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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    August 31st, 2012DavidMayhallDesert Island Beers

    Welcome to the latest episode of Desert Island Beers which this week features John Lewis, co-founder and brewer at Treboom Brewery, based nr York.

    John originally from Port Talbot, South Wales says that as a boy he was fascinated by science, mainly the possibility of blowing things up but also science in general. As a teen he discovered beer, but being the 70′s, proper beer was hard to get hold of, so John turned to home brew and managed to brew a tidy pint – good enough for his Dad and his neighbours to start investing in him. They bought him fermenting bins, casks and ingredients and pretty soon he had a production line going supplying three houses.

    But the time came for John to pick a career and science beckoned. A research technicians post in Bristol and a degree in biology/biochemistry at Kings College London were followed by a break where he went AWOL in Paris, working for 2 years and having a very nice time, thank you. Back to science he then studied for an MSc followed closely by a PhD and worked in Cancer Research – leukaemia at Imperial College, London and then prostate cancer at The University of York.

    John Lewis Treboom brewery

    Never knowingly under brewed – John Lewis, Treboom

    Treboom-Brewery2

    Trrrboommm!

    Fullers ESB

    ESB

    His partner Jane is from Durham, she started out nursing in London before pursuing her love of art and studying for an MA in Ceramics and Glass at the Royal College of Art followed by a career as a professional ceramicist.

    John and Jane had talked for some years about doing something different, with all ideas seeming to focus on making something for people to enjoy. So when the funding for John’s post at the the University of York looked insecure they decided to go for it and a microbrewery was an obvious choice.

    They founded Treboom Brewery at the beginning of 2012 on the site of an old pig shed at Manor Farm, Shipton-by-Beningbrough. The pig shed was pulled down and a brand new building erected which John and Jane now rent off the farmer. A Rural Development Grant grant from Yorkshire Forward meant they were able to install a custom made 10 barrel plant.

    John enlisted the help of York based brewing consultant David Smith to get the brewery up and running. Together they devised the recipes for Treboom’s 3 core beers; Drum Beat, Kettle Drum and Yorkshire Sparkle, with their fourth, Baron Saturday, coming out soon. John says he has lots of ideas of beers he’d like to make but wants to concentrate on getting the core beers established first.

    People always ask where the name Treboom comes from; the explanation: “It’s from the sound of a drum roll, TrrrrrBOOM and signals the moment we’ve been waiting for for some time…. our very own microbrewery where we can make delicious beer!”

    Read the rest of this entry »

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    April 13th, 2012FletchtheMonkeyDesert Island Beers

    Simon Jenkins started his career in Goole, but not even that hampered him. Cutting his teeth as a journalist in East Yorkshire and the vale of Calder, Simon landed at the Yorkshire Evening Post in 1991 and never looked back, working for fifteen years at Leeds’ flagship evening newspaper.

    Though now working at Leeds University, Simon still writes the Taverner column for the paper and in 2010 he won Best Writing in the UK Regional Press for his contribution to beer. It was an award which ultimately led to the deserved crown of Beer Writer of the Year, and the ominous duties of representing the beer industry (not to mention writing a speech for the following years awards do!)

    In his spare time Simon follows both Leeds United and Oxford United fan and has recently penned his first book, The Great Leeds Pub Crawl, a ramble around the history and character of every type of pub the city has to offer.

    Simon Jenkins Beer Writer of the Year Yorkshire Evening Post Taverner

    Near the Negev Desert

    Jaipur IPA

    Jaipur IPA

    Pint of Landlord

    Pint of Landlord...

    landlord bottle

    ...just as good bottled

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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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    February 27th, 2012FletchtheMonkeyBeer Reviews, Bitters

    Fiery Fred; anti-establishment, brazen, strong and mischievous to the end. Not at all like his namesake beer, but that’s ok, because it’s probably just the sort of pint a brash northern cricketer would enjoy, especially one who’d been named Pipe Smoker of the Year in the year of our lord nineteen hundred and seventy four.

    Gruff toffee dominates the down to earth running order, but to spice things up there are hints of apple skins at silly mid on. A long persistent finish requires a long drawn out last gulp before clunking a foam-laced glass back on the beer mat ready for seconds.

