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 25th, 2013DavidMayhallDesert Island Beers

    Back in September ’12 we started a ‘Kiwi & Oz’ series on Desert Island Beers saying these were exciting times for New Zealand and Australian brewers, with both countries experiencing major growth in “craft” beer sales and the number of “craft” breweries. With this major growth as background we will have featured nearly twenty of our Kiwi & Australian brewing and blogging cousins when the series finishes in the next few weeks.

    There is however a similar story closer to home as one of the great things about being a beer drinker in London at the moment is the vibrancy of its beer and brewing scene. We have therefore planned our next series of castaways on Old London Town.

    London, from Greenwich

    The growth in London breweries in recent times has been nothing short of amazing. When in 2011 Des de Moor published his excellent guide, London Brewers and Beers he reckoned there were thirteen operating breweries, an increase from the eight that remained after Young’s left Wandsworth in 2006. He now reckons there are thirty six breweries operating in London, including ten brewpubs, with at least a further eleven under development, including three brewpubs. And with some of these projects well advanced its likely there will be over forty by the summer!

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    December 31st, 2012FletchtheMonkeyDesert Island Beers

    This weeks Desert Island Beers is a massive coup as it features none other than Sir (well if a UK citizen he would be) Mitch Steele, brew-master at the world-famous Stone Brewing Co. of Escondido, California which was named “The All-Time Top Brewery on Planet Earth” by BeerAdvocate magazine in 2008…AND 2009! “The most popular and highest rated brewery – ever!” (I just wish I could get their beers more often over here!)

    I was saving this post for the New Year and an upcoming series of Desert Island Beers on U.S. Brewers, but whilst researching this article I learnt that today, 31st December is Mitch’s 50th birthday! So what better birthday present than to be castaway on a Desert Island with your favourite beers. Happy Birthday Mitch!

    Mitch was an Enology major at the University of California, Davis in the early ’80s when he found out about the wine-making curriculum there and took an introductory wine-making class. Later he discovered the Brewing Science program and was in a microbiology class when Dr. Michael Lewis guest lectured and provided a brief overview of the brewing process and Mitch was as they say hooked! The idea of combining art and science in crafting wine and beer seemed like a perfect fit for him.

    When he graduated, a recession had hit and brewers weren’t hiring and the only craft brewers of any note at the time were Sierra Nevada and Anchor so he ended up making wine in the Central Coast region of California for eight years. About five years into the wine-making stint he hooked up with Bill Millar, who was starting the San Andreas Brewing Co. in Hollister, California. He took Mitch as his brewer, and Mitch brewed there at weekends and during his time off from the winery for four years.

    After four years of brewing as a second job, Mitch decided to make brewing his chosen career and got a job with Anheuser-Busch in Colorado. He figured (correctly) that A-B would be a great place to learn how to manage the brewing and fermentation processes and he ended up at A-B for 14 years and says got to do some really great and fun things with them and learned a lot; but at the same time was really itching to get back into craft brewing.

    An active home-brewer during his time with Anheuser-Busch, Mitch joined Stone Brewing Co. in 2006 and has managed the brewing and packaging operation at Stone Brewing Co. as it has grown from a 48,000 bbl operation to 150,000 bbls in 2011.

    Stone Brewing

    Mitch Steele

    victory prima pils

    No ordinary pils

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    July 31st, 2012DavidMayhallDesert Island Beers

    This weeks Desert Island Beers features Fergus Fitzgerald, Head Brewer at Adnams PLC, Southwold, Suffolk. Fergus 36, is married to Julie and they have one young son, who he says he has never left down the pub, but did once lose for 5 minutes in Tesco when looking for a Sponge Bob Square-pants DVD.

    Fergus was born in Limerick, Ireland, best known as the place Terry Wogan comes from and no Fergus doesn’t do short comical, sometimes rude, poems. He went on to study Biotechnology without really knowing what to do with it, but knew he liked science.

    Fergus Fitzgerald Adnams

    Fergus Fitzgerald Adnams

    Brasserie dOrval – Orval – (Florenville, Villers-d’Orval, Belgium – 6.2%)


    After graduating he was offered the chance to work in the Lab at Fuller, Smith & Turner PLC in London for 6 months. During this period Fergus says he lived in digs where for £50 a week he got a room to himself, two eggs every morning for breakfast and only once did one of the other residents try to break in with a hatchet; OK it was twice but in fairness to them the second time the guy was actually looking for a different room.

    After this stint Fergus decided he loved the brewing industry and that’s what he wanted to do. A short stint at Murphy’s brewery in Cork, Ireland followed, before he returned to Fullers when a permanent job became available.

