Real Ale in a Bottle

(or... some of the best fun you can have with your clothes on)
logo-red.gif (4948 bytes)


CAMRA in Cheshire



Branch Diaries

Publications & Articles

Useful Links



Where you can find Real Ale in a Bottle; click on the name below for details

Booths, Knutsford

Wine Rack, Tarporley

Holmes Pharmacy

Park Lane Deli, Sandbach


Mini Casks

Some Beers you may find

The Book on Real Ale in a Bottle

Free Support for Of-Licences

Detailed Tasting Notes


Tins are for beans, not beer!
Real Ale is available in bottles,
and is a thousand times better than the industrial substitute.

Read the label carefully,
look for the magic words "bottle conditioned"
or a reference to a yeast sediment.
Become a beer snob! It's worth it!

Real Ale in a Bottle, or "bottle-conditioned" beer,
does what it says on the bottle.

It still has live yeast, so it matures to produce a sophisticated taste.
Infinitely superior to cans or to mass-advertised pasteurised beers, it offers a quality experience.
Look for the magic words on the label!

The Beginner's Guide to Real Ale in a Bottle

1; Buy some.
This might not be as easy as you would like.
Most off-licenses and supermarkets stock only a few (or possibly no) examples. You have to look around for discerning outlets, and then spend a little time reading the labels to make sure you are not being fobbed off with an inferior pasteurised bottle.
Don't be misled by wacky names; if you are not sure and there is no reference to yeast sediment or bottle conditioning, give it a miss.

2; Put it away.
Keep the bottle upright in a cool place (not the fridge; that's too cold) for two or three days.
This will let the yeast settle at the bottom of the bottle after its journey home.
One exception to this is Wheat Beer, which is meant to be cloudy. The yeast remains in suspension.
This makes it a good choice for taking round to friends, as no time is needed for it to settle)

3; Pour it.
This takes a little care to prevent too much head being created. The aim should be to get all of the beer into the glass at the first attempt, with no overflow, and with no sediment going into the glass.
I use the following method.

Take a pint glass (oversized if you can). Rinse it in cold water and shake out the excess water, but do not dry it.

Place the bottle on a firm surface and remove the cap slowly. If there is a lot of life in the beer, let the excess pressure escape before removing the cap entirely. The occasional example of a particularly lively beer may erupt, and it might pay to be near the sink.

Raise the glass to near eye level, and tilt it through about 45 degrees and raise the bottle to the same level.
Do not let the bottle touch the glass; it may not be clean.
Have you seen those people drinking out of bottles? Yuk.

Tilt the bottle so that the beer begins to pour onto the sloping surface of the inside of the glass, not far from the rim.
After a little practice, you will be able to do this away from the centre-line of the glass, so that the beer has the gentlest possible arrival in the glass.

Watch out for head formation as the beer starts to fill the glass.
Too much foam means either you are going too fast, or the beer is exceptionally lively. In either case, this means that it is going to take longer.

As the beer level rises, begin to tilt the glass back to the vertical, but only when you have to.

Watch also the amount of beer remaining in the bottle. You will need to leave a little behind, as it contains the yeast sediment.

If you have done a good job with this piece of theatre, you will have a perfect glass of fresh natural real beer, with no more froth than necessary.

4; Enjoy it.
We tend not to go for the pretentious sniffing and spitting out business. Just enjoy the aroma of hops and malt and then drink to your heart's content.
If you find the beer is too gassy for you, take a tip from me; use a clean implement like a fork or a spoon, and stir it up to release some of the dissolved gas created by the fermentation. Some beers have more of this than others, and how you like it is purely a matter of your own preference.

Real Beer at home is
~ perfect for parties and barbecues (cheaper than wine and infinitely better than tinned fake beer)
~ discerning and hospitable to have in when friends come round
~ delightful with every kind of food
~ wonderful and relaxing in front of the footie or a video.

Now a request from the Editor.
I would like to advise our readers where they can find bottle-conditioned beers for consumption at all those parties and nights in front of the footie on the telly. I know that we have a couple of committed off-licences and that supermarkets to a greater or lesser extent realise that their customers want a quality product. However, my knowledge is patchy. I need you to be my eyes and ears.
So, whenever you spot Real Ale in a Bottle, let me know, (by phone, E-mail or post) and I will pass it on to our readers. I would appreciate news of new outlets, and updates on the ones we know.

