best dark beers 2021
Welcome to the Drink in the Sights guide to the best dark beers 2021 including stouts and porters. As you'll probably have gathered if you've spent any time on my site it's all about travel, pubs, and beers which are probably the three best things in life. Over the last few months I've been writing beer reviews so I thought it was about time I created a guide to the very best of them. I'll be honest my beer style preference can be summed up in the one question I usually ask when I go to the bar 'what's the darkest ale you've got on?' This guide will include any beers darker than a red beer. If you want lighter beers you can find them in my best light beers of 2021 page. Anyway I've put the beers in alphabetical order for your reading pleasure. So enjoy the Drink in the Sights Guide to the best dark beers 2021.
Bad Kitty from Brass Castle Brewery
This is quite simply my favourite gluten free beer. On tap Bad Kitty from Brass Castle has a jet black body and disappointingly thin white head, the good news is that despite been thin it does last pretty well. The beer clocks in at a respectable 5.5% alcohol and has a super sweet chocolate aroma, so that's a good start, you might get a little dark fruit and malts in there too, but really chocolate is the driving force.
The taste very much matches the smell, there's quite a lot of chocolate, and possibly some nice creamy lactose, making it almost taste like a tiramisu without the coffee. Sure there's a small taste of vanilla lurking in there, but to me this feel much more like a really nice chocolate beer than a vanilla porter. This genuinely is a very nice tasty beer and if I was a celiac I think I'd always have a can or two hidden away for when I fancy a treat.
This really is one for the sweet toothed beer drinker out there. Blood Wolf is an American Red Ale which comes in a really cool, but too small for my liking can. The beers pretty lively so be careful pouring it, but with only 4.8% alcohol this wolf doesn't pack too much of a bite. As soon as you open the can you'll get the sweet aroma of toffee and caramel beautifully balanced with malts. The taste matches the smell nicely and if it wasn't for the malty flavours you cold almost feel like you're sucking on a pretty pleasant toffee and caramel sweet. Sure none of this has anything to so with a blood wolf, but that's just the way things are these days. Derby Brewing Company have created something a little bit different here and I think you'll enjoy it.
If you're a fan of proper deep, dark red ales then look no further than this absolute beauty from my home county. Lincolnshire is very much RAF territory and the Lancaster Bomber on Bomber Command very much highlights this. More importantly though this is a truly exceptional beer which tastes as a deep as it looks. The aroma that mixes fruity hops and roasted malts is one of the best I've had the fortune of smelling, and the taste really doesn't let it down. The smoky malts and fruity flavours are incredibly well balanced, and there's just a hint of a caramel that comes through at the end to keep anyone with a sweet tooth happy. I do love a proper rich red ale and this little known beauty is absolutely up there with the best of them.
Breakfast Club is a beer created literally at both ends of the planet as New Zealand's Yeastie Boys join forces with Yorkshire's Vocation Brewery to create this 6.9% stout. While I feel the need to say I don't recommend having a beer with your breakfast everyday if you were to choose to go down that route this would be your best choice. Despite its rather lame looking head Breakfast Club is a real treat. While you'll get a whiff of chocolate aroma from the beer the taste is all about waffles and blueberries. The texture is almost that of an imperial stout, which is a pretty nice texture. This really is a beer fit for anytime of day not just breakfast. It's nice that as Britain leaves the EU we're still working to create great things with the other Commonwealth nations. The full review of this beer can be found in my beer blog. It's certainly one of the best dark beers you'll find.
Brownie Hunter from Wilde Child
This is the original of what I gather is a growing number of Brownie Hunter beers from the 11 year old Leeds based brewery with a large selection of craft beers. The beer contains a fairly low these days 4.9% alcohol and pours a gorgeous black with a light but substantial tan head. I can assure you that if the looks don't lure you in the aroma certainly will.
You can tell straight away this is a proper chocolate based beer as the aroma is massive. It's not just chocolate though you'll also get some of the promised caramel fudge, and maybe just a little coffee, or at least roasted malts. Brownie Hunter looks like a good stout, smells like a good stout and thankfully it tastes like a great stout. The texture is almost nitro beer smooth, which I love, and the taste delivers everything the description of a chocolate Fudge Brownie Stout promises. There's just oodles of chocolate and fudge in here and I assume given the texture there's a fair chunk of lactose thrown in too. If you're looking for a proper chocolatey beer as a treat look no further.
Choco Libre Nitro from from Brewdog
Choco Libre comes in a 402ml pretty cool pink and light blue can declaring that this is a Mexican Hot Chocolate Stout which 'wrestles taste to the canvas.' Coming in at 8.2% it might not only be the taste left on the canvas after one too many. As you'd expect from a nitro beer Choco Libre pours deliciously. It's jet black with a gorgeous tan head which you can tell will last right through to the last sip, which is just how I like it.
