Friday 29 April 2011

Lunchtime Legends

I meant to post this a couple of days ago:  if you happen to be in the area, the 50s & 60s band I play with, the Lunchtime Legends, will be playing a gig at the Bay Horse Inn, Babylon Lane, Adlington near Chorley, PR6 9ER, tomorrow evening Saturday 30 April.  It is a fundraiser for firefighters and our bit begins at around 7-30pm.  The Bay Horse is a real ale pub which usually has Jennings Cumberland plus a guest beer.

Quicksilver in Southport

This Sunday at the Bothy Folk Club is a singers night when performers get in free, but the following Sunday sees the return of popular duo, Quicksilver.  They comprise Hilary Spencer (of Artisan and Mrs Ackroyd Band fame) and Grant Baynham (formerly of TV's 'That's Life!'), who have been working together since 2002.  They're called Quicksilver because their initials, H & G, also form the elemental symbol for mercury - as good as reason as any, I suppose.

Hilary has an amazing voice with a phenomenal range and as for Grant's guitar-playing, it makes me feel like wearing L-plates when I perform.  The rapport on stage and the chemistry between them is almost tangible and the material (roughly half self-penned) includes all the things you can imagine doing with two voices and an acoustic guitar, plus a good few that you probably can't.

You may have gathered I like them.  Here's what John New of Northampton Folk Club said:  "Quicksilver reaches the parts that other performers can't reach. Hilary's voice will have the hairs standing up on the back of the neck and Grant's dazzling guitar-playing will make your jaw drop with wonder. Pure joy!"

Tickets here, though you'll probably be okay paying on the door.  That's on Sunday 8 May at the Park Golf Club, Park Road West, Southport, PR9 0JS.  Real ale from Thwaites too.

Monday 25 April 2011

Place To Be

Rich Simcock's Place To Be - an acoustic open mike night - will be taking place upstairs at the Mount Pleasant, Manchester Road, Southport this Thursday 28 April from around 8pm.  It's free, and you're welcome whether you want to perform or just want to listen.

The beer is Tetley cask bitter.

Sunday 24 April 2011

Beer Banned at R*y*l Wedding

Britain's national drink, beer, will not be served at next week's r*y*l wedding.  Apparently the pampered pair have chosen to assert their superiority over us plebs by providing only fine wines and champagne in order to give their guests "a sophisticated experience", according to a source, who also said, "Let’s face it, it [beer] isn’t really an appropriate drink to be serving in the Queen’s presence at such an occasion".  To speak so dismissively of beer reveals a combination of ignorance and arrogance.  Whatever swill is good enough for the hoi polloi isn't good enough for the presence of someone who thinks the whole world smells of fresh paint. 

Frankly, I couldn't care less what they drink, but I wonder why this decision has been made public.  If it's to show their sophistication, it's a bit of an own goal:  8.6 million people describe themselves as real ale drinkers, and as real ale is only around 16% of the beer market, considerably more people drink other types of beer.  By letting their choice be known, they have insulted the drinking tastes of an awful lot of British people; that doesn't seem very sophisticated thinking to me.

Perhaps the brewers who have made r*y*l wedding beers might like to reflect on the contempt shown to their carefully crafted products by the couple concerned.

Saturday 23 April 2011

Tipsy Angel to fly soon

Dave White of Wigan CAMRA has just visited the Lower Angel in Warrington and he has been assured that the Tipsy Angel microbrewery that they are setting up will serve its first pints next Friday the 29th April.  I have written about this previously (you can find my posts here), and I have a special interest as I was a student at Padgate College just outside Warrington, and the Lower Angel was one of the alehouses we used to frequent.  More recently, the pub was run by Charlie Oliver, who used to run the Old Ship in Southport when it was a real ale Mecca.

I do like the name of the micro, Tipsy Angel, which is a resolute two fingers to the humourless anti-alcohol brigade who will probably condemn such a name as encouraging irresponsible drinking.

P.S. (3 May):  Tony of Warrington tells me:  "The Tipsy Angel brewery is now up and running, Aidan's first brew was Angel's Folly, a dark stout based on the old Walker's Falstaff ale.  They shifted 4 x 9's on Friday 29th April, I luckily managed to get in for a couple before it went. A bitter is due next, I gather."

