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 7th, 2013FletchtheMonkeyDesert Island Beers

    As soon as he could legally drink beer Dean Pugh joined Wetherspoons and has showed no signs of his passion for malt and hops diminishing since then. Especially for hops.

    Dean undertook Wetherspoons management training after leaving university, and in 2007 joined York Brewery, helping them to open their first pub outside the old city walls, Mr Foley’s Cask Ale House in Leeds.

    Dean grew ‘Foley’s’ from scratch, managing it from new kid on the block to Leeds Pub of the Year in 2009 (as voted for by the local brand of CAMRA). Set in a grade-II listed building opposite the iconic Leeds Town Hall, the pub has become a magnate for geeks of all kinds, whether that’s football (telly screens and comfy sofas), beer aficionados (bottles and cask ales aplenty) or weekend art critics (the bar is a stone throw from Leeds Art Gallery and the Henry Moore Institute).

    Dean was integral in encouraging the growth of beer lovers in Leeds, with Foley’s well known as a place to find well kept real ale and interesting bottled beer from around the globe. Under Dean’s stewardship Foley’s has hosted many beer focused events, from Meet The Brewer evening with the local lads at Summer Wine or Kirkstall, to making Leeds centre stage in the UK celebration of IPA Day. Most recently Foley’s hosted a lunch with Garrett Oliver as he toured the UK at which Radio 4 were present to interview Garrett and the beer bloggers of Leeds.

    Sadly after five years Dean hung up his boots at Foley’s and jumped onto the BrewDog ship, becoming manager of the all new BrewDog bar in Manchester. The people of Leeds have lost a good man, even if he is (undeniably) as passionate about Sunderland FC as he is about beer.

    Dean Pugh at his new spiritual home, BrewDog bar Manchester

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    December 11th, 2012FletchtheMonkeyPubs & bars

    A friend in need’s a friend indeed, a friend with weed is better (so the song goes). And a friend with ham is even better still.

    Rocking up to Friends of Ham I’m still amazed at how this slimline bar has taken the city of Leeds by storm. It’s tiny upstairs belies the belly below, a cosy atmospheric cellar finished with comfy sofas and the now famous shuttle board.

    A homemade mantra emanates throughout this dimly lit haven, from the scribbled menus that hang on the walls on plain brown paper to the tables decorated with candles in make-do-and-mend holders. Well scrawled signs dangle from the shelving behind the bar cheekily outlining the offers of the day. This is a place of well crafted tender loving care.

    On one visit a handmade poster describes the ham of the week, and another pithily penned notice alerts me to the takeaway beer cans, perfect for taking onboard the trains that lurch out of the nearby station.

    It delights us Leeds folk that we can claim to have two of the UK’s best quality bars amongst the city walls (well within the city’s inner ring road at least). Between North Bar and Friends of Ham we might be forgiven for being a bit smug about our position on the beer map.

    A friendly bar with ham, good beer , excellent service, great ambience and a convenient location. That really is a friend in times of need.

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    Friendly drinks

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    Train beer

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    Daily ham

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    Birds & bees

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    July 24th, 2012FletchtheMonkeyPubs & bars

    It’s dark inside but an ellipsis of light pores over our vantage point in the roof. Under an arch of reclaimed brick brimming pints of Silver King glow in the mild afternoon sun of the wettest June on record.

    The Hop sits snugly under platforms 16 and 17 of Leeds Station, in the arches that veer towards Holbeck West Junction and the promise of Manchester and London. The bar peers towards the boats and jetties sitting in the Leeds-Liverpool canal. And it’s quite literally home when our train eventually pulls in on a cloudy Saturday morning to a quiet platform above the pub.

    By day time the bar is dark, the only light filters in through the room sized panes of glass facing south. The northern windows back into what are known locally as the ‘Dark Arches’, a subterranean belly that exposes the innards of the Queen’s Hotel and the station concourse above. Trailing below the musty damp atmosphere of the arches runs the heady confluence of the River Aire and Leeds-Liverpool canal. For years the water has hungrily tore at the gargantuan stone foundations which nonchantly keep half of Leeds above water.

    If the setting is archetypal city centre, tinged with the wonder of Victoria construction and the romanticism of the industrial revolution, the decor is ostentatiously apocryphal. Giant urns, album cover posters, mock graffiti (mockrafiti?) are bundled incongruously throughout the space, like a collection of artefacts procured from a grand tour of the nineteen seventies.

    The room is deceptively huge. Perhaps because The Hop is often packed, often dark and plastered with paraphernalia, the ceiling seems to lean in over the bar which is equally heavy with beer machines and thirsty customers. There’s no doubt this is a place for drinking and jumping to live music.

    Both the Ossett pale ales are in demand; smooth and soft beers differentiated with a dash of spice or citrus hop, wholly suppable. The beers are perfectly in line with the concept – functional, flavoursome topped with a ‘we don’t take ourselves too seriously’ flair.

