Tuesday, 3 December 2019

Stags, Hens and Christmas

Quite a few years ago when I was a regional union rep, I sometimes attended meetings in Leeds. 
After one meeting, I saw in the office a large group of women, reps and union staff, all dressed up in St Trinian's-style outfits. Curious, I asked what was going on and was told it was a hen night. I congratulated the bride-to-be who – to my surprise - asked me if I'd like to join them. I did and it was certainly a lively night, but thankfully I didn't have to adopt the dress code!

While some stags and hens like to jet off to foreign parts, partying at home is still a popular way of celebrating the end of single status; indeed the economic downturn has meant a drop in stags and hens celebrating abroad. Four of the top ten favourite locations for stag and hen parties are in the UK: London (11%); Brighton (6%); Liverpool (5%); and Edinburgh (4%). Such events do sometimes get a bad press, but most are usually well-behaved and can provide a welcome boost to a pub's business.

Christmas is also often an occasion for pub crawls. While most drinkers have their own favourite drinking haunts, it can be very agreeable to try a few different places with a group of like-minded friends. For beer drinkers in particular, this may provide an opportunity to try brews they don't normally come across.

Probably the worst way to organise a crawl is to meet with no plan; this can cause arguments about where to go next. It's much better to decide in advance where you're going. If your group is large, it helps to choose places where you can all get in without filling up the place. Packing out a small pub can annoy the regulars, and on one crawl in Liverpool I happened to be last and simply couldn't get in. I don't think it was planned that way!

For real ale drinkers, planning a crawl is easy nowadays with CAMRA's What Pub website. Simply type in a place name or postcode and it will tell you all the real ale pubs in the area.

► This is one of a series of articles that I write for the CAMRA column in our local papers, the Southport Visiter and Ormskirk Advertiser. Older articles on local pubs are here.

Sunday, 1 December 2019

Local acoustic events in Southport, December

All in the evening except §

• Sun 1st: Saskia Griffiths-Moore - Bothy Folk Club, Park Road West.

• Mon 2nd: Singaround - Guest House, Union Street.

§ Tue 10th: Lion Singaround - Tap & Bottles, Cambridge Walks, 1.30pm.

• Wed 11th: Singaround - Grasshopper, Sandon Road, Hillside.

§ Sun 15th: Carol singing, Fishermen's Rest, Weld Rd - 1.00 p.m.

• Mon 16th: Music session - Guest House, Union Street.

• Sun 15th: Lucy Ward - Bothy Folk Club, Park Road West.

• Sun 22nd: Bothy Xmas Party, Park Road West.

§ Thu 26th: Southport Swords Day of Dance afternoon - Hesketh, Churchtown, then Guest House.

Wednesday, 20 November 2019

Who writes pretentious real ale tasting notes?

Am I alone in thinking that real ale tasting notes are mostly pretentious twaddle? I picked up Wetherspoon's guest ale tasting notes and selected a few beers that I am familiar with.

Marston's Wainwright: "This pale straw-coloured beer has a subtle sweetness, with delicate citrus fruit overtones, complemented by sweet honey notes to deliver a refreshing character."

I struggle to detect sweetness, subtle or otherwise, nor any hint of honey, although there is possibly the faintest whiff of citrus. I am suspicious of any beer described as refreshing, which usually means lacking in any distinctive flavour, as here.

Salopian Golden Thread: "This bright golden ale is brewed using wheat and lager malts, plus an infusion of aroma hops, resulting in a clean, crisp palate, hints of sweetness and a long fruit-filled finish."

I like this beer, and in fact had a few yesterday, but did not detect any hint of sweetness or a fruit-filled finish. I thought it a fairly dry beer.

Adnams Broadside: "This classic beer is a deep ruby colour, rich in fruit cake aromas, with hints of almonds and fruit in the smooth, malty flavour, leading to a balanced, lasting finish."

Another beer I like, but I wonder whether whoever wrote this has ever eaten a fruit cake? I've never detected almonds or fruit in the flavour.

I could write more but I'd just be labouring the point. It's all about trying to elevate beer from the old image of a cheap product drunk in quantities in street corner pubs to something on a par with wine, which is why we now have the ridiculous title of 'beer sommelier'. It's also why we now have beer and food matching, because that's what often been done with wine. Personally, I'm not very keen on drinking beer with food; if I have a pub meal, I don't usually touch my pint while I'm actually eating.

I suppose in the great scheme of things such an approach to beer drinking is relatively harmless, although I can imagine that if the image of real ale drinking becomes insufferably precious, some people may well be put off ever trying it.

Sunday, 17 November 2019

St George's Hall Winter Ale Festival

My friend Roland (left) and I in St George's Hall 
for the last beer festival
Tickets are now on sale for the St George's Hall Winter Ale Festival which will be taking place in the famous St George's Hall in Liverpool. I went with some friends to the last festival in this venue, and everyone had a great time. It was my first ever visit to the spectacular Great Hall - I say that with a slight feeling of shame, having been born in Liverpool! The session we attended was concluded with the Grim Reaper calling 'Time!' while Mozart was being played on the great organ.

There will be up to 200 different real ales and ciders alongside an indoor gin garden with a selection of boutique gins, spirits, wine and prosecco. This ale festival definitely caters for all tastes.

The bar sponsor for the festival will be Ossett Brewery, which is based just outside Bradford, and many of their award-winning brews will be on the bars. Not only that, but Ossett will be bringing their sister breweries with them too, so there will be beers from Fernandes, Riverhead and the famous Rat brewery. You can expect many other breweries to be announced as the festival draws closer.

Entertainment will be provided at all sessions, except for Friday daytime. If you get peckish, there will be tasty hot and cold food prepared by Liverpool Cheese Company, Peninsula Pies and Crackpot Catering (serving up their special Scouse) throughout the festival.

All CAMRA members receive a discount on production of a valid membership card at the Thursday evening and Friday daytime session: a full card of tokens is £15, but at those two sessions is only £13 for CAMRA card holders. There will also be a return of the 'Beer of the Festival Award', voted for by all customers.

The festival runs from Thursday 30 January to Saturday 1 February 2020. For those unfamiliar with Liverpool, the venue is adjacent to Queens Square bus station and less than 10 minutes' walk from Central Station.

This is a popular festival so it might be wise to buy your tickets well in advance here.

► This is one of a series of articles that I write for the CAMRA column in our local papers, the Southport Visiter and Ormskirk Advertiser. Older articles on local pubs are here.

Thursday, 7 November 2019

The Buck I'Th' Vine, Ormskirk

Click on photo for larger image
An appointment had taken me to Ormskirk, and afterwards I decided to visit the Buck I'Th' Vine which reopened three months ago, having closed closed in 2014. The closure saddened many people, particularly as the Buck, as it's now officially known, dates from the 17th century when it was known as the Roebuck. The appearance of the pub is very distinctive with the Grade II listed buildings on two sides of a cobbled courtyard to the front where you can sit when the weather permits.

The layout has been reconfigured with the bar moved to another room; formerly it was behind a multi-paned window, which is still there, as are quite a few other original features. Its new position is in front on an old fireplace, and it is longer and more practical than the old one. There are five drinking areas with a separate Spitroast restaurant to the rear. It has real fires, although probably not behind the bar!

There three real ales on: Hobgoblin Gold, Wainwright, and Jennings Sneck Lifter, with Brakspear lined up to go on next. I tried all three beers and found they were in good form. Among the fonts was Shipyard American Pale Ale, and there was good selection of spirits, especially gin.

The Spitroast restaurant to the rear is a more modern affair, and is the third in the chain, the others being in Crosby and Liverpool. The menu looked interesting, but I didn't try anything as I wasn't hungry, and this is not a restaurant review. A glass panel in the restaurant floor gives a glimpse of the old cobbles of the market town. Spitroast website.

The pub has recently become the home venue for a team in the quiz league, and on Sunday afternoons entertainment is provided by a singer-guitarist. Children and dogs are welcome. After quite a long chat with the manager, Sue, I feel this fine old inn is in good hands.

