It’s easy to hear “beer” and think instinctively of that old standby: honey-coloured lager. But fall is a season of rich flavours, calling for drinks that can hold their own against turkey meat and freshly harvested root vegetables. Enter dark beers, which you’ve probably noticed starting to take over more and more of the taps at your local craft brewery this season. For good reason — just as there’s no more comforting companion than a cup of coffee on a brisk morning, there’s nothing better suited to the nights of autumn than a dark beer. Smooth, full-bodied, and often featuring flavours like caramel and chocolate, these brews are truly a dark art. Here’s how to navigate the beer menu accordingly during your next night out.
Creamy in texture, often with a smoky flavour that calls to mind coffee or chocolate. The most famous one is Guinness. (But branch out. Live a little.)
1. Milk Stout
Particularly sweet, thanks to being brewed with lactose, which contains sugars that resist fermenting.
Try: Beau’s Tom Green Cherry Milk Stout
2. Imperial Stout
First brewed for a Russian Empire, imperials are bold, brawny, and usually clock in at upwards of 8% ABV.
Try: Nickel Brook Winey Bastard Imperial Stout
3. Sour Stout
An eclectic fusion of smokiness and tart acidity, the latter brought out during fermentation by a bacteria such as lactobacillus.
Try: Oast House Black Sow’R Stout
The line blurs, but today’s porters tend to have a less roasty taste than stouts — often because they’re made with malted grains instead of roasted ones.
1. English Porter
While most British browns rank on the sweeter, milder end of the porter spectrum, brews identified as “robust” pack more of a punch.
Try: Fuller’s London Porter
2. American Porter
Experimental twists on classic styles, courtesy of craft brewers on this side of the Atlantic. Often hoppier, or featuring added flavour notes.
Try: Mill Street Vanilla Porter
3. Baltic Porter
Strong and dense, with rum- and licorice-like flavours common. Baltics lend themselves well to aging, which brings out more nuance.
Try: Les Trois Mousquetaires Porter Baltique
Beers that ferment under warm conditions, contributing to their slightly sweet, sometimes fruity flavour.
1. Brown Ale
A fixture at any self-respecting British pub, these are mahogany-hued, relatively mild, and often incorporate toasted nut flavours.
Try: Black Oak Nut Brown Ale
2. Amber Ale
Made with amber malt and ranging from deep copper to light brown in colour, with a flavour profile that skews especially malty.
Try: Hockley Amber Ale
3. Scotch Ale
(AKA “Wee Heavys”) An Edinburgh invention that’s left to boil longer, resulting in a caramelized wort and buttery character.
Try: Church Key Holy Smoke Scotch Ale