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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    February 7th, 2011FletchtheMonkeyAmerican, Beer Reviews, Brown/chestnut ales

    I can smell Hibernation Ale a mile away. And I can see it easily too, a deep luxurious muddy clay brown, infused with hues of red brick.

    The long distance aroma is chocolate and cream with a whiff of pungent hop. The taste is dampened by a hint of Utterly Butterly that fades as the beer frees from it’s fridge temperature. It’s tantalisingly fizzy, the perfect carbonisation to hold the flavours, aroma and mouthfeel in one ready-to-go package.

    This is one for autumn, equalling adept for curling up with or washing down a seasonal pizza. It’d certainly warm you up after a long autumnal walk, but it’s a strong one though, so best take it slow.

    Hibernation slow…

    Great Divide Hibernation Ale

    Great Divide Hibernation Ale

    Read the rest of this entry »

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    September 1st, 2010FletchtheMonkeyAmerican, Beer Reviews, Belgian/Trappist, IPA
    Great Divide Belgica

    Gallia Belgica this is not... An IPA this is not...

    There’s Belgian style IPAs (whatever that is) and then there’s Belgian Style IPAs (whatever they are).

    This is the latter.

    It’s sweet beyond belief, with a wispy wheat-led aroma that places a strong sense of doubt on it’s IPA credentials. But treat it like a lady and there’s a distinct hop bitterness to it that belies it’s Belgian façade.

    To say this is a mix of styles is an understatement. To say it doesn’t work would be…wrong. It’s a fascinating beer. At various sips and gulps it showcases flavours of ice cream, bitterness, lemon and a hint of vanilla smoothie – all the product of Euro/US hops and Belgian malt blended into a very light sandy golden beer of mammoth taste and enviable sweetness.

    All that and I don’t think I gave it a fair crack of the Roman whip, as I shared it on a train home from London with a stranger who may have become an acquaintance had I not lost their business card later on in the pub.

    This is one for the beer hunters and I’m wasting no time in tracking down again.

    Beer information:
    Beer: Belgica
    Brewery: Great Divide Brewing Co.
    Style: Belgian Style India Pale Ale
    ABV: 7.2%
    Country: USA

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    November 24th, 2009FletchtheMonkeyAmerican, Beer Reviews, Comment, IPA, Multigrain Beers, Stout & Porter

    It all started with an off the cuff comment on Twitter (as so much does these days!). I mentioned on my personal twitter account that I had ‘some cracking beers in’ but wasn’t really in the mood for sitting with pencil and notebook. Not that I don’t enjoy sitting with an artisan beer disecting all of the tastes and fancy words I can conjure up, but I simply wanted to forget all that and just get lost in the beer.

    Because I was contemplating some fantastic beers that I’d been waiting to open for some time. These were beers I’d heard about, read about and almost dreamed about opening.

    Paradox Isle of Arran pours very, very dark

    Paradox Isle of Arran pours very, very dark

    A few other beer bloggers wearily heading back from beer festivals and Scoop singing the praises of BrewDog’s RipTide I headed for the beer cupboard but all I really wanted were my staple favourites to drink, beers I can always fall back on as discussed in my post on emergency beers – a Goose Island Honkers, a Brooklyn Lager and a Peroni Gran Reserva were exactly what I needed. But with encouragement from other beer tweeps and Reluctant I crumbled! Read the rest of this entry »

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    October 5th, 2009FletchtheMonkeyAmerican, Beer Reviews, Pilsner Lager

    I should have taken more note of the hop image that dominates the label of Prima Pils. It’s not exactly inconspicuous!

    Victory Prima Pils - no ordinary pils

    Victory Prima Pils - no ordinary pils

    Thinking this would be a typical pils with an American influence I wasn’t expecting the almost overpowering hop aroma that exudes from this beer.

    Hops rule supreme throughout the taste as well, bold, floral, fruity with an abundance of resin punching over everything. The lupulin is strong in this one!

    You can see (well, taste) the similarities with Victory’s Hop Devil, a monstrous and complex ale. Here too they are to put it lightly ‘on the strong side’.

    This could be a great pils beer, as Hop Devil is a great (if unbalanced) pale ale. But the hops here are too much for me. Turned down a few notches this would still be hugely challenging to those that like there IBUs turned up high, but a bit more drinkable and actually more interesting than.

    The trouble is that you don’t become attuned to the hops here, they get deeper as you drink.

    I’d recommend this beer to any hop head, you have to try it, it’s an interesting and experimental addition to the pilsner style. But this ain’t a pilsner for those that like their Budvars or Urquells, and one that might just take you by surprise.

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    September 9th, 2009FletchtheMonkeyAmerican, Pale Ales

    A beautiful aroma wells up from this beer. It is  resiny, citrusy and sweet, with a strong hoppy start and a deep malty flavour that takes over.

    St. Lupulin clearly blessed this beer with an amazing gop and malt character

    St. Lupulin clearly blessed this beer with an amazing hop and malt character

    This beer – brewed by Odell Brewing Company is one of the most balanced pale ales – even just ales – that I’ve had for a long time.

    And it comes with a little story behind the name too, a title which more than hints at it’s wonderful character (you’ll also notice the hint in the Latin name for the hop plant, Humulus lupulus).

    Lupulin glands are the bits of hop leaves that contain the oils that impact hop flavour or hop aroma, and those glands are certainly put to masterful use in this beer.

    And it tastes absolutely fantastic!

    Despite being hoppy this isn’t overpowering, and it has a character that most beers can only pine for, with much more flavour than the summer ales that have been around in abundance over last few months. It tastes a little earthy, very fresh and sweet at times.

    Already straight into my list of top beers (a list as changeable as a British summertime), a beer with instant class and a lingering impact.

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    July 13th, 2009FletchtheMonkeyAmerican, IPA
    Goose Island IPA - a fine example of a North America IPA

    Goose Island IPA - a fine example of a North America IPA

    Hoppy, vibrant, refreshing and tangy to finish, Goose Island is a mighty fine American IPA. The Chicago brewers bottled ales are a staple of many of the best bars in the UK, with both the IPA and Honker’s Ale permanent fixtures at our work’s regular, The Cross Keys in Leeds.

    American IPAs differ from their UK counterparts. I don’t think it’s all down to the fact I enjoy them quite a bit colder than I’d usually sample a traditional ale, but they seem to share a vivacious style that UK IPAs often don’t muster.

    Does this mean they aren’t traditional India Pale Ales in that case?

    In fact they may be more so, as an abundance of hops is one of the core features of a traditional India Pale Ales (the hops and strength acting as a preservative to keep the beer in good shape throughout  the long voyage to India in the 19th Century) and many North America versions are far hoppier than British counterparts which have lost their hop-filled roots somewhat (with notable exceptions of course!)

    Goose Island shares that hoppy optimism, leaving a satisfying malt feeling in your mouth that inevitably urges you to take another gulp. There’s fruit in there amongst the hops and malt, adding complexity. It is a balanced IPA, very enjoyable to drink and moreish to boot.

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