The Buck is at 35 Burscough Street, Ormskirk L39 2EG, close to Ormskirk's famous clock tower. Events are advertised on their Facebook page.

► This is one of a series of articles that I write for the CAMRA column in our local papers, the Southport Visiter and Ormskirk Advertiser. Older articles on local pubs are here.

Sunday, 3 November 2019

The Excelsior, Liverpool

The Excelsior, Liverpool
Strolling around in Liverpool on Tuesday last week, I decided to call into the Excelsior on Dale Street, a pub I haven't visited for some time. It was named after a sailing ship, a reminder of Liverpool's long maritime history. This is a tastefully decorated, traditional pub with three separate drinking areas, old fireplaces, and attractive wooden rails, bar, plate racks and doorways. Pictures of old Liverpool adorn the walls.

The choice of real changes but these are the six that were on when I visited: Salopian Oracle, Salopian Lemon Dream,, Salopian Shropshire Gold, Peerless Galaxian, Timothy Taylor's Landlord and Brain's Rev. James. I was told this last beer is particularly popular with Everton fans! The three beers I tried were all in good form, as you'd expect from a Cask Marque accredited pub. There is 30p off all real ales every Monday.

Other drinks include a choice of 21 gins, six different bottled craft beers a wine menu that includes fizz and coffee. They advertise pub food until the early evening with pies, mash, pasta and paninis – there is even a pie menu. They show live sports on three screens that can be tuned to show different sporting events at the same time, and there is live music every Friday.

I found the pub friendly and ended chatting to a young woman who was visiting Liverpool from London; she was actually Polish, although I would never have guessed from her English accent. I also had a talk with the enthusiastic licensee.

They have free WiFi, and you can find out what's happening there on their Facebook page. The address is 121-123 Dale Street, Liverpool 2, just five minutes' walk from Moorfields Station on the Merseyrail Nothern Line.

While you're in that part of Liverpool, there are quite a few other pubs all less than 10 minutes' walk from Moorfields. The Hole In The Wall, Thomas Rigby's, the Lady of Mann, the Vernon, the Ship & Mitre and the Lion Tavern can, along the Excelsior, constitute a satisfying compact pub tour.

► This is one of a series of articles that I write for the CAMRA column in our local papers, the Southport Visiter and Ormskirk Advertiser. Older articles on local pubs are here.

Sunday, 27 October 2019

Song & music sessions to the end of November

At singarounds and music sessions, you can perform, sing along or just listen to suit yourself. All venues serve real ale, and all events are free, unless otherwise stated.

October
► Sunday 27th: singers night at the Bothy Folk Club, Park Golf Club, Park Road West, Southport from 8.00 pm. Free admission for performers.
► Monday 28th: song session in the Tap & Bottles, Cambridge Walks, Southport from 8.15pm.

November
► Monday 4th: song session in the Guest House, Union Street, Southport from 8.15pm.
► Sunday 10th: singers night at the Bothy Folk Club, Park Golf Club, Park Road West, Southport from 8.00 pm. Free admission for performers.
► Tuesday 12th: song session in the Lion, Moorfields, Liverpool from 8.30 pm.
► Wednesday 13th: singaround in the Grasshopper, Sandon Road, Hillsside from 8.15 pm.
► Monday 18th: music session in the Guest House, Union Street, Southport from 8.15pm.
► Sunday 24th: singers night at the Bothy Folk Club, Park Golf Club, Park Road West, Southport from 8.00 pm. Free admission for performers.
► Monday 25th: song session in the Tap & Bottles, Cambridge Walks, Southport from 8.15pm.
► Every Thursday: lunchtime singaround in the Belvedere, Sugnall Street, Liverpool 7. 2.00pm to 4.00pm.

Sunday, 20 October 2019

European Tap Takeover + pizza

Here's something a bit different.

