Wednesday 30 September 2009

Singaround in the Mason's

A singaround in the Mason's in Anchor Street tonight has been arranged at fairly short notice.  Come along to perform, or just listen if you prefer ~ no admission charge.  The pub usually provides complementary sandwiches or hot pot on these nights, and it is the only outlet in Southport for Robinson's beer. 

The Mason's is behind the main post office on Lord Street.

Nanny State Mocks Puritans

Humourless alcohol puritans, Alcohol Focus Scotland, have put a poll on their website inviting people to vote on minimum pricing (which I have previously written about here).  So far, 66% have voted against, which, I would imagine, is not the response they wanted. Let's try to make that figure higher before they remove the poll through embarrassment.  You can vote here

Why humourless?  Read their response to the name Scottish brewery BrewDog gave to their new 1.1% beer.  They've called it Nanny State. 

I found the last link on the Southport Drinker's blog ~ thanks.

Tuesday 29 September 2009

Physician, heal thyself!

As most people will know, there are people in society who delight in telling others how to live their lives. Having achieved the smoking ban, which I broadly support, they have turned their attention to alcohol. The British Medical Association (BMA) proposes for alcohol: above inflation tax increases, minimum pricing, reduction in opening hours and a ban on advertising. The BMA's Dr Vivienne Nathanson stated: "As doctors our focus is to ensure individuals drink sensibly." Since when? I thought the focus of doctors is treat people's ill health and not to "ensure" we drink in a manner they approve of. Like most people, I certainly don't have a problem with campaigns to encourage healthy living, but healthy living cannot be imposed by punitive tax and social measures. I understand the principle that prevention is better than cure, but people have to be persuaded, not coerced, a point the BMA has failed to grasp.

In the 28 years I worked for the DSS, most of my jobs involved dealing with the public, which included quite a few alcoholics. In the worst cases, clothes would be in tatters, they ate the cheapest food available, when they ate at all, and their benefits went on extra strong lager or cider. I became used to interviewing people who were drunk and reeking of booze at 10 o' clock in the morning when they'd come in for crisis loans to replace their spent benefit. The point is that what they spent on booze was very high proportion of their benefits, money they should have used for necessities, but that didn't stop these problem drinkers from drinking. No, they simply stopped eating properly and failed to pay bills, all of which contributed to their downward spiral. One of the saddest cases I recall was an inoffensive boozer who was found dead one morning in the staff car park; we assumed he had been waiting for the office to open.

Increasing taxation will only penalise the majority of responsible drinkers and drive pubs out of business. It will not constrain problem drinkers, who in the worst cases have ceased to care about anything except where the next drink is coming from.

There's an old phrase, "Physician, heal thyself." We recently learned that on average, medical professionals drink above the recommended guidelines. If the BMA can't convince its own, they've little chance of convincing social drinkers. If you're following a failing strategy, you should rethink it. The problem is that the government may seize on these ideas to justify or even increase the existing beer tax escalator, irrespective of the deficiencies in the BMA's arguments.

Monday 28 September 2009

Prices on the soles of their shoes

I went to Liverpool yesterday to see off my friend Geoff, who was returning home to London after a short visit to Merseyside. With about 90 minutes to spare, we came out of Central Station and into the Globe just across the road.  I wrote about this pub in April. There was a steady, relaxed Sunday lunchtime trade in this friendly pub. A woman was speaking very loudly down her mobile phone, and the barmaid said what I and probably everyone else was thinking, "You don't really need that mobile, do you, love?"

The beers were: Morland Original Bitter, Meantime LPA, and bitters from Cain’s and Black Sheep. There was also Weston’s Traditional Scrumpy. So, two novelties straight away: in Liverpool you rarely see real cider or Meantime beers. We tried the Morland’s, which was quite enjoyable, being bitter, but without the cloying flavour that the once-wonderful Morland's Old Speckled Hen now has; not a bad start. Then we tried the Meantime LPA, a 4.3% pale ale, which was so superior and better balanced in flavour that I could have happily stuck with it, although I think Geoff preferred the Morland's.

With time going on, we moved to the Crown by Lime Street Station. This pub was refurbished a couple of years ago and shows off many of the original Victorian features, including an impressive ceiling and an unusual old bar. The choice there was Abbot Ale (£1.80), John Smith's Cask (£1.49) and Tetley's Bitter (£1.69). Abbot Ale it was then. Sometimes this beer can develop a heavy over-malty flavour that is probably a result of a cask selling too slowly, but this wasn't like that. In fact, it's the best Abbot I've had for ages and I had another two after Geoff left for his train. At least he had a nice cheap pint before returning toLondon prices.

My mother told me that, before she met my father, a boyfriend took her on her first visit to the Crown. He pointed out several women in the room who he said were prostitutes. None of them looked in any way out of the ordinary, so she asked: how did he know? He told her to watch their feet the next time a man entered the pub, and when one did, they raised the soles of their shoes for him to see: on each instep was chalked a price.

The Crown is a good place to wait for a train, with cheap food to match the inexpensive but well-kept beer. But nowadays, no ladies with prices on the soles of their shoes.

Friday 25 September 2009

Make Beer Not War

If you work for the jobcentre, you are blocked from looking up pub and brewery websites.  Good thing, most people might say, civil servants should be working, not planning their next pub crawl.  Fair enough, but what if you are helping a job seeker find work in, say, Wetherspoons, and they want to know more about the company?  Still blocked, as are the websites of many other beer-related companies, including Greene King, Revolution Bars, Charles Wells, Youngs and Timothy Taylors.  Some companies have signed local Employer Partnerships with jobcentres, or in the case of the bookies Ladbrokes (also blocked), a national Employer Partnership.  These are obviously not partnerships of equals as it is impossible for jobcentre staff to access the recruitment pages of these companies' websites, even though PubCos and (in some towns) breweries can provide a significant number of jobs.  At a time of rising unemployment too.

Beer may tend to corrupt the tender morals of DWP management, but their ethical prudishness does not extend to weapons: if your job seeker wants to work for BAE Systems creating weapons of mass destruction, you can log straight on.

Info from "PCS Voice" ~ thanks.

Wednesday 23 September 2009

St Helens Beer Festival

The 2nd St Helens Beer Festival will be held in the unique setting of the North West Museum of Road Transport, featuring more than 50 real ales, ciders and perries.  It's just a few minutes walk from the bus and railway stations.  While you're sampling the range of fine drinks, you can if you wish admire a selection of old vehicles ~ or ignore them as you see fit!  It's certainly an unusual venue for a beer festival.  This year sees the very first Pie Fest with pies supplied from a variety of local pie producers at all sessions.

If you also fancy a pint in an award-winning pub while you're in the area, the Turks Head is not far away.  The festival begins at 6 pm on Thursday 1st October, and is open all day Friday and Saturday, the 2nd & 3rd October.

Monday 21 September 2009

Derby Arms music nights

Jan at the Derby Arms, which I visited and wrote about in June, has reminded me that they have singarounds/jam sessions in the pub twice a month on the first and third Mondays. I have yet to get to these music nights, but I can say that this is a friendly local with a changing range of excellently-kept beers. It was awarded the CAMRA Branch's Lancashire Pub of the Year award a few months ago. You will find it on Prescot Road in Aughton, near Ormskirk. (Postcode L39 6TA)

Sunday 20 September 2009

Stick that in your pint & drink it!

The Pub Curmudgeon has yet again found an article you might be interested in. India Knight in The Times presents a common sense view of drinking, which is a nice contrast to the puritanical views of the former comedian and born again alcohol crusader, Frank Skinner. Just because you couldn't drink without becoming senseless, Frank, doesn't mean that the rest of us should wear hair shirts for your failings. Unlike you, most of us didn't swim through a sea of vomit before growing up.

Curmudgeon's posting is here, and India Knight's article is here.
P.S. Tyson, another beer blogger, has also written about Frank Skinner. I agree with his comments too.

