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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    March 17th, 2010FletchtheMonkeyBeer Events
    Thornbridge beers at the Sheffield Tap

    Thornbridge beers at the Sheffield Tap

    The Sheffield Tap is arguably one of the best stocked pubs in the North of England, with a regular range of Thornbridge beers on cask (the venue is a joint venture between the Derbyshire brewers and the chaps behind Pivo in York) and an inventory of bottled beers that make most beer cabinets look like a beery footnote. It’s a case of any excuse will do to persuade me to hop on the 42 minute train from Leeds, and last night the excuse was the chance to meet the team that brew Thornbridge’s beers who were hosting a Meet the Brewer session in the former first class refreshment lounge of Sheffield’s main station.

    On arrival the tiny bar was busy – not quite heaving but certainly a far cry from quiet. A bustle of artisan beer fans, jaded commuters and groups of talkative drinking buddies crowded over the small tables and lined the restored bar. Tucking our elbows in we (Rob from HopZine, Tom from Reet Good Leeds and me)  joined the fray to admire the array of beers on offer, a veritable beer geeks heaven Read the rest of this entry »

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    March 3rd, 2010FletchtheMonkeyBeer news, Breweries
    The Hop, live music and real ale pub opening in Leeds this March

    The Hop, live music and real ale pub opening in Leeds this March

    Wakefield’s finest are coming to Leeds in the guise of The Hop, the live music and real ale venue of Ossett Brewery’s pub armada. Situated in the Granary Wharf area of Leeds overlooking the reinvigorated quayside, The Hop will sit under two of the previously disused railway arches that are tucked away between the confluence of the Leeds-Liverpool canal and the River Aire. Read the rest of this entry »

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    January 15th, 2010FletchtheMonkeyBeer news, Breweries, Pubs & bars

    A nice piece about beer in a tabloid sized newspaper? Surely not.

    Ok to be fair it’s this months ‘What’s Brewing’, but I love the story on page 10 about Martin Brunnschweiler.

    More than a decade ago Martin went to visit his sister at her pub on the Isle of Man and ended up staying there to set up a brewery called Bushy’s. The paper is a bit hazy on the details (I’m intrigued as to whether he drank the pub dry and then set up because he was thirsty and what he left behind) but I like to think the Martin fell in love with the island, the pub, the atmosphere and the opportunity. His brewery has ties to the nuclear industry (and sounds like it could double up as a bunker should a Dr Strangelove armageddon arise) and the equipment is based on a headache inducing tower arrangement that requires a certain amount of agility from head brewer Curly (yes, Curly!).

    The best I can do is that I have on two or more separate occasions walked into a pub and ended up 1) working behind the bar and 2) doing the dishes, but never quite made the leap to brewing.

    Accidental brewer: Martin of Bushy's brewery on the Isle of Man

    Accidental brewer: Martin of Bushy's brewery on the Isle of Man

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    November 19th, 2009AlanSamandMarkBreweries, Comment

    It seems so simple, this-setting-up-a-brewery lark.

    Walking around the compact, but seemingly organised Leeds Brewery with co-founder Sam Moss, it’s easy to forget that the business has only been in existence for a touch over two years.

    Situated on a light industrial estate not far from Leeds’ bustling centre, the brewery is the hub of an expanding local empire that now stretches to three pubs across the town centre as well as the modern and compact Leeds Brewery HQ. The team produces three permanent beers and twelve seasonal beers; one for each calendar month. The beers are on sale across the country and also in Leeds brewery’s three self-owned pubs in Leeds city centre.

    The Leeds Brewery team

    The Leeds Brewery team

    Being Leeds residents and big fans of the beers that the brewery makes, we jumped at the chance to take a day off work and visit our very own local brewers. Upon arrival the other half of the management, Michael Brothwell, was busy making an emergency keg delivery in the back of his Ford Fiesta, so it was down to Sam to take us round the modern set up… Read the rest of this entry »

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    September 4th, 2009FletchtheMonkeyBreweries

    Just got back from my first Thursday night music quiz night at the Rosebud near Rothwell, South Leeds.

