Skip to main content

Going Down To Liverpool....

A tour of a few pubs in Liverpool, a city I have only visited occasionally, but on this showing I won't be leaving it too long before I venture back....

The last time I had visited Liverpool was back in 2017 when a group of us stopped in the city for an hour or two on our way to see Halifax Town get hammered at Tranmere Rovers across the Mersey in Birkenhead. We had called in a few pubs, one of them being the Crown, whose gloriously-decorated exterior beckons you as you emerge from Lime Street Station.

On this occasion, I resisted temptation, and walked along Renshaw Street, until I arrived at the Dispensary, another pub we had visited on that last trip. I remember it being excellent, not least because of the quality of the pint of Jarl I had. As a bonus, I bumped into fellow beer blogger Mark Johnson who was in town to watch his team, Huddersfield Town, meet a similar fate to us just up the road at Anfield.

As I approached the pub I noticed the lights were on inside, although neither door was open even though it had gone past the opening time quoted in the Good Beer Guide app. I tried one, then the other, with neither yielding to any pressure. I looked around the exterior to see if I could spot any other opening to no avail. A little disgruntled, I moved on and a few minutes later I was on Roscoe Street, home of the Roscoe Head, one of the 'famous five' pubs who have been in every edition of the Good Beer Guide. This is a free house nowadays, having been taken over by licensee Carol Ross in 2020 after a long campaign to save the pub from the perils of pubco ownership. Named after William Roscoe, who campaigned against the slave trade, it is a small, traditional multi-roomed pub  with dark wood and glazing and several hand pumps on the bar. It was quiet when I went in, the odd person was sat in one of the rooms, or propping up the bar, or on their way for a quick smoke outside. I ordered a half of Spectrum, a pleasant 4.2% pale from Salopian, which I reckoned was worth a NBSS score of 3.5. 

I decided to call in next at the Grapes, as it was located not far away being also on Roscoe Street. On my way I passed the curious hulk of St Luke's, a large church, with no roof and no windows which, it turns out, is called the Bombed Out Church. It suffered its fate in 1941 when the Luftwaffe hit it on one of their raids on the city. Nowadays, the building's structure has been repaired in part and maintenance carried out, and with scores of picnic tables in the grounds, it nowadays plays host to many events. I walked on, past the entrance to a college, and then I was at the Grapes, situated on a street corner. The lights were on, but the doors were shut, and it was frustratingly not open for business. I had been able to visit one pub out of three so far....

Fortunately, the next one, situated just over 10 minutes walk away, more than made up for it. I'd walked past the huge Anglican cathedral and entered an area of smart Georgian houses. Tucked down a side street was the understated Peter Kavanagh's. Understated, that is, until you go inside.

Peter Kavanagh's, inside and out

Named after a former landlord who held sway here for over 50 years, the pub is Grade ll-listed and on CAMRA's Inventory of Historic Pub Interiors. There is dark wood and glazing, murals, and carved armrests on the bench seats which are thought to be caricatures of Peter Kavanagh. The place takes your breath away, and whilst the cask offering which included Greene King Abbot didn't take my fancy, I did spot an IPA from Love Lane on keg which I had been drinking at the Meandering Bear in Halifax only a few days earlier, so I opted for one of those. Despite the calm atmosphere of the pub, there was a yappy little dog in one of the areas off the bar, so I retreated to the side room with its murals (opening picture). The friendly guy behind the bar suggested a couple of places I should try on my way back, and whilst I didn't get chance to visit, the recommendations were appreciated. 

I re-traced my steps. The Grapes was still shut, so I headed over to Hardman Street to try Fly In The Loaf. Based in a former bakery, it has an impressive double-fronted exterior with signage reflecting its former existence, and a large, somewhat cavernous interior. It is owned by Okells, and features a number of the Isle Of Man brewers' beers plus guests from several small independent breweries, although I went for the Okells Bitter (NBSS 3). Despite a decent soundtrack playing out of the speakers, shelving and stools by the front windows enabling you to watch the world going by outside, I felt the place lacked atmosphere, although, to be fair, it may have been due it being early afternoon.

Fly In The Loaf

That said, it wasn't something you could have said about the next place I visited, the wonderfully-named Ye Cracke. Set a few minutes walk away in amongst housing on a quiet side street, this is a traditional pub which looks like it hasn't changed in years. There were several groups of people dotted about in different areas as I walked to the bar, which is situated in the middle of the pub on the street side, behind a dark wood and partially glazed frontage and wooden floorboards. I ordered a pint of Liverpool Light, which is brewed up the road in Crosby by Rock The Boat Brewery. It was only 3.4%, but this blonde session ale brewed with extra pale USA malt and three UK hop varieties was the beer highlight of the day. Despite its low gravity, it had plenty of flavour and was refreshingly quaffable. Well worth a NBSS rating of 4. I had a quick wander around the pub. There is a small bar as you go in with a bank of unused handpumps on the bar, a little snug with red leather upholstery called The War Room, a further room beyond, the room with the bar which is quite a large space, and a room beyond which is where I sat down to enjoy my pint. A group of older guys - well, probably similar ages to me - were discussing John Peel, David Bowie, and various other musical greats whilst a decent soundtrack was playing. And Ye Cracke has a famous musical connection too; apparently it was John Lennon's favourite pub and a plaque on the wall commemorates a band he founded called The Dissenters with former Beatle Stu Sutcliffe, and two other fellow art students over a pint in the pub, although the band never went on to play a note. I loved the place, a great atmosphere, and great beer, and surprisingly the pub isn't in the current Good Beer Guide.

