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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    August 13th, 2012FletchtheMonkeyBeer Events

    My Dad says he’s sure that Halifax once boasted the most pubs per square foot, and since the day he told me countless others have barked in consternation, claiming their town had the most public houses per capita or most inns per household or most taverns per dog owner.

    Whoever lays the claim to whichever fact we’ve always wondered what the pubs that Britain was built on actually looked like. Who frequented them? What was the decor like? How much have they changed over the years?

    Roll Out The Barrel The British Pub on Film

    Roll Out The Barrel

    Tomorrow evening we hope to find out as we head off to a special screening off “Roll Out The Barrel – The British Pub on Film” in the comfort of Hyde Park Picture House in Leeds.

    The British Film Institute have collated this collection of films shot between 1944 and 1977 and all centre on the hub of British society, the humble local boozer.

    To complete our history lesson in style beer will be served thanks to Kirkstall Brewery, and if that’s not a reason to go the cinema, I don’t know what is.

    I may even try to finish Paul Jenning’s excellent book “The Local: A History of the English Pub” in advance, it’s well worth a read.

    Roll Out the Barrel, Tuesday 14th August, 9pm (doors 8.30pm), tickets from £4.50-£6.50. Book by calling Box Office on 0113 275 2045 or online at www.hydeparkpicturehouse.co.uk

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    June 15th, 2012FletchtheMonkeyBeer Reviews, Pubs & bars

    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 so off we march off towards The Plum Tree Arms. We’re first in so grab the dominoes and two pints of Wold Top Bitter. The artefacts and fittings come from pubs past and present, and from beside the 1910s till Geoff pours with skill. He quickly challenges us to a game of Yorkshire darts. With no trebles to help us we don’t fancy our chances!

    Next up is the modern wooden doors of The Tranters Arms. It’s the antithesis of our first stop, walls like a flat pack sauna and an uncompromisingly purple pool table sitting squarely in the middle of the main room. Tall silver fonts peer over a fussball table, a darts board (regular this time). It’s a back garden sports bar. Only one thing for it, let’s sink a cool lager.

    The Magpie, sat deep in hop country, in the garden of Kent. Armchairs prevail here, if you can find them beneath the clutter of a hoarding landlord. We slump down and rest amongst the lived-in charms. And then we spot jagerbombs… let the party begin!

    Along the twilight air we hear music, and follow the bluegrass tunes to the Gem Saloon. Guitars, double bass and harmonicas light up the night. Folk feet tap, dancing fingers strum, a violin screeches and a banjo jingle-jangles everyone to their feet. There’s food on the hob, the wood burner chugs away, beer flows freely. Under the hazy yellow glow of oil lamps everyone is free, everyone is in a better place.

    Our night ends at The Cool Runnings Rum Shack. We’re running on empty but the shutters are open wide (do they ever close?) and tired eyes find new legs. Under moonlight we ditch the Red Stripe beer for cocktails and spiced spirits, admiring the graft that’s gone into this personal homage. We and stay up late, prostrate on the grass watching stars roll gently over the impossibly deep sky.

    Bar at Plum Tree Arms where Sarah Beeney visited

    Bar at Plum Tree Arms

    ManBower pub shed, Australia

    Man shed!

    Dogs allowed at the Forge & Flagon

    Dogs allowed

    Terrys Tavern

    Terrys Tavern

    The Drunken Duck

    The Drunken Duck

    Issacs giant chess of Ipswich

    Issacs giant chess

    Gem Saloon Blues

    Gem Saloon Blues

    Cool Runnings

    Cool Runnings

    As you might have guessed this pub crawl never happened. The pubs all exist though – each one is a home built castle and has been entered into the pub category of this years Readers Shed’s competition.

    Head Sheddie Andrew Wilcox says that over the last two years entrants to the category have risen 20%. Whether it’s because of local pub closures, rising on trade beer prices, the unreliable garden weather or a weak property market, it seems that pubs are the new greenhouses and beer the new wine. “It’s the most contested category” Andrew tells us, “and the majority plump for a traditional pub rather than wine bar.

