The enigmatic pull of dark beer opens the door to a satisfying, rich, flavourful treat for those in the know. With a wide range of flavours blended into dark beer like coffee, nuts, and chocolate, it’s highly likely you’ll find a whole new world of beer that has been hiding in plain sight all along – between all those golden, hoppy light beer choices.
Join us as we venture over to the dark side.
What Is Dark Beer?
In general, dark beers cover a decidedly wide range of the definition of ‘dark’, since they go from the well-known ebony stouts like Guinness, all the way through to Schwarzbier and even amber-hued options like the beloved German Dunkles. In general, dark beers are known as the richer, more filling beer option in comparison to light beers, which are known for being more thirst-quenching.
The dark colour comes from the beer’s brewing process and for those concerned, put your mind at ease as it’s definitely 100% natural – with no additives required to achieve the varying shades. The roasted malts perfectly combine the amino acids, sugars, and other grains together to achieve a rich, dark colour.
Much like everyone’s beloved caffeinated morning brew, the darker the roast, the more potent the brew will be. Beers that have a deeper, darker colour to them have usually had a longer roast, a longer brew process, or have been barrel-aged, which adds subtle flavours like fudge, caramel, coffee, and chocolate to the final product.
Due to dark beer having a much higher calorie ratio in comparison to other alcohol types, it’s an ideal choice to enjoy during the cooler seasons, when something rich, hearty, and filling is required to keep energy levels up as the body burns through calories to combat the cold.
What Are The Different Types Of Dark Beer?
The most common types of dark beers to be found are:
- Black IPA – an IPA that includes the use of dark malts which give the beer an unusually dark colour. They are quite unique in the dark beer category as they have both rich dark notes and brighter, hoppy ones too.
- Dark Lager – created from roasted barley and hops, the blend tends to add a richness to the final beer along with plenty of flavours.
- Dark Ale – a rather brown and brackish looking English beer, dark ales blend yeast with malt and hops to produce a flavourful fruity beer. The strong characteristics of this dark beer have made it very popular throughout the centuries.
- Stout – Having been popular in Europe since at least the 16th century, Stout is one of the most prevalent dark beer options around. Despite its popularity as a dark beer, it’s actually not usually the darkest type of dark beer around and got the name stout from having been the strongest beer. Stout is known for several sub-categories such as milk stout (a sweeter option due to the lactose added), oat stout (a creamy, less sweet stout) and Irish stout (a slightly more bitter variety of stout of which Guinness is the most well-known). Imperial Stout is another top stout option and was brewed originally by British brewers for Russia’s Catherine the Great; they’re known for bitter, vanilla tones.
- Porter – Having originated in the dock areas of the 18th century, Porter is a dark beer that has a lighter colour and far less bitter taste when compared to stout. It usually comes with undertones of caramel, chocolate, and toffee.
- Dunkel – with a distinctly sweet taste and inky blackness, this dark beer is a very popular and easy-drinking choice that combines top ingredients.
- Schwarzbier – a sought-after dark beer, with a mid-range alcohol volume of 4 – 5%, Schwarzbier is known for the roasted ingredients which impart huge flavour payoffs like chocolate and coffee.
Is Dark Beer Healthier Than Regular Beer?
While the debate has always raged as to whether drinking beer is healthy for you, which some studies show in moderation it can be, others want to know if dark beer is a healthier overall choice when compared to lighter beer varieties. This differs greatly depending on the beer being chosen, but overall, yes, dark beers do indeed offer some decidedly interesting health benefits.
One of the top things to note is that a single dark beer can help most people reach their iron quota for the day – which could be a boon to those who suffer from anaemia. Dark beer also is packed with antioxidants, which can help the body to fight off cell damage from free radicals.
What Does Dark Beer Taste Like?
In a nutshell, delicious!
But to explain further, dark beer tends to carry a variety of rich, malty, sweet flavours. You will be able to enjoy the earthy presence of a dark beer, regardless of what brand you try – the lingering taste, however, can vary from rich and deep to sweet and malty.
