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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    September 28th, 2011FletchtheMonkeyBeer Reviews, Golden Ales, Wheat beers

    In resplendent blue glass Adnams Spindrift speaks in the hushed tones of castaway shells and seaside pebbles, whispering “Drink me, drink me”.

    What makes this beer so interesting is that every time it’s washed up in my shopping basket it’s a little bit different, never exactly the same. Citrus fruits from far away lands bounds out of one bottle; sea salt and black pepper dominate another; one is funky, overripe fruit laced with pithy, orange rind bitterness

    Could the elegant blue bottle be responsible for these variations? Or is the spirit of spindrift captured metaphorically and literally – perhaps it really is the beerification of the sea whipping up all sorts of interesting flavours and chucking them over here, over there, over everywhere on the back of a force 8 gale?

    Spindrift is less volatile, more elegant. Today’s bottle ebbs and flows between fruit, coast and flora: drinking it is to be washed up on a salty beach with a paraffin lamp, where over-ripe lychees fall from trees and seaweed and pepper and lemon juice make up the desert island meal. It’s laced with citrus and wheat influence, herbs and even a dash of honey perhaps. But crucially, the conbination of flavours don’t quite feel vibrant: it’s sun kissed, or perhaps in this case wind burnt.

    If Spindrift is the daily bread of lazy coastal days I’d take it with outstretched arms, but it is for sure a beer to be drunk fresh, on a warm day; it’s a beer whose effervescence needs to be preserved in order to successfully quench thirst and conjure a far away sea breeze.

    adnams spindrift

    Adnams Spindrift, with the sparkle of the sea


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    February 15th, 2011FletchtheMonkeyBeer Reviews, Golden Ales

    From Pendle Hill you’ve more chance of seeing Ian Holloway celebrating at Bloomfield Road than coming across any broomsticks or clandestine hurlyburly. And that’s on a cloudy day.

    The sandstone plateau does have a slightly spooky aura about it though. Standing proud from the undulating hillside you can imagine a cackling coven of witches peering over the landscape and plotting the demise of their rivals. Especially if you visit during thunder and lightning…

    Moorhouse’s Pendle Witches Brew is inherently charming. Perhaps it’s the verve for local legend – not only are the witches still much talked about but the brewery itself has had a somewhat rollercoaster existence – that makes this beer so appealing at the bar and in the local supermarket.

    For something conjured up in the cauldrons of witches, Pendle Witches Brew is surprisingly fresh. Citrus fruits and uncooked dough illuminate the nose, and reappear in the washing-up liquid backbone.

    Too cold from the fridge initially, it warms and fruity flavours gently emerge – lemon, oranges and caramel; Fuggles hops and Crystal malt (we assume) make it entirely English. It’s pleasantly bitter-sweet, finishing dry in the mouth with a slightly medicinal bitterness, more alkaline than acidic.

    I can’t think of a better beer to refresh the body after an excursion atop Pendle Hill. In the comfort of a local pub that caters for weary legs, there’s nothing more appropriate or becoming of the moment. You can call it a type of occasion terroir.

    Which sounds like the perfect end to a Sunday summit with friends. You might even see Blackpool Tower on a good day.

    Moorhouse's Pendle Witches Brew

    Moorhouse

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    March 25th, 2010FletchtheMonkeyBeer Reviews, Fruity Beers, Golden Ales

    Badger Golden Glory is one of the beers that got me into this beer blogging malarkey. Back way when, bored of the canned lagers largely devoid of taste and with a little more disposable income than my university days, me and then house mate Alan were keen to drink something with a bit more taste. We sampled everything the supermarkets had to offer, from local ales to the array of continental lagers.

    Somewhere along the way Golden Glory (and Badgers other similar beer Golden Champion) soon became a favourite. It was sweeter with a more palatable taste than most of the beers and was always on form, which made it an easy purchase decision. I’d often pick up a handful of new beers to try and then a risk-free Badger and maybe a St Peters.

    Coming back to it now feels a bit full circle. And the good thing is that Golden Glory is still great.

