Thursday, 17 May 2018

Two Nation Stories

Me - before the beer.
After the big march in London last Saturday 12 May, my friend Geoff, with whom I have collaborated on some songs, and I went to the Moon Under Water in Leicester Square. The beers were all right, and I had a couple brewed in the East End that I doubt I'll see in Merseyside. The prices, around £3.55 a pint, although cheap in London, were dear by Southport standards - and I don't mean Southport Wetherspoons where the normal price is £2.15 a pint.

I later met my niece in the Rocket in Euston where I was paying £4.40 a pint. Again, the beers were unfamiliar and were okay, if slightly lacking in life.

Breaking my journey home at Wigan, I went into Wigan Central, a bar under the railway arches, and was charged £2.95 for a much better-kept pint of real ale served by a much friendlier barmaid. I was recognised by Zoe who knew me from the Wigan beer festival, and I saw several other familiar female faces: it was the hen night of the Central's bar manager, Jo Whalley, whom I also know from the beerfest. All were dressed to the nines with hats and fascinators (see - I know sartorial terminology). Unfortunately, I had to dash for my train and so couldn't stay to chat.

Reaching Southport, I called in for the second half of the Bothy Folk Club cèilidh, where two good Southport beers (Golden Sands and Monument) were on sale at £2.50 a pint. After the event had officially finished, I asked for a half, thinking I didn't want to detain them. "You, a half?" he said chuckling incredulously, and proceeded to pour me a pint. This happened twice: it's good to be known.

Thank goodness I don't live in London.

That T-shirt looks pink in the photo. It was bright red when I bought it.

Wednesday, 9 May 2018

No politics, no religion! Part 2.

Following my post yesterday about forbidden topics of conversation in pubs, it occurred to me that there probably are some topics best avoided in certain circumstances.

In Merseyside, the Orange Lodge marches every year in Liverpool and Southport on 12 July, the anniversary of the Battle of the Boyne when the forces of William of Orange defeated those of James II. In Liverpool, this used to be a much bigger matter than it is today.

My mother told me that as a little girl she'd been enjoying watching a parade marching down the end of her street in Kirkdale, Liverpool, a mainly Catholic area at the time, until her anxious mother dragged her indoors as it was an Orange Lodge march. Catholic and Protestant divisions in the city were much more pronounced and sometimes resulted in violence, no place for a little child. There was even a Liverpool Protestant Party until the early 1970s who usually sided with the Conservatives on the Council.

In such an environment, which I expect still prevails in parts of Northern Ireland, it may have been wise to remain quiet about religion and politics in any pubs where you couldn't be sure who was listening. On 12 July 1986, I think it was, I went to my then local in Southport for a pint, but when I entered, a row of people wearing lots of orange stared at me in a not especially friendly manner: I had picked up the top T-shirt from the pile that morning, hardly noticing the colour. I looked down, saw it was green and decided I wasn't thirsty after all.

In January 2016, I wrote about risky activities that anti-alcohol campaigners don't go on about:
There are many risks in life, most of which don't get the same attention as drinking: crossing the road, mountain climbing, sailing, pot holing, rugby, boxing, driving too fast or singing The Sash My Father Wore in a Sinn Fein pub.
Not that I know of anyone who's actually tried that.

I've no interest in sport, but I expect a similar attitude prevails in circumstances where football rivalries have a tendency to spill over into violence: in some parts of the country it would be foolish for a football fan to go into a pub favoured by the rival team's supporters. Yet, funnily enough, I've never heard anyone say you mustn't talk about sport in a pub. Mind you, if they did, some pubs would fall silent. My point is that it's just religion and politics, not sport, that are picked out for disapproval, which is inconsistent, to say the least. However, as Tandleman has informed me, consistency is overrated.

Except perhaps where tribalism - whether religious, political or sporting - prevails, I'd still maintain that generally there shouldn't be taboo topics in pubs.

