23 January 2019

Liverpool 2019 - Thursday 10 January

After a train journey from Newbury, with the weather turning misty from Birmingham, it was no surprise to find that the top of Liverpool's Radio City Tower (138 metres) was barely visible.

The Crown Hotel

After checking into my hotel on Hanover Street, opposite BBC Radio Merseyside, and buying a pair of gloves and a beanie hat to compensate for inadequate preparation, I returned to the Lime Street Station area to met up with Mark Geeson and friends at the Crown Hotel.
'Bod' and Mark at the Crown Hotel
Mark and the 'Farnham Travel' group had arrived earlier after spending two days visiting pubs and breweries in Burton upon Trent. The Coopers Tavern and the Tower Brewery were highlights of their trip.
The group had enjoyed good value lunches at the Crown before my arrival and were also happy with the beer quality. I enjoyed Hobsons Town Crier, from Shropshire, here.
Ian, the friendly landlord, explained to us that the award winning Siren Craft Brew Broken Dream breakfast stout had been specially obtained to cater for a CAMRA meeting at the pub later in the evening. Copies of MerseyAle, the magazine of Liverpool & District CAMRA, are available from the pub.
The Crown Hotel is spacious and has a comfortable feel with many interesting features.
From here we walked south east along Renshaw Street. Looking up, at the junction with Ranelagh Street, Sir Jacob Epstein's 1956 sculpture 'Liverpool Resurgent' on Lewis's (closed) store stands out on a prow. Known by locals as Dickie Lewis, the statue stands above a meeting place referenced in a song 'In My Liverpool Home' by Peter McGovern:
   "We speak with an accent exceedingly rare, 
    Meet under a statue exceedingly bare"

The Dispensary

We soon reached The Dispensary, at the junction with Oldham Street.
After a strong recommendation from a local at the bar, most people ordered White Rat from the Rat microbrewery which is situated under the Rat & Ratchet pub in Huddersfield.
I indulged in a favourite beer - Titanic Plum Porter served with a thick creamy head.
I also enjoyed the very pale White Rat as my second beer in the pleasant surroundings of the Dispensary which includes a variety of old enamel signs including 'Liverpool - Drive With Care' passed on the way to the Gents toilets.
The enamel signs even continue into the Gents!

The Roscoe Head

On leaving the pub we continued along Renshaw Street until the junction at St Luke's bombed out church where we turned left into Leece Street and found the Roscoe Head just around the corner into Roscoe Street.
The Roscoe Head is renowned as one of only five pubs that have appeared in every edition of CAMRA's Good Beer Guide since it was first published in 1974. It's a cosy traditional pub with four rooms. Six cask ales are listed on the blackboard by the bar. My choice was American 5 Hop pale ale from Sheffield's Blue Bee Brewery.

The Fly in the Loaf

Although only 50 metres further east along Leece Street, our next destination would be very different. Derived from the 'No flies in the loaf' slogan once used by Kirklands Bakery, The Fly in the Loaf is a bar offering craft and cask beers as well as bread based food like pizza.
The bar space is lit by globe shape lights over the bar counter and concealed lighting in the mirror backed shelves of spirits behind the bar.
While some ordered food, I would soon head elsewhere for a meal, after enjoying a glass of Rooster's Brewing Co High Tea, a hazy jasmine green tea IPA.
Taking the scenic route to my alternative dining spot involved turning left (north) into Hope Street, passing the Philharmonic Dining Rooms and then the Everyman Theatre.
At the adjacent annexe of the Everyman, I stopped to get a photo of the entrance to the Pen Factory. Serving cask ale and small plates of food at basement level it is described as the reincarnation of the Everyman Bistro.
The distinctive form of (RC) Liverpool Metropolitan Cathedral lies just north of the Everyman.
Returning to rejoin my friends after a meal and passing The Grapes in Roscoe Street I called in to ask if there would be any live music there and was advised that there would be jazz on Sunday evening.