    Badger Golden Glory: soft fruit, sweet and bitter

    Badger Golden Glory: soft fruit, sweet and bitter

    Peaches and melon dominant the nose, you could easily call cherry blossom, kiwis and candy too without fear of sounding pretentious. There’s a bit of an alcohol sting to the first sip, a touch of spice and a bitter finish. Above all this beer is sweet,all floral and fruit overlaid rather than intertwined with a very subtle caramel flavour and a bitter finish.

    This is easy to drink from glass or bottle, there’s a zingy kick to it which gives it that little bit more oomph (or umpf?!) over some of it’s competitors on the supermarket shelves. If you like your beer to have aroma and punch then as English ales go you can’t do much worse than this fruity number. Serve slightly chilled for a bit more kick and refreshment on a hot day (you might be waiting a while though!)

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    March 24th, 2010FletchtheMonkeyBeer Reviews, Golden Ales, Pale Ales
    Hopback Summer Lightning: a bit of a legend in Beerland

    Hopback Summer Lightning: a bit of a legend in Beerland

    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 brother stealing all of the attention in the Fletcher household, John Gilbert of the newly formed Hopback Brewery was quietly supplying his local beer festival with a special beer for their annual event. He answered their brief not with an amber bitter or a dark mild, but with a golden well-hopped beer. Read the rest of this entry »

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    November 22nd, 2009LanesyBeer Reviews, Golden Ales
    Trade Winds: A former prizewinner that still retains a certain appeal.

    Trade Winds: A former prizewinner that still retains a certain appeal.

    Despite finding myself in deepest Norfolk last week, I found that I had actually picked up a selection of Scottish ales from the various beer outlets around the region. One of these is Trade Winds by Cairngorm Brewery, from Aviemore in the Highlands of the country.

    The cask version is a three-time former Champion Beer of Britain in the Speciality Class, so Trade Winds comes with some pedigree and the aroma straight from the bottle displays one of its key assets straight away; a lovely hoppy-sweet scent that appeals to my recently aquired  love of the hoppy beers. There is a slightly grassy note present, supported by a sweet fruitiness – most likely from the Elderflower as promised on the bottle.

    The inital mouthfeel, considering the richness of the nose, is surprisingly astringent and a little thinner in the body than I anticipated, with a light carbonisation that tickles the tongue. Although these descriptions are generally negative connotations, this isn’t the impression I am trying to generate by using them; more that it is an unexpected experience from the richness promised by the aroma. Flavour-wise, the fruitiness remains, with a slight hint of blackberries that fills out an otherwise sharp, crisp, citrusy flavour. Read the rest of this entry »

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    November 2nd, 2009FletchtheMonkeyBeer Reviews, Golden Ales
    Yellow Hammer stood out on the Sainsbury’s shelf like a woodpecker drilling into a tree, bold yellow type urging me to pick it up.
    My first O’Hanlons ale poured a light golden colour with a delicate head. It was pretty lively with a slightly yeasty fruit/floral aroma that many bottle conditioned ale seems to have.
    The fresh floral scent of those Cascade hops was followed by a golden malt taste that was fresh and sweet. I was right in the mood for it and it came up trumps with a nice balance of hops, malt and sweetness to refresh my palate.
    This beer bottle brings up the question of bottle conditioned or not bottle conditioned, a debate that every now and then rears its divisive head. This is a nice beer, and I’d certainly have it again, but how much better is it because it is bottle conditioned (I’d genuinely like to know!). I’m not sure I like having to take great care and attention pouring this when I’m dealing with what would otherwise be a light, refreshing golden beer. If I wanted this on a summer night I’d prefer to slightly chill it and not have to worry about sediment escaping the safe confines of the bottle.
    That sediment, makes a big different if it does end up loose in your glass of beer (a little bit of which did near the end). Maybe I’ve missed the point a little with this ale, I’d love to try it on draft in a beer garden and will definitely try in a bottle again (pouring with more due diligence this time around!).

