Best Stouts and Porters
The craft beer explosion has reinvigorated excitement around different beers. Some beers that, two decades ago, might have been destined to fade into history, suddenly found new popularity. This is especially true for dark beer, like stouts and porters.
Thanks to the craft beer revolution, there is a dazzling array of dark beers to choose from. In this list, we hope to help you narrow your next search for the best dark beer.
Guinness Extra Stout
Guinness’ Stouts are undeniably the leader of the dark beers. If you are in an establishment that doesn’t focus on craft beers, this will often be the only dark beer available to choose from. Many dark beer fans love the froth and bold, slightly bitter flavor of a Guinness.
- Subtle chocolate and coffee flavors
- Mellow profile
- Satisfying creamy froth
- Fewer calories than many other beers (126 calories for 12 ounces)
- Salty taste
- Not as robust or bold as many other stouts
Guinness Extra Stout goes well with oysters, beef and chocolate.
Dogfish Head Raison d’Etre (Belgian Style Brown Ale)
The Delaware-based brewery, Dogfish Head, has made a name for itself by creating unique, sometimes recreated ancient beer recipes with some dating back even thousands of years. The Raison d’Etre may not be an ancient recreation, but it is an incredibly satisfying brew with sweet, fruity flavors. Be very careful when enjoying this one, however. Its alcohol by volume (ABV) can reach a staggering 18% in the ramped-up Raison d’Extra version!
- Brewed with raisins and beet or brown sugar
- Sweet, fruity aromas
- Crisp flavor profile
- Long finish
- ABV of Raison d’Extra prevents distribution in some states
- Might be too sweet for some
- Expensive since it has been discontinued
The ‘reason for being’ of the Raison d’Etre is to be paired with steak. It also goes well with blue and goat cheeses as well as mussels.
Bell’s Expedition Stout
Bell’s Expedition Stout was one of the very first Russian Imperial stouts to come to the United States. Like many imperial stouts, its ABV is higher than most beers at 10.5%. This dark beer is specially formulated to be aged to perfection over months and years in a cellar.
- Complex flavor profile
- Ages well in a cellar
- Chocolate, espresso and fruit flavors
- Bourbon-barrel aged variety can be consumed immediately
- Will be bitter if you drink the original Expedition within the first few months after purchase
383 calories per 12 ounces
- Expensive if looking to purchase and drink immediately
The ready-to-drink Bourbon Barrel Aged Expedition Stout will run close to $$$ for a single 12-ounce bottle. A six-pack of the original Expedition Stout will cost about $$ online.
Pairs well with dark chocolate, pecan pie, and raspberry tarts.
Allagash Black Belgian Style Stout
Allagash Brewing Company set out to create a “Belgian traditional stout” by mixing the best aspects of stouts and traditional Belgian ales. This dark beer is brewed with far more than the traditional roasted barley, and includes wheat, oats, chocolate malt, black malt, and hops. The oats give it a very satisfying creamy mouthfeel.
- A mixture of Belgian ales and stouts
- Rich dark chocolate, coffee, and fruity flavors
- Nutty toffee and caramel aromas
- Should be consumed within a year
- Strong, unbalanced bitterness at the finish
225 Calories per 12 ounces
Allagash can be purchased in stores for around $ per 25-ounce bottle. Alcohol laws prevent it from being more widely available via online shopping.
Allagash black stouts go well with steak.
Brouwerij Van Steenberge Gulden Draak (Belgian Strong Dark Ale)
This rich, sweet dark Belgian ale is rather high in alcohol content after being fermented twice. The sweet, full-bodied flavors led some to nickname this ale “Barley Wine.”
- Bold and smooth
- Caramel, toffee and vanilla flavors
- Full body and creamy head
- Earthy bitterness with a slight hoppiness
- Bitter, hoppy finish isn’t for everyone
- 10.5% ABV
215 calories per 12 ounces
You can purchase a four-pack online for around $$.
Gulden Draak works best with dark chocolates and red meats.
Keegan Ales’ Mother’s Milk Stout
The Mother’s Milk Stout from Keegan Ales was named one of the top ten North American stouts by the New York Times. This dark beer has been so popular that they’ve created two spinoffs: a bourbon-barrel aged Milk Stout and another made with cold-brewed coffee (Joe’s Mama’s Milk). The original has the ever-popular chocolate and coffee flavors, and the milk stout gives it a sweet taste and extra creamy finish.
- Chocolate, oatmeal, coffee, and milk flavors
- Smooth and creamy
- Well balanced and medium bodied
- Slight bitter finish
170 Calories per 12 ounces
- Smoky, roasted taste may be off-putting to some
- A mildly sour flavor from lactose
- Loses some flavor in bottles as opposed to draft
- Keegan Ales’ Mother’s Milk Stout can be purchased online or in stores for between $ and $ for a six-pack.
Mother’s Milk goes well with steak, barbecue, cheddar, and chocolate and espresso desserts.
Grimm Sumi Zest (Imperial Stout)
If you’re looking for something different from the wealth of chocolate, coffee flavored stouts, look no further than the Grimm Sumi Zest Imperial Stout. This dark beer went with a vanilla focus instead of only chocolate and orange instead of coffee.
