Bottoms Up

Beer and wine in the Bay Area and beyond

Summer Lightning Comes to Berkeley

By William Brand
Thursday, August 31st, 2006 at 6:37 pm in Uncategorized.

This may sound like I’m shilling for Ledger’s Liquors (Berkeley, CA), but in fact, proprietor Ed Ledger and his wife, Susan, stock a primo list of beers – enough to make me a regular. But now, WOW. They have begun stocking Hop Back Summer Lightning.

What? Don’t know about this amazing beer? Check out the link. It’s made by a brewery, Hopback, in Salisbury, Wiltshire, about 80 miles southwest of London. The company now has a string of pubs in Wiltshire and sells beer throughout the UK – Edinburgh to Devon.

Hopback’s centerpiece beer – since 1988 – has been Summer Lightning. It’s won just about every award there is in England, starting in 1992 with the Campaign for Real Ale Gold Medal for Best Strong Beer in Britain, an award it won again in 2001 for its cask conditioned version, the kind one drinks in an English pub.

But the brewery also produces a bottle conditioned version – the one that Ledger’s has somehow obtained. It won CAMRA’s best bottle conditioned beer award in 1997. Let me quote from my favorite English beer website, the Oxford Bottled Beer Database:

“Summer Lightning has a light aroma of hop and lemon and is very lively in the glass, producing a large, bubbly head that reduces to a tenacious frothy layer on the surface of the beer. “As is often the case with hoppy beers, the head tastes very bitter. In the mouth it is bitter and hoppy in a very citrusy way, with lots of sharp, zesty orange and lemon flavours. There are also some slight malty notes, although no sweetness is present, and some spicy hints genera beer (although mixing the yeast in alters the taste it does not affect the beer adversely – unusual for UK ales). Finish is sharp and fruity (lemons again)
to begin with, but rapidly becomes more bitter into the aftertaste. This is a beautiful summer session beer – light, refreshing and extremely drinkable…”

Well said.

Ledger’s is selling the pint bottle for $5.19. Ledger’s Liquors 1399 University Avenue Berkeley, CA. (510) 540-9243.

By the way, I’ve compiled a list of the best retail beer stores in the Bay Area. Shoot me an e-mail at and I’ll send along a copy.

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