A few asides:
  • The video shows the Irish Rovers playing a humorous folk song written by Tony Murphy of Liverpool. It has the line: "My father he was orange and my mother she was green." This describes my background although, unlike the families in the song, neither of my parents were fanatical. 
  • I was once playing in a folk club in Hampshire and the person immediately before me had sung this song, with everyone joining in enthusiastically. I got up and commented that, as it happened, my father was from the Orange and my mother from the Green. The sea of uncomprehending faces told me that they hadn't a clue what I - or the song - was on about; I didn't explain.
  • In Northern Ireland during the late 70s, a young punk was cornered by a gang who demanded to know whether he was a Protestant or a Catholic (my mother told me this had sometimes happened to her as a girl - she'd try and guess what they were before answering). He said, "Atheist", to which they replied: "Protestant atheist or Catholic atheist?"

Tuesday, 8 May 2018

No politics, no religion!

The Fishermen's Rest in Birkdale, Southport
I posted this on Facebook this morning:

Our song session in the Guest House was invaded by a Jesus fanatic last night. He'd interrupt songs to say in a loud voice with an ecstatic look on his face,"Jesus!" repeatedly. I don't care what religion people follow, but I doubt that I would be welcome if I went to his place of worship to interrupt the proceedings with, say, trade union chants.
I ended up telling him he wasn't welcome to come back. In nearly 20 years of running such sessions, I've never had to speak that way to anyone before.

Then I got to thinking about the rules that some people think apply to pubs, such as don't discuss religion and politics. Last year, again in the Guest House, I was talking about two Jehovah's Witnesses who had come to my door. I wasn't talking about religion, just about how I had dealt with them, but someone whom I didn't know sitting on the next table said to me that you weren't supposed to discuss religion in pubs. As I think that's nonsense, plus I wasn't taking about religion per se anyway, I ignored him and a few minutes later he and his friend moved to another table. Personally, I think they were guilty of the greater faux pas of listening in to other people's conversations.

As for politics, as someone who's been actively involved in trade unions and political parties, I've often discussed political issues in the pub. I've known occasions when seemingly intractable disagreements at meetings have been resolved informally after a couple of beers down the pub. It is inevitable that groups of people who have come together for a specific purpose such as politics, campaigns or trade unions will, if they go for a drink together, talk about what they have in common. The back room of the Vernon in Dale Street, Liverpool, was well-known as the meeting place for Militant Tendency in the 1980s. Pub function rooms have often been used by political parties and other campaigning groups for meetings, and it is regrettable that we've lost so many of them, especially as they were also useful for non-political gatherings such as parties, family occasions, fundraisers, and so on.

I don't know where these so-called rules come from. It would, in my view, be wrong to stand up in a pub and start political campaigning, but I can't see how it's wrong to have a chat about politics in your own group. 

I'd take the same approach to preaching in a pub. In 1986 I went to a commemoration of the centenary of the Southport and St Anne's lifeboats disaster in the Fishermens Rest pub in Southport. In 1886, this building was the coach house of a nearby hotel and was where the bodies of the lifeboatmen had been laid out after they had been rescued from the sea, hence the name it was given when later it was converted into a pub. I wasn't very happy when a local clergyman called for silence to say prayers, getting the whole pub to stand. I expect quite a few of the customers felt as awkward as I did at that point.

I suppose a summary of my view is that religion and politics cannot be forbidden subjects - like it or not, both are a part of life - but if you start pushing either down the throats of other customers not in your group, then you're going too far. On that basis, the pious visitor to our song session was way out of line.

An aside: I once heard someone at a local CAMRA meeting refer to a controversy about the name of the pub: Fishermans Rest or Fishermens Rest? There is no controversy: the latter is correct, being what it says on the outside the pub, and in view of the origin of the name, the former makes no sense. The local CAMRA pub guide published twelve or more years ago got the name wrong.

Saturday, 5 May 2018

Speckled Hen night

The Black Horse  - pinched from Google street view.
I went for a drink with some friends, Alex, Bob and Bill in the Black Horse in the Old Swan area of Liverpool on Thursday. Alex had nobly offered to drive us there - good man!

The Black Horse is a large suburban pub from, I'd guess, between the wars. I don't know which brewery used to own it - Whitbread perhaps? - but it's now a Greene King house with food, TV sports, live music and three real ales: Speckled Hen, Ruddles Bitter and Greene King IPA.

