A.J. Walker

writerer

2022 Pubs to Date

Been doing well with my accidental and inexact quest – whatever the quest turns out to really be. These are the Liverpool hostelries I've visited so far this year. Having already got to 30 I'll definitely be getting someway beyond… but exactly how far?

Roscoe Head
Head of Steam
The Angus
Dr Duncans
Fly in the Loaf
Grapes
Dispensary
Keystone
The Caledonia
The Belvedere
Bridewell
Thomas Rigby’s
Ye Hole In Ye Wall
Denbigh Castle
Lion Tavern
Vernon Arms
Excelsior
Globe
Central
Swan
Pilgrim
Cracke
Baltic Fleet
Love Lane
Chapters of Us
Coach House
Ship & Mitre
Lady of Mann
William Gladstone

Carnarvon Castle


Comments

Nice Crawl Across Liverpool

Very nice crawl with my work colleagues yesterday. It was good to get around Liverpool with such nice people and have some nice beers and bump into people. It was nice to see that it was really quite busy everywhere we went too. We couldn't even get in the Roscoe Head because it was too busy to get in. It was unfortunate that we couldn't get in, but it is good to see that it was busy after Liverpool seeming so quiet over the last few weeks.

Team Crawl 1
The Angus and Doctor Duncan's

Team Crawl 2
Head of Steam and Keystone


In all the team photos I seem to be laughing which is nice to see too. Think it was largely due to the struggles of the person taking the photo every time. Thanks to all the staff who hosted us and kept us supplied with beers yesterday.


Team Crawl3
The Grapes and Coach House

Team Crawl 4
The Belvedere

Fab to get out and support our great local pubs. Shout out to the Angus, Dr Duncan's, Head of Steam, Coach House, Keystone, Belvedere and the Grapes (and to the Roscoe Head even though we couldn't get in this time!).
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It's Christmas!

It's not of course. But working for a company that provides for businesses over the important Christmas period December is not the time to go out. So in common with most of hospitality we are having our Christmas day out in January. The guys & gals from Neptune Brewery are going around Liverpool to a selection of the pubs that just happen to take some of our beer – so we know they are all classy. We'll be popping into a great selection including the Angus, Doctor Duncans, Head of Steam, Roscoe Head, Belvedere, Grapes and the Keystone. I may try and get a quick one in the Coach House too (maybe while the others go and eat somewhere?). So I'll not be adding to my list of new pubs for the year. Indeed I've probably been in most these places multiple times already.

Should be a good day out.

Happy Christmas folks!
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The Accidental Quest to Spread Myself Around

Seems ages since I've done a blog update, but it's not really. Just a week. But I do tend to write ones at least once a week. So anyway here's a quick one – which may get expanded on later. I'm currently sat in the 25th different pub of the year, which I guess on the 14th January isn't too bad. I seem to have found myself on an unspecified quest to go to a 'few' different pubs and spread the love for pubs across the world: or at least Liverpool initially.

I'm currently sat typing this in
Chapters of Us in the Baltic Triangle area of the Pool of Life. I'm drinking a pint of Twisted Wheel 'Soul City' NEIPA (keg). It's not my usual kinda place – after all it's keg not cask. But it's very relaxed and cool with nice staff (balancing the always problematic tightrope between attentive and pushy very well). Loving the laid back music vibe too. And there's four keg options which is good.

Cheers
Cheers, from the Baltic Fleet (Pub 23 of 2022)

Previously I went to the Baltic Fleet (Pub 23) and had a lovely pint of Trapper's Hat from Brimstage Brewery. From there I headed down the road to Love Lane Brewery. Was disappointed to find they had no cask on – I mean it's a brewery so having no cask was a wee bit sad. The service was good though, and it's a nice place. Just get some cask on (
I can probably source some for them if they are struggling to find any). ;-)

I'll probably get to
Pub 26 tonight and maybe beyond, not that it matters per se. Tomorrow I'm out with the guys & gals who work at Neptune Brewery for our Xmas day out. The decision was made to support our local pubs for this occasions. The places that they sell the beer to, rather than go out of town for a day trip. A mighty fine sentiment I reckon. Of course all the pubs we go to tomorrow I will already have been to since the start of the year, but that is a good thing. I'm never gonna be a ticker (of places or beers). I've not set myself a goal or aspiration for going to different pubs; indeed it's kind of happened by accident since my first pint in the Roscoe Head on New Year's Day and moved on from there. Not sure whether I'll carry on counting each unique pub - after all it will require me to actually document the thing and cross check (when was I here last?).

So what will pub 26 be? I'm thinking it'll either be the newly (today) re-opened
Coach House or Peter Kavanagh's. I'm sat here typing this in Chapters and I have no idea myself. I truly am a leaf on the wind. Won't know which way the wind is blowing till I push open the door.

It's been nice to go to so may different places and I've been surprised by a few. Get yourselves out there and
Support Your Local (pub and businesses). Not Dry January. Not Try January. Just Do the Right Thing January (and beyond!).

Onwards and upwards.

________________

Following this post I went on to the Grapes for a couple of pints and a chinwag with some regulars then headed up to the Coach House which became Pub 26 of the year. Great to see it reopen for the first time since Christmas.

Coach H1
Coach House cask options from Roosters and Neptune. Cheers! (Pub 26)

Comments

Keystone Three (for me)

After missing John Witherspoon's open mic at the Keystone the week before I did make it last week again for my third appearance out of the four they've had. It was upstairs again and was very well attended with regulars from the previous weeks. I was second up thankfully and played three of my usual - Heart Breaks Like the Dawn (C Prophet), Oh My Sweet Carolina (R Adams), and Splendid Isolation (Zevon) - and unlike the previous time I did mess any of them up. Yippee! In fact it felt to me like it was the best I'd played them; at least three songs together anyway. Not saying it definitely was, but it felt all right to me nothwithstanding what it sounded like to everyone.

All the performers were fab - many doing their own songs - and the mood was great again. It's definitely becoming a week highlight.

Keystone-OM3

The Keystone had my favourite tipple on too - Jaipur from Thornbridge - so it was a doubly good night all around.

Won't make it next week as Liverpool are on the box (on a Thursday in the Premier League!) against Newcastle so I dare say I'll be in the Fly or Head of Steam watching that. Hopefully we'll beat them well to make up for missing the open mic. Don't know if there will be one the following week with it being so close to Xmas then (Dec 23rd) but if it is then I intend to be there.

Hopefully next year I'll get a few songs written and perform them here. Could happen.
Comments

Keystone Two Twenty Three

Yesterday I made a later call to go to the open mic at the Keystone. This is just the second one, run by John Witherspoon, and only one week after the previous open mic too. The Keystone has so many events on during the week that there needed to be some changes as there was a Cinema Club upstairs (showing the Hitchcock, Jimmy Stewart/Kim Novak’s ‘Vertigo’ I think) so instead of the front room of the bar we were sent into the depths of Bar 23 to avoid noise cross over between the two events. The downstairs proved to be a great space for an intimate performance.

Keystone2-23-1

This week there were possible a couple fewer people up for playing but not significantly (I think it was 8 or so after about 10 last week). Several of the guys (including me) were repeat offenders from last week but it was good to see a few new guys too (including a great guitarist who I’d previously seen at the last Head of Steam open mic). There was a great mix of folk, blues, jazz and pop (and all points in between) and plenty of humour too. Many of the performers were doing their own songs rather than covers and thus showed off their talents even more.

I stuck with tried and tested songs (though somehow I still managed to fook one up):

‘Oh My Sweet Carolina’ - cos it always gets me going in the right mode/mood
‘Somewhere Down the Road’
‘Whiskey In My Whiskey’
‘Heart Breaks Like the Dawn’
and
‘Splendid Isolation’

Keystone2-23-3


Out of all those songs the easiest - and the one I’ve probably played the most - is Warren Zevon’s ‘Splendid Isolation’ and yet somehow I got lost for words in it. Yet it has so few. I’m not entirely sure what happened to be honest. Anyway I did between 4.5 an 5 songs; which is more than I usually end up playing. Maybe I should stop at 4 in future though.

It was a really lovely night with great songs and camaraderie between everyone there and I’m glad I made the rush effort to get into town to show up again. Not sure whether I’ll make it next week but having made two appearances now at the Sanctuary, Head of Steam, Angus and now the Keystone then I’ve gone above and beyond anywhere I’d have thought I’d have made it to. I still have to thank the beer makes for the Dutch courage provided is a necessity: I always need to be on my second beverage beverage before getting up. The lovely cask on last night included ‘Taller Than A House’ Chapter Brewery, ‘Forecast (Bullion)’ Neptune Brewery, and ‘Kandata’ Chapter Brewery (which came on when Forecast was drunk dry). Nice beers all.

Keystone2-23-2

So thanks again to the Keystone and John Witherspoon for a cracking night all round.

_____________

The next day we found out that whilst we were having such a good time on Hope Street a young life was ending when a 12 year old girl – Ava White – was being murdered by children barely older than her just 0.7 miles away from where we were. There really are no words.
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The Tour Continues...

The Tour Continues… The Keystone Leg

Yesterday the lovely
Keystone on Hope Street held it's first Open Mic event, hosted by John Witherspoon. It's always difficult to know how the first event will go and how people find out about it. Not everyone is on social media all the time (apparently – hard to believe I know). And even if you are it is easy to miss announcements. Pubs often rely on word of mouth and people learn about events through chat in one pub or another. This one wasn't saturating social media, but that means nothing. It's down to who knows and how many are motivated to leave the house (along with a guitar or a plectrum).

KeystoneOM-1

I've been to the Opening Open Mic now at the
Angus (fronted by Ali Horn), the Head of Steam (fronted by Jack Malone), and now the Keystone over the last two months or so (I also went to the first one of the reopened Sanctuary fronted by Barry Sutton). I am definitely getting to the point where I'll be getting a tour t-shirt before too long. This one at the Keystone was so well attended with musicians that John, the host, barely played himself because there were so many volunteers there was no time to fill in!

WalkerAndLee
Sam & I in the Keystone – cheers!

This time my drinking and music buddy, Sam, came along to play too – he hadn't played live in a pub for years. We spoke to John at the bar before it kicked off at 8pm and said we'd both play. John played two or three songs and then I went up (so I was the first one at the Opening Open Mic or should I say I opened for the opening open mic?). Anyway, it was definitely nice to play first after being last man standing last week at the Angus as I could then relax and watch everyone else. First up after me was Sam with three of his own songs. Damn cool. Maybe I need to pen and perform a few myself. It definitely did not appear like Sam hadn't done it in years. He was excellent – and I now he'll be back again soon. After that there was performer after performer after performer – who were all too bloody good. Wish I had everyone's names so could namecheck them. But kudos to everyone who played; and I wasn't even the only one in a red-checked shirt.

Keystone4

I'm sure it was as big a success as it could have been. No more could have played really. Everyone was allowed no more than three songs and everyone kept to that. There wasn't even anyone bending that rule by playing American Pie, Telegraph Road and an extended version of Two Tribes. Not that I could do that if I wanted to. Though I've got a longer list of possible songs to do these days I went with three of my now standard standards: 'Oh My Sweet Carolina' (Ryan Adams), 'Heart Breaks Like the Dawn' (Chuck Prophet), and 'You Couldn't Get Arrested' (Green on Red). This time I actually had a list of eight songs to pick from in case there was a shortage of performers. Such a list was definitely not required.

Anyway, congratulations to the Keystone and to John for an excellent night and roll on the next one(s).
Comments

The Tooleys and the Local Historians

The Tooleys and the Local Historians (and Pringles)

Met some lovely people the other day in the Lion Tavern including a couple of old regulars and we talked about so many topics. Three others followed who sat next to me. One of the guys asked if it was okay to earwig as he was enjoying our conversation. Of course. Pubs are social places where interactions of all sorts occur both with strangers, acquaintances and mates. It turned out the three of them were on a wee pub crawl, though not a beer one (well not in the sense of ale anyway). They’d used a book to outline a walk around some historic pubs. They’d already been in the Poste House, walked to Ye Hole in Ye Wall (which was closed) and found themselves in the Lion. I was to leave them to walk down to the Pig & Whistle next.

Everyone was really laid back and enjoying a couple of hours (even with their chosen glasses of lager and wine in the case of the historians). They were all relatively local; coming from areas between Crosby and the Wirral. It was nice to talk about local history and the lovely pubs and breweries in the area - and music too as one of the guys was a session bass player with some excellent acts. Cool conversations all round.

I went on to meet a couple of mates half a mile across Liverpool in the Bridewell. They’d chosen to sit inside and were in one of the cells. As well as my two mates on the table at the back of the cell there were three others on the second table. We didn’t know them but chatted to them a little as it was impossible to get in and out of the cell without dislodging at least one of them so conversation always has to break out a little other than pleasantries. Then the power went out for a couple of minutes (I know not why - maybe there was a jail breakout) and we got talking a little more as you usually would. Lots of toilet humour in case the lights were down for too long. We wondered if there was bucket in the cell and I pointed out that a packet of Pringles would do the job too. They were nice people - and I’m sure they’ll always carry an empty packet of Pringles with them in future just in case. It was just the usual chit chat and banter we’d get involved in (or I would at any rate). They left not too much longer after that (probably to get to the Tescos before it shut for a certain cylinder).

Wouldn’t normally mention such chit chat but what came next was a bit of surprise to all three of us: the barman came around with a tray of drinks for us. ‘It’s from the Tooley’s.’ ‘ Who?’ ‘The people who were in here before wanted to buy you a drink.’ Well blow me down. It was the Pringles that did it I am sure.

So thank you, The Tooley’s. We raised a glass to you.

Anyway, pubs are social places. Treat them as such. They are not places to just drink and get drunk. Get involved if you are in the mood to. Put a song on the jukebox, chat to the barman, chat to the people on your table - or sharing your cell. And just enjoy it. Cheers!

——-

PS if you are camping and using the Pringles packet to avoid heavy rain and mud during the night don’t do the trick my mate did the following morning and knock it over in the foyer of your tent (or worse inside!). It was he who told me about the handy trick and then showed my the hazard too. Such a teacher! (The lad will remain nameless)
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A Kilo of Beer and The Auld Enemy

Watched the England v Scotland match at home last night. Usually with a big game like that there would be a few of us out in town to watch the match. But with the current situation we were of the opinion not to go in as there was too big a risk of getting into town and then not finding anywhere to watch it. The current restrictions mean that all customers have to be seated and it’s table service etc. So most pubs were anticipating quite a high demand for the game (let’s face it, in normal times they would have been packed - especially on a Friday night) and they therefore operated a system where many, if not all, tables were bookable from earlier in the week. A few had ‘some’ walk-in availability too. But it’s a Friday night and the walk-ins could easily fill up quickly from people coming out of their offices and making a decision on the night to stay out.

I did consider popping into town and going with the flow, then coming back home if I hadn’t found at place to watch it by 7:30. But going into town for 2 hours only to come back with 30-40 minutes each way waiting for buses didn’t make sense to me. So i was that the England v Scotland match became another victim of the Covid-19 situation for me. At least all the Euro games in the UK are on terrestrial TV - that makes such a difference. That said it was on ITV, not BBC. But beggars can’t be choosers.

2 pints

As it transpired a) The Fly were calling out for ‘walk-ins’ at 7pm, so I could have got a seat to watch it, and b) it was a shite game. I was simultaneously disappointed I hadn’t gone into town for the game and happy that I hadn’t gone into town for the game. Oh, yeah... it finished 0-0. And the Scots celebrated the 0-0 like Everton would do against Liverpool.

I had a couple of beers at home including a mega (1000ml) can of
Faxe Royal (5.6%) beer I’d picked up from B&M, which I drank from my dad’s old 1 litre German glass. Dad was a Scot and he’d have been up for the match against the Auld Enemy, of course. And on a Friday night he'd have been watching it down 'the club' with his usual posse. Though I suspect my dad never actually drank anything out of this glass. He must have picked it up in one of the trips he had with my mum over to that neck of the woods. He was more likely to drink a pint of mild than two pints of lager. A litre of mild sounds a bit heavy in all respects. Not sure he’d have been too happy about the result (or the game itself). But I suppose being a Scotland fan is like supporting Everton: it’s not about winning anything, it’s about taking two points of your biggest enemy.

Faxe

There's been a few good games in the Euros so far, but personally I can’t wait for the Premier League and Champion’s League to be back. Also I need to do some work on my arms if I’m going to be drinking a kilo of beer again. It's Father's Day today, so maybe I'll drink out of his old glass again; then again I also have his old tankard too - a much more manageable size.
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Covid, Bars, Risk and Reward

As many of you know I do have as couple of Twitter accounts, namely: @zevonesque and @RealeLiverpool. And the latter one is almost entirely Liverpool and Real Ale related (there’s a clue in that name I think) whilst I mention beer and beer related trips on this website from time to time I haven’t really blogged about it much for years. Though if you look in the previous couple of months I’ve done a couple of blogs on the pubs that were open in Liverpool City Centre, both when it was outdoor opening only and just afterwards. I’m wondering whether to do a more regular blog, however short, on related subjects. Perhaps it’d need another section heading on the site to keep things all together; like my Health section - which I only introduced after my MS Diagnosis earlier in the year. We shall see. Could get a bit “samey’ though unless I come up with an effective list of subjects and plans for it. Or if samey turns out to be called for.

We are living in strange times and there appears to be such mixed views and reaction to the virus and all that it entails. This range of lockdown and post lockdown strategies has been messy. And of course it is warranted. There are too many people who happily write off ‘only the old’ or ‘at risk’ in the community. Bloody bastards the lot of them. And of course in reality we still don’t know what the actual long term affects of the disease will be - we can’t know what damage
Long Covid will leave us: people of all ages. Incidentally I know a couple of people (including fit people in their 20s) who got over Covid-19 in a few days: then Long Covid came out of nowhere around the corner and hit them and has left them with severe currently life affecting issues. But we can’t know how long these effects will last, nor if the current impacts will go away and then be replaced with different ones. The NHS could very well be dealing with this impacts of this pandemic for decades. In short, whatever age you are you don’t want to catch it and risk your long term health (including as yet unidentified impacts); or risk passing it on to one of your friends or family members

In the UK the currently rife
Delta variant has rapidly changed the situation here from one of finally being all sunshine & light to one of doom & gloom. The opening up of shops and bars & restaurants and the improvement on options for other social occasions beyond your single “bubble” has surely been a positive thing for people in terms of the return of some normality. But things haven’t returned to normality - and looking at how the current stats have been going (in the North West of England in particular) nor should they. Each step does need to be risk assessed on a global level right down to the individual person. You don’t cross a road without assessing the risks and addressing them and nor do you stand in traffic. And if you cross the road without doing what you should it’s not the government’s fault: it’s yours. Much of this is not “rocket science” but common sense. And while much of the UK has been vaccinated - particularly the older bastards like yours truly - not everybody has.

The opening up has in particular been good for the oldies who have been isolated to one extent or another: finally they can go out and meet & chat to other people (not everyone had or wanted to use Zoom). Meanwhile the youngsters who feel indestructible (we all did once you know) are certainly meeting in larger groups and without socially distancing AND without masks. I’m not saying that to get at the youngsters. I was young once and there are things I did when I was younger that I would think (and were) risky now (racing up scaffolding anyone?). But it is these very “indestructible” people who are told they don’t need to wear masks at school and then go on public transport without masks, then go shopping in Primark or in Next, then head to Maccy D’s and hang around town for a few hours before heading home on public transport unmasked again. Honestly I’m not getting at them. They’ve been told they don’t need masks in school with hundreds of people in: why would they think that they need one in an airy bus with twenty people on it?

Now the graphs for Covid-19 in Liverpool (for example) look horrendous in some ways - the very illustration of “exponential.” This largely comprises the younger people and either unvaccinated or “only vaccinated once” peeps. Us oldies aren’t getting it anywhere near as much - thanks to vaccination - but maybe also because we’re still trying to keep doing the distance thing and are following masking rules too (less so the over zealous sanitising hands and all that: it’s airborne and it’s indoor air, people). Hopefully these youngsters aren’t going to get too ill from it - either right now or in the months or years to come (but we can’t know). We should do all we can to limit the potential for this damnable virus to spread, whilst at the same time allowing companies to survive and ultimately flourish (or at least allow people to make a living out of it). Which leads me to pubs (yes, this was supposed to be a blog about pubs)...

My experience since pubs have reopened indoors has been good and bad in very different respects. Firstly the good: it’s good to go back to places that have been shut for five or six months and see (some) familiar faces. Been great to drink some nice beers; both local and national/familiar and unfamiliar. Been nice to increase the options of going to other places and having the different experiences on offer from them. And boss to have increased the options for meeting mates. All the real ale pubs I have been going to in town have been brilliantly run in terms of getting people to scan in to the NHS App or fill in contact details; wear masks when traversing around the pub; not letting too many people congregate or stand up in groups; and decent table service under difficult circumstances.

The bad: people... in terms of some robbing bastards either running away at the end of the night having accrued a bill on their table (horrible bastard chancers) or even lowlifes stealing glasses; these businesses (in your local community) don’t need another expense due to your obnoxious thievery. Then there’s the not letting too many people congregate or stand up in groups, and decent table service etc. Hold on, that was above in the positive bit, wasn’t it? Well yeah, it’s been good from a risk and fear factor and all that for potential customers. But the other side of that coin is that these things (just as much as stealing bastards) have significant costs for businesses just when they don’t need them (or can’t survive them):
you won’t be catching a virus in an empty pub, but they won’t be making money to survive either.

Quiet pubs may be good for me and others in the short term at least in terms of risk and getting served, but these hostelries and their suppliers can’t survive on almost empty “
but safe” rooms. The virus needs to be beaten by vaccination and short term sensible, risked-out, options, and ventilation (and maybe even masks for kids hey!?). But surely in the short term hospitality businesses need to be FULLY supported by the Chancellor. A business that can’t open fully can’t survive for long without it. There is no business model for an empty pub.

I can’t have a car accident if I don’t have a car, I can’t get a virus in an empty pub: I can’t get a drink in a pub that no longer exists: and the people who own the pub, the people who work there, and all their suppliers are out of a job too. That’s not risk management: that’s insane.

The government needs to support all these businesses. Meanwhile if you can, and are happy to, get yourself down to one of your favourite hostelries - or at least give them with good messages about going back when you are comfortable to do so. They need every bit of support you can give. Cheers and beers, people.
Comments

In and Local

Well the pubs are open now for people to sit inside. Still waiter service and max of six and all that but it’s better than none at all I guess. May had been cold and wet so anyone having an option to get inside to survive the onslaught is positive. Now we’ve had some good weather this week so the inside or outside question can be asked for those few Liverpool pubs that had outdoors as an option. And in the meantime pubs that didn’t have outside as an option have had the chance to open their doors for the first time this year.

In the last couple of weeks I’ve called in at the
Sanctuary, Lion, Denbigh Castle, the Angus, Head of Steam and the Fly in the Loaf. It is good to have them all back: walls, roofs and all.

One of the best things in this reopening has been seeing how many of the pubs are selling beers from the local breweries. There’s been plenty of excellent cask ales on offer from
Neptune, Top Rope, Chapter, Carnival, Brimstage, Black Lodge, and the like. This has to be good for the local breweries after this horrendous year; and it’s also good for the customers.

It’s amazing how the local beer scene has changed in the recent years. It really wasn’t that long ago there was Cains and nothing much more in Liverpool. And while the mild, FA, and raisin may be missed they have been more than replaced by the options from these breweries.

So whenever you’re back in (or out) the pub then raise a pint of local beer and drink to the brewers as well as to the pubs (and all those that work at them).

Cheers.
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