Enjoying the taste of summer

Billy Adams

PICTURE the scene; it is a hot summer's morning. You are just about to set out on a day-trip with your friends. It was arranged a long time ago. The planning has been meticulous. Nothing has been left to chance.

Or so you thought? Suddenly, your priorities are being questioned. Yes, the picnic basket is full, the fruit bowl is there, the cheese and bacon sandwiches have been made, and even the mobile stools and table are ready for the trip.

And, of course, the beer is ready.

But wait a minute. How do you keep the beer cool? Your friends are distinctly unimpressed. Sure, you can have a good lunch. But what good is that when they cannot enjoy a cool beer to wash it all down.

Hot beer, especially in a sticky Hongkong summer, is simply not on. For seasoned drinkers, keeping the beer cool is the most important aspect of the art of beer drinking.

So, if you want to be the socially acceptable day tripper this summer, keep these handy beer-cooling tips in mind.

It is easy to do it naturally. For example, on a camping trip by a stream, just make a circle with rocks at a shallow point and put your cans in. Perfect temperature is guaranteed.

On other occasions, a small portable cooler - and there is a wide variety to choose from - is essential.

Mr Morgan Hansen, director of production at brewing giants Carlsberg, agrees.

He said: ''To be appreciated, beer has to be at the right temperature - not too cool and not too warm.

''If you are going out with a picnic basket, it is a good idea to put in something beside the beer to keep it cool.'' The rule does not just apply to beer. The experts reckon just about any drink which should not be boiled, should be chilled.

Mr Dean Winter, the manager of the Captain's Bar at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel, said his own establishment provided a complete range of cool bags.

He said a well defrosted ice box was ideal.

''People in Hongkong often have two fridges. One is for the food and the 'bottle fridge' is for the liquor,'' he said.

''If you're going on a picnic, there is always a danger of having it too chilled.

''You can destroy the taste, especially with wine. It should not be kept in ice for too long if the bouquet and taste are to be preserved,'' Mr Winter said.

''Mixers such as coke and tonic should also be chilled. It makes it that bit easier because they chill the alcohol when poured in.

''With fruit juices it does not just enhance the flavour but it is good from a storage and hygiene point of view.'' But what should the discerning drinker consume this summer? Alcohol should not be drunk in excess if you are outside in hot weather.

According to Mr John Nielsen, the manager of the Tiffin and Champagne Bar at the Grand Hyatt Hotel, soft drinks are best.

''Drinks like lime and Seven Up are very thirst-quenching,'' he said.

''But if you have champagne, don't drink it out of a plastic cup. That really detracts from the taste.''