Category: Pubs, Clubs & Beer

Banging The Drum For Blackburn Town Centre

Who is being sheared, James or the sheep?

The Drummer’s Arms may be Blackburn’s newest pub, but it didn’t take long to establish itself among the real ale drinking enthusiasts of the area.

Owners, James and Katy Quayle, who you may have seen on TV recently, following Blackburn scooping the national High Street shopping award, have a range of five real ales available.  These often include local beers Three B’s, Hopstar and Big Clock, which are all brewed within five miles of the pub.  They also sell real ciders in various flavours, such as rhubarb and strawberry.

This new micropub, right across from Blackburn’s old town hall, is a real gem and refreshing in more ways than one.  The Drummer’s staff are very friendly and so are its clientele.  There are not only real ale enthusiasts calling in, but shoppers and workers from nearby offices and workplaces are starting to frequent the pub on a regular basis.

Inside there are displays of pub memorabilia, some you don’t notice at first, such as the tables and chairs.  But once you take hold of your barrel glass, you then start to remember when you came across some of these items.  I particularly like the round copper-topped table, which took me back to my misspent youth.  Some of the memorabilia is very interesting, but it is the pub signs on the walls which really do catch the eye of most customers.

Perhaps the most memorable pub sign in the Drummer’s is one from Blackburn’s closed down Fleece on Penny Street.  What makes it stand out is an uncanny resemblance between owner James and the sheep-shearer in this sign.  It also seems to symbolise comparisons between Blackburn’s former pub scene and what is starting to happen in the town centre now, this is thanks in large part to the Sir Charles Napier and Drummer’s Arms which have both helped spark new life into our local scene.

Maybe one day the Fleece and other neighbouring pubs will re-open and continue building this resurgence of Blackburn town centre.  It would be nice if some kind of ceremony with the sign could be organised for the new Fleece, if it ever opened.  Sadly, that doesn’t seem to on the horizon for the foreseeable future, those old pubs still remain in their mothballed state.  Fortunately we do have the brand new Drummer’s Arms and can look forward to further real ale enjoyment and a bright future.

Blackburn’s Napier Pub is Back On The Scene

On 17th September the official opening took place of Blackburn’s Sir Charles Napier.  It was performed by Rob Halford of Judas Priest and was the culmination of a year-long campaign to re-open the town’s only rock pub following closure in June 2015.Nap

I was given a sneak preview of life in the newly refurbished pub on the Friday night before its official re-opening.  So Sylvia, my girlfriend, and I toddled across to the Napier and had a few beers and a mingle with various regulars and guests.

Best start to the evening for me was their selection of real ales.  Appropriately for a rock pub, Robinson’s  Trooper was one of their cask ales.  Iron Maiden’s Bruce Dickinson created this with head brewer Martyn Weeks and it has sold millions of pints in 40 different countries.  Thwaites Golden Wainwright and Hop Star’s JLS are also currently available.

We talked to lots of people in the pub.  There was a good mix of younger and older people, all really happy to see the Sir Charles Napier back open once again.  Some were rock music fans who would use the pub mainly to watch bands, whereas others saw the Napier as the pub which would help rejuvenate this side of the town centre’s nightlife and would bring in passing trade.

With Blakey’s, Blackburn Times, Molloy’s and the new Drummer’s Arms soon to be opening, the Napier could entice more punters out for a wander round the town centre both during the afternoon and later in the evening.

Although the battle to re-open the Napier has been won, the management committee will not allow complacency to set in.  They would like to eventually buy the pub, which is still owned by Thwaites, to protect its long-term future.  In the meantime they don’t intend to rest on their laurels and the hard work continues.  This includes their efforts to keep bringing new people into the pub through various events and activities.

Key to this strategy is the concert room upstairs.  Bookings have been taken from different groups and many have signed up to play gigs there.  Hopefully this will continue into the future and help the Napier build upon the success which saw it fight a great campaign and return from the dead like a phoenix from the ashes.  The future is looking good for the Napier.

Blackburn’s Adelphi : Back in Business

Blackburn town centre pub, the Adelphi, is open again after shutting down recently.

Adelphi1

It is being run by Ste and Dianne Whittle, who used to run the Old Dog down the road in Preston.  The Whittles have taken over the pub for 3 months on a trial basis with Admiral Taverns, giving both parties a chance to see whether they are happy with the arrangement.

