With winter rapidly approaching, for craft beer enthusiasts it only means one thing; Stout Season. A time when old favourites are poured, and crazy new releases are pumped out. If your knowledge of craft beer is limited to Guinness then let us educate you on the history and many styles of dark beer.
Dark beer has been around a lot longer than you may have realised. Germany has been drinking their Dunkel's (dark lagers) and Dunkelweizen's (dark wheat beers) since at least the 1500s. Porters and Stouts have been around in England since at least the 1700s. All of these beers have one thing in common and that is the dark colour due to the roasted malt within the beer. These kinds of beers were desirable due to their value and also their robust nature to stay preserved over a long period of time.
Here are some common styles of dark beer both historically and modern-day.
Dark Lager - a clean and malty beer with extra roast and toast flavours
Dunkel - German dark lager, usually using Munich malt
Dunkelweizen - a dark wheat beer, originating in Germany
Porter - a dark ale, generally smooth drinking with choc and coffee notes
Baltic Porter - a porter but with a lager yeast, these are known for having dark fruit and spice notes along with the roast and toast flavours
Stouts are so varying that we felt they needed their own category. Historically, stout was used as a term for strong or alcoholic. Therefore Stout Porter was a known term. These days porters and stouts are arguably interchangeable, with stouts specifically dominating the dark beer market.
Irish Dry Stout - an ale varying from dark brown to black, these have flavours of dark choc, coffee and malt leaving a dry finish on the palate (E.g. Guinness)
Imperial Stout - Imperial is a term in beer used for strong. An imperial stout would be considered any stout from at least 8% ABV and above
Milk/Sweet Stout - a stout with lactose added to accomplish some sweetness and a creamy mouthful.
Oatmeal Stout - a stout with oats added for sweetness and a creamy smoothness
India Stout - a very hoppy stout
Barrel-Aged Stout - a stout that has been stored in a barrel for months to infuse flavour. Bourbon barrels are most common but also whiskey and rum barrels are also common too. The flavours of the spirit are infused in the beer which can make some wonderful arrangement of flavours
Pastry Stout - a new term, pastry stouts are using any confectionery or dessert product in a stout. This can be anything from chocolate to fruit to peanut butter. Any dessert you can think of, someone has brewed a stout trying to emulate it.
Check out this wild example; Omnipollo Brewing - Perpetual Anagram Blueberry Cheesecake Phantom Spirits Rum Barrel-Aged Aon Pecan Mud Cake Imperial Stout =O
As you can see stouts range from the simple Irish Dry Stout to a complicated and decadent Bourbon Barrel Aged Pastry Stout. We love all of them and what experiences they can give us.
If you like the sound of an Irish Dry Stout we recommend:
If you like the sound of an Imperial Stout we recommend:
If you like the sound of a Barrel-Aged Stout we recommend:
We hope you've learned more about dark beer and are a little more curious about trying some.
Cheers to dark beers!