Hot hops: Imbibe Live's Beer for Summer competition

Susanna Forbes

Susanna Forbes

08 September 2015

Imbibe Live saw the audience decide the winner of our challenge to British brewers to create an amazing beer
for summer. Susanna Forbes reviews the finalists

Dunford, centre, wins a trip to the Budweiser Budvar brewery
Dunford, centre, wins a trip to the Budweiser Budvar brewery

‘It is the best elderflower beer I have ever tasted,’ said Mark Dorber, chair of judges and owner of The Anchor at Walberswick. ‘I’d like many, many pints.’ With its ‘Teletubbies meets cliff top campsite label,’ this pale ale was always going to catch the eye. But it was the addition of fresh handfuls of elderflower, picked from the hedgerows of Norfolk and Suffolk, that made this Lowestoft brewer’s entry so ‘delicious and wonderfully refreshing’, according to
Tony Jerome, communications and membership director for SIBA.

‘I first made elderflower fizz when I was a teenager,’ commented Green Jack’s founder and master brewer, Tim Dunford. ‘Every year is different though.’ Much like the British summer then!

4% abv, 01502 562863

Dunford wins a seasonal listing at The Draft House, and a trip for two to the Budweiser Budvar brewery in the Czech Republic.

The finalists of Imbibe Live's Beer for Summer competition
The finalists of Imbibe Live's Beer for Summer competition

Lemon fruit aromas on the nose lead to an attractive biscuit malt character on the palate. The branding is ‘traditional and says what it is,’ said Charlie Gorham, SIBA’s Burton manager – ‘it’s transferable between restaurant, bar and pub.’ ‘This is a classic lager,’ added an approving Charlie McVeigh, founder of The Draft House. ‘It’s very hard to brew a decent lager at 4%.’

Keltek – Cornish for Celtic – was founded in 1997 in a stable on Roseland Peninsula. Two moves later it is in Redruth. The brewery wanted to create a beer ‘that reflected Cornish lifestyle and good times with friends,’ said sales and export director Andrew Pringle, adding that the beer was best enjoyed with fresh seafood or barbecues on the beach.

4% abv, 01209 313620


‘The Tooting Popular Front has gone lactic with this Berliner weisse/saison blend,’ said Dorber of By The Horns’ artfully named Sour to the People. And what a beer. According to head brewer Alex Bull, this blend of a saison aged in wine barrels for two months, and Berliner weisse brewed with an 18-hour mash, will be a new addition to their ‘growing range of seasonals’. ‘Great beer for summer,’ said McVeigh. ‘It’s perfect for a barbecue.’

4.8% abv, 020 3417 7338


‘Be more bison!’ came the call from Dave Lewis, compère for the irrepressible trio from Bison Beer Crafthouse, with their See Side APA. Less than a year old and, at the time of the competition, poised to install their own brewery, founders Nick Vardy and Jack Cregan run a craft beer house a few miles outside Brighton.

Alongside strong branding, ‘the bold, brassy hops yield a dense, marmalade-like chewy hop character and mouthfeel,’ said Dorber of this American pale ale. ‘This has a great summer taste and aftertaste’, added Gorham, appreciating the fact that it wasn’t ‘too light’, and agreeing with the rest that this would match well with spicy pizza. One to watch.

5% abv, 01273 809027


Smartly turned out, the palate-tingling Goddess of the Spring was popular with our judges from the start. ‘A stunningly bold fruit beer,’ said Dorber. ‘It’s a wonderful combination of tart fruit flavours overlaid with complex fruit esters. Crisp while avoiding being too acidic.’ Typically experimental and exuberant for the brewery, this was brewed with ‘a tonne of fresh strawberries’ as well as raspberries.

While the brewery’s Tom Newman felt that Goddess, with its intense berry hit, was the ‘perfect accompaniment to any sweet menu’, Dorber’s food choice was ‘a funky goat’s cheese and rocket salad’.

6% abv, 029 2086 7707


David Cunningham, There’s A Beer For That
‘The finalists we chose show the diversity and different styles of beer. Taste, flavour and reinvention or reinterpretation.’

Mark Dorber, The Anchor at Walberswick
‘We had some characterful, provocative entries. And the exciting finalists echoed the enthusiasm of the audience.’

Susanna Forbes, Imbibe/DrinkBritain
‘I loved the impact of the Goddess of the Spring and the sassiness of Sour to the People.’

Charlie Gorham, SIBA
‘I’m looking for something you can enjoy in a sunny beer garden, that screams summer from the bar point of sale.’

John Keeling, Fuller’s
‘I’m particularly pleased to see that we have a couple of sours. People have underestimated how refreshing this tart style is.’

Charlie McVeigh, The Draft House
‘Summer Dream is everything a summer beer should be: frothy, refreshing and utterly delicious.’

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