Thursday, 23 December 2010

Summer Lightening, Golden Ale: Hop Back Brewery (Salisbury)

So at last as we get to beer number three we get an English ale and an award winner no less.  Summer Lightening, by Hop Back Brewery has won the  CAMRA gold medals for best new brewery in 1989, best strong beer 1992 and 2001 and best bottle conditioned ale 1997, as well as a gold Brewing industry international award in 1996, a 1998 National Hop Association, England award and a 2004 Taste of the West Food Awards gold.  None in the last six years though.  So is it trading on past glories?

Not at all.  This is a great beer.  It's not the most complex I've ever had, but it fulfils it's aim to be a wonderfully drinkable and satisfying summer beer - rather than a conversation starter - brilliantly.  I poured it a bit cold, and this combined with quite a lot of carbonation led the hoppiness to express itself as a medium bitterness without a great deal else.  As it warmed a little though citrus notes and a pleasant grassiness begin to come through.  Its still not the most fragrant beer, but that's not really the point here.  The light bitterness that builds after the initial citrussy tartness combined with the bubbles make it extremely light and refreshing.  There's not really any sweetness here at all to weight it down and the final result is to create a fantastic light, drinkable and refreshing summer ale that makes you think of the sun as soon as you taste it.  It manages this, whilst managing to stay a proper beer that is streets ahead of the watery fare that normally gets passed around in summer cans.  It does this by being incredibly well balanced.  Its citrussy without that taking over, the bitterness builds just enough to make you want another sip, but no more and the lightness lets it slip down easily even though at 5% its not in the lightweight category.  This probably isn't the time of year for it, but when the days start to get longer you could do a lot worse that investing in a case of this for your summer BBQs.

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