Our last big outing of the year is in a city that veritably oozes with cracking beer and magical pubs; all sprinkled with the added spice of the celebrated Scouser Cracke.
To round off the year we enjoy a beer adventure to the fine City of Liverpool.
Ah, what a city! Quite full on, from stepping off the train at Central Station, the streets teemimg and bouncing in mid November. Liverpool reaches out with a generously open hand, even in the face of the back story of economic hardship. A city to lift your heart. Nothing can put down its spirit. The pubs reflect this well, certainly on this day.
A few years ago we had the pleasure of hosting a tour group of young American students here. From the mid-west, they deemed it the highlight of a cracking few days. They had nothing quite like it back home. And in truth, we have little else like it here. It is simply the atmosphere, the vibrancy jumping out at you like a jack-in-a-box on speed - that's even before we enter the portals of the first pub. Jostling along the happily bustling streets sets the scene for a splendidly hectic afternoon.
Here we take a glimpse in pictures:
Our first call is the Bridewell, hidden away in Campbell Square; we find it early in the tour. This is a place where the unruly were incarcerated back in Victorian times and still has the 'cells' in place where you can spend an evening - but, happiliy, with beer rations rather than bread and water. Charles Dickens signed in as a constable here for 24 hours while researching a book.
Onto the Red Lion in Salter Street where we encounter a friendly scouse welcome from the female bar duo, who know their beers, where the line up includes Ossett White Rat and local Neptune ales.
The pub was converted from a house and only opened in 2022 but has added splendidly to city's rich pub and beer tapestry. City bar entreprenuer Rob Gutmann aimed for a 1940s style pub and seriously researched the legendary British pub - 'hard to define, he said - before opening. We think he did well. There's a comfortable feel of history to it, with period furishings and bric-a-brac. Darts and dominoes too. On our early Saturday visit it is well frequented.
Following a call at the magnificent Anglian Cathedral which watched over the city, we seek out the Grade II listed , five-hand-pump Peter Kavanagh's in the stately Georgian Quarter. Licensee and inventor/designer Peter Kavavanagh ran the pub for 53 years until 1950 - seeing two World Wars! Described as 'a most eccentric pub interior' it is crammed with interest. The benches have carved arm rest with caricatures thought to be off PK and there are stained glass windows with wooden shutters. Sit at the 'twist lock' tables, with built in ashtrays, designed by by PK to prevent glasses sliding from the tables in heavy seas - which we understand were fitted on the ill-fated Titanic and other ocean liners.
Under the licencee Rita Smith for several years now, the curiosities include a broomstick described as 'Rita's limo' - a bit of the irrepressible Scouser humour reminiscent of a Ken Dodd joke. There are murals commisioned by PK from artist Eric Robinson depicting Hogarth drinking scenes. Here, purely by happen-stance, we meet with Ivan Jenkins who is sipping a pint of TT Landlord and tells us how he saved the nearby historic Belvedere Sugnall Street hostelry when threatened with housing development in 2006. This at an amazing cost of some £850,000. Today the cosy two room Belvedere pub thrives, popular with locals and often musicians taking a break from performances at the Phil Hall, just around the corner.
Of course we cannot be in Liverpool without popping into 'The 'Phil' across from top music venue The Philharmonic Hall. Fully entitled The Philharmonic Dining Rooms, this Hope Street edifice dates from 1900. It was, we understand, the first purpose built Victorian pub to be given Grade I listing from Historic England - said to be the The Most Ornate Pub in England and the ‘pinnacle of a gin palace’. The exterior is designed to resemble a Scottish castle with gables, turrets and oriel windows and stone sculpture of musicians. Art Nouveau gates carry the motto and arms of the original Cains Brewery. Inside features include mosaic floors and tiled walls, inglenook fireplace, stained glass windows with Kitchener and Baden Powell. and mahogany panelling. The back dining room was a billiard room until the 1960s. John Lennon is said to have loved the place when a student at the nearby art college. Paul McCartney did actually perform there in a surprise gig only a few years ago. The ornate gents' urinals are a tourist draw in their own right - adventurous females allowed in when traffic allows!
We also call a the Roscoe Head, a fabuously traditional watering hole that has the honour of being one of only five pubs to be in the Camra Good Beer Guide forever, smallish with four rooms and six handpulls. The same family has run it for 30 years. Two years ago the present landlady Carol Ross managed to buy it from the pub co owners - who maybe had other devious plans we understand - with the Save the Roscoe Head campaign. Named for William Roscoe, a leading campaigners against the slave trade. We drink excellent cask ales. Tetley's, once a huge favourite in the city, is always on. The Jarl from the Scottish Fyne Ales was voted one of the day's top brews. We hope and trust that William would approve our homage. Nice pies generally available.
We don't have to walk far to find a gin palace style rival to the 'Phil'; the Vines in Lime Street is known as the 'Big House'. This is also majestic multi-room structure built for brewer Robert Cain in 1907. It fell into the doldrums for some years but has been magnificantly restored by the 1936 Pub Company, the same people who created the aforementioned Red Lion. There's a wide array of excellent cask ales here and at 6pm on a Saturday night the place is rocking, sort of metaphorically saying 'sod the economy' it's Liverpool and party time.
Finally, we hit the fabulous Lion Tavern, Moorfields: Grade II listed on the National Inventory of Historic Pubs. Named for the locomotive that worked the Manchester-Liverpool line. Crammed with local gins, Irish whiskey, ciders and cask ales, this is another beautiful beer port. All mosaic floors, with a tiled corridor and more stained glass, here we find some cracking ales too including Leeds Pale Ale alongside Rock the Boat Lion Best Mild, brewed with five malts. The final and gorgeous pint for your correspondent is a splendidly easy drinking Seven Streets IPA from the local Peerless Brewery of Birkenhead. Brewed with both English and American hops this tipple is voted a top ale of the day and is perfectly matched with a well earned and quite excellent pork pie; the perfect end to another terrific day by the Mersey. Thank you Liverpool.
Beer Tours UK visits Liverpool two or three times a year, depending on demand. Enquiries always welcome. Please contact: email@example.com