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 17th, 2012FletchtheMonkeyBeer and travel, Real Ale

    The planes have long blazed across the hazy horizon and we follow their sky trails as we descent into moorland. The landscape is littered with shake holes and marshy ponds who scoff at the lacklustre heat of the second day of summer. It’s a strange world of ochre, brown and hidden drops into darkness, a barren natural landscape pitted with the dormant pillage of man.

    Soon we’re back below 300 metres above sea level, trudging through the well quarried landscape under the intensifying heat of a determined sun. The stony path can’t decide if it’s heading uphill or downhill but gradually it aches its way lower, two steps forward, one step back.

    We have to take respite in Greg’s Hut, a renovated stone shelter where we find rabbit hutches, camping gear and prayer sheets in what we assume to be an Arabic script. Yes it’s an odd little hut. The guestbook attests to people having sheltered here only days before from torrential wind and rain. It’s a stark reminder that the Pennine Way isn’t always just a majestic wander between pubs.

    It’s here we survey the map, calculating our ETAP (Estimated Time of Arrival at Pub), little knowing our frothy pints and plumped up beds are separated by endless miles of grouse country. It’ll be hours before we see a beer at Alston.

    My makeshift sun parasol has exhausted my arms (it’s not easy walking whilst holding a folded Ordnance Survey map wrapped in a plastic map case above your head at just the right angle to block the sun). And just as the Way starts to get us down, we hit Corpse Road, a hard under foot lane that leads does into a glistening valley. The descent reveals a church spire and a long string of cottages glowing in the sunshine. Hello Garrigill! And there, overlooking a triangle of green land between the forks of the road, perfectly timed and with plenty of shade, The George & Dragon.

    It had better be open…

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    May 2nd, 2012PaulBrownBeer Events, Pubs & bars, Real Ale, Stout & Porter

    As the centenary of the ill-fated Titanic was justly commemorated around the country, my home town had more reason than most to reflect on the tragedy. And being a northern mill town, real ale naturally formed part of the process.

    One of the most memorable of many poignant accounts from the final moments aboard is the solace eight musicians provided as they played on to the very last. Their valiant bandmaster was one Wallace Hartley, a man born and bred in Colne, Lancashire. He and his fellow players sadly perished but he has never been forgotten by generations of local folk.

    Hartley has been honoured by a handsome headstone, commemorative plaques, street names and a bronze bust outside the church where he began his musical career. And a respectful beery nod was forthcoming in 2008 when Wetherspoons acquired the former King’s Head Hotel and christened it the Wallace Hartley.

    And to mark the centenary in its inimitable fashion, the Wallace held a Maiden Voyage Beer Festival spanning the dates the Titanic was at sea a hundred years hence. On tap were a multitude of beers fittingly supplied by Titanic Brewery.

    Titanic Beer Festival Colne

    Titanic Beer Festival Colne

    The first I sampled was one-off collaborative ale by Keith Bott from Titanic and Mark Szmaida of Chelsea Brewing, New York, evocatively named Ship of Dreams. This burnished copper brew was nicely balanced with hints of damson giving way to a sweet and nutty malt finish. I enjoyed it while digesting a felicitously ripping yarn in the form of Treasure Island.

    The interior of the Wallace Hartley is bedecked with dark bevelled tiling, wood panelling and bespoke sculptures and paintings creating a tenebrous maritime theme. Characteristically large and open-plan spaces abound with more secluded nooks and crannies for a quieter pint also around.

    During the festival most of the dozen hand-pumps carried Titanic beers, with a smattering of regulars and other breweries efforts in evidence. Just some of the themed ales on offer were Iceberg, Lifeboat, Steerage, Black Ice, English Glory, White Star and Nine Tenths Below.

    Wetherspoons Colne

    Wetherspoons Colne

    Treasured pint

    Treasured pint

    Titanic Brewery Ship of Dreams

    Ship of Dreams

    Titanic beer list

    Titanic beer list

    I’m a stickler for sampling new stuff where and whenever I can, so I’d previously tested all of these nautical tipples, but one in particular stood out for another slosh: Titanic’s Cappuccino. This potent stout had an über-rich coffee and vanilla nose that really intensified in the mouth. A deeply delicious drink worthy of any occasion.