    Yellow Hammer stood out on the Sainsbury’s shelf like a woodpecker drilling into my brain, the bold yellow type urging me to pick it up.

    My first O’Hanlon’s ale poured a light golden colour with a delicate head. It was pretty lively with a slightly yeasty aroma that many bottle conditioned ale seems to have.

    This was followed by the fresh floral scent of Cascade hops, which preceded a golden malt taste that was fresh and sweet. I was right in the mood for it and it came up trumps with a nice balance of hops, malt and sweetness to refresh my palate.

    This is a zesty little number, the malt is subtle and it has the character you might expect from the  small, lively bird it’s named after. This is a beer that could really hit the spot in a refreshing way.

    O'Hanlon's Yellow Hammer beer review

    O'Hanlon's Yellow Hammer beer review

    This beer brings up a question I’ve been meaning to ask for a while: ‘bottle conditioned’ or ‘not bottle conditioned? It’s a debate that every now and then rears its divisive head. This is a nice beer, and I’d certainly have it again, but how much better is it because it is bottle conditioned? (I’d genuinely like to know!).

    I’m not sure I like having to take great care and attention pouring this when I’m dealing with what is essentially a light, refreshing golden beer. If I wanted this on a summer night I’d prefer to slightly chill it and not have to worry about sediment escaping the safe confines of the bottle.

    That sediment makes a big different if it does end up loose in your glass of beer (a little bit of which did near the end).

    Regardless of that this is a good beer that I’d love to try on draft in a beer garden and will definitely try in a bottle again (pouring with more due diligence this time around!).

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    October 11th, 2009FletchtheMonkeyBeer Reviews, Golden Ales

    Bath Ales Golden Hare

    Objectivity in any sort of reviewing is very difficult. I’m the first person to admit that my favourite beers of all time are drowned in nostaglia and personal experience – drinking Brooklyn EIPA or Old Hooky my judgement is clouded with an emotional connection to those beers that were my first of a particular style or are associated with personal triumphs.

    Beyond these beers there’s the beers by breweries that I just love. I’m a sucker for St Peter’s rounded bottles and for Brooklyn’s adaptable logo designs*, BrewDog oozes rebellion whilst White Shield, steeped in history, will always be my benchmark of English IPAs.

    Bath Ales is one of the breweries that is starting to make a mark with me. I love the labels, they are a mix of contemporary and traditional, somehow reminding me of a cosy yet modern pub and restaurant, the sort of establishment that serves continental lager with olives, and is decorated with Habitat ceiling lights hanging from 13th century exposed beams –  all set against a roaring fire in the middle of the Dales of course. It’s not everyone’s cup of tea but it makes me feel cosy whilst remaining comfortably luxurious.

    Bath Ales' Golden Hare

    Bath Ales' Golden Hare

    The names of Bath Ales’ beers are similarly classy whilst rooted in the Avon countryside and the charm of rural life.

    And the beers are good too: Barnstormer winner of the Sainsbury’s Beer Competition 2008 is a distinctive dark ale, Gem a rich amber bitter and Wild Hare, a citrusy pale beer brewed with yeast.

    But the cream of the crop might just be this little number, Golden Hare.

    Golden Hare pours a gleaming gold, light amber and yellow. There’s a slight floral aroma and a fruity nose. It slips down your throat with ease (as most Bath Ales do), with hints of tropical fruits following a light and fresh golden body.

    This is crisp, refreshing, almost invigorating – dry yet thirst quenching. The tangy aftertaste begs another sip and the zesty flavours exude sunny days and long nights.

    But am I being objective, or have I succumbed to the ‘pick me off the shelf’ labelling and paradoxically modern/traditional branding?

    Who knows? And does it really matter if I enjoy it?

