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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    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.

    Read the rest of this entry »

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    January 26th, 2012FletchtheMonkeyComment

    60% of questions on University Challenge are unanswerable to me. Another 30% are there for the taking – Copernicus, Darwin, Tchaikovsky, Keats, all familiar names worth an educated guess. I’m being ambitious if I was so bold to say I actually know the answer to 10% of questions. So imagine my delight when the answer to a starter question was ‘beer’.

    The fact it didn’t occur to me that the art of brewing might be the answer only spurned me on to achieve a full house of correct bonus answers (identifying brewing kit no less!). And then, this week, beer pops up again.

    “What consumer organisation was formed in 1971 after four friends holidayed to Ireland?”

    Easy.

    Four decades after the birth of CAMRA and the resurgence of real ale is not continuing but proliferating. Beer festivals suffer queues these days. Pubs might still be closing, but the good ones are thriving, adapting. Independent beer bars are expanding their portfolio, not reining it in. New breweries are popping up in cities where the art seemed dead. Real ale is helping. But brewers and drinkers are the driving force, and they are drinking great beer, not all of which meets CAMRA’s criteria for championing.

    Beer is a product that’s developed over many centuries, from the inns of the early highways to the beer houses of the smog covered cities. It’s evolved from the syrup of malted barley, perfumed with hops, heather and hedgerow, and seen itself become darker, lighter, more hopped, less hopped, lagered, smoked, filtered and decocted.

    Back in the early seventies craft beer was unheard of and kegged lager dominated an ailing pub landscape. That was before those unwitting friends came up with their famous idea to protect the cask beer they valued, a product threatened by the brewing conglomerates of the 1970s.

    The 2010′s sit against a very different backdrop to the 1970′s that nurtured CAMRA: since then it’s become the UK’s largest single issue consumer group.

    And there lies a potential issue with CAMRA’s issue. Central to the doctrine is just a single issue: real ale.

    It’s an admirable issue indeed, alongside the other pillars of CAMRA: community pubs and consumer rights.

    Is something missing though? Despite the fiscal fortunes of our over-loaned economies, beer might just be booming. 40 years on, does a single focus on real ale blinker beers most influential voice?

    Guest beers at Saltaire Beer Festival

    Guest beers at Saltaire Beer Festival

    Great British Beer Festival GBBF, Earls Court London

    Lagers and bottled beer galore at GBBF 2010

    Saltaire Brewery SIBA CAMRA awards

    SIBA and CAMRA beer awards

    st feuillien abbey beer glasses brussels festival costumes

    Belgium, where dispense matters less

    Many pubs and breweries sell excellent beers with excellent food and not all conform to CAMRA’s philosophy. Should those pubs be excluded from the Good Beer Guide? Should amazing tasting kegged pilsner from Ipswich – a million miles from the smoothflows or wannabe continental lagers of 40 years ago - be excluded from beer festivals or articles in BEER magazine? Should the talent of these brewers never feature in What’s Brewing?

    Now hold on, but CAMRA does allow these things. Yes, is it not sometimes with reticence that CAMRA embrace things that don’t conform to the real ale requirements? The world beer bars at The Great British Beer Festival are eclectic to say the least, and encouraged not hampered by CAMRA. Yet still obsolete debates continue over keg vs. cask, bottled conditioned beer and the taxonomy of what beer can be defined by which specific term.

    Ultimately CAMRA is based on a few founding principles: good beer, good pubs and ensuring that the craft of brewing doesn’t end up being a footnote in our history. Galvanised by its successes and its membership, CAMRA has the power to lobby for beer drinkers, pub goers and all the people who work in the related trades, regardless of their favourite beer style.

    Is now the right time for CAMRA to revisit the original motivations behind their campaign? On the cusp of another recession, should CAMRA revisit its core pillars and extend its welcome to the diversity of brewing in the 21st century?

    Or should they stand firm and say, ‘We are for real ale!”

    We’ve little doubt that CAMRA is a good thing, but it would perhaps be a shame if the Campaign For The Revitalisation of Ale (as they were first known) missed the opportunity to preserve its real ale mandate whilst improving its overall purpose by becoming the chief campaigner for good beer, good pubs and the highest of standards throughout. Agree?

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    October 1st, 2010LukeBlockBeer Events

    Beer brewing in the UK has been enjoying a renaissance of late. At least that’s what we’re told by the enthusiasts: from bloggers, brewers and drinkers alike. There has never been a better time to enjoy good quality, locally-brewed and ethically-sourced beer.