The aroma quickly dispels any idea that this will be a mild drink, the hot chili spices come through straight away, quickly followed by some rich dark chocolate notes and some coffee malts, it smells amazing. Again as expected from a nitro stout the texture of Choco Libre is really nice, thick and smooth while the taste hits you pretty hard. I'd say this beer is like a really good winter warmer on steroids. The chili dominates and will certainly warm you up nicely, but there's not so much that you want to drink a pint of water after each taste. After the taste buds recover from the initial shock the chocolate tastes come through to add an extra depth to what is already a pretty exciting beer. This really is a great spicy beer.
The Cranborne Poacher is a real treat from Badger Brewery in Dorset. The badge says it's rich and fruity, and the badge really doesn't lie. At 5.7% alcohol this luscious red ale doesn't only look, smell, and most importantly taste great, it also has a bit of a kick to it. This is a proper full bodied beer full of cranberries and plums, which unlike some fruit beers doesn't loss that essential beer taste. As I've done my beer reviews I've criticised several fruity beers for forgetting that they're meant to be beers and appearing more like fruit cordials, but there's none of that with Cranborne Poacher. I would actually go as far as to say if you offered me my choice of any ruby beer I'd probably ask for this one. It's truly exceptional. Well done Badger Brewery. I do like a proper ale, and this is one of the best dark beers around.
Damson Porter from Ashover Brewery
Ashover brewery is based in Derbyshire and have won a few awards since they started brewing in 2007, they've got about 40 beers on the go and I think this is the first one I've tried. I gather they are planning to open a bar at the brewery so if you're in the area in a few months or years it might be worth checking out.
The beer pours pretty well and closer to black than most plum porters, but there's still the characteristic deep red plum colour lingering in there. What immediately surprised me with Damson Porter was the smell which is much smokier than I was expecting from a plum based drink, I'm not complaining as I love smoky beers, I was just surprised. At 4.8% Damson Porter is a pretty good choice as a session beer for a dark beer drinker. The texture is nice and full, and because the plums are less sweet than alternative versions it's not too fruity. It feels like a more subtle, more thought out taste than most plum porters, and as anyone who reads these reviews regularly will know I love it when there's a bit of smokiness to a beer and this one has plenty. I guess if you want a really fruity plum porter you're still going to go with the Titanic but this is certainly an excellent beer and actually by been a little more subtle and adding the smoky goodness you can probably drink more of these on a session.
I thought long and hard about putting this beer on the list, not because it's not an exceptional beer, but simply because it's not Stay Puft which for me is Tiny Rebel Breweries true masterpiece. Eventually though I decided it could stay. Double 99 is chocolate flake imperial stout, and yes it does taste as good as it sounds, plus at 9.9% alcohol it packs a proper imperial stout punch. The aroma is not too surprisingly packed with chocolate and vanilla, but it also doesn't hide the fact that if you have more than a couple of these you will wake up with a bad head in the morning. Despite the potency Double 99 is pretty easy to drink and thankfully has enough proper stout taste to remind you that you aren't drinking a chocolate milkshake. You'll almost certainly enjoy Tiny Rebel's Double 99 if you like chocolate stouts so treat yourself next time you see it. This is one of the best dark beers of 2021.
Hall of Pain Au Chocolat from Top Rope Brewery
Hall of Pain Au Chocolat from Top Rope Brewery comes in a fun mainly pink 440ml can and contains 5.3% alcohol. The chocolate stout pours seriously black with no head at all, which is a shame as I really like a good head on my beer. The aroma will immediately get you hooked though and help you forget about the lack of head. There's a hint of coffee in there but really it's the chocolate and cream which hits you, and hits you hard.
This really is a fantastic beer with one of the best and sweetest chocolate flavours I've ever had, it's just cream and chocolate on top of more chocolate, genuinely if you like chocolate beers this one will knock your socks off.
Jet Black Heart from the multi award winning Scottish brewers is one of my all time favourite dark beers so when they released a nitro version I just knew it was going to be good. Just for the record a nitro beer has extra nitrogen and is meant to make the beer smoother, and I do like a good smooth beer. Nitro pours absolutely perfectly. The body is jet black as promised while the full just off white creamy head just lasts forever, which I love. Regardless of anything else this is one of the best looking beers I've ever seen. The aroma is rich dark chocolate, mixed with vanilla and roasted malts, everything about this beer is spectacular. The texture is medium to full bodied but seriously creamy. You can almost feel the glorious nitrogen texture just roll down your throat, and it doesn't seem to matter how much you drink the head remains intact throughout. The taste genuinely is amazing. There's the promised chocolate and vanilla flavours perfectly mixed with roasted malts and just a hint of coffee. I actually think Brewdog have created a sequel that surpasses the original and we all know how rare that is.
