Beer column: Forget fizzy lager and sample saison
Amid the insect bites and sunburn, necking a can of cold lager is something of a seasonal rite of passage.
But for beer aficionados, the appeal of a pint of tasteless corporate fizz at the family barbie is about as appetising as a charcoaled banger.
Sure, there are great lagers out there, but, let’s face it, there’s a lot of rubbish out there too.
High-end European brands are always worth the effort, but heavily-discounted, mass-produced lager is enough to make me give up drinking altogether. (Almost).
So where do you find a cool, thirst-quenching alternative at this time of year?
Try a saison.
These Belgian-brewed pale ales, (‘saison’ is French for ‘season’ - after the farm workers who used to wallop it) are light, complex, fruity, spicy and utterly refreshing.
They come with a rider though.
To the uninitiated, saisons can seem extremely tart, sour-tasting, even.
Stick with it though, as they are powerfully refreshing and a perfect accompaniment to the warm weather.
Traditionally brewed to be low alcohol, (so those seasonal workers didn’t get too sozzled) modern-day versions tend to be quite a bit stronger.
One of the best I’ve come across recently is Hamwic, from Unity Brewing, a Nordic-style 6.5 per cent masterpiece of the form.
Another outstanding product is ‘Drinking with the Fish’ a hoppy, zesty 6.8 per cent offering from Bristol’s Moor Brewery.
Perhaps my favourite range comes from the Wild Beer Company in Somerset, who are renowned for their subtly complex saisons and sour beers.
Their 6 per cent Tepache - made from fermented pineapples and spices – is a particular favourite.
A good high street alternative is the ‘Cornish Saison’ from St Austell’s Brewery and available exclusively at Marks and Spencer.
Launched just last month, the beer gets its tanginess from adding ginger, lemon and lime.
Lest I be accused of having a downer on lager, let me finish by commending the new Peroni Ambra.
A limited-edition 6 per cent beer in a 250ml bottle which is meant to be served over ice and with a twist of orange peel.
Flavoured with chinotto, a citrus fruit grown in north-west Italy, it makes a lovely aperitif.
Ah, if only all lager was this nice.