In many respects, I count myself a lucky man. Since September 2012 (when I commenced blogging – mostly – about beer) I have been fortunate indeed to have met a huge number of lovely people. This accelerated following my initial effort at organising The Independent Salford Beer Festival.
Following that first effort, I recall a conversation with my old buddy (and Craft W⚓ extraordinaire) Jeff. Jeff’s point was that – via that Festival – we had physically now met people that we’d only associated with virtually. And many of them we could now call friends, now feeling able to contact them and meet up for a beery chat. And he nailed the point.
Two of those people are Julie & Les O’Grady, from Maghull, nr Liverpool. The purchasers of the first two tickets sold for the first ISBF back in 2014. And two people who – not altogether coincidentally – happen to be two of the nicest people in this here beer business, Les as co-owner and head brewer at Neptune Brewery in Maghull and Julie as a lead member of Ladies That Beer.
Almost a year ago to the day that they guided us around some lovely drinking venues in that beautiful city (read that one here), it was time to go again and have a refresh – in a manner of speaking. This time with a full complement of thrill seekers from the Eastern end of the East Lancashire Road. They weren’t to be disappointed.
With the visiting group congregating at the Ken Dodd memorial – complete with tickling stick – it was time for a short walk left from Lime Street along Renshaw Street…..
The Dispensary (Renshaw Street)
We started here last year, but with a much larger group on Saturday, it was only fair to include some classics from last time – the “itinerary” being sorted by our lovely hosts.
Having arranged to meet Les and Julie here, it was time for huggage and greetings before settling down to beer. Keeping beer well is what The Dispensary is known for and it certainly didn’t disappoint with some beautiful sharp Pale Ales (Salopian and Rat being grabbed by our thirsty rabble) and a lovely Choc Orange Stout by Fernandes.
The pub is single roomed with an elevated area from the left end of the bar. Lots and lots of wood with a beautiful bar. The pub was refurbed by Cains Brewery (also renamed) and the original pub name “The Grapes” is on display to the rear of the bar. I was told that this pub pours some of the best kept real ales in the city. No argument from this particular Manc. And I do like having the p**s taken out of me by the friendly bar staff.
This pub kind of set the tone for the day. More of that later. But, for a one room pub, this is an absolute cracker and more than worth the return visit.
Moving into on – but not far. Stepping left out of “The Dizzy” and onto Leece St then left onto Roscoe St…. About a 2 minute walk….
The Roscoe Head (Roscoe St)
I love this beautiful multi-roomed pub. But then, I’m an absolute sucker for multi-roomed pubs.
Looking untouched from its building in 1870, this is indeed a pretty, pretty proper pub. With 6 hand pumps and a rare permanent pump for Tetley’s Bitter, this pub has featured in each edition of the Good Beer Guide. And whilst that may not be my prime reference resource these days, there is no doubting its beauty.
I had a decent pale from Red Star Brewery as I was trying to keep it light given the early start and was hugely amused as Julie attempted to squeeze us all into the TINY front room. That word tiny? Hold that thought…. The Roscoe was recently reprieved having been bought by a specialist in pubs to shops conversions. Go visit, before they change their minds. A national treasure of a pub.
Now then – if you want to retrace our steps, turn right out of the Roscoe Head, then left onto Leece St and immediate left onto Rodney St followed by a swift right onto Maryland St….. And immediately on your right is – the first new venue to me of the day…
Hard Times & Misery
Now this place is REALLY tiny! The 11 of us looked like we filled the whole bar on entry.
Probably no more than 4 x 4m square downstairs, these guys cram a LOT into a small space. They do this by the simple expedient of dispensing Ale by gravity, direct from the cask. They also do a real Cider on gravity as well as being the first pub with a decent keg – in this instance, Les’s own Citra Amarillo IPA. A juicy little devil with oodles of orange from the Amarillo. Lovely fruity juicy beer.
I think this place has only been open since August and it’s owners run it themselves – and from talking to Jen (one of them) they absolutely love what they’re doing – stocking local beers and a huge selection (relative to venue size) of spirits, with an excellent gin selection. Jen and Greig were some of the friendliest hosts I’ve seen, passionate about what they do and sell.
Upstairs, I discovered another – again quite small – room with leather sofas, a nice intimate space which almost doubles the size of the bar.
This place just lifted me and Christine enjoyed it hugely too. This is the kind of place I could fall in love with – a bit like I did with Heaton Hops when I first cast eyes. Highest praise I can give.
