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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  • Orval

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    January 9th, 2013FletchtheMonkeyBelgian/Trappist

    Stroll through an ageing orchard, take a gulp of the musty air at the defunct pressing room door. Continue past the old farm cottage to the door of the dirty whitewashed inn where the drip trays need emptying. The fruit in the bowl near the window has seen better days, and through the yellowed single pane of glass the smoke rises from the chimney in the monastery opposite. A calm shadow sneaks across the cobbles dodging wooden stools and deposits freshly baked bread with the rotund innkeeper, a silent nod the only interaction before the mysterious robed shape is gone.

    Order briskly but politely and then pause to acknowledge the peppery scent, which laces the pyramid of froth in top of the brooding liquid. It glows with some kind of knowing soul. Perhaps it was the confident almost challenging pour, the beer dispatcher from curvaceous glass to angular chalice with an unexpected deftness. Sip the slightly sour, herbaceous barley juice that’s so different to it’s contemporaries. It’s no wonder those monks believe in heaven, they just don’t realise it’s closer to home than they think.

    The above is a figment of imagination. Orval was the muse.

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    Orval

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    Orval the muse

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    December 31st, 2012FletchtheMonkeyDesert Island Beers

    This weeks Desert Island Beers is a massive coup as it features none other than Sir (well if a UK citizen he would be) Mitch Steele, brew-master at the world-famous Stone Brewing Co. of Escondido, California which was named “The All-Time Top Brewery on Planet Earth” by BeerAdvocate magazine in 2008…AND 2009! “The most popular and highest rated brewery – ever!” (I just wish I could get their beers more often over here!)

    I was saving this post for the New Year and an upcoming series of Desert Island Beers on U.S. Brewers, but whilst researching this article I learnt that today, 31st December is Mitch’s 50th birthday! So what better birthday present than to be castaway on a Desert Island with your favourite beers. Happy Birthday Mitch!

    Mitch was an Enology major at the University of California, Davis in the early ’80s when he found out about the wine-making curriculum there and took an introductory wine-making class. Later he discovered the Brewing Science program and was in a microbiology class when Dr. Michael Lewis guest lectured and provided a brief overview of the brewing process and Mitch was as they say hooked! The idea of combining art and science in crafting wine and beer seemed like a perfect fit for him.

    When he graduated, a recession had hit and brewers weren’t hiring and the only craft brewers of any note at the time were Sierra Nevada and Anchor so he ended up making wine in the Central Coast region of California for eight years. About five years into the wine-making stint he hooked up with Bill Millar, who was starting the San Andreas Brewing Co. in Hollister, California. He took Mitch as his brewer, and Mitch brewed there at weekends and during his time off from the winery for four years.

    After four years of brewing as a second job, Mitch decided to make brewing his chosen career and got a job with Anheuser-Busch in Colorado. He figured (correctly) that A-B would be a great place to learn how to manage the brewing and fermentation processes and he ended up at A-B for 14 years and says got to do some really great and fun things with them and learned a lot; but at the same time was really itching to get back into craft brewing.

    An active home-brewer during his time with Anheuser-Busch, Mitch joined Stone Brewing Co. in 2006 and has managed the brewing and packaging operation at Stone Brewing Co. as it has grown from a 48,000 bbl operation to 150,000 bbls in 2011.

    Stone Brewing

    Mitch Steele

    victory prima pils

    No ordinary pils

    Read the rest of this entry »

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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

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    July 31st, 2012DavidMayhallDesert Island Beers

    This weeks Desert Island Beers features Fergus Fitzgerald, Head Brewer at Adnams PLC, Southwold, Suffolk. Fergus 36, is married to Julie and they have one young son, who he says he has never left down the pub, but did once lose for 5 minutes in Tesco when looking for a Sponge Bob Square-pants DVD.

    Fergus was born in Limerick, Ireland, best known as the place Terry Wogan comes from and no Fergus doesn’t do short comical, sometimes rude, poems. He went on to study Biotechnology without really knowing what to do with it, but knew he liked science.

    Fergus Fitzgerald Adnams

    Fergus Fitzgerald Adnams

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

    Orval

    After graduating he was offered the chance to work in the Lab at Fuller, Smith & Turner PLC in London for 6 months. During this period Fergus says he lived in digs where for £50 a week he got a room to himself, two eggs every morning for breakfast and only once did one of the other residents try to break in with a hatchet; OK it was twice but in fairness to them the second time the guy was actually looking for a different room.

    After this stint Fergus decided he loved the brewing industry and that’s what he wanted to do. A short stint at Murphy’s brewery in Cork, Ireland followed, before he returned to Fullers when a permanent job became available.

    Over the next 7 years he worked his way out of the lab and into the brewing side, passing several brewing exams on the way and then moved to Adnams in 2004 as Assistant Brewer and now a qualified Master Brewer became Head Brewer in 2009.

    During his time at Adnams the company has replaced the Brewhouse and Fermentation room and also installed a distillery. Fergus says he has also managed to clog up the wort cooler several times with orange peel and liquorice root. But he’s not sure which he’s most proud of. The Adnams engineers apparently now get nervous when they see him coming out of the Fermentation room because they are not sure if he’s thrown something into a fermenter which might clog up a pump or sprayball. This fear is not totally without foundation! Whichever Fergus says he likes brewing and he likes beer!

    Read the rest of this entry »

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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.