This pub has had a bit of a less than harmonious reputation in the past.  But its new management want everybody to feel welcome in their hostelry.  Ste has a security business, so safety for customers and staff should be no problem.  Music is a feature of the pub, with entertainment on certain days.  Singers perform on Wednesday afternoons and there is a disco on Saturday nights.  Check the Adelphi Facebook page for further upcoming events.

Grace, who was serving behind the bar, said she was enjoying working in the Adelphi.  It felt a bit like working in a local, people were so friendly.  Dianne, when asked about catering, said there were no plans to put food on for now, mainly due to all the outlets nearby.  But Admiral Taverns are committed to spending money on the pub; hopefully this will include the kitchen.

Despite its past problems, the Adelphi was always known for having good beer and there was a good selection of real ales available on my visit.  These included Moorhouse’s Blond Witch, Hobgoblin and Sharp’s Atlantic from Cornwall.

Potentially, the Adelphi could become a goldmine.  It is Blackburn’s most central pub and sits in a great location between the railway and bus stations.  There is also great potential for shoppers calling in with it being the only open pub adjacent to the transport hubs and Morrison’s superstore.

It was traditionally the meeting point for nights out round Blackburn town centre and could be once again.  There’s also the added bonus of a brand new hotel and multi-storey office block across the road.  So hopefully, it could be a rosy future for the Adelphi.

Rock ‘n’ Real Ale – The Fight To Re-open Blackburn’s Napier Pub

Blackburn’s nightlife has been doom and gloom over the last few years. Pubs have closed, including the town’s only rock pub – the Sir Charles Napier. It was shut down by Thwaites in June 2015. But it’s looking on course to re-open, thanks to a spirited campaign mounted by its loyal and dedicated regulars.Nap

I met Alex Martindale from the Sir Charles Napier Community Interest Company. He only found out the day after the pub closed its doors in June last year, despite being a regular and playing music there for many years. A meeting was organized which attracted a 100 strong turnout of regulars wanting to save the pub. This led to the formation of a non-profit company, made up of 60 members.

The company’s board of directors includes Alex, Nick Brown – former landlord of the Hope and Anchor in Accrington. Lisa Morton – the Treasurer, from Phoenix Rising. Hilary Carr – who will be involved in the food side of the pub and Daniel Colletta from the Chocolateer shop. Hilary and Nick will be the two managers, with Nick becoming the pub’s licensee.

Thwaites still own the building, but the new company has no tie to the brewery. Alex says they intend to make the pub a free house, putting on at least two or three lines of cask ale. They would like to sell local beers, such as Three B’s and Hop Star.

The Napier is known for being Blackburn’s home of rock music, but it will be welcoming to everybody. The pub intends to have sports teams, including darts, dominoes, pool and a pub quiz team. Karaoke and Open Mic nights are planned. Music will take place in the upstairs bar, where a stage is being built. Here, community groups will have the facilities made available and students will record sessions with groups for college coursework and make use of the pub’s equipment.

When asked about the highlights of the Save the Napier Campaign, Alex focused on the involvement of Rob Halford from Judas Priest. He gave his time for their Kickstarter video, which can be found on the Save the Napier website and Facebook page. He also mentioned the benefit gig at Blakey’s for the campaign. Sky Valley Mistress headlined and £600 was raised. A £6,000 council grant was also secured.

Low points of the campaign included dealing with the bureaucracy of trying to turn the pub into an Asset of Community Value (ACV). But the campaign managed this successfully.

Back to financial matters, the Napier committee has raised over £12,500 to invest in the pub. But this is only half of what they require. They are looking for investors, and are offering investments from £1000 3 year fixed term at 4% APR where tax relief is available. Alex is happy to discuss investment opportunities, please contact save@thenapier.co.uk or call Alex on 07710692226. The company directors are keen to meet potential investors to share and discuss business planning documents.

Alex was asked the most important question: Will the pub reopen? He said he was extremely confident it will. A momentum has built up to raise the rest of the money. He expects the pub to re-open in May – less than a year after it closed. This could be a turning point in rescuing Blackburn’s nightlife – all thanks to the regulars of the rock pub that wouldn’t roll away.