    Kent Beer Festival 2010

    Kent Beer Festival 2010

    One of the best ways to put this cheery rhetoric to the test is that staple of the drinkers’ diary, the beer festival. One of the grandees of the scene is the CAMRA Kent Beer festival

    Now into its 36th year and, judging by the amount of brewers in attendance (around 120, or so we were told), and the decent-sized crowds packing the bars, the UK beer industry must be in pretty decent shape. Kent beers were well-represented as you’d expect, ranging from the Mild, Star and Light ales of Goachers of Maidstone, through to the honest hoppy Gadd’s bitters of Ramsgate.

    Once we’d negotiated the dusty pathways of Merton Farm, paid our £4 entrance, and collected our tokens from the CAMRA volunteers manning the glass station, we were off into the murk of the cowshed.

    First up was a good half of British Bulldog (4.3% ABV) which had a good dark amber colour and long hoppy finish. Strong one that, and a couple too many could have seen us raiding the snacks before time. But we moved on through the crowds towards Goachers where a pint of Real Mild Ale (3.4% ABV) and a half of Gold Star (5.1% ABV) went down easier than a Portuguese centre-half. Good beers, enough malt in each to make them drinkable summer pints.

    My companion was pining for the ‘Pink Girlie Bar’, an exclusive area dedicated to the first time real ale drinkers. The staff here were excellent and even though busy, were handing out tasters to the more ale-shy. A half of Little Sharpie (3.8% ABV) from Humpty Dumpty of Reedham was a flowery, hoppy treat while the Cascade Pale Ale (4.8% ABV) had enough bitter thump to satisfy even the most un-girly drinkers in attendance. Kent’s oldest brewer, Shepherd Neame of Faversham, were well-represented with five beers to try: pints of Master Brew (3.7% ABV) and my all time favourite Spitfire (4.5% ABV) took the evening to a sound finish.

    Although the toilets remain questionable, as too the bands playing atop a dodgy rigging of scaffold, the true stars of the show were the micro-breweries. Millis Brewing Co of Gravesend and Swan of West Peckham were just two of the many small-scale brewers on display, and bucking the trend in this so-called age of austerity. Kent beer drinkers have never had it so good.

    Does sexism still exist in the beer industry. Nah, surely not?!

    Does sexism still exist in the beer industry. Nah, surely not?!

    Beer festival information:
    Festival: Kent Beer Festival
    Organiser: CAMRA
    Dates: 22nd – 24th July
    Country: Merton Farm, Canterbury, UK

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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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    December 2nd, 2009Alan WalshBeer and Food, Pubs & bars

    It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…


    …and I must first of all apologise for the lack of pictures to accompany this post. The reason is that I was not intending to ‘publicise’ what was initially going to be a quiet day out with my Mum and Dad. That is until we received shockingly different levels of service and quality of food at two Leeds eateries that inspired the Dickens theme for this post. So where did the weekend start…?

    The weekend started well with the collection of my beerswap spoils. While I was posting I decided to contact Katie at Leeds Grub to see if she had any suggestions as to where I should take my parents for Sunday dinner. My Mum wanted to do some Xmas shopping so I needed somewhere in the City Centre but, as I don’t see them very often, I was wanting somewhere I could be sure was going to be good first time. Katie very kindly suggested one of the Leeds Brewery pubs which she told me, although she had never had a Sunday lunch, tend to do quality food on any day of the week.

    It was with some irony then that the reason I turned up to meet my parents with a dry mouth and slight headache was the fact that the Cuthbert Broderick had had Leeds’ Midnight Bell as a guest on the Saturday night. With my CAMRA tokens they were only costing me £1.39 a pint. Wizard…. Read the rest of this entry »

