Real Ale Reviews Independent reviewers of real ales, beers and lagers from around the world, including beer reviews, breweries, watering holes and real ale events
    Sebright Arms / Lucky Chip

    Sebright Arms / Lucky Chip

    The bar is busy. The tables are full. The backroom is heaving and buoyant. Welcome to the Sebright Arms, dimly light and vivacious. We arrive from Soho at the fading of a sun drenched afternoon - four pubs, six pints, four hours. Three and a half miles later, bellies demanding meat and bread and barley, we bundle over the threshold. A table is found, pale beers ordered, burger menus devoured by hungry eyes. It's a young crowd, an old ...

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    A King and a Prince

    A Prince Amongst Beers

    It's not every day that you get the chance to try a beer that's older than you are. Last Saturday night I opened a bottle that was just that; I opened a beer that was older than me, so that’s over twenty five, give or take the odd ten years. In fact it was a lot older than me, more than twice my age. It was brewed in 1929 in fact, so that’s 83 years old. A mate ...

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    Build A Rocket Boys!

    Build A Rocket Boys! by Elbow & Robinsons

    Elbow are the kings of soaring melancholy, masters of poetic northern introspection.  Let Elbow's albums flow over you and you can be mesmerised by their beauty alone. Put in the time to listen, to soak up the poignancy, the humour, the extraordinary manifestations of the ordinary and their albums become life affirming tributes to the everyday. Conversely, it's quite easy to stick an Elbow album on and realise thirty lethargic minutes later that time - and ...

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    Man shed!

    Readers Pubs

    At the first pub there's a piano in the window but no one to play it. The seats are filled with ghosts. A long pew is adorned with individually wrapped cushions, resembling a bum-friendly box of Mr Kipling cakes. It's quiet, the fireplace glows warm and friendly, everything is cosy and snug. Welcome to Pete's Retreat. "We'll be at home here, let's get a pint." Much as we could stay forever we've a long crawl ahead ...

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    De Struise Pannepot 2008

    Pannepot 2008

    Broody and brown, like blood-red soil on a wet day, four-year aged Pannepot is dragged out of the beer cupboard and into a glass like Jack Dee to an in-laws barbecue... It simply doesn't want to open (the journey back from Belgium wasn't kind: a contemporary shot it's load in the suitcase, drenching the stash of bottles and it's still sticky and downtrodden) but eventually, after much gushing and fizzing, it acquiesces. Perhaps it's just the toll of ...

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    John Keeling Fullers

    Desert Island Beers #50: John Keeling - Fuller, Smith & Turner PLC

    It's a special week on the desert island as we celebrate a half century of castaways being swept up onto our shores. Robinson Crusoe # 50 is a real coup for us as it features none other than Sir (it’s only a matter of time) John Keeling; Head Brewer at Fuller, Smith & Turner PLC, (better known simply as Fullers). John was born in Droylsden, Manchester, in September 1956. When he left school without telling his ...

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    Will Hawkes

    Desert Island Beers #38: Will Hawkes, The Independent

    Welcome to the latest episode of Desert Island Beers which this week features Will Hawkes who works on The Independent’s sports desk and writes about beer in his spare time. Born in London and brought up in sunny Kent, he has had an interest in ale since he could convince a barman he was 18 – but his real conversion to good beer came after a year spent living in Southern California in 1999-2000, when the ...

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    Marston's Fever Pitch English Bitter

    Marston's Fever Pitch

    First off I should point out that I don't often take kindly to products and advertising that jump on the football bandwagon. The best footy related marketing is the football advertising by Nike and Carlsberg (ignoring their most recent attempts). So, I'm potentially a little biased against Marston's Fever Pitch... Let's start with the positives: oranges, lemons, citrus peel but not zest. It's more interesting than I expected, more summery. A mellow bitterness that isn't displeasing and ...

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    Englischer Garten

    Drunken in Munchen

    Let's be frank, I'm not brilliant at getting drunk. It's not that I'm a bad drunk per se, but since my uni days my tolerance has faded and I'm much better suited to a lazy pub garden or the frantic but well partitioned boozing of a hot festival day. So, the morning after the night before, eating pizza along the tramlines of Munich, Stag Day 2 of 3, the first beer is an inevitable mistake. The 12 ...

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    Lowlands Bier Festival

    Beer From The Low Country

    The smell of beer slopped on wooden tables, the glint of light in the top of the chalice, the sounds of a deck of cards and the clink of glasses. I'm in a bar in the north country but my senses are across the sea and howling winds, in the bustle of a backstreet bar in Belgium. Four pm on a sunny Friday, sampling the beers of the Low Countries in a bar in Leeds, dreaming of ...