    As a crepuscular calm sweeps across the Leeds sky and light fades outside, the music jumps into action behind us. On a platform above the main bar a band strum their guitars into tune at a deafening level. The decibels will only get louder and though the philosophy of The Hop is about to see fruition, it’s just a little too loud for us to take

    We retire to the platforms above for a train home, and stand above the canal, the river, the bridge, the pub, the arches and all the fun and history below. We’re rewarded with a twilight portrait of the city and the comfort of knowing we’re home.

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  • Mumtaz

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    July 2nd, 2012FletchtheMonkeyBeer and Food

    Under steam engine red chandeliers diners gorge on the finest pickle trays and poppadoms in Leeds, though something is amiss.

    The view outside to the gun metal concrete walkways of Clarence Dock are punctuated not with tables flush with bottles of rosé wine or ubiquitous lager beer, but tall glasses of fresh fruit juice and spice-calming lassi.

    Through rain laced windows showers splatter the swelling body of the marina but inside everything is dry. Including the bar.

    A non-alcoholic trip to a curry house might be a strange concept in England, but then again Mumtaz isn’t your typical curry house.

    In the corner of the waiting area a double bass stands resplendent in silver amongst luxurious soft cushionings, listening intently to the grand piano sing it’s tinkly instrumental renditions of Phil Collins and the songs of various 80s artists who are still dining out on their spurious hits.

    The space is bright despite the best efforts of the incoming clouds bearing large, grey grudges. Long tall windows cast overcast shadows across the garish decor of the eating hall and high ceilings proudly show off their extravagant fittings. The colour palate is more boudoir than biriyani.

    But it’s not all bad as the lime pickle and poppadoms arrive (and boy are they good) and the dining chairs suck themselves around our shapes in a firm embrace. They are surely the best dining chairs in the world.

    This isn’t however the best curry house in the world, despite the industrial scale take out area, the contracts with supermarkets and the endorsement of comedians, sportstars and the Queen.

    Our chutney has disappeared before the realisation that booze is off the menu hits us like a freight train. “Non-alcoholic” the friendly but uncharismatic waiter mumbles.

    Nay bother, the only option is to embrace it. Luckily the list of ‘mocktails’ is more impressive than the list of curries (too many of which bear the uninformative description ‘with onions, tomato and Mumtaz spices’). Orange and mint cooler suits lamb kerala down to the ground, and a coconut lassi cleans the palate in the spicy aftermath.

    The lack of Cobra is long forgotten later. At first it was strange but then there was a realisation that conversation and curry were not neutered by lack of alcohol. Trudging past the gun metal Armouries in that fine rain that soaks you right through perhaps a beer jacket might have helped, but this curry was beer free.

    And it made a nice change. The rain on the other hand, did not.

    Read the rest of this entry »

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    May 23rd, 2012FletchtheMonkeyBeer Events, Pubs & bars

    “Harmonica Workshop” reads one of the highlights of May’s music events that are quietly advertised in the snug corridor that leads to the bar.

    Amongst the other treats are a French quintet, acoustic guitar sessions and an open mic night.

    Add the musical eclecticism to the mix of tiny fire-heated rooms, the perfectly kept cask ale, the feeling of homeliness – all this makes the Grove very special.

    Snuggled underneath the Dalekian behemoth of Bridgewater Place (how it survived the calls of the planners wallets who knows?) the Grove stands both proud and humble in a largely soulless corner of Leeds.

    This is the place we gathered to dissect the play off loss to Millwall on a mild May evening three years ago (how did Beckford miss that penalty as we watched from the rare vantage point of the East Stand Upper?) the tiny snug filled with groups of men adorned in yellow, white and blue, necking the first pint of bitter and nursing those that followed.

    4-4-2, 4-3-3, 1-2 home defeat, 4.6% ABV (x?).

    It’s the pub I’d sneak away to when the world needed forgetting for a short blip in my office life (I worked around the corner), the landlord smiling wildly if I popped in after the lunch time rush to hide by the wooden alcoves, dive into a book with big science words and faraway places, and let the flames of the fire lick the daily wear and tear away.

    And equally it’s now the place that I wandered down to on a mild Thursday night in May to meet a post of beer blogging friends, who have rushed from the south, the north, the continent, to the European Beer Bloggers Conference, of which the Grove is the appetiser, one pub in a warm up crawl to whet our desire.

    Though desire doesn’t seem a word that the Grove invokes, it fulfils it’s purpose in its typically modest way, and a pack of beer bloggers leave merry amidst fierce debate and in fine spirits. The folk music follows us out the tiny framed doors and life in the finest pub in Leeds continues.

    Thank you, beer bloggers for coming to Leeds, for all the craic, the beers and (over) merriment (on my part at least). And thank you for sharing Leeds’ finest pub with me. Hopefully see at the Harmonica Workshop one day (bring your ukes and we can make a band).

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    April 25th, 2012FletchtheMonkeyBeer Events

    The inaugural North Leeds Charity Beer Festival starts this weekend, in no small part thanks to the efforts of our friend and occasional Real Ale Review’s contributor Sam Parker, and beer writer Barrie Pepper.

    There’ll be beers from breweries all over the region (Wharfebank, Kirkstall, Revolutions, Great Heck, Ilkley, Leeds, Roosters, Ridgeside and more) plus some from further afield including Brooklyn Brewery in New York.

