Columnist Tristan Darby gets crafty with local beers to enjoy by the barbecue this summer

Beer drinking culture in the UK has changed dramatically over the last ten years. Since 2007 the number of breweries in London has grown from ten to 100, and the overall number of breweries across the UK is at an 80 year high, with an 8% rise in the last year alone.

We are fortunate to have some awesome breweries on our doorstep here in the south west, and it’s great to see numerous local pubs, restaurants, and shops supporting them by offering a wide range of local brews. Recently I had the arduous task of tasting the brand new beer portfolio at Great Western Wine to seek out my favourites . . . it’s a hard life.

Bristol’s Lost & Grounded has only been brewing since July last year, but is already making waves. My pick is the quirkily-titled No Rest for Dancers (£2.50, Great Western Wine). It’s a deeply coloured red ale that has an enticing hoppy/malty nose and a berry-like fruitiness with a touch of spice on the palate. Bestowed with just the right amount of sweetness and light malty caramel flavour to balance the underlying hoppy bitterness, before delivering a clean refreshing finish.

Founded in 2007, Bristol’s Arbor Ales is a busy forward-thinking outfit which has brewed more than 300 different beers to date. Its Shangri-La (£2.75, GWW) is a generously hopped session IPA (India Pale Ale) with crisp bright citrus notes complementing a well-judged touch of sweetness. Exotic tropical fruit flavours lead to a dry and slightly chalky finish. Gentle carbonation adds a lovely texture and helps underline the soft appeal of this rather brilliant and highly quaffable brew.

Kettlesmith is an independent micro-brewery based in Bradford on Avon. I’m a big fan of its beers for sheer quality, but an added pull is that it suggests food pairing options. Ridgeline (£2.75, GWW) is a rich American rye IPA with nutty peppery hints. It’s a pretty full bodied beer, but superbly smooth, well balanced and utterly delicious. Kettlesmith suggests this beer plays nicely with beef bourguignon, cassoulet, spicy bean burgers and tangy cheese. I can’t wait to investigate.

Wiper & True started from humble beginnings as home brewers experimenting with raw ingredients on the kitchen stove. Based in St Werburgh’s, Bristol, the operation has grown, picking up many followers while keeping innovation and the spirit of experimentation as a core principle.

The excellent Milkshake (£2.80, GWW) is a milk stout which includes a generous dollop of chocolate malts and vanilla pods to add extra depth of flavour, along with a wonderful aroma. Milk stouts use lactose, the sugar made from cow’s milk, to add sweetness and creaminess to the beer. This is pretty rich and jam-packed with seductive toasty vanilla, chocolate, and coffee. However, there’s a surprisingly refreshing balance. Drink this lightly chilled to retain the lovely rich notes and get enough mouth-watering lift to quaff it in the sun with smoky barbecued meats.

Taste these beers for free at Great Western Wine’s Best of the West Beer Tasting on Saturday 19 August, 11am to 4pm.

Visit: greatwesternwine.co.uk.