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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    May 12th, 2011FletchtheMonkeyBeer Reviews, Cumbrian beers

    Yates Cumbrian Ale might not be your easiest Lakeland ale to find, but if you can find your way to Open All Hours in Keswick or Laird’s Larder in Houghton, you might be able to grab a few bottles. But to add this to your summer beer roster your best bet in the North West is Booths Supermarkets.

    Straight away it’s different –  manuka honey and lemsip perhaps the easiest descriptors of a grainy, citric and medicinal infused beer.

    It’s comfy, reassuring beer; a summer cough syrup combined with a mug of Horlicks; a dollop of caramel and a gentle bitterness; light in alcohol, gentle in carbonation, the beery bubbles removing any cloying stickyness and thus ensuring it’s place as a beer well placed to serve a hot weather session.

    Yates Cumbrian Ale

    Yates Cumbrian Ale

    Beer information:
    Read the rest of this entry »

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    November 17th, 2009LanesyBeer Reviews, Honey Beers, Lagers

    One of the brilliant advantages of being a beer reviewer is that you are easy to buy for. So naturally, my parents just knew to look out for new or interesting looking locals beers whilst in Cyprus recently.

    They did very well – two large bottles locally brewed ales (and as far as I can tell the only Cypriot beers available) – Leon and Keo were my holiday gifts, so naturally a proper Cypriot beer tasting was in order.

    Leon and Keon Beers from Cyprus

    Leon and Keo ales from Cyprus. With added Keo t-shirt in the background.

    First up, Leon beer; an all-malt beer that was the first to be brewed on the Island from 1937. The scent is rather unusual, but distinctly reminded me of fresh pea-pods and poured similar to a typical run-of-the-mill lager: lively and a pale amber in the glass.

    In the mouth, the liveliness caused an abrasion on the tongue that is usually experienced by drinking bog-standard lagers. Unfortunately, there was just nothing in the beer to differentiate from anything I could have picked up from the multipack section of a supermarket. The taste was somehow hidden by the invasive texture on the tongue, whilst the 4.5% ABV was also lost amongst the chaos. It is hard to find anything positive to say about the taste and flavour of this beer.

    By contrast, Keo provided a much more interesting scope. I remember enjoying this brand when I visited Cyprus some years ago; it was ubiquitous amongst the tourist bars and was quite an enjoyable pint in the balmy heat of a Cypriot autumn.

    Read the rest of this entry »

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    November 13th, 2009FletchtheMonkeyAmber ales, Beer Reviews, Comment, Fruity Beers

    Last weekend I was pretty much off the (online) radar compared to usual, and in the 2 days I left the twitterverse to its own devices it seems it all went a little BrewDog mad. With the revelation that BrewDog stitched themselves up deliberately over Tokyo, some people congratulated them on a point well proved whilst others bemoaned their tactics and deception.

    I understand and to a point commend BrewDog for standing up to some of what the Portman group do, and appreciate they are not the perfect, unbiased solution – for instance I’m not sure that BrewDog’s labels incite anti-social behaviour as much as a Taste The Difference lasagne does. But, I am annoyed that they pulled last week’s stunt: firstly because they ignore the fact that the Portman group is an alternative to state legislation; secondly that they went out to actively ask people in the beer community to defend Tokyo, knowing damn well they’d sent the letter, and thirdly, does it really help an industry that some days looks like imploding in on itself?

    As I’ve found with BrewDog recently, the sentiment and passion is no doubt there, but sometimes, execution lets them down.

    BrewDog have moulded themselves into a bit of a cult brand, and one that is gradually making inroads into the wider population, with a rebellious brand persona that many supermarket shoppers and beer drinkers will enjoy and tap into. After all, BrewDog are still unique compared to the traditional brewers available in UK supermarkets.

    I say cult because there is something dogmatic about following BrewDog, and I’ve no doubt that people hold BrewDog in high esteem. Much in the same way that they look forward to their favourite bands new release or the next big book by an author, people wait in keen anticipation of every move BrewDog make, regardless of what that move might entail.

    Which leads us nicely onto Dogma, the second BrewDog beer review in our Sainsbury’s Beer Competition series (especially as it’s the 13th post in this series posted on Friday the 13th!)

