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Dark Beers for Sunny Days

June 27, 2011

Session beers are great for the summer, but that doesn’t mean that heavier beers should be left out of the picture. If a session beer in a can is the official drink of summer (here’s looking at you, ‘Gansett), then these dark beers are for those rebels out there who want to try something a little different.

Sam Adams released a Wee Heavy as part of their Imperial Series that’s pretty damn drinkable. Scotch Ales are among of my favorite styles of beer, and this dark, malty brew hits a lot of the right notes. At 10% abv, it hides its strength well under lots of roasted caramel malt with some subtle fruity flavors and a perfectly balanced, peaty smokiness. It’s really smooth for such a big beer, and because it’s from Sam Adams, it’s a very approachable take on the style. The peat flavors and roastiness work together to create hints of wood and nuts in the flavor, which reminds me of the outdoors, which is probably what made me think of this as a potential summer beer.

Speaking of Scotch ales, Shipyard just put out their Smashed Blueberry as part of their Signature Series, which is a hybrid between a Scotch ale and a Porter, with some blueberries thrown in for good measure. At 9% abv, it tastes like a slightly dark, mild Scotch ale with a hint of blueberry sweetness at the end, for a very well-balanced beer that doesn’t taste heavy. I think the people at Shipyard are onto something with fruit-infused Scotch ales, it really takes it to another level.

If we’re talking about darker styles that would work in the summer, Porters would probably be at the top of that list. The often lighter-tasting cousin of the Stout, Porters originated in England, and some of the best examples still come from there. Meantime London Porter (from London, England, if you were wondering) is a dark ruby-colored porter at 6.5% abv, based on a recipe from 1750. It’s not especially heavy, and it has some subtly sweet chocolate notes that mix together with a soft smokiness in the background. All in all a great, easy-drinking porter. It’s like taking a sip of history.

More locally, the Haverhill Brewery just put out their new limited release; Annie Schwarz, a German-style Black Lager that won the Silver Medal at the 2010 Great American Beer Festival. It feels strange to use the word “refreshing” for such a dark beer, but it works in this case. It’s sessionable at 5.1% abv, with mild flavors of chocolate, a touch of hops, some nuttiness, and a dry, semi-sweet finish. The people at the Haverhill Brewery have really been stepping up their game with their bomber series, revisiting old beer styles from around the world for the local crowd. Yet another reason to drink locally, and think globally. This belongs on a t-shirt (someone get on that).


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5 Comments leave one →
  1. mark permalink
    June 28, 2011 12:01 pm

    Out of the scotch ales I have had (sam adams, NEBCo wet willy, alesmith wee heavy, dark horse scotty karate, oscar blues old chub, others I can’t think of) Sam adams is definitely one of the best if not the best, and at about $10 a four pack it is also the least expensive option. as you said it is very well balanced and packed with flavor.

    • June 28, 2011 1:27 pm

      Yea, it’s definitely good. It kind of got mixed reviews from people, probably because it’s a really tame version of the style. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with a beer being approachable.

  2. Andrew Mitchell permalink
    June 29, 2011 11:52 am

    I’m already getting burned out on usual summer beer suspects. Definitely going to check out the Wee Heavy and the Smashed Blueberry for the long weekend. Thanks for recommendations.

  3. Jane Ozwirk permalink
    June 29, 2011 5:43 pm

    Can’t Wait to try these new beers! Love your recomendations. Any good ideas for a good smokey Summer BBQ Beer? keep me in mind.

    • June 29, 2011 7:19 pm

      If you’re looking for beers that will complement BBQ, English-style bitters or well-balanced IPAs usually work best (I’d recommend Goose Island’s Honker’s Ale or the Berkshire Brewing Co.’s Saint of Circumstance IPA). If you’re looking for beers that actually taste smoky, check out Schlenkerla’s line of smokebeers (my favorite is their Marzen). I wrote a thing about smoke beers a while back if you’re interested: Thanks for commenting!

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