Monday, December 01, 2014

A curious tale of Dickens, Frankie Goes To Hollywood and Iron Maiden: aka Liverpool pubs tour part three

Pictures by Steve Goodwill
The final part of the First Group's trip to Liverpool.
After leaving Liverpool's Georgian Quarter pub crawl, we were in for an architectural treat of a different kind.
We had visited quite a few Grade II listed buildings on our tour of city pubs but not one with a bizarre history involving Charles Dickens, Frankie Goes To Hollywood and some Victorian rogues.
Liverpool One Bridewell  on Campbell Square was a jailhouse from about 1850 until the 1930s.
The pub's website maps out its rich history. Novelist Charles Dickens was a special constable for a day in the 1860s as he researched his tales and sketches for The Uncommercial Traveller.
But it wasn't the only literary work penned there as Frankie Goes to Hollywood wrote Two Tribes there after it became a recording and rehearsal space in the early 1980s!
Moving swiftly on to the modern day, the Bridewell is part pub, eaterie and event space.
After walking in through the red-brick archway and court yard, the bar is immediately to your left. Ahead lies a long corridor of former cells now replete with plasma televisions.
I've flirted with the subject of pubs in TVs before in an earlier Liverpool post but now I'll tackle it head-on and present an contrary view.
Shoot me down if you want, but I am not against TVs in bars. I realise I may be swimming against the tide here but as long as they don't drown out conversation what is the problem? Why are they so taboo in real ale pubs?
Here the amount of screens was a bit over the top but on a Saturday afternoon full of sport I thought it was providing a valuable service and saved us from surreptitious glances to our mobile phones to check the scores or craftily listening to Five Live on headphones.
Anyway, time to climb off the hobby horse and return to the tour.
I scanned The Bridewell's bar but wasn't grabbed by anything. I recall seeing the JW Lees/Marco Pierre White's The Governor beer, which is apparently on permanently. But I couldn't see much else to tempt me. To be fair, I think we caught them during a change over period but they do a wide range of other drinks if you are not in the mood for beer, which strangely I wasn't that particular day.
Next, we moved on to what turned out to be my favourite pub of the trip, The Baltic Fleet
The Baltic Fleet, Wapping, near Albert Dock 
Approaching the pub, you can't help but notice the shape. Some call it a 'flat iron' pub while others go for triangular. Closer inspection reveals an abundance of doors, which John, our local guide, told me were used to dodge the excise men back in the days of yore.
Apparently there were more exits underneath the pub in past, one leading to the docks, possibly for quick access to the press gangs from the merchant navy, and rumours of another tunnel to the red light district.
But now the the cellar is home to the Wapping microbrewery, who had at least three beers on when we visited.
I recall seeing Wapping's Summer, which promptly ran off but was replaced in next to no time, and their Stout, which ended up being my beer of the day.
I made my way out of the packed bar, which seemed popular with Scandinavian speaking Liverpool supporters, and back round to the other side, to a corridor lounge near a wood stove.
I don't know which I liked best, the woodsmoke or the coffee undertones of my drink? It looked as though we were just too late for food, which was a pity as it is well known for its Scouse dish. I could have quite easily have done a session here but time was running out on our day rover and we still had two pubs to visit.
Our next port of was to be The Lion Tavern on Moorfields back towards the city centre.
The Lion Tavern on Moorfields
And here was another architectural wonder. You didn't know where to look: the tiles, the glass or the woodwork. But I would've missed the best feature if John hadn't have shown me. In one of the back rooms was a domed cieling with a lantern hanging down from it. As a wise beer scribe once said on here: "Do you ever look at the ceiling?" when you walk into a pub.
After admiring the architectrure, I made my way round to the bar but it was heaving. All I could see from a fair few feet away was the Iron Maiden/Robinson's Trooper ale. So I ignored Eddie The Head on the bar and loitered near a serving hatch where I noted some fine looking pork pies.
You can tell by now that I was ravenous, but the chance of devouring a sizeable pie in a half-pint pit stop in a busy pub was slim.
My last hope of grub lay at The Ship & Mitre where I was told they did a mean Scouse. 
The Ship & Mitre on Dale Street
I once again found myself at a serving hatch, only to be told the Scouse had sold out. Undeterred I ordered some food from The Galley and cast my eye around the crowded bar. We had arrived at peak time on a Saturday night but I'm told the pub is constantly busy, which of course is great for ale quality.
I could see a Mallinsons on one of the 13 wickets from where I was standing, which I think most of our group had as their thoughts turned to returning to Huddersfield.
At the time of our visit, the pub was just on the cusp of doing a beer festival with a difference. The festival wasn't in the pub itself but in Hulme Hall in Port Sunlight for the 2014 Wirral Beer Festival.
I quite like the idea of going on tour with your favourite bar, we see it at The Huddersfield Food and Drink Festival.
Talking of which, my food arrived and some kind souls let me perch on the end of their table as I set about it. The queue at the bar hadn't subsided so there was little chance of washing it down with a farewell jar.
But I will definitely return to Liverpool to revisit some of the ten pubs we visited and some that I didn't.
It was an excellent day out and was a jolly useful reconnaissance mission for next time.
All that remains is for me to thank John and Adam, our guides, and Steve Goodwill for the pictures and the invite to The First Group's monthly tour. 
Roll on Manchester in December!


Here are links to parts one and two of our city of Liverpool pub tour.

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