Now, years later, I realise the importance of Summer Lightning's advent on the beer scene. Practically cornering the 'Golden Ale' market (Possibly inventing it? Help me out here?), the pantheon of awards it has garnered its brewer, Hop Back, is truly justified.
But what of their other ales?
I realised last week that, aside from a anti-climatic encounter with Crop Circle, I hadn't really got to know some of Hop Back's other wares. As any true beer fan would do, I put that right last weekend.
We all know of Hop Back's mastery of the golden, but what about the dark? Entire Stout (4.5abv) comes with another set of awards backing up its pedigree, and I was pleasantly surprised. Apart from the relatively thin body, the beer is surprisingly well balanced - lots of dry, bitter chocolate, and a slight natural carbonation from the bottle-conditioning. Roasted notes come through at the end, along with a rounded smooth finish. Despite not expecting much, this stout managed to be both a nice example of the style for a bottled beer, and a singular brew at the same time. Will be looking out for it on draught, for sure.
I have an aversion to beers 'with stuff in them' - and Spring Zing (4.2abv) certainly counts as that. "Lemongrass Beer" the label screams; '...Jesus Christ...' my heart groans. However, a broad smile was plastered on my face on the first sip. This is a really, really interesting beer that is super-drinkable. The nose is practically the same as Summer Lightning - all grassy hops and sweet malt. Yes, there is a lemony/citrus kick to the taste- a massive one actually - but it works really well. Again, SZ is a thin-bodied beer that chills down well, that manages to pack in a peppery, ginger note right at the end of a long sip. Its sweet, but has enough hoppiness to cut through and not be cloying. I'd happily drink this again, and I think that IPA lovers in particular should seek this out as a lip-puckering alternative if a change is fancied.