Visit the campaign website:  https://thenapier.co.uk/

Quarryman’s Saved By The Girl Next Door

Upon this Rock

Upon this Rock

The Quarryman’s pub may have the distinction of being Blackburn’s smallest pub. It might now even be its highest above sea level, although they might disagree in the Black Bull and the three pubs up Haslingden Road.

What should be agreed upon is how well the ‘Quarry’ has done to survive at all, where others in its local area have not. In some cases, it has been no thanks to Daniel Thwaites and their restrictive covenant obsession. So this little pub and the Alexandra, just down Dukes Brow, are all that is left of Blackburn’s ‘Revidge Run’. This was the surrounding area of a triangle made up of Revidge Road, Dukes Brow and Preston New Road. There used to be nine pubs, including the nearby Corporation Park and Woodlands. But now only two remain.

Make no mistake; the Quarryman’s has had its problems over the years too, even allegedly being haunted by a ghost called Albert. He is said to have been an unlucky victim of an accident with a beer barrel in the pub’s cellar. Unfortunately the only spirits I’ve ever seen in here are called rum, whisky and vodka.

But still being open as a pub is no mean feat these days. The Quarryman’s even had its name changed to the Duck and Puddle for a time. Thankfully this didn’t last and it reverted back to its proper name, reflecting this area’s quarrying tradition. Hopefully its life as a pub will be prolonged by the arrival of Rebecca – the girl next door.

Becky and her partner actually do live in the property next door, which makes up half of the same building. She has a good pedigree in Blackburn’s local pub trade. Her mother used to have the Hare and Hounds on the other side of the hill. Becky also has experience of working in the Red Lion, Holehouse and Griffin. Becky and her partner moved next door to the Quarryman’s in May. Her partner works full-time, which means, as a couple with a young family, they are not dependant on income from the pub.

On my first visit it was good to see Holt’s cask ale was still available and in good condition. Hopefully, this should encourage Blackburn’s CAMRA members and real ale drinkers to pay the pub a visit. There is even a bus stop right across the road. The No.9 Revidge bus runs past the pub from town every hour until 5.55pm. On weekdays the pub opens at 3.00pm and at twelve on Saturdays and Sundays.

Blackburn’s Outer Circle Real Ale Trail

Blackburn's Outer Circle Real Ale Trail

A circular tour of Blackburn

If you fancy a scenic tour of some of Blackburn’s pubs, jump aboard the Outer Circle bus and buy a £4.20 all day ticket. This will take you not only on multiple journeys around town, but also round Darwen and Hyndburn.

This service started around 30 years ago. It differs from other Blackburn buses by traversing the suburbs and not going into the town centre. It is mainly used by workers, school and college students and Rovers fans on match days.

My journeys usually start and finish on Revidge Road. The Quarryman’s and Alexandra are just down the road from here. At the other end of Revidge, it’s a short walk to the Hare and Hounds down Lammack Road. A similar length of walk down Pleckgate Road takes you to the Royal Oak.

Unfortunately you have to travel a long way before you come across another pub which sells real ale. This pub is Whitebirk’s O’Marley’s Red Lion – arguably Blackburn’s oldest continuously used pub. JW Lees is served in here and occasionally they brew their own ale.

Just a hundred yards up Whitebirk Road is where this bus lives. A bit higher up the hill is The Forester’s. I had some really good Theakston’s Lightfoot in here. I wasn’t so light on my feet after a few of these.

At the top of the hill our bus turns into the hospital grounds. But if you get off and turn left, a five minute walk brings you to a couple of pubs in Blackburn’s wonderfully named suburb of Guide. The Willows is a modern pub with a booming restaurant service, but a good choice of real ale is also available. Good ale is also served in the more traditional King Edward VII further up the road.

Back on the bus, you have to travel almost halfway across town for another pint of real ale. But the journey is worth it as you hit real ale country in Blackburn’s Ewood and Livesey districts. At the bottom of Livesey Branch Road, on Ewood itself is the Fox and Hounds. Derek the landlord has been in the game for years and keeps a good pint of Thwaites.

Further up the Branch Road, you have three pubs selling real ale very close to each other. The Brown Cow, White Bull and Moorgate receive many visits from me during the football season. There is also the Lord Raglan a little further up the hill, just off the Branch Road, on Kings Road.

