A tour around Runcorn
On a sunny Friday evening in July I completed a short pub tour of Runcorn's Old Town beginning at Runcorn's main railway station, which, thanks to the opening of the Halton Curve railway line in May, now receives hourly trains direct from Chester as well as the usual West Coast trains from Crewe and beyond.
The Lion is located minutes from the station, up Shaw Street, and it is a comfortable, U-shaped locals' drinking pub that also welcomes visitors. Two regionally-sourced cask ales are always available and I opted for Rudgate's 3.8% golden ale 'Viking' from York, which was refreshing, on good form and served by pleasant staff. Robinson's hoppy 3.8% 'Right Beer, Right Now' was the other ale.
Heading north along Greenway Road towards the Bridgewater Canal leads to Runcorn's newest pub/restaurant the Ten Lock Flight. The extensive open-plan premises is smartly divided into a small bar area and three dining areas. The vibrant artwork on the walls celebrates landmarks such as the Grade I-listed Halton Castle and also Runcorn's yesteryear industries. Thwaites's 'Wainwright', Wychwood's 'Hobgoblin' and Banks's 4.2% 'Sunbeam' were the three cask ales on sale at this Marston's outlet and the latter ale, Midlands-brewed pale ale certainly captured the bright, radiant late afternoon atmosphere extremely well.
Taking the foot bridge over the canal and beyond Brindley Arts Centre, Church Street's Ferry Boat is just minutes away and it is the town's JDWetherspoon outlet. It usually supplements its three regular cask ales with at least two still ciders and up to five guest cask ales, including a LocAle. On my visit the 5% 'Oatmeal Stout' from Birkenhead's Peerless was on alongside Cameron's 4.5% pale ale 'Roadside', the 4.1% 'British Bulldog' from Kent's Westerham brewery and a 4.6% mahogany-coloured 'Plum Porter' from Suffolk's St Peter's brewery. This speciality porter was flavoured richly with blackcurrants and damsons and, moreover, it was served in splendid condition.
Mersey Road, which runs to the rear of the Ferry Boat, leads to a footpath near the bank of the Manchester Ship canal, where breezy, invigorating views across the Mersey Estuary can be enjoyed. I continued west along this path as far as Queen Ethelfleda's majestic railway bridge and upon turning left onto Brindley Street, reached CAMRA Halton's 2019 pub of the year, the Society Tap Rooms. This is a brewery tap and a music venue run by Blueball brewery. It comprises a bar area, a brewing area that opens when music events and beer festivals are on, and a yard directly beneath the railway arch. The modern style mixes the florid and the lavishly artful with industrial functionality in an intelligent, coordinated way; the place could be somewhere in deepest hipster Hackney, but it's not, it's in Runcorn!
Anyway, as well as a still cider, the 4.6% 'Slack Alice', the bar was serving three cask ales: Salopian's 4.1% 'Hair of the Dog', Blueball's 6% 'Ninja Juice' and the 5.5% IPA 'Out of Pique' brewed by the Halton-based, award-winning Chapter Brewery. My take on Chapter's IPA is, a moderate citrus burst followed by contrasting roasted, grassy, herby flavours. It was strange yet thoroughly decent and served in excellent condition. Further, chatting with the affable locals, a mix of all ages, was a joy. The STR was my favourite and final visit of the tour and, conveniently, it's within short walking distance of Runcorn's main railway station. Cask ale pubs are thriving in Runcorn Old Town!