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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    December 10th, 2012FletchtheMonkeyBeer and Food, Pubs & bars

    I have a confession to make. I was born in the county but I don’t really like Yorkshire puddings (nor can I play cricket). Crispy and fluffy with drooling chicken inside they can be a joy, but I’d never go out of my way to include them in my Sunday menu. Burnt on top but soggy on bottom Aunt Bessie’s must haunt me from a youth spent mostly down south.

    In fact, I’m not all that enthusiastic about roast dinner. Dry beef, sloshy gravy, none of that’s for me. Chicken I could eat to the bone, but cabbage, carrots and cauliflower combined with lukewarm meat, I’m ok thanks.

    But at the Kings Arms wild horses couldn’t have torn me from my plate of chicken, parsnips, roast spuds, peas in a pod and runner beans.

    Not even the ornithological taxidermy on the walls could put me off. I even ate all the Yorkshire pudding.

    The Kings Arms at Heath sits on the edge of Wakefield, harboured between the back end of the city and the scrub where rugby fans park for the short amble to the creaking ruins of Belle Vue. The area is an unlikely setting for a quintessential English village, an other worldly mix of residential, rural and renegade horses tethered amidst the oddly placed moors.

    Lining the top shelves of the wood panelled walls that surround the dining room are hardback books: travel guides, classics, Edwardian children’s books. What Katy Did peers down from a perch besides an ancient guide to my home county. There’s even a dusty bottle of Yorkshire Black Beer, its sepia label faded from years guarding the shelf.

    Plates of food are full and large, the food hearty and good value (Sunday lunch for two with drinks under £20). The beer includes the pubs own bitter, presumably brewed by Ossett Brewery who own this revitalised village building. If the food wasn’t great it would be worth visiting just to nestle in one of the many snug rooms and stare at the glass cabinet of historic beers, including one brewed for a former president of the USSR.

    And on a slow Sunday in late summer or early autumn it’s easy to stay snuggled in one of these wood panelled snugs for a long time after the well priced and homemade dessert board is delivered. Or maybe I’ll just have another Yorkshire pudding.

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    Kings Arms at Heath

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    In-house beer

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    Gorbachev Ale

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    March 7th, 2012FletchtheMonkeyBeer and travel, Beer history, Pubs & bars

    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 River Ryburn as it steers through the steep wooded valley, roaming towards the Calder. The Triangle public house, in the tiny village of Triangle, is boarded up, not the first dead watering hole on the winding roads that lead to the quiet, charming town of Ripponden.

    At Ripponden, about as remote an urban centre you can get in the sprawl of West Yorkshire, time blends from 1970s into the eighteenth century in the shadow of the Victorian church. A few footsteps further on the day retreats to nearer the 1670s as a cold breeze rustles across the cobbles of the ancient humpbacked bridge that leads to a quiet, unassuming public house.

    Packhorse bridge and Old Bridge Inn Ripponden (thanks to http://www.theoldbridgeinn.co.uk/ for the snap)

    Packhorse bridge and Old Bridge Inn Ripponden

    The Old Bridge deserves its name. The bridge from which it takes its name, just like the church whose shadow it lies in, has been rebuilt many times since the first packhorse crossing. The pub is as old, over 700 years as the oldest records attest too. In the 14th century the town were not even on the first of their four churches that the river or weather has razed along the way. Old broom, new handles, new brushes.

    The Ryburn runs straight and narrow under the ancient structure, the pub nestles on the northern side, resplendent in bright white wash. Warm fires, real ale, fine dining, but with not an ounce of pretension. The Old Bridge is family run, locally revered, bustling with merry drinkers around the bar and belly-patting diners, content and perhaps a little dozy.

    Since 1307 similar scenes may have been played out in this hidden pocket of hostelry. On the main York to Chester road, journey-worn travellers would have put their feet up here, may have knocked back unfussy ale and unfussy food, stocking up  on victuals and sleep. Curled up in a window nook in 2012 the beer is a little brighter and food is a little more fussy (but excellent) – scallops with parsnip puree, mackerel pate, sea bass with chorizo, crisp and luscious belly pork.

    Bowed by time, oak beams run low in the sitting rooms either side of the cheery communal bar, warmed by fires or stoves and sitting under a cockeyed triangular roof that’s seen seven centuries of welcomes and goodbyes.