    Whatever the reason, here’s to the landlord sheddies and their DIY Moon Under Waters. And make sure you get your vote in before tomorrow’s deadline – Saturday 16th June Midnight GMT.

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    March 7th, 2012FletchtheMonkeyBeer and travel, Beer history, Pubs & bars

    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 River Ryburn as it steers through the steep wooded valley, roaming towards the Calder. The Triangle public house, in the tiny village of Triangle, is boarded up, not the first dead watering hole on the winding roads that lead to the quiet, charming town of Ripponden.

    At Ripponden, about as remote an urban centre you can get in the sprawl of West Yorkshire, time blends from 1970s into the eighteenth century in the shadow of the Victorian church. A few footsteps further on the day retreats to nearer the 1670s as a cold breeze rustles across the cobbles of the ancient humpbacked bridge that leads to a quiet, unassuming public house.

    Packhorse bridge and Old Bridge Inn Ripponden (thanks to http://www.theoldbridgeinn.co.uk/ for the snap)

    Packhorse bridge and Old Bridge Inn Ripponden

    The Old Bridge deserves its name. The bridge from which it takes its name, just like the church whose shadow it lies in, has been rebuilt many times since the first packhorse crossing. The pub is as old, over 700 years as the oldest records attest too. In the 14th century the town were not even on the first of their four churches that the river or weather has razed along the way. Old broom, new handles, new brushes.

    The Ryburn runs straight and narrow under the ancient structure, the pub nestles on the northern side, resplendent in bright white wash. Warm fires, real ale, fine dining, but with not an ounce of pretension. The Old Bridge is family run, locally revered, bustling with merry drinkers around the bar and belly-patting diners, content and perhaps a little dozy.

    Since 1307 similar scenes may have been played out in this hidden pocket of hostelry. On the main York to Chester road, journey-worn travellers would have put their feet up here, may have knocked back unfussy ale and unfussy food, stocking up  on victuals and sleep. Curled up in a window nook in 2012 the beer is a little brighter and food is a little more fussy (but excellent) – scallops with parsnip puree, mackerel pate, sea bass with chorizo, crisp and luscious belly pork.

    Bowed by time, oak beams run low in the sitting rooms either side of the cheery communal bar, warmed by fires or stoves and sitting under a cockeyed triangular roof that’s seen seven centuries of welcomes and goodbyes.

    The river barely flows. A tear drop on the neck of a window box daffodil is frozen in the crisp Sunday air. Under these bows, between mahogany panelled walls, Airedale Valley Bitter meets chocolate orange brownie (scrumptious), and like that droplet, we’re immovable, resolved to enjoy the slowness with which two hours lumber by.

    One hundred and twenty minutes. But a tiny percentage of the years and patrons that the Old Bridge has watched over in its lifetime.

    Old Bridge Inn Airedale Valey Bitter

    A pint of AVB

    Yorkshires Oldest Inn Old Bridge Inn Ripponden

    Yorkshires Oldest Pub

    Scallops Old Bridge Inn

    Fine, fine food

    Bar at the Old Bridge Inn Ripponden

    The ancient roof

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    April 29th, 2011FletchtheMonkeyBeer Events, Beer news
    Yorkshire village pub by www.graphicalstatus.com

    Yorkshire village pub by www.graphicalstatus.com

    Time flies in the beer houses of Kingston-upon-Hull, where Yorkshiremen plotted against King Charles; studs fly in the grand hotels of Huddersfield where the North plotted against the Rugby Union.

    In Halifax they have long memories, just ask The Running Man. In York they never forget, Guy Fawkes will tell you that.

    In Sheffield they have an island for their beer, in Swaledale they make you climb a thousand feet for a pint (you might even have to do the washing up if you’re lucky!)