Friday 22 April 2011

The Town That Never Was Beer Festival

For a couple of years, there appeared on Google Maps and Google Earth a place called Argleton. It was shown as being near Aughton, Lancs, just off the A59. It had a Liverpool postcode (L39), potentially annoying any local residents who might have preferred a Lancashire postcode, except that the only residents were likely to be field mice, rabbits and wild birds: it turns out that Argleton has never existed, and was in the middle of a few fields. It was removed by Google after a couple of years without a convincing explanation as to how it had come to be there in the first place, but if you're curious, some speculation can be found here.

But now Argleton has sprung to life at the Stanley Arms, St. Michael Rd, Aughton, L39 6SA, which is holding the 1st Argleton Beer Festival, beginning on 29th April. It will serve 18 different beers and ciders, with music from the Blue Magnolia Jass Orchestra on Friday and Martin the Piano Devil on Saturday. The festival will support two charities - MINT, which supports neurological care, and Diabetes UK.

What a brilliant excuse!

"Where have you been?"
"The Argleton beer festival."
"But there's no such place as Argleton!"
"Then I can't have been to a beer festival."

Tuesday 19 April 2011

Ewan McLennan this Thursday

Ewan McLennan appeared upstairs at the Mount Pleasant in Southport last October, since when he has gone on to win the prestigious Horizon Award at the BBC Radio 2 folk awards.  He is a young Scottish performer who is definitely going from strength to strength; I rated his last performance in Southport very highly.  His website describes his music as "contemporary and traditional folk".

You can see him upstairs in the Mount Pleasant this Thursday 21 April 2011 at 8.00pm. Tickets are £7-50. Contact for information and tickets: Richard on 07801 849635 or e-mail him - click here.  The venue serves Tetley cask bitter.

Here is Ewan singing the Jute Mill Song at a BBC Scotland concert.

Sunday 17 April 2011

Liverpool Working Class Life & Music Festival

The Working Class Life & Music Festival in Liverpool begins next weekend.  The new band I'm in, Black Lamp, will be doing a short spot at the Liverpool Socialist Singers' concert in St Brides Church, Percy Street/Catherine Street, Liverpool 8, on Wednesday 27th April. 
The festival has been organised by radical Liverpool singer-songwriter, Alun Parry ~ click here for the full festival programme.  Here are just some of the events taking place:

Fri 22nd – folk legend Leon Rosselson with support from Rich Mans Ruin, National Museums 800 Lives Exhibition at Radio Merseyside, Another Day In Liverpool photo exhibition

Sat 23rd – Almanac’s Radical City night at The Everyman Theatre, award winning actor Tayo Aluko’s new show From Africa To The White House, Ken Loach’s Navigators at The Casa featuring two of the actors in a Q&A, Kaya’s Under The Influence, The Suitcase Ensemble’s Railway Cabaret, Liverpool Music Barcamp for DIY musicians, The Leaving Of Liverpool at The Maritime Museum, AFC Liverpool v Eccleshall football match, Liverpool Socialist Singers flashmob workshop, and Metal’s Edge Hill Archive Exhibition.

Sun 24th – A Night of Musical Comedy featuring award winning duo Jollyboat, Rathole Roadshow at The Zanzibar, Saturday Night Sunday Morning special screening at Crosby Plaza cinema, biographer Dave Harker on writer Robert Tressell, political historian Ron Noon on the 1911 Transport Strike

Mon 25th – Great Stories’ charming social documentary My Fifties Liverpool at FACT, Radical Rogues and Reformers Irish Heritage Walking Tour, Liverpool Socialist Singers workshop and fete, Philosophy in Pubs at The Crown host the first in a range of specially themed discussions, Mouth of the Mersey’s Storytelling Club tell some working class tales at Studio 2.

Tue 26th – Acoustic Night at the Unity, The Radical Route Walking Tour of Liverpool’s history as a city of protest, more musings from the Philosophy in Pubs gang at Keith’s Wine Bar and The Victoria Hotel

Wed 27th – Radio 4 poet Luke Wright at The Unity, Liverpool Socialist Singers in concert with Vinny T Spen, Claire Mooney and Black Lamp, MESH Culture’s Cool Kids at Tabac, Traditional Irish Ceilidh at St Michael’s Irish Centre

Thu 28th – folk legend Roy Bailey at the Woody Guthrie Folk Club supported by local folk songwriter Alun Parry, more from Philosophy in Pubs at the Half Way House and The Vernon Arms.

