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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    April 20th, 2011FletchtheMonkeyBeer Reviews, Cumbrian beers, IPA

    Tuesday night, two bottled bitters sunk and the quenches for thirst and flavour continue to itch away unabated.

    Cue Lakeland IPA, a beer that for one moment in time justifies the beatification of hops single-handedly.

    The perfect hiss released as metal hits glass and twists plastic; an aroma eager to reach a nose and knock on the door of the senses.

    Soft-fleshed fruit says hello – mangoes might not be typical of Cumbria unless visiting a certain kitchenware store for a peeling device that the kitchen drawer doesn’t really need, but here they add sweetness and a vibrancy missing from the evenings other contenders.

    Wisps of unidentifiable flowers blend without any disharmony and it’s all finished with a perfect bitterness to leave behind a craving for just a little bit more.

    Bitter End Lakeland IPA Cumbrian Beer

    Lakeland IPA, a fresh, floral IPA with a suitably apt bitter end

    Read the rest of this entry »

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    February 22nd, 2011FletchtheMonkeyBeer Reviews, IPA

    Perhaps this was served a bit colder than Marston’s would like, but forgive me, it’s been a rough day at the coalface if you can pardon me that expression. In fact, I’ve just pulled this bottle straight from the freezer after a short blast amongst the frozen peas and chicken wings, such was my need for ice cool beer refreshment.

    Perhaps why that’s why this India Pale Ale doesn’t burst forward with the verve and charisma of the ‘modern wave’ of British IPA’s. It has a more prominent hop character than the average beer and it doesn’t lack in the bitterness stakes either, but the wisps of delicate citrus and almost unnoticeable spicy pine needles are hidden under what seems to be a layer of damp, decaying hops. Over chilled maybe?

    Marstons Old Empire

    Marstons Old Empire

    Read the rest of this entry »

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    February 15th, 2011FletchtheMonkeyBarley wine, Beer Reviews, IPA

    This not, I repeat NOT, an IPA.

    Punchy, citrus hops? Nil.
    Alcohol? Deep, stewed and sweet beyond believe.
    Apple skins & fruit pudding? Yes, yes, YES!

    None of which gives Moor JJJ IPA much credence as an IPA. But then again this isn’t an IPA nor a double IPA. It’s only a bleedin’ triple IPA(!!!). This couldn’t be further from Green King’s bland and monotonous flagship brand of ale and is similar in nothing but colour.

    By their own admission Moor didn’t brew this to style, in fact they encourage drinkers to ‘forget everything [they] know’ and not ‘”get too wrapped up in style pedantics”.

    Peach brandy, trifle, aniseed and a touch of ill-placed butter could all be found in this swirling, mesmerising malt syrup, which places it nearer to a barley wine than anything that could accurately be described as pale. A wet, sticky, booze-and-currant-infused pudding of a beer, where fruit has been soaked in alcohol and doused in decadence.

    So not quite the tropical nose or caramel body expected then?!

    I’d hazard a guess that my bottle had matured a little and the immense hop content that’s put into JJJ had imploded under it’s own weight, much like a supernova descending into the dense afterlife of a neutron star. As a result JJJ was heavy, cloying and almost sickly. The bitterness was massive and overpowering, the thick, resinous nose almost belittling the subsequent attack on my tongue. Half a pint at the National Winter Ales festival was similarly rich and uncompromising on the palette, if a little more fresh and grassy on the nose, and lighter in the mouth.

    If come across this at a bar, it’s repetitive Corona ball ‘n’ curves in bright lucid red jumping out at your eyes, then take your wallet from your pocket and sign it over to the Moor Beer Company and the pub who’ve been bold enough to put this on the bar.

    We can’t promise you’ll like it but it’s one hell of a ride all the same. Neither does it promise to be easy, and that’s the only promise it lives up to.