Over the weekend of 1 and 2 November, the Tap & Bottles in Cambridge Walk, Southport, is hosting a European Tap Takeover. In addition to its usual offer which always includes four real ales, they'll dedicate taps to beers from the Continent from 5.00pm on the Friday evening. Additionally, there will be Neapolitan pizza all day Saturday supplied by Purely Pizza, Southport's artisan pizza maker.

Monday, 14 October 2019

CAMRA and gender terminology

• E-mail from me to CAMRA:
I welcome CAMRA's involvement in the Women In Beer festival. However, shouldn't we put our own house in order? Isn't it time to ditch old-fashioned, gender-specific terms such as 'chairman', and use gender-neutral terms such as chair, chairperson or even president?

• Reply: 
Thank you for getting in touch. We have suggested the terms get reviewed, but it is down to the individual who holds that seat to decide what they'd like to be called - when Jackie Parker was Chairman, her preference was to be called Chairman rather than Chair!

I will forward on again the feedback though, as we have had leadership changes in the last year who may feel differently.

• My response:
I don't see it as a matter for personal choice because the terms must be prescribed in some kind of constitution, which probably needs amending. It is possible that Jackie Parker used 'chairman' because that was the official term.

Nowadays gender-specific terms such as 'chairman' make CAMRA look like an old-fashioned boys' club, rather than the inclusive campaign it would claim to be. Terms such as 'firefighters', 'seafarers', 'police officers' and 'actors' (for both genders) are increasingly becoming the norm.

The usual response from those who oppose gender-neutral terminology is something along the lines of "The position is not a piece of furniture". That is immature nonsense: the queen is often referred to as 'the crown' (e.g. the Crown Prosecution Service), but she is not a piece of jewellery, 'black rod' refers to a parliamentary officer, not a stick, and 'the bench' refers to three magistrates, not a long seat. My trade union has had gender-neutral terms since at least the 1970s, long before I joined, and - amazingly - the sky hasn't fallen in.

As the branch press officer, I write a weekly CAMRA column in two local papers. If I use a national CAMRA press release, I always replace 'chairman' with 'chair'. No one in the branch has complained.

This really shouldn't be an issue in the 21st century. However, I appreciate the fact that you will pass on my feedback: would you include this e-mail as well? Thanks.

Saturday, 12 October 2019

Coolest thing ever said to Al Stewart


I went to see Al Stewart at the Royal College of Music in Manchester last night. It was a sell-out performance and he was, as always, excellent. The support band, Empty Pockets, who also were his backing band, were very good in both capacities. He told this story:

About 40 years ago, he was backstage and a woman he reckoned was about 10 years older than him came in, made herself a drink and sat down to read a magazine. Assuming she was the wife of the promoter, he went over to chat with her, and after a while she told him that she had a cassette of his music in the car, adding that she had only two cassettes in her car, the other being of her brother.

"Is your brother in a band?" asked Al.
"He was," she replied, "but they split up."

As he put his guitar on to go on stage, Al asked the name of the band. She replied: "The Beatles."

It was George Harrison's sister. Al said it was coolest thing that's ever been said to him.

► I remember watching the live version above of 'Year Of The Cat' on the Old Grey Whistle Test in 1976. He and his band did an excellent version last night.

Sunday, 29 September 2019

Cheshire Lines Oktoberfest

On an impulse, I decided to pop into the Cheshire Lines on King Street, Southport, last weekend and was greeted warmly with the news of their forthcoming beer festival. The Chesh, as it's generally known, is a good real ale pub with four handpumps regularly in use, and the beers I tried on this visit were in good condition.

On Saturday 5th and Sunday 6th October they'll be putting on the Chesh Oktoberfest promising “Steins & Good Times” with thirty different casks, so there will be plenty of scope for sampling various beers. This two-day event will also feature live music from six bands, an outdoor bar, a DJ, a barbecue and various giveaways – all a mere two minutes' walk from Lord Street.

The Chesh is also popular for its food for which it gets good reviews on TripAdvisor, so you will be well-served if you get peckish after a few pints. Entry is free; not one to be missed. Tel: (01704) 546565.

