Last Modified On:
March 6, 2024

Your Guide to Dark Beer: 15 Best Brands to Try in 2024

Indulge in the rich flavors of dark beers with our ultimate guide to the best dark beer brands for 2024. Learn about different types of black beer and find your match.

3 minutes

Dark beer lovers, this one’s for you! Have you ever wondered what makes dark beer or black beer different from light beer? Or are you looking to try something new but don’t know where to start? Fear not, as we’ve got you covered. In this post, we’ll take a deep dive into the world of dark beers. We’ll explore what it is and how it’s made, the different types of styles available, and some of the best brands to try in 2024. Whether you’re a seasoned drinker or a curious newbie, join us on this journey of discovery and expand your taste buds with the rich flavors of dark beers.

What is Dark Beer?

Dark beer is a type of beer brewed with darker malts, resulting in its unique hue and flavor. It can range from light to heavy-bodied, and includes stouts, porters, brown ales, and dunkels. This type of beer is often paired with hearty dishes and desserts and popular during colder seasons.

Enthusiasts appreciate dark beer, or black beer for its complex flavors that can include notes of chocolate, coffee, caramel, and dried fruit, making it a versatile choice for food pairings. The distinctive taste and aroma of dark beer come from the roasting process of the malt, which sets it apart from lighter beers. Moreover, dark beer enjoys a celebrated spot in various beer festivals worldwide, where aficionados gather to sample and savor the depth and diversity of these brews, further solidifying its status within the beer-loving community.

Ingredients Used in Dark Beer

The ingredients commonly found in dark beer include:

  1. Malted Barley: Dark beer typically uses roasted or caramelized malted barley, which gives it its dark color and adds flavor complexity.
  2. Water: The main component of beer, water is essential for the brewing process and affects the overall quality and character of the beer.
  3. Hops: Hops are used in dark beer to add bitterness, balance sweetness, and provide aromatic qualities. The specific hop varieties used can vary depending on the desired flavor profile.
  4. Yeast: Yeast plays a crucial role in fermentation, converting the sugars in the wort into alcohol and carbon dioxide. Different strains of yeast can contribute unique flavors and aromas to the beer.
  5. Optional Ingredients: Dark beer can have various additional ingredients to enhance flavor and complexity, such as adjunct grains, spices, fruits, coffee, chocolate, or barrel-aged components.

The Brewing Process for Dark Beers

The brewing process for dark beers involve a few key steps:

  1. Malting: Barley grains are soaked in water and dried to develop their color and flavor.
  2. Mashing: The malted grains are mixed with hot water to release sugars.
  3. Lautering: The liquid (wort) is separated from the grain husks.
  4. Boiling: The wort is boiled, and hops are added for bitterness and flavor.
  5. Fermentation: Yeast is added to the cooled wort, which consumes sugars and produces alcohol and carbon dioxide.
  6. Aging: Some dark beers are aged to develop complex flavors and smoothness.
  7. Carbonation and Packaging: The dark beers are carbonated and packaged in bottles, cans, or kegs.

The choice of malt and brewing techniques contribute to the distinct color, flavor, and character of dark beers.

dark beers

Types of Dark Beer Styles

With so many different styles available in the world of beer brewing, it's no surprise that black beer has become such a popular choice among drinkers. Whether you prefer the rich sweetness of a milk stout or the crisp bitterness of an IPA or a black lager, there is a flavor out there for everyone. Some popular black beer styles include porter, dunkel, schwarzbier and imperial stout. Let's break down each style below:

Stout Beer Style

Originating from Ireland, Stout beer style has several sub-styles such as dry stout, milk stout, and imperial stout. Known for its dry finish and low alcohol content, dry stouts offer a unique taste; however, milk stouts are sweet as lactose is added to them. With complex flavors of chocolate, coffee, and dark fruits, imperial stouts are best enjoyed by those who prefer high-alcohol content beers.

Porter Beer Style

Porter beer, originating from London in the 18th century, is known for its rich flavor with chocolate and coffee notes. The brown malt brewing process adds to its unique taste profile. With sub-styles like robust, Baltic, and American porters available, you can enjoy different variations of this dark beer style. Robust porters are stronger, while Baltic porters have a higher ABV level. American porters are distinct with their bitterness and hoppiness.

Ale Beer Style

Fermented with top-fermenting yeast at warmer temperatures than lagers, Ale beers come in various styles such as porter, stout & brown ale. Porter has rich malty flavor notes of chocolate & coffee while stouts have thick texture with flavors like oatmeal or vanilla. Brown ale boasts nutty caramel-like flavor brewed using malted barley & hops. Ale beer brewing includes water & yeast for aroma & palate richness.