    Although not a beer festival in the traditional sense, this formed a fitting tribute to the Titanic and its heroic home-town band leader. Let’s raise a glass to Wallace!

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    November 3rd, 2010FletchtheMonkeyBeer Reviews, Pubs & bars, Real Ale

    Butternut Squash Curry and Birra Del Borgo Castagnale

    It’s half 5 and I’m trying desperately to leave work on time to make the 19.45 kick off. The roads are as sodden as tarmac can be, water runs from every orifice of the car and a swirling wind howls around the city centre.

    5 minutes stuck in a queue that goes nowhere. 10 minutes trying to get on the M621 slip road. After being stuck at the same red-amber-green-amber-red-amber-green lights for an eternity I dodge my way out of the queue, flashing the hazards in gratitude, and diverting through Beeston. But it’s a mistake – everywhere is gridlocked. I’ve listened to most of London’s Calling and I’m still within shouting distance of the office.

    But eventually I’m out of inner city terraces, past the ex-continental supermarket (now Tesco, naturally) and bypassing the behemoth estates of South Leeds. At last, the front of the bottleneck and up the slope to the motorway. Mirror, signal, manoeuvre and without further ado I’m tearing raindrops apart on the way to Castleford to meet friends before the game.

    Bedraggled I pull up at Xscape, Yorkshire’s premier haven of neon commercialism. The brightly lid façade is strangely welcoming, blurred though it is through the rain-covered windscreen. I feel like I’m in a teen Hollywood movie, pulling up somewhere I shouldn’t be.

    Then dashing to The Winter Seam for a Wetherspoons tea, hurdling puddles, slamming into the double doors and falling through them into the warmth. The other two are waiting, eating. Lasagne and mixed grill. I slip in at the bar, wait too long to be served and order butternut squash curry and a pint of Castagnale.

    Food is wolfed down in catch-up mode, beer mostly misused to assist this process. Despite this it’s good though, brown and caramel yet interesting. The chestnut and spice finish helps take my mind off the cold, wet evening and complements the hot vegetable broth and naan breads surprisingly well. The food is good too, the service provided with a smile.

    Before long we’re back in the car, heading to Ossett for my first Halifax Town match of the season. It’s the West Riding Cup and Town give Ossett a spanking in front of 100 people. Wind and rain help with at least four goals, but what I’d do for another Castagnale sat behind the goal as rain sweeps and swirls across the pitch. In fact, what I’d do for a Wetherspoons nightcap. Read the rest of this entry »

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    March 4th, 2010FletchtheMonkeyBeer Events, Real Ale

    Horsforth Beer Festival

    Horsforth Beer Festival, North Leeds

    Horsforth Beer Festival, North Leeds

    Jam-packed with Yorkshire beer, Horsforth plays host to its annual beer festival this weekend and some of the pints you’ll find probably haven’t even left God’s Own County to get to your (half) pint glass. Local beers include:

    • Great Heck ‘Slaughterhouse Porter’
    • Hambleton Ales ‘Cheeky Mare’ and ‘Stallion’
    • Little Valley ‘Python IPA’
    • Ilkley Brewing Co ‘Mary Had a Little Lamb’ & ‘Ugly Duckling’

    Prizes for the most memorably weird and wonderful beer (and brewery) names go to:

    • Dicky Ticker Brewery
    • Leadmill Brewery’s ‘Old Mottled Cock’
    • Bazen’s ‘Zebra Best’
    • Blue Monkey’s ’99 Red Babboons’
    • Millstone Brewery’s ‘Tiger Rut’
    • Nutbrook Brewery’s ‘Cow Juice’
    • Old Spot’s ‘Dog in the Barrel’
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    February 16th, 2010FletchtheMonkeyBeer Reviews, IPA, Real Ale

    Let me start by saying I’m not sure I gave this beer a fair run (which is an inadvertent pun!). I’ve just run 8 miles, never a good time for beer tasting. I doubt it was my fastest run ever but it did entail an hour and a half of running up the hills of Morley (of which their are seven, just like Rome, and Sheffield), over the Huddersfield-Leeds train line, across muddy fields, all the way along Churwell Hill, across to Dewsbury and back over the M62. In the rain. You know that rain. The rain that soaks you reet through.