    Dogma: brewed by a Scottish druid?! A wonderfully sweet and exciting concoction but not everyone's cup of tea

    Dogma: brewed by a Scottish druid?! A wonderfully sweet and exciting concoction but not everyone's cup of tea

    Dogma is the reincarnation of Speedball, the heather honey infused beer that gave BrewDog their first really big PR piece just before we kicked this little blog off. Read the rest of this entry »

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    October 9th, 2009FletchtheMonkeyGolden Ales
    On arrival at Sainsbury’s to peruse the finalists in their 2009 beer competition Birds & Bees
    immediately caught my attention. The label is modern and playful and stood out from the crowd.
    I loved the colour and the illustration and it fell into my basket (placed very carefully I should say)
    without further thought.
    Originally I was going to save this beer but it on an indecisive evening with the light not fading until late into the night, it was this
    that grabbed my attention again and I plucked it from the shelf.
    Not 100% sure what to expect I took care opening it and poured out the golden liquid. It had a light hoppy aroma,
    and light fruity taste. Turns out it’s a light golden ale! Swill this around and the colour, aroma and the taste combine
    to make a really good golden beer.
    The gentle fruit and floral aroma (looking at the label that must be the elderflower
    and the Cascade hops) is really refreshing. There is a malt finish that adds an unexpected
    darker tang to the beer, which is just enough to make you want another sip and no doubt makes this an enticing session beer.
    Trying this it was actually one of the first summer ales I’ve had and I wish I’d been able to get my hands on some in May or June as this might just have been my proverbial soundtrack to the summer (that typical over in a flash summer we usually have!)
    I’ve only tried the bottle  but I can only imagine the cask version of this is the perfect pint on a sumnnyternoon.

    On arrival at Sainsbury’s to peruse the finalists in their 2009 beer competition, Birds & Bees immediately caught my attention. The label is modern and playful and stood out from the crowd.

    I loved the colour and the illustration and it fell into my basket (placed very carefully I should say) without further thought.

    Birds & Bees & Beer: this is a playful ale with citrus and honey flavours

    Birds & Bees & Beer: this is a playful ale with citrus and honey flavours

    Originally I was going to save this beer but it on an indecisive evening with the light not fading until late into the night, it was this that grabbed my attention again and I plucked it from the shelf.

    Not 100% sure what to expect I took care opening it and poured out the golden liquid. It had a light hoppy aroma, and light fruity taste. Turns out it’s a light golden ale! Swill this around and the colour, aroma and the taste combine to make a really appealing golden beer.

    The gentle fruit and floral aroma (looking at the label that must be the elderflower and the Cascade hops) is really refreshing. Honey and lemon blossom on your tastebuds and there is a malt finish that adds an unexpected bitter tang to the beer, which is just enough to make you want another sip and makes this an enticing session beer.

    Trying this it was actually one of the first summer ales I’ve had and I wish I’d been able to get my hands on some in May or June as this might just have been my proverbial soundtrack to the summer (that typical over in a flash summer we usually have!)

    I’ve only tried the bottle  but I can only imagine the cask version of this is the perfect pint on a sunny afternoon.

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    September 16th, 2009Alan WalshReal Ale

    Loxley Ale with Chicken, Chorizo and Green Pepper Pasta

    Loxley Ale with Chicken, Chorizo and Green Pepper Pasta

    Now for the first taste of the MileStone beers I picked up the other day when visiting the Brewery shop in Cromwell. I have plumped for Loxley Ale  (4,2% abv), named after the famous Robin of Loxley. I have selected this one first because I am a big Robin Hood fan, not so much the recent offering from the BBC starring Jonas Armstrong, but I am a massive fan of the Kevin Costner movie, have read the Henry Gilbert book too many times than I can count and I even harbour a secret love of the Walt Disney version!!!!

    The fantastic MileStone website has tasting notes on all their ales and the Loxley Ale is described as having a ‘crisp lemony tang’ coupled with ‘slight honey sweetness’. Ron recommends either a good ploughman’s or a Korma. I had other ideas. Having tried a few sips I agreed with the website’s decription, the beer has a drinkable sweetness, appearing after an initial citrus tang – perfect to have with a nice summer salad I though…so I rolled back the cool Leeds weather and prepared this creamy pasta salad which I believe compliments the zingy sweetness of the Loxley Ale perfectly.

    Creamy Chicken, Chorizo, Leek and Green Pepper Pasta Salad
    Serves 2

    Ingredients
    Ingredients1 Large Chicken Breast – cut into thin strips
    Diced Chorizo – handful
    2 Leeks – sliced
    2 Medium Green Peppers
    300ml Creme Fraiche
    Cheese & Tomato Tortellini – two handfuls
    2 Little Gem Lettuce – torn into shreds
    10 Cherry Tomatoes – halved
    Ground Black Pepper (to taste)
    Olive Oil (to fry)
    Splash of Balsamic Vinegar (to dress)

    Method

    Cooking under wayWarm the Olive Oil in the pan and fry the chicken, peppers, leek and chorizo until the chicken is cooked through (usually about 20mins). Cook the Tortellini in a pan of boiling water until soft. Whilst all the bits are cooking rip the lettuce up, divide between two bowls, splash with balsamic and throw on the cherry toms. Once the chicken is cooked stir the Creme Fraiche in and add the Tortellini before spooning onto the lettuce beds. Serve with a glass of MileStone Loxley Ale.

