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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    September 27th, 2012FletchtheMonkeyDesert Island Beers

    This weeks Desert Island Beers features Barrie Pepper who is one of Britain’s leading beer writers and for seven years was Chairman of the British Guild of Beer Writers. He has been Highly Commended three times in the Guild’s Beer Writer of the Year awards and was the first recipient of the Guild’s Lifetime Achievement Award for services to beer writing. And in 2002 Barrie won the Guild’s Silver Tankard for his book ‘The Landlord’s Tale‘ for which he was also runner-up in the Glenfiddich Award for Drinks Books. Then in 2004 he won another Silver Tankard for ‘Fifty More Great Pub Crawls’.

    He is a life member of CAMRA and a former member of its National Executive. He was recently chosen as one of its top 40 campaigners.

    Barrie Pepper

    Barrie Pepper

    Barrie’s journalistic work includes writing for The Yorkshire Post, What’s Brewing, First Draught, Wine and Spirit International, Beers of the World, Inn Speak and several other newspapers and journals in Britain, Belgium, Germany, Ireland, the Czech Republic and the United States. He has now written eighteen books on pubs and beer and two on the Anglican church. In 2003 he was elected a Life Member of the National Union of Journalists.

    When not writing about beer his other interests are the theatre, music, sport, travel – which he also writes about – and the convivial atmosphere and company of the traditional British pub. He is active in the Anglican Church being a member of the Ripon and Leeds Diocesan Synod and Editor of his parish church newsletter.

    Timothy Taylors Championship Beers

    Roosters Yankee pump clip

    Yankee Doodle can to Knarseborough

    theakstons old peculiar the crown hawes

    Perfect place for a pint of Old Peculier

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

    Orval – topping the Desert Island Chart

    Read the rest of this entry »

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    November 11th, 2011FletchtheMonkeyDesert Island Beers

    Tony Thorogood was born in Woolwich, but emigrated with his family as Ten Pound Poms, washing up in South Australia. Tony’s hybrid education was a mixture of school and self-teaching resulting in a law scholarship at the University of Adelaide, which soon turned into studying “revolutions, politics and the new wave of music and theatre”.

    The late seventies and early eighties saw Tony write a number of plays and undertake many lines of employment (all night waiter, painter, junk mail distributor, gardener, labourer) before embarking on an epic world tour that took him through North Africa, the middle east, India, Bangkok… and the heady sights of Stockport. Not to mention coming close to death’s door more times than he’s had good cider!

    But it was in North Yorkshire Tony met Susan and they now live together down under running the successful Thorogood’s Apple Wine business and writing books together.

    The Beers

    Hi Tony! Which 5 beers (or ciders!) would you want to have with you if you were stranded on a desert island, and why?

    1. Thorogoods Medium Dry Sparkling Scrumpy (Australia – 11.0%)
      “I love my own apple beers and ciders and if I was to have an extended stay on a lovely sandy island of course I would take my own Medium Dry Sparkling Scrumpy, It is a fruity with a complex flavor and goes so well with food, someone described it as Angels Poo, they meant it was brilliant.”
    2. Theakston Old Peculiar (North Yorkshire, UK -5.6 %)
      “Theakston’s Old Peculier is one of my all-time favorite beers, at one time I was a head Barman at the Nelson Inn in Yorkshire and when all the punters had finished their lunch I would have a pint of Old Peculier and a bap filled with onion and real Wensleydale cheese. Heaven!”
    3. Hecks Kingston Black (Somerset, UK – 8.0%)
      “I went around the world in 2008 trying ciders from all the classic cider regions of the world and in Somerset I became the happy owner of a bottle of Hecks’ Kingston Black which proved to be a mouthful of flavours including the rich tannins one expects from Kingston Black apples – a very interesting cider indeed.”
    4. Jehan Lefèvre dry sparkling ciders (France, ABV unknown)
      “One hears so much about French cider but I was unimpressed until I got to the farm of Jehan Lefèvre in Saint-Cast-le-Guildo in Brittany. There I tried a bottle of Jehan’s dry sparkling cider and it was the first and only bottle of real dry champagne style cider I found in France. It was very tannic but I thought that if I could get a dozen bottles and cellar them for ten years that I would have an awesome cider.”
    5. West County Roxbury Russet (USA – 7.8%)
      “American cider is forgotten but the USA has a great tradition of cider and it is now being revived. I went to the Franklin County Cider Days in New England and learnt many things about American cider and I tried a sweet West County Cider called Roxbury Russet. Usually I don’t like sweet cider but this one was good. It was tart, sweet, aromatic, with a rich full flavor and a tannic base, it had very few bubbles but a good cider does not need bubbles.”

    And which beer (of those selected) do you regard most highly?

    “Of course I love my own stuff, that is why I make it; but if I reach for a beer it needs to have real flavour that is why I like Old Peculiar.”

    Tony Thorogood A World of Cider

    Tony Thorogood A World of Cider

    The Meal

    You can also take one meal to go with your beers, what would it be and why?

