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 16th, 2012FletchtheMonkeyBeer Reviews, Lagers

    Deep in a basement bar not far from Bohemia, the cerny pilsners of the brewery up the road changed my perception of lager. Sweet and rich but surprisingly light, they distributed refreshment and nutrition as if feeding me and five thousand other thirsty drinkers.

    Meantime Union shares a similar contradiction. Broody and brown, this is is no pale bodied pushover. Lagered it is, and a tad metallic to boot, coupled with a dark caramel composition and a surprisingly roasted finish suggesting mustard seeds, honey-soaked biscuits and bitter Bourneville.

    Union shares the creaminess of some of the golden pilsners that stole a march onn Vienna style lagers many years ago.

    It’s enigmatic to say the least. Coloured like a bitter, tastes like a bitter, but brisker, bolder, livelier. It’s interesting, ebbing and flowing between it’s different elements, but it’s hard to see how it would fit into my everyday drinking.

    Except for with pizza. Michael Jackson recommended amber beers with pizza and at a basic level this shares many facets – creamy texture, bitterness, effervescent, mouthfilling malt and sweet roasted finish.

    So being under £2, being under 5%, and offering refreshment, intrigue and solace, this is one beer that will be on the shopping list alongside doughballs and garlic bread.

    Meantime Union Vienna Lager

    Caught my eye as I thought it was a football beer!

    Meantime Union Vienna Style Lager dark malt

    A Union of dark malt, pizza and beer. Mmm.

    Vienna style beers have a special place in my heart as I once named a Vienna influenced beer. Thornbridge Equinox was a one off ‘Vienna IPA’, so a little different from the copper coloured lagers of continental Europe, but I only ever got to try one pint of it. I’d love to try it again one day!

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    February 9th, 2012FletchtheMonkeyBeer Reviews, Blonde Ales

    There’s somthing rogueish (or childish?) about the collabroation between Neil Morrissey and Richard Fox – two middle edge men who found brewing instead of Harley Davidson’s and set about with a with new toys and a rekindled sixth form attitude.

    And there’s something modern and well designed about the branding, even if it is a bit cosy and predictable and ‘marketing agency’ developed.

    Blonde is the playful peer of Brunnette, cheeky takes on pale and amber ales.

    Morrissey Fox Blonde

    Morrissey Fox Blonde

    The former is a skinny beer perfumed with uncooked dough, and it’s smooth as silk as it coats upper lips around the bar with a (possibly) Cascadian caress. It’s an pleasant, if slightly banal first date.

    Back at home a bottle has the same mellow tangerine tang that firmly plants this in session ale territory. Bitterness is minimal, the body is barely there, lager-like without the fizz – it’s just dry enough to demand the next quenching gulp of citrus scented liquid bread. Is it ever interesting enough to seduce though?

    Love or loathe boys playing with their toys, Morrissey and Fox have cooked up a perfectly decent beer with perfectly contemporary branding for perfectly discerning pub goers. It’s all perfectly fine for a Saturday afternoon pint really.

    It’s a good few months since we found this in a bottle, and quite a bit longer since on cask. We’ve not seen or heard anything since then, is a Strawberry Blonde on the cards or has this relationship hit the rocks?

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    July 26th, 2011FletchtheMonkeyBeer Reviews, Pilsner Lager

    A strong, frothy head, a pale countenance and a ferociously Noble body makes Meantime Pilsner unmistakeably Bavarian.

    Put simply it’s the colour of straw and the embodiment of light, refreshing, authentic lager. It’s so pale you might even miss the barely toasted malt in this one.

    It’s pale, delicate fizz, infused with the scent of stalks and greenery, ensures it’s fresh and natural in body and soul with a congenital bitterness screaming of the vernacular style.

    E.g. it’s hoppy, it’s bitter, it’s Pilsner.

    Served in a 330ml bottle means you don’t get a lot for your money (they’d laugh at a such a measure in both Germany and Czech Republic I’m sure). Sure enough you do get a most elegant and well turned out bottle to show off whilst you drink. If that’s your thing.

    Meantime Pilsner perhaps lacks the subtle lemon balm slap that (according to my taste buds) separates the most interesting, intense variations of this famous style from those more monotonous attempts.

    But let’s be clear – this is no marketing ploy by Meantime to make a simple lager sound more premium, nor is it a poor copycat of the tall, translucent pilsners that changed the world.

    It’s a sophisticated, if slightly subdued celebration of grassy, gassy, sparkling straw-coloured beer.

    Meantime Pilsner

    Meantime Pilsner: perfect for the garden

    Read the rest of this entry »

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    July 21st, 2011FletchtheMonkeyBeer Reviews, Lagers

    Admittedly I didn’t do my research on Cubanero Fuerte. It made a perfect birthday present for my brother, who having visited Cuba a few years ago, has become quite the fan.* So, in the process of buying him a few bottles I of course dropped a few on my side of the beer carrier and popped them in the fridge for a sunny day (yeah, optimistic I know).

