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
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

    Guru Careers: Events Coordinator / Junior Events Planner

    £24K + Excellent Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking an Events Coordinator ...

    Royal Yachting Association Cymru Wales: Chief Executive Officer

    Salary 42,000: Royal Yachting Association Cymru Wales: The CEO is responsible ...

    Guru Careers: Marketing Manager / Marketing Communications Manager

    £35-40k (DOE) + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Marketing Communicati...

    Ashdown Group: Technical IT Manager - North London - Growing business

    £40000 - £50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A growing business that has been ope...

    Day In a Page

    Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

    Sun, sex and an anthropological study

    One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
    From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

    Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

    'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
    'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

    Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

    This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
    Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

    Songs from the bell jar

    Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
    How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

    One man's day in high heels

    ...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
    Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

    Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

    Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
    The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

    King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

    The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
    More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

    End of the Aussie brain drain

    More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
    Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

    Can meditation be bad for you?

    Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
    Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

    Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

    Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine
    Letterman's final Late Show: Laughter, but no tears, as David takes his bow after 33 years

    Laughter, but no tears, as Letterman takes his bow after 33 years

    Veteran talkshow host steps down to plaudits from four presidents
    Ivor Novello Awards 2015: Hozier wins with anti-Catholic song 'Take Me To Church' as John Whittingdale leads praise for Black Sabbath

    Hozier's 'blasphemous' song takes Novello award

    Singer joins Ed Sheeran and Clean Bandit in celebration of the best in British and Irish music
    Tequila gold rush: The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product

    Join the tequila gold rush

    The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product
    12 best statement wallpapers

    12 best statement wallpapers

    Make an impact and transform a room with a conversation-starting pattern
    Paul Scholes column: Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?

    Paul Scholes column

    Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?