I chose the Speckled Hen, a beer that once upon a time I'd go some distance for, but now, while it's still acceptable, it's nothing special; certainly the best of those on offer, and there was nothing wrong with the way it was kept. But we mustn't complain: I expect in the 70s and 80s this pub had no real ale at all. It's certainly not listed in my Merseyside pub guide from 1990.

I hadn't seen Bill since the 90s when I worked in Norris Green in Liverpool, so this was something of a reunion. We had a good afternoon which understandably included a lot of reminiscences, including the time when I emptied a glass of water out of an office window thinking there was a flower bed below. Wrong window: this one was over the entrance door where Bill's wife was standing - oh dear! I asked Bill to tell his wife I've now given up the hairdressing career.

Also in the pub a large number of young women were gathering wearing T-shirts proclaiming 'Nell's Hen Do' and towing overnight cases on wheels. One young woman wearing a fake crown was at the bar, so I asked her whether she was the bride - she answered yes, so I said I hoped she had a great time on her hen night. Her mate cut in: "No, she's not getting married - she always goes out dressed like this!"

Just another day in a Liverpool pub.

Sunday, 29 April 2018

Funny - I don't feel especially revitalised!

This cartoon tends to sum up how I view CAMRA's Revitalisation Project. Not that I was looking forward to the process - I wasn't particularly - but I recognise the feeling of something built up as being massive, only to think "Is that it?" afterwards.

This is what can happen with hype: reality often doesn't match the big talk. The changes CAMRA has adopted are significant certainly, but they are not the earthquake that some predicted. Neither are they a damp squib as claimed by others.

As a member, I sometimes listen politely to non-members pontificating about what CAMRA should be doing. When asked why the Campaign hasn't fully accepted craft beers, I've sometimes pointed to the name, Campaign for Real Ale; a campaign for something doesn't entail being anti-everything else. No one expects the Cats Protection charity to accept dogs, but that doesn't mean they're hostile to our canine pals. To be fair, the 'name' argument only goes so far, seeing that the Campaign has long accepted cider and perry but hasn't changed its name to CAMRACAP, which is just as well.

While I accept everyone has a right to an opinion, the Campaign and its members are not required to take notice of anyone but its own members, who after all are the ones who pay the bills. This isn't arrogance: most membership organisation operate on this basis, from trade unions and political parties to the National Trust - all of which I belong to. I'm not saying such organisations should always completely ignore what non-members say - simply that they're under no obligation to take what is said on board if they don't wish to. Ultimately, if you want a guaranteed say, put your money where your mouth is and pay the subs.

I don't think we need take too much notice of all of the predictions about where the changes will take the Campaign - the sheer variety of opinions suggests to me that the only forecast anyone can make is that none of us has any real idea where we'll end up. My own view is that, in the short term at least, things will mostly tend to go on much as before. Craft beer will appear at some CAMRA festivals - that's not really a big deal in the great scheme of things - but it is an inescapable fact that the Campaign is genuinely a bottom-up membership organisation whose activists on the ground are the same people as before the national AGM.

As CAMRA's new national chair Jackie Parker has said, "It's easy to tell others what they should or could be doing, when you have no responsibility or accountability for actually delivering what you say needs to be done." Quite.

I did write an article about the Revitalisation Project for the CAMRA column in the local papers, but it has little resemblance to this post; being based on a CAMRA press release, it's considerably more anodyne.

Thursday, 26 April 2018

A more than adequate replacement

Wigan Central
I'd been arranging a trip for some friends to the CAMRA Bolton Beer Festival this Saturday when someone pointed out to me that there is a problem with the trains that weekend. When I checked the train times on National Rail Enquiries about 10 days ago, no problems were reported.

Looking again yesterday, I see that the trains will be going past Bolton to Manchester, after which you need to get off and catch the train back to Bolton, thus adding an hour to the 45-minute journey - each way. Needless to say, I've called that trip off as I've no wish to spend 3.5 hours travelling to and from a beer festival that's less than 30 miles away.

Instead I've suggested we go to the excellent Wigan Central, Wigan CAMRA's Pub of the Year and a finalist in the CAMRA National Pub of the Year competition, which should be good. A more than satisfactory replacement trip, I feel.

I wrote about this pub in our local paper (and on this blog) in May 2016.

Tuesday, 24 April 2018

Sunday, 22 April 2018

The Cocoa House, Southport

The Cocoa House, Southport
I hadn't heard about the Cocoa House in Southport until a couple of friends mentioned it to me, so I thought I'd better pay a visit. I found out that it has been open for several months; it is easy to find, being directly across the road from Sainsbury's on Lord Street. A long narrow drinking area, wood-panelled to waist level, takes you through to a larger room with an intricate moulded coving around an attractive old glass ceiling. The name of the bar comes from the fact that it was originally a cocoa warehouse.

There are three handpumps, two for real ale and one for cider. When I called in, they were serving Formby Blonde, which was in good condition, and the other handpump had been serving Monument from Southport Brewery, which had been put on the previous day and had sold out by closing time. They are working on building up the real ale sales. The handpumped cider was Gwynt y Ddraig Happy Daze medium.

They stock a good choice of gins, including one I hadn't seen before, Isle of Colonsay. There are also good choices of whiskies, wines and cocktails. Craft beers include Grimberger Blonde, Shedhead American Pale Ale and Brooklyn Lager. In keeping with the name of the establishment, you can even enjoy a hot chocolate made with shaved Belgian chocolate.

You can listen to live music every Saturday evening, and sometimes on Fridays or Sunday afternoons: I've seen a couple of good bands there, including a female three-piece I hadn't heard of before called the Midnight Daisies.

Food prepared on the premises is available from midday every day until 2.30pm Monday-Thursday and 4.30pm Friday-Sunday. They even cater for your canine friend by providing dog biscuits. Children are also welcome. They are planning to bring the rear yard into use as an outdoor drinking area. 

There is free Wi-Fi and a Facebook page. They open at 11.00am every day and close at 7.00pm Monday and Tuesday, 10.30pm and Wednesday and Thursday, midnight on Friday and Saturday and 8.00pm on Sunday. The address is 459 Lord Street. 

This slightly unusual venue has an interesting past, I found the staff and customers to be friendly and I've enjoyed my recent visits.

Slightly adapted from one of a series of articles that I write for the CAMRA column in our local papers, the Southport Visiter and Ormskirk Advertiser. Previous write-ups are here.

Saturday, 21 April 2018

Enjoy the Golden Age - while it lasts!

More than an advertising
slogan - a threat!
I recently read an article about a long-gone brewery, Gales of Hampshire, and was reminded of how I used to enjoy their beer when visiting family in the South. On one occasion in the 1980s, I was taken to a pub with a row of six handpumps, each serving a different Gales real ale. In those days this was an extremely rare sight and I said to the landlord, “A pub crawl without leaving your bar stool!” He replied that many had tried to drink them all but few had succeeded.

This incident came to mind when I was chatting recently to staff in a local pub that had ten handpumps serving real ale, and I thought how a bank of six handpumps, which had seemed extraordinary more than 30 years ago, was quite unremarkable today. I said that many years ago I had been a student at a college near Warrington where our beer choices were confined almost exclusively to mild or bitter, either from Greenall Whitley or Tetley Walker, and that their pub now had a greater choice of real ales than the entire town of Warrington back then.

Unlike other facets of life, for real ale there is no Golden Age to look back upon nostalgically. Fifty years ago (before my drinking career began), breweries were switching to mass-produced keg beers and many were phasing out their real ales, which at that time were mostly just mild and bitter. CAMRA, founded in the 1970s in response to this trend, is generally recognised as having saved real ale in this country. While we regret the closure of many old pubs – sadly, quite a few locally (Southport and West Lancs area) - and the loss of some favourite old brews, for real ale drinkers the Good Old Days are now. We can help keep it that way simply by continuing to enjoy the great variety of British beers now readily available.

Did I manage to try all six beers in the Gales pub? Of course. And for the record, the real ale scene in Warrington is much better nowadays.

This is one of a series of articles that I write for the CAMRA column in our local papers, the Southport Visiter and Ormskirk Advertiser. Some previous articles are here.