    Dunham Massey IPA and parsnip soup

    Dunham Massey IPA and parsnip soup

    On my return, after 2 x hamstring stretch + 2 x abductor stretch + 2 x hip flexor, but before my super hot sauna style shower, I popped open a beer whilst I liquidised the soup that had been simmering in the slow cooker.

    This was part of a haul from the Beer Emporium in Sandbach, one of the first I picked up because I can’t help but be drawn to anything that says IPA on the label/pump clip. It poured very well for a bottle conditioned IPA, very clear, with a copper gradient and deep amber colour. Its nose and taste belied its appearance: I would expect it to be much more yellow and thinner because it tasted pale and gaunt, despite some upfront hop flavours and a little bit of biscuit. Read the rest of this entry »

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    January 5th, 2010FletchtheMonkeyBarley wine, Bitters, Comment, Real Ale

    Are you a huge hop head? Do you crave Humulus Lupulus in your sleep? Maybe you even struggle to wake up after a few “double IPAs” and a night asleep on a hop pillow?!

    Well one Oxfordshire brewer has taken on the challenge to create the world’s bitterest beer, and his strategy: yeah you guessed it, he’s thrown a silly amount of hops into his brew.

    Pitstop Brewery are hoping to hit the Guinness Book of World Records with their bitter bitter

    Pitstop Brewery are hoping to hit the Guinness Book of World Records with their bitter bitter

    Pete Fowler of the Pitstop Brewery near Wantage rose to the occasion after a friend reckoned he couldn’t match the bitterness of US craft beers, and in Mr Fowler’s words ‘that was like red rag to a bull’. The beer (or barley wine) has over £100s worth of hops plus additional hop additives for one 9 barrel keg of the beer compared to a usual £5 worth.

    Bearing in mind the brewer himself hasn’t tried it yet and is expecting it to be in the region of 500 IBUs* (a theoretical number which scares the pants of my tastebuds) it raises interesting questions on innovation (or should I say ‘innovation’).

    Is this an ‘extreme beer’? Or is it simply a boisterous take on the traditional British bitter, tongue in cheek and one finger up to the extremists? Or just a bit of fun?!

    Read the rest of this entry »

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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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    September 26th, 2009LanesyBeer Reviews, Bitters, Real Ale

    I have previously enjoyed one of Acorn Brewery’s seasonal ales Summer Pale in Leeds’ excellent drinking hole Victoria Commercial, so was keen to try one of their permanent offerings ‘Barnsley Bitter’.

    Sam enjoys a pint of Acorn in Leeds' Victoria Hotel

    Sam enjoys a pint of Acorn in Leeds' Victoria Hotel

    The look of the pint oozes tradition, right from the off-white, fluffy head down to the dark ruby colour of the body. There is a strong coffee-esque aroma with a hint of Hazelnut noticable as well.

    The taste follows the scent perfectly; a strong roasted coffee flavour leads on to a warm bitter aftertaste that defies it’s session ale ABV of 3.8%.

    The sensation of the first drink reminds me much of the early-morning caffine rush, often required to get through that Monday morning feeling. It’s a great, satisfying feeling.

    The remainder of the pint, unfortunately, never quite hits that high and whilst it remains a good, well-produced bitter with enough to make it stand out from some of the more run-of-the-mill offerings, there wasn’t quite enough to make me want a second pint amongst the competition available at the pump-rich bar at the Vic.

    On reviewing Summer Pale, I commented that it was perfect for drinking in the season during which it sells. As we roll into autumn and winter, Acorn Brewery produce a bitter that is definitely a first pint to recommend to warm the cockles.

