Linda Piggott-Vijeh gives advice on choosing the perfect Father’s Day tipple

I confess that I have never been much of a beer drinker but at the time of writing invitations to two local events, seemingly unrelated at first, caused me to revise my hitherto lack of willingness to imbibe.

The first was connected with our first ever Somerset Day, on May 11, where we will all now have an excuse to celebrate all that is fabulous about this county, as if we needed an excuse! Shortly afterwards, my virtual letterbox prompted me to attend the Rotary Club of Chard’s first annual Beer Fest. This fund raiser, at which a bellyful of local real ales was to be up for grabs, was for Tatworth Pre-School and Horseshoes & Handprints.

So, with Father’s Day on the horizon it seemed somehow daft not to give it a go. Not wanting to skimp on the research I sampled eight beers in all from the following Somerset producers. In some cases the beers are only available from the brewery, the links provided below.

Stocklinch Ales – Black Smock, 5%abv: My first sampling, and what turned out to be my favourite, this award winning ale is a dark beer with a strong taste of liquorice and coffee, with just a hint of blackcurrant. Those preferring a more golden beer with a fruity flavour may like their Ramblers Gold Extra, 4.5%

Tapstone Brewing Co. Chard – Wild Woods 4.5% abv: A golden Indian Pale Ale with a distinctive pine and citrus character. Sea Monster 4.2% abv, a blonde ale with tropical flavours accompanying the

North Curry Brewery – Red Heron, 4.3%abv: This is the first of the five ales produced by this family run business. Made from pale and crystal malt, it is full bodied with a malty flavour that is balanced by the bitterness of golden hops. They also have on offer Level Headed 4.7%abv, a traditional old English ale with a dark ruby colour and a rich full flavour.

Windy Brewery offers Helm, 5.7%abv: A brown porter produced at the rear of The Volunteer Inn at Seavington. It’s made with dried yeast to ensure consistency (only available on site) and has a suggestion of toasted caramel toffee tinged with spiced marmalade. They also produce the popular Tornado, 4.2% abv, which has a smooth bitterness offset by forest fruits.

Looking for alternative gifts for Father’s Day? Then why not sign dad up to a one or two day Brew Ha-Ha course in practical home brewing at Gyle 59 Brewery near Thorncombe

Or better still, especially if dad has a sweet tooth, make this moist scrumptious cake with this recipe that uses Black Smock ale. This is a rich, moist, dark cake, which has just a hint of the liquorice character of the ale in it to offset its sweetness. Made in much the same way as sticky toffee pudding, even a novice can make this successfully.

Ingredients l

  • half a pint Black Smock ale 
  • 8oz. unsalted butter
  • 12oz. caster sugar 
  • 2oz. cocoa powder 
  • 5 fl. oz. creme fraiche 
  • 3 medium eggs 
  • 1 tbsp. vanilla extract 
  • 1 tsp. ground mixed spice 
  • 9oz. plain flour 
  • 2½ tsp. of bicarbonate of soda


Grease and line a 9in. (23cm.) spring form cake tin.

Preheat oven to gas mark 4/180°C/350ºF.

Pour the ale into a large saucepan, add the butter, and heat until melted Whisk in the sugar and cocoa.

Beat the sour cream together with the eggs and vanilla and add to the mixture.

Whisk in the flour, mixed spice and bicarbonate of soda.

Pour the mixture into the cake tin and bake in the centre of the oven for 45 minutes to an hour (fan assisted ovens will cook more quickly). A skewer inserted into the middle should come out clean, and the top should spring back if pressed gently.

Leave the cake to cool in the tin.

When cold, serve as is, or better still top it off with a rich dark chocolate ganache, or smothered in cream cheese frosting for true indulgence.

Lifes too short to be counting the calories!