    The Rosebud is Sam’s local pub, located on a quiet road of houses that overlook pleasant fields. It’s one of last pubs in the area that still regularly brings in guest ales and is a nice little spot for watching Leeds United with a real ale in hand.

    Anyhow I met Sam and the chaps and the four us got to trying the guest ales, which were Ginger Pig by Springhead (who’s web site SEO isn’t great!), Sharp’s Cornish Coaster and Copper Dragon’s Golden Pippin.

    Copper Dragon's Golden Pippin - pride of the Rosebud pub this Thursday

    Copper Dragon's Golden Pippin - pride of the Rosebud pub this Thursday

    Firstly I ordered a half (yes, it’s a school night!) of Ginger Pig which had caused an amicable rift amongst the table; Sam believing it to be a little heavy whereas the rest believing it nice and refreshing. The elusive Springhead Brewery have created a straw coloured beer that is light and, if I’m honest a little bland and watery.

    Perhaps it’s just very subtle, but this beer is named after it’s core differentiating ingredient, ginger. This is no Blandford Fly by any account, but whilst it sips easy and is refreshing and enjoyable, it’s not much more than pleasant and would benefit from a little extra complexity and depth. Not that it’s bad, I can se it been ,much better on a hot day as a refreshing light ale, but just not as entertaining as I was expecting on a dark and rainy night.

    Second up came Cornish Coaster, one of Sharp’s ‘Other Beers’ (again with the poor SEO – titles of their web pages could with some improvement!).  Now this beer is interesting! In my notebook I simply wrote ‘you can taste the country air’ (which would have been the first line of my review had I taken a picture of it). Read the rest of this entry »

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    July 29th, 2009LanesyBreweries

    Scottish micro-brewery BrewDog has hit the headlines this week with its claims about the impact of its new beer Tokyo*, which founder James Watt claims is “providing a cure to binge beer-drinking”.

    His claims are based around the idea that anyone that wants to get inebriated will turn to stronger beers (such as his brewery’s 6-unit, 18% ale) and appreciate the flavour so much that they will not need to turn to “mass market, industry brewed lagers that are so bland and tasteless that you are seduced into drinking a lot of them”.

    Of course, this is patently untrue – and it is more than likely that Mr. Watt knows this.

    BrewDog, in its brief two-year existence is quickly becoming the rock n roll star of the micro-brewery world. As reports this week have reminded us, the company has previously flirted with controversy over a name given to one of its products that refers directly to drug-use (apparently; I wouldn’t have known said term if the BBC hadn’t informed me!)

    But all publicity is good publicity and this is clearly the case here. BrewDog are now probably the most discussed brewery in the country and that can’t be a bad thing for them. I personally, love their manifesto. The aim is to target the younger market and turn them on to quality Real Ale and away from the cheap, common lagers popular amongst this demographic. In terms of Real Ale popularity, it is great achievement that such a young company, run by two clearly enterprising individuals, is taking the corporate alcohol producers head-on.

    What they have also done with these statements is to highlight an issue that has plagued Britain for years; we don’t know how to appreciate alcohol consumption, certainly beyond the high-culture of fine wines.

    We have never had the ‘café culture’ found abroad, where alcohol is consumed in a more respectable manner, and it is this side of the BrewDog argument that is strong. Growing up in the UK, drinking beer, wine, spirits and so on, is often more focused on quantity as opposed to quality. Although specialist bars and ale houses are growing in popularity, much of the city centre remains dominated by low-standard, low-priced alcohol which has ultimately become the norm.

    Therefore, if companies like BrewDog are brewing special ales, such as Tokyo* – a run of three thousand units, of which only one thousand will be sold in the UK exclusively on the firm’s website – is this really such an issue?

    All this debate has done is to highlight the country’s insecurities about its own drinking culture. BrewDog won’t change that, but at least it is putting the control back in the hands of consumers to try new and innovative ales, no matter how strong they may be.

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