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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    March 24th, 2012DavidMayhallDesert Island Beers

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

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

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

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

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

    Xavier Baker

    Xavier Baker

    Dingle Brewery

    Dingle Brewery

    Thornbridge Jaipur

    Thornbridge Jaipur

    Skinners Betty Stogs Cornish Ale

    Betty Stogs

    The Beers

    So Xavier, which five beers would you want to have with you if you were stranded on a desert island, and why?
    Read the rest of this entry »

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    December 13th, 2011FletchtheMonkeyBeer Reviews

    Some beers demands attention through garish pump clips, whilst others scream from ad campaigns and yellow and red shelf edge labels.

    Some beers don’t bother with all that, they say all they have to say on the inside of the bottle. Such is Coalition, a celebration of brewing jointly created by Thornbridge of Derbyshire and Dark Star of Sussex.

    £7 – one for each percent of alcohol by volume – means you’ll want to savour every last one of it’s fifty centilitres. Probably won’t be hard though…

    Its richness is visible when poured, it settles majestically in an over sized wine glass with a thick, mustard head. Booze cuts through the herbaceous aroma of roots and spices, cloves and fresh tobacco.

    Maybe a Belgian chalice should be the glassware of choice – this could be a caliginous callow tripel with it’s raw incense of sugar cane and a potent, plant stalk bitterness.

    But there’s little coalition between the fascinating flavours: this bottle is green, premature. Its brothers from the same gyle are in the beer cupboard and will be laid down for another years to develop and mellow in the bottle, because even this rough version shows signs of becoming something very special indeed.

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    June 17th, 2011FletchtheMonkeyDesert Island Beers

    The thing about enthusiasm is that it’s infectious, and Kelly Ryan is a man who exudes a passion for beer like there’s no tomorrow.

    Kelly is best known for his time at Thornbridge Brewery in Derbyshire but is now safely back on native New Zealand soil brewing at Epic Brewery.

    We’ve been fortunate enough to meet Kelly a few times at beery tasting events (like this one at the Sheffield Tap) and the odd twiss up and have seen his knowledge and excitement about good beer first hand.

    We’re guessing there’ll be some big beers on Kelly’s ideal desert island…

    Kelly Ryan

    Kelly Ryan

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    November 8th, 2010FletchtheMonkeyComment

    In a list of New Zealand’s exports you can pick from lamb, kiwis, exciting rugby union, Bret and Jermaine, Nelson Sauvin hops and even non-league football and World Cup legend Shane Smeltz, who helped guide his national side to become the only unbeaten team in the 2010 tournament in South Africa (unfortunately he didn’t help Halifax Town too much although I have seen him play at the Shay a few times).

    But you beer lovers might just want to pop Kelly Ryan, brewer extraordinare at Thornbridge Brewery, to the top of that list. Kelly leaves the UK this week to head back to his homeland but his legacy will live on with a number of beers that are achieving cult status in the UK – Jaipur India Pale Ale, green hopped Halcyon, Saint Petersburg Imperial Stout and the rare and enigmatic Bracia stout. Kelly’s influence goes beyond simply brewing though, but through hosting tasting events, becoming a resident and local at The Coach and Horses in Dronfield and generally being a positive ambassador for beer.

    So as a brewer whose helped change real ale for the better and someone we’re honoured to call an acquaintance, to Kelly and Catherine, all the best in New Zealand and we hope to see you again (hopefully for a twissup style curry!).

    Kelly Ryan Thornbridge brewery

    Kelly Ryan: better at brewing than Shane Smeltz is at football

    Shane Smeltz of New Zealand and formerly Halifax Town

    Shane Smeltz: has scored more World Cup goals than Kelly Ryan

    Kelly& Cat, thanks for the great beers, the inspiring chats and the twissup adventures. All the best in New Zealand, we’ll be having a Mac’s Gold and selected Thornbridge beers in your honour this weekend! PS. Did you and Shane learn those faces at school or something?! ;-)

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    August 6th, 2010FletchtheMonkeyBeer Reviews, Fruity Beers

    Why buy fresh fruit smoothies when you can have beer instead?!