    No fuss, no frills, no nonsense, just malt and hops and god’s own water.

    Fred Trueman Yorkshire Ale Copper Dragon

    Fred Trueman Yorkshire Ale

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    January 18th, 2012FletchtheMonkeyBeer and Food, Pubs & bars

    Quite frankly, the White Horse was a terrible pub.

    Nothing made going there enjoyable. Defeat hung in the air, fighting for headroom amongst depression and drink problems. The lights and jingles from the slots an unnerving theme tune to a nicotine stained prison.

    Unfair perhaps, as I only ventured there a handful of times in the four years it competed to be my local. The Commercial that overlooks the same t-junction was a lively, friendlier place to spend time. (It was easy to choose Carling and karaoke at The Commerical over empirical research into a less salubrious side of pub going at The White Horse. And a cheerful bar manager helped too). Not that karaoke would have helped The White Horse survive.

    Now the wooden boards are down from the windows, light once more hits the columns that used to block the view of the bar. It’s a Friday night and The White Horse is heaving again.

    The mucky sign still hangs over the door, but it no longer lead to sticky carpets and dingy rooms. Instead the building is refreshed as a family run Italian restaurant, bustling with chatter and brimming with customers.

    White walls are banded with travertine tiles, not a yellow stain in sight. Decaying lounge furniture is long gone in place of treated wooden tables and chairs with intricate iron cast finishing. Immaculate floors, a wood burning stove, walls covered in frames of family snaps, all the family, and it’s a big family, celebrating their communal efforts. The kitchen, somewhat oddly, looks out onto the street, as pizza bases fly in the air and vegetables disappear under the knife.

    But it’s the noise and smell that have changed the most. The vibrancy of cooking rushes through what was a dank and musty chamber. The clatter, clash and splash of pans; a symphony of oil, ingredients, spice and chefs gesticulations; even the lick of a flame, silent but somehow resonating aurally – wispy and crackling against metal.

    And cook these guys can. Chorizo – with those fatty bits that perturb me and my mediocre flash frying skills – is no trouble for the chefs at Kasa Rosa, and served with garden peas and shallots the salty meat lifts penne pasta and a tomato sauce from something you could attempt at home to something there’s no point trying.

    What more could you want from a local restaurant?

    And what more could you want from a broken and finished pub building, long since a lost cause to the local community?

    A better pub in its place perhaps? Of course, but on this occasion I, along with many other local people, am counting my blessings.

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    September 17th, 2011PaulBrownBeer and travel, Pubs & bars, Stout & Porter

    Since the dawn of my drinking days I’ve been a big fan of the dark side. Stouts, porters, milds or brown ales, I’ve always enjoyed savouring their brooding malty richness. And as autumn has arrived with a bang, it’s fitting that I happened across a couple of unusual and very worthy offerings from Wentworth on my travels last week. This South Yorkshire brewery is one step ahead of the game in the stout stakes this year and has concocted a delicious selection of flavoured fancies for their “2011 Stout Festival” (as advertised on the pump clips). So if you aren’t a fan of wacky adjuncts or prefer your beer plain and simple you may want to look away now….

    My first find was at the Narrow Boat in Skipton, a fantastic backwater pub with a cracking reputation and repertoire of real ales and foreign beers. Nestled amongst a typically eclectic mix was Wentworth’s Medium Chilli & Chocolate Stout (4.8%). The dusky half pint certainly lived up to its billing. A rich coffee and chocolate aroma persisted after the initial sip oozing into a silky palate. With perfect punctuality a fiery crescendo kicked in and lingered through the finish; a great counterbalance to the soft cocoa foundation. An explosion of taste and just up my street!

