The craft beer scene is taking the UK by storm, and Liverpool is no exception. Philip Neil, who runs The Hopster beer blog, shares his tips on the best the city has to offer for lovers of ale
It would probably be fair to say I am a bit of a beer geek. I started my blog a little over a year ago because I love talking about beer. I’ve worked for a couple of breweries brewing and selling beer. A big part of what I enjoyed so much about those jobs was talking to people about beer. That was a big part of why started my blog. Most of the content consists of beer and brewery reviews. Maybe the occasional opinion piece.
Traditional pubs with good beer menus
The Ship and Mitre always have a full menu of cask beers. It has a very traditional feel to it and is generally considered one of Liverpool’s top “real ale” pubs. Their wall menu shows you all the cask and keg beers they currently have on and those that are coming soon. They do a pretty good job of getting ale from up and down the country. They also have an impressive range of bottles too. Plenty of great beers from Belgium and Germany. I can never help myself and always end up ordering a bottle of Orval. The Dispensary on Renshaw street is always worth a look as well. They generally have between six and eight ales on at any one time and they are known for keeping the beer in great condition.
The Ship and Mitre, 133 Dale St, L2 2JH, (0151 236 0859; website)
The Dispensary, 87 Renshaw St, L1 2SP, (0151 709 2160)
Bars for beer lovers
I would recommend Inn Beer Emporium on Renshaw Street. It’s in a great location, pretty central and very easy to find. Usually they have two or three cask ales from Liverpool Craft Beer Company and a good selection of keg beers too. You can probably expect to see Duvel and Weihenstephaner. Most likely you will find something from BrewDog as well. There’s also Bier on Newington. There is draught available, but I go there for what is in the fridges. They generally have some bottles from local breweries like Mad Hatter and some great US imports.
Restaurants that excel with their beer menu
I’m a fan of MelloMello on Slater Street. It’s a little vegetarian café with a great selection of beer. There is a good selection of draught available. Some great guest beers on tap and cask beer either brewed or selected by Liverpool Craft Beer Co. Their bottled beer menu is seriously impressive. They are constantly adding new beers from some of the best breweries in the UK. The Clove Hitch, where you will find the amazing 23 Club, also do some great food and fantastic beer.
Breweries you can visit
Mad Hatter Brewing Company just opened their new taproom in the Baltic Triangle on Watkinson Street. You can try their beer on cask, keg and in bottle. Very shortly they are going to move their brewery equipment there as well. So pretty soon people will be able to drink in the very place where the beer is brewed. You can’t get fresher than that!
Mad Hatter Brewing Company, website
Shops with the best range of beers
In Liverpool itself a good bet would probably be Ship in a Bottle on Whitechapel. It’s a sister company to the Ship and Mitre Pub, they have a pretty good selection of ales and beers from Europe and the USA. Londis Penny Lane is also worth checking out. It’s a small family run convenience store but they carry a very impressive range. Some great beers from UK craft breweries as well as top beers from around the world. It’s not actually in Liverpool itself, but I would also highly recommend the Emporium of Beers in St Helens. It’s about a twenty-five minute train journey from Liverpool Lime Street, but it is well worth the trip. I would go so far as to say they probably have one of the best selections, somewhere in the region of 450 different beers from all around the world.
Ship in a Bottle, 45A Whitechapel, L1 6DT, (website)
Londis Penny Lane, 47 Penny Ln, L18 1DE, (0151 733 1166, website)
Emporium of Beers, 54 Cambridge Road, St Helens, WA10 4HF, (01744 737578, website)
Essential Liverpool beer events
There are a bunch of beer festivals throughout the year but the big one for me has to be the Liverpool Craft Beer Expo in June. This year is only the second year it has been held but the inaugural event was so well organised and so much fun that it is THE key fixture on my Liverpool beer calendar. Plus it is organised by local brewery Liverpool Craft Beer Co. Last time I checked there were still tickets left for this year’s sessions.
5 – 8 Jun, Liverpool Craft Beer Expo, Camp & Furnace; website
Hidden gems for beer fans
Any discussion of Liverpool’s beer scene is sadly incomplete without mentioning the 23 Club. Located in the basement of the Clove Hitch Bistro on Hope Street, you could say it is pretty hidden. Always a fantastic range of around eight ever-changing keg beers, three or four on cask and probably one of the best bottle selections in the city. Beer from top breweries like Thornbridge, Tiny Rebel and the Kernel are common fixtures. The staff are very friendly and knowledgeable and they also make some great burgers to go with the beer.
23 Club, The Clove Hitch, 23 Hope St, L1 9BQ, (0151 709 6574, website)
24 hours in Liverpool for beer lovers
It would probably start with lunch at Almost Famous Burgers on Parr Street. Burgers, pulled pork and fries washed down with something hoppy from their fridge. Then a wander up to Inn Beer Emporium to walk off the heavy lunch and have a few pints of whatever Liverpool Craft Beer Co have on cask there. Then I would probably visit one of Liverpool’s more traditional pubs, maybe The Dispensary or The Philharmonic on Hope Street. The evening’s ultimate destination would be the Clove Hitch for dinner, before heading downstairs to the 23 Club for more beers.
Almost Famous Burgers, 11-13 Parr St, L1 4JN, (website)
Beers and breweries to look out for
Buxton was my brewery of the year for 2013. They brew incredible beer and have been expanding their production recently. I’ve really been enjoying their barrel aged beers like Sede Vacante whisky barrel aged imperial stout. Beavertown Brewery have just moved to bigger premises and have taken the exciting step to start canning their beer as well. A local brewery that has really impressed me is Liverpool Craft Beer Company. I love all their beers but I particularly love their West Coast Pale Ale. I was actually lucky enough to brew with them and take a look around their brewery a couple of months ago. Of course aside from brewing, what is really impressive about Liverpool Craft is their organisation of the Craft Beer Expo. Last year’s was a blast and they’ve got some fantastic new breweries on board for this year.
In case you missed it yesterday, bottles of our West Coast Pale (6.2%) and Rye Pale Ale (5.6%) are now available! pic.twitter.com/tMgnuGllwf
— Liverpool Craft Beer (@Craft_Beers) December 4, 2013
My all-time favourite beer
Got to be Buxton Brewery Axe Edge IPA. I’m a big hop head so IPA is probably my favourite style and Axe Edge is, in my opinion, one of the best India Pale Ales made in this country. Hops from America, Europe and New Zealand went into it so it is just full of big tropical and citrus fruit flavours. There’s a caramel malty base to it to balance out the bitter hops. I would highly recommend it.
Tips for home brewers
For home brewers first starting out the most important thing is to understand how to sanitise equipment properly. You need to get that right before you can do anything else. After that I would encourage people to get in touch in with other home brewers. Work together, experiment and try new things. This is the best way to learn.
Craft beer: future or fad?
The term craft beer may or may not die out. However, while its usage may fade I find it hard to believe that people will stop enjoying good beer. More and more people are taking an interest in their beer. There is more awareness of styles of beer, how it can be paired with food and so forth. Is it really likely that people will forget all that just suddenly return to drinking bland mass-marketed lager?