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Bar Essentials: The Dispensary

Liverpool Confidential's lowdown on pubs and bars that we have already found ourselves in, this week, as the administrators march into Cains

Published on September 22nd 2010.

Bar Essentials: The Dispensary

What's the story?
Most serious drinking pubs in Liverpool have a bit of heritage about them: they are fixtures as familiar as street lamps and go back decades. Somewhat surprisingly, this is not so with The Dispensary. It sprang up just a decade ago from the shell of an old man's boozer, The Grapes, on the corner of Rapid Hardware Street and Oldham Street in an area that is quietly renowned as a real booze and curry lovers' jackpot.

Pharmaceutical items, fixtures and fittings from old chemist shops, Liverpool University and the Liverpool Pharmaceutical Society abound in an effort to give it a traditional pub atmosphere and visually evoke a Victorian dispensary. It certainly did the trick for real-ale lovers CAMRA who voted it English Heritage pub refurbishment of the year 2000 and also Merseyside pub of the year.

Cains tenants Pauline Keady-Williams and husband Dave run The Dispensary, prescribing a cure-all for the world's ills in the shape of medicine on tap from the Upper Stanhope Street brewery, this week finding itself in dire financial straits with administrators being called in this week.

Why go there?
It serves arguably the best beer in town, if they do say so themselves, although Dominic Hornsby, from the nearby Fly In The Loaf, would doubtless disagree.

Who goes there?
The Dispensary's main allure seems to be for chaps, in there to either marvel at their chosen pint in solitude (“I come here to hide from the wife,” one un-pictured punter told us) or to philosophise in small huddles about the state of the world, occasionally all pausing to marvel at that pint again.

Most people wouldn't expect to cop off in here (the only thing being pulled is the beer) and it's not the most obvious venue for a first or any subsequent date.

Having said that you could pick up a couple of bottles of Indian pale ale en route to nearby BYO curry houses such as the Master Chef or Back Passage to India, should dinner a deux suddenly be on the cards.

What's yours?
The whole range of Cains cask ales, that's what, from barrels that have travelled just a mile from L8, so not even a carbon footprint.

IPA, FA, traditional bitter, the gorgeous summer beer Sundowner, which, with its twist of lemon could knock spots of any lager at a barbecue. There's Raisin Beer, Pilsner, and even the Capital of Culture lager. They also do regularly rotating guest ales from breweries around the country and a couple of bottles of wine at reasonable prices.

A fruit machine flashes forlornly in the corner, as did a bloke outside the pub opposite, Roscoe's Bar, when we were sunning ourselves there yesterday. But this is a place of quiet refinement. There's low key music and an unobtrusive plasma telly shows the cricket etc. Otherwise, you and your pearls of wisdom are the star turns.

What's the crack?
This is not a local in the traditional sense. Remember Cheers “where everybody knows your name”? Well you get a bit of that, but mostly everyone seems to be anyone and welcome to nip in for a quiet conversation and very good pint, served by friendly and efficient staff.

“Are you still serving Cains?,” punters were asking Dave this week. He sure is, even though the outlook is very unsure as we write. Most people agree that it would be a great loss if such a good local brewery were to go under, so why not get in there as soon as you can and raise a glass to the future of Cains?

The Dispensary
87 Renshaw Street
L1 2SP
0151 709 2160

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8 comments so far, continue the conversation, write a comment.

AnonymousAugust 5th 2008.

Would be a great pity if Cain's went under, I agree.

DigAugust 5th 2008.

I tried to attend the exlusive opening of 'The Oxo Cube', however I couldn't get passed the door staff after taking the mick out of their shiny silver jackets. Then there was a confrontation between us. They called my friend and I 'a couple of mugs'. We called them 'a pair of stocky meat heads'. They soon crumbled in. The manager ran out and threatened to call the police if we carried on stirring it up.

DigAugust 5th 2008.

As decent as The Dispensary is why recommend all of Cains lovely range of ales, mention the vicinity of the brewery but fail to mention The Brewery Tap. If you want a nice tipple of one of Cains finest the best place to sample their range is the source! And if you want to take a case of beer home with you, hey presto, pub AND Cains offy. Also The Coburg, a 1 minute walk away from Cains is a fine, underrated establishment I would recommend.

Professor ChucklebuttyAugust 5th 2008.

Warning! Speaking of bars and pubs, I recently received an invitation to the opening of a new "exclusive" nightclub, the Oxo Cube or something. I posted some general enquiries which they have seen fit to delete. A simple suggestion that dress code for men should be sports jacket and slacks, you need some formality without alienating the young, i mean we don't want these half mast trousered types with their y-fronts staring back at you over a port and lemon. I also made an enquiry about seating arrangements since Mrs Chucklebutty has just had her boils lanced and been given an inflatable cushion from the NHS and can't be stood over the buffet all night. I even offered to bring some crisps in case the ran out. All I can say is if they treat a VIP like this and reject sound advice then it won't stay exclusive for long. I was even goiing to get my good friend Mr Peter Price to come and do a Kareoke session for them. Anyway make your own minds up. By the way the crisps were assorted with a few bags of Monster Munch and Skips thrown in. So when the sausage rolls run out, don't say i didn't warn you.

AndrewAugust 5th 2008.

A great little pub, been here on many occasion. The telly is a little high though!

The Dispo KidAugust 5th 2008.

"Surly bloke behind the bar", scousemouse? Hardly! He is cool and professional and brings long-pouring pints (such as Guinness) to your table once they're poured so you don't have to wait at the bar! Perhaps you'd prefer some young, blonde flibbertigibbet too busy chatting with her mates than to bother serving anyone? And less of the "auld arse" too - are you Scottish or something?

scousemouseAugust 5th 2008.

Sorry to say but the Dispensary has all the atmosphere of Barnsley on early closing day. Strictly a stopoff for the 'auld arse' crowd which seems fine with the surly bloke behind the bar. If you want a decent pint of Cains the Brewery Tap or Dr. Duncans are both better bets.

Gullet RoadAugust 5th 2008.

I like to start off at Cains. After that, anything is possible, especially if I have just been paid.

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