Liverpool is a good pub city. Or rather it is a city that is good for pubs. You know what I mean. A city full of good pubs. Pubs full of character and full of characters. Its thriving pub culture could be considered a little old-school these days by some as the craft beer scene has been slower to emerge than in some of its rivals. That, though, would be to undersell its charms and being only a 30 minute train ride away from Manchester; it’s worth a day out in anyone’s money. It’s been a haunt of mine for many years now and its seven years this month since I first recapped a trip there on this blog. So any excuse for an update…
|(A good start)|
The first stop was very memorable for two reasons. Firstly, I’ve never seen the Dispensary (Renshaw St) so quiet. Well I’ve never been in very early doors as it’s usually a sound bet for one before going home. Tackling it first certainly has its advantages, being able to get a seat for one and the chance for first timers to really get a look at it. The beer was also memorable, it really makes a difference being able to sink a good one for the first pint and Raw Citra Pale certainly fitted that bill. Of course some people couldn’t resist the lure of a Jaipur or two but then it is first choice for many people.
|(Cosy in the Roscoe)|
The Roscoe Head (Roscoe St) was also unusually quiet. Again this gave us time to better appreciate this traditional four-roomed local that has been in every edition of the Good Beer Guide. Amazingly all the group (just) managed to squeeze into the small side room so I can confirm that everyone had had a wash that day. Getting a group of old soaks, I mean connoisseurs of fine ales, round Liverpool in an afternoon isn’t easy, particularly when the Colonel is in full flow, but now they had the taste for it; the hunt was on.
|(I said let's play Hangman)|
The Clove Hitch (Hope St) could be best described as a bistro and although bar seating is restricted on the ground floor, the downstairs Club 23 offers more and there is a little garden. I like it and they do have a good craft beer selection (Beavertown for me) but it may not be for the traditionalist. Indeed Uncle Albert wasn’t happy but then unless the pub boasts spit and sawdust, beer at 7d and barmaids built like a Yorkshire outhouse, he seldom is.
|(The handpumps are...)|
|(Let the meeting begin)|
More to his taste and the old geezers in general was the Philharmonic further along Hope St. And what’s not to like? Its faded late-Victorian grandeur conjures up a bygone age and despite currently not being in the GBG it can still muster up a decent pint of the old brown stuff. However, despite in some ways being better than in previous years, for example the opening up of the front area, overall it could do with a little TLC. Even the much fabled toilets aren’t really up to scratch.
|(Ah nap time)|
On a rare downside, I found the Cracke (Rice St) disappointing once again. What the GBG might call “characterful” I found just plain shabby. This place seems to trade on its reputation as John Lennon’s local when he attended the nearby art college and although the old timers enjoyed the “War Office” snug, I thought the beer selection poor and couldn’t wait to move on. Much better was the Fly in the Loaf (Hardman St) which offers a good range of beers in a comfortable, contemporary setting. Okells, despite steadfastly refusing to offer tasters (tut, tut), have done a good job in refurbishing this former bakery. It was packed to the rafters on this visit: a problem one of our crew solved by sleeping in the bay window.
|(Welcome to Brewdog)|
There were two more winners for me. One was the new Brewdog (Colquitt St) which like all the new ones has done away with all that post-industrial chic nonsense and is, it pains me to say it, better than its Manchester sibling. Of course Brewdog bars aren’t for everyone and it’s fair to say that it went down like a HSBC executive on a Swiss ski slope with some of the less discerning members of our party. Bier (Newington) was pleasantly laid back (more Beavertown) and, bonus this, only five minutes stagger away from the station.
Liverpool seems to be holding its own: Hope St (the Pen Factory is also worth a look) alone is proof of that and there are still plenty of pubs within easy staggering distance of the station.