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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    January 23rd, 2013FletchtheMonkeyBeer Reviews, Bitters

    I’ll wager right now that you won’t find a more attractive bottle of beer in the supermarket. The thick curvaceous bottles of St Peter’s Brewery stand out like a vintage medicine vessel, reminiscent of a simpler, more authentic age.

    Vintage is one way of describing the brewery’s heritage. Housed in a medieval hall deep in rural Suffolk, St Peter’s deliberately leverage their location to their advantage. And whilst their history may be less rich (incorporated 1996) the supermarket shelves are enhanced with their marketing angle.

    The bottles are modelled on a US gin bottle from the eighteenth century and this particular fake is temporary home to 500 millilitres of St Peter’s Best Bitter that’s working it’s way towards my sensory system.

    This is a bristly bitter beer; colour the epitome of amber, taste the epitome of England; caramel and pepper flavours whilst the linger is all hedgerow and moorland bitterness.

    The thick green gin bottle, the faintly herbaceous aftertaste, the hanging logo embossed with subtle confidence into the glass. I’ll wager right now you won’t find a better looking beer in the supermarket. You might not find many better at representing the East of England either.


    St Peter's Best Bottle

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    July 24th, 2012DavidMayhallDesert Island Beers

    Meet beer blogger, writer & tweeter, Peter Alexander a.k.a. Tandleman where Peter writes a great and insightful blog about beer issues and pubs. Peter is a local CAMRA Chairman, who grew up in the keg dominated West of Scotland and who now lives in Greater Manchester.

    His formative drinking years were coloured by a four year stint as part time barman under an old fashioned landlord who drummed high standards of bar service into him from day one. It remains an abiding pub influence. “It really is as easy to get it right as get it wrong.” he says. He has traveled extensively in pursuit of good beer to drink and still devotedly looks after beer at local beer festivals.

    Peter Alexander aka Tandleman local CAMRA chairman

    Peter aka Tanleman

    Higsons Bitter Liverpool

    Higgies Bitter

    His proper introduction to real ale was in Liverpool where he lived for nine years and he remains fond of everyday cooking bitters to this day and says he still misses his beloved Higsons Bitter like a strip torn from his heart. Since moving to Manchester over 20 years ago, he has been an active campaigner for real ale and is Chairman of his local CAMRA Branch and has been so for, again, over 20 years.

    He began his blog, named after his local pub, the Tandle Hill Tavern, nearly five years ago and is now approaching his 1,000th post. His philosophy is to write about the beer world honestly and with opinion. “Blogs are, or rather should be, all about opinion” he says. He is a pub man through and through and likes nothing better than a few pints in the pub with friends. Cask conditioned pints of course.

    Peter also says that hopefully you will realise his beers are chosen strictly for the desert island. He doesn’t actually include all his favourites, but with enough diversity and interest to give him a real choice on the island and says he thinks you’d need that. But sadly there wasn’t room for, a top quality Pilsener, or a Belgian wheat – Hoegaarden is his guilty secret – and if he had a top ten, he could probably have squeezed a few more styles in, but he supposes the island isn’t all about fun.”

    Peter is a retired IT Project Manger and other interests include politics, travel (beer may well be involved) and European aspects of the Second World War.

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    May 4th, 2011FletchtheMonkeyBeer Reviews, Bitters, Cumbrian beers

    Dent Rescewe was bought for Yorkshire month, the month of June where we planned to sample mostly Yorkshire ales and report back on our regional fare. Surreptitiously it stared back at me when I needed a beer for an unexpectedly sunny day in the garden in May, and there I saw it on the label, the address that I had neglected to check: ‘Dent Brewery, Dent, Cumbria’. Cue immediate fast track to Cumbrian month!

    I’ve been to Dent only once, on a whistle stop weekend to the North Yorkshire Dales. It’s a living breathing Warburton’s ad, except Land Rovers rumble and bumble (depending on the age of their reg plate) across cobbles where flat-capped knee-socked boys should be cycling home, peddling against gravity and the extra weight of bakers fresh, crusty loaves.

    I’d always assumed it was a forgotten Yorkshire village, one of those quaint border settlements that nonchalantly gets on with life amidst the whims of policy makers and county councils who can’t decide exactly which authority should be organising the bin rounds.

    Dent Rescewe - Cumbrian beer

    Dent Rescewe - premium bitter raising money for the Cave Rescue Organisation in the Yorkshire Dales

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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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    January 5th, 2010FletchtheMonkeyBarley wine, Bitters, Comment, Real Ale

    Are you a huge hop head? Do you crave Humulus Lupulus in your sleep? Maybe you even struggle to wake up after a few “double IPAs” and a night asleep on a hop pillow?!

