Dark beer is enjoyed all over the world, and there are several age-old traditions of brewing this kind of beer.
So, what exactly defines dark beer, what differentiates it from light beer, and most importantly, what the best kinds of dark beer are to drink?
All these questions, and more, will be answered in this article. Read on to find everything there is to know about dark beers and the seven most popular options on the market!
What Is Dark Beer?
Most people think of rich, creamy beers like Guinness when thinking of dark beer, but this kind of beer varies far beyond those limits.
Dark beer is made with roasted malt, and just like with coffee, the darker the roast, the richer the brew. By increasing dark malt, a brewer can create a deeper color while adding complex flavor notes such as coffee, chocolate, and caramel. That’s the most traditional way to produce a dark beer.
You can also deepen a beer's color during the boil or by aging it in barrels, where a beer will take on flavor elements of the barrel’s wood. Each method lends itself to different types of dark beer that range from malty to creamy.
Dark beer has a reputation for being of higher alcoholic content than other beers, but that’s not always true. Most beers have an alcohol content between 4% and 7% ABV, but they can vary above and below. Many dark beers actually can fall into the lower range despite the common belief to the contrary.
Dark vs. Light Beers
Let's make the differences between dark beer and light beer abundantly clear since it is easy to get confused if you aren’t familiar with the styles.
The defining difference between light and dark beer is color. Dark beer is darker, and light beer is lighter—obvious, we know.
The color of a beer is directly impacted by many things, including how it is roasted, what ingredients are used, and the fermentation process.
Some notable descriptors for light beer include:
On the other hand, notable dark beer descriptors include:
- Deep Amber
All beer brewing is finding different combinations and mixing and matching a few ingredients to make different kinds of beer. Beers can use wheat, oats, barley, corn, rye, or rice, depending on the beer.
Light beer usually contains more hops which are subsequently roasted for short periods of time at lower temperatures. This causes the beer to be much lighter in appearance.
On the other hand, dark beers use a more complex combination of ingredients, which contributes to a more robust flavor. Dark beers use more barley than most light beers while also implementing adjuncts like coffee, chocolate, caramel, and nuts.
Dark beer and light beer have significant differences in taste from various factors, including roasting time and temperature.
Light beers tend to be lighter (unsurprisingly), as well as more refreshing. They can be slightly bitter but undeniably easy to drink. Dark beers tend to be more deep, intense, and potent. They are also common as seasonal flavors to be enjoyed during holidays and sporting events.
Most Popular Dark Beer Brands
Now that you know what makes dark beer what it is, it’s time to learn about the most popular dark beers out there. Here we go.
1. Backwoods Bastard
This deep, dark scotch ale is from Founders Brewing Company of Grand Rapids, Michigan. Backwoods Bastard beer is a unique blend of single malt scotch, oaky bourbon barrels, smoke, sweet caramel, and roasted malts.
This barrel-aged dark beer is one of the most delicious options out there.
2. Deschutes Black Butte Porter
First brewed in 1988, Deschutes Black Butte Porter is the product of Deschutes Brewery of Oregon. This rich porter manages to ride the line between being not too heavy and not too complex.
Black Butte manages to rock a solid 5.2% ABV in each bottle, making it a fantastic choice for a drink with dinner or a night on the town.
3. Zero Gravity Extra Stout
One of the darkest beers on the market comes to us from the state of Vermont, produced by Zero Gravity Brewing of Burlington.
Brewers recommend that this dark, black stout be served in pint glasses at 45-50°F. Zero Gravity Extra Stout has an aroma of chocolate and coffee followed by rich flavors of roasted barley and a dry finish.
4. Plum Synth
Plum Synth is a deep, rich blend of barrel-aged and stainless-aged mixed fermentation that comes to us from the Oxbow Brewing Company of Newcastle, Maine.
A beer like this comes out dark purple with notes of overripe plums, dark berries, cola, and oak with a high acidity.
5. Alaskan Smoked Porter
A smoked porter with a cult following, the Alaskan Smoked Porter comes from the Alaskan Brewing Company of Juneau, Alaska.
This powerful porter comes in beefy bottles with 6.5% ABV with dark and smokey flavor. Alaskan Smoked Porter pairs amazingly with deserts and cold weather alike. It also proves great to cook with!
6. Bell’s Expedition Stout
This stout is a product of Michigan’s Bell’s Brewing out of Kalamazoo, Michigan. This beer is one of the first Russian imperial stouts to hail from the United States. This bold beer has a deep chocolate flavor alongside the prominent ABV standard in the style.
Each bottle of Bell’s Expedition Stout has an ABV of roughly 10.5% ABV and proves to be a widely enjoyed dark-fruit forward imperial stout.
7. Black & Tan
This is a beloved product of Yuengling Brewery from Pottsville, PA. Black & Tan models itself after a traditional English Half & Half by combining 60% of Dark Brewed Porter and 40% of Yuengling Premium Beer to create a brew that is dark in color with hints of caramel from the dark roasted malts.
Dark and Stormy
Light beers tend to be more popular than dark ones, but we think dark beers have more to offer.
Dark beer varies from insanely bitter to sweet and fruity. You should treat quality dark beer similarly to wine; try smelling, tasting, and drinking slowly and with care. If you’re now curious about dark beer and want to find some to try, check out the wide selection available at TapRm!