Friday 1st April 2016
Micropubs come in all shapes and formats and this one is quite unique in its concept and yet it is totally in keeping with its surroundings in the dormitory village of Birkdale. This, you may have heard of, as it gives its name to the Royal Birkdale Golf Club, where the British Open is sometimes played. This is a links course and is to be found amongst the dunes to the south.
Birkdale is just a mile south of Southport and has similar Victorian architecture to its larger neighbour, albeit on a smaller scale. I was with Linda, Peter, John and Ted on this particular day and as we walked the very short distance from the railway station we admired the many small shops with their wrought iron porches. The village has undergone a renaissance over the last few years and it was pleasing to see independent butchers, fishmongers, bakers and cheese shops.
It is against this background that the Barrel House was created. Sainsbury’s were planned to open a convenience store. Martin Bos and his wife Pam ran the local newsagents shop and were anxious about losing trade to the supermarket. So, he reinvented his premises as micropub cum off-licence cum café and it re-opened on 24th May 2014.
It was just after 11.00 when we went in. Looking around I could see this was quite a small shop. Taking up most of the space along the left side wall were shelves of bottled beers with even more in fridges below.
The bar counter is at the rear of the room and has a sort of bamboo effect on the front. The bar top is very crowded with beer taps, hand pumps, a display case and a coffee machine on the right side. To the left there are shelves of newspapers as they are still sold here. They also offer a delivery service which Sainsbury’s doesn’t.
The right side wall is decorated with wallpaper with images of fern leaves. It is here that most of the blackboards displaying the various drinks offered. In keeping with its function as a café they sell a wide range of teas and coffees.
There is a range of furniture and somehow there are five tables in the room. For seating there are stools and chairs, some even made of rattan cane. The smallness of the main room is compensated by the outside drinking area which is in a cordoned off area in front of the pub. It’s the ideal place to watch the parking wars that seem to be prevalent around here.
Although it is definitely a micropub because of its size, it couldn’t be any other way, it does offer a range of drinks that is not dissimilar to that of a conventional pub. There are some spirits and a very wide range of wines along the previously-mentioned teas (loose leaf) and five types of coffee along with hot chocolate. Naturally there are soft drinks and mixers.
However, like existing pubs they also serve keg beers, lager and ales. Yet, naturally they offer cask beers through the two hand pumps. When we visited they were Bowland (Clitheroe, Lancashire) Pheasant Plucker (3.7%) and an oddity.
The Oceanic Beer Co have purchased the rights to the images of the erstwhile White Star Shipping Line. But, they don’t have a brewery so they brew on the plant of the Liverpool Craft Brewery in that city. Their beer on that day was Pier 59 NY (4.0%) which refers to the exact point the White Star liners berthed in New York. It was where Titanic was heading before it hit the iceberg.
This pub is the centre of Birkdale village life and should be visited if you are in the area.
The Barrel House, 42 Liverpool Road, Birkdale, Merseyside PR8 4AY. Tel: 01704 566601
Hours: Monday-Sunday 10.00-22.00
A big plus is its proximity to Birkdale railway station which is just around the corner and has a very frequent service, every 15 minutes throughout the day, every day.
Going south it is the first station out of Southport, running through Bootle, through Liverpool (Moorfields and Central stations) and on to Hunt’s Cross, calling at Liverpool South Parkway (Liverpool John Lennon Airport). There are also buses through Birkdale.
From the station you need to get over to east side of the station where the trains depart for Liverpool. Use the subway or the road crossing, if it is open. Turn right and just bear right with the road past all the shops until your destination is reached.