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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  • Orval

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    January 9th, 2013FletchtheMonkeyBelgian/Trappist

    Stroll through an ageing orchard, take a gulp of the musty air at the defunct pressing room door. Continue past the old farm cottage to the door of the dirty whitewashed inn where the drip trays need emptying. The fruit in the bowl near the window has seen better days, and through the yellowed single pane of glass the smoke rises from the chimney in the monastery opposite. A calm shadow sneaks across the cobbles dodging wooden stools and deposits freshly baked bread with the rotund innkeeper, a silent nod the only interaction before the mysterious robed shape is gone.

    Order briskly but politely and then pause to acknowledge the peppery scent, which laces the pyramid of froth in top of the brooding liquid. It glows with some kind of knowing soul. Perhaps it was the confident almost challenging pour, the beer dispatcher from curvaceous glass to angular chalice with an unexpected deftness. Sip the slightly sour, herbaceous barley juice that’s so different to it’s contemporaries. It’s no wonder those monks believe in heaven, they just don’t realise it’s closer to home than they think.

    The above is a figment of imagination. Orval was the muse.

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    Orval

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    Orval the muse

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    March 13th, 2012FletchtheMonkeyBeer Reviews, Belgian/Trappist

    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 it’s arrival here, but it looks weather beaten like it’s namesakes – a pannepot is a Flemish  fishing boat associated with the town of De Panne, near the French border, and the beer is a tribute to the fisherman that have enjoyed Flemish dark ales over many stormy years.

    It’s tan head could easily be it’s fisherman’s beard, home to assorted aromas and flavours caught along the voyage: burnt raisins, sour figs and dry prunes, vanilla, anise, tobacco, brown sugar. Do caramelised chocolate bananas exist?

    Pannepot is a smoking thurible of a beer; deep, complex, throat burning, incensed with mellow spices.

    A treasure worth smuggling home, no matter how bumpy the seas.

    De Struise Pannepot 2008

    De Struise Pannepot 2008

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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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    February 16th, 2010FletchtheMonkeyBeer Reviews, Belgian/Trappist, Fruity Beers, IPA, Pale Ales

    Terrible beer, great name.

    Flying Dog Raging Bitch - orange in colour; orange in taste

    Flying Dog Raging Bitch - orange in colour; orange in taste

    Of course not, it’s the other way round. Disclaimer starts here: I love this beer.

    I first sampled The Bitch at the Flying Dog UK tasting in Leeds. This 20th anniversary beer jumped out of its take-home tetra pak like a bat out of hell. Its nose blasted my clean out of my seat and before the night was out it was on its way to being a beer phenomenon.

    Raging Bitch’s Belgian influence is the first thing that strikes me: it’s fruity esters and yeasty sweetness that only Belgian beers can pull off. Until now.

    Massive grapefruit pith and outrageous sour fruit intertwine with a sweet malt finish and a bitter attack from an armada of late hops. The nose is huge thanks to a dry hopping assault by Amarillo hops. You pluck out the names of most of Sainsbury’s exotic fruit aisle if you close your eyes; for me the grapefruit ebbs and flows against tangerine and apricot. Read the rest of this entry »

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    February 13th, 2010FletchtheMonkeyBeer Reviews, Belgian/Trappist
    Maredsous Brune width=

    Maredsous Brune (or Bruin)

    It seems that my previous claims that I wasn’t really a fan of Belgian beers were completely unfounded (or simply founded on inexperience). A few years ago I assumed incorrectly that all Belgian beer = wheat fuelled turbo Hoegarden.

    Maredsous is a great example how Belgian beer can be the antithesis of my previous perception: deep brown, fruity, with no pungent wheat head or overly fizzy body.

    From the church wine nose, through stewed fruit – figs or prunes perhaps – this is  rich, sweet affair, almost caramel on the tongue. There’s a wisp of chocolate that arrives from nowhere to spice things up as well. It finishes softly but that isn’t such a bad thing.

    This is a rich, mouth-filling beer; but with it’s gentle finish it’s the sort of beer that could become one of my staple ‘have a couple in the cupboard beers’. Read the rest of this entry »

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    January 7th, 2010Alan WalshBeer and Food, Beer Reviews, Belgian/Trappist
    A nice cool bottle of Chimay Red in front of my parents open fire

    A nice cool bottle of Chimay Red in front of my parents open fire

    This 7% Trappist beer was the initial choice for making my Potted Cheese recipe but, after a couple of taste tests, I reverted to Orval. As I find with most of the Trappist beers, this was quite lively in the bottle and the carbonisation was a lot of small bubbles which fill the mouth with a silky smoothness. The appearance of the beer in the glass is dark and cloudy.

    The initial taste has the fruity undertones of a good wheat beer but the darker malts push through as a bitter taste develops in the mouth. This bitterness lingers in the mouth along with the distinctive taste of alcohol, a reflection of the 7% content. The combination brings to mind a reminiscence of the smell left in the glass by a good whiskey.

    In an attempt to be somehow faithful to the medieval tradition of the Trappist brewers I cooed this bottle outside by parents back door, just perfect for preserving fridge space in this cold spell.

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    December 4th, 2009Alan WalshBelgian/Trappist

    I always opted for the larger (75Cl ) bottles of Saison Dupont as they come

    Saison Dupont - large bottle

    Saison Dupont - large bottle

    corked rather than with a bottle cap and the metal from the cap apparently can slightly change the flavour of the beer. I figure this has been being with the cork for years so why not go with the authentic?

    My first warning is to handle this strong belgian beer with care, it needs to be opened and poured extremely gently as it has a lively character. The appearence is cloudy and brighter than the picture suggests with a yellow tint. The head, as is reflective of such a lively beer, is large and holds throughout. This large bottle was split three ways and I would recommend that it is a social beer which should be taken with friends and possibly some nibbles. As I sit here I can’t help having the completely unfounded thought that it would go really well with Tapas (although please don’t blame me if that combo doesn’t work!). The less adventurous would probably have this with some strong cheese and chunky bread. I recently was discussing football boots with a friend of mine and used the phrase ‘simple is beautiful’ the same sentiment springs to mind when considering that food/beer combination.

    In drinking Saison leaves a warming sensation on the tongue, probably due to the 6.5% abv. It is quite rustic, almost rough in taste. Not for the weak hearted but I think it is quite uniting in that most beer fans, whether you like ales, lagers or stouts, will find it to be a real treat.

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    August 11th, 2009FletchtheMonkeyBelgian/Trappist, Wheat beers

    I’d never heard of Daas beers until meeting the company via Twitter, perhaps because of my woeful knowledge of Belgian brewing styles. And I’m very glad I did find them.

    Before I continue I should add that this Belgian-sized hole in my fairly universal appreciation of beer styles stems mainly from the fact that I’ve never really got on well with wheat style beers and many of the continental white and blonde beers.

    Notable exceptions are Erdinger, which is pretty much unavoidable in the Leeds’ bars north of Briggate, (and to be fair which I reserve for nights out rather than drink at home). I occasionally used to sup Hoegarden at uni, a drink I shared almost exclusively with my friend Tyler, who introduced me to pairing it with a segment of lime. But neither of these or the other examples I’ve tried (pretty much exclusively well known brands) such as Duvel and Chimay have ever quite satisfied my palate as other styles do.

    In Daas Blond and Witte there are two beers that touch on the styles that I don’t generally go for, bringing out their subtleties and developing something I quite like. They are both organic certified, one (Witte) is wheat based and the other (Blond) is made from 100% barley malt.

    Daas Blond organic Belgian beer

    Daas Blond organic Belgian beer

    Daas Blonde is fruity, golden and sweet. I thought I detected zesty flavours – it tingled my tongue and I sensed a sweet and slightly spicy taste that flowed easily from bottle to throat.  It really was a good, strong golden ale with clear Belgian influence that will tempt me to try more like this rather than put me off experimenting.

    Bizarrely it’s supreme drinkability maybe what detracts from me wanting to call it a session beer: a session on this, as I find with many Belgian beers, tends to fill the stomach up a bit too quick (but then I probably shouldn’t be knocking back ‘World Cup’ glasses of Erdinger after midnight in Reform bar – this, I can tell you openly, is not a good strategy for longevity of bar room shenanigans!).

    Daas Witte organic Belgian wheat beer

    Daas Witte organic Belgian wheat beer

    Daas Witte as, as you would expect, is dominated by it’s wheaty influence. It’s defining characteristics are crafted by this influence, and mixed against, again, more defined citrus flavours and spicy touches. The influence of wheat over malt in Belgian beers always perturbs me, I am clearly a British beer drinker reluctant to sacrifice on my malted barley. It’s hard for me to pass judgement on Daas Witte, as I just don’t have enough experience of it’s contemporaries to compare it too, but for a wheat beer I genuinely enjoyed it.

    All in all I’ll definitely be drinking Daas Blond again, a great little number that widens my palate a little. I will also certainly try Daas Witte again, which I think has made me doubt my perceived dislike of wheat beer (maybe I just misunderstood all these years?!).

    In fact, Daas’ Organic beers might just be my introduction to a world of new beers from just over the Channel, just as EIPA first tempted me into North American beers.

    If you want to try it yourselves I believe Waitrose are to be stocking this in the imminent future (if not already), and the lovely folk at Daas will surely keep you better informed than I will if you talk to them on Twitter.

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    July 30th, 2009Alan WalshBelgian/Trappist, Fruity Beers

    Fruli Belgian White Beer – Strawberry Flavour – 4.1% abv (bottled)

    We’ve been up and running for a couple of months now and I’m ashamed to note  that the level of female input into our reviews is frankly disgraceful. In an attempt to partially redress this error I rocked up to work this week with two bottles of Fruli, one for each of two lovely ladies from my office who were good enough to offer their time to provide me with a review in exchange for beer.

    Fruli can be quite a dividing beer, something of the Marmite of the beer world, with most people either loving it or hating it. I was interested to see whether the reviews were similar or whether we would be lucky enough to see opposite ends of the spectrum. For background I should state that Amanda is an experienced beer drinker who often recommends beers and watering holes to me on a Monday after she’s been out and about over the weekend. Rachel is just an experienced drinker!!!

    Here goes…

    ‘As soon as I opened the bottle I was hit with a strong smell of strawberries. I found the taste was not disappointing but I wonder if an avid beer drinker may well do as there’s only a tiny hint of beer flavour in there. It’s mostly Strawberries!

    It reminded me more of a sparkling wine than a beer. I really enjoyed the taste and would definitely drink this again although I don’t think I could drink more than two in a row as it is quite sweet.’

    Rachel

    ‘I was quite disappointed in this strawberry beer, it was quite wet with no real beer taste and only a slight taste of strawberries. I too thought it was more like a pink sparkling wine than a beer.

    I did however love the Timmermans Strawberry beer on draught from Muse in Wetherby on Friday night. It was really tangy with a slight beery taste. I would definitely drink that again.’

    Amanda

    Many thanks to the guys for their comments on Fruli. I have posted a link below to an unofficial Fruli website. The website is really cool, although unofficial, and I will try and get a Fruli trail over to them for Leeds in the coming weeks.

    In the meantime please feel free to add comments below if you wish to ‘weigh-in’ on the Fruli vs Timmermans debate  which Amanda may well have just inadvertantly started…….

    http://fruli.com

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