From Livesey, the Outer Circle travels down Green Lane. At the bottom of here is a ginnel above Cherry Tree Station which brings you out at the Station pub. It is a good choice of Thwaites in here, including some of their craft beer. Across the road in the Beehive is another good choice of real ale.

The Outer Circle travels down Brothers Street from Green Lane. A short walk along the canal from here is the Navigation. This pub is one of Blackburn’s success stories, having shut down at one point. Now it serves a good pint of cask and is the perfect break for a stroll along the cut.

The last leg of my journey home brings me to Witton Stocks. Near the crossroads is the Witton Inn. This is a nice pub, selling nice cask from Three Bees. What could be better? It all makes for a nice cheap tour of Blackburn’s suburban hostelries – apart from what you spend on your real ale tipple of course. So why not invest £4.20 in a bus ticket and go on a real ale tour of your own.

Ollie’s Ender Bender

Ollie's last stand

Ollie’s last stand

During a recent holiday in Malta, Sylvia my girlfriend and I visited its capital, Valletta.

We had a look around the harbour and climbed a steep gradient to pass the Carmelite church with its famous dome. But continuing up the same road leads you to a non-religious building which has become a place of pilgrimage in its own right. It was Sylvia who spotted this place, after various attempts were made to find a suitable watering hole. I wasn’t even sure about going in at first, but she was up for a beer.

Simply called ‘The Pub’, it is where the great British actor and hell-raiser, Oliver Reed, finished off life’s last great session. Perhaps the most fitting name for his demise, at least Ollie can say he died in ‘The Pub’ – exactly where he, and many more of us, would have wanted to draw our last breath.

Ollie was only 61 when he died in The Pub on May 2nd 1999. He called in during a break from filming ‘Gladiator’. This multi Oscar winning epic ended up being dedicated to him following his death. Ollie bumped into the Royal Navy crew, from HMS Cumberland, who were on shore leave, and had a great time. The landlord of The Pub said the last round he bought was eight beers, 12 double rums and half a bottle of whisky.

Sylvia and I were much more sedate during our visit to this hostelry. First person we bumped into was Steve; a Malta based Hells Angel, from Preston. He used to frequent Blackburn’s much missed Vulcan Hotel. He rode off into the sunset and few more came in. We had a collection of people from both sides of the Irish border, a German who spoke really good English and a Scouser called Phil.

Like Blackburn’s Quarryman’s, The Pub is only a small hostelry, which creates a good atmosphere when only a few punters are inside. There were only a dozen in when we had our afternoon session here. Prices are a little on the steep side at over €3 for a pint of Malta’s local beer. But with the euro at its low point, it wasn’t bad value at the time.

We enjoyed our afternoon in this appropriately named Valletta building. No doubt its reputation will grow and it will become one of the top attractions to visit in Malta. As Oliver Reed famously said: “You meet a better class of people in pubs”.

Blackburn Town Centre’s Real Ale Revival

Times

Times are a changing – for the better

Blackburn Times is now selling cask beer.  This means most of the town centre’s pubs have real ale available.

At one time we reached a low point of cask ale only being available in just four town centre pubs: Molloy’s, the Adelphi, Postal Order and Jubilee.  Other pubs said they sold cask, but it never seemed to be on when they were visited.

Since then things have improved by leaps and bounds.  The turning point was Last Orders installing a hand pump and selling Tetley’s cask bitter.  Their sister pub, Blackburn Times, took a little longer to follow suit, but has now gone with the flow.  Now it shifts its real ale very quickly and this might make them look at increasing their selection?

We can now even buy real ale on the Barbary Coast.  Zy Bar may be the last name in the telephone directory, but it’s first on the list of Barbary Coast pubs if you want a decent pint.

There are still a few pubs where only chemic is on offer, but real ale is now the name of the game.  It will soon register with them when punters come in and leave straight away when they can’t have a pint of cask.

Things are on the up, but it’s still only seven town centre pubs where you can buy real ale.  For a town of its size, Blackburn should have far more pubs.  But, to use an overworked phrase:  We are where we are.  Before we can expect new pubs to open, or the mothballed ones to come back, we need the existing ones full of punters.

The Times they are a changing – for the better – and it’s now time people stopped whingeing about Blackburn’s town centre, got off their computers and paid the pubs a visit.

