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Does exactly what it says on the badge - gets you drunk in Summer.
Without mincing my words, this is an excellent beer, truly one of the best out there.
At the better pubs, once hand drawn your senses are immediately beset with many fantastic sensations. Firstly your eyes are confronted with this golden liquid with a shining white head. Secondly, your hand is greeted with a glass that has immediately adopted the desired coolness bestowed upon it by the beer. Thirdly, your nose inhales the sweetest hoppy aroma that any beer has ever emitted. Most importantly, you taste what can only be described as the most refreshing sensation ever experienced which is far more satisfying than the 'aaaaah' Strongbow moment.
The most frustating thing about this beer is that, as the name suggests, you're going to be frustrated in winter when it can hardly be found anywhere. My suggestion is to find a landlord who understands your quandry - a rare breed in these times of brewery owned establishments. Predictably, the beer is often given a premium price tag given that you can only normally find it in Summer. Don't get me wrong though, this beer is well worth it.
Here we go round the shelves again on a hot and dusty morning. A ever I am on the lookout for delights. Ah now, this is one I haven't tried before. 'Summer Lightning'; a seasonal beer, a summer brew. What was it Maestro Mick always said? 'So Summer's here and the time is right for fighting in the street, boy!'** Well, it's been aggressively hot of late so perhaps we should be thankful that Autumn will soon be upon us. I digress .. The variety of ales available at the supermarkets is pleasingly increasing. The diversity of flavours and strengths is a delight. It is also pleasing to see increased numbers of real ale and microbrewery products. However this does mean that the discerning palate has to become increasingly discriminating in what it gives full marks to and what is considered only average. These assessments are always subjective. THE BREWERS John and Julie Gilbert acquire the Wyndham Arms, Salisbury in 1986 where GFB (Gilbert's First Brew) was brewed. Between 1986 and 1988 their first awards are won at CAMRA beer festivals. The 'Hop Back Brewery Limited' is formed in 1991 and premises acquired at Downton, Wiltshire. Summer Lightning won 'Best Strong Beer' title at the Great British Beer Festival, Brighton in 1992 and became the first Hop Back bottled beer in 1996. It won the Cask Ale Brand of the Year Award 1997 and took a further eight regional awards. Since 1998 bottle-conditioned Summer Lightning has been winning competitions regularly. It is now exported to USA. [Abridged from the Hop Back Brewery website: http://www.hopback.co.uk] It is available in both casks (locally) and bottles. THE BOTTLE Summer lightning is housed in a rather squat dark brown bottle closed with a crown cap. There is a single wrap-around label bearing a shield design which announces HOPBACK Summer Lightning Award Winning Ale and displays a large fork o
f lightning. It cont ains 500ml of bottle conditioned ale brewed to 5% ABV. The brewer's description is of 'a terrific straw coloured ale with a fresh, hoppy aroma. It has a well rounded, malty flavour which leads to an excellent dry finish'. The listed ingredients are: Barley Malt, East Kent Golding Hops (from a single farm) , Hop Back yeast and water from the Avon valley. Storage is recommended below 12ºC in an upright position. Careful pouring is required to avoid disturbing the sediment. THE DRINK I did as I was told, holding the cool but not chilled bottle firmly upright as I removed the cap. Poured carefully in one action into a glass, this is a mid gold ale with only a slight sparkle. It produced a thin but lasting head and a slight tracery around the sides of the glass. It was clear in the glass and left a small amount of sediment firmly applied to the bottom of the bottle. The nose of this particular bottle was somewhat indistinct but there were several nuances of a yeasty, rustic almost porcine nature. Don't get me wrong, these odours are not intrusive but at the same time not totally inviting. The first taste gives an early bitterness with undertones of greenery, burnt oats and blossom (elder perhaps). These develop into a late lingering bitter dryness on the palate. Overall to me it was quite pleasant but perhaps just that little bit too bitter for too long. 'Summer Lightning' is very much in the take-it-or-leave-it mould. I tried this bottle as a drink on its own. There was a dish of nibbles (peanuts and pretzels) to hand which was not adversely affected by the taste of the ale. A piece of cheddar would have held its own. I'm not sure though that I would want to drink it with any particular dinner party dish. I have tasted a variety of ales over the years with which I would much prefer a second encounter. Still, 'where I live the game to play is compromise
solut ion'** so if you like this brew, great! I'm not sure I would go out of my way for another bottle in the future. AVAILABILITY Summer Lightning: Safeway supermarkets. 500ml £1.59 ** 'Street Fighting Man'. Written By Mick Jagger and Keith Richards. Published by Stones Music Publishing [POSTSCRIPT: As far as the title is concerned, Florida is renouned as the lightning capital of the world. This is particularly so during the summer months.]
Terrific Straw Coloured beer with a hoppy aroma.