Ye Cracke: what a cracker!

It was a few minutes to The Grapes, it was past 3, so I decided to give the place one more chance. Yeh! It was open, so I went in. Despite the traditional exterior with signage reflecting previous ownership, it is light and airy inside with art on the walls. The two lads behind the bar were very friendly and we chatted about beers for a few minutes. I mentioned visiting earlier, and apparently they normally open at 12 but it had been one of those mornings, so opening had been delayed. An impressive number of hand pumps featured several local and regional breweries. I went for a half of Siren's Call, a bitter from Liverpool Brewing Co, which was quite pleasant without particularly standing out. (NBSS 3). Much more to my liking was Kandata from Chapter Brewing, who are based at Sutton Weaver in Cheshire, with whom the Grapes work closely. The beer was a delicious 4.7% American Pale featuring the Columbus hop (NBSS 3.5). I am glad I persisted with the Grapes, as my hour there was one of the day's highlights. Incidentally, there is another Grapes in the city on Mathew Street, which has Beatles connections, but just to confirm, the one I am talking about is on Roscoe Street.

Worth the wait: The Grapes

By now I was getting hungry, and as I walked back to the Dispensary to see if that was open I spotted an outpost of Rudy's Neapolitan Pizza (see also Manchester, Leeds), so I decided I would call in after calling at the pub. It was open, and I have to say that having enjoyed it so much on my previous visit, this occasion was something of a let down. The beer range was dull, a bank of four hand pumps serving a pretty standard and unexciting choice. I selected a half of Tiny Rebel Cwtch, which I took to a slightly raised towards the rear of the pub. The beers was ok (NBSS 3), but the visit was marred by a youngish lad who was moaning and swearing about something at the top of his voice whilst his bored-looking companions and the bar staff looked on. Now I am generally pretty relaxed, but if I had been working, I would have asked him to keep his voice down, but nobody moved. So I did, finishing my half in quicker than usual time. 

The Dispensary; disappointing this time

The pizza was pretty decent, and set me up for the return journey after visiting several excellent pubs over the course of the day. Unfortunately, the train back was cancelled with less than 5 minutes to go, necessitating a change of plan to take in a rather boring journey on a stopping train through the Liverpool suburbs before changing at Manchester Oxford Road and Piccadilly stations, and eventually landing back in Huddersfield an hour later than planned. Just time though for a quick pint at the King's Head, and then a taxi home....

Follow me on twitter: @realalemusic


  1. Love your pub tour posts, Chris, and the fact you're prepared to share your beer scores with us.

    Some good beer there, by the look of it, and I'm now trying to recall whether I've been in that Grapes or not !

    And yes, pubs not open when you expect lead to disgruntlement, even when there are plenty of alternatives nearby!

    I was in Liverpool (2 suburban micros and the big Spoons across from the Crown) and lots of pubs looked very inviting

  2. Cheers, Martin, always enjoy your take on things.


Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

A Calder Valley Ale Trail - UPDATE June 2022

T he definitive guide to the pubs and bars that line the railways in the towns and villages of the beautiful Calder Valley in West Yorkshire. After a break in updates with all the disruption of lockdowns over the  last couple of years, here's the latest, updated version.... The original Rail Ale Trail heads through the Pennines from Dewsbury through Huddersfield to Stalybridge, or vice versa, depending on your standpoint. Made famous by Oz Clarke and James May on a TV drinking trip around Britain several years ago, it reached saturation point on weekends to such an extent that lager and shorts were banned by some pubs and plastic glasses introduced to the hordes of stag dos, hen parties, and fancy-dressed revellers that invaded the trans-Pennine towns and villages. There are some great pubs en route but you ventured to them on a summer Saturday at your peril. However, only a few miles away to the north, there is another trail possible which takes in some great pubs and travels thr

No More Crows The Rooster....

Another much-loved pub which has played a big part in so many people's lives over the years has recently closed its doors.... News broke the other week that The Red Rooster, at Brookfoot, near Brighouse, was to close at the beginning of March. With the rent being increased by an incredible £935 a week , landlord Eddie Geater decided that it was simply not viable to keep the popular free house open. And it is sad news, as the Rooster has been at the forefront of the area's pubs for most of the last 30-odd years. And it is a big deal. Before it opened as the Rooster there were hardly any free houses in the area as we know them today where there was a truly wide and unrestricted choice of beers. Prior to being the Rooster, the pub had been a Webster's tied house, The Wharf, which had been built in the early 20th century to cater for workers from the nearby wharf from where local coal was transported via the canal network. And to this day, three former wharfmen's cot

The Town That Thinks It's A Village....

My time has been a bit limited recently for venturing too far afield, so last weekend I made the short journey to Elland to check out a few of the town's pubs and bars. Here's what I found.... Elland is a small market town in West Yorkshire, located between Halifax and Huddersfield beside the River Calder. It goes back a bit, being recorded as Elant in the Domesday Book of 1086, and over the centuries the town grew as a result of the woollen industry, with the town becoming home to several large mills. The coming of the Aire and Calder Navigation and the railways further helped the growth of the town. The subsequent decline of the woollen industry in the town meant that there were a number of empty mills left standing, and those that didn't burn down were put to other use, such as the home of Gannex, the now-defunct textile company whose raincoats were worn by the rich and famous, including former Prime Minister Harold Wilson. More recently, several mills have been converte