Tuesday 31 January 2012

Anthony John Clarke in Southport

Anthony John Clarke is a singer-songwriter and guitarist, originally from Belfast and based for some time in Liverpool.  His songs cover a lot of ground, from love songs to social comment and wry views of everyday life.  He lists among his favourite songwriters Al Stewart, John Martin and Joni Mitchell, thus showing excellent taste in my book.  He's making a return visit to the Bothy this Sunday.  On this tour, he will be joined by on some dates by Elizabeth van de Waal, Stev Rothwell and Conor Clarke (though I'm not sure which of these will be there on Sunday), but I do know the internationally acclaimed Celtic harpist Celia Briar will be performing. 

That's this Sunday at the Park Golf Club, Park Road West, Southport, PR9 0JS at 8.00 p.m.  You can get tickets in advance on-line here.  The venue sells Thwaites Wainwright real ale.

P.S. If you're near a radio at around 2.30 p.m. this Friday, he will be live on the Billy Butler show on BBC Radio Merseyside.  Listen live here.

Friday 27 January 2012

David Hirst solo gig

David Hirst, singer and songwriter from the band Misery Guts, will be playing a solo set of the band's tunes as well as some new songs, with support by Joe Keelan of The Random Family.  The gig is at at the Park Golf Club, Park Road West, Southport, PR9 0JS.  It's £3 on door, and it begins at 8.00 p.m.  The venue sells Thwaites Wainwright real ale.

Tuesday 24 January 2012

Will Kaufman's Life of Woody Guthrie in Formby

Hard Times & Hard Travellin' is the title of a live musical documentary of the life of Woody Guthrie, written and performed by Will Kaufman.  It sets the songs of Woody Guthrie in the context of the American 1930s:  the dust bowl, the Depression, the New Deal and the state of popular music itself.  Such hard-hitting Guthrie songs as “Vigilante Man”, “Pretty Boy Floyd” and “I Ain’t Got No Home” are set alongside other relevant songs, such as Joe Hill’s “The Preacher and the Slave” and “Brother, Can You Spare a Dime?”  Altogether the show highlights the interaction of music and radical politics that marks Guthrie’s most powerful work.

Will Kaufman is a singer, multi-instrumentalist and Professor of American Literature and Culture at the University of Central Lancashire.  He has given his Woody Guthrie presentations at festivals, universities, trades clubs, folk clubs and union halls.  In 2008 he was awarded the Woody Guthrie Research Fellowship from the Broadcast Music Industry Foundation and the Woody Guthrie Foundation.  His book, Woody Guthrie, American Radical, has been published by the University of Illinois Press.

Formby roots and acoustic club, Grateful Fred, presents Hard Times & Hard Travellin' at the British Legion, Whitehouse Lane, Formby, L37 3LT, on Wednesday 1 February at 8.00 p.m.  On-line tickets can be bought here (note that Grateful Fred sometimes sells out).
Non-real ale bar.

Sunday 22 January 2012

23rd Bent and Bongs Beer Bash

This festival, run by the Bent and Bongs Charitable Trust in association with Wigan CAMRA, takes place in Formby Hall in Atherton.  I always go on the Saturday, and the queue snakes down around the side of the building and the full length of the car park beyond.  Looking at the size of the building and the length of the queue, you'd be forgiven for assuming you won't get in.  But Formby Hall must have been built using Time Lord technology because you do get in, and it doesn't take too long either, as they have an efficient door operation that some other festivals should learn from.

There's always a good range of beers, and the festival has an extremely friendly atmosphere.  It's about two thirds of a mile from Atherton railway station, which itself is about a 50 minute train ride from Southport.  It runs from Thursday 26 to Saturday 28 January and is open on Thursday and Friday evenings and all day Saturday - full details from the festival website.

Friday 20 January 2012

The London Hotel, Southport

The London Hotel in Windsor Road is a large pub in a residential area about 10 or 15 minutes' walk from the town centre.  The reference to London probably refers to the area of Southport formerly called Little London, which was centred where the Blue Anchor pub is today where, apparently, merchants from London came to collect the fleeces of wool from North Meols.  The name Little London is also remembered in London Square and London Street.

The London's pub sign, complete
with superfluous apostrophe!
A CAMRA meeting took me there recently; it had been a while since I'd last visited.  The pub has three main rooms, one of which is often not opened but can be used if needed; the other two consist of a large multi-levelled room where the bar is, and a small front room on your left as you enter.  The pub serves beers from Oakwell Brewery: Barnsley Bitter (3.8%) and Dark Mild (3.4%) - prices £1.80 and £1.70 respectively.  I haven't tried the mild yet, but I find the bitter to be a perfectly standard bitter, and at least one member of the local CAMRA branch swears by it.

You could describe it as a community pub:  it has a bowling green, 4 darts teams, 2 quiz teams and a pool team.  They have an open mike night on Thursdays, and every Sunday evening they hold a quiz, karaoke and bingo.  Like most pubs, it has suffered a downturn in trade recently, and it has eccentric opening hours during the week (such as 10 p.m. closing on Wednesday), which probably doesn't help, but I do know this is the decision of the brewery, not the licensee. 

The London tends to be overlooked, but it's worth a visit.  Just check the opening hours!

Wednesday 18 January 2012

Pete Rimmer CD launch

Local singer-songwriter Pete Rimmer will be playing songs from his latest solo CD, Snapshot, which he is launching this Friday 20 January accompanied by various local performers.  Pete is known as a resident of the Bothy Folk Club and is also a member of local folk group, Gallimaufry.  Pete says, "The CD is a collection of my own songs and covers of songs including some of Bob Dylan's hits.  This is my third solo CD and it features many local bands.  I look forward to showcasing my new material and I hope people enjoy it."

Admission is free, and the evening begins at 8.00 p.m. at the Park Golf Club, Park Road West, Southport, PR9 0JS.  Real ale from Thwaites.

Tuesday 17 January 2012

Tour of West Lancs pubs

Southport and District CAMRA covers most of West Lancs as well as Southport and Formby.  The problem is that most of the West Lancs pubs are difficult and, in a couple of cases, impossible to reach by public transport.  So we occasionally take a coach out to visit them, enjoy their beers and - to ensure they are not disadvantaged - score them for the Good Beer Guide.  This is what we did last Sunday.  I didn't try all the beers, for obvious reasons, but I enjoyed all those I did have.  Not a bad pint, or one I disliked, all day.

1.  The Kings Arms, Haskayne:  this pub is close, but not next, to the Leeds-Liverpool canal.  It has some nice woodwork and attractive fireplaces, one with a real fire when we were there.  It is slightly run down but is due to refurbished soon.  At one time this pub sold only Tetley's, but on our visit was serving:
  • Black Hole Brewery - Asteroid Ale.
  • Beartown - Kodiak Gold.
  • Bank Top - Sweeney's.
2.  The Ship Inn is a canal side pub just a short walk away from the King's.  It's a very picturesque, multi-roomed pub with canal side seating (but with no fence by the canal, keep an eye on children and over-merry adults).  It has live music each week:  on Wednesdays the Britannia Bluegrass Band plays and on Thursdays and Fridays there are open mike nights.  It also does food, and a real fire was lit.  The beers were:
  • Holts - Bitter.
  • Rudgate - Jorvik Blonde.
  • Phoenix - Pale Moonlight.
3.  The Royal Oak, Aughton:  an attractive pub on the A59, it serves food and has an open mike night each Tuesday, and, I'm told, live bands on Saturdays.  A real fire was burning while we were there.  The beers were: 
  • Tetley - Bitter
  • Great Orme Brewery - Cambria.
The Cambria had just gone on and had a slight haze, so they told us it wasn't ready yet; apparently Hobgoblin had only just run out.  With our choice limited to Tetley's, we tried the Cambria and despite the haze it was fine. 

4.  The Dog & Gun, Aughton:  another attractive pub close to Aughton Park railway station with two separate rooms and a real fire.  The beers were from the Marstons stable and included:
  • Ringwood - Boondoggle.
  • Jennings - Bitter.
  • Marstons - Pedigree.
  • Banks - Bitter.
The Boondoggle proved most popular in our group.  It's a pity to see the cask mild had disappeared, but I gathered on a previous visit that it wasn't selling enough.

5.  The Stanley Arms, Aughton:  another attractive and very busy pub, the Stanley had the greatest beer range of the pubs we visited.  It was doing excellent business with meals - I had to jump out of the way of busy waitresses running past with plates of food.  The beer range was good too:
  • Tetley - Bitter.
  • Tetley - Mild.
  • Timothy Taylor - Landlord.
  • Salopian - Oracle.
  • Adnams - Spiced Winter Beer.
  • Marstons - Pedigree.
6.  The Derby Arms, Aughton:  this is a popular pub in the middle of fields, and has been the CAMRA branch Pub of the Year in the past.  As well as food, they also have live music: a busy singaround on Wednesdays and some kind of gypsy jazz night on the first Monday of the month.  There was also a real fire burning.  The beers included:
  • Haworth Steam Brewing Company - Naughty Blonde.
  • Tetley - Bitter.
  • Tetley - Mild.
  • Redemption - Big Chief.
  • Frodsham - Sledgin'.
A few years ago, you wouldn't have got this range of beers in the West Lancs pubs, and it's good to see how the situation has improved.  There are problems with the country pubs, however:  as previously reported, the Blue Bell in Barton (close to the Kings and the Ship) has closed permanently, and I've heard that the Scarisbrick in Downholland is to be closed and converted into a high class restaurant.

If I had to pick one beer, it would probably be the Haworth Steam Brewing Company Naughty Blonde, but all were good.  Anyone thinking of visiting our country pubs has a good selection of pubs and beers to choose from, as well as choices of food and live music.

Thursday 12 January 2012

David Ferrard in Southport

David's latest CD
Who?  That was my reaction too, I'm afraid!  David Ferrard is a young Scottish-American singer-songwriter based in Edinburgh.  I've found out that he was born to a Scottish father and an American mother, and was brought up on both sides of the Atlantic; those dual roots can be heard in his music, whether singing his own compositions or interpreting a traditional ballad or a song by Robert Burns.  His songs demonstrate a strong commitment to social justice and peace and have won him songwriting and performance competitions.

Having listened to several of his songs on his website, I'm looking forward to his gig at the Bothy Folk Club this Sunday 15 January from 8.00 p.m.  The venue is the Park Golf Club, Park Road West, Southport, PR9 0JS, and serves real ale from Thwaites.

Tuesday 10 January 2012

1st Lion singaround of 2012

This Thursday sees the first acoustic singaround of the year at the Lion Tavern, Moorfields, Liverpool from around 8.00 p.m.  Free and open to all, although singing is not compulsory.  The Lion usually has 8 real ales on. 

These sessions take place on the second Thursday of each month.  I hope to see you there, if not this week then at a future one.

Monday 9 January 2012

Blog rankings ~ can't make any sense of them

In December 2010, ReARM sprang into the top 100 beer and wine blogs at 60, which I was pleased about at the time.  After that there was a slow decline in this blog's position until a few months ago when it ended at around 103.  There was a brief rally to 97, followed by dropping out of the top 100 again.  So I decided to stop looking - until I looked again, of course, when I was amazed to see it's leapt back in at 55, the highest position ever. 

Frankly, I can't make any sense of these rankings.  They're not based on the number of hits, because in 2011 I had nearly double the number than in 2010, yet my position in the top 100 declined throughout the year.  No doubt history will repeat itself and ReARM will slide down the charts again during the course of this year.  If you want to follow my position, it's given on the badge at the bottom of the column on the right, and it changes monthly.  To see the whole top 100 blogs, click here or on that badge.  Some of them are worth your time; there's a couple I don't like, but I'm not saying which.

Day trip to Fleetwood

A charabanc trip to Fleetwood Beer Festival for those in Southport and surrounding area.

Last year's trip to Fleetwood hits the road
The Bothy Folk Club is running a trip to the Fleetwood Beer Festival on Saturday 11 February, leaving mid-morning and returning around tea time. If you want a place, please e-mail trip organiser Jean as soon as possible, as she needs to know which size of bus to book – price depends on numbers and bus size but will be kept as low as possible.  Note:  you don't have to be a Bothy-goer!

Contact:  jean@pownceby.fsnet.co.uk  
(link disabled to prevent spam - copy & paste into an e-mail) 

Sunday 8 January 2012

Steve Tilston at Maghull FC

Steve Tilston with Dave Bowie
on double bass at Faldingworth
Steve Tilston is a great singer, songwriter and guitarist, born in Liverpool although he moved away long ago.  He has been turning out quality albums for 40 years and his songs have been recorded by Fairport Convention, Dolores Keane, The House Band, Peter Bellamy, North Cregg, Bob Fox and John Wright.  Songs like Slip Jigs and Reels, Here’s to Tom Paine and The Naked Highwayman have become modern classics.  One of his songs, The Reckoning, has been nomintated in the Best Original Song category of the BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards, and is up against On Morecambe Bay written by Southport's own Kevin Littlewood.

He is appearing at the Maghull Folk Club which meets at the Maghull Community Association, 604 Green Lane, Maghull, L31 2JH.  Pay on the door, and the venue sells bottled ales.

A true story about Steve downing a drink in one can be found here.

Saturday 7 January 2012

Cains not so able

I noticed that Cains FA was on sale in the Guest House last night.  It used to be there quite often, but as I haven't seen it on the bar for a good while now, I decided to try a pint.  I was very disappointed:  it used to be a dry golden ale whose taste belied its strength (5%), and I usually stayed on it all night when it was available.  Now it is a mediocre beer, dull-looking with a cloying flavour, and I really can't see much resemblance to the beer I used to like.  The Cains website states:  "A Golden coloured very 'English' golden ale with a beautifully smooth mouthfeel.  Brewed with the finest English malts, the beer is brewed with a fuller flavour to delight the mouth and stimulate the tongue."  Perhaps at one time, but not now.

I have been told that when Cains went into meltdown after their failed reverse takeover of Honeycombe Leisure caused them to be placed in administration in 2008, they couldn't get credit.  As a result, the recipes went out of the window, replaced by the nearest approximations they could manage with whatever cheap ingredients they could lay their hands on for cash.  I've no idea how accurate this is, but there's no doubt in my mind that the beers became uniformly mediocre at around that time.

With several good microbreweries in and around the Merseyside area producing far superior beers, Cains really needs to do a lot better if it wants to be a contender on the local real ale scene.

1st Bothy guests of 2012

Gren Bartley & Tom Kitching are one of the brightest young acts on the folk scene today. Playing music from a remarkably broad range of sources, their new album ‘Boundary’ crosses genres with a healthy disdain for arbitrary pigeon-holing of styles and traditions. Some songs just need to be sung.  Having met at Loughborough University, through presenting a folk show on the campus radio, the duo grew out of a wish to perform the music they loved. Over time, Gren developed a distinctive passionate song writing style that manages to push boundaries, whilst staying respectful to the traditions.

Extracts from reviews:

"Bartley proves to be an accomplished songwriter, with a restful voice that lulls its way into the mind and heart."  Allmusic.com.

"The instruments spark, with the combination of the bright fiddle and the acclaimed finger picking style of Bartley giving a lovely flow to the tunes"  Maverick Magazine.

They're at the Bothy this Sunday 8 January at the Park Golf Club, Park Rd West, Southport, PR9 0JS.  The venue serves Thwaites real ale.

Friday 6 January 2012

An inexpensive night out, if you want it!

I had a meeting on Tuesday in the Falstaff on King Street, Southport, with some CAMRA people to discuss the future of the local branch magazine, Ale & Hearty.  I felt encouraged as there seemed to be a determination to get it published again.  I'd hate to be the editor in charge if it finally collapsed.  The Falstaff, which was at one time my local when it served up to 10 real ales, had just Theakston's Lightfoot on at £2.60 a pint.  It's "a delicious and refreshing, golden ale" according to the brewery website, but to me it was merely inoffensive and unremarkable.  There were four other handpumps which weren't in use.  The place was empty when we arrived and still was when we left.  I do hope this pub can revive, but it's not looking hopeful.

I then called into the Phoenix (owned by the Smith & Jones pub company) on Coronation Walk where there was a surprise for me:  a pint of real ale for £1.29.  It was Tolly English Ale, brewed under the Tolly Cobbold name, but actually Greene King, with a strength of 2.8%, designed to take advantage of the new lower duty for beers that are 2.8% or below.  It had more flavour than you'd expect from such a weak beer, but still seemed thin to me.  They were also serving Morland Original (4.1%), another Greene King beer which was more to my taste, at £1.49 and Bombardier at £1.79.  For those who like sport, and I'm not one, the Phoenix has several large screen TVs.  In fact, Liverpool were being thrashed 3-0 by Man City while I was there.

On to the Baron's Bar.  This bar suffered badly after the formerly independent Scarisbrick Hotel, in which it is housed, was taken over by Britannia Hotels, who immediately put on predictable regional and national beers from a single supplier, and sales plummeted accordingly.  I'm pleased to report that the company has responded to the market and it was serving Moles Brewery Tap, Tetley Bitter, George Wright Pipe Dream, Flag & Turret (the house beer), Vale Brewery Best Bitter, Pride of Pendle, Lancaster Blonde and Black Sheep.  All were £1.90 a pint, except for the Tetley Bitter, which was £2.25.  They also had Old Rosie real cider, and there was one more one handpump which was turned around.

These two pubs, along with the Sir Henry Segrave (Wetherspoons) and the Willow Grove (Lloyds No. 1), mean that there are now several local ale houses you can drink in if you are on a limited budget.  As ever, the question arises:  if they can do it, why can't other pub companies?

P.S.  I should also have mentioned the London Hotel, a suburban pub a short walk from the town centre.  It sells Oakwell beer:  Barnsley Bitter at £1.80 a pint and Dark Mild at £1.70.

All these pubs are on the Southport real ale pubs map, which you can find here.

Wednesday 4 January 2012

Mason's singaround

A bit late I know, but a reminder that the Mason's first singaround of 2012 is tonight from around 8.00 p.m.  The Mason's is behind the main post office on Lord Street, serves real ale from Robinson's and usually provides a nice supper.  From around 8.00 p.m. onwards.  All are welcome.

Tuesday 3 January 2012

New Year beer stories

A headline shouts:  "Charity says giving up alcohol for a month is futile", which sounds rather final and damning.  It turns out that the British Liver Trust says it's better from the point of view of your liver's health to take a few days off alcohol a week throughout the entire year than remaining abstinent for January only, which isn't quite so prescriptive.  It's what most people do in my experience anyway; I can't think of anyone who drinks seven days a week during every week of the year.  The full story is here

There are of course many reasons other than health why people go on the wagon, such as losing weight, saving money, taking it easy after a frantic Christmas break, making time to do jobs around the house, etc., and none of these reasons is futile.  In this case, the strident headline is somewhat at odds with the actual message, and I wouldn't be surprised if some drinkers reading the headline only might conclude there's no point in giving up at all, which surely isn't what was intended.  These people need to learn that the message itself is often not enough; how you deliver it can be equally important.

Another news story is about the woman who stole a 24 pack of beer by hiding it under her skirt.  You can see the CCTV here:

Sunday 1 January 2012

Real Ale Pubs Map for Southport

I've pinched Ken's idea (see post of 30 December) to set up a Google map of real ale pubs in and around Southport town centre.  In time I'll probably insert pubs further out, as in Birkdale, Churchtown and Ainsdale, but here is the town centre and surrounding area.  I've put a link to this map in my quick links (above), on my pub crawl page and in my beer links to the right.  Click the blue link below the map to see a larger map and the text.  I'll try to keep it up to date, and I hope it's useful.

View Southport Real Ale Pubs in a larger map

A similar map for the Bury area (but with many times more pubs) has been on Tyson's blog for some time - useful if you're going that way.