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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    February 7th, 2011FletchtheMonkeyAmerican, Beer Reviews, Brown/chestnut ales

    I can smell Hibernation Ale a mile away. And I can see it easily too, a deep luxurious muddy clay brown, infused with hues of red brick.

    The long distance aroma is chocolate and cream with a whiff of pungent hop. The taste is dampened by a hint of Utterly Butterly that fades as the beer frees from it’s fridge temperature. It’s tantalisingly fizzy, the perfect carbonisation to hold the flavours, aroma and mouthfeel in one ready-to-go package.

    This is one for autumn, equalling adept for curling up with or washing down a seasonal pizza. It’d certainly warm you up after a long autumnal walk, but it’s a strong one though, so best take it slow.

    Hibernation slow…

    Great Divide Hibernation Ale

    Great Divide Hibernation Ale

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    January 18th, 2011LukeBlockBeer and travel, Beer Reviews, Seasonal beers

    Think of Kentish brewing and you might think typical English countryside: dappled light and ruddy-faced urchins diving around the hop poles as Ma and Pa Larkin bumble about with a haycart. It’s a comforting pastoral image a thousand miles away from the bleak, flat landscape of Thanet or the cut-to-the-bone North Sea wind that rips across Whitstable Bay in November. But some of the best brewing Kent has to offer goes on right in the heart of this unforgiving and extreme region of the country. Three breweries – Shepherd Neame, Gadds and Whitstable Brewery – all produce workmanlike ales that should be tried, even if you can’t get hold of their most interesting brews north of the Watford Gap.

    DogBolter porter by Gadds Ramsgate

    Kentish Dogs Beware!

    Shepheard Neame Late Red

    Late for the autumn sky...

    Kentish beers - Shepherd Neame, Gadds

    Beers o'Kent for men o'Kent

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    November 5th, 2010FletchtheMonkeySeasonal beers

    As far as seasonal beers go, I’m not sure many beers can beat Morrison’s Hot Cross Ale for capitalising on a specific annual event. At Christmas we pull out dark stouts scented with cigars and pudding fruits; during the summer we thrown oranges and lemons at everything; but what could sum up spring and Easter better than a hot cross bun. Excluding Cadbury’s Creme Eggs that is.

    And if you think this is a gimmick or a joke, I urge you to try it (fingers crossed they do it next year) if only for the experience.

    It smells like no beer ever! It’s lemon, currants and cinnamon through and through; it tastes like hot cross buns! There’s a touch of marmalade and spiced orange peel, even that currant character that defines Eccles Cakes, minced pies…and even Banbury Cakes if you’ve ever had the pleasure.

    So is the perfect the perfect Spring time beer? Not really, asthis beer would actually better suited to Autumn or Winter,: open fires, conker fights, Christmas markets and roasted chestnuts.

    And even if it is a gimmick, it’s one I’ll happily sup again.

    Morrisons Hot Cross Ale

    Morrisons Hot Cross Ale


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    October 6th, 2010FletchtheMonkeyBeer Reviews, Brown/chestnut ales

    Beers these days are hoppy. Well, I reckon they probably are more hoppy than they used to be. Hoppy hoppy hoppy. Such…an easy word to use. And such a generalisation. I never wrote about beer 20 years ago. I was a young Yorkshire lad acclimatising to life in North Oxfordshire, still a decade or so away from being able to legally drink. But I don’t reckon the bitters were as hoppy nor the hops as citrusy. Hopback Summer Lightning was as young as I was, yet to influence the brewing scene in ways its creators couldn’t imagine.

    But Summer Lightning and the US craft revolution have definitely had an impact on the direction of contemporary beer. It’s got paler and it’s got hoppier, right?

    Very occasionally I’ll read beer tasting notes waxing lyrical about yeast or malt character, but still the hop talk outweighs the discussion of other ingredients 10 to 1. Hell will freeze over before we see tweets raving about how the mineral content of water affects mouth feel.

    Well here’s a beer to shout about, and not because of hops. Co-op Harvest Ale. Read the rest of this entry »

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    December 14th, 2009FletchtheMonkeyBeer Reviews

    Beer Swap Pt 2

    It went right to the wire but I did manage to drink my beer swap beers just in time to write about them this week. I had two beer swap partners, I was sending to Adam Croft who has written about the two Leeds Brewery bottles I sent him so far, and my sender was a mystery person.

    Lovinbonds Henley Amber - bitter but refined

    Lovibonds Henley Amber - bitter but refined

    My beer swap sender turned out to be a wine blogger, none other than Andrew Barrow aka the Wine Scribbler who is based in South Oxfordshire at the exact opposite end of the county I grew up in.

    And judging by the beers, there’s a wealth of brewery action in that area, the four beers coming from parts of shires Oxford, Buckingham and Berk that were close enough to home when I grew up to appear on the local news, but that I’ve never explored before.

    First up was Lovibonds Amber Ale, a 3.4% premium pale ale in a 330ml bottle. Read the rest of this entry »

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    November 6th, 2009FletchtheMonkeyBeer Reviews, Bitters

    Hambleton Ales Taylors Tipple beer reviewOne of the biggest sellers at this years Sainsbury’s Beer Competition, I’d heard lots about Hambleton Ales’ beers before I picked this up. The North Yorkshire brewery has won a smattering of awards in its short history but I don’t think it’s gained the visibility in pubs and stores.

    Not endowed with huge aroma, Taylor’s Tipple poured with a frothy head which quickly subsided leaving a (very) delicate zesty scent. The first sip was subtly roasted and malty. Blink and you’ll miss ‘em hints of berries when it first hit my tongue were replaced with an autumnal feel, no doubt down to its lovely bitterness and it’s chestnut colour. I wonder if there’s a bit of caramel malt too that added a slightly sweet undercurrent to the proceedings?

    Sainsbury’s claim this has a wonderful citrus aroma, but I just didn’t get it. Duff bottle perhaps but this ale’s strengths seemed to be it’s chestnut character and superbly drinkable texture.

    I think I’ll need to give this another go because one bottle was a little indistinct. It is light and enjoyable, a beer that’s probably perfect for a day spent diving into piles of autumn leaves and drying off in front of a fire.

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