The definitive guide to Real Ale in a Bottle

The sixth edition of the Good Bottled Beer Guide is available from the CAMRA web-site. It shows that Britain’s craft brewers now produce nearly 800 tasty examples of Real Ale in a Bottle including lagers, beers brewed with honey, fruit beers made with damsons or cherries, stouts and porter primed with port, beers made with exotic hops from all over the world, and even one beer with no hops at all.

Editor, Jeff Evans said: ‘Most of these bottle-conditioned beers are produced by Britain’s smallest breweries. They are hand-crafted beers, brewed with imagination and integrity and bring with them a taste of their home region. They are the beer equivalent of a farmhouse cheese or an independent baker’s bread. It’s not easy to get hold of small breweries’ beers in many pubs, as most pubs are tied to beer supplies from big, international companies, but visit a specialist beer shop, drop into a regional craft centre or wander around a farmer’s market you’ll find plenty of good, honest beers at remarkably good value prices.’

Copies of the Good Bottled Beer Guide can be bought at CAMRA Beer Festivals or online. If you still have difficulty finding a copy, contact us, and we‘ll order one from our Head Office. We spoil you!


 Cheshire's vigorous band of small independent breweries is now producing Real Ale in bottles.

For tasting notes of Cheshire's own Real Ales in a Bottle, click here

Beartown are also bottling their beers and selling them in their pubs. I have seen Black Bear and Kodiak Gold so far, but I think the whole range will be available. See the Tasting Notes for Black Bear. Sales are doing well with further outlets being researched. Spare bottling capacity is available, and if any brewery is interested in having their beer bottled they should contact the head brewer on Tel: - 01477 537274.

Betwixt, on the Wirral, are not strictly in Cheshire, but we aren't going to be precious about it, especialy where decent beers is concerned!

Dunham Massey operate from a converted barn next to the eponymous National Trust property. At the time of writing, they produce an astonishing range of twelve real ales, all of which are available as real ale in a bottle. The obvious outlet is at the Brewery Shop itself.

The much-missed Khean brewery of Congleton produced some lovely real beers on draught and in bottle, including Caught Behind stout, Leg Spinner and Fine Leg.The keen-eyed (pun intended) will notice the cricket theme.
Following the closure of Khean, you are unlikley to find bottles, but do not desapir. Ken's legacy lives on at Woodlands Brewing, who produce some delightful beers, with Ken providing consultancy assistance.

Spitting Feathers don't do a lot of bottling. They tell us that they currently bottle Special Ale and Basketcase and a few of the seasonal beers. All the bottled beers are bottle conditioned.
They are sold in a handfull of local off-licenses such as Waverton Post Office.

Station House at Frodsham produce a number of real ales in bottle, and these are available from the brewery shop and a number of other outlets

Storm started by bottling Silk of Amnesia, and have worked through the range. Tasting Notes can be found for Ale Force, Bosley Cloud, Hurricane Hubert, Storm Damage and Windgather It's a tough job, but somebody has to do it!

WC Brewing in Chester have experimentally bottled some Golden Cascade (4.0%) and this is available
exclusively from Scatchards Wine Merchants in Hoole, Chester.
A very refreshing pale ale brewed using Cascade hops for a distinctively hoppy flavour.
They tell us that they are not intending to bottle much beer, "it's just nice to have some available for punters and to see how popular bottles are."

Woodlands at Wrenbury have a healthy range of bottled real ale, produced using water from a spring on the farm.

Where you can find Real Ale in a Bottle

A good spot to try is Booths Supermarket in Knutsford. On a recent visit, I counted no fewer than eleven British Bottle Conditioned Beers, eight overseas examples and even a bottle conditioned Real Cider from Westons! I notice that Booth's range is looking good, with Hop Back Entire Stout (see the Tasting Notes page), O'Hanlon's Royal Oak and the newly re-launched White Shield standing out amongst the fine range of Real Ale in a Bottle. I also found a bottle of Alaskan Smoked Porter, an imported 6% rarity, with the malt being smoked over Alder logs before brewing to give it a remarkable taste.
Booth's even experimented for a while with their own-brand “Pour With Care” but it no longer seems to be available. It poured clear, and tasted very good indeed. It had a good colour, with a hint of ruby, for what was described as a pale ale. While a proportion of wheat was added to the brew, there was none of the sharpness sometimes experienced with full-blown wheat beers. The degree of carbonation was modest, and it tasted full bodied without being sweet or malty. The finish was hoppy but clean: this was a well-balanced beer which I would like to see again.