- Airy and mellow for a dark beer
- Balanced vanilla and chocolate flavors
- Light orange aroma
- Tangy flavor profile
- Well balanced
- Orange flavor might be too subtle
- Less bold than most imperial stouts
- Limited release is expensive and difficult to find
This sweet stout would go well with a chocolate mousse or cheesecake.
Brasserie Dupont Monk’s Stout
This stout is Brasserie Dupont’s effort to recreate a 1950s era recipe from their archives. As such, this dark beer doesn’t jump onto recent trends but sticks to the bitter, slightly hoppy espresso flavors of the stouts of yesteryear.
- Malty, espresso flavors
- Sweet, woody aromas
- Available year-round
- 5.2% ABV
- 156 Calories
- Some dark beer fans will not like the bitter hoppy tones
- Watery mouthfeel
The Monk’s Stout can be purchased for about $ for an 11-ounce bottle.
Monk’s Stout goes best with pork loin, sushis, crab and shrimp, and blue cheese.
DuClaw’s Sweet Baby Jesus! (Chocolate Peanut Butter Porter)
DuClaw has been making waves with its Sweet Baby Jesus! Peanut Butter Porter. Other than the bold peanut butter and chocolate flavors,
- Peanut butter, chocolate, and espresso flavors
- Sweet and bitter is well-balanced
- Smooth and creamy
- Available year-round
- Very heavy
- Small, uneven froth
The Sweet Baby Jesus! Porter can be found online for around $.
Paired with some ice cream, this beer would make an amazing dark beer float.
Hitachino Nest Espresso Stout
If you want a rich, bold coffee flavored stout, Hitachino Nest has what you seek. The coffee flavors here are strong and accompanied by vanilla, a little chocolate, and black currants and other dark fruits. The Imperial Stout base gives it the extra richness that stout fans know and love.
- Rich and Bold
- Perfect for coffee-lovers
- Chocolate and black currant flavors
- Tall, creamy froth
- Sharp, bitter, herbal finish
- Vanilla is hard to detect
You can purchase this Japanese dark beer online for around $ for an 11-ounce bottle.
The Hitachino Nest Espresso Stout would go well with roasted chicken or bread pudding.
When you’re searching for a new, fantastic dark beer to try, there can be a dizzying amount of beers to choose from. We’ve listed 10 of the top dark beers, though the beers vary in their availability and price.
The best beer for those looking for a rich, bold, dessert beer should go for DuClaw’s Sweet Baby Jesus! Chocolate Peanut Butter Porter. Not only is it an affordable option to experiment with, but it also offers a well-balanced sweetness.
Keegan Ale’s Mother’s Milk Stout is a solid, smooth and creamy stout option for dark beer fans of all stripes. For those who are not a fan of the darkest of beers, the Brouwerij Van Steenberge Gulden Draak is an excellent option. It is bold, earthy and slightly hoppy with sweet caramel notes.
Dedicated beer connoisseurs will want to go out of their way to purchase Bell’s Expedition Stout. Once this dark beer has aged for a year or more, the flavors and aromas develop a level of creamy, complexity that is hard to find from any dark beer straight off the shelf. Whatever your dark beer craving, you should find some inspiration for your next trip to the beer store.
Dark Beer FAQ
What Is Dark Beer?
Dark beers are generally ales that have a dark or even black coloring. These beers are often known to be fuller and heavier with a smoother, robust flavor profile. Unlike more hoppy beers, many dark beers have flavors that seem to be completely missing the distinctive bitter hops.
What Are the Most Popular Types of Dark Beer?
The most popular types of dark beer are stouts and porters. Both are known for their smooth, creamy textures and often include earthy, sweet flavors like coffee and chocolate. Some brands will be aged in bourbon or whiskey barrels, often taking on an even bolder flavor with higher alcohol content.
There is some debate over just what the differences are between stouts and porters. Generally, stouts are made with roasted barley, having a more smoky flavor and heavier body than porters.
Porters will often contain fruity accents that might lend to a sweeter taste than the general stout. However, brands in each category will cross these boundaries.
There are also some brown and dark ales that can be considered a dark beer. However, they will have a lighter, and sometimes more bitter, hoppy flavor than the black stouts and porters.
What Is the History of Dark Beer?
hundred years ago. Legend says that London street and river porters favored a special blend of beer created from multiple barrels. A bartender supposedly commissioned someone to recreate the blend he manufactured for each glass.
Because this new beer was such a hit with the porters of the city, the beer took on the name porter. Sometime later, brewers created more robust versions of the porter that had a higher alcohol content and called them “stout porters.” The name would later be shortened to stout, creating the accomplice to the dark beer duo we know today.
How Is Dark Beer Made?
Dark beer gets its distinctive color from the malting and roasting process. In the malting process, the grain, usually barley, is soaked in water and then heated and dried. The more heat the grain receives, the darker the grain will become and the darker the resulting beer will be.
The longer these grains roast, the more that complex flavors are released in the beer by unlocking essential oils in the grains. Porters are made from malted barley and stouts are made from roasted barley that avoids the soak of the malting process.
Are Dark Beers Stronger?
There seems to be a prevailing myth that dark beer inherently means stronger alcohol content. While this may have been true in the past, it isn’t as true today.
The average stout and porter sold in bars and beer stores today typically has an alcohol content between 5-7%. The exceptions to this are imperial stouts and porters, and those that have been barrel-aged which have a significantly higher alcohol content.