We spent the last week and a bit flying round the north west of England looking at (a) brewery records and (b) pubs.
We needed dinner near our hotel in Liverpool and stumbled upon Thomas Rigby’s, an inter-war pub interior where class distinctions and waiter service were alive and well.
On our way to Port Sunlight we stopped to wonder at the beautiful but empty shell of a pub half-swallowed by a bland 1980s building.
We drank Greene King IPA at the Bridge Inn, a Flaming Grill pub-restaurant at Port Sunlight that was built as a temperance hotel in 1900.
We were drawn to this pub because its exterior looks just like an image from Basil Oliver’s 1949 book The Renaissance of the English Pub; as luck would have it, it turns out to be one of Liverpool’s beer geek pubs. (The one thing we didn’t research in advance was where had good beer because we didn’t expect to have any time for it.)
We drank Guinness at Flanagan’s Apple which, after months of reading about it, felt a bit like a pilgrimage.
We hadn’t planned to go to Peter Kavanagh’s but, having just read about the eponymous publican’s custom designed ashtray tables at Liverpool Central Library, just had to see them in the person.
In Bolton, we visited The Hen & Chickens, one of the few pubs mentioned in the Mass Observation survey papers that is still trading. Signs for vault on left, hotel on right, said the 1937 documents; in 2016 that, at least, hasn’t changed.
We needed breakfast so killed three birds with one stone with a trip to a Wetherspoon’s in an inter-war mock-tudor improved public house building. Highly efficient, and didn’t cost much either.
We passed the decomposing corpse of the Tatton Arms, with dirty pigeons nesting in its gaping windows, on our way to look at an inter-war pub, now a restaurant, on a housing estate.
The Carlton, a listed heritage pub in Chester, has bare boards in the public bar…
…and carpet in the lounge. The landlady told us that people still respect the distinction – couples dressed up for a night out stick to the best room, solo male drinkers stand and play pool in the public.
At the Turnpike in Manchester, this wonderfully well-preserved 1960s interior offered a slight variation: tiles and paint in the public…
…but carpet and wood-panelling in the lounge.
There were others, too, just as interesting but where we didn’t get a decent photograph. It was great fun – just the mix of socialising, boozing and pondering that we like – but next time we’re up in that part of the world, it will be all about the beer. There’s only so much 2.8% keg mild even the most nostalgic of beer bloggers can stomach, after all.