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Mike Chapple at the bar.. Maritime/pubs.

THE Pub Column went to see a newfeature film last week.

There were high hopes that it wouldn't be just one moremovie about a Liverpool bursting with drugs, gangsters, washed-up could-have-been-contenders, chip-on-the-shoulder scalls and a run-down city bar culture policed by drive-by shootings and "you're dead, mate" ambassadors on dead end streets.

But it was. Yes, we know that sober Rebeccas from Sunnybrook Farmdon't skip down Seel Street after Saturday midnight, dispensing flowers from wicker baskets with cheesy grins and a "hail fellowwell met" attitude. Precisely the opposite, and that's why the Pub Column regularly avoids tripping into the city's clubland for a drink at particular times.

But for Gawd's sake this place ain't so bad at all, and over the years this old lag has felt far more uncomfortable on the mean streets of so-called genteel places elsewhere. Whichmade the cinematic experience all the more depressing by what was to follow.

We - that is the Echo's ale guru Paddy Shennan and yours truly - had hopped on a Virgin (train, that is) gleefully escaping Castle Greyskull for an evening of gratuitous glugging at the annual bash of the esteemed

British Guild of Beer Writers in London.

We'll bypass an elongated description of the inevitable ( ie, line failure, train termination at Rugby, more rail misery, blahdee-flippin'-blah) and fast forward a fewhectic hours to finally sitting down for the awards dinner at the swish MillenniumGloucester Hotel, in Kensington.

The ambitious menu had been prepared by that TV chef Brian Turner, and each gourmet dish was accompanied by what has become the standard for such occasions, a complementary real ale.

As with anything that's been prepared simultaneously for nearly 200 guests, this was always going to be an ambitious affair and some of it didn't quite come off.

Plus, even with four courses of nouvelle cuisine, you're always left feeling afterwards like popping into the chippie to top up with a less glamorous, but more substantial, meat and potato pie, mushy peas and gravy.

The culinary triumph, though, was the main course of roast loin of Irish venison, horse radish potato, pickled cabbage, creamed carrots and hop gravy washed down with a pint of this city's very own Cains 2008, brewed in celebration of our Capital of Culture year.

And thereby hangs the tale. The ever amiable Sudarghara Dusanj, Cains joint managing director, as the sponsors of the Best Regional Writer category, was there to present the pounds 1,000 top prize which went to - gulp - us.

A nd when I say us, I mean me, you, and all the others who visit the great pubs of Merseyside featured in this column (although, if you each want a pint from the winnings, you're too late, pal - it's already gone to pay the overdraft).

But seriously folks, highlighting what a great place this is to go out drinking and, well, just to live in full stop, it seems that some people - at least those on the judging panel - are starting to listen.

What left a bitter taste that had nothing to do with the ale was the mass derisory laughter from the fellowdiners which greeted the announcement that the winner would also be entitled to a weekend for two in Liverpool.

Paddy and I stared at each other and just shook our heads at the continuing ignorance of those who never venture north of High Wycombe.

But, when we ourselves continue to be so convincing in reinforcing the stereotypes about this place being the proverbial ****hole, who can really blame them?

Which is where we came in.


British Guild of Beer Writers' Best Regional Writer, Mike Chapple, sups a fine pint
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Publication:Daily Post (Liverpool, England)
Date:Dec 16, 2006
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