It is with a heavy heart that I report the loss of an old friend. The Irby Mill pub, Greasby, Wirral, has gone — right down the pan!
Note: Check out the comments for up to date info – the Mill is currently closed and the perpetrators of these crimes against one of Wirral best pubs have apparently gone bust.
For many years this pub was one of the best real ale outlets in the area, with a wide selection of first-class, well-kept beers and friendly service. Not any more, though.
We called in yesterday lunchtime, for a truly appalling and mercifully brief experience. What had been a nice little country pub, on the edge of suburbia, had been subjected to the most barbaric of make-overs, the normal pub furniture, which fitted nicely into the tiny proportions of the bar, had been replaced with the most hideously clunky and mis-proprtioned furniture – it couldn’t have been less elegant had it been hewn from old railways sleepers – Jack must have found stuff like this at the top of his beanstalk! The thought that trees have died for this is depressing. Subtle it ain’t, and the available seating has been dramatically reduced. Oh, and the bar stool seats had knobs on the front corners – what the bloody hell is that about? If it’s to ensure customers don’t linger at the bar, hey, it works, but here’s a thought, people – the customer decides where he wants to be, not you, and setting out knobby stools says just one thing – screw you, I’m off! If you don’t want customers to sit at the bar, don’t put out stools – it couldn’t be any simpler.
In addition, right inside the front door is another monstrous table and chairs where none have ever been in the past, totally blocking access for wheelchair users who nerd to turn left to get into the only accessible room. Of course, if they hadn’t screwed up the seating, that wouldn’t be necessary. Necessary or not, it’s an infringement of the law.
The first thing that met us on opening the door was the stench of old garlic – followed a few minutes later by the overwhelming stench of fresh garlic, in quantities to match the gargantuan furniture, in a meal being served to a small group right by the bar. What sort of halfwit sells such stinky food in a room where beer is served, and in such close proximity? It contaminates everything, and my clothes still stink of it. I like garlic, I really do, but someone else’s stench should NOT be foisted upon the rest of the customers, not when they have another – and empty – room available.
So, bellying up to the bar, I was dismayed to see than the majority of the hand-pumps had been ripped out (that the bar top has just been patched and not replaced speaks volumes), and the few that remained were corroded and unpolished. Anyway, expecting the worst, I asked my usual question when I go to a pub at lunchtime (especially one I haven’t been to for a while), I asked which beers had actually been sold that day. Oh, all of them, I was assured (a good trick in a conspicuously almost-empty pub, even though there were few beers). Except one which was apparently off, as the surly barmaid – who I think may have been the manageress – quickly turned the pump-clip round.
We ordered a couple of pints of Sharp’s Doom Bar, and got two pints of murk, and the barmaid vanished so fast we thought she might have been an illusion! Oh, and there was a charmless notice on the wall stating that customers who went into the kitchen wanting service at the bar from staff who had buggered off to serve food and not come back (I know because I asked) – NEVER a problem in the past, by the way – were committing an offence. Cobblers! It might be annoying, but no laws are being broken – lighten up you tedious sods, and serve your customers. Although, given the quality of the beer when we where there, please don’t! Mind you, given the speed with which our barmaid vanished – and stayed gone for an unfeasibly long time, god knows why, the place only had a handful of customers and we were two of them – I don’t blame customers for getting impatient. You want my money, I expect an efficient and preferably friendly service in exchange!
Having first waited for the cloudy beer to clear (ha!), we then had to wait five minutes for Her Charmlessness to reappear, when the following conversation ensued as I politely gave her back the crap beer and asked for something else:-
Her: “What’s wrong with it?”
Me: “Well, for a start you can’t actually see through it…”
“Have you tasted it?”
“No, I don’t drink cloudy beer!”
“Well, we were serving it all last night and nobody complained…” (If that’s true then the customers surely deserve all they get; of course, that may have meant the the beer was clear the previous night, and near the end of the cask when we arrived – hence the cloudiness – but I’m certain she was saying that it was just as horrible then.)
“Well, there you go, that’s their choice; It’s my choice not to drink cloudy beer for which there’s no excuse.”
So she grudgingly gave us something else, Charles Wells’ Bombardier, which was somewhat clear, but not very, and nowhere near sparkling, and which tasted and smelled musty, so we gave up – I left mine, it was undrinkable – and went out to phone a taxi and go to the pub we normally go to, and should have gone in the first place, but who could have guessed that such an old favourite could have become so dismal?
Now I’ve never had Sharp’s beer before, but it occurred to me afterwards that Doom Bar (named after a sandbank, of which it appeared to contain a fair portion), might possibly have been a wheat beer, which can be naturally cloudy (but if so, why didn’t the numpty barperson say so?), so I’ve checked their website and, no, it’s not. There’s no indication that it should be naturally cloudy, and the picture of a bottle of the stuff shows it to be as bright as I expected it to be.
A note for those unfamiliar with cask beers – there is absolutely no excuse for these to be cloudy or to contain any solid matter at all. Real ale is not a synonym for murky crap – real ale should be a bright as lager. That it tastes a hell of a lot better goes without saying. Never, unless it’s wheat beer, accept cloudy beer as it is ALWAYS a sign that something is wrong with it (and if you run a pub and don’t know this or, worse, don’t care, then you may like to consider a new career). It may be innocuous, if it’s just been put on a bit too soon (still wrong, though), or it may go through you like a dose of salts and leave you feeling as if you’ve been reamed out with a wire brush. Don’t drink it! Far too many people in pubs will drink any old garbage they’re given, and standards won’t improve until more customers make a stand – and stop leaving it to people like me!
(I’m tempted to form CRAPBeer – the Campaign to Reject Awful Pints of Beer, it’s such a widespread problem.)
So, out of five beers, one was off and two were undrinkable – doesn’t fill you with confidence, does it? As far as I’m concerned, the Irby Mill is beyond redemption and is probably doomed to failure. Hopefully.
By the way, my comment about unpolished hand-pumps isn’t just pickiness. I feel very strongly that if the parts of a pub that are right in front of a customer’s nose aren’t clean, then it bodes ill for the parts that are out of sight. I won’t eat in a pub with mucky bar furniture, and I’m not that fond of drinking in them.
And one final point. If bar staff didn’t bugger off for no apparent reason (serving food isn’t an acceptable reason – they have a bar to run – pay a waiter/ess you cheap sods) – and stay gone – you wouldn’t piss customers off to the point where they felt the need to go and seek out staff, and then you wouldn’t have to post such a churlish notice. Me? Bugger that, I’d just leave – any pub that puts up a stupid notice, rather than fix the problem, doesn’t deserve any custom, never mind mine. Not that it’s a problem for me, as the only thing that will get me back there is a change of management – someone who knows how to run a pub, and keep the beer in good nick, and understand the concept of a service industry. Customers are not cash-cows, to be treated with casual contempt (it’s clear the Irby Mill has restaurant pretensions, rather than being content to be a pub with food, and that’s bad news for everyone, because there are better eateries nearby, but there’s a dearth of very good pubs). And talking to a local guy, as we left, a hell of a lot of other people feel the same way.
Update, December 2 I’m getting some personal feedback to suggest that the Mill has been restored to it’s former role as a real-ale pub, which is very good news.