    Well one Oxfordshire brewer has taken on the challenge to create the world’s bitterest beer, and his strategy: yeah you guessed it, he’s thrown a silly amount of hops into his brew.

    Pitstop Brewery are hoping to hit the Guinness Book of World Records with their bitter bitter

    Pitstop Brewery are hoping to hit the Guinness Book of World Records with their bitter bitter

    Pete Fowler of the Pitstop Brewery near Wantage rose to the occasion after a friend reckoned he couldn’t match the bitterness of US craft beers, and in Mr Fowler’s words ‘that was like red rag to a bull’. The beer (or barley wine) has over £100s worth of hops plus additional hop additives for one 9 barrel keg of the beer compared to a usual £5 worth.

    Bearing in mind the brewer himself hasn’t tried it yet and is expecting it to be in the region of 500 IBUs* (a theoretical number which scares the pants of my tastebuds) it raises interesting questions on innovation (or should I say ‘innovation’).

    Is this an ‘extreme beer’? Or is it simply a boisterous take on the traditional British bitter, tongue in cheek and one finger up to the extremists? Or just a bit of fun?!

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    September 26th, 2009LanesyBeer Reviews, Bitters, Real Ale

    I have previously enjoyed one of Acorn Brewery’s seasonal ales Summer Pale in Leeds’ excellent drinking hole Victoria Commercial, so was keen to try one of their permanent offerings ‘Barnsley Bitter’.

    Sam enjoys a pint of Acorn in Leeds' Victoria Hotel

    Sam enjoys a pint of Acorn in Leeds' Victoria Hotel

    The look of the pint oozes tradition, right from the off-white, fluffy head down to the dark ruby colour of the body. There is a strong coffee-esque aroma with a hint of Hazelnut noticable as well.

    The taste follows the scent perfectly; a strong roasted coffee flavour leads on to a warm bitter aftertaste that defies it’s session ale ABV of 3.8%.

    The sensation of the first drink reminds me much of the early-morning caffine rush, often required to get through that Monday morning feeling. It’s a great, satisfying feeling.

    The remainder of the pint, unfortunately, never quite hits that high and whilst it remains a good, well-produced bitter with enough to make it stand out from some of the more run-of-the-mill offerings, there wasn’t quite enough to make me want a second pint amongst the competition available at the pump-rich bar at the Vic.

    On reviewing Summer Pale, I commented that it was perfect for drinking in the season during which it sells. As we roll into autumn and winter, Acorn Brewery produce a bitter that is definitely a first pint to recommend to warm the cockles.

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    September 13th, 2009LanesyDark Mild, Fruity Beers

    Football on the telly is always a good excuse to have a few beers, so with England confirming their place in the next world cup (no doubt a great excuse for an international beer feature come next June) I seized my chance to try a few new ales from Morrison’s reasonable range.

    First up, Greene King’s ‘Ruddle’s County’ a dark ruby ale with a sweet nose, a slighty fruity aroma that gives away a hoppy essense (Brambling Cross hops according to the bottle). Ruddles County

    The impressive part once in the mouth is just how smooth this beer is for a bottled product; limited carbonisation suggests that a cask version of this product could not possibly be much smoother. An uncommon thing in many mass-produced bottled beers in my experience.

    The aftertaste is particularly strong, and the alcohol in the ale is particularly prominant, leaving a bitter aftertaste that lingers a little too long in the throat to be considered a treat.

    Reflecting on the finished bottle, it almost felt like the beer had not been left to mature quite long enough, causing a sensation that, quite frankly, left my throat burning slightly in the similar manner that a weak spirit of some form might.

    Next up was a total contrast: Badger’s ‘Golden Champion’. The ‘Golden’ part of the name is not ironic; the liquid is certainly that, pale and transparent, as opposed to deep and opague. Read the rest of this entry »

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    August 18th, 2009FletchtheMonkeyIPA

    Punk IPA by BrewDog

    Punk IPA was the first BrewDog beer I ever came across, on the supermarket shelves of Tesco, Lincoln whilst Sarah was living there earlier this year.

    I’ve had it a few times but never written anything, and it’s not far off being in that category of beers that are the hardest to review – those you’ve had many times before.

    The first thing that struck me on the first taste back one Friday in Lincoln, and again yesterday when I picked it out specifically for review from my all new beer cupboard, was it’s North American influences. Having mulled over US reviews of Punk IPA, many people comment how English it is, so I guess they might get quite a shock if they picked up a pint of Greene King on tap! The revival of IPA by craft breweries in the States has led to some notable IPA interest in the UK, and in Punk IPA there’s a clear swing towards the US style of IPA , one much more floral and aromatic than those of it’s homeland.

    Punk IPA by Brewdog

    Punk IPA by Brewdog - transatlantic India Pale Ale

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