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    BrewDog Blitz 2.8% ABV

    Brewdog Nottingham

    The blue logo can be seen for hundreds of yards. The windows that look out onto Hockley's student-filled streets, opposite a tea room, cinema and acclaimed bistro, are plastered with huge crest shaped decals, archetypal generation Nike branding for a Starbuck's influenced post-modern brand experience. B R E W D O G Reminiscent of the type of industrial themed sandwich shop found in downtown Prague or New York's Soho, but with added chutzpah and a munificence for ...

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    Shibden Valley by Tim Green

    Shibden Mill Inn

    Down a winding single lane road the descent to Shibden Mill Inn is not one to be taken with nonchalance. A careless clutch foot could result in an unexpected round of automobile tobogganing, even without the help of rain, ice or snow. But survive the swooning approach and there sits a fine pub to be snowed in at: good beer, warm hearths and food fit for kings. The pub is infected with sunny Sunday smiles. Gregarious family ...

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    Packhorse bridge and Old Bridge Inn Ripponden

    A bridge in time

    A brisk day in March, wet but without rain. Ducking through the dripping steel railway bridge, carving through residual puddles, Sowerby Bridge seems jack-knifed between the twenty first century and the 1970s. It's partly the lack of ubiquitous chain stores, partly the dubious puns of the shabby independent shops, but mostly the hues of a downtrodden day in a small Yorkshire town. Out the other side of the town the road befriends the trajectory of the ...

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    Hopback Summer Lightning: a bit of a legend in Beerland

    Hopback Summer Lightning

    Some beers have a pedestal. Sometimes it's deserved because they are truly great beers, technically and taste-wise. Some are headliners, built by a cheeky PR campaign or an elaborate story. And some are deserved winners of awards and a place within beery folklore. Summer Lightning by Hopback falls in the latter category. Back when I was enjoying my third year on this planet and coming to terms with the fact I would soon have a baby ...

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  • scissors
    March 7th, 2012FletchtheMonkeyBeer and travel, Beer history, Pubs & bars

    A brisk day in March, wet but without rain. Ducking through the dripping steel railway bridge, carving through residual puddles, Sowerby Bridge seems jack-knifed between the twenty first century and the 1970s. It’s partly the lack of ubiquitous chain stores, partly the dubious puns of the shabby independent shops, but mostly the hues of a downtrodden day in a small Yorkshire town.

    Out the other side of the town the road befriends the trajectory of the River Ryburn as it steers through the steep wooded valley, roaming towards the Calder. The Triangle public house, in the tiny village of Triangle, is boarded up, not the first dead watering hole on the winding roads that lead to the quiet, charming town of Ripponden.

    At Ripponden, about as remote an urban centre you can get in the sprawl of West Yorkshire, time blends from 1970s into the eighteenth century in the shadow of the Victorian church. A few footsteps further on the day retreats to nearer the 1670s as a cold breeze rustles across the cobbles of the ancient humpbacked bridge that leads to a quiet, unassuming public house.

    Packhorse bridge and Old Bridge Inn Ripponden (thanks to http://www.theoldbridgeinn.co.uk/ for the snap)

    Packhorse bridge and Old Bridge Inn Ripponden

    The Old Bridge deserves its name. The bridge from which it takes its name, just like the church whose shadow it lies in, has been rebuilt many times since the first packhorse crossing. The pub is as old, over 700 years as the oldest records attest too. In the 14th century the town were not even on the first of their four churches that the river or weather has razed along the way. Old broom, new handles, new brushes.

    The Ryburn runs straight and narrow under the ancient structure, the pub nestles on the northern side, resplendent in bright white wash. Warm fires, real ale, fine dining, but with not an ounce of pretension. The Old Bridge is family run, locally revered, bustling with merry drinkers around the bar and belly-patting diners, content and perhaps a little dozy.

    Since 1307 similar scenes may have been played out in this hidden pocket of hostelry. On the main York to Chester road, journey-worn travellers would have put their feet up here, may have knocked back unfussy ale and unfussy food, stocking up  on victuals and sleep. Curled up in a window nook in 2012 the beer is a little brighter and food is a little more fussy (but excellent) – scallops with parsnip puree, mackerel pate, sea bass with chorizo, crisp and luscious belly pork.

    Bowed by time, oak beams run low in the sitting rooms either side of the cheery communal bar, warmed by fires or stoves and sitting under a cockeyed triangular roof that’s seen seven centuries of welcomes and goodbyes.

    The river barely flows. A tear drop on the neck of a window box daffodil is frozen in the crisp Sunday air. Under these bows, between mahogany panelled walls, Airedale Valley Bitter meets chocolate orange brownie (scrumptious), and like that droplet, we’re immovable, resolved to enjoy the slowness with which two hours lumber by.

    One hundred and twenty minutes. But a tiny percentage of the years and patrons that the Old Bridge has watched over in its lifetime.