    Moor JJJ IPA

    Ooh, those serif curves...JJJ IPA is something to admire, and "not for the faint of heart"

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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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    September 1st, 2010FletchtheMonkeyAmerican, Beer Reviews, Belgian/Trappist, IPA
    Great Divide Belgica

    Gallia Belgica this is not... An IPA this is not...

    There’s Belgian style IPAs (whatever that is) and then there’s Belgian Style IPAs (whatever they are).

    This is the latter.

    It’s sweet beyond belief, with a wispy wheat-led aroma that places a strong sense of doubt on it’s IPA credentials. But treat it like a lady and there’s a distinct hop bitterness to it that belies it’s Belgian façade.

    To say this is a mix of styles is an understatement. To say it doesn’t work would be…wrong. It’s a fascinating beer. At various sips and gulps it showcases flavours of ice cream, bitterness, lemon and a hint of vanilla smoothie – all the product of Euro/US hops and Belgian malt blended into a very light sandy golden beer of mammoth taste and enviable sweetness.

    All that and I don’t think I gave it a fair crack of the Roman whip, as I shared it on a train home from London with a stranger who may have become an acquaintance had I not lost their business card later on in the pub.

    This is one for the beer hunters and I’m wasting no time in tracking down again.

    Beer information:
    Beer: Belgica
    Brewery: Great Divide Brewing Co.
    Style: Belgian Style India Pale Ale
    ABV: 7.2%
    Country: USA

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    February 16th, 2010FletchtheMonkeyBeer Reviews, Belgian/Trappist, Fruity Beers, IPA, Pale Ales

    Terrible beer, great name.

    Flying Dog Raging Bitch - orange in colour; orange in taste

    Flying Dog Raging Bitch - orange in colour; orange in taste

    Of course not, it’s the other way round. Disclaimer starts here: I love this beer.

    I first sampled The Bitch at the Flying Dog UK tasting in Leeds. This 20th anniversary beer jumped out of its take-home tetra pak like a bat out of hell. Its nose blasted my clean out of my seat and before the night was out it was on its way to being a beer phenomenon.

    Raging Bitch’s Belgian influence is the first thing that strikes me: it’s fruity esters and yeasty sweetness that only Belgian beers can pull off. Until now.

    Massive grapefruit pith and outrageous sour fruit intertwine with a sweet malt finish and a bitter attack from an armada of late hops. The nose is huge thanks to a dry hopping assault by Amarillo hops. You pluck out the names of most of Sainsbury’s exotic fruit aisle if you close your eyes; for me the grapefruit ebbs and flows against tangerine and apricot. Read the rest of this entry »

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    February 16th, 2010FletchtheMonkeyBeer Reviews, IPA, Real Ale

    Let me start by saying I’m not sure I gave this beer a fair run (which is an inadvertent pun!). I’ve just run 8 miles, never a good time for beer tasting. I doubt it was my fastest run ever but it did entail an hour and a half of running up the hills of Morley (of which their are seven, just like Rome, and Sheffield), over the Huddersfield-Leeds train line, across muddy fields, all the way along Churwell Hill, across to Dewsbury and back over the M62. In the rain. You know that rain. The rain that soaks you reet through.

    Dunham Massey IPA and parsnip soup

    Dunham Massey IPA and parsnip soup

    On my return, after 2 x hamstring stretch + 2 x abductor stretch + 2 x hip flexor, but before my super hot sauna style shower, I popped open a beer whilst I liquidised the soup that had been simmering in the slow cooker.

    This was part of a haul from the Beer Emporium in Sandbach, one of the first I picked up because I can’t help but be drawn to anything that says IPA on the label/pump clip. It poured very well for a bottle conditioned IPA, very clear, with a copper gradient and deep amber colour. Its nose and taste belied its appearance: I would expect it to be much more yellow and thinner because it tasted pale and gaunt, despite some upfront hop flavours and a little bit of biscuit. Read the rest of this entry »

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    December 16th, 2009FletchtheMonkeyBarley wine, Beer and Food, Beer Reviews, IPA, Pale Ales

    After a hectic day out on Saturday in the bustling streets of York complete with Christmas Market, I needed to relax with good food and beer when I got home. I’d been eyeing up three Harvey’s beers in my cupboard for a week or so and had been planning to drink them all together. Saturday night seemed perfect, with the promise of a hot curry and Christmassy afters.