After a quick taster of a rather nice bathtub gin, it was back onto Rodney St to Leece St, across and left onto Roscoe Street to a classic Liverpool pub that we’d been in last time but which had been substantially renovated – startlingly well.
My first thought, on approach, was “Where did that upstairs window come from”…… On entry, it became obvious.
First, we all sorted the beer out, with another Neptune (Amberjack) and a Pale Ale from Top Rope (another new brewery to me), both nice, but with a preference for the Neptune – bigger body and fuller fruitier hop flavour.
Then I had a walk around. What last year was an open air/smoking area, head been built over and extended into, creating a bright and comfy large extra room with a small room upstairs leading to a lovely terrace. The extension has been completed sympathetically, blending in to the rest of the pub, making a classic simply more comfortable.
Add into that mix sourcing of almost all local beers, this is a cracking pub, enjoyed by us all, so much so that we stayed a while longer – being slightly ahead of schedule. And all enjoyed it hugely.
It was here that we bumped into Lally from Mad Hatter, Fi and some of the guys from Black Lodge, our next stop….
From The Grapes, head further down Roscoe St to Duke St, turn right then left onto Gt George St, turn right onto Nelson St to Jamaica St, turn left then right onto Kitchen St. There, on the left…
Black Lodge Brewery
A spin off from Liverpool Craft, which now appears to be a slightly larger (standalone) operation than before with a larger in house brewkit leading (possibly) to almost all of the taps being dedicated to in house beers.
Ordinarily, this could lead to a slight grumble. But not here. The beers were superb.
The venue is a fairly square open plan space with a larger brewkit and some larger FVs barely intruding on the seating space, of which there is plenty.
I had a juicy passion fruit Pale Ale and a smoky Stout with a taster of a beauty of an Imperial Stout too and all were superb. As was a magnificent cold meat platter. Some of the best beer of the day in a much more modern surrounding – just to show the variety of excellent beer venues this city has, from achingly modern to 19th Century classics.
Moving on……(simplest route), Left from Black Lodge onto Kitchen St, right onto Simpson St then left onto Blundell St upto Wapping, then right takes you to…
The Baltic Fleet
Is this Liverpool’s most famous pub? I had driven past this CAMRA totem for years, repeatedly, before finally entering last year. Architecturally, a stunning wedge shaped building giving the impression of the prow of a ship. The point I would have thought.
Two main long rooms either side of the bar with the main bar room busy tonight with 6 Nations rugby on screen, we grabbed our beers and located an unoccupied room upstairs (with fabulous views) and settled.
The beer was one of Neptune’s again, (one of 6 beers organised in a 6 Nations theme in the bar) this time a raisin fruited Stout called Undercurrant. I wasn’t alone, as 10 of the 11 all went for the same beer. It was luscious with the fruit more prominent as it went down.
But the day was drawing towards its inevitable conclusion, so we moved swiftly. Along Strand, then right up Water St onto Dale St to our final destination….
The Dead Crafty Beer Co
A large open room on a corner plot slightly divided by the bar area being slightly raised, this lived upto its name with multiple taps with beers from all over.
With large expanses of glass from almost four to ceiling and the open aspect with bare walls, this was a more modern offering as the keg wall confirmed. Now, I’m a confirmed Northerner and with my “When in Rome” morality, I sought a local beer. And found it, with Citradelic from Melwood Beer Co. A grapefruit belter, nicely balanced beer. A fine end to the evening, following which (leaving one of our number with our hosts) we bade our farewells to out marvellous hosts/tour guides, Les & Julie.
It was a great day out.
Now here’s the thing.
As much as this day was about guiding a group of Manc beer lovers around a beautiful beer city, it was about more. Much more.
There wasn’t beer ticking. There wasn’t an Untappd frenzy. This was about people. Talking. Listening. Laughing. Swapping stories, telling jokes. The people made this day. And that’s the thing – for me anyway – about beer. Good beer at least. It’s a social lubricant. It aids conversation and should never be the subject. On Saturday, it was a coming together of some of the nicest people I know.
In a city which – for lovely pubs serving good beer – leaves Manchester standing.
Thank you Les & Julie.
That said, on returning to Mancunia, we had a few minutes spare. So, I dragged a few off piste. To somewhere local, traditional and just unspoilt. And had a simple pint with friends.
The Jolly Angler – just behind Piccadilly Station.
And then this happened – and just topped off the day perfectly.
Back soon. J.