    “We created our own recipe book which is to be published very soon – Susan’s Country Kitchen – and it is packed with great food but I love simple food and for a good cider you can’t go past a really good cheddar, a French double or triple cream or in Australia Pyangana from Tasmania and one of my all-time favorite cheeses real Wensleydale from Hawes in Yorkshire. Plus a lump of fresh country bread…”

    The Books

    You might be waiting a long time on your lonesome on the desert island, so we will automatically allow you a few books to keep your mind busy. You can pick between two beer books and two tomes: The Brewmaster’s Table: Discovering the Pleasures of Real Beer with Real Food’ by Garrett Oliver, or ‘Beer’ by Michael Jackson; plus The Bible, or another appropriate religious or philosophical work

    ”Either of the beer books sound interesting, but my choice of a religious work would be the complete Jeeves and Bertie Wooster novels by PG Wodehouse.”

    And a non-beery, non-philosophical book, something a little less taxing on the brain, what would that be?

    “I love great children’s literature and my all-time favorite kids book Wind in the Willows so I’d take that.”

    The record

    You have a CD/mp3/long player but you can only take one album. Choose wisely!

    “If I took one single record I would probably take something sensible and boring. I love Bono and I also love Wonderwall by Oasis so I’d make a compilation album with both of those guys on it for starters.”

    The Luxury Item

    And finally, what luxury item would help make your stay on the island bearable?

    “This is a hard one for me as I’m not into too many luxuries – I’d really like a flushing toilet, a hot shower and clean bath towels.”

    Thanks Tony! For more information on Tony’s apple wines visit http://www.thorogoods.com.au/

    This article syndicated with All Gates Brewery blog as part of our ‘Desert Island Beers’ collaboration.

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    June 10th, 2010FletchtheMonkeyPubs & bars

    Day Four. The last leg and the longest. No steep mountain climbs on this stretch of the Pennine Way but a long slog to the ridges above Ribblesdale.

    Ribblesdale is the least forgiving of the Yorkshire dales. Shops and towns are non-existent. Cash machines and mobile signal don’t exist. Tall brown grasses and dull heathland cover the hills and much of the dale, shadowed by the dark peaks of Pen-Y-Ghent, Ingleborough and Whernside*.

    The whole day could be a chapter from Lord of the Rings. You could believe that Saruman’s tower at Isengard hides behind the peak of Ingleborough or that Mordor lies on the dark side of Whernside’s vast silhouette. The track passes caves and shake holes in abundance. On a misty day you see little but glimpes of other strange twisted trees and long-abandoned stone buildings. Mid-walk the track joins the Cam High Road, the obvious place for Strider to take the conoy off-piste to avoid the chasing Nazgûl…

    The road to nowhere

    The road to nowhere

    Imposing forests and coniferous plantations line the road and it takes forever to pass them. Even sheep become sparse as the High Road briefly joins an ancient Roman track before turning North East towards the refuge of Hawes.

    The 13 miles are tough after 1) 3 days of walking and 2) a serious misjudgement in not taking a packed lunch (£7 each from the B&B was a step too far for a Yorkshireman and his son!). Sainsbury’s Be Good To Yourself fruit bars and an apple barely powered waking up let alone walking, so it was a rewarding moment to roll off the green fells of Wensleydale and book a celebratory meal at Hawes’ finest bistro (Chaste if your interested). At last the sheep-folds were behind us and we were back civilisation.

    We warmed up for our posh grub with Old Peculiar of course, one in each of Hawes’ pubs (an anonymous Dent beer in the establishment that didn’t serve our preferred tipple). Old Peculiar will forever be associated with the Dales in my mind now, as well as drinking with my Dad and sharing precious moments each cradling a  Thwaites pint glass and allowing our aching feet some well deserved respite.

    Until next years leg of The Way, anyway.

    Ribblehead Viaduct

    Ribblehead Viaduct

    *If you turn the volume on the video up, the sound is purely the wind wrapping around our ears at between 1,000 and 2,000 ft above sea level.

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    June 9th, 2010FletchtheMonkeyPubs & bars

    Day Three. After two easy days this years Pennine Way walk got tough on Day 3.

    Thirteen miles including the ascension of Malham Cove, Fountains Fell and Pen-Y-Ghent. We’d be over 600m above sea level for most of the day and climb 3 times that, up hill and down dale. The remnants of neolithic farms and Anglo-Saxon stone walls would be almost as much of a wonder as the vastness of water that must have carved Malham Cove from the rock millions of years ago.

    The Pennine Way near Malham Cove

    The Pennine Way: carved by glaciers & water

    The day starts with a bang at Malham cove

    The day starts with a bang at Malham cove

    Me and some whales ribs

    Me and some whales ribs

    The limestone pavements of Malham and the view South across countless miles of the north of England are jaw-dropping. Norman Nicholson proclaimed that whale ribs glinted in the sun whilst Bill Bryson simply declared it might just be heaven on earth.

