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The inclination in the heat of summer may be to reach for the nearest light lager. But Matt Quenette, a certified cicerone and the longtime beer director at Meddlesome Moth in Dallas (where it gets very hot indeed), argues there’s seasonal enjoyment to be found in darker brews. These bold and complex beers can offer summery flavors and unexpected refreshment. “You might be surprised to find bright flavors behind the darkness,” says Quenette.

De Dolle Oerbier

Belgian beers are a natural fit for summer, says Quenette, pointing to the judicious malt additions, reasonable hop levels, notes of fruit and spice, and lively carbonation delivered by Belgian yeast. “Oerbier has been a longtime sleeper for Belgian beer geeks, and it’s time it received a little more notice. This Belgian strong ale was the first beer created 42 years ago by the ‘Mad Brewers’ in Esen, Belgium,” says Quenette. “Threads of gentle caramel and toffee malts, yeasty ester delights of fig, plum, cherry, and even some grape, swirl into a dance of tiny, fine carbonation. All the flavors click seamlessly due to the carbonation, with your palate being cleansed with every sip. The 9 percent ABV is hardly noticeable until you finish your third bottle and you have a nonstop grin.” $7.95/11.2 oz., belgianstyleales.com

Chimay Première

A ubiquitous offering in well-stocked beer bars worldwide, Chimay often serves as an introduction to Belgian beers for many, and the aptly named Première was the first released under the label 160 years ago. “More commonly known to most as Chimay Red, it’s a Trappist Belgian Dubbel or brown ale,” says Quenette. “First brewed in 1862 and unchanged since, the beer pours a hue of deep ruby with a generous, frothy off-white head. It blends soft toffee/caramel and bready malts with yeasty esters of orange marmalade and sweet pale stone fruits like apricots.” The 7 percent brew carries a moderate bitterness but has enough carbonation to prevent it from becoming cloying, notes Quenette. $23.99/4-pack, totalwine.com

Gueuzerie Tilquin Rullquin

“Lambics are a no-brainer for summer, with abundant citrus notes, occasional fruit additions, and a refreshing acidity in the finish,” says Quenette. “Tilquin Rullquin is a Belgian brown with a secret weapon: The beer starts with a seven-eighths blend of Belgian brown and is finished off with one-eighth of oak-aged lambic and then bottle conditioned for six months before being released.” While the resulting 7 percent beer falls on the complex end of the flavor spectrum, Quenette says it’s worth considering for summer. “It has amazing tones of sour, dark fruit, mild roast, and very mild chocolate malt combined with a mysterious barnyard/earthy/leather funk, oak, and a vinous acidity that cleans up the palate after every sip.” $39.99/750 ml, craftshack.com

Maine Beer Company King Titus Porter

“Typically, porters are released for the spring, but that doesn’t mean that they won’t age well into the summer months,” says Quenette. “Porters can have a full flavor similar to a stout, but the body will always be lighter.” Such is the case with this seasonal release from Maine Beer Company, which aims for expertly executed classic beer styles. “The King Titus Porter, named after a silverback gorilla in Rwanda, has malt notes of chocolate, toffee, and subtly sweet chewing tobacco. The first sips will be full flavor and, as you go with the remainder of the beer, those notes will settle in nicely. You’ll begin to notice the smooth body from the flaked wheat and oats they add, and the bitterness will begin to tidy up all those flavors on your tongue and the nuance will present itself.” $8.69/500 ml, holidaywinecellar.com

Prairie Artisan Ales Weekend

Oklahoma brewery Prairie Artisan Ales has long been known for their creatively over-the-top but effortlessly drinkable beers, even after the departure of original founders Chase and Erika Healey. “Prairie still executes Chase’s recipe compositions in numerous ways, like the incredibly easy-to-enjoy Prairie Weekend, with cocoa nibs, toasted coconut, marshmallow, and vanilla. It’s filled with adjuncts that you’ll notice, but not so over-the-top that you feel like you went on a binge in a baker’s shop,” says Quenette. “The aromas of marshmallow and coconut present a tropical vibe followed by a fluffy, mallow body filled with coconut and chocolate notes all the way through to the finish.” With an ABV that breaks the 13 percent mark, the Weekend is made for the leisurely pace of a summer day. “You will sip it, but you will sip it fast.” See prairieales.com for distribution.

The post 5 to Try: Dark Beers for Summer appeared first on Imbibe Magazine.