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
    August 11th, 2009Alan WalshCider

    Fletch is going to be turning in the grave that is the house we used to share for two years but I have formally bastardised IPA Monday in order to have a cider night. Basically the reason for this is that I have a pack of chops in the fridge left over from Saturday’s BBQ and I’ve decided to make that the theme of the night.

    First things first, this is the recipe that I am cooking, passed to me by my mate Jack but changed a little but by me  (I have used Leeks in favour of Onions)…

    3 x Leeks

    6 x Pork Chops

    1 1/2 x Jars of Apple Sauce

    1 x Bottle Medium Sweet Cider

    Knob of Butter

    Salt and Pepper to Flavour

    Method – Melt the butter in a heavy bottomed stew pot in order to sweat off the leeks (which should be roughly chopped). Once the leeks are soft, brown off the chops before adding the cider and apple sauce to thicken, simmer for 10-15 mins on the hob and then bang in the oven for 45mins at 180-200 degrees.

    Moving on to more important things, I had headed to Beer Ritz to grab a few bottles of cider on the way home from work. My housemate Jim is a big fan of Aspall’s and, although Cider is my weakest area (in University Challenge terms) I am aware off Aspall’s to be a good brand and expected to see it on the shelves of Beer Ritz. It was not, but they were stocking Weston’s and Sheppy’s. I selected Sheppy’s as my brewery of choice for the evening as Fletch is something of a Weston’s fan and has reviewed before I believe. The advice of Beer Ritz’s always helpful management was at hand to ensure that I had the right options for cooking. We selcted three Sheppy’s ciders, Kingston Black to go in the food, a couple of bottles of the same to go with andbottles of Cider with Honey and Falstaff Cider for some experimental tasting with the housemates.

    Cider with Honey, 5.4%

    Cider With Honey

    This cider was exactly what the label suggested. The honey came through as the first taste with the subtle taste of the cider coming through after. The honey carried this golden cider off an absolute treat, it was readily drinkable and, even at the bottom of the bottle, not at all sickly in it’s sweetness.

    Not being a regular cider drinker I’m not  sure how this would be received by the hard core scrumpy faithful but I am sure that other dabblers such as myself could do a hell of a lot worse.

    Kingston Black, 7.2%

    Kingston BlackThis cider was far stronger on the tongue than the honey one I’d just put down. It was livelier than the honey cider and drier but was still palatable.

    Coming straight after the honey cider there was a danger that this would be too dry but it actually reined in the sweetness to just the right amount and provided the more robust body necessary to accompany the food, without allowing my flavoursome efforts to be overridden. The Kingston Black apple is dubbed as being prized for it’s full bodied aromas and this blend is certainly testament to that fact.

    I would note that, at 7,2%, while the flavour and body of this cider suggest that you probably could drink this all night, the likelihood is that you wont!

    Falstaff, 5.6%


    Returning to the a more reserved abv of 5.6% this cider was also sweeteer than the Kingston black, but crisper and clearer than the honey cider. The Falstaff cider perfectly fills the gap between the Honey Cider and the Kingston Black and completes the set of sweeter ciders for tonight’s reviews.

    I had not been forward thinking enough to arrange a dessert to follow the main course but this slotted into the gap really well. I would like to give a more comprehensive analysis but, as it’s the third cider of the night, I have run out of adjectives! I apologise and all I can really say is that if I had to select one of these to drink all night, it would be this one.


    Aided by my housemates, Jim and Kat, we have rated the three ciders as follows…

    1. Cider with Honey

    2. Falstaff

    3. Kingston Black

    Although I have to say that this was on initial tasting only and that my favourite of the night was probably Falstaff. The important lesson here though is that, while I walked into Beer Ritz looking for Aspall’s, I was directed towards a cracking brewery producing a range of ciders suitable for every palate. It’s not an area I know well and the evening has taught me not to be blinkered and to experiment with what’s about. Who knows, next Monday could be cider night with Weston’s and could be just as much fun…

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  • Sweden

    May 17th, 2009Alan WalshCider, Pilsner Lager

    Last night was the Eurovision Song Contest so a few of us gathered in homage to Euro-pop ready to sing, dance and generally make merry. The plan for the night was simple – everyone had been assigned a country and was instructed to bring traditional food and drink from their adopted nation. Lucky enough to draw Sweden as my new domicile, I headed eagerly to Ikea to see what I could find…

    Spendrups Old Gold Pale Pilsner – 5,0%abv – A crisp, sharp pilsner costing only £1,05 a bottle. Well worth a look to refresh you when you’re next trying to put together a flat packed wardrobe. |Be careful though, the 5% abv is subtle and not at all gassy meaning it slips down all too easily – too many bottles will probably have you putting the doors on that wardrobe upside down.

    Reindeer Salami ‘Ren’ – This Salami was a very nice Swedish gimmick to stick on the table. Not really sure how to review it except to say that it made a nice little sandwich with the Swedish cheese that I picked up at the same time.

    Kopparberg Premium Pear Cider – 4,5% abv – Couldn’t leave this one off the review although I’m pretty sure everyone has come into contact with it at one point or another. This cider is absolutely delicious. It’s so light and sweet you don’t actually even notice that it’s alcohol which isn’t really what I look for in a drink but I know some people will like that.

    Something this sweet can’t all be good news though and I’m quite sure that too much of this would leave you with rotten teeth, feeling very sick and possibly suffering from diabetes.

    Norrlands Guld Export – 4,5%abv – First and foremost this lager came out of a can and it had the tinny flavour that comes along with that. To quote our host for the evening, Sarah Frost, it seems like ‘a bit of a nothing lager’. You could equally be drinking any number of other canned lagers in terms of taste although I would say that, like the Old Gold above, it is flatter (in a good way) than the likes of Fosters or Carlsberg meaning that it is not bloating.

    Billar – little car shaped sweets that are frankly odd. They seem to have the Marmite effect as I, and about half of the people at the party, loved them and everyone else thought they were rubbish.

    Mini Elk & Venison Salamis – these were really good nibbles. A bit like mini Pepperamis but slightly chewier.

    That my friends, is Sweden in a nutshell.

    Selection of my 'Sweden in a Box' experiment

    Selection of my 'Sweden in a Box' experiment

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