprised to receive a comment 6 weeks later from a Yorkshireman who bravely wrote anonymously what he clearly thought was a defence of the autovac. Except, strangely enough, it wasn't.

    He didn't respond to any of my observations about or objections to the autovac, including my point that the pint would actually be more flat with the recycled stale beer, despite the thick, foamy head. His argument was solely along the lines of: you outsiders keep your noses out of our business.

    I did ponder for all of a millisecond whether I was interfering in other people's business, but decided I was not. Yorkshire is part of the UK and I am a British citizen: Yorkshire is a part of my country, a part of the UK I happen to like very much and where I've gone on holiday at least once a year since the 1980s. I have no problem with good natured regional rivalries, such as Lancashire and Yorkshire, but the attitude shown by Mr Anon bordered on the xenophobic.

    I came across a similar attitude recently with someone I know over the question of Scottish independence when it became clear we had very different attitudes. I was asked how I had the nerve to comment on issues concerning his country. My response was that Scotland is still part of the UK, and that as I'm a British citizen, it is part of my country too. Actually, even if that weren't the case, I'd still have a right to an opinion.

    What I find slightly disturbing is the attitude that, "This is ours, not yours - how dare you have a view about it?" It is one way of avoiding arguing the substantive issue concerned and an attempt to close down discussion; in fact, it could be interpreted as a form of on-line bullying. As I pointed out to Mr Anon, I’ve often noticed the most aggressive comments on blogs, like the most aggressive letters to the newspapers, tend to be anonymous. In this case, as the post concerned is 6 weeks old, I'm wondering whether he was trawling the internet looking for things to be offended about.

    Intelligent debate and disagreement are fine. The "How dare you say that!" attitude* assumes a right to censor others' views because the issue concerned is "theirs". Sorry, Mr Anon, you don't have that right: no one does. And the autovac is still disgusting.

    * Reminds me of a prime minister; can't think which.

    Friday, 11 October 2013

    Steve Ashley gig in Southport

    Steve Ashley has long been regarded as one of British folk's finest singer-songwriters. His reputation for writing contemporary songs inspired by the English tradition was established in 1974 with his innovative 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.

    He has also played a significant role in the development of British folk-rock, performing as a lead singer with the first Albion Country Band, then with his own Ragged Robin and various line-ups of The Steve Ashley Band. He has also performed occasionally with members of Fairport Convention.

    Steve is the next guest at the Bothy Folk Club, Park Golf Club, Park Road West, Southport, PR9 0JS. That's on Sunday 13th October at 8.00pm. On-line tickets. Thwaites real ale.

    His best known song may well be Fire and Wine. Here it is in its original LP version:

    Thursday, 10 October 2013

    Merseyside's first micro-pub

    A Liverpool Pigeon
    Merseyside's first micro-pub is due to open tomorrow, 11 October, in Crosby. The Liverpool Pigeon has taken over a former children's clothes shop and will be featuring local brews such as George Wright and Liverpool Organic, up to 9 Belgian beers, 2 or 3 bottled German beers and two real ciders. Wine and soft drinks will also be available but strictly no lager, spirits, alcopops, TV, juke box or gaming machines.

    It is being opened by Patrick Moore, a former primary school teacher, who got the idea after reading an interview with Martin Hillier who opened the UK's first micro-pub in Kent: I saw Martin speak about micro-pubs to the CAMRA conference a few years ago.

    Opening hours are:
    Tues to Thurs
    12-2 and 5-9
    Friday
    12-2 and 4-9
    Saturday
    12-9
    Sunday
    12-5
    Monday
    closed

    The Liverpool Pigeon pub is at 14 Endbutt Lane, Crosby, L23 0TR, about 6 shops along from Liverpool Road (A565), and about a mile's walk from Blundellsands railway station, although the A565 is a major bus route. The name, Liverpool Pigeon, is of an extinct bird which probably came from Tahiti; only one specimen remains, and that's in the Liverpool World Museum. 

    P.S. 16 May 2014.
    Amended opening hours:
    Tues-Fri 4-9
    Sat 12-9
    Sun 12-5
    Closed Monday

    Wednesday, 9 October 2013

    "Tax fags, not booze" ~ survey

    Disappointing news for that dwindling band who want to see the smoking ban relaxed. Market research company mruk polled a representative sample of 1,058 adults from across the UK asking them to imagine they were the Chancellor of the Exchequer and needed to help the NHS save money. The results were:
    • 37% wanted increased cigarette tax.
    • 14% wanted unhealthy, high fat food to be taxed.
    • 6% prioritised alcohol pricing.
    Rachel Cope, head of mruk research, commented “Whilst almost everyone recognises the impact of smoking on health, that’s not the case with moderate alcohol consumption. If there’s no perceived impact on health then people see minimum pricing as just another tax.” Personally, I consider £7.98* for a packet of 20 to be excessive, especially as £6.17 of that is tax. With cigarette smuggling on the increase, it's stupid to keep on putting up the tax if by doing so you get ordinary people accustomed to breaking the law.

    While this survey was not specifically about the smoking ban, it suggests to me that liberalisation of the ban would not be popular, a view supported by a recent survey by YouGov of more than 1,000 Scottish adults which found that 78% would be in favour of extending the smoking ban to include play areas, such as parks and sports facilities, with only 11% against it. My own view, as I've stated before, is that I don't want changes to the ban either way; I find I'm not much affected by cigarette smoke in the open air. However, the precedent has been set in Wales with many areas banning smoking in play parks.

    Perhaps the fact that 94% didn't support minimum pricing for alcohol, despite the relentless propaganda of the anti-alcohol brigade, is evidence that the common sense of the British people is greater than we might assume from media reporting. That alone must be a good thing.

    * Figures from the Tobacco Manufacturers Association.

    Sunday, 6 October 2013

    Ale & Hearty ~ preview

    I have been sent a proof copy of the issue 63 of Ale & Hearty, our local CAMRA magazine and the first printed by our new printers (more details about that here). The cover photo shows festival goers watching the Argarmeles Clog team dancing at last year's festival. We hope to have it out very soon; here is a preview of the cover: