A.J. Walker


A Trip to Salford & Manchester

On Saturday I was over in some Manchester postcodes for Salford Beer Festival and some farewell pints for a colleague. It was a good trip in both regards.

It was my first time over at the Salford Beer Festival. Last year I went to the Wirral Beer Festival which clashed with it as it did once again. And so I began this year and last with some stomach lining kindly provided at the Shiraz, which I had along with my mates who were all going to the Wirral Fest. After that I wouldn't be needing much later—and maybe no dinner either.

The Shiraz Breakfast Prescription Hug

Three of the Neptunians on the trip took the rather nice, very fast, and pretty damn full, Newcastle train. The previous train had been cancelled so this was inevitably to be packed all the way.

The Sleek Train To An Afternoon Ale

A speedy Uber picked us up at Manchester Victoria and whizzed us of efficiently to
Hemsley House for the festival and we were quickly in the groove. I spent most of my time in the second smaller room which housed the cask ales, the larger room of the Masonic Hall was the keg room. It was a busy session with all the seating taken. Thankfully I'd had my knee injected (and emptied of fluid) the day before and standing all the session actually didn't prove to be an issue. I'd taken charge of a pint glass rather than one of the smart schooners of course. But I didn't have a single pint whilst I was there (or two thirds; at least not a requested one). I always find myself drinking quite slowly at festivals and it was proved to be the case again. The only one keg I had was the Neptune 'Secret Beach' which was brewed for the festival and is a lovely Californian Pale (i'd had the cask version the night before in the Neptune Beerhouse). I had the keg whilst in the large oom to view the raffle draw—and sing along with the Wurzels and everyone there (apart from a rather perplexed Liam) 'I Am A Cider Drinker' ooh arrh, ooh arrh ay!

The Cask Room of the Salford Beer Fest

In front of the bar at Salford Beer Festival

I didn't win the raffle.
Ooh arrh, oh arrh No!

At the end of the session it was time to get out of Salford (isn't it always the case?) and go over to our third city of the day, Manchester (I'm counting Liverpool of course). It was another Uber which arrived quickly. But then the traffic of Manchester intervened and we spent a lot of time not moving anywhere at all. I guess it permitted us to gain a thirst. We were only to go to two pubs in the evening though. First up was the excellent Gas Lamp, on Bridge Street, where we met up with Chess for her farewell pints.

We sat in the white tiled back room for a couple of beers and a good chinwag, whilst battling through the noise (it was packed and I think the tiles make the room an effective amplifier). After a few pints it was time to move on. Outside a passerby was stopped to take a shot of us when we left and to be fair I think he did a fine job with the available entourage. The next pub was never in doubt—you can't go to Manchester without a visit to the City Arms. After standing up all afternoon at the fest it was good to be able to get seating at both pubs. Perhaps it was a shame though that there were no further Wurzelling.

A plethora of Neptunians

Then it was time to go home (in my case via Dr Duncans; it is next to the bus stop of course). Two things I learned on the day were: that Uber is really rather good and I should download the app (even if Manchester traffic isn't), and that Salford Beer Festival is a mighty fine institution. All in all an excellent day trip.

A Sunday Trip to Stafford

Thought I'd go somewhere I haven't been to on my tod before. Other than a CAMRA coach trip or two (way way back) I'd only been through Stafford on the train when travelling down south really. It's only just over an hour (64 minutes to be precise) from Liverpool Lime Street to Stafford on pretty regular trains (often the Birmingham New Street train). Got a few people to guess where I was heading on Twitter and no-one got it. Said it was somewhere I hadn't been etc which ruled out a surprising number of places I've been to over the last year. It turned out to be a beautiful start to the day when I arrived at around 11:40 and the walk out from the station takes you straight out into the lovely Victoria Park, alongside the River Sow, which made it doubly nice.

It was Stafford, folks.

Victoria Park welcomes you right out of the station.

A canalised section of the River Sow through Victoria Park. Gotta love a weeping willow.

I hadn't done much research on the pubs before hand other than to use a Google Maps search (i.e. 'Stafford Real Ale Pubs') to make sure there were at least a few to keep me occupied. At first glance there certainly seemed enough to keep me out of trouble for an hour or six anyway.

Bird in Hand

Black Country Ales 'BFG'

First up I went to the Bird in Hand. A spot on old pub which was busy with locals and doing in a good trade in lush looking Sunday lunches. I had a pint of Black Country Ales 'BFG', whilst trying hard to not be tempted by the gorgeous smells of the beef and Yorkshire puds. Black County Ales were to be in several pubs on the day; Stafford is only 15 miles from Wolverhampton. I watched the end of the India innings in the cricket world cup, where England appeared to be doing quite well.

Sun Inn, a Titanic pub

Loverly outdoor areas at the Sun Inn, while the sun was out.

The market town of Stafford isn't exactly overwhelming and a walk around the pubs would not prove too long at all. Next up was the Titanic Brewery owned pub, 'The Sun Inn' at the southern side of the town. There were lots of Titanic options of course, and i went for an '
Iceberg' there and sat out in the covered area of the garden (which was large). It was a lovely day after all and it would be rude not to take advantage of it.

The Picture House


Inside of the Picture House.

After this I headed back more centrally. I almost walked past the Wetherspoons—because of my general aversion to them not because I almost missed it—but I thought it looked an interesting building (another old cinema). I went in the Picture House check it out and I did get myself a St Austell '
Average Joe'. I supped it quickly and got out. It was a nice building and I liked all the old film posters on the walls, but it never feels right being in one (a Wetherspoons, not a cinema). It wasn't very busy in there, and the food didn't look half as appealing as those dinners in the Bird.

Pubs. Use it or lose it.

The Market Vaults

It was almost Halloween, can you tell?

Next up was the Market Vaults in the centre of the town (by the market, the clue is in the name dontcha know). A nice traditional pub. Quiet with a just a few regulars in and only the one beer (a Jennings '
Cumberland') and a hand written pump clip. Listened to the cricket for a while and found England were capitulating in embarrassing fashion. This truly has been a World Cup to forget.

Shrewsbury Arms

It was only a short walk to the Shrewsbury Arms, which looked a pub not to be missed. Everton were on the telly, but despite that I really enjoyed this pub. Got talking to a large (three generations) family in there about beer and football. Was very good. Meanwhile England lost in the cricket and Everton won v West Ham (whilst Liverpool were winning 2-0 v Forest).

Ye Olde Rose & Crown, Ye Closed on Sundays


I aimed to head on up to the Greyhound and Railway for my last two pubs so was going to take in Rose & Crown, a Joules pub. The flaw in the very loose plan was that it was Sunday and the pub is closed on Sundays. A shocking state of affairs. A shame as I like a Joules. It also meant my mid walk pub choice between the Shrewsbury and the Greyhound was a trifle limited. I ended up in Hogarth's. A nice enough pint of Theakston's '
XB' while I watched a very bad Man Utd capitulation to Man City as if they were the English cricket team. Not a great pub (very much a chain vibe along the line of Primark meets Wetherspoon with a dollop of Woolworths (without the pick & mix). Still, like I say the one beer they had on was fine and seeing Man Utd suffer is never a bad thing.

The Greyhound. The clocks changed last night. Was going dark early.

Headed north, just beyond the ring road and past the surprisingly central Stafford jail to the Greyhound. The weather was going downhill quickly after the blue sky start rain was definitely coming. A nice pub, where I had a pint of Oakham '
JHB' and saw the end of the Man derby (btw Liverpool had gone on to win 3-0 in the end). From there I was to head to the Lamb, where I found no ale on and walked straight out then I had to negotiate some road works to get over to the Railway Inn. This was to be my last stop, but I ended up chatting to some locals and the landlord--and playing some Warren Zevon on the jukebox—whilst having the more than adequate Butty Bach.

I timed it well to take the short walk to the station (hey, it was the Railway Inn, it wasn't going to be far) and get the on time train back to Liverpool. Glad it was short in the rain too.

Having made it to eight pubs, some of which were better than others, it had proved a very good day. And at only an hour (+4 minutes) from Liverpool I'd definitely recommend it. The pubs were:

Bird In Hand
The Sun Inn
Picture House
Market Vaults
Shrewsbury Arms
Railway Inn

I'll probably put up a map at some point.

And the five I'd most recommend are the Bird In Hand, Sun Inn, Shrewsbury, the Railway, and the Greyhound. If I was going on a Saturday I'd add the Rose & Crown Joules pub and jib the Hogarth's (unless it was needed to watch the footy or something).

Vectors and Curves

Been a while since I've updated the maps on here. So much so that when I went to do some changes this week it turned out the software I used to mark up the had changed. Not just an update but a whole new branding with Vectornator becoming Linearity: Curve. What? Anyway, after some checks to make sure it hadn't become a cost to me in the meantime I found I could carry on with the new Curve.

It was nice to update with the addition of a pub,
The Queen of Hope Street, and the inclusion of a pub getting cask in for the first time, the Greene King, Lime Street Central. Had to also remove a couple of (keg) bars from one of the maps too. So perhaps that's 2-0 to cask. That said I don't really keep an eye on the keg bars much so there's probably (definitely) a few additions of them that I've not noted. Hell, they're supposed to be the ale pubs anyway.

Liverpool Map 1 of 4-600

Will add some more maps in the future including
The Southport Run and some local ones (eg Waterloo). Maybe even before the software changes again.

A Short Trip to Hudderfield

The other week, after going to York at the beginning of the week for a couple of days, I ended with another trip to Yorkshire, but closer to home—Huddersfield. I’d been there almost exactly a year before. It’s a nice speedy trip on the train and it was going to be less of an intense affair than York had been (there’s be no need for an overnight stay either).



I went to ten pubs a day in York, but here I only went to six in the end. This was partly because I would have more than one pint in a couple of pubs, and partly because I was engrossed in my reading (I’d just started Agatha Christie, by Lucy Worsley). There are great pubs here and I didn’t go to any new ones for me—I stuck with the tried and tested.

You can’t go wrong right from the start as within the beautiful old station building itself is the Head of Steam (on the right as you leave the station) and the King’s Head (on the opposite side).



Then it’s a ten minute walk or so to the Sportsman’s, which is always full of cracking beer options, and it was to be no different this time. Walking back towards the station I went into Williams Beer & Gin House (it had been closed when going towards the Sportsman’s). It was quiet but they had a couple of ales on. I was sent on a bit of a wrong turn by Google Maps next thanks to some roadworks and scaffolding so instead of The County next I went straight to the Rat & Ratchet. It was pretty busy in there despite the early hour. Had a lovely couple of pints before heading back across the ring road—and correctly--to The County. I decided to call it a day then and head back to Liverpool. It was an unrushed day to some great pubs with lovely beers (largely from Rat and Vocation breweries).




I’ll pop a map up at some point. But here are the pubs I went to on this relatively short visit (and very easily walkable; even with missteps via Dr Google):

Head of Steam
King’s Head
Williams Beer & Gin House
Rat & Ratchet
The County


An Excellent York Jaunt

I’m off work this week so I had to take the opportunity to get out for a few days out, didn’t I? And if you know York, you know how bloody good it is on multiple levels—but particularly with regard to ale places. So it wasn’t a surprise that I picked it for one of my trips out. I last came here for my 50th birthday bash with a few mates. This time it was just me on me tod. I had a train getting me there around midday and I had one night booked in a hotel (well a pub—not a real ale one though). So I had the best part of two days to spend on a good wander around one my favourite (none Liverpool) cities. Huzzah!



It went as well as it should have. I’m not sure how many real ale pubs there are within the wall, but there are lots. So there isn’t that much walking really between one place and another—and therefore not much wasted time either. Without trying, or extending myself at all, I ended up going to ten pubs on each day.

Day One:

First up, as it always is for me if I arrive by train, is The Maltings, which is a top pub just a few minutes walk from the station. There is the York Tap at the station too of course, but that is the same distance from your train on the way home and it only feels right to leave the station when you arrive in town unless you don't want to feel like you've arrived yet. It's not too far—just across the river—to get to the House of the Trembling Madness on Leland. I had only been to the other TM on Stonegate before so this was the first new pub to me on this trip. It was busier than the Maltings being lunchtime on a busy pedestrian street, but I got a nice comfy leather chair on the ground floor to sink into there. Got my phone out and plotted a route that I thought best for the afternoon before checking into my digs and next up was the Wonky Donkey/Three Legged Horse which I have a long term affinity for and is a stones throw (don't do that though) from the Minster. A few people message via Instagram and Twitter asking if I was going to pub X, Y, and Z. I was indeed going to most of them but I hadn't planned to go to one—the Snickleway Inn—so I added that to my list when advised by a buddy from Liverpool. But first up was the original House of the Trembling Madness on Stonegate. I'd forgotten how easy it was to walk past, though I got there eventually. Got talking to a couple of American tourists who were passing through. They'd just come from Liverpool. They loved our home town and it sounds like they'll be back there next year. York is of course even more full of tourists than Liverpool (yes, it really is. Madness—trembling or otherwise).

I made the relatively short walk to the Snickleway and gave Dan's regards to Linda as requested via social media. You say jump and I ask how high, don't I? Nah, not usually. Was a nice pint but I didn't have time to stop for another one (I wouldn't buy two pints in any pubs on this two day trip) as it was time to get on to Blue Bell, which was on the way my digs (which was the Watergate Inn—a non-real ale pub—on Walmgate). The Blue Bell is a cracking old traditional pub which I never miss on a trip to York.

