So summer begins, or it will in another months’ time, depending on who you ask of course. We certainly have enjoyed some fine weather recently and with this I imagine people will turn to lighter styles of beer but that need not be the case. You can still enjoy the rich flavours and aromas of malt driven beers, matched with a crisp and refreshing finish, with some dark lagers.
Don’t be deceived into thinking darker coloured beer are necessarily heavy. The viscosity or ‘weight’ of a beer is primarily derived from the amount of fermentable sugars that were used in the brew and subsequently how many remain in the beer post fermentation. The colour is a reflection of how pale or dark the malt that was used. Darker malts will lend a beer those roasted, coffee or chocolate tones but used in moderation with other base malt can produce these flavours while keeping things lighter in body.
When one thinks of larger one naturally thinks of clear, golden Helles or Pils styles. However these are ‘relatively’ modern styles, prior to late 19th century lagers would have been dark coloured as the malterster would have kilned the malt by passing the heat and fumes from burning wood or charcoal over the barley. It was not until the advances in technology allowed greater control over the roast level, and the influence of smoke, that it was possible to consistently produce sufficiently pale malt to brew pale lagers.
Schwarzbier, which translates from German as simply black beer, is a style that dates perhaps as far as the 9th century. These dark lagers have a good depth of malt flavour while remaining light, crisp and refreshing on the finish. Brewdog Zeitgeist is a good crisp and refreshing example or try Brooklyn Insulated for a slightly fuller take on the style.
If you do favour a bit more weight in your beer you could try out a Doppelbock. These are strong lagers with a decidedly bold malty profile. Ayinger’s Celebrator is continually rated as the best example of the style in the world and definitely worth seeking out. Expect rich complex dark malt character with caramel, molasses, toffee, dark chocolate, dried red fruit carried by a smooth, creamy medium body. The finish is long with a touch of earthy hop notes that gives it a thirst quenching edge, though perhaps this is one to be enjoyed in the cool of the evening.