Hopback Summer Lightning
Hop Back Brewery plc

Hopback Summer LightningHopback Summer Lightning
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Bitter - English
Ranked #104
Ranked #41,397
3.66 | pDev: 15.3%
Hop Back Brewery plc
England, United Kingdom
Hopback Summer LightningHopback Summer Lightning
View: Beers
Reviews: 156 | Ratings: 181 | Log in to view all ratings and sort
Photo of rodbeermunch
rodbeermunch from Nevada

3.53/5  rDev -3.6%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

First had this beer right when I was getting into 'craft' beers in the mid/late 90s.

In the days before dry hopping, there was a process called a "hop back" (namesake here) that was a sink/vessel that you would run boiled wort is run on its way to the fermentation tanks (not losing the hop oils in/from the boil). Its been essentially rendered obsolete with the advent of dry hopping (although I could see it being a marketing angle: we use BOTH a hop back and dry hopping).

500 ml bottle pours a yellow liquid, 1/2" white head. A mild hop bitterness in the nose, is this using some Burton yeast and/or water?

Taste is relatively easy going, reminds me of a fuggle/noble hopped Red Hook from back in those days, slightly less malty than that one was/is(?). Has a nice levity to the beer, not heavy, don't need Chicago pours of this, easily domeable solo. The 500ml bottle format was pricey for the times per oz. Light grass and hay backdrop, but other than that, not at all going into saison territory, its just a bitter esb with a smidge more bittering hops than normal for that side of the pond.
No astringency yet dry.

Sep 16, 2020
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JonnoWillsteed from England

3.42/5  rDev -6.6%
look: 3.5 | smell: 2.75 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

S- Light, some fruity notes, hints of apple.
L- Pale golden and clear. Thin white head clears swiftly to lacing.
T- Quite bitter/dry, builds further with some solid tasting flavours then rising beneath.
M- It looks pretty anoemic but it has more flavour than expected. It tastes pretty clean and light for 5.0%.
O- Well balanced, very sessionable. Indeed the clean and dry profile would make this a good beer for a refreshing summer's evening.
BBE: March-2020. 500ml bottle, from Waitrose, Marylebone, London W1 at £1.29

The lable refers, front and rear, to this as a 'Golden Ale' instead of 'English Bitter' as in the header info above. It certainly doesn't look like a bitter, though there is significant cross-over in the flavour.
This lable is marked 'Summer Lightning - Golden Ale. 5.0%'. The front lable is in the shape of a shield without the rather cheesy photo of a lightning bolt, there's a more 'trad' logo of a man's head instead.
p.s. I'm constantly surprised how I can just go from one branch of a supermarket, to another of the same chain - a single borough apart, as little as a mile - and find beers that are still new to me.

May 18, 2019
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Justhead from Papua New Guinea

4.44/5  rDev +21.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

I always drink this in pubs when I see it ... even if I rate it average there's something of the essence beyond simple grading ...

On tap ... New Inn, Chippenham Wiltshire uk

Nov 16, 2016
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DJ-Hophead from England

3.93/5  rDev +7.4%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

500 ml bottle, Morissons supermarket, Bristol - Pours clear golden with medium white foamy head. Medium carbonation. Nice lacing. Smell - malty,grassy notes. Taste - sweetish, light hops, malts notes, crisp light bitter finish. Haven't tasted this for quite a while but still a nice easy drinking, refreshing ale.

Jun 26, 2016
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Photoglyph from Missouri

4.36/5  rDev +19.1%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.75

First tried this several years ago, have not been able to find it the last few years. I was quite impressed with it the first (and subsequent) time(s) I tried it. The head is quite sculpted as it settles down, nothing like the microbrew beers I like so much here in the states. I think the golden color is perfect and the taste is exceptional as well. Think it helps that 'Summer Lightning' was the title of song by the British Prog rock group, Camel in the eighties.

Nov 25, 2015
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LagerCognoscenti from England

3.85/5  rDev +5.2%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

On cask at Three Hammers pub. Mill Hill, Engkand.

Golden blonde appearance. Decent lacing.

Mild hoppy aroma with lemon hints.

Taste is of honey sweetness with lemony notes and lasting dry bitter finish. Very fresh and hoppy for an English ale.

Overall, a very good session beer in a pub. More hoppy than most English bitters and has the drink ability and refreshment level of a Pilsner.