Fri 29th – Michael Weston King at Liverpool Philharmonic, a community forum on art, culture and class at The Tate, a lecture on Robert Tressell by Stuart Borthwick, a traditional Irish music session at St. Michael’s Irish Centre

Sat 30th – Scottish folk star Dick Gaughan at the Liverpool Philharmonic, Rub A Dub Dub reggae night featuring We The Undersigned, News From Nowhere’s 37th Birthday Party.

Friday 15 April 2011

Anti-Royal Wedding Party

I've just heard about that the Fulford Arms in Fulford Road, York, will be holding an Anti-Royal Wedding party on 29th April to offer respite for republicans or those looking for a break from all the fuss.  There will even be a charity 'swear box' for anyone caught discussing the big event in London.

Earlier this month, the licensee, Steve Bradley, barred the Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne, from the Fulford Arms because of the increase in beer tax in the budget, saying, “The increase in duty is directly hitting our profits and we have had enough.  We have only been here a month and we have had to put up our prices already. We have no choice but to make the customer pay for what the Government has enforced.”

Obviously a licensee who likes going against the grain - nothing wrong with that - plus it's a real ale pub too.

Thursday 14 April 2011

Stourbridge Beer Festival

The festival charity
For people in the Merseyside and West Lancs area, here are details of a coach trip to the Stourbridge Beer Festival on Saturday 14th May, which takes place in the Town Hall in Stourbridge (near Dudley in the West Midlands) and entry costs £1 for CAMRA members and £2 for non-members.  As it's in the town centre, there are pubs nearby, including the Plough & Harrow and Royal Exchange, with good local beers on offer, and there should be time for a pub stop on the return journey. 

The coach fare is £12 (members & non-members) and the outward journey will leave Southport at 9.45 am, picking up en route.  The aim is to be back in Southport by about 9.30 pm.  There are still some seats left, but CAMRA needs know the numbers soon - contact David Griffith on 0151 527 2467 or 07504 148328, or you can send him an e-mail.

I'll be there ~ it should be a good day.

Tuesday 12 April 2011

Higson's and Bass

Manet's Un bar aux Folies Bergère
showing a Bass bottle (detail).
In the 1970s, many Higson's houses used to sell Draught Bass as a guest beer, including my local here in Southport, the Guest House.  Recently I've had the chance to try both of these beers:  Bass of course has never gone out of production, while Higson's is on its second revival.

The InBev website says of Bass: "It is a full-flavoured ale that is still brewed to an original recipe, using only the finest ingredients and the experience of generations. It is brewed with two strains of yeast to produce a complex, nutty, malty taste with subtle hop undertones."  Note:  an original recipe, not the original recipe, and that description seems - shall we say? - optimistic.  It was on in the Guest House last night and I had two pints of it; I'm not one for tasting notes, so I won't try, but it didn't taste as awful as some beer drinkers have claimed - merely very ordinary, and not standing up well alongside the micro and regional beers that surrounded it on the bar.  My view that the venom heaped upon this beer is because it was regarded as the Rolls Royce of beer in the 1970s - the White Star in Liverpool was famous for the quality of its Bass in those days, and I rarely went to Liverpool without a visit to that pub.

The original Higson's was last brewed in Liverpool in 1990.  It's now on its third incarnation, this time being brewed by Liverpool Organic Brewery, and I had it in Liverpool a couple of weeks ago.  This brew was apparently approved by Liverpool CAMRA at the Liverpool Beer Festival where a couple of versions of the beer were being tried out.  Again, I had two pints of the beer and it seemed even less like Higson's than the previous version of two or three years ago; I was struggling to find any resemblance to the beer I remember.  Unusually for a product of Liverpool Organic, it was fairly unremarkable with not much to object to, but not much to draw you back for more either.  I looked on the Liverpool Organic Brewery's website about the new Higson's, but could find nothing there about it.

To my palate, neither of these beers reflect the ones fondly remembered from their 70s heyday, but this is not necessarily because they aren't as good:  it might be that our tastes have moved on and what used to seem wonderful in an era when there was so much mediocre beer around now faces much stiffer competition, or perhaps after more than 20 years we can't really remember tastes and smells as accurately as we'd like to think.  Who knows?  There is nothing wrong with either of these beers, but neither is outstanding in today's beer world.