    Read the rest of this entry »

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    May 1st, 2012DavidMayhallDesert Island Beers

    This weeks Desert Island Beers is a real coup for us as it features none other than Sir (well he would be if he was a UK citizen) Tomme Arthur, the co-founder and director of brewery operations for Port Brewing and The Lost Abbey.

    A professional brewer for more than 15 years, he is widely regarded as one of the leaders of the American Craft brewing renaissance. Tomme lives in San Diego County with his wife and two daughters. A native San Diegan, Tomme returned home to San Diego in 1995 after earning his Bachelor of Arts in English from Northern Arizona University where he cultivated his passion for brewing.

    In 1996, he began his professional brewing career at the now defunct Cervecerias La Cruda (The Hangover Brewery) in downtown San Diego. After La Cruda closed its doors in March 1997, Tomme went to work for White Labs in San Diego where he spent his days selling yeast and developing product as he waited patiently for the right brewing job to become available. In 1997 he was hired by Pizza Port in Solana Beach where he remained Head Brewer until June 2005 when he was named Director of Brewery Operations.

    Tomme Arthur

    Tomme Arthur

    victory prima pils

    No ordinary pils

    Orval

    Orval

    Sierra Nevada Pale Ale

    Sierra Nevada Pale Ale

    In addition to promoting San Diego as a great beer city, Tomme is known for his bold experimentation and willingness to blur the boundaries between beer, wine and spirits; with his flavor-forward brews having inspired a new generation of brewers and consumers to re-think their notions of what a beer could and should be.

    During the 8 or so years that Tomme was Head Brewer at Pizza Port the brewery won 13 Great American Beer Festival Medals, numerous medals at the Chicago Real Ale Festival as well as other regional and national competitions. And after joining Port Brewing in 2006, Tomme kept up his winning ways as in 2007 Port Brewing was named Great American Beer Festival, Small Brewery of the Year, and Tomme Small Brewer of the Year.

    To cap it all in 2008 he and Port Brewing were then named World Champion Small Brewer and Brewery at the International World Beer Cup. Since then he’s taken home a raft of further medals and been consistently noted as one of the world’s top brewers.

    Read the rest of this entry »

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    February 28th, 2012FletchtheMonkeyDesert Island Beers

    This weeks Desert Island Beers features Jeff Rosenmeier, the founder and owner of Lovibonds Brewery of Henley-on-Thames, Oxfordshire. Jeff caught the brewing bug back in the mid 1990’s after tasting a friends homebrewed stout. His successful career in software engineering gave him the opportunity to move to England. The job entailed traveling all over Europe, giving him a further opportunity to sample many of the great European beer styles during the week and at the weekend Jeff would then be busy cloning them in his garden shed.

    Finally, the hobby put a strain on household resources (not enough water pressure, not enough electric phases) and Jeff packed in his successful career to start Lovibonds in his adopted home of Henley-on-Thames. Lovibonds is one of only a handful of craft brewers in the UK that kegs 100% of its production, despite disapproval from the consumer rights group, CAMRA.

    Jeff Rosenmeier Lovibonds Brewery Henley on Thames Oxfordshire

    Jeff Rosenmeier

    Sierra Nevada Pale Ale

    A castaway classic?

    Orval and cheese

    Orval and cheese

    La Chouffe by Brassiere d'Achouffe

    Cheeky La Chouffe

    The Beers

    Hello Jeff! Which five beers would you want to have with you if you were stranded on a desert island, and why?
    Read the rest of this entry »

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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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    January 11th, 2010Alan WalshBeer and Food, Beer Recipes
    Potted Cheese with Toast

    Potted Cheese with Toast

    Like me, you are probably more familiar with the phrases Potted Beef or Potted Shrimp than Potted Cheese. ‘Potting’ ingredients is a traditional way of stretching ingredients with butter while adding flavours and it can be  done with a good cheese in the same way as it can with meat or fish. These days it is a great way of doing  something different with your cheeseboard and also linking the beer you’re drinking to the food you’re eating.

    Ingredients

    350g Yorkshire Blue cheese (Stilton or any other strong, crumbly cheese can be used)
    75g unsalted butter (at room temperature and cut into cubes)
    ½ teaspoon ground mace
    3 tablespoons Beer Read the rest of this entry »

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    November 1st, 2009Alan WalshPubs & bars

    My last review of this bar shows that I wasn’t massively taken by my last visit. I had been on a sunny bank holiday weekend and had been disappointed by the lack of summer or pale ales available on draught.

    People who know assured me that I should go back and take another look, focussing on the bottled selection rather than what they have available on draught. Firstly I should say that the bar is far larger than I realised on my first visit (we had sat outside last time) which is lucky as I’m told that it can get very busy on evenings through the week.

    The range of bottled beers could easily keep a beer hound happy all evening. Naturally my instinct is to compare it to the places that I know and visit often and the ranges of beers available offers easy comparison with North Bar in Leeds. The range of bottles available is probably broadly similar to North although I would again mention that the range is pretty limited in Porterhouse if you actually want a pint. The other main difference between the  two is the decor and I have to say that, while I do find the rustic minimalism of North appealing, the strange copper (nautical themed) interior of the Porterhouse was ultimately far more comfortable.

    On the day I opted for an Anchor Pale Ale and recommended a bottle of Orval for Jack but there was plenty of range on the beer menu so I’m sure most people wi’ll find something they like here.

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