    Remember Reefs? Smirnoff Ices?

    Remember Hooch and Barcardi Breezers?

    Well this summer you might struggle to fnd the above, but fear not as beer has come to the rescue. If you want sweet fruity flavours and a drink to get you a little on the tipsy side, why fork out for dirt cheap alcopops when you have quality on your side:

    Kernel 'Um Bongo' Ale

    Kernel 'Um Bongo' Ale

    Kernel Centennial Pale Ale

    Um Bongo aroma with a touch of Blackcurrant Ribena. ABV of 5.4% and a body of yoghurt and oats, it simply glides down your throat like Yop. Not too bitter, though the  bitterness that there is lingers long-time…

    This beer knocks most pale ales for six and is quite frankly amazing. I was lucky enough to get this as an added extra from my #beerswap partner and it outshone the other brews. Beers like this can make a brewery…if it’s not a fluke then Kernel have a lot to live up to.

    Halcyon by Thornbridge
    (2009 Green hopped, oh yeah!)

    Halcyon by Thornbridge: grapefruit not grass

    Pineapple by Thornbridge

    It’s more tropical than last years Halcyon, the dominance of grass in the nose has disappeared in favour of exotic fruit. I used to love that damn prairie grass, but hell do I now crave that beautiful pineapple explosion.

    What a quandary! What hops have they changed or replaced? You may have sold out your grass roots Thornbridge, but you’ve replaced them with a beer that I could have sex with.

    Thornbridge Halcyon is Innocent Smoothie on acid (or something stronger). Get me another fix, now.

    Marble Manchester Bitter

    Marble Manchester Bitter aka Passion fruit

    Marble Passionfruit Bitter

    A passion fruit hell pit, this is the sort of beer Adam threw away paradise for. And rightly so, Adam, who wants a garden of fruit trees bending under the weight of it’s luscious produce when you can sit back and knock the crown cap of a Manchester Bitter. I’d give up my Eve and all pasta based dishes for this beer. I’d be tempted to call Charlie Brooker’s bluff and offer a little finger perhaps. Maybe even a thumb. I’ll definitely give up all hoofed animals to maintain the existence of this beer perhaps in doing so rid the world of half it’s methane emissions too.

    This might just be the beer that saves the world.

    Beer information:

    Beer: Centennial Pale Ale
    Brewery: Kernel Brewery
    Style: London Pale Ale
    ABV: 5.4%
    Area: London, England

    Beer: Thornbridge Halcyon
    Brewery: Thornbridge Brewery
    Style: Imperial IPA
    ABV: 7.7%
    Area: Derbyshire, England

    Beer: Manchester Bitter
    Brewery: Marble
    Style: Bitter
    ABV: 4.2%
    Country: Manchester, England

    Thanks to mybrewerytap and beermerchants for supplying the beer. Yep, they were freebies, and I’m proud to say I’d pay a significant amount of my hard earned cash to drink these again. Which I have actually just done. And I would recommend that you also try them.

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    March 17th, 2010FletchtheMonkeyBeer Events
    Thornbridge beers at the Sheffield Tap

    Thornbridge beers at the Sheffield Tap

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

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

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    January 1st, 2010FletchtheMonkeyDesert Island Beers

    Pete Brown – beer writer and marketer

    Picking our first post of the New Year was easy. The ‘Bill Bryson of the beer world’, Pete Brown is one of the UK’s best loved beer writers, his three books Man Walks Into A Pub, Three Sheets To The Wind and the much celebrated Hops & Glory are responsible for much laughing, beer drinking and fits of coughing when we do both at the same time.

    Fresh from his coronation as The British Guild of Beer Writers Beer Writer of the Year, 2010 is Pete’s year to enjoy so what better way to nestle up with one of his books and try some of his favourite tipples too.