Wednesday, 25 September 2019

Song and music sessions to the end of October

At singarounds and music sessions, you can perform, sing along or just listen to suit yourself. All venues serve real ale, and all events are free, unless otherwise stated.

September
► Sunday 29th: singers night at the Bothy Folk Club, Park Golf Club, Park Road West, Southport from 8.00 pm. Free admission for performers.
► Monday 30 September: song session in the Tap & Bottles, Cambridge Walks, Southport from 8.15 pm.

October
► Sunday 6th: singers night at the Bothy Folk Club, Park Golf Club, Park Road West, Southport from 8.00 pm. Free admission for performers.
► Monday 7th: song session in the Guest House, Union Street, Southport from 8.15pm.
► Tuesday 8th: song session in the Lion, Moorfields, Liverpool from 8.30 pm.
► Wednesday 9th: Grasshopper singaround in the Guest House, Union Street, Southport (change of venue for this month only) - from 8.15 pm.
► Monday 21st: music session in the Guest House, Union Street, Southport from 8.15pm.
► Sunday 27th: singers night at the Bothy Folk Club, Park Golf Club, Park Road West, Southport from 8.00 pm. Free admission for performers.
► Monday 28th: song session in the Tap & Bottles, Cambridge Walks, Southport from 8.15pm.
► Every Thursday: lunchtime singaround in the Belvedere, Sugnall Street, Liverpool 7. 2.00pm to 4.00pm.

Sunday, 22 September 2019

The Vestry Tap Room, Tarleton

The Vestry Tap Room in Tarleton
I first learnt about the Vestry Tap Room after they had contacted the local CAMRA branch. It has been open for around six months.

I caught the 2 Stagecoach bus on Lord Street and about 40 minutes later was dropped off right opposite the pub. It was empty when I arrived except for Lisa behind the bar, although it did fill up later. Lisa was very helpful and patient as she answered all my various questions.

The main room is light with wooden walls to waist height and wooden furniture, including bench seating along the walls. There is also a comfortable room upstairs with easy chairs, and an outdoor drinking area to the rear of the building.

Lisa behind the bar at the Vestry
Three hand pumps were serving Avid Brewing Co. American Pale, Hawkshead Windermere Pale and Brewsmith Bitter. These beers are always changing and those due on next were from Polly's Brew Co., Tiny Rebel, Siren Craft Co. and Squawk Brewery. A real cider, Lilley's Rhubarb Cider, is also available. On Sundays, the real ales are reduced by 25% between noon and 4.00 pm. All three real ales were in good condition.

There are also lagers and craft beers, including a rhubarb milkshake pale called Rhubarbra Streisand! Other drinks offered include a large gin selection, canned craft beers and bottles of BrewDog Punk IPA.

On Tuesdays at 8.00 pm, a speed quiz is held, and Lisa had to explain to me what that actually was! Live music is presented once or twice a month between 5.00 and 9.00 pm on Sundays – next time is 29 September - and occasionally free cheese boards are offered, also on Sunday. Live sports are sometimes shown. 

On Friday 4 and Saturday 5 October they are putting on an Oktoberfest with an oompah brass band, imported German beer, gins, authentic German street food, live music and a DJ in a large marquee. It is a ticket-only do, and there aren't many left so if you're interested phone 01772 301976 to check.

The premises are not suitable for under-18s, but dogs are admitted. They have free WiFi, and are on Facebook where you can check the opening hours which do vary through the week. You'll find it at 109 Church Rd, Tarleton, Lancashire PR4 6UP.

► This is one of a series of articles that I write for the CAMRA column in our local papers, the Southport Visiter and Ormskirk Advertiser. Older articles on local pubs are here.

Tuesday, 17 September 2019

Real ale 'isn't dear enough' and it's all our fault!

The root of all evil? The Sir Henry
Segrave, a Wetherspoons in Southport
A couple of months ago I picked up the summer issue of Ale Cry, the magazine of the CAMRA Central Lancs Branch. It's an interesting mag, and its layout and presentation are much better than a few years ago when, although the articles were okay, it looked like a badly-produced college rag mag. One article grabbed my attention, 'The Price Of Your Pint Revisited', written by the editor Adrian Smith - you can read the article concerned here (on page 22).