A pleasant discovery has been Wine Rack, in Tarporley. Set on the High Street, between the Swan Hotel and the Rising Sun, this friendly off-licence has a surprisingly good range of Bottle Conditioned Beers. I counted nine British examples, and half a dozen Belgian and German varieties, although I was told that a couple of others were out of stock. Highlights were Dorothy Goodbody's Golden Ale, Enville honey beer and Youngs Special London Ale, alongside Chimay Blanc and Tripell Karmeliet. This is an encouraging development, and deserves encouragement and success.

An excellent operation is Holmes Pharmacy, in Kelsall, under the banner of "Apothecary Ales", offering Hop Back Summer Lightning, Freeminer's Waterloo, Trafalgar IPA and Speculation, Fullers 1845 and no fewer than four real ales in a bottle from Storm Brewing of Macclesfield; Bosley Cloud, Storm Damage, Silk of Amnesia and Ale Force. They have a very good Web-site which goes to the trouble of highlighting those beers which are Real Ale in a Bottle.

Finally, indoor drinkers may find it worth their while calling in at the Park Lane Delicatessen on Crewe Road just out of Sandbach, where a good range of bottle-conditioned beers awaits.

I popped into Tesco in Northwich some time ago, and was very disappointed by the reduced range of decent beers. Only two examples of bottle conditioned British beers were to be found, outnumbered, incredibly, by three Belgian varieties. Even more astonishing, their new own-label organic beer is pasteurised! Come on Tesco, have you lost the plot? If you hope to win the battle of the supermarkets with your well-known rivals, you will have to offer the public better choice than this!

Some beers you may find....

An interesting American beer I came across recently was Sierra Nevada Pale Ale brewed by the Sierra Nevada Brewing Co of Chico, California. Described on the label as “a hand made natural ale: there are no additives, only barley malts, whole hops, brewer’s yeast and crystal clear water. The fine layer of yeast in each bottle is a result of the Krausening process which produces carbonation naturally in the bottle”. At 5.6% ABV, it was a very pleasant, clean-tasting ale, no doubt as a result of the American hop variety: which I guess might be Cascade. Certainly a good addition to your cellar, and it made a surprising change to see beer from the States with some flavour in it!

Alaskan Brewing Co Smoked Porter (6.0% alcohol by volume)
Brewed in Juneau, Alaska. Bought from Booths supermarket in Knutsford.
Opens and pours like a dream, with no frothing, and virtually no head. The aroma is as distinctly smoky, as expected, with the malt being smoked over Alder. I was reminded of a Bamberger Rauchbier. The beer is impenetrably black and deeply inviting. The first taste is intriguing and intensely complex. It does not immediately taste as strong in alcohol as its 6% would lead you to expect and I was invited back quickly to the glass. I detected smoke and liquorice. The malt is not cloying, being well balanced by the hops. The aftertaste is rich and warming; just the thing for those everlasting nights under the Northern Lights. The beer is brewed each Autumn (Fall!) and the label bears the year in question. They recommend that you can lay it down, so vertical tastings can be arranged. The beer recently won yet another richly-deserved award at the Great American Beer Festival (October 2004). The company web-site is one of the most informative I have ever seen. This is a delightful beer: I shall be buying more.

Worthington White Shield won the Gold Award in the national awards for Bottle Conditioned Beers earlier this year. During the long dark years of the Keg Revolution, bottle conditioned White Shield was often the only Real Ale on sale in some areas. It passed into CAMRA lore as the “Friend in every pub”. One of the few ales of the time to have a natural yeast sediment, it took a lot of care to pour well, but the new strain of yeast tends to stick to the bottom of the bottle, so you need have no fear! Savour this description from the Good Bottled Beer Guide by Jeff Evans:

‘A dark, copper coloured beer with an inviting, malty, “rosehip” taste, tinged with citrus notes from the hops. The full taste features sweetness, malt, nuts and good tangy hop bitterness, which takes over. Long tangy bitter hop and malt finish, with a hint of roast. Excellent drinking condition, sticky sediment.’

