I like to drink strong, heavy, dark beers at any time of year. Apparently this makes me somewhat unusual. What I want to know is: how unusual? And why?
Let’s say there’s a bar that happens to attract a perfectly representative sample of American beer drinkers. Their menu never changes:
Sam Adams Summer Ale
Guinness Extra Stout
Dogfish Head 60 Minute IPA
Newcastle Brown Ale
a good English porter
a good Imperial Stout
Chimay Grande Réserve (blue label)
Sam Adams Cherry Wheat Ale
The bar keeps track of numbers, and makes a graph of the popularity of each beer throughout the year. What does that graph look like? I’m sure Summer Ale would have a peak in the summer, and Imperial Stout would have a peak in the winter, but how big are the peaks?
Would it be different in Europe? I assume Latin America and Australia would be somewhat different due to climate and demographics. Not sure if most other countries would be comparable, in terms of drinking culture.
Within a season, do preferences correlate much with weather? Do Boston bars sell more Guinness on a cold, rainy July day than a sunny July day? Do liquor stores in Seattle sell more Doppelbock than stores in L.A.?
And then there’s the reason. I have several theories. Most of these don’t perfectly correspond to the actual color of the beer; it’s more a matter of other qualities that have a loose correlation with color.
1. Temperature of beer. On average, dark beer is (or should be) served warmer than lighter beer (this correlation is heavily skewed by the fact that crappy adjunct lagers have to be served very cold to numb the taste buds). I don’t find this theory very compelling, because plenty of people drink red wine in the summer (though I think there’s a bit of seasonal difference in red vs. white wine too).
2. On average, dark beers are higher in calories, and people don’t want to ruin their beach bodies in the summer. This can’t possibly be the issue for most Americans. How much less Coke is sold in the summer?
3. Some other characteristics of the beer make it more “summery” or “wintery”. Possible characteristics include tartness, sweetness, hoppiness, overall strength of flavor, mouth feel (viscosity, carbonation, “heaviness”), and “fillingness”. Some of these kinda sorta make sense to me, in ways I can’t explain, though I don’t get the “less filling” thing.
4. People just associate light colors with sunlight.
5. Beers are actually seasonal. This isn’t really true anymore. Before modern climate control, weather affected brewing and storage, but these days seasonally-available beers are a matter of tradition, marketing, or demand. Unless you’re making true spontaneously-fermenting lambic in a Belgian cave or something.
6. Pure memetics (acquired biases and marketing, each reinforcing the other, originally jump-started by #5 above).
I suspect it’s some combination of 1, 3, and 6. Or is there something I’m missing?
Just curious. I’m going to keep drinking the dark stuff year round... when I can find it.