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    August 11th, 2009Alan WalshCider

    Fletch is going to be turning in the grave that is the house we used to share for two years but I have formally bastardised IPA Monday in order to have a cider night. Basically the reason for this is that I have a pack of chops in the fridge left over from Saturday’s BBQ and I’ve decided to make that the theme of the night.

    First things first, this is the recipe that I am cooking, passed to me by my mate Jack but changed a little but by me  (I have used Leeks in favour of Onions)…

    3 x Leeks

    6 x Pork Chops

    1 1/2 x Jars of Apple Sauce

    1 x Bottle Medium Sweet Cider

    Knob of Butter

    Salt and Pepper to Flavour

    Method – Melt the butter in a heavy bottomed stew pot in order to sweat off the leeks (which should be roughly chopped). Once the leeks are soft, brown off the chops before adding the cider and apple sauce to thicken, simmer for 10-15 mins on the hob and then bang in the oven for 45mins at 180-200 degrees.

    Moving on to more important things, I had headed to Beer Ritz to grab a few bottles of cider on the way home from work. My housemate Jim is a big fan of Aspall’s and, although Cider is my weakest area (in University Challenge terms) I am aware off Aspall’s to be a good brand and expected to see it on the shelves of Beer Ritz. It was not, but they were stocking Weston’s and Sheppy’s. I selected Sheppy’s as my brewery of choice for the evening as Fletch is something of a Weston’s fan and has reviewed before I believe. The advice of Beer Ritz’s always helpful management was at hand to ensure that I had the right options for cooking. We selcted three Sheppy’s ciders, Kingston Black to go in the food, a couple of bottles of the same to go with andbottles of Cider with Honey and Falstaff Cider for some experimental tasting with the housemates.

    Cider with Honey, 5.4%

    Cider With Honey

    This cider was exactly what the label suggested. The honey came through as the first taste with the subtle taste of the cider coming through after. The honey carried this golden cider off an absolute treat, it was readily drinkable and, even at the bottom of the bottle, not at all sickly in it’s sweetness.

    Not being a regular cider drinker I’m not  sure how this would be received by the hard core scrumpy faithful but I am sure that other dabblers such as myself could do a hell of a lot worse.

    Kingston Black, 7.2%

    Kingston BlackThis cider was far stronger on the tongue than the honey one I’d just put down. It was livelier than the honey cider and drier but was still palatable.

    Coming straight after the honey cider there was a danger that this would be too dry but it actually reined in the sweetness to just the right amount and provided the more robust body necessary to accompany the food, without allowing my flavoursome efforts to be overridden. The Kingston Black apple is dubbed as being prized for it’s full bodied aromas and this blend is certainly testament to that fact.

    I would note that, at 7,2%, while the flavour and body of this cider suggest that you probably could drink this all night, the likelihood is that you wont!

    Falstaff, 5.6%

    Falstaff

    Returning to the a more reserved abv of 5.6% this cider was also sweeteer than the Kingston black, but crisper and clearer than the honey cider. The Falstaff cider perfectly fills the gap between the Honey Cider and the Kingston Black and completes the set of sweeter ciders for tonight’s reviews.

    I had not been forward thinking enough to arrange a dessert to follow the main course but this slotted into the gap really well. I would like to give a more comprehensive analysis but, as it’s the third cider of the night, I have run out of adjectives! I apologise and all I can really say is that if I had to select one of these to drink all night, it would be this one.

    Conclusion

    Aided by my housemates, Jim and Kat, we have rated the three ciders as follows…

    1. Cider with Honey

    2. Falstaff

    3. Kingston Black

    Although I have to say that this was on initial tasting only and that my favourite of the night was probably Falstaff. The important lesson here though is that, while I walked into Beer Ritz looking for Aspall’s, I was directed towards a cracking brewery producing a range of ciders suitable for every palate. It’s not an area I know well and the evening has taught me not to be blinkered and to experiment with what’s about. Who knows, next Monday could be cider night with Weston’s and could be just as much fun…

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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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    June 7th, 2009FletchtheMonkeyBeer Reviews

    This is an ale that is increasingly common on UK supermarket shelves and one that you should not overlook this summer, whether it rains or shines. Brakspear’s Oxford Gold pours a golden amber and starts with the scent of honey. It tastes citrusy and gently sweet. A great accompaniment to an alfresco evening after a long day in the office.

    Another fine ale from Oxfordshire!

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