Schwarzbier Beer Style

If you're looking for a beer style that's smooth and easy to drink with your meals or desserts, then try out Schwarzbier! This German-style dark lager has a light to medium body and a clean taste that pairs well with grilled meats, sausage dishes as well as chocolate desserts. Some popular brands you might want to check out are Kostritzer Schwarzbier and Einbecker Schwarzbier.

Lager Beer Style

Dark lagers boast a unique flavor profile largely due to their roasted malts. They're fermented at lower temperatures than most other beer styles such as IPAs or Pale Ales. Dunkel, Schwarzbier, and Baltic Porter are popular types of dark lagers. These richly flavored brews often have smooth and crisp textures that make them ideal for those who prefer lighter-bodied dark beers. It's important to pay attention to alcohol content and bitterness level when selecting a dark lager.

Dunkel Beer Style

Originating in Bavaria, Dunkel beer is a German-style dark lager famous for its smooth, malty flavor that's achieved by brewing with dark roasted malt. This brew has a deep amber hue with moderate alcohol content. Its taste ranges from sweet and caramel-like to nutty and toasted notes that vary across popular brands like Ayinger Altbairisch Dunkel, Paulaner Munich Dunkel, Weihenstephaner Korbinian. Try this style if you want to take a break from the boldness of stouts or porters.

Munich Beer Style

Munich-style dark beers offer a malty flavor with a dark color that stems from the combination of Munich and roasted malt. With different styles available from lighter-bodied Dunkels to heavier-bodied Bocks, some popular examples include Ayinger Celebrator Doppelbock and Hofbräu Dunkel. These brews pair well with hearty dishes like stews and roasted meats for an enjoyable palate experience.

IPA Beer Style

For those who enjoy the hoppy flavor of an India Pale Ale (IPA), there are several variations with a darker hue and roasted malt flavors. One such variation is the black IPA or Cascadian Dark Ale. With its dark color and hoppy bitterness, it offers a unique twist on your typical IPA. Additionally, for added complexity and richness, try the Belgian Black IPA which incorporates traditional Belgian yeast strains. Expand your palate beyond the traditional dark beers with these innovative twists.

Pilsner Beer Style

A refreshing alternative to darker brews is Pilsner beer. Originating from the Czech Republic, this light-bodied lager has a crisp and refreshing taste with a golden color. Made with high-quality hops and malts such as amber barley malt from Bavaria mixed with lager yeast for fermentation make it perfect for any occasion. At low calories and alcohol content it pairs well with spicy dishes or seafood.

