There are times when only a beer will do. Beautifully chilled, the explosion of refreshing flavours can send hop-heads into a wild frenzy, beer bloggers to start twittering on their beercasts (podcasts), and wine lovers to champion the delights of a prize pint.
Smooth and floral, dark and strong or pale and subtle, there’s a growing portfolio of beers from artful brewers that offer delicious depth of flavour, and can turn a slim-necked bottle into a connoisseur’s can.
Ahead of the Great British Beer Festival (August 2-6, Earls Court, London), where more than 700 real ales, ciders and foreign beers from around the world will be on show, here are some jazzy labels to quench your thirst.
At the end of the day, we all love to drink with our eyes. Arty-crafty brewer Thornbridge has linked up with Waitrose and beer lovers can now spy three of its striking busts along the aisles. Try medal winner Jaipur India Pale Ale (£2.25, 5.9% abv, 500ml) - soft and smooth, it’s excellent with blue cheese; Kipling South Pacific Pale Ale (£1.25, 5.2%, 500ml) - a fruity concoction, the citrus notes pair well with grilled or smoked fish; and Wild Swan White Gold Pale Ale (£1.95, 3.5%, 500ml) - a favourite of mine with a hot curry as the bitterness balances the spice.
Pint to pint, female drinkers will be drawn to Asda Biere de Luxe (£3.05, 4.8%, 10 x 250ml, Asda). Light but not bland, it’s a refreshing French lager with a crisp, dry taste. Brewed in Saint Omer in the Flanders region in Northern France, this great value, smaller-sized bottled beer is ideal for girlie soirees.
Another tasty dark blonde from the Czech Republic, try Primator Lager (£1.99, 5%, 500ml, ) which won ’Best Beer in the World’ at the World Beer Awards last year. Hoppy and rich with a citrus crispiness and toasty finish, beer lovers will be looking forward to the next round.
For a classic English pale ale, try Marston’s Pedigree (£1.58, 5% abv, 330ml, Tesco). Brewed in its flagship brewery in Burton upon Trent using Burton spring water and Golding hops, it’s a tipplers dream with steak and ale pies, or a juicy steak with chips.
Light and golden, Cambridgeshire Summer Ale (£2, 4.2% abv, 500ml, Marks & Spencer) is a blend of English Challenger and American Mount Hood hops which are dry-hopped before bottling. Aromatic, with a distinctive bitterness that balances the sweetness, it’s surprisingly crisp and refreshing.
For a Cornish corker, try Skinner’s Cornish Knocker (£1.95, 4.5%, 500ml, Waitrose). A crowd-pleasing medal winner, this straw-coloured ale is extremely refreshing with a fruity bite. Made from Cornish malted barley and whole hop flowers which give it a scented nose, it’s ideal with... you guessed it, a Cornish pasty.
If you love gastro pub grub such as bangers and mash or barbecue dishes, try Sussex Golden Ale (£2.19, 3.8% abv, 500ml, Marks & Spencer). Light enough to be an all-day session beer, the fresh, citrus flavours and smooth hoppy finish offer lager boys enough depth of flavour to stand up to spicy sauces and hot mustards.
For a man-size thirst, try Innis & Gunn Rum Cask Finish (£1.99, Waitrose, 7.4%, 330ml, Asda). A full-bodied Scottish beer with a fruit-cake body, the sweet, spicy notes of Rum Cask make it the perfect partner with gamey meats such as venison or duck. Note to self: a triumph with mature English cheddar and a dollop of chutney.
Another Scot that’s a little more brutish, try Brew Dog Hardcore IPA (£2.05, 9.2% abv, 330ml, Sainsbury’s). Strong, aromatic and extremely tasty, this amber ale is crafted from Maris Otter pale malt and it’s jam-packed with hops. With toffee-apple nuances and a lick of caramel, it’s a punchy beer that cries out for a Ploughman’s, and chimes with chutney and pickles.
And for a sweet ending, try the Dark and mysterious, Sainsbury’s Taste the Difference London Porter Dark Beer (£1.69, 5% abv, 500ml, Sainsbury’s). Brewed for it by Shepherd Neame, it’s rich with dark chocolate flavours, a hint of spice on the finish and a liquorice aftertaste that coats the mouth - a guilty-pleasure refresher with a chocolate brownie.
Fruity fizz... for best bargain bubbles, try The Co-operative Prosecco NV (£5.99 from £8.49, August 3-23, The Co-operative). With a soft, creamy mousse, fragrant peachy nose and almond nuttiness on the finish, what’s not to love about the Co-op’s Sparkling wine of the month?
For whisky noses who like a French accent with their single malt, Auchentoshan has launched the limited edition Auchentoshan 1999 Bordeaux Cask Matured (£46.99, 70cl, leading whisky specialists or visit ). Aged exclusively in French oak, this triple distilled malt with sweet, candied fruit flavours and an oaky character make it a perfect match with another Bordeaux beauty, canele pastry. The custard filling and caramelised crust is nicely balanced by the spicy tingle on the lingering finish.