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    November 26th, 2009FletchtheMonkeyComment
    Lager, lager, lager
    This week has seen a host of articles on lager, CAMRA and the divisions in the beer industry (see articles by Barm, Mark Dredge, Woolpack Dave, Pete Brown and more).
    Seems that some of it is negative (which I say meaning not positive about the whole thing rather than derogatory), much of it is complicated and much of it has sparked
    very good debate amongst the beer community.
    It’s fitting that the lager debate surfaced on the week we unearthed a parody of our sites, real-lager-reviews.com, and actually the Guardian article was one of the ways we cottoned on
    to our spoofers.
    Then Sam couldn’t quite work out if William’s Brothers Grozet which was depectively lager like for a beer.
    It seems the question of lager brings up awkward arguments. CAMRA clearly don’t associate themselves with CO2, which rules out a lot of lagers, but it doesn’t fundamentally rule out lager.
    Various other methods of serving lager can be found (what the hell is lager when it’s a home!) The debate reminds me of the ‘What’s an IPA anymore’ discussion that many of
    us bloggers commented on a few months back.
    So, my two cents.
    CAMRA support real ale. Check. They (to the best of my knowledge) have no vendetta against lager or any other drink. However, some die hard CAMRA supporters probably do
    (and they are entitled to their opinions). So for CAMRA to rule out serving a lager because it uses CO”, sounds on the face of it fair enough.
    Look, people like different things, that’s live. There is nothing wrong with ‘real ale’ festivals. But personally, I’d prefer to see ‘Beer, ale, whatever festivals’, the empahsis being
    on quality, responsible drinkaing and socialising. Forget arguments, linear divisions, style. I want to see festivals that provide an outlet for beer berwers, a get together for beer lovers
    and a genuine effort to make sure beer has a good name.
    Lager, beer, ale, stout, porter, IPA, pale ale: all allowed.
    Cask, keg, bottled, straight out of a fermenting tank: allowed.
    Tankard, pint glass, 1/3 pint, 1/2 pint, wine glass: allowed.
    Me, I like beer, and as I repeat from my comment ealrier this week, as Adrian Tierney Jones puts it, “Beer, ale , whatever” (apologies if I take your usage out of context Adrian).
    I will add to this discussion later this week, in a post close to my heart.
    Serving beer (Wikipedia)

    Serving beer (Wikipedia)

    Last week saw a host of articles on lager, CAMRA and why the two don’t always have a harmonious relationship (see articles by Barm, Mark Dredge, Woolpack Dave, Tandleman & The Guardian).

    The same week r’ Sam couldn’t quite work out if William’s Brothers Grozet was a lager or a beer, with conflicting online reviews and it being deceptively lager like for an ale.

    It’s fitting that the lager debate and lots of lager chat surfaced on the week we unearthed a parody of our sites, real-lager-reviews.com, and actually the Guardian article that kicked much of this off was one of the ways we cottoned onto our spoofers (thanks to an innocuous comment on there by the Real Lager Reviews lads).

    It seems the question of lager brings up some awkward discussions. CAMRA clearly don’t associate themselves with CO2, which rules out a lot of lagers, but it doesn’t fundamentally rule out lager per se.

    Which leads us to what is a lager: what it is and why is it different? Read the rest of this entry »

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    September 14th, 2009Alan WalshBreweries, Comment

    On my way back from Nottingham today I stopped off in Newark-Upon-Trent to have a look around. I had accidentally driven through the town centre before and had always said I wanted to go back and have a proper look around, plus I wanted to stop in at the MileStone Brewery as I was passing. Unfortunately I had the car so was unable to drink but was confident that the historic brewing town would have something to offer a designated driver.

    The Town

    Newark Castle overlooking the Trent

    Newark Castle overlooking the Trent

    I parked up in Waitrose (free parking in the town centre – don’t get that everywhere!) and headed across the river towards the castle gardens. Although the Castle itself has seen better days, there is a small museum and tourist information centre in the gardens and, after a 10 minute briefing, I headed off into the town centre. Newark seeps history from it’s narrow streets and it isn’t just the beer related sites that are worthy of note. In the Market

    G H Porter, Provisions Store

    G H Porter, Provisions Store

    Square, where there were a number of collectables stalls along with the usual fruit and veg traders, the place that most caught my eye was the  G H Porter ‘provisions’ store – serving traditional cooked meats, pies and canned goods, as well as serving teas. Also of note was the town’s Shopping Arcade and the whole square is overlooked by the Buttermarket building, converted to house a number of boutiques and eateries as well as the town’s museum and art gallery.

    Frontage of The Old White Inn, now a Building Society branch!!

    Frontage of The Old White Inn, now a Building Society branch!!

    Turning to more beer related sites of interest, the Market Square has the pictured 15th Century frontage, this building used to be The Old White Inn but is now home to a branch of the Nottingham Building Society. Also in the square is this picturesque Wychwood pub.

    Wychwood Pub

    Wychwood Pub

    As I was driving this was the only pub I ventured into on the day and unfortunately the interior did not live up to the promise of the outside. However, as I did not have the time to go round all of the watering holes on offer (I will be arguing for a Real Ale Reviews group outing by train next time I get together with Fletch and Lanesy) I leave it CAMRA to sum up the drinking potential of the town.

    Read the rest of this entry »

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