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 14th, 2009LanesyBeer Reviews, Mild beer, Real Ale

    I have a soft spot for beers that have a) an attractive, modern, cartoony label and b) an interesting back-story. A sucker for marketing, I know, but there was no way I could leave Pure Ubu on the shelf for both of these reasons.

    Pure Ubu

    Pure Ubu: It's a dog's life!

    Ubu, according to the label, is the brewery’s dog, who is “a maverick, brim full of character and the unofficial keeper of [Purity's] secrets”. There’s even a cute little drawing of him crowning the front label.

    However, I must become a hard-nosed beer reviewer once again, decant the dark amber liquid into a glass, and cast the bottle away from view as to not influence my judgement on the key element of this package.

    The nose is malty and warm, with an extra-sweet sensation of caramel and toffee coming through strongly. Once in the mouth, the light carbonisation barely disguises the rather thin, slightly watery mouthfeel. A little warm flavour does manage to make its way through, however, and the slightly nutty taste soon gives way warm, dry aftertaste; an unexpected sensation considering the lightness of the body.

    Further down the glass, the beer becomes rather refreshing and fairly enjoyable. Initial disappointment at the lack of impact in the mouth soon gives way to a rather satisfying ending. This, surprisingly considering the darkness of tone, would make a great summer session ale, with the 4.5% abv being relatively none threatening if enjoyed over a period of time.

    In the same way that image of little Ubu frolicking happily across the label, this beer wins its way into your heart. Like owning a dog, at first it can seem hard work, but perseverance will bring its rewards with this ale.

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    November 9th, 2009FletchtheMonkeyBeer Reviews, Mild beer

    The 15 finalists in the Sainsbury’s Beer Competition included no less than 7 beers from Scotland.  The remaining 8 from England included beers from Devon (2), Shropshire, Yorkshire, Somerset (Bath) and Suffolk. The east of England is actually quite well represented with these two entries from the Wolf Brewery in Norfolk as well as Greene King’s Bretwalda.

    I’ve come across Wolf before, last year (although not this year  as I didn’t get to the local section) at Norwich Beer Festival. The festival, held in the St. Andrew’s & Blackfriars’ Halls slap bang in the centre of the ancient city, not only has the usual set up of lots of UK real ale ales, but also a room each dedicated to world beers and local beers.

    It’s in the local beers room, a rowdy rabbble of beer, cider and tombola, that Wolf features at Nowich Beer Festival. Along with St Peters (from Suffolk) and a handful of smaller breweries East Anglia’s beer is proudly poured for the red nosed punters amidst a loud din of jovialness.

    And I think that’s the way these beers are meant to be drunk, because served up in a bottle in front of me I don’t get the same excitement of buzz as I did at the festival.

    Wolf Whistle is the paler of the two ales, although it is still a vibrant Fantastic Mr Fox red, bold and amber in complexion. There is a sweetness and gentle hop aroma on the nose, and this is washed down by the easy to drink liquid that leaves a malty aftertaste. The hops add a subtle aroma and later a bitterness that, without, would leave this beer uninteresting.

    Wolf Whistle and Woild Moild: one red one ruby, both very drinkable

    Wolf Whistle and Woild Moild: one red one ruby, both very drinkable

    No doubt this is a session beer rather than an occasion beer and I can see it being better from the cask. It’s clean and light and makes you want another sip, but that’s more to do with the pleasant malt bitterness than a bursting taste you can’t wait to get back to.

    Woild Moild is a much darker affair, with a rich nose and a smoky dark mild body and a gentle carbonisation that adds (a slight) bite on the tongue. What sets this apart from similar dark beers is Woild Moild’s fruitiness, which, as with Wolf Whistle’s hops, it would be uninteresting without. For me this beer is held back because I can’t find the chocolate malt the label promised. Without that it’s a simple, fruity dark beer but isn’t as interesting as I was expecting.

    These beers are well worth a look though, not least for Wolf’s attitude as a brewery and local business. Wolf are very much focused on their local heritage, placing emphasis on sustainability - they draw water from their own well, recycle waste products and source barley malt from just across the Suffolk border.

