Winter is (almost) here. This means there’s at least a slight chill in the air, depending on where you live. If you’re like much of the northern part of the U.S., you might have even seen a flake or two of snow. The time is right to drape yourself in a mountain of warm, cozy blankets and sit adjacent to a roaring fire while you sip on something warming. And while hot chocolate is a great choice, we prefer our wintry drinks to be at least a little boozy. That’s where stouts come in.
- Best breakfast stout: Founders
- Best imperial stout: North Coast Old Rasputin
- Best barrel-aged: Boulevard Whiskey Barrel Stout
- Best series: Goose Island Bourbon County
- Best oatmeal stout: Anderson Valley Barney Flats
- Best dessert style: Flying Fish Fried Ice Cream
- Best Mexican-style stout: Copper Kettle Brewing Mexican Chocolate Stout
- Most approachable: Deschutes Obsidian Stout
- Best espresso stout: Oakshire Overcast
- Best nitro stout: Murphy’s Stout
- Best peanut butter stout: Belching Beaver
- Best milk stout: Left Hand Nitro Milk Stout
The days are overcast and the nights are long, so the beers might as well follow suit and be on the darker end of the spectrum. The stout is just ideal for this time of year, offering roasted, coffee-like notes and touches of chocolate. And while you get those soothing flavors, there’s also enough of a hop bill and grain profile to appease the IPA and pale ale lovers out there. Stouts can be rich and heavy, for certain, but they’re often refreshing despite their opaque look. If you like flavors like backing chocolate, caramel, and dried fruit, start stocking up on stouts.
Sure, you’d do just fine sipping the big brand stouts (we’ve even included a few of those). But you live in a world that’s never seen so many craft breweries, so we think you should probably do some exploring. There are many, many stout beer brands, but we’re here to narrow things down. Here are the best stout beers to kick that imbibing adventure in gear.
This beer from prominent Michigan brewery Founders is a class act. It incorporates all of those delicious, cereal-like flavors, made with flaked oats, chocolate, and coffee. The style may be called breakfast but we find it’s best to crack one just before bed, preferably in front of a fire.
Inky and decadent, this Russian Imperial Stout from California is as dark as the night sky. It’s full yet balanced, great on its own or with something equally rich like cheesecake.
The whole point of the barrel-aged stout is achieving a wine-like beer — a higher alcohol beast with enough character you’d almost want to decant it. This beer from Boulevard exemplifies the style, bold but even-keeled thanks to extended aging in old whiskey barrels. Mocha, vanilla bean, and baking chocolate round out this lovely sipper.
One of the most highly anticipated releases every year on the beer calendar involves these outstanding stouts from Goose Island. Whether you’re a collector and ager of beer or simply curious just how layered a good barrel-aged stout can be, these lineup is for you.
Oatmeal and stout are mutualistic lovers. The two go hand in hand so if you haven’t tried yet, get to it. This one from Anderson Valley is silky smooth, with a persistent finish that simply goes and goes.
While sweet, don’t let the name of this beer fool you. It’s a well-rounded drinker, with some cream and cake batter notes but also a nice, beer-like backbone. It’s not even close to cloying, a medium-bodied gem bursting with flavor.
A chocolate stout treated to the harmonious spice of cinnamon and three different types of peppers, this beer from Copper Kettle is very much a winter warmer. The critics think so too, as the Denver-made beer has done very well at the Great American Beer Festival. It’s made with local chocolate and comes in at a pleasant, nap-inducing 7% ABV.
This longstanding release out of Oregon gets its name from the resident volcanic rock. It’s dark and robust, while still easy-drinking. It’s no wonder it’s always well reviewed by the beer critics out there.
It’s tough to picture a better rainy-day drinker than this espresso stout from the Willamette Valley. It’s great with creamy cheeses, but we also like it on its own as its brimming with malted goodness.
This Irish classic offers the velvety texture that comes with most nitro-style beers. It’s creamy and woodsy, with flickers of espresso and backing chocolate and finishes nice and dry.
An intoxicating beer, to say the least, this riff from Belching Beaver is made with rolled oats and drinks like your favorite childhood candy. Enjoy this milk stout on its own or with a little scoop of vanilla ice cream.
This 6% ABV milk stout from the folks at Left Hand Brewery has a smooth, easy-drinking, creamy flavor profile. It’s brewed with 2-row, Crystal, Chocolate, and Munich malts, as well as rolled oats, flaked barley, and roasted barley. Hopped with CTZ and U.S. Goldings hops, this memorable, wintry stout features aromas of vanilla beans, dark chocolate, freshly brewed coffee, and roasted malts.
Sipping it reveals notes of cocoa powder, espresso beans, vanilla, caramel, and more roasted malts. While it’s a great mix of sweetness and bitterness, the creamy, pillowy mouthfeel due to the use of nitrogen is why this beer is a real winner during the winter months. It’s the kind of beer that you’ll drink once and then stock in your fridge until the winter thaw.
Now you’re equipped to greet both the new year and chilliest time of year in style, at least from a craft beer standpoint. While we like stouts year-round, especially with snacks like salted nuts or rich cheeses, we really embrace them in the winter. The extra layer provided by the malt bill is just what the doctor ordered when Old Man Winter is in the picture.
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