Beer and Summer

“I Like a Beer in the Summer”

We’ve had a hot summer, as many places in the world. Beer sales must be good this season. If it’s one thing craft and mass market brewers agree on, it’s that hot weather is good for business.

Yet it’s something of an anomaly that this remains so in a time when air conditioning (A/C) is so pervasive. True, not every home has it, but many do today, and almost all restaurants and bars, or autos.

When you walk into a A/C environment from 30ºC + the effect is shocking, an icy blanket. It’s how people must feel who do those cold-country swims in January.

How refreshing is a chilled beer after that? Is the association just traditional by now?

True, the patio offers the real thing, but in very hot weather most people seek the indoors, if artificially cooled.

Cold beer and Hades retain their companionship at the country cottage (A/C is mostly still lacking), at the beach, or for picnics.

But again: How many people do an out an out picnic these days? Open question. Judging by perennial food books one would think hill and dale are festooned with picnickers, as an American writer noted tartly a generation ago.

Then too, craft brewing, while it likely moves lots of blonde lager July-August, doesn’t hold back from the styles formerly associated with cold weather. In the 19th-century in the U.S., different forms of ale were thought mostly suitable for winter.*

Even in England, hardly a broiling nation despite the spikes in June-August of recent years, some beer was styled a “winter drink”, old ale, say, or Imperial stout.

All this old learning is upturned in the new era and rightly so. I saw an Imperial porter, 10% ABV, in the non-A/C cooled bar at Henderson Brewing the other day, and while tempted didn’t try it. I had done a two-hour walk in strong heat, and so went with their 3.5% ABV Czech-style lager, with nachos and guacamole alongside.

But I’d have had the other if a car dropped me off or I wasn’t unusually hot.

Last evening an iced Muskoka lager was just the ticket in the patio at the Wallace on Yonge Street. A good beer, not seeking epicurean heights but sometimes you don’t want that. The light lemony notes added to its refreshment, especially in that environment.

But most customers chose to sit inside where A/C had the temperature down to about 20ºC.

Putting all this a different way, would brewers sell more beer had A/C never been invented?

Or does craft beer move more “winter beer” now because of A/C? Maybe it’s six of one, half a dozen of the other. So to speak.

Note re images: the first image above was sourced from this stock photos website and is indicated as released to the public domain by its author, without restriction. The second image was sourced from the news advertisement linked in the asterisked note below, via Fulton History newspapers. All intellectual property in the sources belongs solely to their lawful owner, as applicable. Images used for educational and historical purposes. All feedback welcomed.


*This ad for Burke’s Ale, touted as a winter drink, dates from the 1930s but reflects lore accepted in New York and elsewhere in the Northeast since the later 1800s. As an older example, see this ad for Ballantine’s ale pre-WW I.