Dark Beer in The Summer? Play By Your Own Rules!
A couple memories for you. First, one fine day in Myrtle Beach (it was actually a terrible day of dreary shopping and Redneck Riviera hijinks…until this moment) my brother-in-law Chris and I came across a special at the Liberty Brewery & Grill: pitchers of porter for $6. We had a taste – fine and dandy – we had a brief powwow, and said to our wives: here’s the car keys, come get us in two hours. Mmmm, relaxing in the sun, drinking porter, yeah buddy. So much better than shopping.
Next up: heat wave in Dublin! Headlines in the papers, save the children, icepacks and air-conditioning! 80 degrees!! Goodness. Bars are cool and shady; sounds like a plan. I started with a Kozel Cerny at the Czech Inn, then Guinness at a little Mediterranean place, a tapdance at the Porterhouse, a cream-topped Murphy’s at the Boxty House, another Guinness at Grogan’s, some Guinness Dublin porter at Davy Byrne’s, then a bit of a walk-it-off to the Palace Bar for a shot of their house whisky (which I can’t recommend enough) and the best jar of Guinness I had all day…though I may not have been completely objective by this point. I whistled as I walked back to my hotel.
Do you see the common thread here? Hot day. Dark beer. Total satisfaction.
Why is it that beer geeks—who are normally the first to tell you that just because a beer is dark doesn’t mean that it’s strong, or heavy, or overwhelming—also often insist that stouts, porters, and other “dark” beers are for cold weather drinking? Is it some strange holdover from the days of heating homes with coal: dark black stuff for stoking your furnace in wintertime?
Nonsense. This is another myth that needs to be crushed, right up there with “bock is made once a year when they clean out the vats.” (Oh, nobody says that anymore? Because no one drinks bock anymore? You little heathens.)
First off, what makes a good summer beer? Light body? Nailed it with dry stout, classic porter (you do whatever you want with your “robust porter,” hopheads), mild, dunkel, and the excellent schwarzbier. Bitter or sour tang? Got that too, if you want it. Fizzy? Not so much. Is that a problem? Have a Diet Coke.
Next, why do you think dark is not for the summer? Because it’s DARK? Try drinking with sunglasses on, or a blindfold, that would be amusing (for the rest of us). A dry stout is just as chilled as a blonde ale, and for the same reasons. Hot and sweaty people like cold beer. Whiskey people are smarter about this. We drink whiskey all the time, and when the summer’s hot and sticky…we put ice in it. Cold beverage = sweat relief.
Is it because summer foods are lighter, and more delicate? Depends on the summer food! Burgers and dogs and fresh hot peppers, brats and fried chicken, potato salad and corn on the cob with butter; all of that is great with porters, milds, and dunkels. Try it and see. Or maybe you’d rather have a pinot grigio?
Finally, do you think all those people in Days Gone By stopped drinking vats and vats of porter and stout in the summer? They most certainly did not! They may not have had the variety of beers available that we do today, but they drank like it was their job, and they drank dark, year-round. Is that any different from drinking light amber IPAs year-round? Hell no. So are you scared to drink dark in the summer? Hell no, you are not!
Here’s my challenge to you. Break the tyranny of summer lightness, and step up to enjoy the cool darkness. After all, even in the summer, there’s still the night. Well, except in places like Anchorage, I guess, but Midnight Sun’s Kodiak Brown sure tastes good in the 1 AM sunshine.
Confuse your friends, make summer darkness your jam! When you finish mowing the lawn, reward your labor: pop a nitrocan of Murphy’s. (I’ve got a strategic reserve of Murph’s in the bottom of my fridge for this very purpose.) While you fish by the lakeside, keep cool with a stubby of Full Sail Session Dark. By all means, when you hike in the mountains, refresh with a cold sixer of Polygamy Porter (why stop at one?). Be bold, and make dark the new light.
Oh, and come December? I’m going to be killing the kölsch, baby. It’s just another page on the calendar. Believe it.