    A quick reminder on the island rules: Pete can pick three beers to take and a meal to eat with the beers, plus a handful of personal effects to keep boredom at arms length: a book to read, a record to listen to and a luxury item. For the pedants amongst you we’re going to assume that the friendly island gods will take care of opening your beer bottle (or cask!) and the playing of your selected music…

    Pete Brown reads from Hops & Glory on his book launch tour in 2009

    Pete Brown reads from Hops & Glory on his book launch tour in 2009

    Read the rest of this entry »

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    September 2nd, 2009FletchtheMonkeyIPA, Pale Ales
    It’s with great pleasure that I post this on the day of Thornbridge’s grand opening of their new brewery (thanks to Reluctant Scoop for the pics).
    This is an IPA that I’d been eyeing up in my cupboard for a few weeks before I sat down with, and boy, did it not disappoint!
    Halcyon has a hugely hoppy aroma – a grassy rather than floral scent that tingles your tongue on the first sip. It’s initial taste is full of spices and contrasting flavours, and that’s only the beginning! Texture and colour wise it looks uniformly opaque (although I poured it pretty quickly),  but even this doesn’t reflect it’s deep and multifarious taste.
    This is a glorious IPA, remaining refreshing whilst being charismatically strong. It’s strength lingers throughout, becoming more complex with each gulp.
    Let’s use Goose Island IPA as a benchmark of floral, tasty, downright excellent IPAs. Put simply, Halcyon is stronger, deeper and brings more to the table. Let’s not downgrade Goose Island, it’s in my Top Ten Beers Of All Time, but I can have a few Goose Island on a night out (my last night out in Leeds passing through Reform Bar proofs that) but I might struggle to drink more than one Halcyon in a bar.
    For a hoppy night in however, I don’t think you could do any better. I actually took a break from drinking Halcyon to sample a Sam Smith’s Strawberry beer that Sarah was drinking (fruity beers so far are all she can stomach!) and coming back to Halcyon after it was an absolute joy. The explosion of taste in my mouth seemed twice as powerful and twice as enjoyable as before.
    To sum it up, Halcyon is bloomin’ brilliant, and, like Radiohead this weekend at Leeds, I’m glad it something had to wait a few years for, despite the glowing and unrelenting reviews that tempted me so often.
    I can honestly say this is a beer that isn’t caught up in hyperbole not ballyhoo (yes I used a thesaurus for that one!)…it really is very, very good beer.
    not cloIt’s with great pleasure that I post this on the day of Thornbridge’s grand opening of their new brewery (thanks to Reluctant Scoop for the pics).

    Halcyon IPA

    This is an IPA that I’d been eyeing up in my cupboard for a few weeks before I sat down with, and boy, did it not disappoint!

    Halcyon IPA by Thornbridge has a hugely hoppy aroma – a grassy rather than floral scent that tingles your tongue on the first sip. It’s initial taste is full of spices and contrasting flavours, and that’s only the beginning! Texture and colour wise it looks uniformly opaque (although I poured it pretty quickly),  but even this doesn’t reflect it’s deep and multifarious taste.

    Halcyon - the best IPA in the UK?

    Halcyon - the best IPA in the UK?

    This is a glorious IPA, remaining refreshing whilst being charismatically strong. It’s strength lingers throughout, becoming more complex with each gulp.

    Let’s use Goose Island IPA as a benchmark of floral, tasty, downright excellent IPAs. Put simply, Halcyon is stronger, deeper and brings more to the table. Let’s not downgrade Goose Island, it’s in my Top Ten Beers Of All Time, but I can have a few Goose Island on a night out (my last night out in Leeds passing through Reform Bar proves that) but I might struggle to drink more than one Halcyon in a bar.

    For a hoppy night in however, I don’t think you could do any better than this, another hop affair from Thornbridge. I actually took a break from drinking Halcyon to sample a Sam Smith’s Strawberry beer that Sarah was drinking (fruity beers so far are all she can stomach!) and coming back to Halcyon after it was an absolute joy. The explosion of taste in my mouth seemed twice as powerful and twice as enjoyable as before.

    To sum it up, Halcyon is bloomin’ brilliant, and, like Radiohead this weekend at Leeds, I’m glad it’s something I had to wait a few years for despite the glowing and unrelenting reviews that tempted me so often.

    I can honestly say this is a beer that isn’t caught up in hyperbole nor ballyhoo (yes I used a thesaurus for that one!)…it really is a very, very, very good beer.

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