06 July 2007

The Outdoors? Great.

The theme for this month's Session is Atmosphere, and the ambiance in which one prefers to drink beer. For me, the key to really enjoying my pint is to be outdoors. Whether basking in the sunlight streaming through the chestnut branches in a Bavarian beer garden, or perched above a hyperactive neon metropolis on the rooftop bar of an Asian skyscraper, or just at a barbecue at a mate's house, beer is always best al fresco. Part of my fascination stems from the climate I live in, where winters are long and dark and the threat of rain is omnipresent year round. Drinking outside always feels like a treat.

Today the showers are coming thick and fast down from the Dublin mountains, but I've managed to grab a brief sunny spell to sit out back and blather about an appropriate beer. My find is Summer Lightning, a golden ale from England's Hopback brewery, intended for summer but always in production. It has a wonderful beery nose and pours quite clear, despite the sizeable sediment deposit left in the bottle. Although 5% ABV, it's quite a light ale, gently fizzy with little foretaste but a long and pleasing hops bitterness. One could hoist a few of these of a sunny evening with little difficulty. And like so many English craft beers, it's one I bet works much better on draught.

This afternoon, ensconced away from the rain in the medieval splendour of the Bull & Castle, I sampled another summer delight: Sierra Nevada Summerfest. The label gave me pause, proclaiming in block letters to be "Bottom Fermented", which I'm sure gives great encouragement to the brewing cognoscenti, but for an ordinary punter like me carried scatological connotations I'd rather not go into. Summerfest is ostensibly a lager, it seems based on something as smooth as the best of Munich. But on top they've roughed it up with that trademark Sierra Nevada hops explosion. A fantastic beer, but once again, Mr Nevada please can we have it in bottles sized for grown-ups?

And with that, the purple clouds are massing and heeere comes the rain.


  1. Bailey9:13 am

    Good point -- drinking outdoors does feel like a treat, especially this summer. Today might be first day it's been possible in London so far this year! I had a Summer Lightning yesterday, funnily enough. Never had it on tap, but love it from a bottle. Light and hoppy, without being dry, like so many boring summer ales -- and reckoned by most people to be *the* original summer ale.

  2. Yeah, when I decided on my theme a couple of weeks ago I had no idea that the rest of June would be so damn wet.

    The only other English summer ales I've tried are Discovery and Summer Solstice, and I wasn't impressed with either.

  3. Anonymous9:47 pm

    I heartily agree with your choice of drinking location. Since moving into our current house we love sitting out the back listening to the breeze in the trees drinking a nice light summer ale - pure magic.

    Drinking beer you've brewed yourself makes the whole experience more satisfying. Shame I can't do anything about the weather!

  4. I had a couple of bottles of Ridgeway Blue yesterday, a bottle conditioned ale designed to be chilled. And it works. Chilling makes it very refeshing on a warm day, and it retains a pleasant bitter taste.
    Another ale which works well chilled is Deuchars IPA (okay, I know it's Scottish) from the Caledonian Brewery, the perfect ale for lowering your temperature on a hot day without sacrificing taste. I actually had a pint of this in Wetherspoon's a while ago. They served it at room temperature and it tasted worse, lost it's zing.

  5. Never seen Ridgeway Blue in these parts. Sounds very interesting.