    Over the next 7 years he worked his way out of the lab and into the brewing side, passing several brewing exams on the way and then moved to Adnams in 2004 as Assistant Brewer and now a qualified Master Brewer became Head Brewer in 2009.

    During his time at Adnams the company has replaced the Brewhouse and Fermentation room and also installed a distillery. Fergus says he has also managed to clog up the wort cooler several times with orange peel and liquorice root. But he’s not sure which he’s most proud of. The Adnams engineers apparently now get nervous when they see him coming out of the Fermentation room because they are not sure if he’s thrown something into a fermenter which might clog up a pump or sprayball. This fear is not totally without foundation! Whichever Fergus says he likes brewing and he likes beer!

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    July 15th, 2012FletchtheMonkeyDesert Island Beers

    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 mother, she forced him to take a job as a lab technician at Wilsons, the local brewer – hence starting an incredible chain of events. The job at Wilsons opened John’s eyes and he decided that brewing was the career for him, so in 1977 he left Wilson’s and headed to Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh to take a BSc in Brewing.

    On leaving Heriot-Watt, John joined Fuller’s as a junior brewer in 1981 and progressed through the ranks under the watchful eye of Head Brewer, Reg Drury. In 1999, on Reg’s retirement, John became the Brewing Director/Head Brewer.

    John Keeling Fullers

    John Keeling Fullers

    ESB and Fullers beer on cask in London

    ESB on cask

    Fullers Wisteria

    Wisteria @ Fullers

    Boddington's Pub Ale. A flake with that?

    A flake with that?

    He held the post of Chairman of the Heriot-Watt alumni group from 1999 to 2001, and Chairman of the Brewers Guild Southern Section from 2001 to 2003. In 2006, John was asked to join the Heriot-Watt ICBD (International Centre for Brewing and Distilling) Advisory Board.

    John has received world-wide acclaim for his brewing achievements and is often asked to judge beer competitions across the globe. He was heavily involved in the development of Fuller’s Vintage Ale, and was responsible for the development of Discovery Blonde Beer. In 2006, he was awarded the title of Brewer of the Year by the British Guild of Beer Writers.

    John has recently been described by one member of the Fuller’s Fine Ale Club – a group of some 13,000 Fuller’s fans – as the Winston Churchill of brewing. Fuller’s has won five CAMRA Overall Champion Beer of Britain’s during his tenure.. He believes that brewing great beer needs real pride and passion.

    John’s other passions include Manchester United and an eclectic selection of musical heroes such as The Fall and Captain Beefheart

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    June 5th, 2012DavidMayhallDesert Island Beers

    Welcome to the latest episode of Desert Island Beers which this week features Toby McKenzie, co-owner/founder & brewer at Red Willow Brewery, based in Macclesfield, Cheshire. Red Willow, like Quantum Brewery whose owner/brewer Jay Krause featured last week on Desert Island Beers, is another of the upcoming, thrusting, new Micro’s on the northern beer scene.

    After university, Toby started as a Computational Molecular Biologist, working in Cambridge and Palo Alto, U.S.A., primarily on protein folding algorithms (!) and gene identification. After a few years he then migrated into pure IT and for the last 5 years of that career was the IT Director of a Software Consultancy working in a number of diverse fields from Algorithmic Trading to the Ministry of Justice.

    Toby McKenzie Red Willow

    Toby at Red Willow

    Passion fruit bitter

    Fullers London Pride cask handpull web

    Pride of London

    Red Willow Brewery logo

    Red Willow

    He started brewing beer as a hobby, which rapidly degenerated into an obsession and combined with a mid life crisis and an understanding wife decided to start a brewery.

    Toby says he can’t remember why or when he started hobby brewing, but says it was fun and the initial results were passable. Slowly but surely the hobby started to take up increasingly large amounts of his time and before he knew it he was experimenting and brewing most weekends. Over several beers with friends he semi-jokingly came up with the name Red Willow Brewery which is based on his children’s middle names, his eldest’s Willow is a reference to, he is now ashamed to admit, Buffy the Vampire Slayer and for some reason Toby and his wife then let their daughter pick their son’s middle name and she chose Red (Toby says at least it wasn’t pink!).

    Toby says possibly brought on through a mid life crisis or the need to indulge his passion he embarked upon a war of attrition to convince his (considerably) better half that his oft mentioned idea of setting up a Microbrewery was the way forward. Luckily for him and for us she agreed, in fact pretty much straight away.

    So in July 2010 Toby and his wife decided to go for it, with the overriding objective of producing beers that they wanted to drink; full of flavour, with passion and without compromise. (Recent awards I would suggest have shown they are very much on track).