Jun 21, 2015
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FLima from Brazil

3.96/5  rDev +8.2%
look: 4.25 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Bright golden color with apparent carbonation and a four finger aired head with excellent retention and leaving laces.
Aroma of lemon, pine and bread malt. Interesting I had the impression it smelled more like a Belgian Golden rather than an English ale.
Sweet citrusy and bitter taste with notes of lemon, oranges, fresh grass, earth and tea leaves. Quite astringent aftertaste with a nice and prolonged bitterness. Hints of minerals.
Light body with effervescent carbonation.
Original taste and incredible refreshing summer ale while still being tasty and bitter. If you like lemony and dryness, try this brew. Suggestion: drink it fresh or don’t drink it all.

Nov 18, 2013
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dwren89 from Virginia

3/5  rDev -18%
look: 3 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

Appearance: pale gold with fluffy white head, good clarity

Aroma: lemon zest, biscuity, slight tartness,

Taste: cold, refreshing, thirst quenching biscuity malt flavor with balanced hop bitterness, finishes with a bitter tinge; not a lot of distinguished hop or malt character, just a nicely balanced summer ale to slake a thirst on a hot day. Short finish

Mouthfeel: Tingly carbonation, light body,

Overall Impression: Not a bad ale to drink on a hot summer day to refresh your system. But not an ale (or style, for that matter) that provides much complexity or depth. Balanced. Not bad, but not earth shattering.

Jun 27, 2013
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Jetulio from Spain

3.88/5  rDev +6%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

500 ml bottle poured into a Pint glass
Appearance,... light yellow a little bit hazy, big head colour white very persistent
Aroma. ... malty smell, wet grass too
Taste.... little touch of citrus with a dry middle bitter end
Mouthfeel... medium body with medium carbonation (a little high for an standard English ale in my opinion)
Overall... very refreshing, easy to drink but not so hoppy as you expect for an English bitter ale

Jan 06, 2013
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thierrynantes from France

3.5/5  rDev -4.4%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Beer bottle (50 cl.) purchased from Cave'Ale, and tasted in 2012.

Appearance : golden color, with white foamy head (not persistent).
Smell : grassy and hoppy aromas.
Taste & mouthfeel : malty and hoppy flavors with bitter finish.
Drinkability : an average beer in the style English bitter.

Dec 22, 2012
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jazzyjeff13 from England

2.45/5  rDev -33.1%
look: 4 | smell: 1.5 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 2.5

Summer's almost over, so I thought I should drink this before it goes entirely.

A 500ml bottle with a BB of May 2013. Picked up a little while back from Booths. Features an image of Dionysus on the label (the brewery's logo) - I previously thought it was a green man. Bottle conditioned.

Poured into a tulip pint glass. A clear pale-gold hue with good carbonation and slight sediment (most of the yeast sticks resolutely to the bottom of the bottle). Yields a huge head of frothy white foam with good retention; this slowly subsides to a surface layer, leaving nice lacing as it goes. Looks great. The aroma, however, is not nearly so pleasant. A distinct note of harsh stewed leaves, faint solvent and sulphur. Virtually nothing else is discernible. Another reviewer mentioned that they thought the aroma was butyric acid, so perhaps that's what this is - at any rate it is vile and seriously detracts from the beer.

Tastes of light malt with a dry, mildly bitter finish. Notes of stewed leaves, sulphur, earthy yeast and a whisper of citrus aroma. A restrained, dry bitterness upon swallowing. Mouthfeel is smooth, tingly and full-bodied, with a dry character. Pretty astringent, with an aftertaste of harsh stewed leaves and a sulphurous note.

Disappointing - I had expectations of this being a pleasant pale ale with a hoppy character. Not so. I looks nice and has decent body, but the aroma is horrid and the flavour also leaves much to desire. Not sure what's wrong with the smell but it is dominated completely by a harsh, sulphur-like quality. This carries through into the flavour, masking this ale's subtle malt and hop characteristics. All said, not a good drinking experience. It's a pity because I've had this before (ages ago) and liked it, so I don't know what the issue is here. Perhaps I should seek it out on cask. At any rate, I'd have to recommend avoiding this in bottles if you like beer.

Sep 18, 2012
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fullsweep from England

3.56/5  rDev -2.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Mini-keg served at a recent birthday party; poured into a pint glass tumbler.

A: very pale/blonde/straw-coloured--exceptionally light in colour for a bitter ale. Leaves a nice off-white/eggshell foamy head.

S: a mild sweetness with some powdery in the nose.

T: tangy and fruity (orange/citrus) upfront with a chalky bitterness on the finish. A relatively complex but well-balanced and unique take on the English bitter.