    The river barely flows. A tear drop on the neck of a window box daffodil is frozen in the crisp Sunday air. Under these bows, between mahogany panelled walls, Airedale Valley Bitter meets chocolate orange brownie (scrumptious), and like that droplet, we’re immovable, resolved to enjoy the slowness with which two hours lumber by.

    One hundred and twenty minutes. But a tiny percentage of the years and patrons that the Old Bridge has watched over in its lifetime.

    Old Bridge Inn Airedale Valey Bitter

    A pint of AVB

    Yorkshires Oldest Inn Old Bridge Inn Ripponden

    Yorkshires Oldest Pub

    Scallops Old Bridge Inn

    Fine, fine food

    Bar at the Old Bridge Inn Ripponden

    The ancient roof

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    September 30th, 2011TheAleTrailBeer and travel, Beer Events

    Saltaire Brewery’s annual two day beer festival is timed to coincide with the Saltaire Festival, a celebration of music, art, food and posh car boot sales in the remarkably pretty terraced village near Shipley, Yorkshire.

    On the opening Friday night of 16th September 2011 the rain slanted down in true Yorkshire style but it didn’t put off hundreds of beer devotees from heading to the small brewery building next to the river Aire.

    We showed our tickets and were handed a beer list along with a branded & lined pint glass. Upon first reading I could see a few typos and misplacements on the list, I thought – whoever wrote this up couldn’t organise a piss up in brewery – how wrong I was, literally!

    Saltaire Elderflower Blonde at Saltaire Beer Festival

    Saltaire Brewery Elderflower Blonde - perfect summer quaffer

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    April 29th, 2011FletchtheMonkeyBeer Events, Beer news
    Yorkshire village pub by www.graphicalstatus.com

    Yorkshire village pub by www.graphicalstatus.com

    Time flies in the beer houses of Kingston-upon-Hull, where Yorkshiremen plotted against King Charles; studs fly in the grand hotels of Huddersfield where the North plotted against the Rugby Union.

    In Halifax they have long memories, just ask The Running Man. In York they never forget, Guy Fawkes will tell you that.

    In Sheffield they have an island for their beer, in Swaledale they make you climb a thousand feet for a pint (you might even have to do the washing up if you’re lucky!)

    From the gastro pubs of Ilkley to the cove-view nooks of Robin Hood’s Bay; from the alleyway drinking dens of Leeds, to the walkers respites littering Garsdale, Wensleydale, Dentdale, Ribblesdale, Malhamdale, Nidderdale…

    The Grove Inn, Leeds by John FotoHouse on Flickr

    The Grove Inn, Leeds – surviving against the odds

    Whitelocks, Briggate

    Whitelocks, Briggate – the alleys where Loiners get their name

    Station Inn, Ribblehead

    Station Inn, Ribblehead – take a map and a train timetable!

    Yorkshire is blessed with pubs, nearly 10% of all the public houses in Britain. Some good, some bad, each and everyone someone’s favourite. All 5,115 of them.

    What better way to spend the Bank Holiday than oiling your discourse down the local, or heeding Milton Crawford and taking a  moment to reflect on life. And when your done, you can vote for your favourite Yorkshire pub at Yorkshire.com/pub

    Yorkshires Favourite Pub

    “Yorkshire, Yorkshire!!”

    There are 54,000 pubs in Britain and 5,115 pubs in Yorkshire. Ish. Thanks to the border hungry constituency of Brigg & Goole which straddles both the East Riding of Yorkshire and the northern climes of Lincolnshire we’ve had to apply some educated guesswork to the final tally. Thanks to the CAMRA press team and the British Beer & Pub Association for help locating the raw data. And thanks to Dan CohenJohn FotoHouse and Rick Harrison for the pics!

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    April 21st, 2011Mister FrostyPubs & bars

    I had the pleasure of being invited to the re-opening of a pub this week. Someone has paid a visit to what used to be the Three Horseshoes in Otley and replaced its worn out steel trotters to get the place back on its feet.

    The newly named Horse and Farrier on Bridge Street in Otley is the fifteenth addition to Market Town Taverns’ portfolio, which stretches across North and West Yorkshire including Arcadia in Leeds, Brigantes in York and Bar t’at in Ilkley).

