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pubs: British Guild of Beer Writers' Best Regional Writer.

Byline: Mike Chapple at the bar...

AFTER popping into the Old Post Office to see how one pub was trying its best to survive amid the Big Dig inconvenience, this column decided to again pay a visit to another facing similar circumstances.

The Baltic Fleet alehouse opposite the waterfront is one of Liverpool's greatest.

Owned by Simon Holt, it also houses Wapping, the finest of microbreweries, whose beers created by Stan Shaw have captivated the connoisseurs. For instance, it recently came third in the Bottled Conditioned Beer category in the Champion Beer of Great Britain with its Baltic Gold.

Shame that it's surrounded by what looks like a bomb site on one side and the interminable Strand roadworks on the other.

It's approach doesn't make you feel any better, having to go past the white elephant emptiness that is the new bus terminus.

What with that and additional depressing developments such as the Mathew Street debacle and the latest no wheels on our wagon scenario from Merseyrail, Yours Truly wasn't feeling in the best of spirits about our birthday city in the trudge from Castle Greyskull.

But that was all about to change on arrival.

The inside of this intriguing flat iron-shaped building is a haven for the maritime-minded, and its simple rustic feel puts you in mind of what Robert Louis Stephenson may have been thinking about with Treasure Island's Admiral Benbow

There's even a half expectation a Long John Silver-ish Robert Newton may burst in to let loose with a volley of "shiver me timbers" before latching on to the bar to get lashed - and we're not talking cat o' nine tails.

Even better is the pub's front, moulded like the stern of the Hispaniola ship.

It would afford the best view of the Three Graces you could hope for, burnished gold in the setting sun. It would - except, that is, for being contaminated by what appears to be the abandoned building site next door.

Tenant landlord Mark Yates said that since the giant cranes were removed over a year ago, the appearance of an on-site workie has been as rare as a match where Sir Alex Ferguson isn't pointing at his wrist watch to the referee during injury time.

And like the Old Post Office, it has been cursed with the label that many people think that it's closed while the bulldozers do their work - or not, as in this case.

The double whammy of course, is the cancellation of the aforesaid street festival, the overspill from which passed on great business to the Fleet last year.

Not so this. But if you are a stranger to its delights and perhaps here for the surviving Beatles Week, the 800th birthday celebrations or even the street festival's sickly gimp boy underground replacement, go out of your way to join the Fleet.

Its home-grown Wapping beers are simply superb.

Occasional Pub companions Boothie and the Tyke enjoyed perfect pulls of Summer Gold and Baltic Gold, while Yours Truly supped the feisty malty bitter Figurehead and the dark magnificence of the Smoked Porter, which gives a massive broadside to both the brain and the taste buds.

The perfect head on the pint is that the pub is the city centre "tent" for Sons of the Desert, the Laurel and Hardy appreciation society

Set up by Mark's son, Kevin, they show some of the duo's classic films on the last Tuesday of every month, which just happens to fall on our birthday next week.

What better way to bring a smile back to your face after another fine mess we've gotten ourselves into.

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The Baltic Fleet pub, at Wapping
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Daily Post (Liverpool, England)
Date:Aug 25, 2007
Words:610
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