There's something about Liverpool that excites. As soon as you get off the train at Lime Street Station you feel it, A sort of electricity in the air. I last lived there over 22 years ago, but it still feels familiar, though it has changed. The centre has gone all posh, as if you've stepped into a parallel universe where everything is nearly the same, but isn't quite.
I was there a few Saturdays ago with my exiled Scouse mate Mike, with whom I worked many years ago. We had to visit a venerable icon and an old haunt. In Hope St, in the sight of Paddy's Wigwam, (aka the Catholic Cathedral) is the Philharmonic, a magnificently interiored, Grade 2 listed building with Grade 1 listed urinals. A fantastic choice of beer awaited us, though I immediately felt compelled to try Camden's wonderful Inner City Green. Properly conditioned, cool and sparkled as God intended, this was superb. Juicy malt, pronounced hoppiness and a lovely creamy head to drink it through, it deserved another, so we had another. The only two pinter of the day. Around us the pub throbbed with life. Wedding guests from the nearby Registry Office (or maybe the cathedral) provided a touch of glamour. It was busy and we recalled many a night in the Brahms Room, a long time ago over pints of Warrington brewed Tetley. Only one discordant note - unwanted music was just loud enough to be intrusive. No need for it here when the buzz of animated conversation was heady enough to get you drunk. But worse was to come.
Now the Swan is a bikers and rockers pub. Led Zeppelin was blasting out and the place looked more or less as it did twenty odd years ago. Pints of Phoenix Hopsack were procured (naughtily unsparkled) and we stood at the bar as more rock tracks came on the juke box. Great stuff and in context to the place and its customers. Bear that in mind. It is important. Less great was our next pub, the Richmond. The beer was fine, but required top ups which were a bit grudging, but not only was the music boomingly loud, it was also loud on the street where external speakers blasted out, numbing the mostly middle aged customers and passers-by into submission. Surely that should be banned ? Similarly in the White Star and on Matthew St itself, the jarring cacophony from external speakers was very unpleasant. OK - no nanny like bans on glassware like Manchester, but a racket like you've never heard in all your life. Which to choose? Plastic glasses or peace and quiet? Close call.
This isn't a go against background music. It is about appropriateness and volume. Despite the title, you don't even get to choose your own noise anymore - it is inflicted by the staff. To my ears their is nothing better than the buzz in a busy pub. It is called atmosphere. Surely a little more discretion could be used?
We didn't get a duff pint all day either, but I didn't come across the re-brewed Higsons. Pity that.
A bit of a CV. Tandleman is a veteran beer lover, local CAMRA Chairman and activist, beer writer, beer reviewer and pursuer of all things good in beer. He lives in the North West of England and London. Despite his CAMRA membership, he does not limit himself to cask conditioned beer, though he believes that cask conditioning, when done correctly and appropriately, brings a quality to beer that is hard to equal by any other kind of presentation. He is a strong supporter of Northern methods of beer dispense and avidly detests poorly presented beer and dislikes pasteurisation. He regularly visits Germany, has conducted corporate British and German beer tastings for CAMRA at the Great British Beer Festival where he has worked for years on Biere Sans Frontieres and was Deputy Organiser at CAMRA's very successful National Winter Ales Festival in 2009, 2010, 2011 and 2012 and at the Manchester Beer and Cider Festival from 2013 to date. He admires good brewers wherever they are and has travelled extensively in pursuit of good beer to drink. He also judges beer at both the International Beer Challenge and the World Beer Awards.
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