Sunday 27 May 2012

Make Beer, Not War ...

Too good to hurry?
... was for some time the slogan in this blog's header, so I was really pleased to learn that trade between India and Pakistan, which is almost non-existent (1% of India's exports go to Pakistan and 1.7% of Pakistan's to India), is to be given a boost by a Pakistani brewery, Murree Brewery, which was founded in 1860 to slake the thirst of the soldiers and civil servants of the British Raj. Murree is preparing to export its beers to the growing beer market in India, a market which was firmly closed to them after the Partition in 1947. Moslems in Pakistan are not allowed to drink by law (well, not officially anyway), so Murree has relied on supplying the small non-Moslem population of Pakistan and on exports. Considering the troubled history between these two countries since 1947, greater trade can only help increase mutual understanding and trust, and I can't think of a much better way than over a beer.

The ruins of the original
Ghora Galli Brewery today
As well as exporting the beer into India, they're also planning to brew it under licence there, and Murree hopes to make inroads into the UK market with beer brewed in the Czech Republic. The beer will almost certainly be a lager-style offering, although it may gain credibility in the UK by being brewed under licence in the Czech Republic, the original home of pilsner beers. Murree have their advertising slogans lined up already: in the nineteenth-century they used to urge people to "Eat, drink and be Murree." Today they plan to encourage us to "Have a Murree with your curry." If I see it anywhere, I might even give it a try.

You can read the full story here.

Thursday 24 May 2012

New real ale outlets

The Cheshire Lines
I've been getting several reports of new real ale outlets in the Southport area: Rueters [sic] and the Hoghton Arms, both on Hoghton Street, the Wellington and the Old Ship, both on Eastbank Street, have all been selling real ale when visited by friends recently. I've also learnt that the Birkdale Tea Rooms now sell two cask ales from the Liverpool Organic Brewery, which recently were 24 Carat Gold and Liverpool Pale Ale, both of which I have written about previously. This is not an obvious venue for real ales, but a welcome addition in Birkdale village, which until now has only had the Park Hotel flying the real ale flag.

The Cheshire Lines in the town centre has recently changed management following the departure of Marge, one of the longest-serving licensees in the town. This pub has been in the Good Beer Guide in the past, despite only serving Tetley Bitter and Mild, but the new licensee has put Bombardier on a third hand pump. Tetley fans will be pleased to know they intend to keep their favourites on, but the addition of a third beer will broaden the real ale appeal of this attractive old pub.

I must check all of these venues soon.

Tuesday 22 May 2012

Chorley pub crawl

Our local CAMRA branch is planning a trip by bus to Chorley this Saturday afternoon for a pub crawl. There are eight pubs on the itinerary. I haven't been to Chorley for a drink since the 1980s or early 1990s, although I have driven through the town many times. I was asked to put the crawl onto a Google map that can be easily circulated by e-mail and printed if necessary. It's below, as you can see, and I've also included a link to it in my pub crawl page.

View Chorley Pub Crawl ~ 26 May 2012 in a larger map

Saturday 19 May 2012

Branch Merseyside Pub Of The Year

Next Tuesday, the 22nd of May, our local CAMRA branch (Southport & West Lancs) will be making its Merseyside Pub of the Year award to the Guest House, which happens to be my local, as regular readers of ReARM will have gathered. Gail Heyes, the licensee, has told me that she wants the award to be received by her staff, as the pub's success owes a lot to them. I rather like this recognition of the workers' contribution.

I'm told that there will Morris dancing: the Southport Swords definitely, and possibly the Argarmeles Clog too. No doubt there will be some food on the bar, and overall I'm expecting a convivial evening. For those who don't know, the Guest House has up to 11 real ales. It's in Union Street, Southport, and the award is scheduled for 8.00 p.m.

Friday 18 May 2012


"Red Nev to join Roy's England revolution" - headline in The Independent. Who's been leaking my plans? And who on earth is Roy?

Wednesday 16 May 2012

Olympic shenanigans

I have very little interest in sport. I put that down partly to the way it was taught at school, where it was like an ordeal rather than a pleasure. I don't have a problem with other people enjoying sport, but I do hate hype in all its forms, and we are being subjected to a lot of pro-Olympic hype as the build-up to the damp squib of the century begins.

I am particularly incensed by the claim that the Olympics will be a showcase for the best of Britain. It will be the best in an X-Factor or Britain's Got Talent sort of way: they'll trot out a few stereotypes, although they'll call them "icons" (whatever that means), along with some superannuated pop stars and a couple of gullible current ones in an attempt to keep the "kidz" on board. The London Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games ( LOCOG)'s invitation to Keith Moon was particularly crass, proving that, as those tasked with selecting what represents Britain, they really aren't up to the job.

As most people reading this blog will know, Britain is a country with distinctive brewing traditions that haven't been entirely swept away by the pseudo-pilsner beers that have taken over most of the world, and yet LOCOG has accepted a £10 million bribe from Heineken to have "sole pouring rights" for the Games. So the best of British will be represented in beer terms by a tenth-rate Dutch facsimile of a Czech beer.

The archery will be taking place at Lords cricket ground where the beer concession is held by Marston's. During the Olympics, the handpumps will be removed, and they're even covering up the portrait of cricketer Matthew Hoggard, Marston’s "beer ambassador". The only compromise there is that drinkers will be able to buy John Smith's Smooth under the name "British Bitter" while Strongbow will be called "Cider". Another missed opportunity, as there's a brewery in Wiltshire called Archers!

A Heineken spokesperson said that many venues are not suitable for cask beer as they are either temporary bars or lack the necessary cellar facilities, which is really quite feeble. CAMRA has been running real ale bars in such circumstances for decades, and there is an increasing number of commercial companies who specialise in temporary real ale bars: I've come across several at music festivals, and they work very well. It's just an excuse, of course: Heineken simply want to sell their own products, and as they've coughed up that £10 million sweetener, in a way I don't blame them. No, the real villain of the piece is the gaffe-prone LOCOG, which chose a single supplier of beer on the size of the bribe, rather than its degree of Britishness. But then, given how LOCOG has been profligate with our money - it's already spent nearly all of the contingency fund intended for emergencies - I suppose they needed every penny they could lay their hands on. Thinking about it, perhaps that is representative of modern Britain after all.

Monday 14 May 2012

End of the drought

Having been off the ale for a while because of tablets, I finally had a pint (well, several) last Thursday at my Liverpool singaround in the Lion Tavern, Moorfields.  I'd had no beer for 32 days, 20 hours and 20 minutes, approximately. Regrettably, this enforced abstinence coincided with a planned trip to stay with my friend Geoff in London, a trip by Wigan CAMRA to Ulverston brewery with a pub crawl around the town, and a friend's stag night, which I joined for one cup of coffee in the Guest House. It was to have been a particularly busy month.

I have been variously asked whether I felt better not drinking (no) or indeed whether I felt any worse (again, no). There were two or three occasions when I really fancied a pint, but for the most part I wasn't yearning for it, even though coffee in a pub isn't satisfying, and doesn't last very long.  And while I can easily drink six pints on a quiet night, I can't manage six coffees. No, the biggest difference I've noticed is that my bank account is about one month's worth of beer money better off.  Plus a lot of obvious jokes!

The first pint last Thursday was the Lion Returns, a house beer brewed for the pub by the George Wright brewery. It was very nice as usual, but I just didn't feel as though I'd been away from beer: it simply felt right, like putting on a comfy pair of slippers (not that I wear slippers). As they say old habits die hard.

Saturday 12 May 2012

Christine Collister in Southport

After an absence of quite a few years, Christine Collister is returning to the Bothy Folk Club for a Friday Special. I first saw Christine in the 80s when she was in a duo with Clive Gregson.  She is a small, slim woman with a great bluesy voice that leaves you wondering how such a small frame could accommodate it. Other collaborations have included Daphne's Flight and the Richard Thompson Band, but she has also produced a large body of solo work.

She has "... a voice personally delivered by God", according to The Times. Hyperbole aside, she is a great singer with a range of material that crosses genres. I think it's quite unusual nowadays for her to play venues such as the Bothy, and the opportunity to see her locally will not present itself again soon.  She will be accompanied by talented guitarist, Rob Cross.

You can get tickets on-line here. The gig begins at 8.00 p.m. on Friday 18 May at the Park Golf Club, Park Road West, Southport, PR9 0JS. The venue sells real ale from Thwaites.

Wednesday 9 May 2012

Southport Beer Festival 2012

The 13th Sandgrounder Beer Festival has now been confirmed:
  • Thu 25 - Sat 27 October.
  • St John's Ambulance Hall, Wright Street, Southport (very close to Southport railway station).
This is a month later than usual. The Southport Beer Festival was held in the Arts Centre for the first ten years, until the council closed the building down for major rebuilding.  The Scarisbrick Hotel on Lord Street stepped in and offered us a venue, but it was subsequently taken over by a national hotel chain. The new owners honoured the existing booking, but after that we had to look for somewhere else.

Why not put these dates in your diary now?

Tuesday 8 May 2012

Southport Jazz Festival - real ale venues

This weekend is the Southport International Jazz Festival and, as usual, there are lots of events, many of them free, but only a few are in real ale venues. In some cases, such as hotels, the real ale may be in a different bar from the music. Here are the real ale venues that are putting on jazz events:

Friday 11 May 2012
Red Stripe Band, 8.00pm, The Bold Hotel - £13.00
Sueyo, 7.30pm, S&B Sports Club - £25.00 (tickets only available through venue)

Saturday 12 May 2012
La Tintos Bros, 8.00pm, The Bold Hotel - £10.00
Nova Scotia Jazz Band, 9.00pm, The Coronation - Free
EVE, 9.00pm, The Phoenix - Free

Sunday 13 May 2012
Modjango, 2.30pm, The Inn Beer Shop - Free

For details of the whole festival, click here.

Sunday 6 May 2012

Singarounds in Southport & Liverpool

This week there are two singarounds that I run.

Monday in the Guest House, Union Street, Southport. This pub - Branch Pub of the Year, by the way - serves up to 11 real ales.  Music on the Bank Holiday evening from around 8.30 p.m. (1st Monday of the month)

Thursday in the Lion Tavern, Moorfields, Liverpool, just yards from the station. This pub has eight real ales on at all times. Thursday is also the day of the public sector pensions strike - if you're around, why not join us from around 8.30 p.m? (2nd Thursday of the month)

Both pubs are in the Good Beer Guide.  Singing optional - just listen if you prefer.

Saturday 5 May 2012

Freshfield Hotel Beer Festival

I've just learnt from the local CAMRA facebook page that from 14 to 20 May 2012, the Freshfield Hotel will be holding the "Freshie Fifty" Beer Festival. Throughout the week they will have up to fifty beers appearing on the bar. The Freshfield will be closed soon for a major refurbishment, which led to fears that the real ale would be either removed or seriously cut down to a token, but it appears that a good range of real ale will be available when the pub reopens again. Just as well, seeing that the Freshie has long been seen locally as one of our leading real ale pubs.

The Freshfield is in Massams Lane, Formby, L37 7BD, a short walk from Freshfield station.

Wednesday 2 May 2012

Everyman Folk Fly Again

The Everyman Folk Club, which moved to the Fly In The Loaf after the Everyman Theatre closed for major rebuilding, has flown again, this time to OSQA’s Arena Bar, which is on the corner of Oldham Street and Roscoe Street, Liverpool 1, close to the Dispensary and the Roscoe Head pubs.

This seems a rather strange venue, consisting as it does of function rooms more suitable for wedding, retirement and birthday parties, rather than folk nights. Needless to day, there isn't any real ale there, so it's unlikely I'd want to visit.  Or if I did, I'd be drawn to the two excellent pubs nearby.

Why did they move from the Fly, which does have a good range of real ales? I don't know, but I can guess that they probably weren't spending much. Some people go to folk nights nowadays and buy only one drink, perhaps a soda water or a J20, and make that last all night. I've seen some people not buy anything at all, which is a bit naughty when you consider that the organisers usually pay nothing for the use of the room, and the bar might reasonably expect some return. It wouldn't surprise me if the pub had decided that the bar sales weren't worth the investment in electricity, heating and staff time cleaning the room afterwards.

However, that's enough speculation: this has always been a popular folk night, presented by Hughie Jones of the Spinners and attracting many from the Liverpool folk scene; if, like an increasing number of folkies nowadays, real ale isn't important to you, give it a go. It's on every Wednesday from 8.30 p.m.