I went to the Hightown pub a couple of days ago to meet some friends I used to work with in Liverpool, and also to feature the pub in the CAMRA column in our local paper for which I sometimes write. The Hightown is an attractive pub just yards from Hightown Station, which is between Formby and Blundellsands on the Northern Line. It has good value food and six handpumps. Unfortunately only two were operating when I entered: Robinson's Trooper and John Smith's Cask. The other pump clips were turned around, but were for beers such as Marston's Pedigree and Speckled Hen. Trooper it was then. I took a sip and said, "This beer's off." The man sitting on the stool next to the bar said, "Yes, it is", but was still struggling to drink it. To be fair, my pint was changed without hesitation for a John Smith's Cask, but as that is one of the most boring beers in the country, along with Tetley Bitter and Greene King IPA, I wasn't too pleased. My neighbour then asked for a replacement pint too.
I chatted to the bar staff and it turned out that the licensee was away on holiday. She confirmed that normally they have up to six beers on. It's not a good sign if a pub goes to pieces when the boss is away. In my local, when the licensee is away, the full beer range is maintained without a hitch throughout her absence.
A few years ago, this licensee got a load of publicity in the local papers claiming CAMRA members had disrupted his quiz night, shouted out the answers and made suggestive comments to barmaids. I made a few enquiries and found it had been a night out organised by the then licensee of the Falstaff pub in Southport, with some of his staff and customers. The only CAMRA member was a quiet individual whom I cannot ever imagine shouting and making comments to barmaids. On another occasion, he got a mention in the papers by ostentatiously refusing an entry in the Good Beer Guide.
Despite the poor history between him and my local branch of CAMRA, I thought I'd give the Hightown a chance and I fully intended to write a positive report if merited in the local paper, but on the basis of my visit, it's unlikely the pub will appear in the CAMRA column in the near future. It might be okay when he's there, but it should be acceptable when he's not there too.
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