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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    March 21st, 2011SamParkerBreweries

    I never knew there were two 6 o’clocks in a day, neither did the wife, but today is the day I found out when Denzil from Great Heck Brewery told us to meet him at just after 7…in the morning!

    Pulling up outside what looked like just another house in the sleepy village of Great Heck, with the odd glance from a passing “local”, my beer companion and I had arrived, not knowing what to expect, on the dot of 07:15 for the start of our days brewing.

    Denzil greeted us more like long lost friends rather than mere “internet acquaintances” and was obviously more used to getting up at dawn’s crack as he had already got the hot water tank up to temperature and had his brewing sheet in hand ready to guide us through the process of brewing Heck’s Angel, a golden ale normally around 3.9%.

    Great Heck Brewery

    Great Heck Brewery

    Read the rest of this entry »

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    October 7th, 2010FletchtheMonkeyBeer Events, Breweries

    Once upon a time there was a beautiful island paradise. Its gentle hillocks were topped with white fluffs of sheep and from the approaching fishing boats it glinted golden as the sun’s rays bounced off husks of barley in the fields that canvassed the ground.

    The islanders rejoiced in the fertile soils and nestled contently in the island’s curves, appreciating its temperate nature and voluptuous harvests. From the mainland, scores of visitors were drawn in by the island’s abundant bounty, and sometimes purely on the effervescent energy the land seemed to glow with.

    At sunset a gentle haze hang around the shoreline and dissipated the reflected sunlight that the fisherman watched for. The light receded over the tall hop plants, unrepentant structures of grace and beauty that lined the fields of grain, but was not lost forever. Captured in the crops, that sunlight would eventually reach distant shores, mixed with dune-filtered water and seasoned with the fruit of the hop plant, a broth stirred into life with an eccentric yeast and ready to deploy that same solar energy for the benefit of mankind. Read the rest of this entry »

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    May 20th, 2010FletchtheMonkeyBreweries, Comment

    Once upon a time Britain was an industrial nation. The population were manual workers, skilled or miners, all contributing towards the rise of the Empire.

    Nowadays we work at screens, behind partitions, “in services“.

    Those grey, growing gas stores, the vast warehouses, the corrugated factories; they’re alien to much of Britain; a spec on the landscape, an irritation to an otherwise green and pleasant land.

    These gunmetal structures, whilst reduced in their visibililty, still make up the backbone of everything we do. Power stations are an enigma, distribution centres an eyesore and factories an unkown quantity to sneer at from incoming city-link trains.

    Sneer all you want but you wouldn’t be accessing Twitter on your long-haul commute without them.

    Industrial wonder: Coors Maltings Stores

    Industrial wonder: Coors Maltings Stores

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    March 3rd, 2010FletchtheMonkeyBeer news, Breweries
    The Hop, live music and real ale pub opening in Leeds this March

    The Hop, live music and real ale pub opening in Leeds this March

    Wakefield’s finest are coming to Leeds in the guise of The Hop, the live music and real ale venue of Ossett Brewery’s pub armada. Situated in the Granary Wharf area of Leeds overlooking the reinvigorated quayside, The Hop will sit under two of the previously disused railway arches that are tucked away between the confluence of the Leeds-Liverpool canal and the River Aire. Read the rest of this entry »

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    January 19th, 2010FletchtheMonkeyBeer news, Breweries, Pubs & bars

    Shrouded in uncertainly it’s been a a funny ol’ festive period for Copper Dragon. Since mid December rumours of administration and liquidation have been quietly circulating and the future for Skipton’s growing brewery wasn’t looking bright.

    Brass in pocket: the brewery have reorganised their coppers and weathered all that this winter could throw at them

    Brass in pocket: the brewery have reorganised their coppers and weathered all that this winter could throw at them

    But fresh from the Christmas holidays with their finances restructured Copper Dragon seem to be back on their feet and fighting fit for whatever 2010 can throw at them.

    Online business news website The Business Desk and Bradford’s Telegraph and Argus newspaper report that Copper Dragon’s pub business was liquidised in November 2008 throwing the brewery into a turbulent period, during which the administrators were called in on the Friday before Christmas by a high street bank, which is pretty annoying by anyone’s standards. Steve Taylor, the brewery’s founder and MD subsequently took his stake in the company from 75% to 100% after refusing to give up further equity or intellectual property rights.

    It’s rarely a good time for a company to go into administration but teetering on the edge of oblivion at Christmas time is particularly unpleasant, with customers looking for mini-pins for parties, pubs filling up for the festivities and staff looking forward to well earned family time. Just getting home in the snow in Yorkshire was bad enough!

    So we’re really pleased that it looks like it’s all sorted and that the jobs, brewery, bistro and six of the pubs have been secured, and we look forward to sampling some of the new beers that come out of Skipton’s finest this year.

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    January 15th, 2010FletchtheMonkeyBeer news, Breweries, Pubs & bars

    A nice piece about beer in a tabloid sized newspaper? Surely not.

    Ok to be fair it’s this months ‘What’s Brewing’, but I love the story on page 10 about Martin Brunnschweiler.