At the hotel I had a wee lie down for 45 mins or so before moving on to my next pub, the Rook & Gaskell which lay straight down the road just beyond the city walls. It was pretty quiet in there with just some regulars in there. I then went a short hop to the Phoenix which lies back within the walls (just). Chatted to a nice couple who were on a trip too who were originally from Cornwall via Derbyshire. We talked a little geology as well as beer. Finally I went to the Red Lion another large old pub regularly visited by yours truly (and very near my digs). As it happened it wasn't my last pub because I wandered up the road for a bit of a look see for something to eat and spotted a pub called the Pavement Vaults (just around the corner from a posh donner place). Had a nice Bristol Beer Factory pint in the Vaults before heading to the donner place then back to my room. A very good day.

The Maltings
House of the Trembling Madness
(on Leland)
Three Legged Mare (
aka the Wonky Donkey)
House of the Trembling Madness
(on Stonegate)
Snickleway Inn
Blue Bell
Rook & Gaskell
Red Lion
Pavement Vaults


Day Two:

My room didn't include breakfast, but that's what I prefer anyway, you want to get out and about rather than eat in your hotel usually (unless it's a full English in a Holiday Inn circa 2000). My weather app said zero percent chance of rain for the time I was up at 9am; so it was raining. I was soon up, showered and checked out (ie gave them the key back) then I was down the road with an eye out for where to eat. There were some nice places but being tourist central they were all tourist central prices. In the end I sat out a greasy spoon under an umbrella and settled for a cheap full English tray. Down and dirty. And I was dry and stomach lined (though the sausages were on the cheap side of cheap). I was back in the centre of town at this point just off
The Shambles and it was still too early for the pubs to be open, so it was just time to wander a bit. My legs were a little tired at this wandering so I sat down for a while just by Whip-Ma-Wop-Ma-Gate (as you do). At this point I was close to the Blue Bell again, but of course I wasn't going to revisit yesterday's venues with so many hostelries available to me within the city walls.

So first up was the Three Tuns. I was the first in, but it wasn't long before plenty of tourists started to wander in there. Again it was a short walk (I'll stop saying that, it should go without saying that it's generally a short walk to everywhere if you plan right) to The Hop, the Ossett pub, which is a deceptively large place opposite the Blue Bell. I read my book a little there before heading up the Thornbridge pub, The Market Cat, which was just beside where I'd had my breakfast. I inevitably had a Jaipur there, which was stronger than most the pints I was having on this trip, but I can't say no to a Jaipur when I see one.

Just a quick zigzag and I was at the Pivni, which—like the Market Cat—was a new one for me. I had a pint of Redwillow 'Feckless' first and then it became the only place I had a second pint (hey, I said I didn't
buy a second pint in any pub, I never said I didn't have a second pint). There were two people in from a company importing a Majorcan lager ('Rosa Blanca - Majorca 1927) which they were checking in on. They kindly offered to buy a round of it for everyone downstairs which we all accepted of course. It was a nice lager to be fair and for the next twenty minutes the five of us in the bar with our free pints felt like we'd all joined a decent club. Cheers. Majorca!

After saying goodbye to Club Majorca, it was literally just across the road next to Valhalla, which is a cool place—all timber decorated with wooden shields. I went for Valhalla Pale. All the Valhalla ales were brewed by the small local Half Moon Brewery. It was a bit a walk next as I headed back over towards where my digs were, because the Brew York Beerhall was over there. It was my one mistake over the two day in planning my route as I didn't think it was open on Tuesdays so I had originally missed it from my list. I went in there and ended up with a session pale (as usual on an extended day) just across from Chris Kamara. I was waiting for the familiar laughing but he was relatively calm whilst I was there. It turned out from Brew York pics on Insta the next day that he was there with the brewery for something yet to be announced. We wait with bated breath.

It was time to head back across town as I'd make my way towards York Station and home so next up were two old pubs I'd been to before, The Golden Fleece and the Ackthorne. The less said about the former the better. A quick one in the small Falcon and then it was across to the station for my last hostelry in York: the York Tap at the station itself.

All in all it had been an excellent couple of days. The only rain (despite a zero chance of it) was for an hour or two on Tuesday morning. Other than that the only liquid I saw was in a pint glass. I went to twenty pubs over two days—some new places (at least to me) and to some old favourites, had some boss beers, served well and by good staff throughout, had a donner kebab, got given a free pint, saw the famous Kamara, chatted to some nice people (both locals and tourists), didn't get lost, and even the trains were all on time. Crackin'

Three Tuns
Market Cat
Brew York Beerhall
Golden Fleece
York Tap


i'll add a map at some point too. Twenty pubs can sound like a lot I know, but then again if you're out for ten hours or so a day then it's only a pint an hour and at that rate you can actually annoy some landlords for drinking too slowly. It's a fine balancing act these session trips, but I'm happy to continue to give it a go.

Watch this space…