    Wolf Brewery have certainly done very well to get in the 15 finalists, and the beers are good and highly drinkable – in my opinion they’re just not great. These are session beers, and good pub beers – tasty, fruity and easy to drink – but a little more spark would be needed to be competition winners.

    Thanks to Duncan at Wolf Brewery who came to my rescue with a bottle of Wolf Whistle, the only one of the 15 finalists I wasn’t able to get at my local Sainsbury’s.

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    October 14th, 2009FletchtheMonkeyBeer Reviews, IPA, Mild beer

    Tremendously excited about a beer named after a band I’ve held on a pedestal for over 50% of my life, I jumped on the chance to grab a couple of these when I picked up a few beers for a Soccer Saturday marathon and catch up with mates from my uni days. Trying to conduct a beer review in front of Jeff Stelling and co is never easy, especially when it isn’t the easiest review to write.

    How To Disappear Completely - it's very complicated

    How To Disappear Completely - it's very complicated

    How To Disappear Completely is something else.  To say its heavy on the hops is an understatement! The aroma and the first sip are larger than life, a complete juxtaposition with the Radiohead song it’s named after. This is, as the bottle suggests, is imperially hopped.  That’s something I can be pretty keen on, but of course with beers super charged with hops, balance is inevitably lost. My first reaction is that for the piney-hoppy-dark-malt fest that this beer is right from the start, this isn’t alcoholically strong, begging the question where does this taste come from (or where does the alcohol go?!).

    BrewDog’s beers are generally very drinkable, especially considering that they are usually above average strength, and How To Disappear Completely is deceptively light. And considering the immense bitterness this beer exudes, it is sort of drinkable…relatively speaking. But if I’m honest I just didn’t enjoy it anywhere near as much as Punk IPA or Chaos Theory.

    It’s not a bad beer by any means, there’s a depth of flavour that I found quite overpowering and perhaps a bit OTT, something I find with Stone Ruination IPA – a beer of such character that it can barely get into it before it’s tripped me up and spat my back out. How To Disappear is similarly hopped, I’ve no doubt the ascerbic power of this beer will take you by surprise and the off-the-scale theoretical IBU count of 358 (or something) will have your taste buds screaming for mercy and jumping ship like lemmings.

    It feels like a seasonal beer, something suitable for the autumn and winter, not one of the last hot and sunny days of summer, watching the football results with accumulator in hand. The flavours are astonishing – I’m sure that cocoa, cigars, grass, fruit and leaves all hit me at different points when I wasn’t stunned by the bitterness. The malt manages to make brief, fleeting appearances and adds a smoky, roasted flavour …but blink and it’ll disappear. The flavours of the beer do disappear and intertwine like the do in the same way, just in a much cruder way.

    How To Disappear Completely by BrewDog

    How To Disappear Completely by BrewDog

    My friends Jimmy and Jay were not at all impressed, this being too far flung from the safe arms of Birri Moretti and Erdinger, about the fanciest they get. Their first reactions were knee jerk – this was just way, way too much to handle.

    And I’d agree to a certain extent. For me I like the idea and I like it that a milder beer (ABV wise) can be amazingly complex. But How To Disappear Completely didn’t strike me as interestingly intricate, I found it difficult. For me its balance is lost and the hop/malt struggle within this beer isn’t a tug of war of the taste buds but more of an uncoordinated rabble that peters out leaving an uncomfortable aftertaste. The stormy brew doesn’t ebb and flow, the flavours crash and erode, leaving your senses a little worse for wear. That’s if you’re able to get through the bitterness and find those flavours!

    Let’s put aside the hyperbole and verbose descriptions for a second. When it all boils down, How To Disappear is a beer I’ll try again. Maybe my taste buds will become attuned to it, maybe I’ll find something else in it,  but it’s not one I could drink regularly, and certainly not something I could convert friends to easily.  Like the song, which wasn’t my favourite on Kid A to start with, it really took a lot of effort to get under the skin of it, and I still don’t fully get it. But I love the song now, so maybe the beer is a grower?

    If I had to choose, if I could have only this beer or the song of the same name, then I’d have to take the song every time.

    But being an optimist, I’d definitely take the song and the beer if that was an option, even if I’m never able to quite enjoy it or get it.

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