ON a hot summer’s evening everybody deserves a nice, cold beer. For years I have despaired of poor choice in the shops I pass on my way home. Maybe I am out of the loop, but last week I made a discovery: M&S does amazing beer. Tucked at the back of my local store, behind the pre-cut carrots and the air-freighted green beans, is a rack of beers with uninspiring names, but which are actually surprisingly excellent ales created by some of the best brewers around. It’s a little beery gold mine.
For this summer, M&S has introduced two new beers, Essex Summer Ale (£1.99, 4 per cent ABV), brewed by the Crouch Vale microbrewery in Chelmsford, and Southwold Summer Beer (£1.99, 5 per cent ABV), from Adnams in Suffolk. I haven’t yet tried the Southwold, but the Essex brew is everything you want from a summer beer – citrussy, fresh and thirst-quenching, with a gentle carbonation.
At the weekend I tried the Lincolnshire Bitter, from George Bateman (£1.99, 500ml, 4.8 per cent ABV). Brewed with Maris Otter pale barley, crystal malt and Goldings hops, it’s a perfect glass of British beer. I washed this down with the Staffordshire IPA by Marston’s. At 5.5 per cent ABV, this is a lovely fruity effort that went with my asparagus. The Yorkshire Bitter from the Cropton brewery and the Norfolk Bitter from Woodforde’s are next on my list. Other winners in the M&S range that might work for summer are its lagers – the Czech (£1.49, 5 per cent ABV, from the famous Bohemia Regent brewery) and the Italian (from the multi-award winning Menabrea brewery in Piedmonte, £1.99 for a 500ml bottle, 5 per cent ABV) are beauties, and there are also Spanish and Belgian bottles too. I wouldn’t bet against them. Beer-lovers, your saviour is here, and it’s M&S. Who’d have thought?