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    June 19th, 2011FletchtheMonkeyBeer Events

    The wisteria in Chiswick is pretty old, even if it is a relative newcomer by London standards. As the river Thames snakes through the suburbs of west London – past the old cemetery, the botanical gardens at Kew and the brewery of Fuller Smith and Turner – this foreign import sits quietly, gracefully; boughs of improbable twists clambering around the architraves and balustrades of the pretty terraces that run both parallel and perpendicular to the curves of the river.

    It’s at Fuller’s Brewery that the oldest wisteria in the UK calmly entwines its way around the Victorian buildings, defiantly taking hold of the old brew masters cottage, never to let go. For 180 years it’s bloomed twice yearly, a bounty of lilac blossom weighing on the strong yet vulnerable web of vines.

    Fullers Wisteria by flickr user 'curry15'

    Fullers Wisteria: seen more brew days than the average climbing plant

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    June 3rd, 2011FletchtheMonkeyDesert Island Beers

    The first ‘episode’ of our all new co-produced Desert Island Beers starts with a bit of a bang, with George de Piro, Brewmaster at C.H. Evans Brewing Company, brewers of Kick-Ass Brown: three times winner of the Best American Brown Ale at the Great American Beer Festival (2000, 2002 & 2008), and a World Beer Cup Bronze (2004).

    George de Piro of Albany Pump Station

    George lives in Albany and graduated from Syracuse University with a BS in biology (concentration in biochemistry) and has completed brewing courses at the Siebel Institute. He originally earned a reputation as a very good hobby brewer, winning several major contests and writing about beer for a home brewing magazine and on the Internet. He then met Neil Evans at a homebrew contest where they judged together; they got along, and a couple of months later Neil got in touch to see if George wanted to join his project to build a brew pub in Albany. He now says that since his job as a chemist for a pharmaceutical company paid really well and was very secure, he figured he’d be happier making less money and working longer hours as a craft brewer and has never looked back!.

    And when asked how he likes the job “I love it. On the worst day, it still comes down to the fact that I get paid to make beer”. Read the rest of this entry »

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    February 10th, 2011FletchtheMonkeyBeer Reviews, IPA

    The Fuller’s Brewery probably stands a litle too far West of the City of London to claim it can hear the bells of St Clements (regardless if you favour the claims of the churches in Westminster or Candlewick).

    As London beer goes though, this is the only one I’d associate with a certain nursery rhyme , for no reason other than Bengal Lancer is orange and lemons through and through.

    A citrus nose, voluptuous marmalade rind body and a cheap grapefruit juice finish exert plenty of flavour over a temperate backbone of peppery-toffee.

    This hops and malt in all their IPA glory without been obtrusive or over zealous.

    In a bottle, Bengal Lancer has fast become a favourite from the supermarket (Sainsbury’s and Waitrose both stock it). On cask – if you’re lucky enough to find it during it’s all too short stint in London pubs – it’s equally tempting and subsequently rewarding.

    Whether or not it would have found favour in colonial India, who knows. But it sure packs enough of a punch to stand out whilst being tantalising undecided about it’s ability to quench or leave you desperate for more.

    Heritage artwork or crass marketing?

    Heritage artwork or crass marketing?

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    December 6th, 2009FletchtheMonkeyBeer Events

    The last few days have been fantastic. Despite a lot of travel kafuffle and too much time spent on my feet, I managed to get to the British Guild of Beer Writers dinner in London. I could write for hours about the adventures I’ve had, a sojourn around London with my camera, beers in the legendary Rake, a day rambling around London pubs with fellow bloggers and a huge and unsuccessful rush from the Pigs Ear beer festival to get home, but I’d be here all day.

    So just a few words on the event we all went down for, and what was a great celebration of beer, food and the writing that so much passion goes into… Read the rest of this entry »

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    July 31st, 2009Alan WalshHoney Beers

    Fuller’s Organic Honey  Dew Golden Beer – 5.0% Vol

    Me and Jack looked at each other with a mutual look surprise as we took our first sips of this beer. Not at all what we were expecting. It was not the sweet sensation I was expecting and someone else here has informed me that the draft version is far sweeter.

    I must admit that I went to the trouble of pouring this into a glass to see if it appeared more golden that it tasted and I have to say that it did. In fairness this Ale may be golden for regular drinkers of strong ales and porter but for my young pale loving taste buds this juxtaposition of a stronger ale with the dark, syrupy, (not sure if that’s a word) raw sweetness doesn’t really float my boat.

    I must say the bottle, particularly the bottle tops, are awesome…

    Fuller's Honey Dew

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