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 4th, 2013FletchtheMonkeyBeer Reviews, Stout & Porter

    Sometimes a beer tastes far better than it looks, and sometimes a beer looks much better than it tastes.

    Shepherd Neame Double Stout looks so good my first thought is to worry profusely that it won’t live up to its aesthetic appearance.

    I needn’t have worried.

    It’s not the double stout I’ll drink on my wedding day, or save for my first born child’s 18th, but sat on the cusp of the festivities, last one standing (well, sitting) on Christmas Eve, it’s a manifestation of the calm before the storm.

    A quintessentially modern vintage design introduces a stout to be proud of. Creamy but carcinogenic charred; fruit finished with rustic chocolate; bitter and laced with promises of liquorice. A quintessential stout, doubly aromatic, easy to drink but restrained.

    A double stout nightcap at Christmas is no surprise. That it came in Shepherd Name bottle is a bit of an unexpected present.


    Shepherd Neame


    Double Stout

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    October 31st, 2012FletchtheMonkeyAmber ales

    I reckon the UK is on the cusp of starting to take Halloween seriously, like they do over the pond.

    And why shouldn’t that be a good thing? It’s an excuse to be creative, meet friends and drink beer.

    Especially when the beer is halloween beer, like Spooks from Shepherd Neame. 100% marketing gimmick but then again the whole halloween thing is, so let’s not judge without trying first.

    Turns out it’s the sort of beer that would do just fine for a halloween party – deep amber in colour, seasoned with a dark chocolate digestives, a nutty swagger and a dash of lemon juice that disappears in a grave of treacle.

    A great companion to apple bobbing but just the one for me please. It’s Halloween and there’s plenty more dressed up beers out there to play trick or treat with.

    Spooks Halloween Ale Shepherd Neame

    Spooky Ale

    shep neame halloween web bottle

    Barley & bubble

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    January 18th, 2011LukeBlockBeer and travel, Beer Reviews, Seasonal beers

    Think of Kentish brewing and you might think typical English countryside: dappled light and ruddy-faced urchins diving around the hop poles as Ma and Pa Larkin bumble about with a haycart. It’s a comforting pastoral image a thousand miles away from the bleak, flat landscape of Thanet or the cut-to-the-bone North Sea wind that rips across Whitstable Bay in November. But some of the best brewing Kent has to offer goes on right in the heart of this unforgiving and extreme region of the country. Three breweries – Shepherd Neame, Gadds and Whitstable Brewery – all produce workmanlike ales that should be tried, even if you can’t get hold of their most interesting brews north of the Watford Gap.

    DogBolter porter by Gadds Ramsgate

    Kentish Dogs Beware!

    Shepheard Neame Late Red

    Late for the autumn sky...

    Kentish beers - Shepherd Neame, Gadds

    Beers o'Kent for men o'Kent

    Read the rest of this entry »

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    July 30th, 2010FletchtheMonkeyPubs & bars
    Hooky takes pride of place above the stairs at Bart 'At, Ilkley

    Hooky takes pride of place above the stairs at Bart 'At, Ilkley

    I’ll be going back to Bar t’at, Ilkley’s ‘North Bar’, because the first time around I wasn’t bowled over. We didn’t need to comment to the forgetful bartender, he only had to see the look on my Dad’s face.

    Suffice to say my pint of Thornbridge Hopton was just the ticket and our longer than expected wait for my mums coffee gave us the chance to admire a host of brewery related posters and paraphernalia. Our beloved Hooky took pride of place over the stairs whilst Sheps, Brakspear, Harvey’s and Bass adorned the walls around our table.

    There was even some Belgian bits and bobs hiding way up towards the ceiling, including a prominent pink elephant poking his head up above the doorway.

    We even had time to piece together the West Yorkshire dialect that litters the wall, with it’s talk of unfortunate lovers, worms and ducks.

    Nil points for the service (we’re blaming it on the lack of hats, or even Mary Jane) although that’s only because it was my Mum who got the worlds smallest coffee after the worlds longest wait (if it had happened to anyone else I’d have just used the opportunity for another pint).

    Bar t’at will certainly get a second chance though and I’ll be jumping on the train from Leeds one weekend to drink the hand pulls and the fridges dry, hopefully to the point where I’m singing along to the walls even though I can’t read them.

    Anyone fancy it? Read the rest of this entry »

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    December 11th, 2009DaveWatsonBeer Reviews, Bitters

    Dubbed “The Local Hero”, Shepherd Neame’s Master Brew is a self-assured ale from “Britain’s Oldest Brewer” (which presumably is also Britain’s oldest brewery – or this self-assurance also extends to the life-expectancy of the particular person who brewed the beer). The blurb on the bottle proclaims the English origin of the drink in various languages,

    Master Brew: Described as "the best selling cask ale brewed in Kent" by Shepherd Neame

    Master Brew: Described as "the best selling cask ale brewed in Kent" by Shepherd Neame

    suggesting not only does it aim to be a local hero, but it’s battling for admiration abroad.

    Visually, the dark copper liquid conjures the image of polished mahogany, and this polish certainly rubbed off on the bottle designers, with embossed features on the glass and gold detailing on the label trying to differentiate this Kentish nectar from beers of lesser heritage.

    The moment the bottle cap pops clear and the conditioned gases scream forth – sending an amorous aroma like a booty call to your brain for a threesome with your taste buds – you know you’re in for a treat. The mild acidity of the hoppy scent assaults the senses, reassuring you that this isn’t a common-or-garden hint-of-citrus ale, but an all-season classic.

    It seems the one area those Southerners aren’t soft is in their cultivation of hops, as with each mouthful the subtle cinder-toffee tones of the crystal malt seem to be immediately quelled by the dominating bitterness of the Kentish hops. This is no bad thing, but the more complex flavours are left to cower in the corner of your palate, whimpering quietly in the hope of a look-in.

    The bitterness gradually subsides to leave a faintly smoky aftertaste with a suggestion of oak, leaving the warm glow of an open log fire smouldering on the tongue, begging to be stoked by more of this amber ale.

    At 4.0% ABV (bottled, cask is 3.7%), Shepherd’s Neame Master Brew Kentish Ale is a typical session bitter with distinctive but not offensive taste, demonstrating why this old brewer is still going strong in today’s growing beer market.

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