    Malham Tarn

    Malham Tarn

    Beyond the glacial upheaval and the windy shore of Malham Tarn a long arduous climb to the abandoned mines of Fountains Fell got the blood pumping. A double packed lunch was devoured half way up the moorland path, before we reached the site of a disused mine right at the top of the peak. After admiring the open mine shafts that littered the moorland we hopped a stile and were presented with a 200m descent, at the bottom of which was the winding approach to Pen-Y-Ghent. We’d broken the back of the day in miles but certainly not in metres climbed. Fortunately the base of the 3rd of the 3 Peaks is well above sea and an hour later we were sat atop, peering down on Horton-in-Ribblesdale where our luxury B&B awaited.

    The Pennine Way gods decided to make me work for my beer though, as the winding lanes to Horton were littered in chunky grey stones. These are a walkers hell, each step is a blunted knife in the sole of your foot, each jab a sucker punch to morale. Finally the lanes become tarmac, better only in it’s predictability, and eventually after a smart piece of navigating took us to our boardings.

    The Crown, Horton-in-Ribblesdale

    The Crown, Horton-in-Ribblesdale

    A nap and then the bustling pubs. The Crown for food, who were unable to explain they did bar food as we waited patiently for a restaurant table. The Old Peculiar was faultless though, a rich, molasses and liquorice treat to sooth our weary frames. Old Peculiar is oil for the Pennine Wayer, essential engine lubrication to revive the soul. And this night it sparked a father-son heart to heart.

    A swift nightcap followed in the Golden Lion, an odd pub with a quirky mint green exterior and Burnley-inspired claret and blue interior. The barman was friendly and the Old Peculiar still pleasing, so we didn’t judge the colour scheme until we’d left.

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    June 8th, 2010FletchtheMonkeyPubs & bars

    Day Two. A coffee and a banana were the best Earby had to offer for brekkie and we set out before 9am towards Thornton in Craven, the official start of our second day walking.

    Farmland dominates the Pennine Way until the path hits Yorkshire again, and despite a near miss with a quicksand mud field we made onto the Leeds-Liverpool canal hoping to hit Gargrave for noon. A mile from our lunch stop my OS Explorer ran out and we swapped for my Dad’s Landranger map.

    This was significant, as Landranger’s (the pink ones) don’t go to the same level of detail, whereas Explorer’s outline the landscape down to individual fields. Within minutes we were off The Way, only a field or two out but with no idea whether the path lay East or West and not enough detail on the map to gauge our bearings. Glacial drumlins blocked the horizon in all directions so we headed aimlessly north in the hope of reacing the crest of a hill and spying Gargrave.

    At the point that all the fields were protected with barbed wire we became a little uncomfortable and descended cautiously into the umpteenth trough of the umpteenth sheep-shit covered peak. Crossing the field diagonally the quiet group of cows in the corner looked up and watched us intently. Something didn’t feel right*. As we hit the half way point the herd bolted towards the gate that was our destination and when they crossed our route they rounded to face us, lining up in fighter jet formation. I’d never seen a cow run so fast. I’d certainly never seen 8 cows run so fast.

    A depressing point giving we start the walk in 2009...

    A depressing point giving we started the walk in 2009...

    The bastards had clearly blocked us off and were now peering at us ready to charge. I scampered straight back up the hill leaving my Dad wandering bullishly towards his untimely demise. At which point he scarped after me and with the aid of a prickly thorn tree we jumped the barbed wire into the adjoining field.

    A few circulars later and we stumbled on what seemed like a path. Rejoicing, we followed it, somewhat out of desperation. As we passed the herd of cows from the safe side of a thick hedge we saw their calves beyond the gate we’d been headed for and understood their aggression. Vindicated in my situation analysis we serendipitously stumbled upon another path, this one with a huge pointed cross stump hailing the Pennine Way. How did we miss that?!

    A simple lunch in Gargrave and a map purchase made for a more successful afternoon and we followed the River Aire, winding through fields and villages towards Malham, our next stopover. As he heavens opened we found refuge under a gazebo in a Quaker’s graveyard at Airton, and they lived up to their friendly name offering us tea and biscuits. Hardy Yorkshire men as we are we didn’t stop long though and soldiered on through the downpour (we had to put our waterproof coats to use after all!) Eventually were within sight of our destination and the huge rocky outcrop of Malham Cove rose up in the distance. Somehow it looks even bigger from a distance than it does up close.

    The Buck Inn, Malham. Comes with beautiful bar staff as standard.

    The Buck Inn, Malham. Comes with beautiful bar staff as standard.

    The Youth Hostel didn’t open until 5pm and we’d completed the 1o-ish miles by 3pm despite getting lost in fields of angry cows. The Buck Inn provided much needed refreshment exclusively from local breweries (Timothy Taylors, Thwaites and Copper Dragon) and we were half cut by the time we checked in and showered.

    Lamb Henry for me and chicken curry for my Dad were provided at the pleasure of the Lister Hotel, where Old Peculiar was a revelation. A couple of hours of pool and oggling the Eurovision song contest ensued (as well as the fantastic bar girls back at the Buck).

    (*though I should point out that I’m terrified of most creatures including cats and dogs, let alone farmyard animals)

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