DRINK / Beers of the month

THE NOTION of fresh-tasting, quenching, usually pale beers made seasonally for summer is becoming more familiar, though it is less established than the production of rich, warming, dark brews for winter.

This month, I am pleased to welcome a rare summer special from a national brewer. A new cask-conditioned draught, called simply Summer Ale, is about to arrive in several hundred of Whitbread's pubs nationally, and many free houses, and will be available until September.

It is a subtly unusual brew. Half the malt is of the lightly nutty, amber type used in a pale ale, the remainder the more biscuity, golden style employed in a Pilsner lager. It is an all-malt beer; no sugar is used. The hops are predominantly from Eastern Europe: the earthy, piney Styrian Goldings (used in some fine examples of British bitter) and the fragrant, flowery Bohemian Saaz (favoured by Pilsner brewers). The product is made with the Cotswold spring water and fruity- tasting ale yeast of the Flowers brewery (owned by Whitbread), in Cheltenham.

The end product has a solid gold colour, with perhaps a tinge of bronze; a soft, clean, lightly malty body; an appetisingly flowery, herbal-tasting, hoppy palate; and a gently drying bitterness. At a mere 3.6 per cent alcohol by volume, it demonstrates the genius of British brewers in making products of modest strength with plenty of flavour, and shows the fruitiness of an ale can be more refreshing than the roundness of a lager.

One of my favourite British beers for this time of year is another ale, Summer Lightning, stronger at 5.0 per cent, but with a firm, crisp maltiness and a surge of fresh hoppy flavours in the finish. This is made by Hop Back, established in Salisbury in 1987 by a former Watney's brewer. In Summer Lightning, he uses pale ale malt and East Kent Golding hops. In a more Continental vein, Hop Back has a fruitier (orangey?) Wheat Beer, again at 5.0 per cent, seasoned with a dash of coriander, in the Belgian fashion.

The use of wheat in addition to the normal barley malt makes for the most refreshing beers, and I have long wondered why British brewers have been so slow to adopt this style, which is very popular in Belgium and Germany.

A British pioneer of wheat beers was another Wiltshire brewery, founded in 1984 by former scientist Tony Bunce and his wife Robin, at Netheravon, on Salisbury Plain. Bunce's soft, apple-like, wheat beer has a low alcohol content of 3.2, closer to that of Berlin's more acidic and very pale Weisse ('white') beer. Inspired by the pronunciation of Weisse, it is called Bunce's Vice. The Bunces are selling to a Danish brewer and his wife, so perhaps Salisbury Plain will soon have some Scandinavian specialities.

Elsewhere in the country, the West Midlands' Enville Brewery, whose honey ale I featured recently, has now added a fruity, dryish 'white' wheat beer.

Still in the Midlands, but by the Trent, the Burton Bridge Brewery, founded in 1982 by two refugees from Ind Coope, pioneered this season's specials with its own very hoppy Summer Ale, at 3.8 per cent. This is available only during British summertime.

Suggested Topics
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookPart of The Independent’s new eBook series The Great Composers
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Food & Drink

    Recruitment Genius: Content Assistant / Copywriter

    £15310 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An exciting opportunity has arisen for a...

    Recruitment Genius: Operations Manager

    £24000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Situated in the heart of Bradfo...

    Recruitment Genius: Hotel Reception Manager

    £18750 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This Hotel in Chadderton is a popular ch...

    Guru Careers: Marketing and Communications Manager

    £Competitive (DOE) + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Marketing and Co...

    Day In a Page

    Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

    Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

    How a costume drama became a Sunday night staple
    Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers as he pushes Tories on housing

    Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers

    Labour leader pushes Tories on housing
    Aviation history is littered with grand failures - from the the Bristol Brabazon to Concorde - but what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?

    Aviation history is littered with grand failures

    But what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?
    Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of Soviet-style 'iron curtains' right across Europe

    Fortress Europe?

    Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of 'iron curtains'
    Never mind what you're wearing, it's what you're reclining on

    Never mind what you're wearing

    It's what you're reclining on that matters
    General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

    Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

    The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
    Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

    Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

    Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
    Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

    Marginal Streets project documents voters

    Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
    Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

    The real-life kingdom of Westeros

    Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
    How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

    How to survive a Twitter mauling

    Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
    Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

    At dawn, the young remember the young

    A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
    Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

    Follow the money as never before

    Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
    Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

    Samuel West interview

    The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
    General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

    Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

    Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
    Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

    Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

    The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence