Monday, 31 December 2012

2012 - A prersonal summary

The year is just about over so I found it interesting to consider if my drinking habits had changed during the year. My overall consumption was probably about the same but my choices altered subtly. All comments refer to drinking in this country.

Cask ale - consumption down slightly.

Keg beer - consumption low but up from nil in 2011.

Bitish bottled conditioned beer - up slightly.

British non-bottled conditioned beer - consumption low but again up from practically zero in 2011.

Belgian bottled beer - down slightly as other countries upped their game/became more widely available.

Other European bottled beer - up; greater availability

American bottled beer; up; ditto.

It is noticeable that pubs and bars are expanding their range of foreign bottles beyond Chimay, Duvel and the odd German wheat beer. American beer is becoming easier to find with Flying Dog seemingly everywhere. Nøgne Ø from Norway are picking up sales too.

In my area, we've finally gained a chain of decent beer shops. 'Ship in a Bottle' have quickly expanded from Liverpool City Centre to Wirral with new shops in West Kirby and Heswall. The owners considered the new shops a bit of a gamble, but I'm told that the takings in the West Kirby shop were over £4,000.00 on the Sunday before Xmas. We're a discerning lot in Wirral.

Friday, 28 December 2012

The Refreshment Rooms, Rock Ferry, Birkenhead

It's always good to see a closed pub re-open especially when it does so with a range of real ales. I have good memories of the Admiral as it was called for many years, now reverting to it's original name. It was one the first pubs in the area to stock Special Cask Bitter when Whitbread West Pennines finally acknowledged the real ale revolution in the 70s and I actually won a few medals playing for the pub football team.

The Refreshment Rooms in the 1880s
The Refreshment Rooms (CH42 1LS) was built in the 1870s to cash in on the trade from the adjacent Rock Ferry when ferries were the only way for the public to cross the river Mersey until the underground rail tunnel was drilled. The imposing Royal Rock Hotel over the road was well known in the region and the prestigious Royal Mersey Yacht Club, whose current patron is the Duke of Edinburgh and members include King Harald of Norway, is just 50 yards away.

However, the construction of the 1st Mersey Tunnel did for the outlying ferry routes. Later in the 20th century the Tranmere Oil Terminal ruined the view across the Mersey, as it still does, and even worse, a late 60s act of planning vandalism, the Rock Ferry by-pass, decimated the adjacent Rock Park estate of 18th century merchant's mansions. The Admiral had previously been 400 yards from the nearest railway station, bus stops and shops but the replacement road bridge over the by-pass took a tortuous route leaving the pub in a backwater.

Not the most inspiring river view even after I've cropped the worst bit.
The pub still  did reasonably well for a number of years, partly because it's secluded position, close to but somehow cut off from the rest of the community gave it a special atmosphere, but it struggled like many other pubs in recent years before it closed, seemingly for good.

Re-opened by new owners who have a track record of rejuvenating tired pubs; a mixture of cask beers, good value food, live music and discouraging unruly elements has worked well and the pub is doing very well. Lees have funded the beer engines and provide three beers, and other beers are usually sourced from local favourites Brimstage and Liverpool Organic.

A recent visit on a Sunday afternoon showed a reasonable numbers of punters at the bar and families dining, with a good proportion of the custom female so the pub seems to be back on it's feet.

By the way, anyone who's aware of Duffy's CD 'Rockferry' may like to know that it is named after this Rock Ferry. She has family in the area and has fond memories of visits here. Her Auntie Mo works for the same company as I do.

Saturday, 22 December 2012

Bah Humbug!

Contrast our miserable Nannyist state's 'Don't exceeed the recommended units', 'Don't drive the morning after a night out' and Don't forget that public transport ceases to exist at Christmas' messages with Belgium, where I spent a very pleasant time last weekend.

Over there, the conspicuous consumption of ultra-strong Christmas beers, gluhkriek and jenevers is almost compulsory and trains, buses and trams run 365 days a year. They even lay on extra buses after midnight on New Year's Eve to take the revellers home to their outlying villages. Just like they do in the U.K. (I wish).

Friday, 7 December 2012

Rose & Crown, Bebington

The Rose & Crown in Bebington Village is a Thwaites pub about a mile and a half from my house. It was my (very) regular for over 25 years. My first  visit was after my last day at Wirral Grammar School and from then on I could be found there on most days of the week listening to the juke box and playing darts. I captained the darts team and couldn't imagine it not being my local until marriage started to gradually curtail pub visits - as it does. It sold just two cask beers; Bitter and Mild, but in vast quantities.

It was a fixture in the GBG for over 20 years until changes in management and the perception that Thwaites' had lost their way took their toll. Still a very popular drinkers' pub (no food) the beer quality nowadays is pretty good and seasonal beers plus the odd guest have spiced up the range.

Finally getting to the point of this post, it's had a bit of a spruce up recently. Thwaites have been spending a few bob on their pubs and rolling out a new corporate image. You can see the difference  between the investment by the traditional pub-owning brewers and the total lack of it by most of the Pubcos who extract vast sums from their leaseholders while giving little or nothing back in return.

Anyway, it looks pretty smart externally and internally. Who pays you may ask? Amazingly, not the drinker. Thwaites Bitter which was £2.50 a pint previously is now down to £2.25!