Critics‘ Choice: Summer Beers
The sun‘s out (sometimes), the pubs are open so, just for you (ahem), we taste-tested this summer‘s ales to find the best ten
1 Budweiser Budvar(500ml bottle, 5 per cent ABV) Not to be confused with an inferior rice-beer of a similar name, this smooth Czech-brewed lager from the brewing city of Budweis comes with a perfectly golden body and a creamy, honeyed head. Strong, but deceptively drinkable.Sainsbury’s and specialist beer shops.
2 Harvey’s Sussex Pale(draught, 3.5 per cent ABV) First brewed by the Lewes-based family brewery during World War II, this well balanced, well-hopped pale bitter survives to this day. Smooth, mellow and fruity.A guest ale in enlightened pubs, and always on tap at: The Royal Oak, 44 Tabard St, SE1 (020 7357 7173) Borough tube.
3 Hoegaarden Witbier(5.0 per cent ABV) Available in various size bottles and on draught, this beer is of a style that had to be reinvented in the 1960s. It’s naturally hazy thanks to the yeast that re-ferments in the bottle and comes packed with citrus, honey and coriander flavours. Hoegaarden has become a part of the giant Interbrew group, and as a result is now very widely available.Available at most supermarkets and specialist beer shops.
4 Pitfield’s Eco Warrior(draught and 500ml bottle, 4.5 per cent ABV ) The Pitfield Brewery – house brewers for the Beer Shop – are totally organic and this was the beer that started it off. A rich, golden, hoppy ale brewed to a pilsner recipe with top-fermenting yeast. From some pubs and The Beer Shop, 14 Pitfield St, N1 (020 7739 3901) Old St tube/rail.
5 Sainsbury’s Bavarian Style Wheat Beer(660ml bottle, 4 per cent ABV) A semi-cloudy, unpasteurised wheat beer brewed by Greenwich’s own Meantime microbrewery using Franconian wheat and a special Bavarian yeast. Expect fruity flavours and a crisp taste from the yeasty sediment.Most Sainsbury’s stores.
6 Fuller’s Chiswick Bitter(draught, 3.5 per cent ABV) Fresh, hoppy-tasting light ‘session’ bitter that benefits from ‘dry-hopping’ – adding hops to the beer after the brewing process. Available at most Fuller’s pubs.
7 Fuller’s Summer Ale(500ml bottle, 3.9 per cent ABV) Another winner from W4, this fruity-flavoured beer is brewed exclusively with Saaz hops, a Czech variety used in the best pilsners. Previously available on draught, this year only on sale in bottles from Waitrose.Waitrose supermarkets.
8 Belle-Vue Kriek(375ml bottle, 5.2 per cent ABV) Belgian brewery Belle-Vue brews using traditional methods – even if the resulting beer is extra-sweetened for non-specialist palates. Kriek is the Flemish name for the local dark cherry and lambic is a style of brewing using wild yeasts that produce a winey, bitter beer.Available in Tesco and specialist beer shops.
9 Tomos Watkin Cwrw Haf(draught, 4.2 per cent ABV) ‘Cwrw Haf’ is Welsh for ‘summer ale’ and if you can find this rare seasonal brew from Swansea’s Tomos Watkin brewery, consider yourself blessed. It’s packed with citrus hop flavours, backed up by a subtle summer floral aroma. Altogether delicious.Guest beer at some real ale pubs and some branches of JD Wetherspoon.
10 Hopback Summer Lightning(draught and 500ml bottles, 5 per cent ABV) Very refreshing – if a little strong for knocking back in quantity – this straw-coloured beer comes with a fresh, hoppy aroma and a well rounded, malty flavour, balanced with an intense bitterness. Yum.Available on draught in some pubs, or from: The Sultan, 78 Norman Rd, SW19 (020 8542 4532) Colliers Wood tube. Also in bottles at Waitrose supermarkets.
The Great British Beer FestivalEarls Court is the place to head between Tuesday August 1 and Saturday August 5 if you’re a beer lover. The Great British Beer Festival is a volunteer-run event organised by the Campaign for Real Ale, with over 450 real ales from 200 British brewers. Ciders, perries (pear ciders) and beers from overseas also get a look in. Ticket prices vary, but a ‘season ticket’ for the really keen – who go every day – costs £17.50. Book tickets now from shop.camra.org.uk