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Thursday, 29 June 2017

Freshfield Beer Festival

The Freshfield
I've had a message from Jo Gillespie, the new manager of the Freshfield Hotel.

She tells me that they are holding a Beer Festival from Monday 3 July to Sunday 9 July. This pub has earned several local CAMRA awards in the past. It's on Massam's Lane, Formby, L37 7BD, a short walk from Freshfield Station.

The pub is worth visiting anyway as it usually has a good range of real ales on. 

Tuesday, 27 June 2017

The Sir Henry Segrave, Southport

The attractive frontage to
The Henry Segrave
The Sir Henry Segrave is situated at the south end of Lord Street, Southport. It is a JD Wetherspoon's house converted from the old House of Holland shop. The pub is designed with several separate drinking areas on two levels, thus breaking up what could have been a large barn-like interior. The walls are wood-panelled to waist height with photographs of old Southport above, and you can watch the world go by through the large windows on two sides. Outdoor seats allow you to enjoy the good weather, when we get it. Disability access is by the side entrance on Coronation Walk.

The pub is named after Sir Henry Segrave who in 1926 raised the land-speed record to 152mph in his Sunbeam Ladybird on Birkdale Sands. During his life, Henry Segrave set 3 land speed records and one water record. He died in June 1930, just a few months after he was awarded a knighthood, having just set a new world record on Lake Windermere.

Back to the present. The real ales on offer when I visited were: Moorhouse's Pendle Witch, Phoenix Wobbly Bob, Sharp's Doom Bar, Derwent Brewery Cote Light, Wainwright, Naylor's Aire Valley Bitter, Red Star Weissbier, Lytham Lancashire Life Anniversary Ale, Ruddles Best, Greene King Abbott Ale, and a Blonde Ale brewed by Maui Brewing Co only for Wetherspoon's. The company quite often sets up these exclusive brewing deals, resulting in quality beers available nowhere else. They also stock a good range of craft beers, world beers, wines, spirits, cocktails, tea and coffee.

Wetherspoon's is known for value food and the Segrave's specials nights are: steak night Tuesday, chicken on Wednesday, curry night on Thursday, Friday fish of course, and on Sunday you can have an all-day brunch.
............................

The above was the newspaper article I wrote (see note* below). I'd like to add that I have read some disgraceful comments about Wetherspoon's pubs, usually in the comments section below blog posts, not written by the bloggers themselves. Descriptions such as 'old people drooling over their meals' are disrespectful and inaccurate: I've never seen it. There are also comments about 'brats' running around: most children (as they are properly called) do not run around, certainly no more than in any other pub that admits children. I've also seen sneering comments about people on benefits frequenting Spoons houses, as though those without jobs are not permitted to have a pint. All rank snobbery, of course.

* This is one of a series of articles that I write for the CAMRA column in our local papers, the Southport Visiter and the Ormskirk Advertiser. Previous reviews are here.

Saturday, 24 June 2017

Tap & Bottles acoustic song session

This monthly singaround in the Tap & Bottles, 19 Cambridge Walks, Southport, Merseyside, PR8 1EN. Next Monday 26 June will be the fourth at this venue.

As the poster suggests, it is open to all comers, although performing is not mandatory.

The Tap & Bottles is now well-established in Southport town centre as a venue offering a good choice of real ales, craft and bottled beer.

Thursday, 8 June 2017

Brewdog climb down

From a post in September 2015 about a petition against an offensive Brewdog video:
I wrote on the 3 September how Brewdog's campaign to wrest money from their fans to fund their business had caused offence: they've been accused of mocking homeless people, trans women and sex workers in their video, with the message: don't force them [i.e. Brewdog] to do such humiliating things to raise money. Despite 20,508 signatures on the petition, Brewdog are unrepentant. Their response was: "If you believe we are ridiculing [trans people, homeless people, sex workers], you are either misguided, ill-informed or out of your tiny mind."
At the time, I thought I'd like to see how that kind of defence would stand up in court: "If you think I stole that car, you are either misguided, ill-informed or out of your tiny mind." Guaranteed to win over the hearts and minds of any jury.

