I went for a stroll the other night along Eastbank Street, Southport, where I used to drink regularly, firstly in the Old Ship in the 80s, then in the Wellington in the 90s. Bernie Blaney and I used to run a folk club in the Old Ship in a good little function room upstairs. Unfortunately attendances were never very good, so we pulled the plug on it in 1985, but I continued to go to the pub as it had become my local and I'd made quite a few friends there. It was a Walkers pub in those days and was noted for its good beer, especially the Ind Coope Burton Ale, or in winter the Walkers Warrington Ale, which was wonderful. It hasn't sold real ale for a while and was closed down in February. It has reopened, but when I looked in there was no real ale, and the handpumps have been removed. I think that constitutes a statement of intent, but it's better open without real ale than closed altogether.
The Volunteer just a few yards away is a Thwaites pub. It was the last pub that I knew of to serve real ale through electric pumps, but now there is a handpump serving Thwaites Bomber, perfectly acceptable on my visit. This is a popular local and has regular music of the old-fashioned pub singer style, plus karaoke, which really isn't my cup of tea. However, they were queuing to go on, so it's popular with its own locals. There are murals of 50s rock & rollers and 60s pop stars on the walls.
The Wellington on the other side of the street used to be a Tetley Festival Ale House, which meant they filled it with old tat which inevitably gathered loads of dust, stripped out the carpets, wallpaper and comfortable seats and painted all the usual quotations on the walls. They also marked up the price of the beers. I fell out with it when they installed TVs in every part of the pub, often on different channels, and had the jukebox on at the same time. However, despite that, the beer was always well kept. Nowadays, another refurbishment down the line, the tat has been removed, but so has the cask beer.
So, out of the three pubs in Eastbank Street that all used to serve real ale, only the Volunteer continues to do so.
closed after two months, and I can see no sign of activity there. I remember when this was a Bass house, serving the famous draught Bass and Bass mild. I often used to pop in for a pint or two on my way into town.
The Albert on London Street has reopened and I learned at the CAMRA meeting the other night that it is serving Black Sheep Bitter and Timothy Taylor's Landlord. I also learned that the Baron's Bar has settled down to 5 regulars beers: Moorhouses Pride of Pendle, Tetley, Black Sheep, a Southport beer, Flag and Turret (the house beer) and a changing range of 5 guests. They usually have a real cider on too.