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    September 16th, 2009Alan WalshReal Ale

    Loxley Ale with Chicken, Chorizo and Green Pepper Pasta

    Loxley Ale with Chicken, Chorizo and Green Pepper Pasta

    Now for the first taste of the MileStone beers I picked up the other day when visiting the Brewery shop in Cromwell. I have plumped for Loxley Ale  (4,2% abv), named after the famous Robin of Loxley. I have selected this one first because I am a big Robin Hood fan, not so much the recent offering from the BBC starring Jonas Armstrong, but I am a massive fan of the Kevin Costner movie, have read the Henry Gilbert book too many times than I can count and I even harbour a secret love of the Walt Disney version!!!!

    The fantastic MileStone website has tasting notes on all their ales and the Loxley Ale is described as having a ‘crisp lemony tang’ coupled with ‘slight honey sweetness’. Ron recommends either a good ploughman’s or a Korma. I had other ideas. Having tried a few sips I agreed with the website’s decription, the beer has a drinkable sweetness, appearing after an initial citrus tang – perfect to have with a nice summer salad I though…so I rolled back the cool Leeds weather and prepared this creamy pasta salad which I believe compliments the zingy sweetness of the Loxley Ale perfectly.

    Creamy Chicken, Chorizo, Leek and Green Pepper Pasta Salad
    Serves 2

    Ingredients1 Large Chicken Breast – cut into thin strips
    Diced Chorizo – handful
    2 Leeks – sliced
    2 Medium Green Peppers
    300ml Creme Fraiche
    Cheese & Tomato Tortellini – two handfuls
    2 Little Gem Lettuce – torn into shreds
    10 Cherry Tomatoes – halved
    Ground Black Pepper (to taste)
    Olive Oil (to fry)
    Splash of Balsamic Vinegar (to dress)


    Cooking under wayWarm the Olive Oil in the pan and fry the chicken, peppers, leek and chorizo until the chicken is cooked through (usually about 20mins). Cook the Tortellini in a pan of boiling water until soft. Whilst all the bits are cooking rip the lettuce up, divide between two bowls, splash with balsamic and throw on the cherry toms. Once the chicken is cooked stir the Creme Fraiche in and add the Tortellini before spooning onto the lettuce beds. Serve with a glass of MileStone Loxley Ale.

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    September 6th, 2009Alan WalshReal Ale

    I had a hard day on the other love of my life today – Hockey. Yes  I am aware that it is a girls sport! Anyway, I’ve been at the Yorkshire Cup tournament all day which involved stopping and starting and ultimately just getting the result we needed to not get relegated from next year’s tournament. Limping back to the car earlier this evening I decided I needed a Chinese takeaway and my pre marathon ration of beer (T- 7 days until normal service resumes).

    Old Speckled Hen

    So, having ordered a Special Chow Mein, I nipped down to a Somerfield garage to pick up a bottle. There wasn’t a massive range, not that you would expect there to be as it is one of those mini supermarkets that seem to have attached themselves to petrol stations just recently. The choice was mainly limted to quite mainstream ales so I was quite conscious that I didn’t want to pick one that had already been reviewed…racking my brains I couldn’t recall ever writing anything about Old Speckled Hen, despite having had it on a number of occasions. I decided that this was the winner for tonight.

    I had always assumed this beer was called Old Speckled Hen because of it’s dark reddish brown colour which, if I recall correctly from growing up in the country, is the same as a lot of chickens. It turns out that I was wrong. The beer is actually named after a car, which was known as the ‘Old  Speckled Un’,  used in an MG factory years ago. In 1979 MG asked Moorland Brewery to create a commemorative beer to celebrate the factory’s 50th anniversary and somewhere along the  line the name was changed to Old Speckled Hen before finding its way onto the bottle.

    This story is one of those that I think would make James May puff out his chest with pride in English tradition and, to be honest, the fact that you can walk into a Tesco Extra and buy a beer named after a car, to commemorate a factory’s 50th anniversary 30 years ago, kind of gives me a warm glow as well.

    Read the rest of this entry »

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