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 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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    November 10th, 2009Alan WalshBeer Events, Breweries

    Saltaire Beer Festival

    This year Fletch and I made our second trip up the Northern line to taste beers and soak in continental drinking at the Saltaire Beer Festival. We discovered this gem of a brewery last year, whilst wandering around the Saltaire Arts Trail on a hot and sunny Saturday, and ever since we’ve been waiting to go back!

    Saltaire Brewery

    Saltaire Brewery

    Saltaire Brewery is based on the Leeds/Bradford canal, a little nearer to Shipley than the world heritage site at Saltaire. It’s a modern affair from a contemporary and friendly brewery, with visitors on the beer festival weekend sitting inside the brewery building, with two bars crammed in the space that isn’t dedicated to fermentation tanks and brewing equipment.

    70p is all it costs to get the train from Leeds to Saltaire Brewery

    70p is all it costs to get the train from Leeds to Saltaire Brewery

    The first piece of news about Saltaire beer festival is how cheap it is to get to Shipley (the nearest train station to the brewery) from Leeds. An off peak return from Leeds costs only £1.40 – to put that in context a single from Horsforth (on the edge of Leeds) to the city centre of Leeds costs me £2.50 on the bus…how cheap is £1.40 to go double the distance?! Beer club is now firmly on the table as an option for starting a Friday night in the near future…watch this space!

    Once we were on the 70p train Fletch and I turned the conversation towards our last visit to Saltaire Brewery. It had been for the beer festival last year although we had arrived mid afternoon on the Saturday and most of the guests had already sold out, but not this year we congratulated each other, thanks to Andy we had managed to get tickets to the sold out Friday night when everything was sure to still be on. We were heading towards a temporary Mecca of real ales and we had a strategy in place…

    Brewers Gold at Saltaire Festival

    Brewers Gold at Saltaire Festival

    The plan was to split up the beer list between us; in general Fletch would focus on the darker offerings and me the paler ones. There were 26 beers (listed below) on the list meaning that we could each have 13 halves and have sampled every beer available. Well we tried!!

    Some of them we both wanted to try and some of them were worth revisiting for a full pint, needless to say that the strategy did not come to fruition although, in fairness, I think that there were probably only about six or seven beers that one or the other of us did not try. Under the circumstances it would be frankly impossible to try and offer tasting notes on every beer that we tasted, therefore the whole menu is listed below (sorted by brewery). Our five top beers of the festival are marked with an asterisk (for the sake of fairness I have also marked those that we did not try with a minus).

    Acorn Brewery, Barnsley

    Harvester
    Mittlefruh IPA

    Castle Rock, Nottingham

    Reed (-)
    Black Gold*

    Crouch Vale, Essex

    A lot of beer goes through a lot of pipes to keep the pumps flowing at Saltaire Beer Festival

    A lot of beer goes through a lot of pipes to keep the pumps flowing at Saltaire Beer Festival - thanks to Tony for taking us on an impromptu tour!

    Hurricane
    Brewers Gold*

    Elland Brewery, Halifax

    Catch the Rainbow
    Night Porter

    Great Heck, North Yorkshire

    Union Gap
    White Rabbit

    Ilkley, Yorkshire

    Ollcana Gold (-)
    Ollcana Original (-)

    Jarrow, Tyne and Wear

    Slake (-)
    Rivet Catcher

    Old Spot, Cullingworth

    Chilli and Chocolate
    It’s Beer

    Ossett Brewery

    Cherry Porter
    Summer’s End

    Saltaire Brewery, Shipley

    Raspberry Blonde (-)
    Saltaire Blonde
    Rye Smile (-)
    Triple Chocoholic
    Hazelnut Coffee Porter*
    Cascade Pale Ale*

    Wylam, Northumberland

    Dognobbler
    Northern Kite*

    Westons Cider, Herefordshire

    1st Quality Draught (-)
    Traditional Scrumpy (-)
    Old Rosie (-)

    Although I have not named them, there were a couple of beers that I did not find exactly overwhelming. In the main however the beers selected for the event were wide ranging, in both style and origin, and sparked debate and discussion amongst the many beer fans at Saltaire. It was a quality evening and a great opportunity to meet many likeminded people with a passion for beer, a great opportunity for swapping recommendations and stories, finding inspiration and generally getting a little bit layer caked with a great bunch of people.

    I’m already looking forward to next year and am hoping to dampen the wait with a few visits with some of the locals to Friday night drinks club in the meantime.

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    October 7th, 2009FletchtheMonkeyBeer Reviews, Golden Ales

    The first in our Sainsbury’s Beer Competition series is Woods Shropshire Lass. You might have guessed from the name that it pours a blonde, light beer (why aren’t there any darker beers called brunette?!).

    Woods Shropshire Lass - a crisp blonde

    Woods Shropshire Lass - a crisp blonde

    A sniff of this is nice indeed, a floral fruity scent reminiscent of a spring day or a summer morning from a novel.

    To drink it’s tasty and refreshing, a crisp, blonde body makes this an easy drinking ale.
    Nothing in this beer compromises any other flavou, there are no taste that haggle for your attention or force you to notice them.
    It’s a gentle and taste beer, delicately fruity and well balanced.
    I reckon most pub goers could fulfil a session on this (during the milder months of the year at leThe first in our Sainsbury’s Beer Competition series is Woods Shropshire Lass. You might have guessed from the name that it pours a blonde, light beer (why aren’t there any darker beers called brunette?!).

    To drink it’s tasty and refreshing, a crisp, blonde body makes this an easy drinking ale.

    Nothing in this beer compromises any other flavour, there are no taste that haggle for your attention or force you to notice them.

    It’s a gentle and taste beer, delicately fruity and well balanced.

    I reckon most pub goers could fulfil a session on this (during the milder months of the year at least.

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