    *(interesting, the Brooklyn logo was designed by Milton Glaser, designer of the I Heart NY rebus and the poster from Dylan’s 1967 Greatest Hits album)

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    October 9th, 2009FletchtheMonkeyGolden Ales
    On arrival at Sainsbury’s to peruse the finalists in their 2009 beer competition Birds & Bees
    immediately caught my attention. The label is modern and playful and stood out from the crowd.
    I loved the colour and the illustration and it fell into my basket (placed very carefully I should say)
    without further thought.
    Originally I was going to save this beer but it on an indecisive evening with the light not fading until late into the night, it was this
    that grabbed my attention again and I plucked it from the shelf.
    Not 100% sure what to expect I took care opening it and poured out the golden liquid. It had a light hoppy aroma,
    and light fruity taste. Turns out it’s a light golden ale! Swill this around and the colour, aroma and the taste combine
    to make a really good golden beer.
    The gentle fruit and floral aroma (looking at the label that must be the elderflower
    and the Cascade hops) is really refreshing. There is a malt finish that adds an unexpected
    darker tang to the beer, which is just enough to make you want another sip and no doubt makes this an enticing session beer.
    Trying this it was actually one of the first summer ales I’ve had and I wish I’d been able to get my hands on some in May or June as this might just have been my proverbial soundtrack to the summer (that typical over in a flash summer we usually have!)
    I’ve only tried the bottle  but I can only imagine the cask version of this is the perfect pint on a sumnnyternoon.

    On arrival at Sainsbury’s to peruse the finalists in their 2009 beer competition, Birds & Bees immediately caught my attention. The label is modern and playful and stood out from the crowd.

    I loved the colour and the illustration and it fell into my basket (placed very carefully I should say) without further thought.

    Birds & Bees & Beer: this is a playful ale with citrus and honey flavours

    Birds & Bees & Beer: this is a playful ale with citrus and honey flavours

    Originally I was going to save this beer but it on an indecisive evening with the light not fading until late into the night, it was this that grabbed my attention again and I plucked it from the shelf.

    Not 100% sure what to expect I took care opening it and poured out the golden liquid. It had a light hoppy aroma, and light fruity taste. Turns out it’s a light golden ale! Swill this around and the colour, aroma and the taste combine to make a really appealing golden beer.

    The gentle fruit and floral aroma (looking at the label that must be the elderflower and the Cascade hops) is really refreshing. Honey and lemon blossom on your tastebuds and there is a malt finish that adds an unexpected bitter tang to the beer, which is just enough to make you want another sip and makes this an enticing session beer.

    Trying this it was actually one of the first summer ales I’ve had and I wish I’d been able to get my hands on some in May or June as this might just have been my proverbial soundtrack to the summer (that typical over in a flash summer we usually have!)

    I’ve only tried the bottle  but I can only imagine the cask version of this is the perfect pint on a sunny afternoon.

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    October 7th, 2009FletchtheMonkeyBeer Reviews, Golden Ales

    The first in our Sainsbury’s Beer Competition series is Woods Shropshire Lass. You might have guessed from the name that it pours a blonde, light beer (why aren’t there any darker beers called brunette?!).

    Woods Shropshire Lass - a crisp blonde

    Woods Shropshire Lass - a crisp blonde

    A sniff of this is nice indeed, a floral fruity scent reminiscent of a spring day or a summer morning from a novel.

    To drink it’s tasty and refreshing, a crisp, blonde body makes this an easy drinking ale.
    Nothing in this beer compromises any other flavou, there are no taste that haggle for your attention or force you to notice them.
    It’s a gentle and taste beer, delicately fruity and well balanced.
    I reckon most pub goers could fulfil a session on this (during the milder months of the year at leThe first in our Sainsbury’s Beer Competition series is Woods Shropshire Lass. You might have guessed from the name that it pours a blonde, light beer (why aren’t there any darker beers called brunette?!).

    To drink it’s tasty and refreshing, a crisp, blonde body makes this an easy drinking ale.

    Nothing in this beer compromises any other flavour, there are no taste that haggle for your attention or force you to notice them.

    It’s a gentle and taste beer, delicately fruity and well balanced.

    I reckon most pub goers could fulfil a session on this (during the milder months of the year at least.

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