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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    December 19th, 2012FletchtheMonkeyBeer Shops

    I came to the beer aisle for a special offer.
    It’s not enough to keep me drinking happily.
    I think I just want a bit of personality?

    I tune in to all the foodies on BBC,
    I even collect coupons from packets of green tea.
    On Fridays I get 50p off giant King Cobra’s,
    I empty a bottle, I feel a bit free.

    But what’s this, a lovely bright coloured leaflet,
    Some simply worded advice aimed at someone like me.
    It’s got advise on how to pour a perfect pint,
    It even suggests a beer to go with my tea.

    Double malt brews to pair with a pizza,
    Amber ale, the classic British brew.
    Dark stouts, bitter and roasted,
    Golden ales, all zesty and crisp.

    I’m told the height of a beers head depends on the distance between the glass and the bottle.
    Well this is big news to me!
    So I’m tilting my glass at an angle, and that beer looks so bloody lov-e-ly!

    And these hops they sound pretty special, their cone-like flowers grow tall and grow fast.
    Just add them to barley, water and yeast, and you have a refreshing beer to drink.

    I’m all lost in the supermarket, all I want is to buy a cheap beer.
    But then I read this leaflet, I take a closer look;
    suddenly I’m shopping for beers of all different personalities.

    image

    Lost

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    in

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    the

    image

    supermarket

    Choosing the perfect beer

    Choosing the perfect beer

    Choosing a beer style

    Amber beers, dark beers?

    Pour the perfect pint

    Pour the perfect pint

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    March 21st, 2011LukeBlockBeer Reviews, Beer Shops, Bitters

    Tom Waits got it right when he sang about ‘thirsty jackaroos’ and ‘no spirits, no bilgewater and 80 dry locals’ on Town With No Cheer, a sombre (and sober) tale of a shut down and forgotten canteen at a blistering hot Australian train station. I can sympathise with you, Tom. We’ve all been there haven’t we? That missed connection, that cancelled service provoking an edgy and desperate search for something, anything other than anaemic coffee from a battered vending machine. You might get lucky and find a decent pub right next to the train station – but what are the chances of a takeaway from the station shop itself? Zero I reckon.

    Thanks then to Sourced Market at St Pancras International. Hardly a backwater I know, and not somewhere the punters in Waits’ song would recognise, but the level of choice for this thirsty jackaroo was more than impressive.

    Pricky Back Otchan Great Newsome brewery

    Pricky Back Otchan (prickly-backed urchin) by Great Newsome

    Racked up in a tall cabinet opposite expensive sounding claret, are the ales. There is a broad farmhouse style table for tasting on the spot if you can’t wait to get home, or you can take away. Not wanting to upset Mrs B I went for the latter option, and chose a couple of the guest ales – a smart promotion for the Great Newsome Brewery up at Winstead, Hull.

    Pricky Back Otchan (you’ll need a translator for that one) is a sweet amber bitter with enough hop to make it a fanciable session beer and, at 4.2% ABV, it has a roundness and complexity to keep you guessing. Hints of citrus but without ruining what I found to be a solid enough brew. It went well with pasta and chicken pesto but I would imagine deep chunky casseroles would be the best match. A nice alternative to Shepherd Neame’s Late Red of which I’ve been chewing down recently. Read the rest of this entry »

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    February 18th, 2010FletchtheMonkeyBeer Shops

    The weekend just gone I visited my cousins in Cheshire. They are 9 and 5 years old (I think!) respectively and are bundles of noise and cheekiness. Despite spending the weekend calling me by my brothers first name in a bid to wind me up, they don’t half make me smile, especially when they (well, their dad, my uncle) took me to their newly opened local beer shop.

    The Beer Emporium, Sandbach

    The Beer Emporium, Sandbach

    The Beer Emporium is a small but well stocked beer shop in Sandbach, a quirky and slightly curious town, situated straight off the M6, with a far reaching history that’s most prominently displayed in the Sandbach Crosses, a scheduled monument dating back to the Middle Ages. Despite the wood framed buildings and a posh deli stuffed to the rafters with fine foods and continental delicacies I’m assured that the town is sports mad, with barely a dash of culture amidst the football posts and cricket stumps (the last bastion of hope is WH SMith’s, the only place you can buy a book). The ancient looking pubs are beautiful from the outside but to my shame we didn’t have time to venture in them with the young cousins in tow. Read the rest of this entry »

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    January 14th, 2010FletchtheMonkeyBeer Shops

    I  hadn’t really taken much note of the beer aisle in Morrison’s for a while, writing it off as a bit dull and uninteresting. We’re unusually blessed with Morrison’s, Sainsbury’s and ASDA within a 4-minute radius in the car, not to mention Leeds’ finer beery retailers, so I can happily avoid Morrison’s BWS department for months on end.

