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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    November 23rd, 2011FletchtheMonkeyDark Mild, Seasonal beers, Stout & Porter

    Just as the fire starts to reach what might be a peak – and that’s without one of my best friends throwing one of our six garden chairs on it – there’s a cold snap in the air and a damp feeling on our collars.

    “There’s rain in the air” someone shrills in typical British fashion, and the next hunk of wood gets chucked into the wood burner in typical British defiance.

    It’s a week after the clocks changed, and standing in the garden it’s the first night of the year that stirs thoughts of winter beer.

    Nights like this conjure all sorts of comforts, marshmallows and mittens, fireworks and fairgrounds, bonfires and Bovril. We’re on the cusp of the year, a blend of autumn and winter, darkness and bright lights, cold bodies and hot remedies.

    So what is the quintessential winter comfort beer?

    Creamy milk stouts or deep smoky porters? A beery cup of tea in the form of dark mild?

    Autumn ambers, chestnut bitters? Spicy Christmas beers stronger than Nana’s Snowball Surprise, or decadent, thick chocolate stouts sweeter than a year’s worth of Quality Street.

    Or for sustenance there’s dark ?erný pilsners, roasted best bitters, coffee bean ales, strong Baltic porters, extra nutty specials or filling oat stouts.

    Or perhaps the perfect winter beer is simply the beer that gives the most joy, that warms you without you ever noticing, and the one that you can afford to keep well stocked in case of unexpected snow days.

    As the winds pick up in the garden, and the flames turn to embers, we swig back our mulled wine, our Corona’s and limes, our celebratory sparkling fizz, and let our booze jackets wrap a soothing arm around us.

    Here’s to winter, and the home comforts of whatever our favourite winter warmers may be.

    Me enjoying winter beers

    Me enjoying winter beers

    Winter fire, winter beers

    A little winter fire


    Wouldn't be a winter garden party without sparklers

    Sparkler Fight!

    Sparkler Fight!

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    February 3rd, 2011FletchtheMonkeyDark Mild

    Ronseal would be proud of Thwaites. So would John Smith’s, once they got round to experimenting with new flavours anyway.

    Some might say that Thwaites Nutty Black isn’t exactly a militant artisan beer, despite the fact it definitely offers something different to justanotherbitterpleasethankyouvery much. They are right – this is no Mikkeller experiment – but who cares.

    Thwaites Nutty Black is a solid category winner. Nutty Black stands out against the norm, has been crafted into a mainstream local beer, a simple yet flavoursome ale. It’s character is balanced (a tad thin for my tastes) and it’s different by virtue of embracing nuttiness (and we believe no squirrels were harmed in it’s making).

    Want tasting notes? Take one dark mild, make it taste nutty, hey presto!

    Thwaites brew beers you can drink straight off the moors, alongside a Sunday roast, in front of an open fire with your dirty boots on. Nutty Dark is 3.3% so it’s almost what you might call a family beer and in it’s past life as Thwaites Dark Mild this beer has been around since 1807. It’s even a multi-Champion Beer of Britain winner. Daniel Thwaites would be proud today of his beer portfolio and that this Dark Mild survives on.

    As autumn approaches or as the winter deepens, dark milds are just what the doctor ordered. Why CAMRA put Mild month in May I have no idea because you’d be mad to drink this before the leaves start to turn yellow and fall off. But drink it you should, because it’s pleasantly rewarding. If it’s leaves you unfulfilled but interested then you can try it’s stronger brother Thwaites Very Nutty Black, described tongue-in-cheek as ‘export strength’.

    There’s no nonsense about Thwaites or Nutty Black, just simple northern charm and humour (read the labels on the bottles!).

    Thwaites Nutty Black does exactly what it says on the tin.

    Thwaites Nutty Black pumpclip by Paul Kayley for Thwaites

    Nutty Black pumpclip (by Paul Kayley for Thwaites)

    Thwaites Nutty Black export label

    Exported to the Far East of Leeds (photo by Nick Martin)

    Read the rest of this entry »

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    October 8th, 2009FletchtheMonkeyBeer Reviews, Dark Mild
    The first time I tried Bath Ales’ dark offering, I wasn’t blown away. Perhaps I mused, it’s too subtle for me.
    Three months later and my beer experience has been blown wide open with a variety of new styles and challenging
    reviews. Coming back to Barnstormer is a pleasure, because since I last tried it I’ve actually grown quite a
    passion for darker beers: milds, stouts and porters all included.
    The glory of the darker beer is the complete apposite thinking to some of the paler beers I was used too. Hops
    sometimes make a star appearance but more often than not malt is given the pedestal, the starring role andt the
    opportunity to show what it can do.
    On its second showing Barnstormer shone for me. Fruits dominate the smell and sweet malt infuses the taste.
    Burnt embers mingle with the fruity nose resulting in a complex dark bitter that deserves it ‘distinctive’ label.
    There might be traces of chocolate in there too, that dark, cocoa bean kind.
    There’s no doubt the first time round I didn’t think much of this. I must have served it straight out of the fridge
    or something, as this is a fine dark ale with a complexity that’s easy to stomach and pleasing on the senses.

    Bath Ales Barnstormer beer review

    The first time I tried Bath Ales‘ dark offering, I wasn’t blown away. Perhaps I mused in my notebook at the time, it’s too subtle for me. I’d picked it up from Sainsbury’s (and funnily enough research for our latest series of posts shows it was in fact a winner of their beer competition in 2008).

    Three months later and my beer experience has been blown wide open, much as a result of this site. I’ve experienced a wider variety of styles and challenged myself to write reviews on new and different beers. Coming back to Barnstormer was a pleasure, because since I last tried it I’ve actually grown quite a passion for darker beers: milds, stouts and porters all included.