Country pubs "lead to suicide"

The Daily Telegraph, not my favourite read, has recently pronounced:

“New research published in the journal Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research suggests that clusters of rural pubs are linked to poor mental health of local residents and an increased risk that they will commit suicide. The team behind the study of suicides and attempted suicides in rural communities across California between 1995 and 2000 even suggested that people should take into account the number of places which sell alcohol near their home when they consider moving to the country. Researchers said that there was a strong association between public houses and the risk that people would go on to take their own lives.”

Now, living in the country in the USA is entirely different than over here. Over there, small communities can be 50 miles apart, which is certainly not true of England. I can well imagine that such isolation can lead to alcoholism and depression, whereas here in little England, a big town or city is not usually very far away and people are therefore less likely to feel so isolated. Our country pubs tend to be a focus for communities, not an escape from tedium.

I'm just concerned that the anti-drink brigade will seize on this research and indiscriminately misuse it for their own ends.

Friday 18 September 2009

Rock, Blues, Folk & More...

Come to a great evening of live music upstairs at Leo's Bar, Nevill Street, Southport, a fundraiser for Queenscourt Hospice, on Saturday 26 September from 8pm to midnight. Free buffet.

Band room with electric music, including Blanket Apology, Shot in the Dark, Next to Nothing, The Runnies.

Acoustic room with folk, blues and poetry including Geoff Parry, Ron Scowcroft and Neville Grundy. Open mike format ~ come along and perform, or just listen.

Voluntary donations on the door. Come along to enjoy an evening of great music and support an excellent local charity at the same time.

Wednesday 16 September 2009

Liverpool wanderings

I was in Liverpool yesterday to have a drink with Steve in the the Baltic Fleet, a brew pub in Wapping. I had Baltic Classic, pleasant enough, but I preferred the Baltic Gold and the Summer Ale that I'd had in the same pub on Sunday. The Baltic Fleet has a special offer that if you buy 3 pints of cask beer under 4.5% in strength, you pay for two and a half, which works out at £6.25 for 3 pints. The pub was full of TUC delegates from the conference centre across the road. Another friend, also called Steve, gave me a bag of freebies that he had picked up at the congress. So I now have a history of the Prison Officers' Association and a POA mug, a CWU bag and a stress buster shaped like a post box and pens from various unions.

We left for the Cains Brewery Tap and had the new Cains beer, Liverbird, followed by one called Voyager. I don't know whether my taste buds were still recovering from the Southport beer festival or not, but these both tasted similar and unremarkable to me, and not worth the £2.66 price. Disappointing, as Cains have brewed some beer I do like. The Liverbird was supposed to have a citrus flavour, but I couldn't detect it.

We moved to the Grapes at the corner of Knight Street and Roscoe Street. I wrote about this pub in June and it was much the same. Everards Tiger, Deuchars IPA and London Pride were on. Not a startling line-up, but excellent for a back street pub rescued by the current licensees from closure. They play good music there as well ~ not the usual piped musical fare. We had the Tiger, which was in good condition and tasted much as you'd expect.

With time pressing on, we had a quick last pint in the Dispensary on Renshaw Street before rushing for our last train and bus. Not the best night in beer terms I've had in Liverpool, but as I said, my taste buds may still be scorched from the weekend.

P.S. I've just noticed this is my 100th posting, and I began this blog exactly 6 months ago to the day ~ what a coincidence! Not quite as many postings as Tandleman, but still an average of more than one posting every two days. And I wondered when I began it whether I could keep it going for a month...

Hard drinking rockers

You may think you're well oiled after a night in your local ~ I do (but then occasionally I am).

However, nothing you or I can do can compete with these rockers, who have so often left a trail of destruction (& sometimes self-destruction) in their wake. They make nicking a traffic cone or creating a pavement pizza look like "Listen With Mother".

Twenty pictures of rock & role models.