    Badger Golden Glory, Thwaites Wainwright and and Everard's Tiger - great beers on Morrisons' 4 for £5.50 offer

    Badger Golden Glory, Thwaites Wainwright, Everard's Tiger and Black Sheep - 4 great beers for £5.50

    On Sarah’s request I popped in straight off the bus on Tuesday night for some naan bread and as I headed from checkout to door I couldn’t help but be drawn towards the beer and wines section (our Morrison’s is one of those odd divisive ones with a separate alcohol area fenced off from the main supermarket floor).

    First off I was impressed with their range and I was overcome with an urge to try old favourites and classic British beers. Thai green chicken curry was on the menu which called for something a little exotic, plus I needed a pick me up after an arduous day at the office: a refreshing and zingy Golden Champion would do just the trick. Read the rest of this entry »

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    November 30th, 2009FletchtheMonkeyBeer Shops
    On Ilkley Moor: one with hat, one without hat

    On Ilkley Moor: one with hat, one without hat

    If you read about my special beer night a few weeks ago, you might remember that my usually varied and brimming beer cupboard was running a bit low, with only a few beers left, most of them bottles I was saving.

    So with pay day just gone it was time for a stock up, so the weekend just gone I nipped to Ilkley for a few hours out on the moor with Sam Lanes, stopping at Booth’s supermarket on the way before a quick wallet burning session in Beer Ritz.

    I’d gone with the intention of stocking up on pale ales, it’s been a while since I had any staple favourites in and I fancied some strong hoppy numbers, the likes of Halcyon, EIPA, Goose Island, St Lupulin and co. But I ended up leaving with a surprisingly English ale selection, as the Booths stock was very focussed on Northern numbers and I got distracted at Beer Ritz by  a few ‘new ins’.

    Beers from Booths

    Beers from Booths

    Booths has a good selection of ales, although nothing was really grabbing my attention at first. After a few minutes scanning the vast array of brown bottles I picked up a Williams tayberry beer which I remember being good, a Joseph Holt as not only was I tempted by the Lowry label and because 1849 Champion had been good.

    A few people had told me to try Chalky’s Bite, whilst I couldn’t resist a beer local brews (thinking a bit ahead of myself for beer swap round 2?!) particularly Withens IPA which I (think) I tried at Keighley & Worth Valley festival at Oxenhope. Read the rest of this entry »

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    November 3rd, 2009Alan WalshBeer Shops

    I was a little disappointed the other week when I visited Jones’ and found that the beer selection had decreased since my last visit a little over 12 months ago. ‘We just didn’t have the space’ the lady behind the counter replied ‘we extended the coffee shop area and something had to go’. Normally I would have cried into a large espresso at this point, had the management not seen Oz and James, the increase in the number of Micro-Breweries in the UK? Beer is back, why sacrifice half the range for a continental coffee shop?!?!?

    Luckily the next words saved the day. ‘We just decided to focus on local beers since we had less space.’ I couldn’t argue. Looking along the four shelves of ales and ciders I didn’t see any that would had been brewed too far from Oxfordshire. The Cotswold Brewing Company, Cherwell Valley Brewery, Warwickshire Beer Company and, of course, Hook Norton Brewery all featured. And it made sense,  I can’t imagine people were going into Jones’ to buy more beers that are widely available through supermarkets (and most likely more cheaply) so it is logical for them to focus on the niche area of the market.

    Jones’ is primarily a wine merchants and I am led to believe a very good one at that. It is also now somewhere where the people of Banbury can get a coffee and sandwich on their dinner hour. This has taken away from the range of beers available from the shop but not, thankfully, from the huge value of the shop as a merchant of local beers. The cost has been the lack of availability of lesser known beers from a wider area…the people of Banbury are either going to have to support local (no bad thing in my opinion) or get in the car!

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