Working in Liverpool means that people assume you’re an expert on the whole city’s beer, when in fact I tend to rattle around the same city centre sites. Not through choice you understand, but another side effect of working in Liverpool is that people warn you to steer clear of certain areas, and these are, in fact, all the other areas (apart from Woolton).
Smithdown Road is a very long thoroughfare which I had only encroached on a little when visiting Toxteth Cemetery and having a disappointing jacket potato in the ‘Big Asda’ (don’t ask). I had noticed a few independent bars but hadn’t had the opportunity to get down there until an invite to go and do an open mic night at the Evil Eye.
My friend Vinnie is refreshingly new to the craft beer scene and is either a lunatic or a visionary in his quest for beer discovery. He recently mixed two different cans of Brewdog and declared the mixture ‘a solid 8 out of 10’. I have yet to test this cocktail but it keeps me awake at night.
Vinnie met me at the Brookhouse, a massive studenty place which specialises in cheap food and drinks deals. There were two different sections of bar which as usual led to me standing at the wrong one for a good while before someone pointed out that there was no service in this bit and ‘there should be a sign’. I had a pint of Blue Moon, and they apologised for not having orange for it. Not like the student pubs I used to frequent where asking for a clean glass was greeted with eyerolls and led to you being nicknamed ‘the Duchess’ for three years.
We had plans to visit the Handyman Supermarket as well as the Evil Eye so we got a lining on with some cheap burgers. On the menu were two which included cheesy wotsits or monster munch as an optional topping. What a world. Vinnie’s chicken burger was assaulted with some random dehydrated mango which was less a taste of the Caribbean and more a taste of the behind the fridge at Turtle Bay. I tried to describe my fish burger. “It’s burnt,” said Vinnie. Yes, burnt was the word I was looking for. The anaemic microwave chips were quite depressing also, but it was just to soak up alcohol. Vinnie valiantly tried to rescue the meal by getting us ice cream sundaes featuring chocolate cake and by God it worked.
On to the Handyman Supermarket where they had a number of wonderful beers on offer but I had to have the Sour as it is one of my favourite beers of all time. Vinnie at this point was introduced to the notion of the schooner, and instantly dismissed it as an option. He later said that drinking a schooner in my company would be like smoking with Snoop Dogg and choosing a Benson and Hedges. Vinnie moved on to the IPA after the sour but I rigidly stuck to it, the sharp fruitiness tricking me into believing that I wasn’t really getting drunk and that I would certainly not fall off the stage at the Evil Eye.
Handyman is dog friendly which is great news for Vinnie and I who have an affinity for both dogs and booze. We met two dogs, a Yorkie and a whippet. I’m sure they had names but we were five pints deep at this point and so we just pointed and said “Dog!” like two year olds in the park. There was some kind of musical act happening in the back room which was interspersed with long speeches and projections – we didn’t wander over there as we had our own gig to do.
The Evil Eye is a burrito kitchen with a bar and stage, all rammed into a space not much bigger than the average living room. We found the only two spare seats, right next to the roaring fake fire, and I availed myself of the bar. Three from Tiny Rebel including Stay Puft on cask, which was hugely tempting. However it had been a pale and sour night so I got myself a Peaches and Cream and Vinnie a Clwb Tropicana. There was a spoken word artist on stage as we entered, followed by a duo who played The Cribs amongst others much to my delight. Less to my delight was the barman who asked if I was Vinnie’s mum. Must get more sleep in future.
As we hit the stage the whole PA stopped working which was a good sign. After some frantic unplugging and plugging it sprung to life. Can you do a three song set after six pints? Yes you can, and luckily everyone else was drunk too. Vinnie’s dad showed up at the end so I tagged him and sat enjoying my Peaches and Cream. You get a free shot for performing so that was our last one of the night, or so I thought.
I bade Vinnie farewell and headed off on the bus back to the train station. I had been so paranoid about missing the last train that I got there with a good forty minutes to spare so I nipped into the Sanctuary on the way home and bumped into Si, who recognised me from twitter somehow, and chatted about the opening of his new place on Aigburth Road. So stay tuned for more trips to the city outskirts, it’s where all the cool people go.