    This passion started whilst walking the Pennine Way with my Dad in May. The first pub in Edale, The Nag’s Head, served three beers: crudely a bitter, a pale and a dark mild (as I remember it!). My Dad’s enthusiasm at seeing a dark mild (albeit not quite the type of cheap stuff he used to guzzle as a lad growing up in Halifax) made me try a this old-fashioned looking pint and numerous other examples along the ‘Way.

    Barnstoring beer from Bath Ales

    Barnstorming beer from Bath Ales

    The glory of the darker beer is often the complete opposite thinking to some of the paler beers I was used to. Hops sometimes make a star appearance but more often than not malt is given the pedestal, the starring role and the opportunity to show what it can do.

    On its second showing Barnstormer shone for me. Fruits dominate the smell and sweet malt infuses the taste. Burnt embers mingle with the fruity nose resulting in a complex dark bitter that deserves it ‘distinctive’ label. There might be traces of chocolate in there too, that dark, cocoa bean kind.

    There’s no doubt the first time round I didn’t think much of this,  I must have served it straight out of the fridge or something. Second times around it was much better – this is a fine dark ale with a complexity that’s easy to stomach and pleasing on the senses.

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    September 13th, 2009LanesyDark Mild, Fruity Beers

    Football on the telly is always a good excuse to have a few beers, so with England confirming their place in the next world cup (no doubt a great excuse for an international beer feature come next June) I seized my chance to try a few new ales from Morrison’s reasonable range.

    First up, Greene King’s ‘Ruddle’s County’ a dark ruby ale with a sweet nose, a slighty fruity aroma that gives away a hoppy essense (Brambling Cross hops according to the bottle). Ruddles County

    The impressive part once in the mouth is just how smooth this beer is for a bottled product; limited carbonisation suggests that a cask version of this product could not possibly be much smoother. An uncommon thing in many mass-produced bottled beers in my experience.

    The aftertaste is particularly strong, and the alcohol in the ale is particularly prominant, leaving a bitter aftertaste that lingers a little too long in the throat to be considered a treat.

    Reflecting on the finished bottle, it almost felt like the beer had not been left to mature quite long enough, causing a sensation that, quite frankly, left my throat burning slightly in the similar manner that a weak spirit of some form might.

    Next up was a total contrast: Badger’s ‘Golden Champion’. The ‘Golden’ part of the name is not ironic; the liquid is certainly that, pale and transparent, as opposed to deep and opague. Read the rest of this entry »

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    September 11th, 2009FletchtheMonkeyBeer Reviews, Dark Mild

    A dark beer with immediate impact, within the first sip the distinct dark mild style shines through strongly. This is, as it states, a deep and dramatically ruby beer.

    Rudgate Ruby Mild - great news for Rudgate and dark milds

    Rudgate Ruby Mild - great news for Rudgate and dark milds

    The full body is laced with burnt flavours, a dash of coffee ambles through the nutty aftertaste along with a touch of bitterness.

    It’s also sweet and fruity with a rich body, which blends seamlessly with it’s nuttiness.

    It is a very balanced ale, but not because the flavours seamlessly intertwine, but because each sip ebbs and flows between its complexities.

    One of my favourite beers at the moment is Midnight Bell, a strong-for-a-mild and very tasty beer, so in a similar category to Ruby Mild. Pitching these together, I’d be pushed to pick a favourite. They are both beers contributing (hopefully) to a resurgence of an underrated and little catered for beer style, and both add a little extra ‘oomph’ in the process.

    Ruby is a good beer, interesting to drink and a fine dark mild. Best beer in the UK? Not in my opinion, for me there are just more compelling beers out there.

    But don’t let that put you off, it’s well worth a try, and a big congratulations to the team in Tockwith for their GBBF success.

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    August 13th, 2009MarkJackmanDark Mild

    Thwaites’ Nutty Black began life as Thwaites’ Dark Mild and a simple name change breathed life into this little beauty – Thwaites enjoyed a 90% increase in sales, as a result.

    This caused a little sadness within some of the CAMRA circles, because of the name change, but that which we call a rose, by any other name would smell as sweet. I understand that maintaining tradition is important to most people, but surely ensuring the survival of an ale ranks first, and any re-branding that can take real ale through these troubled times where thirty-nine pubs close, every week, is surely a good thing?

    Thwaites’ Nutty Black weighs in at 3.3% abv, but I am reviewing its bigger hitting brother, Thwaites’ Very Nutty Black, Export Strength which is 3.9% abv. Bottle conditioned, and currently a bargain at £1.49 at Morrisons. Although now there are none left in the Loughborough store. Sorry.

    So what’s the beer like?

    Well, I love it, which is why I bought all of Morrison’s stock. It’s as dark as you’d imagine a beer that is a reborn mild would be. Some have described the Nutty Black as a pleasant, butbland mild, but the extra strength in the Very Nutty Black gives it a little more bite. Still, it is not the heaviest or most flavoursome ale that you will drink, but that is a strength, in my book, as it puts this beer in to the “session ale” category.

    You can drink loads of it!

    There are certain beers that were placed on this earth to lead a man on the righteous path to real ale, and this is one of them. I was a lager drinker for years, until a knowledgeable gentleman showed me the way. Harvest Pale he used to entice me from the fizzy side, and I never went back. Still, there is a lot more to beer life than pale ales, and this is one of those “bridging beers” that can take a non-believer to the magical world of stouts, porters and winter warmers.

    Thanks to Mark Jackman for the reivew! You can read more by Mark at his blog. If you would like to get involved and write a review please email or message us on Twitter at

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