With craft beer more popular than ever, there’s an incredible variety out there for you to crack open and find your perfect brew this summer.
"So much thought, care and effort goes into every can of craft beer"
We chatted to Billie Holland, craft brewer and general beer buff, about the different types of craft beer out there, this summer’s biggest beer trends, and what food to pair with them to really make the most of their unique flavours.
“Craft beer is absolutely booming,” says Billie. “So much thought, care and effort goes into every can, and I love that the business is getting the recognition it deserves.
And even if you don’t consider yourself a beer person, Billie is convinced there’s a beer out there for you. “You might not see yourself as a beer person, but that’s just because you haven’t found the right one for you just yet!"
Check out Billie’s guide to craft beer below, from finding your perfect pint to cooking up the best summer feast to accompany it.
IPAs, also known as Indian Pale Ales, mark a serious cornerstone of craft brewing.
Billie says: “IPAs are one of the most hoppy beers out there. So the story goes, when they used to transport beer from England to India, often the beer wouldn’t survive the journey and would spoil en route. To get around this, the brewers would add extra hops which helped to preserve the beer during transportation.
To really make the most of your IPA, pair it with a juicy burger to bring out the refreshing citrus zing, or marinated BBQ chicken like our spatchcock chicken with Cointreau and clementines.
“Burgers, fresh salads and chicken all work well with an IPA thanks to its natural fruitiness. IPAs are easy drinking - especially session IPAs because their alcohol content tends to be lower - perfect for summer barbies."
"Pale ales are slightly less fruity and bitter than IPAs because of the lower hop content. Nonetheless, they’re still really light and great for people that are just starting to get into beer. If you’re not sure what you like or what you’re after, start with a pale ale and work from there,” advises Billie.
This clean, refreshing beer works brilliantly with creamy dishes. Try Brewdog’s Dead Pony Club with a spaghetti carbonara, cutting through the cheesy sauce while bringing out the smokiness of the bacon, or My Generation Beer Co’s Session Pale Ale over a summer picnic of creamy Brie and crusty bread.
“The lightness helps to cut through decadent meals, while the carbonation helps to clean your palate between mouthfuls,” says Billie.
Lagers & Pilsners
Billie says: “Lagers and pilsners are the most typical, and most carbonated, of beers. In our brewery, we always make sure we serve lagers at exactly 4˚C - although it’s hard to be that precise at home!
“A great one for hot days, lagers and pilsners are super refreshing and not too hoppy, so if that floral flavour is the thing that puts you off beer, this is the one for you.
"The latest trend in lager production is for a slightly maltier beer, which makes it a bit sweeter and more aromatic.
When it comes to accompanying dishes, a good draft lager or pilsner deserves some proper summer grub — anything that needs a super refreshing drink to wash it down.
If this sounds up your street, Pistonhead’s malty Full Amber Lager works wonders with fresh and earthy vegetarian dishes like juicy mushroom burgers. Old Blue’s Last Beer is less malty and slightly sourer, perfect for fresh summer salads with sharp dressings, or this pomegranate seed-laden cous cous salad. Or, if fish is more your thing, try this Lawless lager with a fresh and vibrant fish dish like our soy and miso cod.
Stouts and Porters
Billie says: "Stout and porter is made with really dark malt, which produces some lovely rich flavours. Porters tend to contain deep, rich coffee notes, while stouts keep their hoppy flavour.
“These beers are typically less carbonated, as they’re infused with nitrogen rather than carbon, which gives them a creamier rather than bubbly feel.
"They’re normally a little bit higher in percentage, but it varies from beer to beer. Imperial stouts are really big right now, and can go up to around 12% alcohol - sometimes even higher - so this isn’t something you want to be drinking all day long!
“Another big trend we’re seeing more and more at beer festivals is milk stout. Brewers infuse the beer with lactose which makes it ultra creamy. This technique has really boomed in the last year or so, and if you’re a real beer buff, I really recommend you give it a try!
Those deep, malty flavours need some knockout food to give it a run for its money. Try Bad Co Dazed and Confused Milk Stout with this mustard-rubbed brisket with sweet chilli glaze. The creamy stout will offset the sharp mustard, bringing everything together beautifully.
Red and Amber
“Red and amber ales have a slightly darker malt, giving them a beautiful caramel flavour,” says Billie. "These golden beers tend to contain less hops, and so taste less bitter.
"Red and amber ales are pretty timeless. Amber ales have a huge heritage, so they're something brewers like to honour and keep traditional. These timeless beers are a great middle-ground for people who aren’t into hoppy ales, but also don’t like anything super dark."
"A red or amber ale is more full-bodied than a pale ale, but less so than an IPA. This full, caramel-flavoured profile stands up beautifully against BBQ meats with sweet marinades."
Try Atom's Schrödinger's Cat, a full-bodied amber with a relatively low alcohol content, with our finger-licking, sticky treacle ribs, or this refreshing Ringwood Brewery Razorback number with some juicy, melt in the mouth pulled pork to really bring out that deep, traditional sweetness.