Hopback Summer Lightning3
Some beers have a pedestal. Sometimes it’s deserved because they are truly great beers, technically and taste-wise. Some are headliners, built by a cheeky PR campaign or an elaborate story. And some are deserved winners of awards and a place within beery folklore.
Summer Lightning by Hopback falls in the latter category. Back when I was enjoying my third year on this planet and coming to terms with the fact I would soon have a baby brother stealing all of the attention in the Fletcher household, John Gilbert of the newly formed Hopback Brewery was quietly supplying his local beer festival with a special beer for their annual event. He answered their brief not with an amber bitter or a dark mild, but with a golden well-hopped beer.
Many years and countless awards later, Summer Lightning had stolen the show in beerland and paved the way for the myriad light ales that dominate beer festivals and pub taps alike.
Summer Lightning has an overtly floral aroma, with a sweet, soft fruit twist. It’s light and herby in the mouth with a mild bitterness. Hints of spice underpin an essentially English hop character, imparting flavours of earth and minerals as if the hops were pulled from the soil rather than plucked from the branches of it’s fruit-bearing plant. There’s a tang of peel too, just for good measure.
This beer tastes as if it should be lighter in colour, but Summer Lightning differs from those straw coloured ales that sometimes suffer from being a tad watery. Hopback’s most famous beer might not share the body of a contemporay pale ale or best bitter, but it’s 5 ABV just about heaves it over the threshold for being classified as thin, well within the realms of being extremely easy to drink and rewarding on the palate.
I assume (and hope) that a pint of Summer Lightning at Hopback’s brewery tap (The Wyndham Arms in Wiltshire) is twice the beer when drunk propping up the bar there compared with washing down my hastily eaten tea in my living room (if anyone can confirm or deny please divulge your experience!)
Either way, this is a good, refreshing beer (it was good when I had it on cask last year too) and in context you have to give Hopback Summer Lightning the respect it’s earned. It appeared in a different market, when Maggie Thatcher ruled the roost, The Simpson’s was airing it’s first tentative episode and the Berlin Wall still loomed ominously between East and West Germany. Times have changed in the beer world since then, but Summer Lightning is still an important addition to the pale and golden ale categories.Tags: Golden Ale, hopback, pale ale, summer lightning