There are some misconceptions when it comes to stout that need to be addressed. Because this style of porter is dark in color, many drinkers quickly assume that it is going to be “heavy” on the palate. This is not always the case and especially not true when it comes to Guinness Draught, the most famous stout in the world.
What Is a Stout?
A stout is a dark ale. Due to a stout’s grain bill, the ale often has familiar flavors that many drinkers enjoy at other parts of their day, including coffee and chocolate. A base recipe for stout, however, contains neither of those ingredients—but the aromas and flavors are there. Then, of course, there are stouts that will add java and cocoa to a recipe, along with fruits, vanilla and more.
It is a lovely canvas for adjunct ingredients. When served on nitro—a gas that requires a special tap and results in a creamy, yet still easy-drinking pint—it becomes an even more enjoyable experience.
While the beer’s appearance might suggest it’s best consumed on cold nights in a cozy pub, stouts are versatile and built for nearly any occasion, even served super cold and a summer cookout. Different subtypes abound, from classic Irish stout to lactose sugar-spiked milk stout to sweet-and-spicy chocolate stout.
No matter your mood, there’s a just-right stout to drink. Here are some of our favorites.
Stout Beer Brands We Love
Best Barrel-Aged Stout
Best Vanilla Stout
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Best Irish Stout
Guinness should come to mind as gold standard of Irish Stout. Thanks to a strong barley grain bill, it offers up noticeable coffee and chocolate flavors. A touch of herbal hops near the finish adds an extra layer of earthiness. Served on nitro, the gas gives it a creamy texture and the distinct cascading pour and thick, cake-like head.
Guinness should come to mind as gold standard of Irish Stout. Thanks to a strong barley grain bill, it offers up noticeable coffee and chocolate flavors. A touch of herbal hops near the finish adds an extra layer of earthiness. Served on nitro, the gas gives it a creamy texture and the distinct cascading pour and thick, cake-like head.$8 / 15oz 4-pk Total Wine & More
Best Milk Stout
Left Hand Brewing of Longmont, Colorado, has become one of the better-known milk stout makers in the U.S. thanks to its Nitro Milk Stout, which uses the sweetener. Dessert in a glass, perfect for any time of day.$13 / 12oz 6-pk Total Wine & More
Best Oatmeal Stout
California’s Anderson Valley Barney Flats Oatmeal Stout is a reliable and well-constructed example of the oatmeal stout style.$13 / 12oz 6-pk Total Wine & More
Best Chocolate Stout
Best Coffee Stout
Best Imperial Stout
North Coast Brewing in California regularly features Old Rasputin in its regular lineup. The imperial stout is a great introduction to the style.$10 / 12oz 4-pk Total Wine & More
Best Non-Alcoholic Stout
As the non-alcoholic segment has grown in the United States over the last few years, brewers have branched out beyond the typical no-ABV lager. Athletic Brewing has crafted a beer that mimics many of the flavors of a stout, but without the buzz. Its All Out is available year-round.$14 / 12oz 6-pk Athletic Brewing Co
What Is a Milk Stout?
A milk stout incorporates lactose sugar as an ingredient. It adds additional sweetness and creaminess to the dark ale. These are sometimes called dark cream ales and, due to the sugar, often have a fuller body than more traditional stouts.
What Is a Barrel-aged Stout?
As the name might suggest these are stouts that have spent time in barrels. Sometimes brewers will use neutral wood, but often bourbon, rye and other spirit barrels will be used to impart flavors and aromas of those spirits into the base beer. Often thick and boozy, they can be wonderfully complex examples of the fusing of two beverages.
What Is an Irish Stout?
In many minds, Guinness is synonymous with Irish Stout. Light and dry, it’s often served on nitro, which delivers a creamy texture and thick head.
What Is an Oatmeal Stout?
As the name suggests, an oatmeal stout has the addition of oats in the malt bill. This adds both body and additional sweetness to the beer. A touch heartier in the glass and filling, this style is often a good accompaniment to roast meals.
What Is a Pastry Stout?
Dessert stout, anyone? Brewers have taken to using stouts as a canvas for dessert-flavored beers. Chocolate is a standard flavor in stouts thanks to roasted barley, so the addition of vanilla makes sense. Some brewers will use extracts, while others will add whole beans to recipes. Similarly, brewers have taken to adding real chocolate to stouts to increase the overall cocoa flavor. Going further, some brewers have even added cakes, pies and pastries to the mash—boosting not only the drink’s sugar content, but overall flavor.
What Is a Coffee Stout?
Stouts are known for coffee flavors, so adding more coffee to the mix just makes sense. Most brewers will cold steep beans or grounds during fermentation rather than adding coffee in the boil of the brewing process to avoid unwanted acidity or harshness.
What Is an Imperial Stout?
Well suited for aging and to take the edge off a hard day, the imperial stout, sometimes called a Russian Imperial Stout, is stronger in alcohol than other stouts. The traditional flavors are often more robust, with espresso replacing coffee and dark chocolate at the forefront.
Last Updated: July 12, 2023