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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    June 21st, 2010FletchtheMonkeyBeer Events, Comment

    Just what beer do you take to a summer music festival?

    With Glastonbury only a few days away there’s a big supermarket trip around the corner to stock up on all the liquid lunches we’ll be needing over the 5 days we spend wallowing in mud, Carlsberg cans and the reverberation of  thumping speakers.

    But what is the perfect festival beer?

    R' mate Matt votes cider the perfect festival beer

    What's the perfect festival beer?

    At Glastonbury you can take what you want. Unlike other festivals, once you’re in, you’re in, and you may freely waltz around with your chosen tipple without fear of eviction. Last year one chap had 3 cans of Stella strapped to each limb with duck tape. He was never without a beer.

    The perfect drink has to be light. Multiple car trips are not good so you need to be able to pack it in a rucksack, pop it under your arm or balance it on your head for the long walk from car park to chosen pitching ground.

    The perfect drink has to be refreshing. If the sun comes out it needs to revive; if the mud rises up it needs to make you feel fighting fit to grapple through the bodies and lost wellies.

    This enigmatic tipple mustn’t be too strong. No-one wants to miss the single unmissable act of the day, not drink too much and earn themselves an early retirement to the tent. You want to be up from 11am until 4am, with perhaps a mid afternoon nap in a quiet folk tent near the tippees.

    You need to be able to drink all day and never feel under the weather.

    And this magic beer (or other alternative beverage) must be passable, nay even enjoyable when warm.  In a perfect world it will chill quickly too and never warm up, if nature or some fancy technology (aka cool box) gives you the opportunity.

    We could try lager. Widely available in lightweight cans of various strengths. It’s refreshing when hot which ticks an important box, but crucially though, it’s a bit rubbish when not ice cold.

    So in case of warm conditions perhaps we should take some ale. Bottled conditioned is an absolute no-no, and even simply bottles are a bad idea. Stone’s Bitter or Tanglefoot anyone? A choice between garish orange or red, unless you want to risk Smoothflow, of course.

    Then there’s the alternative solution, cider. Before you conjure images of vagrants and teenagers on a park bench, just remember the criteria.

    Lightweight.

    Not too strong.

    Easy to carry.

    Drinkable warm.

    Suddenly Strongbow seems more appealing than ever…

    The usually quiet fields of Pilton in Somerset are normally full of cows and green, green grass, but for a few days they'll be home to us and 140,000 other revellers (as the meeja like to call festival folk).

    The usually quiet fields of Pilton in Somerset are normally full of cows and green, green grass. But for a few days they'll be home to us and 140,000 other revellers (as the meeja like to call festival folk).

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    December 17th, 2009Alan WalshBeer Reviews

    Colonsay 80/-

    Colonsay 80/-

    It has been some time since the prelude to this particular dream was published but I am now finally (and I apologise for the delay) in a position to let you all in on my part of the fantastic experience that has been Beerswap 2009. For those who don’t remember I was sent a selection of refreshing beers from North of the border by Robbie @ I Might Have a Glass of Beer and this is what I thought… Read the rest of this entry »

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    December 16th, 2009FletchtheMonkeyBarley wine, Beer and Food, Beer Reviews, IPA, Pale Ales

    After a hectic day out on Saturday in the bustling streets of York complete with Christmas Market, I needed to relax with good food and beer when I got home. I’d been eyeing up three Harvey’s beers in my cupboard for a week or so and had been planning to drink them all together. Saturday night seemed perfect, with the promise of a hot curry and Christmassy afters.

    Harvey’s Blue label

    The first of three Harvey’s beers, I was hoping this would nicely wash down a Thai green chicken curry. It’s a coppery pale ale and poured with next to no head. I was expecting something lively from this diminutive bottle, but it was generally flat and a bit watery. Having heard lots about Harvey’s beers my first impressions were a little underwhelming.

    Harvey's Blue Labvel - I love the simple branding and label design

    Harvey's Blue Labvel - I love the simple branding and label design

    It had a really nice, subtle aroma of lemons and limes, and there was a limey tang in the taste. It was super drinkable being soft on the palate with a smooth mouth feel. It wasn’t very bitter (the bottle says a ‘delicate bitterness’ which is an understatement) as you might expect from a beer weighing in at just 3.6% ABV. There was a sweet maltiness in the finish. I believe this beer is dry hopped which may explain some of its character

    This did actually live up the bill, kind of accidentally, as it did wash down the green curry well in taste and texture, but I’m not sure this could become a favourite, and I’m not sure I’ve had the best bottle of it. One to give another go… Read the rest of this entry »

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    October 8th, 2009FletchtheMonkeyBeer Reviews, Dark Mild
    The first time I tried Bath Ales’ dark offering, I wasn’t blown away. Perhaps I mused, it’s too subtle for me.
    Three months later and my beer experience has been blown wide open with a variety of new styles and challenging
    reviews. Coming back to Barnstormer is a pleasure, because since I last tried it I’ve actually grown quite a
    passion for darker beers: milds, stouts and porters all included.
    The glory of the darker beer is the complete apposite thinking to some of the paler beers I was used too. Hops
    sometimes make a star appearance but more often than not malt is given the pedestal, the starring role andt the
    opportunity to show what it can do.
    On its second showing Barnstormer shone for me. Fruits dominate the smell and sweet malt infuses the taste.
    Burnt embers mingle with the fruity nose resulting in a complex dark bitter that deserves it ‘distinctive’ label.
    There might be traces of chocolate in there too, that dark, cocoa bean kind.
    There’s no doubt the first time round I didn’t think much of this. I must have served it straight out of the fridge
    or something, as this is a fine dark ale with a complexity that’s easy to stomach and pleasing on the senses.