    We will hopefully see you there!

    North Leeds Charity Beer Festival

    North Leeds Charity Beer Festival

    Name: North Leeds Charity Beer Festival
    Date: Friday 27th April & Saturday 28th April 2012
    Time: Friday 18:00-23:00 & Saturday 12:00-22:00
    Venue: St Aidan’s Church Community Hall, Off Elford Place West, Roundhay Road, Leeds, LS8 5QD

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    November 10th, 2011FletchtheMonkeyBeer Reviews

    Orval is the sort of beer spoken about with reverence. I like to think the same goes for North Bar.

    It should have been me and my friend Tom sat there, dissecting Leeds United’s yo-yoing fortunes, laughing at the Howson Is Now blog and deliberating the creaminess of the Orval cheese whilst sat on the classroom chairs and the well leaned on tables.

    But it’s my brother partnering this trip due to Tom’s tight schedule as a relatively new father, North being one place us siblings have a record of sharing together, along with a sense of adventure and an intuition for getting pissed. And brother Fletch is not going listen to me rabbit on about the brettanomyces qualities of the difference between yeast-in and yeast-out, or how the bitterness of this anti-quintessential Belgium beer cuts through the cheese (which it does) …

    And so I’m drinking one of my favourite beers with a cheese I’d actually craved (made by the brewers) and I’m chatting about Leeds United’s yo-yoing fortunes, laughing at the Howson Is Now blog, and… generally forgetting about the beer and cheese North’s manager had so kindly put to one side for me because I couldn’t make Orval Day earlier in the month.

    That North Bar had enough bottles of aged Orval to reserve some is very kind. That they could even get some of this coveted cheese let alone put some aside for me speaks of their customer service ethos. That I scribbled a hasty one liner on my smartphone as my only tasting note is just plain disrespectful to their efforts.

    But here’s the thing. Sat in the dimly lit confines of North, veiled in conviviality and that twilight between sober and drunkenness, the yellow light of North illuminates a certain truth about beer.

    So the two-year aged Orval tastes good, and is probably worth waiting to experience. So the cheese is rare and barely seen outside of Belgium. And not to mention the bread – so luxuriously soft and cleansing – which is to die for. So what? Is beer not meaningless if not enjoyed in a place that’s bright with conversation, buoyed with gesticulations, rich in the patchwork diversity of people, and splashed with beers of colours Yates or Lloyds or Scream could never imagine.

    If an evening spent extolling the virtues of Ken Bates leadership of Leeds United could be improved in anyway, it’s surely by the creamy monastic cheese paired with the musty, peppery Orval and all its always-changing quirks of character. Does it matter that I thought the end of the bottle shared the same earthiness of the bottom of a well made mojito?

    No, because it was a good night out with great beer. We saw the hygge, we tried aged Orval, we put the world to rights, and we liked it.

    Aged Orval and Orval Cheese at North Bar, Leeds

    Cheese, beer, chat. Football optional.

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    June 24th, 2011FletchtheMonkeyDesert Island Beers

    Paul Jefferies comes from Burton on Trent and has family connections with the brewing industry going back many generations. He graduated with a degree in Biochemistry from Hull University and worked in Bass Research before joining Allied Breweries in 1988 at the Leeds Brewery as a Production Management Trainee.

    Paul held a number of posts at Joshua Tetley (which was then producing in excess of 1m barrels of cask beer a year) before finally rising to Brewing Manager. During his time at Tetley, Paul qualified as a Diploma and then Master Brewer of the Institute of Brewing.

    In 1997 he joined Brewery Group Denmark as Head Brewer of Robert Cain Brewery in Liverpool. Paul is now Production and Distribution Director of Hydes Brewery in Manchester and has recently set up his own micro brewing operation in Waunfawr, North Wales, which he runs in his spare time. Big Bog Brewing Company (Waunfawr translates as “Big Bog” from Welsh) is proving an exciting venture and along with his role at Hydes, allows him to do what he is passionate about – brew fantastic beer!”

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    April 18th, 2011FletchtheMonkeyBeer news

    A month ago it looked like Leeds was going to lose one of it’s best independent retailers, and the world was about to lose one of it’s best beer shops.

    Cue bearded beer expert Zak Avery and now beery business owner, who stepped in with a joint management buy out to rescue the famous Beer Ritz from the brink of limbo.

    For those who thought they’d never get to go again, and those who thought they’d never have the privilege, rejoice, because Beer Ritz is open and we hope it’s back for good!

    Beer Ritz Leeds

    Sing it from the mountain tops, Beer Ritz is back!

    Read the rest of this entry »

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    March 16th, 2011FletchtheMonkeyBeer Events
    Leeds Beer Festival 2011

    Leeds Beer Festival 2011

    Leeds Beer Festival starts tomorrow, below is the programme of beers. Directions can be found on the festival website http://www.leedsbeerfestival.co.uk/getting-here/

    Mark and Sam will be there at various time but please comment, tweet or email us if you fancy meeting up for a pint!

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