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 4th, 2012FletchtheMonkeyDesert Island Beers

    Andrew Wilcox is a web developer by day. But by night, under the moonlight of the back yard, Andrew becomes Uncle Wilco, Head Sheddie at the world famous Reader’s Sheds.

    Readers Sheds was born in 2011, suitably, and like all good ideas, in a pub, under the influence of beer. Since then it’s given birth to the Shed of the Year competition which has run since 2007 and been judged by Chris Evans and self-confessed sheddie Sarah Beeny.

    Uncle Wilco’s favourite aspect of running Readers Shed’s is the onslaught of innovation and ideas that accompany each years new entries to the competition. Previous Shed of the Year winners include a Roman Temple shed, a rugby pub shed and a pirates cabin, whilst this year saw a postal museum, a floating shed on a boat and a whole category devoted to Tardis sheds!

    Post Office shed

    Post Office shed

    Tardis shed

    Tardis shed

    Kite shed

    Kite shed

    Floating Shed

    Floating Shed

    Is previous lives Andrew dabbled in a world of mixers and pixels, first as a chef, a data administrator and now web developer. Outside of the world of shedding Andrew loves cooking, beer and heavy metal. And he has a shed of his own, a simple potting shed where the lawnmower lives (Mrs Wilco however has a summer house where she escapes from all the shedding once in a while!)

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    June 22nd, 2012FletchtheMonkeyDesert Island Beers

    There’s no one quite like this weeks guest on the Desert Island. Meet journalist, beer blogger and habitual Tweeter, Simon H. Johnson a.k.a. The Reluctant Scooper where Simon writes a fantastic and irreverent blog about beer, food and pubs.

    Simon is also an award-winning chemist, Oscar-nominated make-up artist and an habitual liar. He has been writing about beer and brewing, ever since being sent his first free samples.

    After spending so long at a polytechnic that they turned it into a university, Simon graduated with a Modern Studies degree (don’t ask) and spent most of the 1990?s blundering around like a stunned bullock in an abattoir. Following a brief and spectacularly unhappy career in local journalism, he worked as a face-painting clown and NVQ assessor. Only one of these jobs, he says, was treated with dignity and respect by his customers.

    His website, Reluctant Scooper, was launched in 2007 whilst he was feeling particularly bored. Those incoherent ramblings have somehow impressed editors enough for him to finagle his way into print on both sides of the Atlantic in publications such as Beer Advocate and CAMRA’s BEER magazine.

    Reluctant Scooper

    Clown scooping

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

    Orval

    Stella. Artois.

    Stella. Artois.

    Thornbridge Jaipur

    Thornbridge Jaipur

    Simon now lives in Scoop Towers in Derby. Refusing to brew at home, he has occasionally persuaded professional brewers to collaborate with him on brewing exciting, cutting-edge contemporary beers; albeit he is only usually trusted with naming the beer, making the tea and digging out the mash tun. Well, not the whole tun, not with his clicky knees. He also works as an analyst for a mid-table Championship football team that show occasional flashes of brilliance (hmmm…) but sometimes run themselves into channels where a lack of midfield short-ball support leads to a breakdown in forward play and the subsequent counter-attack on the break inevitably results in a late equaliser for the opposition, as the ball is curled into the upper right of the net as their goalkeeper lies supine across the muddied six-yard line.

    He is married with one barbecue. And he still face-paints at 80th birthday parties, funerals and National Pie Week events on request.

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    April 13th, 2012FletchtheMonkeyDesert Island Beers

    Simon Jenkins started his career in Goole, but not even that hampered him. Cutting his teeth as a journalist in East Yorkshire and the vale of Calder, Simon landed at the Yorkshire Evening Post in 1991 and never looked back, working for fifteen years at Leeds’ flagship evening newspaper.