Brewdog have now quietly removed the offensive video from their YouTube account. They have done this without fanfare or comment - which is in itself completely out of character - to avoid the press reporting that they had backed down in response to external pressure, in this case from a petition that eventually gained 36,961 signatures. These cartoon punks don't want to be seen admitting they did anything wrong, but it's clear to me that the campaign had the desired effect.

Sunday, 4 June 2017

Getting back to normal

I've been out of the game for most of the last month with a rather nasty chest infection. It's difficult to keep a music and real ale blog going when you're more or less housebound. Writing my weekly CAMRA column for the local paper hasn't been easy either. The fact that my voice had degenerated into a croak meant that practising songs on my guitar wasn't an option to pass the time. Although the infection has been dealt with by antibiotics, my voice - my singing voice particularly - has yet to return fully. I have spent a lot of the time catching up on all the TV programmes I'd been recording, but this palls after a while. It's quite surprising how much Taggart is shown each week.

The thought has crossed my mind that I've had a mere three weeks of this, while for some people this is their life. I've visited housebound people in the past when I worked for the DSS, and I did what I could within the job's constraints, but the forbearance most of them showed puts my few weeks of confinement into perspective - and not in a way that flatters me!

I'm now pub-going again. Gail, the licensee of my local, the Guest House, has welcomed me back, as have the staff, and it's nice to have that feeling of belonging to a pub. She says that I can resume my monthly gigs there as soon as I can sing again. And there's a point: your voice is something you just take for granted. Most of us don't think about it: it's just there - until it isn't. Still, I'm on the mend, and I hope not to get another chest infection like this one for some time to come.

The good news is that the Phoenix Brewery May Fly was definitely in good nick last night.

Saturday, 3 June 2017

Turning Back The Clock

'Chucking Out Time' by Edward Foster
The good old days UKIP wants back
Why does UKIP still exist? The UK has now voted to leave the EU, so you'd think they'd just have a victory party and disband. Not a bit of it.

Continuing as a party, even though it has lost its main raison d'ĂȘtre, requires it to produce policies on a variety of issues, even though everyone knows they will never be enacted. This is why they have produced a policy on pubs. Their manifesto includes plans to "reduce the density of alcohol outlets and restrict trading times" for pubs and bars, and to replace the Licensing Act 2003 with new, more restrictive legislation. This is a good few steps away from the frequent image of a smiling Farage standing outside a pub, pint and cigarette in hand. I have no time for Farage, but I have to concede that bit of PR was quite effective.

UKIP is at one with the anti-alcohol brigade in that they see pubs and bars as the root of all alcoholic evil. Control them and you control the problem. This point of view takes no account of the huge growth in recent decades of drinking at home, a trend that has been encouraged by the disproportionate mismatch between on- and off-sale prices. As long as the problem is out of sight off the streets, they don't care much. The fact that drinking on your own at home can lead to problems associated with isolation, such as depression, doesn't seem to cross their minds. Not all home drinking is solitary, of course, but even drinking in company at home eliminates interaction with people outside your immediate group.

I'm uncertain what restricted opening hours UKIP would favour. They would have to be standardised, otherwise when one pub closed, drinkers would simply be able to drift to another that was still serving, thus defeating the purpose of restricted opening. Standardised hours would bring back the old closing time rush that led to virtually all the drinkers in a town centre being discharged onto the streets at the same time. In the past, this was often blamed for public order problems, and is thus at odds with UKIP's professed aim to "protect emergency workers from abuse" from drunks. While I fully agree that people should not suffer abuse or assaults for simply doing their jobs, the party hasn't done any joined-up thinking here.

As for reducing the density of pubs: how would they achieve that? Will businesses be forcibly closed? Will they be taxed out of existence? Because if the latter, going out for a drink would become a pastime only the rich could afford in a small number of expensive outlets. Anyone else who wanted to drink would have to do so at home.

As Kate Nicholls of the Association of Licensed Multiple Retailers has said of UKIP's opening hours policy, "Any return to the old system would be a hugely retrograde action and unhelpful for pubs, restaurants and bars. Thankfully, there is little chance of UKIP sweeping to victory at the general election."

Quite.