    Old Bridge Inn Airedale Valey Bitter

    A pint of AVB

    Yorkshires Oldest Inn Old Bridge Inn Ripponden

    Yorkshires Oldest Pub

    Scallops Old Bridge Inn

    Fine, fine food

    Bar at the Old Bridge Inn Ripponden

    The ancient roof

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  • scissors
    February 29th, 2012Mister FrostyBeer Events, Beer history, Beer Reviews

    It’s not every day that you get the chance to try a beer that’s older than you are.

    Last Saturday night I opened a bottle that was just that; I opened a beer that was older than me, so that’s over twenty five, give or take the odd ten years. In fact it was a lot older than me, more than twice my age.

    It was brewed in 1929 in fact, so that’s 83 years old.

    A mate of mine dabbles in buying and selling antiques and I got a call from him a while back…

    “You like beer don’t you Gav?”
    “Well, yes” I laughed.
    “How long does beer last?” came the reply.
    “Depends what it is” I say in return, “Why do you ask?”
    “I’ve got a couple of bottles you might be interested in.”
    “Go on.”
    “It’s a bit old”
    “How old?”
    “1902 and 1929.”

    I was silent for a second or two after that.

    The beers my mate had come by were Bass King’s Ale (1902) and Bass Prince of Wales Brew (1929). I took a quick look at the bottles and, as he only wanted £30 for the pair, I snapped them up, for novelty reasons if nothing else.

    Bass Kings Ale 1902 and Bass Prince of Wales Ale 1929

    A King and a Prince

    Then along comes OpenIt! and I think, what about those Bass beers I’ve got, shall I open one of those? I council a few folks on twitter and by the end of the day I’ve decided I’m taking along the bottle of Prince of Wales Brew to OpenIt! at Mr Foley’s in Leeds. There’s plenty of other curious folks keen to try it too, most of them more beer geekish than I am.

    And shortly after arriving the bottle is on to the table with a corkscrew, the remainder of the wax seal is removed and I’m plunging the corkscrew in. With a small lever part of the cork comes away – it’s a bit dried out as you’d expect –  and I need a different corkscrew to get a little more of the cork out and drill a little hole as its pretty stuck in there.

    The empty glasses are thrust my way and everyone is keen to try. We all give it a sniff and look at each other slightly nervously. The aroma a little on the sour side but I’m getting a whiff of raisins and we wonder if the beer will taste as sour as it smells.

    Bass Prince of Wales Ale 1929

    "Ich Dein" Bass 1929 Prince of Wales Ale

    Opening the Prince of Wales Ale at Mr Foleys

    How many men does it take to open a beer?

    Bass Prince of Wales Ale opened

    The slow pour, and it's dripping tasty too!

    Here goes!

    I take a sip.

    How does it taste?

    Well it tastes alright considering its age. A nice fruity character. The next offering to my tongue is a good size and I’m getting an idea of the flavour now. I’m very pleasantly surprised, it’s a bit like like an amontillado sherry. It’s stunning that a beer that’s survived for 83 years untouched has this amount of flavour left in it. It’s not nasty at all and most of us are in agreement about this.

    Of course I’ve no idea how it was supposed to taste (I’ve no idea what beer tasted like back in 1929 for that matter). Prince of Wales Brew was the second Bass beer with a royal connection after Bass King’s Ale was produced in 1902 for the coronation of Edward VII. I’m lead to believe that for Prince of Wales Brew the mash was started by Prince Edward, who later become Edward VIII of course, and sold for around £5 a bottle, a fair bit of wedge back in the day!

    So was it worth opening? I took the remainder of the bottle home and then to the local the following day. There was a pretty mixed response from folks who where a little less beer geekish, some of disgust and some of surprise and intrigue. I’m with the latter crowd hence my curiosity to open it.

    It’s just amazing to think that you’ve actually been drinking history. A beer that, given its royal connection and price, must have been been painstakingly crafted by Bass master brewers to brew a beer befitting a Prince. I feel very privileged to have been able to try and share it with friends. A great beer experience. I just wish, like most beers really, I could open it and enjoy the experience again.

    The Prince of Wales feathers, which are also embossed on the bottle, bare the words ‘Ich Dien’, which means ‘I Serve’. This beer ‘Ich Dien’ with pleasure Your Royal Highness!

    Prince of Wales ale at OpenIt

    Victory! Eventually the cork is breached!

    Pouring a 1929 bottle of Bass Prince of Wales Ale

    Pouring a bottle of beer older than me

    Big thanks to Rick Furzer for organising the Open It session at Mr Foleys, and to Ghost Drinker for the lovely pics of the crew struggling to open the very old bottle of beer!

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  • scissors
    May 4th, 2010FletchtheMonkeyBeer history

    The run up to the 2010 election isn’t looking like much of a beery affair. There may be some lively debate between scaremongering neo-prohibitionists and staunch defenders of personal freedoms, but I’m yet to be convinced we’ll see mandatory tee-totalism as the main focus of the next live television debate.

    Back in 1874 the general election was a distinctly beery affair. ” Read the rest of this entry »

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