Thursday, 19 April 2018

The Lion Tavern, Liverpool

The Lion Tavern is a beautiful mid-Victorian pub in Liverpool just across the road from Moorfields Station and is very much a miniature gin palace from the original Robert Cain Brewery. There is a bar and two lounges, prominently featuring wood panelling, etched glass, impressive old tiles and an unusual, but quite lovely, glass dome. The pub has recently been carefully refurbished, and it tends to attract a varied clientele: it is particularly popular with local musicians to the extent that the free jukebox has music by twenty six artists who have enjoyed drinking there.

There are always eight real ales, with the house beer, Lion IPA, from Red Star as standard, and seven changing guest beers which, when I called in, were: Faith Hope & Charity and Bottle Bull, both from Rock The Boat; West Coast IPA and Monkeytown Mild, both from Phoenix; Peerless Langton Spin; Ossett Silver King; and Black Edge Hop. There are always four light beers, three amber and one dark to satisfy most tastes, plus a real cider, Westons Founder's Reserve. Their entry in the 2018 CAMRA Good Beer Guide is well-deserved. Other specialist drinks include wide choices of Scotch and Irish whiskies.

There is a monthly acoustic song session on the second Tuesday; this is open to all and is unamplified so there's no danger of being deafened. The hand-raised pork pies are popular with customers. Well-behaved dogs are welcome.

As well as being a classic pub by anyone's standards, the Lion is quite happy to do things slightly differently from the mainstream, and it is a formula that is popular with its own regulars, real ale connoisseurs in Liverpool and beyond, local business people (being in the business area of Liverpool) and discerning football fans on match days.

The Lion is on Facebook, Twitter and has a website. It is close to several bus routes and can easily be reached by train from the Southport and West Lancashire areas. Definitely worth the train ride.

This is one of a series of articles that I write for the CAMRA column in our local papers, the Southport Visiter and Ormskirk Advertiser. Previous reviews are here.

Friday, 23 March 2018

The Crown in Lime Street

The Crown, Lime Street
The Crown in Lime Street, Liverpool, is quite impossible to miss: you are immediately struck by the extravagant exterior with its scrolled lettering that still advertises the former Walkers Brewery. The Art Nouveau-style interior is just as impressive. The two ground floor rooms have wood-panels, intricately-moulded ceilings with details picked out in gold and a bar with an unusual ornate front.

A wooden spiral staircase under a glass dome leads to the upstairs dining room which still retains its original stained glass windows. The pub is on CAMRA's National Inventory of pubs with architectural features of national significance, and is featured in the CAMRA book “Britain's Best Real Heritage pubs.

The pub serves eight real ales: three regular beers – Greene King IPA, Timothy Taylor's Landlord and Liverpool Organic 24 Carat Gold – and five guests which when I visited were: Thornbridge Jaipur, Fuller's London Pride, Hook Norton Hooky, Kirkstall Black Abbey and Shed Seven Instant Pleasures. The three I tried were well-kept. They also have a good choice of whiskies and gins.

The door to the rear room
An extensive menu offers reasonably-priced food every day, with meal deals available on weekdays, and the busy staff were run off their feet keeping up with demand. The dining room is available for private functions, sometimes hosting receptions for weddings from the magnificent St George's Hall across the road.

Children are admitted with groups that are having a meal, and assistance dogs are welcome. On Mondays, Philosophy In Pubs meet in the pub from 2.30pm, and Tuesday is Chess Night. Live sport is sometimes shown, and there is free Wi-Fi for customers.

The pub has a website and is on Facebook and Twitter. It is next to Lime Street Station and a five-minute walk from Central Station. Although they were very busy serving meals and drinks, the staff I talked to were helpful, friendly and happy to take the time to answer my questions. I also found myself chatting with another drinker at the bar. This is a popular pub in a fine building with good beer - definitely worth a visit.

This is one of a series of articles that I write for the CAMRA column in our local papers, the Southport Visiter and the Ormskirk Advertiser. Previous reviews are here.

Monday, 12 March 2018

Fine words butter no parsnips

I welcomed the statement by CAMRA's National Executive (NE) on discriminatory marketing of drinks and discriminatory behaviour by CAMRA members. It chimed in well with the subsequent anniversary of some women gaining the vote in this country. Also around a century ago, women workers were engaged in an additional struggle, that of being accepted by the trade union movement, as I wrote on another blog here.