    Now, I’ll lay my cards on the table, I’ve long been a fan of Market Town Taverns, I like the cut of their jib and I like that there’s always a selection of 8 real ales available, as well as a handy selection of bottled beers. The Old Bell Tavern, another Market Town Taverns pub, is my local in Harrogate it’s very traditionally styled, has real character and I even had my wedding reception in the restaurant there.

    Horse & Farrier, Otley

    Horse & Farrier, Otley, formerly the Three Horseshoes

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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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    April 22nd, 2010FletchtheMonkeyBeer Events

    Another ‘whoop’ for Loiners this weekend as Friday and Saturday sees not just one beer festival in Leeds but two!

    Rothwell Beer Festival 2010

    Rothwell Beer Festival 2010

    Rothwell, home of the charming Rosebud and our very own Copper Dragon loving R’Sam, is holding a beer festival. 40 cask beers, plus bottles, cider, perry and food will all be available in aid of two local charities.

    The organising committee have been working their socks off since January and the fruits of their labour (with some help from Wakefield CAMRA and Clark’s Brewery) will hopefully lead to another addition to West Yorkshire’s beer scene.

    “We’re raising money for the local church roof which was stripped of lead just before the bad weather” says Paul Mann of the organising committee. “Additionally half the proceeds will got to Rothwell Lions who go a great amount of work in the local community”.

    “The beer list is changing right up until the last minute but we’re hoping for a good crowd”.

    The Leeds and Wakefield areas are spoilt for choice this weekend, with both Rothwell Beer Festival and LS6 Beer Festival so now it looks like a beer before and after this Saturday’s football.

    For more details visits www.rothwellbeerfestival.co.uk

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    November 19th, 2009AlanSamandMarkBreweries, Comment

    It seems so simple, this-setting-up-a-brewery lark.

    Walking around the compact, but seemingly organised Leeds Brewery with co-founder Sam Moss, it’s easy to forget that the business has only been in existence for a touch over two years.

    Situated on a light industrial estate not far from Leeds’ bustling centre, the brewery is the hub of an expanding local empire that now stretches to three pubs across the town centre as well as the modern and compact Leeds Brewery HQ. The team produces three permanent beers and twelve seasonal beers; one for each calendar month. The beers are on sale across the country and also in Leeds brewery’s three self-owned pubs in Leeds city centre.

    The Leeds Brewery team

    The Leeds Brewery team

    Being Leeds residents and big fans of the beers that the brewery makes, we jumped at the chance to take a day off work and visit our very own local brewers. Upon arrival the other half of the management, Michael Brothwell, was busy making an emergency keg delivery in the back of his Ford Fiesta, so it was down to Sam to take us round the modern set up… Read the rest of this entry »

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    July 13th, 2009Alan WalshBreweries

    Anglo Dutch Brewery – Summertime Ale, 4.1%

    Having been critical of The Porterhouse earlier this Summer for not being fully stocked with light, golden, summertime brews I could hardly go into the Cross Keys, Holbeck, on a warm sunny day and not try this topical summer number.

    I do not know much about the Anglo Dutch Brewery but, according to their website, they were officially launched in 2000 and they haaven’t had a history update since 2003. Nor could I find this beer on their website (www.anglo-dutch-brewery.co.uk) so I was going into it slightly blind but very willing.

    I was more than happy with  the result which was enjoyed in the evening sun behind the Cross Keys. It is hard to believe, sat drinking a beer in this peaceful spot, the other areas of Holbeck only a short walk away.

    The beer itself was slightly yellow, rather than the anticipated golden. It has cirus flavours and was quite sharp to the taste, coupling this with the rather flat texture it was reminiscent of a more full bodied version of the traditional bottle with a slice of lime such as Corona or Sol. Perhaps a great British alternative to the these hispanic imports.

    The beer certainly deserves to be treated more seriously than the comical light it paints itself in. The picture may be too small to show it but the caption says ‘Others are cleaning up the all decade merchant bankers party’. My advice is forget the merchant bankers, forget the imported lagers and bash on with a cheeky few pints of this West Yorkshire gem on a sunny night in Leeds.

    Corona for West Yorkshire

    Corona for West Yorkshire

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