It took a while to come to terms with the whole thing, but it has been a few months now and things have moved along for everyone to a degree. Sadly, there is still quite a big 23 Club shaped hole in the beer scene in Liverpool. It is possible that even the opening of another two or three brewpubs or brewery taps won't make the ache for the place go away.
In 2012, 23 Club opened as a bourbon and craft beer den underneath the Clove Hitch restaurant, replacing an establishment which had been on Hope Street for many years in the 'Mexican village' restaurant, El Macho. The whole thing, from what I remember, was a bit of a slow burn. I personally had only really just started get back into writing about food and drink, following on from writing restaurant reviews around a decade earlier and it didn't really come onto my radar until late 2012/early 2013.
The numerous beer launches for the likes of Liverpool's Ad Hop Brewing, including their Liquorice Lady and the Kev the Beard collaboration Kolsch with Wapping Brewery (in honour of 23 Club's Kevin Curlett) also set a tone of playfulness and interaction with the beer scene in Liverpool. Tap Takeovers came and went with the likes of Omnipollo popping up on a Sunday afternoon and Left Hand hosting a number of lines at the back end of a weekend, but there was always a response to get something new in, the shifting location and the brilliant selection of bottles always provided an opportunity for something new even for the most ardent 23 Club customer. Cask lines came and went from 23 Club, moving upstairs to the restaurant. Issues with utilities hampered opening times and there was a rather inopportune dabble with turning the venue into a 'city centre Black Lodge Tap', which didn't seem to win many fans. Throughout the change though, it remained a mainstay on the beer landscape for anyone visiting Liverpool from the outside.
For me and possibly for many others, the Meet the Brewer events that The Clove Hitch and 23 Club hosted are the absolute benchmark for creating a show, for creating a platform to bring the best out of a brewery and let them express their personality in intimate and receptive atmospheres. Though there are other places that tackle the format from time to time, having a restaurant really does give an edge on those occasions. Although the 23 Club's MTB price gradually crept up in the later months, £15 to £20 for a (sometimes 3-course) meal and five to six beers was exceptional. There are classics amongst the Meet the Brewers (the likes of the first ATOM beers event and Bruno Carilli's excellent storytelling from Toccalmatto) and there were big surprises too (for example, a fantastic evening with Phil Saltonstall from Brass Castle - no one was expecting quite how brilliant everything would be; the beers and the commentary), but none of them was ever truly awful. As an aside, if you wish to immerse yourself in some nostalgia, the links to all the MTBs are still live and on this site - just look at the side bar.
Beavertown Brewery MTB
Before many of us had even heard of Beavertown, Logan Plant turned up at 23 Hope Street to give Liverpool a taste of the brand, how things started at Duke's Brew and 'Que, why he quit following his father's footsteps into music due to a night on the tiles in New York and just how Beavertown got its name - an origin which not what many people seem to think. Whilst Beavertown are currently splitting opinion for many in the beer world, this was a more innocent time; a night of engaging talk on beer along with tasting some real modern classics, many of which we all probably take for granted. There may have also been some slight fawning from Led Zeppelin fans too!
Atom Brewery MTB
Allan Rice and Jack Walker turned up twice during the 23 Club's tenure of the building. The first saw them in their fledgling years as a brewery, with Allan recently moving away from Tempest Brewing to set up his own outfit in Hull. What followed was quite a remarkable and entertaining night; loads of new beer experiences for many people in Liverpool along with a bit of a lock in with a mango infused Cornelius keg full of Phobos and Deimos. Sadly, with work the next morning, I cannot confirm or deny stories of certain MTB goers drinking directly from taps and people being in a rotten but happy state the next morning. However the first night ended, some great friendships were forged on that evening and only reinforced when Allan and Jack returned years later.
New Years Eve with lashings of custard pie, Kev and the Viking
All in all, a low key evening with not many in attendance in the 23 Club, booking a table proved unnecessary in the circumstances, but the evening went from a lull to a really enjoyable evening quite quickly with lashings and lashings of Magic Rock's Custard Pie on tap.
23 Club Reopens 2017
In the swansong of the venue, 23 Club suffered a great many set backs due to utilities issues. Finally it seemed that the issue was sorted and the basement bar reopened with a stunning line up of beers and Kev the Beard raiding the aging cellar to share some special beers with regulars for the first two evenings. Sharing rare beers and the space with good friends, regulars and brewers was a warm and enjoyable evening and a big reminder of the place 23 Club held within the scene. The next day was a bit of an ordeal however!