views
MOST people, when they think of a thirst-quenching beer for summer, probably go no further than lager. Now, there is nothing wrong with a good lager, the problem is simply that there are plenty of sub-standard ones about. The pints of fizz flowing from the beer-taps of many pubs are second-rate and suffer from mass-production. <br /><br />There are some great ones around. Budweiser Budvar is a spectacular beer, and widely available, while Pilsner Urquell is one of the greats. Zatec is another fantastic Czech lager. Closer to home, I am partial to a bottle of Samuel Smith&rsquo;s Organic Lager, and not afraid to admit it. <br /><br />But this summer, why not branch out? There are lots of great British beers to be supped, and you can sample lots of beer-styles too. <br /><br /><strong>COMPLEX BEER</strong><br />Starting close to home, some of the beers brewed by Oxfordshire&rsquo;s Brakspear are wonderful. Their Organic Oxford Gold is made with Target hops and late-hopping with Golding brings out a fruity, citrussy flavour that makes it the ideal accompaniment to a boiling July afternoon (4.2 per cent, available from Waitrose and Sainsbury&rsquo;s). For those with a higher alcohol threshold, their Triple is a complex beer and, as the name suggests, has something in common with some of the Belgians, although it is a fruitier drink than, say, a Chimay Triple, and to my mind a more thirst-quenching bottle (7.2 per cent, stocked in Waitrose and Sainsbury&rsquo;s). <br /><br />Another style that has become popular with some in the summer is the honey beer, whose sweetness can make it more palatable to those put off by the bitterness of bitters. If you are a lover of IPAs or other astringent beers, then they can be cloying, but if you have a friend who drinks cider (shudder) then buy them a bottle of Fuller&rsquo;s Honey Dew (5.0 per cent, Sainsbury&rsquo;s, Waitrose, Asda and Morrisons), or Young&rsquo;s Waggledance (5.0 per cent, Sainsbury&rsquo;s, Majestic Wines, Asda). Wychwood also does a honey beer that goes by the terrible name of BeeWyched (5.0 per cent, Tesco, Asda, Sainsbury&rsquo;s). <br /><br />If you are looking for something more refreshing, then you could try a wheat beer. The Moortgat brewery, which makes the stunning Duvel, has recently begun selling a Vedett Extra White, a wheat beer version of their Vedett Blonde (itself a good bet for a hot day). It&rsquo;s not the most pungent of wheat beers, but it&rsquo;s a brilliant introduction to this style of beer &ndash; citrussy and a little sour and smoother than a Hoegaarden. Maybe the novelty will wear off, but at the moment I am enjoying it (5.0 per cent, various bars and pubs). Another wheat beer that should hit the mark is Blue Moon from Colorado (5.4 per cent, available from Sainsbury&rsquo;s). It&rsquo;s got orange-zest and coriander flavours and although you might not want more than one on its own, it&rsquo;s a good match with foods &ndash; try it with barbecued prawns. <br /><br /><strong>CRISP FINISH</strong><br />For those who find all this a little bit unusual, there&rsquo;s a whole class of beers that sit somewhere between lagers and bitters, such as Steam Beers. Nobody really knows why they call it steam beer, but it is a name for a Californian style. The classic is Anchor Steam Beer, a refreshing beer with a creamy head and a good balance between malt and hop and a crisp finish.<br /><br />Another option is Brooklyn Lager (5.1 per cent, selected Sainsbury&rsquo;s). It&rsquo;s called lager, but it&rsquo;s such an unusual beast that it doesn&rsquo;t really count. The word &ldquo;lager&rdquo; just means &ldquo;store-room&rdquo;, a reference to the rooms where beers were left to develop their carbonation. Most commercial lagers are pilsners, but there are other styles, such as Viennese. Brooklyn is such a beer &ndash; ie, brewed with deeper-coloured malt, giving it a darker colour and caramel taste &ndash; but the dry hopping at the end gives it a refreshing fruity taste, making it closer to an IPA than a pint of wife-beater. <br /><br />Another Viennese-style lager is Union by the Greenwich brewer Meantime (4.9 per cent, selected London pubs), a beer that is loved by some and loathed by others. It&rsquo;s a smooth malty effort that&rsquo;s more like a bitter, but with a slight lagery carbonation that refreshes. <br /><br />Those who like an IPA could opt for a White Shield, brewed by Worthington in Burton-on-Trent, the home of bitter beers. (5.6 per cent, available from Sainsbury&rsquo;s, Tesco and Waitrose). It&rsquo;s got a lot of hops, but is very drinkable and goes beautifully with sunshine. I am also a fan of the Shepherd Neame brewery. Masterbrew is a lovely session beer, but if you are looking for something more refreshing, the Whitstable Bay Organic (4.5 per cent, available from Waitrose, Majestic Wine) is a beauty, with a really surprisingly floral nose and a dry finish. This summer, there&rsquo;s no excuse for boring beers.