Saturday, 5 April 2008

City of Culture, but What About the Beer?

Liverpool is European City of Culture 2008, not that you'd know it merely from stepping off the train at Lime Street Station. There is nothing at all as far as I could see to celebrate or announce that fact. Not like the Scousers to hide any light under a bushel, never mind such a big one.

We were meeting my mate Neville in the Ship and Mitre, a well known Liverpool Free House, but Graham suggested a sharpener in Doctor Duncan's first. This excellent Cains tied house had quite a range on. I had a half each of the Dark Mild and the Creamy Stout. The mild was stunning - smooth, malty, roasty and very moreish. The stout surprised me. I remembered it as being much sweeter, but this sample was bitter and roasty, though lacking the hop resin finish I like in a stout. Bit more EKGs please Cains. This was a great start. Graham had the IPA which is merely a best bitter of no real distinction. Unfortunately the Fine Raisin beer wasn't on, so I couldn't give my views on that!

The Ship and Mitre is a classic ex Bents house, but seems to me to lack the TLC it needs. The charming bar staff more than made up for that though, with wit and offers of tasters. Now I have to honest here. I have never found the beer in here to be at the peak of cask conditioning. It always seems a few notches off and so it was yesterday. Each beer selected seemed just a tad off what it could be. We drank beers from Skipton, Blakemore and Weetwood and all were around OK, but no more.

Leaving Neville to his do for a couple of hours, we skipped off. There are basically two boozing areas in Liverpool, the Centre and around the cathedrals. We were in the centre so we had to go to the Lion. This ex-Walker house has been messed about a fair bit since I lived in Scousley, but offers eight cask ales. Alas these are somewhat pedestrian. On offer were two from Bank's, Lees, (hooray) Black Sheep, Deuchars, Jennings and St Austell. The only unusual beer was Aspinall's (Gambrinus) Deliverance which had a nasty chemical edge and a good dose of acetone. Next the White Star. I remember drinking in here when the choice was Brew 10, Worthington and Bass, all on cask. The Bass was still there but the other three beers were from Bowland. We had tasters of all three and settled on Pale Crusader, which though poor, was the best of a bad lot. We looked in a couple of other pubs we knew from the past, but none appealed on beer grounds, though we did have excellent Okells Bitter in the pub behind Rigby's, which is being renovated. The bar in here couldn't have been more than eight feet long but had five staff working like Trojans behind it. Please note Tim Martin. The Wrekin (JDW) which we also had a couple of halves in (a very good Harviestoun Old Engine Oil and an utterly sweet and disgusting Young's Bitter) had two lack lustre staff for a bar three times as long.

We went back to the "do" for a couple then caught our train back to Manchester. We nipped into the Bull's Head which is an excellent pub. There two very decent pints of Rooster's YPA finished us off more than somewhat, though the £2.70 a pint price had a sobering effect! So Liverpool? Could do better, but of course we did miss some great pubs out. Next time the other drinking half of the city.

The pictures show Cain's Mild and Creamy Stout, the charming barmaid at the Ship and Mitre and my mate Graham outside the Main Bridewell, where he was once locked up! Click on the picture to see it in all its glory!


Tyson said...

Judging by the picture, not everything in Liverpool was too bad:)

The Southport Drinker said...

It sounds like you had a not so great time in my great home city, almost feel the need to apologise.

I'll be posting soon on the Capital of Culture's latest beer event, which might be worth a return visit.

Intrigued about Ship being a few notches off. Although I haven't been a regular for years now, recent odd visits have hit the spot. I know that the new-ish landlord didn't have much of a cask pedigree and there were concerns at the time, but local Camra reports all is well.

However, puzzled by your love for JW Lees. Is this the same Lees I used to drink through clenched teeth in the Rain Bar?

Really enjoyed this post, great to get a entertaining, educated second opinion on some of my favourite boozers.

Jeff Frane said...

Someone is dissing Lees? Oy.

The barmaid is everything I came to expect whilst drinking in the UK. Beats the hell out of me why your bartenders are so much more attractive than ours in the States -- which tend to be men. I like your tradition much more.

Tandleman said...

Seen some great Babes in the States Jeff, but I know what you mean.

What was that time in Chicago? Oh you wasn't there!

Anonymous said...

Have to agree with the Southport Drinker about Lees.Had a pint of I think "John Willies" (4.5%) and it was one of the most bland beers I've had all year,so bad in fact that I left half a pint,and I can assure you that happens once in a blue moon.


Anonymous said...

Tandleman I think I have discovered the answer. As a relatively new reader I thought I would check out some blogs on your blogroll and came across "aswiftone",enjoying the posts I went back through some of the older posts and read the one regarding JWLees "get a grip" glasses.

In the comments section was a reply from your goodself mentioning that you are Lees CAMRA Brewery Liason Officer - though not overly keen on the glasses.

It all makes sense now!

Enjoying your blog

Best wishes


Tandleman said...

SD Lees - you love it or don't. I do. As for the Ship and Mitre, my thoughts echo those of my fellow branch members who visited it recently. I think maybe too many beers on here. I did enjoy Liverpool and of course didn't have tiome to visit all the pubs I wanted to, Next time we'll do the rest.

Ben - Thanks. And there is no secret as to who I am.

Stonch said...

We all have our own tastes - usually shaped by what we're used to - and that's why it can be annoying when people dismiss a particular brewery's beers out of hand.

Just as Tandleman likes Lees, I've become accustomed to - and fond of - Shepherd Neame. That's because I drink in one of their tied houses. I'd never argue they're the best going, but your palate adjusts, I suppose.

Jeff Frane said...

One of the disappointments of my trip to the UK was not getting any Shepherd Neame, which I have enjoyed when they were shipping b/c beers to the States. There was a cask of Bishop's Finger on at a pub in the airport, but at 7 am, I just wasn't in the mood.

The Lees Bitter and Mild I had at Tandleman's local was some of the best ale I've ever had. Can't imagine someone considering it "bland."

Tyson said...

Ben-Tandleman is out and proud-he likes Lees and it's no secret! There's a long standing joke about how few hops they actually use, but it certainly is distinctive in its own way...