It consequently seems perverse to me for CAMRA to announce that the organisation's new National Chairman is a woman called Jackie Parker. I accept that there are people, including some women, who will consider this unimportant, but if the campaign is as serious about discriminatory actions as the NE stated, it must also tackle discriminatory language within its own structures. If it doesn't, it is at best inconsistent and at worst hypocritical.

Friday, 16 February 2018

The Phoenix, Southport

From Google street view
I had been to the Phoenix a few times for the live music so I recently decided it was about time that I wrote about this independent bar and restaurant that serves real ale. It is in Southport town centre on Coronation Walk, just yards from Lord Street and close to Southport Promenade. It is a large single room bar with separate drinking areas separated by arches, all lit by chandeliers overhead.

I was made welcome by the owner Chris and his friendly staff. It was only when I ordered my fourth pint that I found out that they have a discount for CAMRA members. My loss for the first three, but with the pints being very reasonably priced anyway, it was no great loss.

There is a changing range of up to four real ales; when I called in, they were Lancaster Brewery Citra, Weetwood Old Dog, Wily Fox Skylark Pale Ale and Brain's Rev James. I found the beers to be well-kept, and saw that they have Cask Marque certification for the quality of their beers.

A good range of the usual spirits, liqueurs and wines is supplemented by six specialist gins and six malt whiskies. Craft beer is represented by Sharp's Wolf Rock IPA and Maltsmiths Bavarian-style Pils. You can save a few bob during the Happy Hours on Thursdays and Fridays from 5.00pm to 9.00pm.

There are big TV screens for live sport; it was busy with sports fans when I called in, which is surely much better than sitting at home alone with a few tins of beer for company. The Phoenix also keeps music live by featuring prominent local bands twice a month. Sunday night is quiz night and on 22 February, they will be presenting a themed quiz night: Marvel versus DC, so dust down your superhero outfits! 

They are open until midnight every day except Saturday (1.00am). Food is available every day from midday (weekdays) and 10.00am (weekends) until 9.00pm.

Children are welcome here, and I saw a dog provided with a water bowl. They also have a darts board and pool table for their customers' use. There is free Wi-Fi, their website is here, and you can also find them on Facebook.

This is one of a series of articles that I write for the CAMRA column in our local papers, the Southport Visiter and the Ormskirk Advertiser. Previous reviews are here.

Wednesday, 20 December 2017

The Globe, Liverpool

The Globe in Liverpool
If you're thinking of going to Liverpool for some very last minute Christmas shopping, or perhaps for a night out, you might want to call into the Globe on Cases Street, across the road from Central Station's front entrance. This incarnation of the pub dates from 1888, but the name was in use at least 40 years earlier for a previous pub on the site.

It has hardly been changed over the years and it is very much a local in the heart of the city centre. It won the local CAMRA branch's Best Community Pub Award in 2012, and Kitty McNicholas, who has worked there for 24 years, won their Bar Person of the Year Award in 2014. The pub attracts people from all over the city as well as visitors, and it is not unusual to find yourself in lively conversation with complete strangers. Tastefully refurbished in 2012, it has kept its traditional atmosphere, and photographs on the wall recall the pub's history.

It is a small, cosy pub with a single bar, complete with coloured glass above, to your right as you enter. A sloping floor takes you through to the tiny rear lounge where the Merseyside Branch of CAMRA was founded in 1974: there is even a plaque on the wall to mark this momentous occasion. The slope has been known to fool unwary drinkers who may have slightly overindulged.

They often play classic pop and rock & roll songs from the 50s and 60s on the music system, sometimes leading to spontaneous community singalongs, or occasionally – if space permits – dancing.

There are five handpumps, and the real ales on offer when I called in were: Young's Winter Warmer; No 18 Yard Rudolph's Reward; Red Star Coney Island; Wainwright; and Sharp's Doom Bar. Those I tried were in good condition; I have been going to this pub for many years and I don't recall ever having a bad pint in here.