Tuesday 15 September 2009

Gig at the George

I have learned that there will be live bands at the George this Thursday evening ~ Shot In The Dark and Next To Nothing are playing their mixture of originals and cover versions. If you can, drop in to support local bands and live music. The George is on the corner of Duke Street and Cemetery Road in Southport. (postcode PR8 5DH)

Higsons to return ~ yet again?

On a trip yesterday to return an empty cask to Liverpool Organic Brewery after the Southport beer festival, a chat with the brewer revealed that they are planning to try to recreate Higsons bitter. An attempt a couple of years ago failed as the company concerned went bankrupt. I wrote about the disappearance of the revived Higsons in May.

There are a couple of problems in trying to bring back Higsons because some of the hops used by the original Higsons brewery are no longer available, and the original yeast strain has died out. However, it may well be that Liverpool Organic Brewery are better placed to be able to refine the beer and sustain it. They certainly seemed confident that they can get it right. Let's hope so; it would certainly be a pleasure to see this much-missed Liverpool beer being made again.

P.S. Glancing back at my original posting in May (link above), I notice that there have been a couple of comments added much more recently creating quite a controversy, including one from the Liverpool Organic Brewery itself about Higsons. I don't generally check very old postings for extra comments and finding these was a surprise.

Monday 14 September 2009

Beer festival success ~ but where next year?

The Southport beer festival ended on Saturday night practically sold out. Contrary to the Southport Drinker’s predictions, it did not consist solely of lone males morosely sipping solitary pints. There were plenty of young women around for the (I thought happily married) SD to gaze upon. Selling out was a vast improvement on 2008 when some perfectly good beer had to be poured away, the result of a beer festival in the Fylde clashing with ours.

The Southport Brewery’s Golden Sands was voted beer of the festival by the customers. This is yet another award for an excellent local beer.

Our local MP, John Pugh, who is himself a lover of real ale, came along on Thursday to present the CAMRA Branch awards.

Pubs of excellence: Guest House, Union Street; Baron’s Bar, Lord Street; Derby Arms, Aughton; Queens Head, Ormskirk; Sir Henry Segrave, Lord Street.
Best country pub: Ship, Haskayne.
Best community pub: Volunteer, Eastbank Street.
Most innovative licensee: Adrian Davies, Falstaff, King Street.

The big question now is where the next year’s festival will be held, seeing that the Arts Centre is going to be closed for a ridiculous two and a half years by our philistine local council, who are unable to see the damage that completely closing down our town’s cultural facilities for such a long period of time will cause. But the local CAMRA Branch is determined that the festival will go ahead.

Thursday 10 September 2009

Southport Beer Festival Is Here!

The 10th Sandgrounder Beer Festival opens today at 6.00 pm in Southport Arts Centre on Lord Street, less than 5 minutes walk from Southport railway station. Over 60 beers will be available, plus ciders, perries and fruit wines. The theme is the War of the Roses: Lancashire versus Yorkshire real ales, using the old pre-1974 boundaries. I know the CAMRA branch has gone to great lengths to get the boundaries right. What is certain is that you will be able to try many beers that you can't usually get in Southport ~ just have a look at the beer list. The prestigious CAMRA pub and licensee awards will be presented at 7 pm this evening; come along and see who's being celebrated!

Festival opening times are: Thursday: 6 pm to 11 pm.
Friday & Saturday: noon to 11 pm.

Wednesday 9 September 2009

Irish session every Tuesday

I have just received news of a local music session every Tuesday forwarded to me by Les who runs the Bothy Folk Club website:

"There is a 'session' every Tuesday night at St. John Stones Social Club, Sandbrook Way, Ainsdale from 9pm to 11ish. Mainly Irish folk music, but a bit of everything really. Has 'Celtic Spirit' as resident musicians. All welcome."

I haven't been to these sessions myself yet, but I'm not aware of anywhere else in Southport where Irish folk is regularly played, so if that's your bag, give it a try. The venue doesn't sell real ale, but I expect Guinness would be the favourite anyway.

