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The second instalment of the First Group's Ale Odyssey to Liverpool:
After decamping from the bijou bar of The Roscoe Head, we headed for the more expansive rooms of
The Philharmonic Dining Rooms
Earlier, when I'd told friends I was going on an ale excursion to Liverpool, they all told me: "You must visit The Phil."
I was expecting something special as we rounded Hope Street - and it didn't disappoint.
Gold leaf gilding on the archway entrance and stone balustrades above that made for an impressive facade.

Inside, the Grade II listed Victorian era pub had a semi circular front bar bar, which was sadly lacking in enticing ales.
Don't get me wrong, I'm a big fan of Nicholson's pubs and usually there are more than a few beers on to interest me. But apart from a Purity, which I'd had before, there was nothing to tempt me. It serves me right for being a bit of a beer snob.
But I didn't let that spoil my visit, I took my drink past the Brahms and Liszt rooms into the dining room with its chandeliers and plate glass ceiling panels.
I got a few stares from the group for drinking coffee, perhaps I should have opted for a brandy and a cigar as it would have fitted in more with the surroundings, which were a bit like a gentleman's club that Sherlock Holmes' smarter brother used to patronise.
Speaking of gentleman, everybody was saying you must visit the gents toilets as they are the finest in the land.
I paid a visit and and duly noted the "particularly attractive roseate marble" as mentioned in Ken Pye's Discover Liverpool guidebook.
After marvelling at Britain's finest pub toilets, it really was time to go to our next destination, The Belvedere
It lies on Sugnall Street and is another Grade II listed pub in Liverpool's Georgian quarter.
The bar was small with just enough room for high-backed chairs and loitering.

It's a little while since our visit, but I recall Liverpool Organic and Wirral-based Brimstage Brewery on the bar.

I went for the latter's Trapper's Hat, a 3.8 % pale beer, and took it into the spacious side room to the left of the bar.
According to Brimstage's website it was their first brew and remains very popular.
Sadly, it didn't do it for me, but having had a 7% heavily-hopped beer earlier in the session my taste buds were elsewhere.
I then got a serious case of drink envy when I saw one of our group cradling a great goblet of gin.
It turns out the pub is a 'GinNasium' with a fine collection of gins from home and abroad.
I'd consciously done little or no research before this trip so as not to go with any preformed ideas, but here was a flaw in my black canvas strategy.
After the gin and beer it was time for a walk through the back streets to Ye Cracke, which I was told was popular with students.
Ye Cracke or Ye Crack? You decide!
After ordering a Soul Boy Beers (Blakemere) Simcoe, 4.3%, from the corridor bar I was shown some of the signs about the famous students who had frequented the pub in the past.
There was an engraved mirror on the lounge wall which commemorated a meeting of The Dissenters who aimed to put Liverpool on the map - among their number was John Lennon, so mission accomplished, then.
And I gather the impressive mural near the mirror was painted by one of Lennon's tutors.
There were also a few hand-drawn images of Lennon on the wall and pictures of well known Liverpool landmarks like the 'Wigwam' and Anfield.
And there also seemed to be some kind of art experiment going on in the far back room, so it look likes the pub's artistic tradition is being continued.
The back room also offered me a curious view of the 'war room', through a Georgian window with no glass in.
Apparently, ie. the Internet tells me, this is one of the oldest parts of the pub and the place where people who insisted on talking about the Boer War (1899-1902) were stationed.
After the history lesson it was time to move on. Our next destination was The Grapes on the junction of Knight Street and Roscoe Street.
The Grapes on the corner of Knight Street
This pub was genuinely busy but the layout may have helped accentuate the numbers. Space was a bit at a premium as a horseshoe bar left enough for about three or four-deep to stand by the hand pumps. In two corners there were a few tables for people to eat at or to enjoy a pint in a group.
I made my way to the bar and ordered a Black Jack Small Saison, 4.5%, which was good. But I recall one of our number praising a beer he had ordered, but what it was has now slipped my mind. The only other thing I recall was a garish looking Hobgoblin (post) Hallowe'en style clip with a pumpkin coloured hose over the hand pull. This prompted a pre-Christmas rant by me about glittery pump clips, which I won't rehearse here as it isn't even December yet.
Talking of which, I'll round off this tour of Liverpool pubs next month with visits to The Liverpool One Bridewell, The Baltic Fleet, The Lion Tavern and The Ship & Mitre.

Part one of the Liverpool blog is available here