    The Narrow Boat Skipton by Bob W

    The Narrow Boat Skipton by Bob W

    A few days later I found myself in Bury for lunch. This good-sized town just north of Manchester is famous for its fish market, but it also has a peppering of top-notch real ale outlets if you know where to look. One such place is Malt Bar at The Met (which also plays host to the enticing Bury Beer Festival in November). Despite being quite a classy modern cafe bar it always serves a few cask beers, usually from Outstanding Brewery with occasional guests. This was my lucky day as they had another Wentworth special on tap: Vanilla & Almond Stout (4.8%). A faint whiff of vanilla guided me into a maelstrom of sour cherries, dark fruits and berries riding on an undercurrent of mild bitterness. I was just beginning to wonder where the almond was lurking when it caught me by surprise in a delectable marzipan finish. Well-crafted with a powerful yet nicely balanced punch. Mmmm….

    Peculiar and flavourful craft brews are growing in popularity and are well worth sampling if you get a chance, if only to illustrate just how different quality real ales can be. I’ll certainly be on the lookout for more weird and wonderful stouts while the season lasts!

    Wentworth Chilli and Chocolate Stout

    Wentworth Chilli and Chocolate Stout

    Wentworth Vanilla and Almond

    Wentworth Vanilla and Almond

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    September 6th, 2011FletchtheMonkeyBeer and travel, Pubs & bars

    Just like Mike Parker, the author of Map Addict, for years I’ve been mesmerised by the enigmatic Spurn Point, that strangely shaped strip of almost-land that stretches from the tip of the East Riding of Yorkshire and awkwardly attempts to reach back downstream towards the sands of the Humber estuary.

    Spurn Point (or Spurn Head for many) is a sand bar that has been precariously edging it’s way westwards over the last millennium of geological time as the sea plays out its role of destroyer and replenisher in equal measure (Spurn currently aims its point towards the revellers of Cleethorpes and the fishing boats of Grimsby, but has had 5 different versions of itself in the last 1000 years as the tides have breached it and rebuilt it time after time).

    Brooding skies and dull tinted flora reflect the eeriness of this surreal spur set perpetually to a state of precarious balance, a place demanding reflection, that screams silently, in the same way as Munch’s famous frozen moment of fear, of solitude. It’s not a place you’d expect to find myriad good pubs, but then this windy forgotten corner of Yorkshire is exactly the type of place where a haven from the North Sea weather is required. Read the rest of this entry »

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    May 4th, 2011FletchtheMonkeyBeer Reviews, Bitters, Cumbrian beers

    Dent Rescewe was bought for Yorkshire month, the month of June where we planned to sample mostly Yorkshire ales and report back on our regional fare. Surreptitiously it stared back at me when I needed a beer for an unexpectedly sunny day in the garden in May, and there I saw it on the label, the address that I had neglected to check: ‘Dent Brewery, Dent, Cumbria’. Cue immediate fast track to Cumbrian month!

    I’ve been to Dent only once, on a whistle stop weekend to the North Yorkshire Dales. It’s a living breathing Warburton’s ad, except Land Rovers rumble and bumble (depending on the age of their reg plate) across cobbles where flat-capped knee-socked boys should be cycling home, peddling against gravity and the extra weight of bakers fresh, crusty loaves.

    I’d always assumed it was a forgotten Yorkshire village, one of those quaint border settlements that nonchalantly gets on with life amidst the whims of policy makers and county councils who can’t decide exactly which authority should be organising the bin rounds.

    Dent Rescewe - Cumbrian beer

    Dent Rescewe - premium bitter raising money for the Cave Rescue Organisation in the Yorkshire Dales

    Read the rest of this entry »

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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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    March 21st, 2011SamParkerBreweries

    I never knew there were two 6 o’clocks in a day, neither did the wife, but today is the day I found out when Denzil from Great Heck Brewery told us to meet him at just after 7…in the morning!

    Pulling up outside what looked like just another house in the sleepy village of Great Heck, with the odd glance from a passing “local”, my beer companion and I had arrived, not knowing what to expect, on the dot of 07:15 for the start of our days brewing.

    Denzil greeted us more like long lost friends rather than mere “internet acquaintances” and was obviously more used to getting up at dawn’s crack as he had already got the hot water tank up to temperature and had his brewing sheet in hand ready to guide us through the process of brewing Heck’s Angel, a golden ale normally around 3.9%.

    Great Heck Brewery

    Great Heck Brewery

    Read the rest of this entry »

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