End of MPs' cheap booze?

Tory leader David Cameron has pledged to end MPs' subsidised alcohol and food if his party wins power at the next election. As some readers of this blog may have noticed, this is something I have been banging on about for some time, and I'm pleased some front bench politicians are realising there is a real problem here. The bad news is that it seems to be only the Tories.

Still, where one party leads nowadays, the others tend to follow, so with any luck we won't have to wait for the general election before this scandal is rectified. Then again, pigs may fly.

Respected beer blogger Tandleman has implied I am obsessive on this issue ~ cheek! I've only written about it four times on this blog! Plus a couple of letters to the local press...

Tuesday 8 September 2009

First Guest House Singaround

Last night was the first of the monthly singarounds in the Guest House. Despite a slightly late start because I had been delayed, it was very well-attended; the room was filled almost to capacity. There was an eclectic mixture of traditional and contemporary songs, including some self-penned ones, accompanied and unaccompanied singing and also a 4-part harmony group. Ian, a former Bothy regular who now lives in Essex, sang a couple of Irish songs accompanied by his partner Mary. Several Bothy residents and regulars came along and sang, along with Nigel Mawdesley out of the local folk-rock group, Odd At Ease. Gail, the licensee, provided a plate of sausages and the real beers went down well: I had Copper Dragon Golden Pippin and Holts Pioneer, both excellent, with the latter slightly more bitter than I expected.

As a launch night, it was a great success; let's hope it wasn't a one hit wonder! The next one is on Monday 5th October.

Saturday 5 September 2009

Cold comfort

I was in Dale Street, Liverpool, for a meeting yesterday and took the opportunity to go to two of the great pubs in the area. In the Vernon, I was served a pint of Goff's Jouster, which had a distinct haze, and was also too cold for real ale. The barmaid told me that the haze was caused by the temperature, which is plausible, and that there was little that could be done about this. I'm sure she wasn't lying, but I'm not convinced she was right. After my previous visit, I had nothing but praise for this pub, and was therefore slightly disappointed with being presented with cold, hazy beer. The beer wasn't off and I have had considerably worse, but I know this pub can do better. Let's hope it was just a glitch.

Going on to the Ship & Mitre, the beer was excellent and just the right temperature, so we stayed there for the rest of the evening. The Vernon had six real ales on and the Ship & Mitre had at least double that. In ale terms, Dale Street must be the best street in Liverpool and with Moorfields station just around the corner is very easy to get to from Southport.

Thursday 3 September 2009

Last of the Summer Whine

This Sunday sees the last of the Bothy Folk Club's free summer singarounds. Performing is voluntary, of course, and the beer is Thwaites ~ either Wainwright or Bomber, depending on what Jeff has ordered. If you fancy an easy-going night out with an eclectic range of music and a decent pint, just roll up to the Park Golf Club, Park Road West, Southport. It begins at around 8.00 p.m.

The Bothy's autumn season begins on Sunday 13th with classy, veteran singer-songwriter, Allan Taylor. This should be a popular night, so it may be best to arrive early.

Tuesday 1 September 2009

How much beer tax do you pay?

Ever wondered how much tax you pay for the right to enjoy drinking our national drink? Well now you can find out. The Axe The Beer Tax campaign has produced a handy ready reckoner that will tell you exactly how much you are being financially punished for enjoying a perfectly legal activity by a hypocritical political class whose motto is "do as I say, not as I do."

In March I wrote how we taxpayers subsidised politicians boozing with a subsidy of £5.5 million of taxpayers’ money in the 2007/8 financial year. This figure rose to over £6 million in the following year. It is politically corrupt that they are taxing beer beyond the reach of ordinary decent drinkers while at the same time themselves boozing cheaply at our expense. They are worse than the drunk in the pub who scrounges pints without ever buying one back ~ at least he doesn't preach about the evils of drink while sponging off you. With the recent expenses scandals, you'd think they might have learned something, but obviously not.

So if you agree, sign up to the Axe The Beer Tax campaign.