Ye Cracke

By 8.45pm, Mark and friends had decamped to Ye Cracke, 13 Rice Street. An old illuminated sign topped by a red triangle bears the wording Bass in ornate red lettering with Ye Cracke in smaller black letters at the base. An unlit old Boddington sign is high above a doorway approached by steps.
Once inside, I ordered a pint of Billabong by Big Bog Brewing a Liverpool microbrewery.
Portraits of the individual Beatles are positioned high above the back of the bar.
Our group had a table in the main room where a large frame includes John Lennon memorabilia.
The pub was frequented by Liverpool College of Art students - John Lennon, his first girlfriend Thelma Pickles and The Dissenters (Bill Harry, John Lennon, Stuart Sutcliffe & Rod Murray) whose association is commemorated with a plaque.
Looking back towards the bar and side entrance a colourful panel depicting a battle in pop art style caught my eye. Research reveals the subject is Wellington greeting Marshal Bl├╝cher at the Battle of Waterloo.
There is a jukebox at Ye Cracke and during the evening some good tunes were played including Spanish Caravan (The Doors), Lola (The Kinks) and I'm Going Home (Ten Years After).
Around 10pm we called it a night and walked along Duke Street back to our hotel passing near the gateway to Chinatown on the way.

07 January 2019

Hackney Wick to Hoxton

CAMRA member Alan Haselden's hikes are often featured in Ullage and Out Inn Cheshire magazines.
On Saturday 5 January, 2019 Alan had arranged the second stage of a river Lea hike from Hackney Wick north to Tottenham Marshes with his nephew, Daryl, and four work colleagues / friends.
My plan was to join them later at the Pembury Tavern, Hackney Downs, which they would reach by Overground train from White Hart Lane.
Howling Hops Tank Bar (3/3/2018)
On a previous visit to Hackney Wick with Paul & Jennie Rayner I had visited Crate Brewery and Howling Hops but not Beer Merchants Tap, on the other side of the Overground railway line from Stratford to Highbury & Islington, so this would become my starting point for the catch-up exercise.
My route from Paddington involved a walk to Lancaster Gate for a Central line train to Stratford. Chanting Birmingham City supporters boarded at Liverpool Street and insulted teams that wear claret and blue on their way to a fixture with West Ham United at the London Stadium.
ArcelorMittal Orbit & London Stadium - through a dirty train window
One stop on the Overground from Stratford to Hackney Wick passed through Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, giving a glimpse of the repurposed stadium.
The new station building at Hackney Wick is now open. From the stairs on the south side, the view west, through the unglazed vertical slats, includes the old access ramp to the platform which is now closed.
Alan had been keen to get breakfast at Griddler's Cafe in Hackney Wick if it was still open, as on the first stage of their previous river Lea hike to the south. My route to Beer Merchants Tap passed nearby the former site of the cafe which has now closed. It later transpired that Alan's group were therefore obliged to spend more on their breakfasts and forego the fondly remembered bottomless cups of tea and coffee when they preceded me, hours earlier.
Hackney Wick is developing fast and it is unlikely that the building on the corner of White Post Lane and Hepscott Road, near the railway bridge, will remain in this decorated state for much longer!

 Beer Merchants Tap, Hackney Wick

Beer Merchants Tap is located on the ground floor of an industrial building at 99 Wallis Road, about 150 metres away and north of the railway line.
With an early kick-off time of 12.30pm, the last football supporters were now leaving to walk to the London Stadium. (It's worth remembering that West Ham United home games fill nearby establishments with supporters before and after the match.) A plastic glass policy was in force due to match day requirements.
As it was only just after noon I ordered a filter coffee and found a seat on a bench at a long table near the bar to wait.
The beer menu on a clipboard listed 18 keg beers from UK, Ireland, Germany, Belgium, USA and Spain including favourites Beavertown Neck Oil (4.3% ABV, £5.35 pint) and Garage Soup IPA, from Barcelona (6% ABV, £5.90 2/3 pint). The cask ale was Redemption Trinity (3% ABV, £3.95 pint).
I helped myself to some water from a dispenser and took a few more photos of the bar as a record. I liked the spacious interior with big windows and authentic industrial look.
The barrel staves used for the bar front make it into an attractive feature. Still no coffee arrived and after a further refill of water my patience was eventually exhausted. Back at the bar it was soon obvious that the coffee was nowhere near ready and my request for a refund was happily granted. Beer will be ordered on my next visit!