Blackburn Festival 2014 – Knocked out by Tyson

Rain had fallen in the morning and the festival was being held at the less atmospheric Witton instead of the natural amphitheatre of Corpy Park. But there was a day out to be had and it was my girlfriend’s birthday.fest 3

After catching the Outer Circle bus to Green Lane, we called in the Station and Beehive to try their real ales before visiting the festival. A hog roast teacake apiece gave our stomachs a much-needed lining. Next door to the rotating pig was the beer tent. There was already a good crowd inside and outside the tent. We could see why – They were selling Darwen’s Hop Star beer.

I’ve met Barry Tyson, the brewery’s founder, on many occasions at CAMRA festivals. It’s good to see how well the brewery is flourishing with his daughter, Natalie, at the helm. What particularly impressed me today was how well the ale had been prepared for the event and its pristine condition. Outside festivals can sometimes lead to barrels being knocked about, leading to cloudy beer. But they got it right today.

A pint of Blonde got me going, while my girlfriend opened her account with the 7% cider. Sadly for Sylvia, it didn’t take long for the cider to sell out. This was probably down to lager not being on sale. But as a real ale drinker, I wasn’t going to shed any tears about this. The wine soon sold out too and it was looking like the real ale might go the same way.

It was tempting to not leave the beer tent, but we had come to a festival. We went for an ice cream and watched a few groups play. And then we found ourselves in the midst of the crowd dancing with the Indian drummers. After my head stopped jangling, it was time to go back to the beer tent and make it jangle again through a more pleasant imbibing process.

Natalie’s ale was too good to miss and their Lancashire Gold and Lush were put away, along with a Summer ale. It was a good afternoon’s indulgence, but time to make a sharp exit before the real ale ran out. No doubt others would have similar thoughts to mine, so our party of five headed for the aptly named Witton Inn. My foresight was rewarded with an excellent pint of Blackburn’s finest – Three B’s beer. It was Weaver’s Brew tonight.

Last stop before home was the Quarryman’s up the hill. Holt’s beer finished off a really good day out. Blackburn might be running out of pubs, but it’s certainly not running out of great beer. And a good time can still be had if you go looking for it.

Prime Reason To Visit The Barrel House

I finally got to visit the land of my birth after half a century.Prime Barrel

Larnaca is eight miles from my Dhekelia Sovereign Base Area birthplace.  It has a pub, not to be missed by serious beer drinkers, called the Barrel House.  Located centrally down a leafy street, between the American Academy and Metro Market, it looks and feels like a genuine British pub.  It was good to see the effort they are making in here and definitely worth your support and encouragement.

Panayiotis, behind the bar, certainly spoils you for choice of beers from all around the world and he was friendly, enthusiastic about beer and very helpful.  But tonight he was the support act.  Star of the show was Loizos, the man behind Cyprus’s Prime Microbrewery.

This family owned brewery is based near Aiya Napa and is the first microbrewery in Cyprus.  Loizos said he had enjoyed beers across Europe, including real ale in Britain.  Unfortunately the hot weather of Cyprus makes the process of producing cask ale very difficult.  But he said he is working on it and will get there.

“We only use natural ingredients because we believe that beer must be a 100% natural product. Chemical and additives are not and will never be part of our beer or brewing mentality”.

Prime source their hops from Britain and New Zealand.  Which is a nice connection for me, being a Cyprus-born Brit and my sister Carole, living in New Zealand.

The main event for Sylvia, my girlfriend, and I was sampling Prime’s beer.  First up for me was their Golden Ale.  At 4.5% it was the right strength for this kind of beer.  It tasted nice and managed to avoid any tanginess.  IPA followed, very good too and I was beginning to think I was back in a pub in breezy Blighty, rather than sunny Cyprus.  Sylvia had a wheat beer, which I moved on to next.  Other punters in the Barrel House hadn’t seen a pint like this before and questioned my sanity in drinking such a cloudy drink.  But this was the real deal and those of us who enjoy wheat beers know it is cloudy and you don’t drink with your eyes.

Unfortunately for Sylvia and me, this enjoyable tasting event in the Barrel House had to come to an end.  It was refreshing, in more ways than one, to see Larnaca has a great pub waiting to be discovered.  And now the island has its own great microbrewery with a nice selection of beers waiting to be discovered too.