    For some reason I was expecting something more than a bog standard lager. Perhaps I was somehow charmed by the Jack Sparrow wannabe on the bottle and some sense of hidden treasure and adventure. So with that ever-present hope that every long suffering football fan will recognise I waded straight in.

    And it turns out that Cubanero Fuerte is quite the bog standard lager. I mean, it’s not bog standard enough that I wouldn’t drink it (I surely would served cold on a hot day or in a hot bar) but it’s pretty bog standard. No hidden treasure.

    It’s pale. Marketers would describe it as golden but that’s marketers for you, always selling the dream. There’s more gold in an Elizabeth Duke catalogue. It comes complete with a touch of roasted cereal but it doesn’t have quite enough earthy vigour to hide the sugary, corn syrup and metallic-like twangs that stand out like the green marks on a cheap ring finger. Surprisingly there is just a touch of actual hop flavour to tempt you further down the bottle. Well, compared to some lagers, that is…

    The Bucanero might not be my cup of tea but I won’t turn him down in a moment of need. This is my brother’s Mythos after all, and that’s something worth sharing.

    Cubanero Fuerte Cuban beer

    Cubanero Fuerte Cuban beer

    *In Cuba, and the rest of the World, Cubanero is actually Bucanero (the picture make more sense now, yeah?!). Apparently copyright prevents it’s sale under it’s real name, which is a shame. Anyone know what copyright this is?

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    September 17th, 2010FletchtheMonkeyBeer Reviews, Lagers

    Statuesque lager the label says.

    Hop Rocker.

    So why is it almost entirely made of the sweat of digestive biscuits? This beer personifies Hobnobs on holiday without a care in the world, sucking lemons and painting the town red with the blood of hops. Think Holsten Pills brewed by McVities with all the ingredients on steroids. Nothing prepared me for the sweet and fruity injection or the flurry of malt near the end, malted barley rushing with blazing blues and twos to counter the whopping astringency that punches you in the face when you take a sip.

    Funny how Hop Rocker slipped off the radar, because this beer is BrewDog through and through.

    BrewDog Hop Rocker lager

    BrewDog Hop Rocker lager

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    July 28th, 2010FletchtheMonkeyBeer Reviews, Lagers

    Mac’s Gold All Malt Lager would simply fly off the shelves if you stuck it in UK supermarkets.

    It’s the perfect barbecue beer: it’s lager, it’s sweet golden nectar with just a hint of pilsner influence from the brewer.

    It’s gimmicky ring pull gives it points simply for the lack of dependence on those pesky bottle openers that inevitably go missing mid-way through the evening, lost in decorative stones or knocked off a low brick wall into a thicket of patio plants. It happens, you know it does.

    The distinctive bottle and ringpull of Mac's Gold

    The distinctive bottle and ringpull of Mac's Gold

    Mac’s doesn’t distinguish itself by being different, bold or arrogant. It’s simply good lager – a sweet not-a-million-miles-from-honey twang.

    Hops don’t dominate, in fact hey barely offer any bitterness to counter the sweetness infused by the malt.

    This is probably the endearing factor that might make Mac’s Gold suitable to beer lovers from all walks of life, even hop head vampires whose blood runs thick with DIPA. I believe they have a predisposition to chilled wholesome lager anyway. Even BrewDog James.

    Tell me I’ve been done by the fact it looks different to the others.

    Tell me actually its not better than San Miguel, Sam Adams or even Sam Smith’s Alpine.

    I’ll say ‘whatever’ – whether it’s branding or body copy, Mac’s should be brewed on license over here, because it’s a winner through and through.

    Macs Gold from New Zealand: Perfect for bbqs

    Macs Gold from New Zealand: Perfect for bbqs

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    May 24th, 2010FletchtheMonkeyBeer Reviews, Lagers

    This weekend I spent £10 on beer.  Two Elizabeth Fry’s. A pair of fivers.

    In return Wm Morrisons Supermarkets PLC handed over 36 bottles of beer for my imbibing enjoyment, 2×18 pack boxes of Bière Continental.

    Despite some taunts on twitter I stacked half of the first case in the freezer and the remaining half in the fridge, plonked myself on a chair in the garden and necked the sweet golden liquid as quickly as I sweated it out in the blistering heat.

    A waste of money? Absolutely not. The same amount of branded lout or fancy bottled beer would have set me back twice or thrice as much, depending on your tipple. The chubby 275ml were just about the right size to stay cool in the blistering sun instead of turning in a tepid vial of…yeah, you know what I mean.

    Bière Continental

    Bière Continental

    This wasn’t a blind, test. A 500ml bottle of Saltaire Fuggles was boiling like Eyjafjallajoekull by the time I’d got half way down it. Carlsberg Export became an insipid green bottle of water, dashed with a trace of barley.

    I'm being serious, it's great stuff!

    I'm being serious, it's great stuff!

    Which kinda ruined the experience.

    Morrison’s ‘French’ stubbies on the other hand were ice cold, liquid refreshment. Take them as they are – no craft brew, no care and attention. You can freeze them to smithereens and they perform even better, they hydrate you better than anything else I tried.

