Beers for vegan picnics and BBQs

Beers for vegan picnics and BBQs

Written by Oliver Coningham on 25 April 2015 in Seasonal Drinks

Summer brings bountiful sunshine, long days and warm evenings. The garden furniture comes out of its relegation to the shed or garage, ready to be at the helm of many social occasions. The majority of our outdoor living at this time of year involves the consumption of food; whether freshly cooked on a BBQ, or a picnic prepared in advance. To accompany our summer gatherings with friends and family, we long for light, crisp and refreshing drinks - those that will quench our thirst in the heat and can be enjoyed without the fear of heady consequences the morning after.

Our fridges come into their own at this time of year; the quintessential summer drink has to be a cold glass of lager - light straw in colour with a refreshing crisp and slightly bitter taste, perfectly suited to summer salads and barbecues where other more intense beers can overwhelm the softer flavours. The word 'lager' originates from the German lagern which means to store. This refers to the longer maturation and conditioning that lagers receive which separates them from ale. Sadly this process is often missing from some of the mass produced lagers that have become synonymous with the name, leading to their reputation of being bland, yellow fizz. Look beyond this assumption and you will find a style that is both complex and diverse.

From the traditional Czech Pilsner that boasts sharp bitterness and a moderately strong alcohol level, to the restrained Munich Helles lager that is more subdued with a greater balance between the bitterness level and malts. Both of these styles are also characterised by the soft water found in the region. You'll also find Vienna lagers and their US counterparts the American amber lager; medium red to copper in colour, they have a marginally sweeter, fruity taste with a greater focus on the malts.

Camden Town Brewery's flagship beer - Camden Hells Lager - combines two beer styles; it has the crisp, dryness of a Pilsner, but also the gentle hopping of a Helles. This results in an easy drinking beer that is refreshing with a dry hop finish. The long, slow maturation results in a depth of flavour unseen in many commercial lagers. There are faint hints of lemon, bread and a slight sharpness from the aroma, and the taste is beautifully balanced between sweet and bitter. All this is attractively packaged in a bottle that would look the part in any picnic hamper.

Brooklyn Lager is an American take on the Vienna lager style. It pours an amber gold and displays a floral hop aroma. This comes from a process called 'dry-hopping' where the beer is steeped with fresh hops during its long, cold maturation. There is a full malt flavour that isn’t overpowering yet forms a tasty caramel finish. Understated citrus notes create a crisp taste with a refreshing bitterness. The caramel flavours and fruity sweetness from the malt create many food pairing opportunities. Brooklyn Lager works wonderfully with burgers, salads, barbecues and even pizzas, the latter becoming increasingly popular summer fare with the advent of outdoor pizza ovens. The malt flavours connect with those in the bread, while the hops and carbonation cope well with any strong flavours.

Bottles of Camden Hells, Brooklyn Lager and Blue Moon

For those looking for an alternative to lager, another classic style associated with summer are wheat beers. Traditionally brewed with wheat alongside malted barley creating a natural haziness, they are refreshing with a fruity sweetness and a crisp, dry finish. Their light flavour profile and high effervescence makes them a superb match for summer salads, vegan sushi or even apple and banana desserts. Generally they come in two styles; the German Weissbier brewed with at least 50% wheat, and the Belgian Witbier brewed with less wheat and occasionally oats. In the Weissbier you will discover banana, bubblegum and clove flavours from the specific strain of yeast used. Conversely, in the Witbier adjuncts including coriander and orange peel offer a distinctive zesty and spicy taste.

Blue Moon Brewing Company are part of the large MillerCoors brewing conglomerate which means it has fallen out of favour with many beer enthusiasts in recent times. Despite this, it is still both a great example of the style and a gateway beer for many people. Blue Moon Belgian White has a zesty orange fruitiness with a light spicy aroma from the wheat. The addition of oats gives the beer a creamier mouthfeel. There is a crisp and tangy taste at first with the Valencia orange peel giving a subtle sweetness. Often you will find this beer served with a slice of fresh orange to accentuate the orange flavours. The finish presents coriander and orange spiciness.


Drink less. Drink better.