Pearl, Hackney Wick

Pearl is located under the Hackney Wick sign on the frontage of an industrial building at the western end of Wallis Road. The friendly coffee shop and bar sells food and drinks to eat in or take away.
I enjoyed a flat white coffee made with coffee from an Allpress roastery and was lucky to find a free table with a copy of the World Atlas of Coffee to browse.
The keg beers including Gipsy Hill Brewing Beatnik and Hepcat are good value at £5 pint.
With the option of two stops on the Overground to Hackney Central or 30 bus to Hackney Central and Hackney Downs, I opted to walk 150 metres to the Hackney Wick (Trowbridge Road) stop, the end of route 30 for Marble Arch, where an empty bus was waiting. The driver allowed me to board and the bus departed about five minutes later.
The bus route passes through Hackney Council's Wyke and Gascoyne housing estates and near Homerton station before reaching central Hackney where it passes the MOTH Club, Hackney Town Hall and the Cock Tavern before heading up Amhurst Road towards the Five Points junction, near Hackney Downs station. There was still time for a late cooked breakfast, at the busy Mess Cafe, before the rendezvous with Alan and his group at 1.45pm.

Pembury Tavern, Hackney Downs

The Pembury Tavern has an imposing frontage. Inside the bar is in the main central room with additional rooms on both sides that can be separated off by full height heavy curtains.
Three Five Points Brewing Co cask beers and three guest cask beers are served as well as a range of eight Five Points keg beers on the right and eight guest keg beers on the left of the bar. The signs behind the bar e.g. 'The Pembury Tavern - Home of the Five Points Brewing Company' are bold and minimal. Glazed ceramic tiles feature in the bar front (green) and behind the bar (white).
I ordered a half pint of Five Points Pale (£2) and took a seat at one of the large pale wood tables in the main room where I would see Alan on arrival.
Alan and the group arrived soon after and we moved to a table in the room to the left of the bar.
My seat faced the window with buses frequently passing along Dalston Lane. To my left was a view back towards the main room of the pub (above).
No Christmas decorations were evident but there was a tall palm plant in the far corner of our room. The high ceiling is painted dark red, contrasting with the dark green and white walls.
Alan remembered visiting the Pembury Tavern in previous years when the decoration was more informal and the beers were from Cambridge's Milton Brewery. There is a sound system at the Pembury Tavern but the volume of the music was set so low that it was barely audible.
In fact, Milton's Nero, a 5% ABV black brew, was one of the guest cask ales on our visit.
Most of Alan's group prefer porters and stouts but their first beer here was Five Points Railway Porter, served from cask.
I also enjoyed a half of Railway Porter, with a fine creamy head, before we left the pub around 4.15pm.

Cock Tavern, Hackney Central

Alan and Daryl (left) with three of our group after leaving the Cock Tavern
We walked down Amhurst Road and under the Overground railway line to the Cock Tavern at 315 Mare Street with its traditional Truman's exterior. Inside it was dimly lit with filament bulbs. After ordering our beers we stood near the back of the pub until a corner table was free. The seven of us managed to cram around the small table sat on pew style benches or stools.
Milk Shake
While those favouring dark and black ales favoured Wiper and True Milk Shake (stout), my choice was Howling Hops Tropical Deluxe from the brewery's core range.
From 2011-2013 over 100 different Howling Hops beers were brewed in the 'brew cave' that is the large basement of the Cock Tavern, before more spacious premises were found in Hackney Wick.
All the cask beers are served in dimple glasses with handles at the Cock Tavern. With floorboards and few soft furnishings, the sound of conversation dominated in this busy unspoilt pub which has a long row of handpumps, dedicated to cask ales and ciders, on the side bar.
With our final destination as the Wenlock Arms in Hoxton we decided to break the journey at the Railway Arms, Dalston. This was a pub that Alan was already familiar with from visits to nearby Cafe OTO in Dalston for music gigs.
Ridley Road market, Dalston
Dismissing the Overground railway option from Hackney Central to Dalston Kingsland, Alan led the way, back along Amhurst Road to Five Points and from there along Dalston Lane and then into Ridley Road with its market stalls selling fish, vegetables and colourful garments.
Eldica Records, Bradbury Street
Emerging from the market at Dalston Kingsland station, we turned right and then left into Bradbury Street, past the Jazz Bar and Eldica Records before continuing into St Jude Street.