    More than a decade ago Martin went to visit his sister at her pub on the Isle of Man and ended up staying there to set up a brewery called Bushy’s. The paper is a bit hazy on the details (I’m intrigued as to whether he drank the pub dry and then set up because he was thirsty and what he left behind) but I like to think the Martin fell in love with the island, the pub, the atmosphere and the opportunity. His brewery has ties to the nuclear industry (and sounds like it could double up as a bunker should a Dr Strangelove armageddon arise) and the equipment is based on a headache inducing tower arrangement that requires a certain amount of agility from head brewer Curly (yes, Curly!).

    The best I can do is that I have on two or more separate occasions walked into a pub and ended up 1) working behind the bar and 2) doing the dishes, but never quite made the leap to brewing.

    Accidental brewer: Martin of Bushy's brewery on the Isle of Man

    Accidental brewer: Martin of Bushy's brewery on the Isle of Man

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    January 6th, 2010Alan WalshBreweries, Pubs & bars

    On the lead up to Christmas me and a few or my more intellectually challenged University mates decided to go for a day out in Nottingham to see if we still had the stamina to managed an ‘all-dayer’.  Obviously I knew that the ales were going to merge at some point after lunch and that the details would be difficult to get down. I therefore armed myself with a Cancer Research pen and 2010 Diary and met at the 10am rendezvous, The Bank pub, for beer and breakfast.

    Bass in The Bank

    Bass in The Bank

    The Bank is what I would dub a Weatherspoons rip-off. The breakfast menu was almost identical to Weatherspoons and the range of beers available was similar. I was therefore able to order a pint of Bass to go with my Americano and Large Breakfast. I couldn’t  remember whether I’d ever actually  had Bass before but I knew that it used to be very popular with my Dad’s friends out of  a can. The lightness suited accompanying a large meal and my initial impression was of an relatively sweet toffee flavour but this was tempered by the development of a more peppery body. The existence of these flavours was I think testament to how well the ale was kept and I have since been disappointed when having the same pint at The Wobbly Wheel near Banbury where none of these subtly complex flavours appeared from ‘the same’ pint.

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    December 9th, 2009LanesyBeer Events, Beer Reviews, Breweries

    You might have heard of the guy who I managed to draw for the beer swap: Pencil & Spoon’s own New Media Writer of the Year 2009 Mark Dredge. This was a selection of ales to look forward to; a brief glance at his excellent blog shows his good taste and awareness of beers and I had no doubt he would have developed an encyclopaedic knowledge of the local market over the year or so of working on his blog.

    Kent is his part of the country, and is somewhere I have never been, so it was almost guaranteed that most of these beers I would never have come across.

    So here is what I received:

    - Westerham Brewery’s Little Scotney IPA (4%)
    - Harvey’s Star of Eastbourne East India Pale (6.5%)
    - Hopdaemon Brewery’s Skrimshander IPA (4.5%)
    - Whitstable Brewery’s Raspberry Wheat (5.2%) Read the rest of this entry »

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    December 2nd, 2009FletchtheMonkeyBreweries, Comment
    Hooky Gold with a new green label

    Hooky Gold with a new green label

    Andy over at Beerreviews.co.uk just posted the first review of the test #beerswap parcel that we exchanged a little while back. In it I packed four fine Oxfordshire (ish) ales including the fantastic Hooky Gold from Hook Norton Brewery.

    I didn’t think anything of the Hooky Gold at the time, even admiring it’s shiny green label.

    Until last night, when Alan popped over and we were chatting about the blog. We looked over at the original Hooky bottles that used to make up this our blog header, and noticed something odd – there was no Hooky Gold.

    But of course there is! Hooky Gold was always in a red label with gold writing. Now the label is green!

    When did this occur? How did we not notice?! We don’t mind Hooky, we like the green label, but when and why was it changed?!?!

    Does anybody know?

    Hooky Gold with a red label on our old beer bottle inspired blog header

    Hooky Gold with a red label on our old beer bottle inspired blog header

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    November 19th, 2009AlanSamandMarkBreweries, Comment

    It seems so simple, this-setting-up-a-brewery lark.

    Walking around the compact, but seemingly organised Leeds Brewery with co-founder Sam Moss, it’s easy to forget that the business has only been in existence for a touch over two years.

    Situated on a light industrial estate not far from Leeds’ bustling centre, the brewery is the hub of an expanding local empire that now stretches to three pubs across the town centre as well as the modern and compact Leeds Brewery HQ. The team produces three permanent beers and twelve seasonal beers; one for each calendar month. The beers are on sale across the country and also in Leeds brewery’s three self-owned pubs in Leeds city centre.

    The Leeds Brewery team

    The Leeds Brewery team

    Being Leeds residents and big fans of the beers that the brewery makes, we jumped at the chance to take a day off work and visit our very own local brewers. Upon arrival the other half of the management, Michael Brothwell, was busy making an emergency keg delivery in the back of his Ford Fiesta, so it was down to Sam to take us round the modern set up… Read the rest of this entry »

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