best dark beer brands
Photo by Christopher Zapf on Unsplash

Best Dark Beer Brands

  1. Guinness (Ireland, ABV: 4.2-6%): One of the most popular dark beer brands, a classic Irish stout known for its creamy texture, notes of roasted malt, chocolate, and coffee, with a dry and slightly bitter finish. It's a smooth and iconic dark beer that is widely recognized worldwide.
  2. Founders Brewing Co. (USA, ABV: Varies): Known for their exceptional dark beers offerings, Founders Brewing Co. produces dark beer brands like their Breakfast Stout, a rich and flavorful imperial stout with notes of chocolate, coffee, and oats, delivering a luscious and complex taste.
  3. Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. (USA, ABV: Varies): Sierra Nevada's Narwhal Imperial Stout is a bold and intense dark beer brands with flavors of dark chocolate, roasted malt, and hints of espresso. It boasts a higher ABV, typically around 10-12%, providing a warming and robust drinking experience.
  4. Deschutes Brewery (USA, ABV: Varies): Deschutes' Obsidian Stout is a smooth and balanced dark beer brands with flavors of dark chocolate, roasted malt, and a touch of hop bitterness. It showcases a moderate ABV, making it a highly drinkable dark beer.
  5. Bell's Brewery (USA, ABV: Varies): Bell's Kalamazoo Stout is a rich and velvety dark beer brands with prominent notes of chocolate, roasted coffee, and a hint of dark fruit. It has a moderate ABV, offering a harmonious blend of flavors in each sip.
  6. Samuel Smith Brewery (UK, ABV: Varies): Samuel Smith's Oatmeal Stout is a traditional English stout with a creamy texture and flavors of roasted malt, chocolate, and a subtle sweetness from the oats. It has a moderate ABV, making it a delightful choice for dark beer brands enthusiasts.
  7. Stone Brewing (USA, ABV: Varies): Stone's Russian Imperial Stout is a bold and robust dark beer brands with intense flavors of dark chocolate, espresso, and roasted malt. With a higher ABV, around 8-12%, it delivers a full-bodied and complex drinking experience.
  8. Oskar Blues Brewery (USA, ABV: Varies): Oskar Blues Ten FIDY is an imperial stout known for its immense flavors of dark chocolate, coffee, and roasted malt, balanced by a touch of sweetness. It boasts a higher ABV, typically around 10-12%, providing a rich and indulgent dark beer brands experience.
  9. The Bruery (USA, ABV: Varies): The Bruery's Tart of Darkness is a unique dark beer brands, blending the characteristics of a stout with sour notes. It features flavors of roasted malt, dark fruit, and a tangy acidity, creating a complex and intriguing flavor profile.
  10. Firestone Walker Brewing Company (USA, ABV: Varies): Firestone Walker's Parabola is an imperial stout aged in bourbon barrels, resulting in flavors of roasted malt, dark chocolate, vanilla, and oak. With a higher ABV, around 11-14%, it offers a rich and decadent drinking experience.
  11. Brooklyn Brewery (USA, ABV: Varies): Brooklyn Black Chocolate Stout is a robust and velvety beer with flavors of dark chocolate, coffee, and hints of dark fruit. It has a moderate ABV, providing a smooth and enjoyable dark beer brands option.
  12. North Coast Brewing Company (USA, ABV: Varies): North Coast's Old Rasputin Russian Imperial Stout is a renowned beer with bold flavors of roasted malt, dark chocolate, and a touch of hop bitterness. With an ABV around 9%, it offers a full-bodied and flavorful dark beer experience.
  13. Great Lakes Brewing Company (USA, ABV: Varies): Great Lakes Blackout Stout is a rich and flavorful beer with notes of roasted malt, dark chocolate, and hints of coffee. It has a moderate ABV, delivering a smooth and well-balanced dark beer brands option.
  14. Rogue Ales (USA, ABV: Varies): Rogue's Shakespeare Stout is a robust and full-bodied beer with flavors of roasted malt, dark chocolate, and hints of caramel. It has a moderate ABV, offering a rich and satisfying dark beer experience.
  15. Lagunitas Brewing Company (USA, ABV: Varies): Lagunitas' Wilco Tango Foxtrot is a strong brown ale with characteristics of a dark beer, featuring flavors of caramel, toffee, and roasted malt. It has a moderate ABV, delivering a smooth and malty dark beer brands option.

Not into black beer yet? We also put together a list of the top picks for cheapest beer or see our picks for best gluten beers.

Crafting Cocktails with Dark Beers

Incorporating dark beers into drink recipes can transform the ordinary into the extraordinary, offering a depth of flavor that elevates both classic and innovative cocktails. Dark beers, with their rich notes of coffee, chocolate, and caramel, can be the base for a variety of intriguing drinks. Take, for instance, the iconic Irish Car Bomb, where a shot of Irish cream and whiskey is dropped into a pint of stout, creating a creamy, frothy delight that's both a drink and an experience. For something a bit less intense but equally delicious, consider the Black Velvet, a sophisticated blend of stout and champagne, offering a perfect balance between earthy and crisp flavors. Then there's the Stout Russian, an intriguing take on the classic White Russian, substituting vodka with stout for a creamy cocktail with a robust kick. These recipes showcase the versatility of dark beers, making them a fantastic ingredient for creative and enjoyable drinks.

Conclusion on Dark Beers

In conclusion, dark beer is a perfect blend of rich flavors and delicious aromas that make for an excellent drinking experience. From stouts to porters, ales to lagers, there is something for everyone. With so many options available, it can be challenging to choose the right one. That's why we've put together a list of the 15 best dark beer brands to try in 2024. So whether you're a seasoned connoisseur or just starting to dive into black beer, you'll find something on this list that will satisfy your taste buds. Indulge in the best dark beers and elevate your drinking experience today!

What beer is referred to as dark?

Dark beer is a category of beer that is characterized by its deep, opaque color, which ranges from dark amber to almost black. It is achieved through the use of roasted malt or barley, resulting in rich flavors and often a higher alcohol content than lighter beer styles.

Is Guinness a black beer?

Guinness is referred to as a black beer due to its dark color. While technically classified as a stout, it appears almost black in the glass, thanks to the roasted barley used in its brewing process. Its distinct color and rich flavors contribute to its reputation as a black beer.

Is Yuengling dark beer?

Yuengling offers a variety of beers, including its Traditional Lager, which is amber-colored, not truly dark. However, their Yuengling Black & Tan and Porter are darker varieties, appealing to those who enjoy richer, more robust flavors with hints of caramel and coffee.

Is Stella Artois a dark beer?

Stella Artois is not a dark beer. It is a Belgian lager known for its golden color and crisp, refreshing taste. Stella Artois features a light malt sweetness, balanced by a subtle hop bitterness, making it distinct from the roasted, richer flavors found in dark beers like stouts or porters.