Common flavours to pick up while drinking dark beers include caramel, chocolate, fudge, cream, and even quite a bitter coffee after-taste. Dark craft beers will offer an even wider range of flavours, from cherry stouts to vanilla coffee and even seasonal flavours such as pumpkin, ginger, chai, and spicy peppers.
What Are The Top Dark Beers To Try Right Now?
Popular country-specific dark beers can easily be found. However, the following underrated dark beers, which have won international awards should certainly be taken note of and tried if you get the chance. These ten dark beers come from a host of different countries including:
- Buckskin Altbier is made in Taiwan by King Car. It has a 5.2% alcohol volume and no bitterness.
- Aroeira from Brazil is made by Wäls. It offers a 9.8% alcohol volume and has a bitterness rating of 66 IBU.
- Dark Coffee break from Brazil is produced by Wäls. It has a mild taste, a 4.6% alcohol volume and has a bitterness rating of 25 IBU.
- Vliet Dubbel from Belgium is produced by Huisbrouwerij De Vliet. It has a 6.5% alcohol volume and 23 IBU.
- Maudite from Canada is a Belgian style dubbel and is produced by Unibroue. It has an 8% alcohol volume and a bitterness of 22 IBU.
- Qualified, which is produced in the USA by Taxman Brewing Company is a dark Belgian-style brew that has a 9.5% alcohol volume and a bitterness rating of 20 IBU.
- Wodan from Germany is produced by Ganter. It has a 7.5% alcohol volume and a bitterness of 23 IBU.
Top choices in the UK include:
- Bad Kitty from Brass Castle Brewery in the UK is a porter that offers a rich, chocolatey taste, with a 5.5% alcohol volume and a bitterness rating of 34 IBU.
- Black Adder by Mauldons Ltd is a classic bitter stout with a nutty aroma. It has an alcohol content of 5.3% and no IBU
- Cambridge Black Stout by Turpin’s Brewery Cambridge offers a smooth finish and a cocoa coffee taste. It has a 4.6% alcohol volume and no IBU.
What Is The Most Popular Dark Beer Brand In The World?
While it’s incredibly hard to peg down a singular dark beer brand that is beloved all over, the closest option would undoubtedly be Guinness. This dark stout has won the hearts of many beyond Ireland’s shores and is enjoyed around the world, especially during St Patrick’s Day. It’s even popular in African countries, and Nigeria says the second most Guinness in the world, beaten only by Ireland! Now that’s a surprise for sure…
What Foods Can You Pair With Dark Beer?
As dark beer tends to provide both richness and sweetness, there are several food pairings that work incredibly well with it. Any kind of pork dish or steak would benefit from a dark beer pairing, while aged cheeses like blue, Gouda, or sharp cheddar would also suit its rich sweetness.
Beer pairing is intended to bring out the different tastes in the most complementary way. When you mix dark beer with a nutty or salty cheese, the beer’s caramel sweetness and cocoa powder notes contrast perfectly, creating a phenomenal flavour sensation. When pairing steak or pork dishes, either on their own or in a sauce, pie or bake, the light caramel sweetness of the beer enhances the meat’s savoury flavourings.
Head Over To The Dark Side…Of Beer!
If you’ve yet to join the dark side, then now is the perfect time to consider it. After all, with a variety of dark beer choices like brown ales, porters, stouts, and dunkels to choose from, there’s certainly going to be something you’ll like. Give one a try, and if it’s not to your liking, try another!
Jump To a Section Below
- What Is Dark Beer?
- What Are The Different Types Of Dark Beer?
- Is Dark Beer Healthier Than Regular Beer?
- What Does Dark Beer Taste Like?
- What Are The Top Dark Beers To Try Right Now?
- What Is The Most Popular Dark Beer Brand In The World?
- What Foods Can You Pair With Dark Beer?
- Head Over To The Dark Side…Of Beer!