The general thrust of the article is that we drinkers are reluctant to pay what he considers a fair price for real ale with the consequence that real ale may be "dumbed down" to save costs, or discontinued altogether. He makes some international comparisons, but comparing our beer prices with those in other countries is of little value unless you also compare average incomes, taxation levels, duty, and indeed all the many other factors that affect what we British drinkers pay.

He also has some scathing words for Wetherspoons and the vouchers that they give to CAMRA members, describing this membership benefit as CAMRA encouraging members to visit JDW pubs at the expense of traditional pubs, even though it is actually funded by Wetherspoons, not CAMRA. The value of the vouchers, £20 per year, equates to 77p per CAMRA member per week, not an amount, I would suggest, that would drive traditional pubs to close, especially as 99.7% of the UK population are not CAMRA members.

Many organisations have benefits for members provided by outside businesses; indeed, some of the membership benefits I am entitled to claim, in addition to those via CAMRA, come through my trade union, the National Trust, my railcard, my car breakdown service and even my folk club. Furthermore, there are 17 other companies that offer perks to CAMRA members, some of them in the beer and hospitality industries - but there's not a word in Ale Cry bemoaning any of those. Besides, there is absolutely nothing to stop any other pubco making similar offers.

At this point I wondered whether I was beginning to detect the anti-Wetherspoons snobbery that, regrettably, some CAMRA members are prone to, a perception reinforced by a statement in the Ale Cry article that, "Real ale on sale at £2.09 a pint is frankly ridiculous". Why? Wetherspoons are making a profit, so if they can afford to sell beer at such a price, why shouldn't they? Perhaps it's the perception of the clientele that Wetherspoons' prices are said to attract: people on benefits, parents with screaming brats running wild and pensioners drooling into their cheap meals, all of which shameful slanders - and more - I have read too many times (although not in the Ale Cry article). I consider such generalisations about Wetherspoons clientele both inaccurate and disrespectful.

CAMRA says that avoiding isolation by going to the pub is a good thing, but without Wetherspoons, many people on low incomes could rarely, if ever, afford to go out for a pint; they would certainly have no chance of paying the price for real ale that Adrian Smith thinks they should.

I've written before about the price of beer, most recently in June 2018 here. One point I have made several times is that in 1972, a pint of bitter here in the north west was around 13p or 14p. Using the Bank of England inflation calculator, I learned that 14p back then is equivalent to £1.82 in 2018. In recent years, and especially since 2010, ordinary people's incomes have definitely not increased correspondingly. In real terms, beer is nowadays markedly dearer while many people's incomes are lower. It's logical to assume this is a significant reason why drinkers are reluctant to pay more for real ale, but the Ale Cry article makes no mention if it.

A list of factors affecting pub usage, the level of beer prices in pubs and what people can afford would include (in no particular order):
  • Beer taxes that over the years have risen by more than the rate of inflation, and which are among the highest in Europe.
  • Excessive business rates (which, incidentally, are set by Whitehall, not councils).
  • Pub companies overcharging their tenants for rent, supplies (including all drinks) and building maintenance.
  • Rising costs for brewers (e.g. raw materials) and pubs (e.g. utility bills).
  • Falling beer sales overall.
  • Changes in drinking habits, with many young people preferring go to bars and clubs rather than traditional pubs.
  • More choices of places to drink, such as bars, restaurants, hotels and clubs.
  • Cheap drink in supermarkets.
  • Sophisticated home entertainment systems.
  • Austerity, leaving people with less cash and either unemployed or worried they might be.
  • The increase in insecure employment, zero hours contracts, and minimum wage jobs.
  • The smoking ban.
In the face of all this, it seems perverse and facile to criticise the drinker, and I am surprised that the editor of a drinkers' campaigning magazine does so. I did e-mail him a couple of months ago making some of these points but received no reply.

► For information, the Wetherspoons voucher scheme is currently being replaced.