As for the shopping, Liverpool's famous Bold Street is nearby, and the Liverpool One complex with more than 170 shops, bars and restaurants is a short walk away. Why not relax in the Globe afterwards before you go for your train?

This is one of a series of articles that I write for the CAMRA column in our local papers, the Southport Visiter and the Ormskirk Advertiser. Previous reviews are here.

Thursday, 23 November 2017

Roscoe Head, Liverpool

The Roscoe Head in Liverpool is one of only five pubs to appear in all 45 editions of CAMRA's Good Beer Guide, and is the only one in the north of England. It is situated in a small side street on the edge of Liverpool's Georgian Quarter and is less than 10 minutes' walk from Central Station. There are four rooms: the main bar as you enter, two cosy lounges and a tiny snug. It is largely unaltered, and has been run by the same family for more than 35 years.

There are six handpumps serving two regular real ales, Timothy Taylor's Landlord and Tetley Bitter, and 3 or 4 guests which on my visit were Empire White Lion, Big Bog Blonde Bach and George Wright Citra, available in third of a pint measures if you prefer. The four beers I tried were in good form. Available on fonts were craft Shipyard American Pale Ale and Old Rosie Cider.

They offer traditional lunch time snacks, a quiz night on Tuesdays, and a cribbage night on those Wednesdays when the pub team is playing at home. There is no jukebox or fruit machine – this is a friendly pub suited to conversation, and I found myself chatting to several strangers at the bar. Children are welcome in one room during the day, but dogs are not allowed.

A couple of years ago, the pub was taken over by New River, a property company known for redeveloping pubs, and the landlady Carol Ross led a spirited “Save The Roscoe” campaign that resulted in a well-attended demo in the street outside and a petition that gained 2273 signatures. Happily it remains open and thriving.

Facilities include a few seats outside to the front, free Wi-Fi, a Facebook page and a website. Address: 24 Roscoe Street, Liverpool, L1 2SX. Tel: 0151 709 4365. This pub is a fine example of a well-run local near the city centre, and well worth a visit when you're next in town.

This is one of a series of articles that I write for the CAMRA column in our local papers, the Southport Visiter and the Ormskirk Advertiser. Previous reviews are here.

Saturday, 18 November 2017

Minimum pricing raises its ugly head - again

I wrote this for the CAMRA column of our local paper, the Southport Visiter. It will appear next week:

The question of a minimum price per unit of alcohol is in the news again after the Supreme Court rejected the Scottish Whisky Association's challenge to the Scottish government's decision to impose the policy. Locally, Sefton Central MP Bill Esterson has expressed his support for a 50p per unit minimum price (Visiter 9.11.17). While CAMRA encourages responsible drinking - it is better to remember what you have been drinking and why you enjoyed it - it opposes such a policy.

Minimum pricing is a form of rationing based on ability to pay and, viewed that way, the inequity of such a measure immediately becomes apparent. Very few prices in pubs, clubs and other licensed premises would be affected, so it would mostly hit drinkers who, unable to afford pub prices, instead pay less in supermarkets. Whether they intend to or not, the advocates of minimum pricing are implying that alcohol misuse is largely the province of people on low incomes.

I wrote in September [in the Southport Visiter] that studies across Europe have shown that, as the price of legitimate alcohol goes up, the demand for smuggled and counterfeit alcohol also increases. One unplanned result is an expanding black market that deprives the Treasury of income. Booze cruises, anyone?

Mr Esterson says that “minimum pricing for alcohol works”. I don't understand this assertion, seeing that no country has actually tried it - Scotland has yet to implement the measure. The claim that a £3bn boost to the economy would result from declining consumption must be treated with caution: does it, for example, include the costs of job losses caused by the projected fall in sales? It certainly takes no account of the effects of making unaffordable a small pleasure for people on very restricted incomes.

Minimum pricing is a quick way of ticking the box 'dealing with alcohol misuse'; it does little to address the problem and merely penalises those among us with least money. However, it satisfies the political desire to be seen to 'do something'. Education about the dangers of alcohol misuse would be more effective, but as the cost would be far higher, the cheap and cheerless option, ineffectual and riddled with unintended consequences, is chosen instead.