Summer’s almost done. And although it hasn’t been a bad one, I seem to have had more than my fair share of rain. Seven days in Portmeirion, for example, was seven days of downpour. We began to feel like the Prisoner himself. A week in the Scilly Isles wasn’t much better.
The upside, though, is that I’ve kept my middle-age spread pretty much under wraps. No half naked disporting on the beach for me, frightening the horses. I managed to shed several stone a couple of years ago but, maddeningly, I find that one of them has crept surreptitiously back, partly due to lack of exercise and partly due to diet.
I put it down to drinking too much beer over the past few weeks, either sheltering in the pub from another Welsh waterspout or watching the World Cup. My old friend Rupert Ponsonby, a founder of the Beer Academy, disagrees.
“There’s no fat in beer and no cholesterol either, and it’s ridiculously low in calories and carbs,” he says. “Your spare tyre is probably due to all those pork scratchings you ate alongside your pint or even due to your breakfast orange juice which, health clubs please note, does contain fat.”
He could be right. After all, beer is about as healthy and natural a drink as you can find, made simply from water, hops, yeast and barley. Nothing alarming there and no need for flavour enhancers or chemicals.
“Given its myriad flavours, beer has a remarkably simple make up,” says Nigel Lambe, a man so fond of his beer that he recently bought a brewery, WJ King in Horsham, West Sussex.
“When I first arrived here I went into the ingredients room and found only hops and malted barley, and a fridge with the brewery’s own unique strain of yeast. I naively asked where the rest of the ingredients were, the colouring agents, the flavourings and so on. They looked at me as if I was mad and said that all that was missing was the water.”
WJ King’s is a fine brew and looks set to remain so with Ian Burgess, formerly the long-time number two at Harveys of Lewes, my local brewery and one of my favourites, now head brewer.