Railway Tavern Ale House, Dalston Kingsland

The Railway Tavern Ale House lies at the western end of St Jude Street. Inside it was crowded so we ended up standing near the tired looking Christmas tree by the fireplace, once we eventually managed to obtain halves of Five Points Railway Porter, served in dimpled glasses.
With a maximum of one person behind the bar and thirsty customers waiting, service was rather slow but accommodating. Other cask ales included Yule Fuel and Good Old Boy from West Berkshire Brewery (my local brewery, based near rural Yattendon). Alan mentioned that he had also found West Berkshire Brewery beers here on a previous visit.
It appears that 5.30pm on a Saturday is a popular time with customers of all ages in the dimly lit pub. We might have found a table if we had stayed on after 6pm but some of the group wanted to head home while the remainder were keen to reach the Wenlock Arms.
Before heading west towards the 21/141 bus stop on Mildmay Park, we noticed the stone-built Mildmay Lodge on King Henry's Walk, opposite the pub. Subsequent research shows that the Grade II listed building is part of a terrace of three cottages from 1855 by Alexander Dick Gough.
Sod's Law ruled that unlike the bus immediately behind it, the one we caught would be halted one stop short of our destination.

Wenlock Arms, Hoxton

We walked the rest of the way from Baring Street, on the north side of the Regent's Canal to the Wenlock Arms, on the south west corner of Shepherdess Walk Park, via New North Road and Wimbourne Street.
On arrival, Alan pointed out that a better route would have been west along the canal towpath and then crossing on the footbridge into Shepherdess Walk. This footbridge may be a useful shortcut on any future trip incorporating nearby pubs in Islington like the Narrowboat and the Island Queen.
Although the Wenlock Arms is no bigger than the Railway Tavern, the good news was that we could sit at a table and just enough pies (£5) were still available. After being heated up, the pies were served on enamel plates.
We started with Block Brewery Pale Ale, brewed in the cellar of the Wenlock Arms.
This 4.2% ABV pale ale brewed with Fuggles and East Kent Goldings hops had a smooth mouthfeel and a white grape fruitiness.
Alan mentioned that the pub was once the Brewery Tap for the Wenlock Brewery (18yy - 1962), then sited nearby, between Wenlock Road and Taplow Street, near the southern end of the Wenlock (canal) Basin.
The Wenlock Arms has a cosy atmosphere with candles on the mantlepiece and a warm fire burning in the fireplace below. The vintage mirrors illustrate it's historic nature, opening in 1836. Thanks to an extension of the Regent's Canal Conservation Area it was able to avoid the threat of demolition and reopened in 2013 after renovation following a period of closure.
During our conversations, Alan recommended a visit to the Plough at Little London, near Tadley, North Hampshire, where beers like Hoppy Hilda from Little London brewery are served. Amusingly, Daryl had visited Little London before he ever ventured to (big) London! It also emerged that Alan is known by barstaff as 'Mr Stilton' at the Plough due to his preference for stilton filled baguettes at the pub!
We also had a useful chat about my forthcoming trip to Liverpool with Alan and Daryl recommending the Roscoe Head and the Ship & Mitre. Alan also recommended looking out for Weetwood Ales Best Bitter, and beers from Spitting Feathers and Sandiway Ales.
I just had time for a final half pint of (cask) Burning Sky Aurora at the Wenlock Arms before saying farewell and heading to Paddington for the 20.03 train back to Newbury.