    Bath Ales Barnstormer beer review

    The first time I tried Bath Ales‘ dark offering, I wasn’t blown away. Perhaps I mused in my notebook at the time, it’s too subtle for me. I’d picked it up from Sainsbury’s (and funnily enough research for our latest series of posts shows it was in fact a winner of their beer competition in 2008).

    Three months later and my beer experience has been blown wide open, much as a result of this site. I’ve experienced a wider variety of styles and challenged myself to write reviews on new and different beers. Coming back to Barnstormer was a pleasure, because since I last tried it I’ve actually grown quite a passion for darker beers: milds, stouts and porters all included.

    This passion started whilst walking the Pennine Way with my Dad in May. The first pub in Edale, The Nag’s Head, served three beers: crudely a bitter, a pale and a dark mild (as I remember it!). My Dad’s enthusiasm at seeing a dark mild (albeit not quite the type of cheap stuff he used to guzzle as a lad growing up in Halifax) made me try a this old-fashioned looking pint and numerous other examples along the ‘Way.

    Barnstoring beer from Bath Ales

    Barnstorming beer from Bath Ales

    The glory of the darker beer is often the complete opposite thinking to some of the paler beers I was used to. Hops sometimes make a star appearance but more often than not malt is given the pedestal, the starring role and the opportunity to show what it can do.

    On its second showing Barnstormer shone for me. Fruits dominate the smell and sweet malt infuses the taste. Burnt embers mingle with the fruity nose resulting in a complex dark bitter that deserves it ‘distinctive’ label. There might be traces of chocolate in there too, that dark, cocoa bean kind.

    There’s no doubt the first time round I didn’t think much of this,  I must have served it straight out of the fridge or something. Second times around it was much better – this is a fine dark ale with a complexity that’s easy to stomach and pleasing on the senses.

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    September 26th, 2009LanesyBeer Reviews

    I learned something pretty important whilst tasting this 7.8% flavourful powerhouse from BrewDog this evening; strong alcoholic beverages (say…6% plus) are NOT designed for quaffing in much the way you do with a mild beer, or weak lager. My history of drinking alcohol is littered with examples of me not particularly enjoying strong beers, wines and spirits because of the light trail of fire the high alcohol content leaves on my tongue and throat as it washes it’s way into my system.Dogma

    Ok, ok: I should have learnt by now that that is not the way to deal with these offerings. They should be sipped and savoured; explored beyond the taste of the alcohol.

    Straight from the bottle, Dogma oozes aroma. There is a sweetness to the scent that reminds of wild berries and somehow defies the dark golden straw colour of the body.

    The bottle label promises a whole range of unique ingredients: honey, guarand, poppy and koala nut. After my first oversized gulp, all I could taste (and feel) was alcohol; that warm, overpowering rush that overwhelms the back of the mouth and lets you know that it has been there for a good while afterwards.

    So in attempt to find the promised flavours, I went on to smaller sips. This worked wonders. Left to linger in the mouth, Dogma shows it’s sweeter side with the aforementioned berries and honey being noticable. I also sensed a hint of spiciness in there as well, reminiscent of cinnemon. I couldn’t tell you if there was a Koala nut in there as, quite frankly, I’ve never heard of them let alone tried them!

    Despite finally working my way through to the flavours in Dogma, I still found it quite a tricky 330ml to get through. Sipping takes a long time and it remains a beverage for those for whom the warmth of a high ABV is a pleasure and not a chore.

    If you want to sample some of the new wave of high-alcohol, high-flavour ales coming out of the brat-pack breweries, this is by no means BrewDog’s finest offering, but a great example of how new flavours are being blended into bottled beers with interesting and exciting results.

    Now that I’ve discovered a way of drinking strong beverages, I’ve always fancied trying to appreciate whiskies…

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    June 12th, 2009Alan WalshLagers, Real Ale

    Right it was day two of the Super 8′s yesterday in the Twenty20 World cup and England took a good old tonking off the Saffers. Let’s see if we could get our own back by pitting one of own nation’s fine ales against the Cape shandy that Smithy and his boys will have been sitting down to last night.

    South African – Castle Lager, 5.0% abv

    In to bat first is the South African opener. I had mine ice cold, just how I like my lagers on a warm day, but have to admit that it hasn’t really kept it’s cool under the pressure out in the middle. I like the fact that it was flavoursome and malty for a lager, justifying it’s premium tag. It was, however, a little disappointing in terms of texture. Oddly, because I usually find lager too fizzy, this feels strangely flat in the mouth.

    Score (out of 20) – Good opening partnership but a disappointing middle order – 8

    Blighty – Extra Special ASDA Golden Ale, 4.5% abv

    I purchased this beer in advance, hoping the weather would respect the cricket and allow me a clear crisp evening outside on the patio. It did not. Having said that, the beer is actually maltier that it’s golden appearance suggests and, while it is by no means heavy or dark, it has a sturdier backbone than I was expecting. I would therefore say that it is probably more suited to a crisp springtime evening than the strong midday sun.

    There’s certainly nothing wrong with this ale and I expect that it is widely, and relatively cheaply, available through ASDA supermarkets. Certainly it is worth a taste to see if you agree with my opinion that, while it does not have the sweetness and finesse required to find itself on any shortlists for great golden ales, it grinds out a solid win for the English code of the game.

    Score (out of 20) – consistently above average throughout without shining, ground out the win – 14

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