M: mellow, light on the tongue, moderately refreshing, and slightly dry-ish.

O: nice for a change. Would definitely try this again, particularly from a different serving format, just to see what differences there might be.

Feb 26, 2012
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akorsak from Pennsylvania

3.97/5  rDev +8.5%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

On cask at the General Sutter. I originally saw this beer in one of Michael Jackson's books, so I am excited to finally try it.

A: The bitter is a pale straw color (seemingly par for the course here), fizzy and clear. The fizziness leads to wispy lace.

S: The bitter brings light bitterness and ample pale malts. The hops are vegetal at times but generally mild and earthy. The pale malts are light and bready.

T: Light and refreshing, a perfect way to start the day. Balance is key, at least initially. Upfront, light malts are biscuity and the hops earthy - very mild. That changes as each sip progresses. The hoppiness builds quickly, a bitterness that, by the end, is surprisingly strong and dry. The lightness of the ale is nice, plenty of flavor in such a small package.

M: While the ale is light, it doesn't skimp on flavor. The rising bitterness is a reminder that the Brits know their way around hops too.

Nov 06, 2011
Photo of Koufax21
Koufax21 from New Mexico

2.97/5  rDev -18.9%
look: 3 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3

Had on cask a Bull's Head Cask Festival in Letitz, PA.

A - poured a faint yellow straw color with a hint of fizzy white head that disappeared after a few moments.

S - this one smells pretty good. A bit more of a hop aroma than I would typically expect from British beer.

T - mildly bitter with a dry finish. I keep hearing from people how good this one is. To each their own, I guess.

M - dry and no carbonation. Light bodied.

O - nope. A very average beer in my opinion. I tried on a recommendation. While I'm glad I got to try this highly touted ale, it just didn't blow me away.

Nov 05, 2011

3.18/5  rDev -13.1%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

500ml bottle served in a Pint glass.Enjoyed on may´11.
Pale straw color.Slightly foggy.White lasting froth.Small bubble close & dense thick layer crown. Rocky lacing collars.Bread crust & yeast aromas. Subtle bitterness on palate.Subtle malty flavor.Medium body, high carbonation.Quite bland overall.

Oct 26, 2011
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BlackHaddock from England

3.88/5  rDev +6%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

After giving this a crap review in its bottled form I'm now evening up the balance with this cask review.

Hand pulled into a pint UK sleeve in one of my local pubs on 2 Sep 2011.

Good deep golden body with a thin white head that tried to stay around awhile.

The smell was of floral hops and hints of some citrus interest.

The taste was a well balanced blend of semi-sweet biscuity malts and mildly bitter hops. The hops becoming more dominant as the beer warmed and the mouth dried.

A whole lot better than the bottled version, are they the same beer?

Oct 08, 2011
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hwwty4 from Missouri

2.95/5  rDev -19.4%
look: 3 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 3

Interesting find at my local. I can honestly say the only reason I picked it up was for the bottle cap. Nice picture of a guy and a hop. Interesting bottle cap but this isnt a review for the aesthetics of bottle caps.

Poured a capped 500ml bottle into my New Belgium globe. This beer pours a highly fizzy, hazy straw with a MASSIVE 5 inch cap (or should I say the whole glass) of creamy white head. Splotchy, soapy lacing was left down the sides of the glass. The nose is rather generic. A bit of biscuit, some caramel and a nice yeasty twang. The flavor is simple, straightforward and much the same as the aroma. A bit of biscuit, a bit of caramel, tart yeast and just a little grassy hops. This is where my biggest issue with this beer is. Its way to carbonated. The carbonation level almost makes it astringent. Its like soaking your tongue in Sprite. Overall, this beer falls flat into the average range. Not the best bitter I've had but definitely not the worst.

May 07, 2011
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Zimbo from Scotland

1.82/5  rDev -50.3%
look: 3.5 | smell: 1.5 | taste: 1.5 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 2

Long time since I last had this old favourite. Many tasty memories of it as one of the first great bottled conditioned English beers of the early 90s.

But today there is a terrible old dusty fusty nose to start that just wouldn't blow off. Looks fairly good though, yellow and sort of like a pilsner with some beading and head,which though not overly thick, goes the distance. There is a dryness and a graininess in the body but the odour and 'taste' just consumes everything.

Didn't see that coming.

