Top view of male hand pouring dark beer in a glass placed on textured rustic wooden boards.

Dark Beer Guide

Fall is upon us and if history is our guide winter is soon to follow. For many beer drinkers this means the time to put away the light summer beers and start thinking dark.

Dark beers have a reputation for being heavy, full of calories and drinking more like a meal than a beverage. But that isn’t always the case – though it’s not not the case either. It’s just that to classify dark beers as one type of brew with a singular taste or profile isn’t accurate. We’ve been told since we were kids to never judge a book by its’ cover. Well don’t just a beer by it’s color.

Our goal is to connect you with the beer that you love. To assist in this endeavour we’ve put together a quick and simple guide to dark beer for you to keep handy the next time you’re in a Big Red Liquors store and are browsing our massive beer selection.

Grab your phone, pull up this post and start exploring! (Or just ask a friendly store associate, whichever is easiest and less intrusive to you introverts out there).

Porters

Porters get their name from the working class people of the shipyards who would drink this beer after a long days work. They are considered the foundation of the dark beer world. They can range from light brown to dark, but often have a hint or ruby coloring in there. Typically, porters will have the following characteristics:

  • Moderate malt taste
  • A note of bitter chocolate
  • Very little to no hoppiness
  • More roasted characteristics than a brown ale

There are several common types of porters you will see:

English Porter

These brews are easy to drink with a dry finish and a bit of sweetness at the end of each sip.

American Porter

Darker and less sweet than the English style with a bit more bitterness and notes of coffee. If you like hoppy beer but are looking for something new, try and American Porter.

Imperial Porter

Roasted malt grains give this a richer taste but it still maintains a silky drink.

Stouts

Stouts were once called “Stout Porters,” but have since branched off into their own life in the beer world. The Stout category can vary greatly with coffee, bittersweet chocolate or caramel forward notes depending on the style. They will generally have these characteristics:

  • Strong roasted malt flavor
  • A bit more of a charred taste than Porters
  • More hops
  • Less sweetness
  • Dry finish

These are the common types of Stouts you will find:

Dry Stout

If you have had a Guiness (and let’s be honest, who hasn’t?), you know the feel of a Dry Stout. Despite its black color it is silky and light.

Oatmeal Stout

If you prefer milk chocolate to dark, bitter chocolates you’ll likely find a friend in Oatmeal Stouts.

Imperial Stout

The dryest and the most roasted flavors of the dark beers come in Imperial Stout form. You’ll often find fruit notes hidden behind the dark chocolate and coffee notes.

Milk Stout

Full of body and very rich, these beers have more unfermented sugars in them, which is why they are sometimes known as Sweet Stouts.