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Wednesday, 28 December 2016

Local pub and brewery review

There has mixed news in recent years for local pubgoers. The financial crash of 2008 had a major detrimental effect on the pub trade, as on many other businesses. Since then we have lost a lot of local pubs. In Southport, the Portland is now offices, the Shakespeare closed in 2013 and is for sale, the Blundell Arms has been closed for redevelopment, while the Herald, the London and the Plough have all disappeared. In Ormskirk, the historic Buck I' Th' Vine, an old coaching house, has been closed for a long time, as have the Ropers on Wigan Road and the Red Lion in Burscough. Unfortunately this list is not exhaustive.

Earlier this month, the historic Scotch Piper in Lydiate caught fire, although there are hopes it can be repaired and reopened; it really would be a sad loss otherwise, seeing that the date on the sign is AD 1320.

On the plus side, we have seen a few pubs reopen after lengthy periods of closure, such as the Up Steps in Birkdale, the Cock and Rabbit (formerly the Rabbit) in Southport and the Old Packet House in Burscough.

The Tap & Bottles in Cambridge Walks
At the same time we have seen the rise of micropubs, which usually open in former shops or similar small premises. The grandfather of them all locally is the Inn Beer Shop on Lord Street, Southport, with a huge range of bottled beers from all over the world as well as real ale from Southport Brewery.

More recent micropub openings include: the popular Tap and Bottles in Cambridge Walks, Southport; Birkdale's Barrel House in a former newsagent's shop, and further down the road opposite the Crown pub is Taylor's Bar in a former butcher's shop run by one-time 50s and 60s rock & roller Kingsize Taylor. Hillside was a beer desert until the Grasshopper on Sandon Road and the Pines on Hillside Road opened this year; both serve real ale. Further afield, we now have the Beer Station by Freshfield Station and the Hop Inn Bier Shoppe in Ormskirk. This trend for new, different drinking places is continuing.

The Southport and West Lancs area had no breweries until 2004 when Southport Brewery opened. This was followed in 2010 by Burscough Brewery, and in the last couple of years we have gained 3 Potts and Craft breweries in Southport, Parker Brewery in Banks, Red Star in Formby, Neptune in Maghull and Rock The Boat in Little Crosby.

The world of brewing and pubgoing is certainly changing, but this has always been true. When I began drinking in the 1970s, the pub scene was quite different from now, but it also differed from that of the 1950s, and so on further back. There's nothing wrong with nostalgia, unless it inhibits your ability to cope with the present and future: until the TARDIS turns up, time runs in only one direction. With micropubs opening all over the place and a record number of breweries, it well may be that we are in something of a golden age, as I wrote six months ago. Enjoy it while it lasts: in the future, there will probably be people who will wistfully look back to now. 

This has been adapted from an article I wrote for the CAMRA column in our local paper, the Southport Visiter. Some previous articles are here.

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