Review and Tasting Notes of Hop Back Summer Lightning

“Summer Lightning in your eyes, it keeps on dancing”

No, this isn’t about throwing a pint of beer in someone’s face (though I’m sometimes tempted). It’s a line from a song that only an old ‘head’ would recognise or remember (although given the alleged effects of smoking too much weed, they probably wouldn’t remember).


Review? What review?

Oh, right.

Anyway, ’tis zummer me dears, that is plain. And speaking of plains, I had myself a bottle of beer last night which hailed all the way from the plain…Salisbury Plain.

The Hop Back Brewery (named after the vessel used to remove the leafy hop cones from the brew after boiling) started life as a brew-pub in Salisbury in 1986. They now make a range of half-a-dozen or so cask ales and a similar number of bottled ales, including Crop Circle.
The best known, and the one this review is about, is undoubtedly Summer Lightning.

You can’t miss this stuff on your supermarket shelf, the label is a very bright yellow with an image of some Greek-god-type guy in the middle; it’s also got the name written on the label…that’s always a dead give away. Expect to pay £1.50-70 for a 500ml, dark brown bottle.
“Terrific straw coloured beer with a fresh, hoppy aroma and a well-rounded, malty flavour with an intense bitterness that leads to a long, dry finish.”

This beer pours a clear, pale golden-yellow colour which is topped by an impressively frothy, white foamy head that sadly shrinks to a thin wisp within a minute. It doesn’t disappear altogether though, and manages to leave a respectable amount of lacing on the glass.

The aroma is very herbal and leafy, with plenty of spicy hop notes too. There’s lots of fragrant, perfumey tones, and a quite noticeable slice of citrus, most especially lemon. Not a lot from the malt though, perhaps a little sweet caramel.

It’s light-to-medium bodied with a quite sharp and zingy mouth feel – though it’s not particularly gassy. The initial taste is, quite surprisingly, roasted malt which gives it an almost stout-like flavour. This soon sweetens a little, before the sharp and tangy, lemony flavours kick in. there’s some leafiness from the hops, but I think there’s more flavour from the malt with this one.To be fair, the hops make a bit of a late flourish in the finish, which is fairly dry, and there’s a slightly oily, leafiness in the aftertaste.

At 5% ABV, I’d hesitate to call this a session ale, although essentially that’s what it is. It’s a decent, light, easy-drinking ale that would certainly be refreshing on a summer day…or any other day, for that matter. It’s not the most complex of beers, and I actually thought it was a little disappointing flavour-wise considering the aroma promised so much. Still, there’s very little to criticise about it and I’m sure it would be a fantastic pint from the cask.
It’s not exactly overpowering in the flavour department, so I can’t see it clashing with any particular food.

Would I drink it again? – Probably, although they say lightning never strikes twice.

1. Hopback Summer Lightning | Hop Back Brewery plc | BeerAdvocate
2. Carrot for Cancer
3. Summer Lightning – ABV 5% – Hop Back Brewery

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