And finally… ….one of the bottles readily available in Cheshire’s off-licences and supermarkets is “1845” from Fullers of Chiswick. This is a bottle-conditioned ale with a complex and powerful palate, weighing in at a respectable 6.3% ABV. It was introduced in 1995 to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the company. The recipe is designed to reflect the style of brew which would have been available during the 1840s. The result is a rich, dark amber beer with a glorious, fruity, malty nose balanced by hints of sherry and Golding hop. The full, smooth, malty and fruity aftertaste is quickly tempered by hop bitterness. Bitter fruit features in the lingering finish. And all this for less than £2 a pint! Buy some.

Newer bottle conditioned ales to be seen in Cheshire include: Enville Ale honey beer (4.5%) and Brakspear Vintage Henley (5.5%) – both at Sandiway Wine Company, Tisbury Ale Fresco , a summer ale (4.5%) seen in Bottoms Up, Knutsford, Gales A Very Pheasant Ale (4.6%) – on a trip to Derbyshire (has anyone seen it in Cheshire yet ?).

One of the more unusual delights available in Booths is Coopers Sparkling Ale. This is, of all things, a real ale from Australia. And you thought the only good thing to come out of Australia was flight BA 10 to Heathrow! It is a delightful tasty ale, slightly cloudy in the glass. Try one.


Mini Cask: a new way forward?

A revolutionary development in beer containers has been released by brewer Charles Wells of Bedford. Harking back to the dark days of the Party Seven, this is in effect a big tin. A very important difference is that the beer inside is very good.

It is real ale, the cask-conditioned Bombardier 4.3% premium bitter. The container is an attractive cask shape, with a tap near the base and a bung hole at the top. This is sealed by a plastic ring which can be turned to release excess carbon dioxide produced by the conditioning of the live beer inside. All you have to do is let the beer settle for a few hours, vent off the gas, turn the tap and serve. The beer stays in drinkable condition for several days if kept cool, though it is important to close the vent to stop the beer going flat.

Wells see the mini cask as having two important roles to play. One is for the domestic take-home trade, where the practical 5 litre (8.8 pints in old money) capacity should make it ideal for parties and barbecues. Second, and perhaps more exciting is for pubs, clubs and bars that have not previously tried real ale. These outlets can put a toe in the water with small containers, with little or no risk of expensive flops. Alternatively, real ale outlets with a narrow range of beers can offer their customers added choice in a neat way. The mini cask is small enough to be kept cool in the cellar overnight, and placed prominently on the bar during opening hours, much as some pubs do with tubs of real cider.

Out Inn Cheshire is delighted to see this new possibility, and is happy to offer copious publicity to any outlet which starts to provide real ale in this way. We see endless possibilities for restaurants, wine bars and café bars to offer their clientele good quality beer as well as good food and wine. After all, why go to a lot of trouble to develop a reputation for your cuisine, and then spoil it by selling bottom-end-of-the market beer?

And while you are at it, try a few bottles of bottle conditioned beers on the cool shelf. Your customers demand quality, so no copping out with pasteurised designer tat. Complement your fine wines with the best in ales!

Wells sell the mini cask for £11.99, which works out at a very reasonable £1.36 a pint. Their special hotline is 01234-761003, or you can visit their website at

If you are interested in either of these concepts, contact the editor on 01565-653096, or E-mail me on


We now offer a free service to off-licences, shops and supermarkets. We can custom-design and print shelf-edge labels for your bottle conditioned beers. These highlight the quality end of your range and associate the CAMRA name with the best of your beers. All we need is a list of the beers concerned, and an example of your current labels to use as a template.

Contact us on 01565-653096, or E-mail

All contents copyright © 2009, Macclesfield and East Cheshire CAMRA Branch.
All rights reserved. Last Revised: January 1, 2013
In case of errors or comments on these pages please contact the