    From the gastro pubs of Ilkley to the cove-view nooks of Robin Hood’s Bay; from the alleyway drinking dens of Leeds, to the walkers respites littering Garsdale, Wensleydale, Dentdale, Ribblesdale, Malhamdale, Nidderdale…

    The Grove Inn, Leeds by John FotoHouse on Flickr

    The Grove Inn, Leeds – surviving against the odds

    Whitelocks, Briggate

    Whitelocks, Briggate – the alleys where Loiners get their name

    Station Inn, Ribblehead

    Station Inn, Ribblehead – take a map and a train timetable!

    Yorkshire is blessed with pubs, nearly 10% of all the public houses in Britain. Some good, some bad, each and everyone someone’s favourite. All 5,115 of them.

    What better way to spend the Bank Holiday than oiling your discourse down the local, or heeding Milton Crawford and taking a  moment to reflect on life. And when your done, you can vote for your favourite Yorkshire pub at Yorkshire.com/pub

    Yorkshires Favourite Pub

    “Yorkshire, Yorkshire!!”

    There are 54,000 pubs in Britain and 5,115 pubs in Yorkshire. Ish. Thanks to the border hungry constituency of Brigg & Goole which straddles both the East Riding of Yorkshire and the northern climes of Lincolnshire we’ve had to apply some educated guesswork to the final tally. Thanks to the CAMRA press team and the British Beer & Pub Association for help locating the raw data. And thanks to Dan CohenJohn FotoHouse and Rick Harrison for the pics!

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    April 21st, 2011Mister FrostyPubs & bars

    I had the pleasure of being invited to the re-opening of a pub this week. Someone has paid a visit to what used to be the Three Horseshoes in Otley and replaced its worn out steel trotters to get the place back on its feet.

    The newly named Horse and Farrier on Bridge Street in Otley is the fifteenth addition to Market Town Taverns’ portfolio, which stretches across North and West Yorkshire including Arcadia in Leeds, Brigantes in York and Bar t’at in Ilkley).

    Now, I’ll lay my cards on the table, I’ve long been a fan of Market Town Taverns, I like the cut of their jib and I like that there’s always a selection of 8 real ales available, as well as a handy selection of bottled beers. The Old Bell Tavern, another Market Town Taverns pub, is my local in Harrogate it’s very traditionally styled, has real character and I even had my wedding reception in the restaurant there.

    Horse & Farrier, Otley

    Horse & Farrier, Otley, formerly the Three Horseshoes

    Read the rest of this entry »

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    January 23rd, 2011SamParkerPubs & bars

    Built in 1741 as a house for the timber merchant Edmund Maude, The Palace was first recorded as an inn in 1841 and is believed to have been named after one of the breweries whose ale it sold. In 1830 the Beerhouse Act was passed which allowed any householder who paid rates to apply for a two guinea excise licence to sell beer and brew it on their premises. This led to 46,000 new pubs being created within eight years.

    In the ten years following the Beerhouse Act the number of pubs in Leeds rose from 270 to 545 and it is thought that The Palace may be one of those along with the Eagle Tavern on North Street. The licensing laws were changed in 1869 and this had the effect of tightening the rules to apply for a licence. Originally outwith the Leeds boundary, being located just outside the East Bar, (the marking stone for which can be found just slightly higher up Kirkgate towards the city centre set into the boundary wall of Leeds Parish Church) as Leeds expanded it became a city centre pub.

    The Palace and Leeds Parish Church

    The Palace and Leeds Parish Church

    The bar at The Palace pub Leeds

    Seen better days? The bar at The Palace

    The Palace Hotel, Leeds

    Vintage pub livery at The Palace, Leeds

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    February 18th, 2010FletchtheMonkeyPubs & bars

    As an adolescent I was lucky enough to have three excellent  local pubs, all within 200 yards on the same road. Set back from the road The Horse and Jockey was a lively pub with one bar and a lounge with dart board, pool table and Sky tv. The beer was lager, one or two hand pulls of something like Hooky Bitter and at one point a Chinese takeaway operating in the back room servng takeaways to the hungry inhabitants. Read the rest of this entry »

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