    Though now working at Leeds University, Simon still writes the Taverner column for the paper and in 2010 he won Best Writing in the UK Regional Press for his contribution to beer. It was an award which ultimately led to the deserved crown of Beer Writer of the Year, and the ominous duties of representing the beer industry (not to mention writing a speech for the following years awards do!)

    In his spare time Simon follows both Leeds United and Oxford United fan and has recently penned his first book, The Great Leeds Pub Crawl, a ramble around the history and character of every type of pub the city has to offer.

    Simon Jenkins Beer Writer of the Year Yorkshire Evening Post Taverner

    Near the Negev Desert

    Jaipur IPA

    Jaipur IPA

    Pint of Landlord

    Pint of Landlord...

    landlord bottle

    ...just as good bottled

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    March 24th, 2012DavidMayhallDesert Island Beers

    This week we have a friend coming to stay on our desert island; welcome Xavier Baker. Born and bred on the Isle of Wight the diamond Island of England, (Xavier’s description not mine!) Xavier has always had an interest in home brewing, beer & cider after watching and helping his father and pinching the odd bottle from the larder! Also growing up on the island, Xavier used any excuse to be in or out on the water and with his family sailed every inch of the Solent. At 15 he found his passion for surfing and still surfs at every given opportunity.

    Xavier started brewing at Ventnor Brewery just before his 18th Birthday. He was lucky to be taught the traditional methods and dark arts by Fred Martin retired Head Brewer of King & Barnes of Horsham. He had been brewing for 13 years or thereabouts at Ventnor when the brewery closed.

    Afterward Xavier says he had some fantastic times and memories, traveling as far as Japan & Singapore, creating some great beers, some he would like to revitalise one day and meeting lots of great people. On the Interbrewery Regatta he also met Tim O’Rourke, who’s family used to own the original Burts Brewery on the Ventnor site, with Tim subsequently becoming a good friend and brewing influence. A brief spell then followed working for Molson Coors as Account Manager.

    Xavier then took the position as Head Brewer of a new Brewery in Ireland and after 2 weeks of meeting the owners found himself on the most westerly tip of Europe; the sunny Dingle Peninsula in SW Ireland. That was April 2011. The Dingle Brewery is going from strength to strength with Creans now flowing in Dublin, Kildare, Cork and of course on the Dingle Peninsula.

    The brewery is based in an old creamery and Xavier says it feels humbling to think that it is back at the heart of the community. The Brewery is already working on expansion plans to keep up with the overwhelming response of Creans and this Autumn a distillery should be commissioned producing Shackletons Whiskey!!

    Xavier Baker

    Xavier Baker

    Dingle Brewery

    Dingle Brewery

    Thornbridge Jaipur

    Thornbridge Jaipur

    Skinners Betty Stogs Cornish Ale

    Betty Stogs

    The Beers

    So Xavier, which five beers would you want to have with you if you were stranded on a desert island, and why?
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    March 17th, 2010FletchtheMonkeyBeer Events
    Thornbridge beers at the Sheffield Tap

    Thornbridge beers at the Sheffield Tap

    The Sheffield Tap is arguably one of the best stocked pubs in the North of England, with a regular range of Thornbridge beers on cask (the venue is a joint venture between the Derbyshire brewers and the chaps behind Pivo in York) and an inventory of bottled beers that make most beer cabinets look like a beery footnote. It’s a case of any excuse will do to persuade me to hop on the 42 minute train from Leeds, and last night the excuse was the chance to meet the team that brew Thornbridge’s beers who were hosting a Meet the Brewer session in the former first class refreshment lounge of Sheffield’s main station.

    On arrival the tiny bar was busy – not quite heaving but certainly a far cry from quiet. A bustle of artisan beer fans, jaded commuters and groups of talkative drinking buddies crowded over the small tables and lined the restored bar. Tucking our elbows in we (Rob from HopZine, Tom from Reet Good Leeds and me)  joined the fray to admire the array of beers on offer, a veritable beer geeks heaven 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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