Saturday 9 April 2011

Here Comes The Sun

It's the right day for this great George Harrison song from the Concert For Bangladesh.

Thursday 7 April 2011

Beer prices ~ just about inflation?

When I went to college in the early 1970s, the prices in the college bar were 13p for a pint of bitter and 11p for mild and, if I remember correctly, lager and Guinness were 15p and 18p.  Out of interest, I put those prices into the historical price converter (bottom of the column on the right), and discovered that if the price of beer had increased in line with inflation, bitter should be £1-30 and mild £1-10.  If only ...

Beer tax at more than £1 a pint must account for some of that, but not all. I suspect a lot of the excess inflation is because most PubCos are up to their eyes in debt taken out when they bought their pubs and financed the purchases by instantly mortgaging their entire estates.  The lower prices in Wetherspoons, which hasn't followed the standard PubCo 'model' of basing a business on as much debt you can get away with, are evidence that this is so.

So, as well as paying excess beer tax, we are paying to service massive PubCo debts.  Somewhere in all this we actually pay for the beer too, but it's a sobering thought that every pint we buy subsidises the PubCo debt junkies as well chucking our hard-earned cash (on which we have already paid tax once) into Treasury coffers.  Sobering, but enough to drive you to drink too.

Tuesday 5 April 2011

The Americans are coming!

Lovers of American music have two gigs locally to look forward to within the next week.

Carrie Elkin
This Thursday Grateful Fred Roots & Acoustic presents Carrie Elkin, who's a folk-country singer based in Austin, Texas.  Here's what they're saying about her:

“What a wonderful album this is. I’m thinking Patti Griffin, Nanci Griffith and Iris DeMent. It’s spellbinding from the opening track to Gospel Song at the end. Questions About Angels made the hairs on the back of my neck stand on end” – Bob Harris BBC Radio.

“Elkin presents herself as one of the most accomplished of America’s new songwriting breed” – Rock-n-Reel Magazine.

That's this Thursday 7 April at the Freshfield Hotel, Massams Lane, Formby.  Tickets here.


On Sunday, the Bothy presents Debra Cowan and John Roberts. Debra started performing in California 35 years ago and began touring in 1998, with frequent stops in the US and UK, from folk clubs to festivals.

"Such is Cowan's musical net that it can encompass various musical styles and traditions, from English singer/songwriter Richard Thompson to traditional whaling songs, to bluegrass legend Ralph Stanley, all done so skillfully that you beg to hear more" - N.Y. Pinewoods Folk Music Club

"... searingly fine." - Living Tradition Magazine, UK.

This Sunday 10 April at the Park Golf Club, Park Rd West, Southport, PR9 0JS.  Tickets on the door or on-line here.

Sunday 3 April 2011

Sandgrounder Beer Festival - advance notice

The CAMRA chair addresses the drinkers at
the 2010 festival in the Sacrisbrick Hotel.
After a couple of months of uncertainty, it has now been confirmed that the 12th Sandgrounder Southport Beer Festival will take place for the second year running at the Scarisbrick Hotel Southport in the Barker and Isherwood suites from 22nd to 24th September 2011 - dates for your diary.

The venue isn't ideal, but you'd be suprised how short of options the CAMRA branch has been and all the various suggestions I've been given by interested people have already been explored by the branch.  For those who don't know, CAMRA had to leave the previous venue, the Southport Arts Centre, when it was closed for major refurbishment by the council.

I'll post more information as I get it.  The CAMRA branch website link is here.

Friday 1 April 2011

Drink-drive laws "kill jobs"?

Congressman Alan Hale from Montana, USA, has opposed laws on drink-driving (or DUI - driving under the influence) on the basis that they kill jobs in taverns and bars although, oddly enough, he doesn't mention funeral directors.  What does a little collateral damage matter as long as the good ol' boys can have their booze?  You can read the article here and see him in action in a 40-second video.  He is, unsurprisingly, a Republican.  As the article says, this isn't an April Fool joke!  Good comment underneath:  Someone needs to tell him his village called ... their idiot is missing.

P.S. Just to prove that not all American politicians are barking, here's an interesting article I've just come across about presidential home brewers.  I'd like to try the White House Honey Ale.