    Harvey’s Blue label

    The first of three Harvey’s beers, I was hoping this would nicely wash down a Thai green chicken curry. It’s a coppery pale ale and poured with next to no head. I was expecting something lively from this diminutive bottle, but it was generally flat and a bit watery. Having heard lots about Harvey’s beers my first impressions were a little underwhelming.

    Harvey's Blue Labvel - I love the simple branding and label design

    Harvey's Blue Labvel - I love the simple branding and label design

    It had a really nice, subtle aroma of lemons and limes, and there was a limey tang in the taste. It was super drinkable being soft on the palate with a smooth mouth feel. It wasn’t very bitter (the bottle says a ‘delicate bitterness’ which is an understatement) as you might expect from a beer weighing in at just 3.6% ABV. There was a sweet maltiness in the finish. I believe this beer is dry hopped which may explain some of its character

    This did actually live up the bill, kind of accidentally, as it did wash down the green curry well in taste and texture, but I’m not sure this could become a favourite, and I’m not sure I’ve had the best bottle of it. One to give another go… Read the rest of this entry »

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    December 9th, 2009LanesyBeer Events, Beer Reviews, Breweries

    You might have heard of the guy who I managed to draw for the beer swap: Pencil & Spoon’s own New Media Writer of the Year 2009 Mark Dredge. This was a selection of ales to look forward to; a brief glance at his excellent blog shows his good taste and awareness of beers and I had no doubt he would have developed an encyclopaedic knowledge of the local market over the year or so of working on his blog.

    Kent is his part of the country, and is somewhere I have never been, so it was almost guaranteed that most of these beers I would never have come across.

    So here is what I received:

    - Westerham Brewery’s Little Scotney IPA (4%)
    - Harvey’s Star of Eastbourne East India Pale (6.5%)
    - Hopdaemon Brewery’s Skrimshander IPA (4.5%)
    - Whitstable Brewery’s Raspberry Wheat (5.2%) Read the rest of this entry »

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    December 8th, 2009FletchtheMonkeyBeer Reviews, IPA

    BrewDog Chaos Theory

    Complexity in the universe is often based on simple, fundamental rules. We don’t know all of the rules but we understand some of them; however despite this, life is still, at our level, an unpredictable and seemingly random existence.

    Deep Simplicity by John (and Mary) Gribbin is one of the best science books and makes my head hurt as much as a few bottles of BrewDog's Chaos Theory does

    Deep Simplicity by John (and Mary) Gribbin is one of the best science books and makes my head hurt as much as a few bottles of BrewDog's Chaos Theory does

    Chaos theory helps us get our heads around this (and then in the next breath turns our perceptions of ‘thought on its head). It also suggests that systems such as our universe are completely deterministic…in theory. But unfortunately we have to pinpoint the exact starting conditions of the system, which is a little more than tricky when every single tiny particle in our universe system was compacted into an unimaginably small space, a little over 13,700,000,000 years ago (plus or minus about 14 million years!).

    This chaotic nature has parallels with the brewing process, where we calculate the mix of initial ingredients, follow strict processes and end up with tasty beer at the end. But we can’t always predict the exact end result and consistency and quality in a brew can be more difficult than just throwing the ingredients together and sticking the heat on.

    As you might have guessed there’s a parallel between all this and BrewDog’s last beer in our Sainsbury’s beer competition series. Chaos Theory is an ode to chaos theory (although at 7.1% it doesn’t really help me get my head around the physics much!). Read the rest of this entry »

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