Feb 28, 2011
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hophopandaway from England

4.48/5  rDev +22.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

This beer comes around at my local less regularly than I would like but i is one of my favourites. The beer is nicely hopped so that there is an element of bitterness but it is not super-dominant. The head is creamy, fine and lasts right to the last sip. The lacing is as good as it comes.
When drinking the mouthfeel is unsurpassed, it's floral on the nose but with a gentle hint of soft summer fruits. The taste is of a mild bitterness that is perfectly balanced with the light earthy and herby flavours that make this a very well balanced beer perfect for an afternoon in the beer garden of your favourite pub.
This is no longer the best beer in it's class but it is a beer that was almost revolutionary in its early years. This is the kind of beer that converts the lager heathens in to real ale fanatics. 5 pints of this on a friday after a tough week is a super way to start the weekend.

Feb 21, 2011
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gskitt from New York

3.93/5  rDev +7.4%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

I enjoyed this beer. It pours a pale yellow, straw color with a shiny white head with some stick and lacing.
The smell was non distinct, nothing really stood out, maybe some notes of hay, herbs.
Taste was more hoppier than I would have expected. Soft herbal and floral notes, wheat. Tasted like a summer day on the fields of England. Enjoyable mouthfeel and at 5% its quite drinkable.

Dec 15, 2010
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IllNate from Canada (BC)

3.43/5  rDev -6.3%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

A - A pale yellow, with a good amount of white foamy head. Head disappears to lacing within a few minutes. Found a couple chunky bits in mine.

S - 'baby vomit', which is indicative of butyric acid, produced from a contaminated mash. I was going to suspect a poorly treated sample, but it's a fairly distinct smell and is produced in the mash. I even got a new glass and re-poured the rest of the beer. It's hard to look past this off smell, but otherwise it smells like pale malt. Nothing in the way of hops, which is surprising.

T - The butyric acid is not present enough to affect the taste. Tastes of pale malts and a light bitterness.

M - good, nice and smooth.

D - Would be better without the smell.

Conclusion. Shelf life isn't great on this beer and it's best to get this beer on tap and/or fresh. I went easy on this beer because my sample obviously wasn't as good as it's meant to be. I specifically chose this beer for my visiting brother to bring back because it's supposed to be excellent, but alas, i'll have to have it another time.

bottle date coded: BB 16 09 II

Nov 21, 2010
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boss302 from Florida

3.95/5  rDev +7.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Hopback ale, summer ale. I had this beer in London.

A It was gold and had the typical cask fine bubble head. Nice looking beer. 4

S For the London area, this is a very hoppy smelling beer. There is a trend to move away from hoppy beers in London. This one was much closer to a hoppy beer. 4

T Lots of malt, and a nice hoppy flavor. 4

M Medium mouthfeel, carbonation was low but appropriate for a cask ale. 3.5 

D Yes, one I could drink more of. 4 

Oct 25, 2010
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kjyost from Canada (MB)

3.34/5  rDev -8.7%
look: 4 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 4

BB 23/4/10. Ah well, the joys of the MLCC and their stock.

A somewhat schizophrenic beer here. Pours a crisp clear pale yellow with a decent white head that laced nicely. Some floating sediment was evident even though I didn't pour hard, nor poured the whole bottle. The aroma was some sweetness with a bit of malt, though dominated by vegetal aromas. Upon further consideration though those aromas could be earthiness... The body tasted nothing of the vegetal though with low bitterness, which played well against the light malt body. Average mouthfeel, but a quite drinkable brewski for a summer day.

Jun 28, 2010
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Trizzle from England

4.02/5  rDev +9.8%
look: 3 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 5

Clear yellow body, minimal head, some lace.

Light aroma of malt, vague hops, a touch of sweetish honey .

Sweet at the front, drying cereal malts appear through the middle with some fresh hay. Gentle hopping brings some light bitterness finishing quite dry.

Body is quite big for the style, but medium over all.

Drinkability is tops. (British)Summer day with a curry for me.

Good stuff.

Apr 13, 2010
Photo of meeekyh
meeekyh from Colorado

3.47/5  rDev -5.2%
look: 3 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

This bottle is labeled 0708, presumably it is old.

I opted to pour it into a tumbler. I note it is very light in color, clear and there is little head and little lacing. This is not a super-awesome-looking beer.

Smells are light and hard to distinguish. I will allow it to warm a bit before making any more notes...

After an ample rest I note tangy citrus and not much else.

Taste resembles a bitter but a bit lighter and with a tangy zip.

Mouthfeel is light and dry.

I would like to sample a fresh bottle of this and see how it stacks up.


Mar 25, 2010
Hopback Summer Lightning from Hop Back Brewery plc
Beer rating: 83 out of 100 with 181 ratings