Saturday, 14 September 2019

Liverpool's Dispensary to shun real ale

You can see part of the original sign (top left) from when the
pub was called the Grapes. ('Borrowed' from the Liverpool
Echo, just as they've used my photos without asking)
I was chatting to Dave in the Lion Tavern in Liverpool on Tuesday; I was there for our monthly singaround. He was telling me the the current licensee of the Dispensary on Renshaw Street, also called Dave, is retiring.

I wrote about this pub almost exactly 6 years ago on 19 September 2013: "This pub has won Liverpool CAMRA's Pub of the Year award in the past, and I have spent happy afternoons and evenings there. The licensee once took the mickey out of me when he saw me at the bar writing down all the beers that were on. He obviously didn't believe me when I told him I was making notes for my beer blog."

He actually declared in a loud voice that "We've got another ticker in!" One thing I am not is a ticker, but I took it as banter, even though Dave's reputation was such that I doubt he'd have been bothered if I had been offended. His approach to customer service has been described as eccentric, but I always found that the beer was on good form.

Dave in the Lion told me that the Dispensary will now be focusing on craft ales and cocktails and that no real ale has been included in the next order. This is a shame, and I see no reason why a pub cannot sell both craft beer and real ale, as the Tap & Bottles in Southport does.

► P.S. on 8.11.19. I went in last week (31.10.19) and they do still have real ale on and it was in good condition. It seems that the reports of real ale's demise in this pub were premature.

Tuesday, 3 September 2019

Song and music sessions to 16th September

All events are free, unless otherwise stated. At singarounds and music sessions, you can perform, sing along or just listen to suit yourself. All venues serve real ale.

► Tuesday 10th: song session in the Lion, Moorfields, Liverpool from 8.30 pm.
► Wednesday 11th: singaround at the Grasshopper, Sandon Road, Hillside, Southport from 8.15 pm.
► Sunday 15th: singers night at the Bothy Folk Club, Park Golf Club, Park Road West, Southport from 8.00 pm. Free admission for performers.
► Monday 16th September: music session in the Guest House, Union Street, Southport from 8.15pm.
► Every Thursday: lunchtime singaround in the Belvedere, Sugnall Street, Liverpool 7. 2.00pm to 4.00pm.

Saturday, 31 August 2019

The Captain Alexander, Liverpool

The Captain Alexander
My friend Ann and I decided to try the new Wetherspoons pub on James Street in Liverpool, the Captain Alexander, named after Alexander Allan, founder of the Allan shipping line which used to have offices in the city. It is across the road from James Street station in the ground floor of a former office block. It has one large room panelled with light wood and was very busy when we were there.

The clientele was mixed and included office workers on their lunch break, some families and an unexpectedly quiet hen party, although to be fair it was still early in the day. It's clearly popular even though it has been open for less than three months. The pub has an outdoor terrace on the first floor, which was filled with drinkers enjoying the sunshine. The pub is accessible and, unlike some Wetherspoons, has toilets on the ground floor.

There was a good range of real ales, including some I wasn't familiar with (yes, there are a few) and included: Greene King Abbott; Big Bog Swampy Bitter; Purple Moose Dark Side of the Moose; Yazoo Hop Perfect IPA; St Peters Plum Porter; Big Bog Blonde Bach; Twilighter Fresh Yorkshire IPA; and Lancaster Black. Ruddles Best Bitter is usually on but had run out. The beers I tried were on good form and Ann enjoyed her Shiraz.

The outdoor terrace
The keg range includes BrewDog Punk IPA and Shipyard American IPA. It has a good choice of bottled beers, all the wines and spirits that you'd expect and a gin menu called “The Little Book of Gin” which lists more than fifty gins from the UK and around the world. The usual Wetherspoons food was on offer and we both enjoyed our meals: a mixed grill for Ann and a skinny chicken burger for me.

The Captain Alexander is less than half a mile from Moorfields railway station, and is close to the shops, the Mersey ferries, the Pier Head and the Three Graces. It's a worthy addition to a city centre that is already well-endowed with great pubs.

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