    Plus they brought back fantastic family holiday memories of rotisserie chicken, cheese filled baguettes and Eurocamp in the Vendée?

    Perfectionner de la bière?

    In the specific conditions of Saturday afternoon, c’est possible…

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    December 3rd, 2009Alan WalshBeer Reviews, Lagers
    Cotswold Premium Lager - 330ml bottle

    Cotswold Premium Lager - 330ml bottle

    Following the brief response I made to comments asking about this lager left on an earlier unrelated post, I have now taken delivery of a batch to get a full review done. Firstly I would note that I was wrong before when I said that this came in a 500ml bottle. It does in fact come in a 330ml and so is right there in my opinion to take on the mass produced bottled lager area of the  market. I could not stand in a bar drinking Old Hooky from it’s bottle but I would have no problems doing so with a 330ml bottle like this. Having said that, the brading itself does perhaps leave a little to be desired and the label does not really have the colour or liveliness it would need to cut it on the shelves of a busy bar. The outward appearance of the bottle unfortunately does not do justice to the contents.

    Golden Premium Lager

    Golden Premium Lager

    The beer is pale golden with a lingering malty aftertaste, probably down to the Maris Otter malted barley. The beer has as strong a flavour as those that it would, in my perfect world, displace from the shelves in all bars, but it is less aggressive with it. I am having a bottle with Winnie and Jim, I have been the most disciplined and dragged mine out for 15 mins but Jim polished his in less than 5 and Winnie was under 10. All three of us agree that this is drinkable, with the 5.0% abv maybe too much so!!!

    I would love to see a day when locally produced lagers, available in 330ml bottles, take over from the mass produced bottles that are available in Vodka Revolutions up and down the country. If this work from the Cotswold Brewing Company is anything to go by there are certainly British lagers more than capable of taking up the fight.

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    November 17th, 2009LanesyBeer Reviews, Honey Beers, Lagers

    One of the brilliant advantages of being a beer reviewer is that you are easy to buy for. So naturally, my parents just knew to look out for new or interesting looking locals beers whilst in Cyprus recently.

    They did very well – two large bottles locally brewed ales (and as far as I can tell the only Cypriot beers available) – Leon and Keo were my holiday gifts, so naturally a proper Cypriot beer tasting was in order.

    Leon and Keon Beers from Cyprus

    Leon and Keo ales from Cyprus. With added Keo t-shirt in the background.

    First up, Leon beer; an all-malt beer that was the first to be brewed on the Island from 1937. The scent is rather unusual, but distinctly reminded me of fresh pea-pods and poured similar to a typical run-of-the-mill lager: lively and a pale amber in the glass.

    In the mouth, the liveliness caused an abrasion on the tongue that is usually experienced by drinking bog-standard lagers. Unfortunately, there was just nothing in the beer to differentiate from anything I could have picked up from the multipack section of a supermarket. The taste was somehow hidden by the invasive texture on the tongue, whilst the 4.5% ABV was also lost amongst the chaos. It is hard to find anything positive to say about the taste and flavour of this beer.

    By contrast, Keo provided a much more interesting scope. I remember enjoying this brand when I visited Cyprus some years ago; it was ubiquitous amongst the tourist bars and was quite an enjoyable pint in the balmy heat of a Cypriot autumn.

    Read the rest of this entry »

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    October 23rd, 2009FletchtheMonkeyLagers

    I’ve had some issues recently with a distinct Fairy liquid tint to some of my glassware.

    Frustrating as that is to taste at the best of times, it’s particularly annoying when you are trying to get the best out of some of the world finest and most complex beers.

    The situation came to a head whilst drinking William Bros Ceilidh, the Scottish breweries lager offering. After a couple of false starts and a bit of mild cursing directed at the industrial scented washing products at my disposal, I eventually managed to find a glass that didn’t have a ph count of 78.

    And eventually we we’re off.

    Williams Ceilidh sets a good standard for lagers that offer a little more than your typical lager beer

    Williams Ceilidh sets a good standard for lagers that offer a little more than your typical lager beer

    Williams Bros make good beers, from their traditional range through to more modern ales such as Birds & Bees (their tayberry beer is very good!). And they make good lager too. But, for a company regularly making above average ales, is it an above average lager?

    So my notes at this point start with ‘hoppy for a lager’. At least I think it was. I’m pretty sure that had nothing to do with the Fairy taste. Washing up liquid rarely smells pleasant or hoppy, so I’m guessing I’ve got that right.

    The beer is fresh, a touch citrusy and you can taste it’s worldy influences, particularly the pilsner malt which gives it a continental body more akin to European pils than Scottish ale.

    For me that makes it above average. There are maltier lagers and lighter lagers, there are crisper, more refreshing lagers – but this is still a fine and balanced example, less potent than BrewDog‘s 77 but which much more to it than the Carlsberg Export’s of the world.

    There’s a place for lager at the real ale table and it’s this sort of offering that sets the grade.

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