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How Porter Takes a Summer Vacation

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We're pairing up with Breckenridge Brewery, Colorado's third-oldest craft brewery, to bring Vanilla Porter into your meals (and, if there are leftover bottles, your fridge). Stay tuned for different ways to use this versatile ingredient all summer long.

Who says darker beers can only be consumed in colder months? Everyone—and that’s the problem.

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At some juncture, the shadowy power brokers who shape American beer dogma — I picture them looking something like the dudes from The Skulls, just with slightly more pronounced pilsner paunches — decided to split the innumerable styles of beer out there straight down the middle. Light, fizzy, fruity? Those are summer brews. Dark, malty, creamy? Strictly for wintry consumption, and don’t you forget it.

Photo by James Ransom, Graphic by Tim McSweeney

This delineation is, in large measure, a logical one. When the weather’s hot, we crave cooling refreshment; when it’s chilly, we want what’s in our cups to warm us up. But this fails to account for two vital counterpoints:

First: We don’t live in Westeros! There are more than two seasons, meaning there is ample gray area where beverage selections are concerned.

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Secondly: Screw your rules, man! Sometimes, we might crave a session IPA in the frigid dead of February, or fancy a toasty brown ale while watching a few fireflies flit around the back yard. This doesn’t make us bad, abnormal people. It makes us good, normal humans.

The biggest retorts that proponents of strictly seasonal beer drinking have to this argument have to do with texture and alcohol content—dark beers are simply too heavy and too strong to be enjoyed once the days get long, right? Sure—if you consider nothing but the double-digit ABV, wool-sweater-in-a-bottle examples of the category. There are so many stouts and porters, brewed both here in the States and in the U.K., the birthplace of those styles, that reside in the 5-to-6-percent ABV neighborhood and aren’t too weighty on the palate. It also should be noted that such dark beers are historically drunk year-round in England, Ireland and beyond, too—if the originators enjoy it so effortlessly, why can’t we?

A dark beer can provide a welcome change-of-pace from the typical warm-weather drinks—even act as the centerpiece for a long, lazy cookout, if you do it right. The distinct interplay between sweet and savory found in a well-made porter works in multiple contexts.

Porter Pork & Beans
Porter Pork & Beans

You can use it to work up a dark, sticky steak marinade that crisps up and caramelizes over the hottest coals. You can rely on it to smooth out the spicier and fattier inclinations of a good ol’ pot of pork and beans. You can empty one into a frosty mug and top it with a too-large scoop of vanilla-bean ice cream for a fun-loving, slightly boozy float. And, of course, you can slowly make your way through a six-pack while working the grill, prepping sides in the kitchen and, most importantly, kicking back, enjoying the weather and letting the summer come to you, free of the oppressive calendar-driven expectations foisted upon you by the powers that be. Ice-cold porter is an anytime beer, and don’t let ‘em tell you otherwise.

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Porter Pork & Beans

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Makes a big pot of beans
  • 6 pieces (about 8 ounces) thick-cut bacon, cut into lardons
  • 1 medium white onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 Serrano chile, seeded and minced
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 28-ounce can whole peeled tomatoes
  • 2 15-ounce cans pinto beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 15-ounce cans navy beans, rinsed and drained
  • 2 tablespoons dijon mustard
  • 2 teaspoons smoked paprika
  • 1 teaspoon dry mustard
  • 1 12-ounce bottle vanilla porter
  • 2 to 3 scallions, sliced
  • Salt and pepper to taste
Go to Recipe

We're pairing up with Breckenridge Brewery, Colorado's third-oldest craft brewery, to bring Vanilla Porter into your meals (and, if there are leftover bottles, your fridge). Stay tuned for different ways to use this versatile ingredient all summer long.

Tags: breckenridge beer, porter, baked beans