I don't usually do my shopping at M&S but having won some vouchers from work I really couldn't have spent them on anything better than London Porter from Meantime Brewery in Greenwich, London. The beer pours a beautiful dark red, verging on black, with a nice little head which lingers nicely. I was immediately drawn to this beer by the promise of a caramel taste and smoky malts only to find to my absolute pleasure that it tastes more of dark chocolate than caramel. The scent really is very chocolatey with a smoky smell lingering behind and that perfectly matches the taste. My love of smoked beers is undying and adding chocolate in to the mix is just a dream come true for me. Honestly if you have an M&S in your home town go grab yourself a couple of these, you wont regret it.
You just can't beat a good creamy stout, and if you throw a bit of chocolate in to the mix that just adds something a little extra. I discovered this treat from William Bros up in Scotland during the LIDL beer festival. Most the beers on offer were a little disappointing but March of the Penguins made it all worthwhile. Sure when its poured it looks a bit like a flat can of coke, but we're going to ignore that and focus instead of the fact that it tastes amazing . There's certainly some chocolate in here, some coffee, and just enough smoke to make it stand out from the stout crowd as something a bit special, plus it has penguins on the bottle, and everyone loves penguins right?
Plum Porter from Titanic Brewery
This is one of the truly great dark beers you have to try, it's actually so good it convinced me to go and buy myself a selection of Titanic Brewery beers for Christmas just to get hold of the Grand Reserve version. If you get chance try the Grand Reserve, but don't worry if not while that packs an extra 1.6% alcohol I actually still prefer the cheaper and more widely available original
Plum Porter is just an epic beer. It's the colour of dark plums, you can smell the fruity aroma from two cities away, it's full bodied and it tastes magnificent. Sure at 4.9% there's stronger beers out there, but when a beers this good you don't want to be knocked out after a couple, you want to be able to carry on drinking it. I love porters anyway, but the sweet fruity plum taste of this one really does make it stand out. It's a beer that does exactly what it says on the bottle and much, much more. Fortunately it's available in several supermarkets and assuming they reopen in 2021 plenty of pubs usually have it on tap around the country so make sure you treat yourself.
Well if you've read this far you've probably gathered I like a good smoked beer, and beyond any doubt Rauchbier Marzen is the daddy of smoked beers. Between me and my friends this beer is known simply as the BBQ Sausage Beer, which pretty much sums it up. This is as smoky as a beers get, and it's wonderful. Sure you may only manage 2-3 a night as it really does feel like you're drinking an entire Aussie BBQ, but you'll really enjoy them. At 5.4% alcohol it packs a bit of a punch, but really this is all about the overpowering smell and taste of smoke and meat. You wont struggle to find this beer in pubs and bottle shops all over Europe, and you'll also find a wheat version, which is disappointing in comparison, but worth a go. I know this beer wont be for everyone just because the taste is so intense, but it's one you really have to try at least once in your life. This really is one of the best dark beers.
FAB are a small Lincolnshire brewery but they have some truly spectacular beer and first among them has to be the gorgeous Smokey Joe Porter. For a start just look at it, isn't that exactly what a porter should look like? It's as black as black can be, with just the right amount head. From the first whiff you'll really this is Smokey by name, and smoky by nature, but don't be fooled this is a properly good complex beer. The balance of smoked malts, roasted coffee, and dark chocolate is incredible, and at 4.9% it's not too difficult to drink several in a sitting, and you'll want too. This really is a fab beer from FAB Brewery.
For a long time I declared Stay Puft Marshmallow Porter from Tiny Rebel was the best beer in the world, and you know what I still wouldn't argue with anyone who shared that opinion. I think Tiny Rebel know they're on to a winner too as they've made dozens of different versions of this beauty including an imperial version, a chocolate version, an Oreo version, and an eggnog version, to name just a few. For what it's worth I love them all, but the original still has a special place in my heart. You can really taste the marshmallow in this beer, it's so sweet, and smooth to drink that you could just have it as dessert after a nice meal. The original clocks in at 5.2% with some of the imperial versions heading towards double figures so they can do quite a lot of damage. If you like dark beers, or beers in general, or just like nice tasting things you really have to treat your self to a Stay Puft Marshmallow porter or 6. You can find full reviews of lots of Stay Puft beer in my beer blog. This really is one of my all time favourite dark beers.
Stout looks, smells, and tastes like a perfect stout. It's as black as black can be, with a wonderful creamy head and a glorious smoky coffee aroma, with just enough dark fruits to make it interesting. The texture is everything you'd want in a beer, it's smooth, full bodied, and it tastes magnificent. The smoke really comes through effectively, but not so much that it overpowers the coffee and dark fruits which add so much to the blended taste. There's absolutely no wonder Stout has won Bottled Conditioned Beer of Britain three times. Stout is everything a good stout should be. Well done Titanic Brewery.
Sweet Temptation from Vocation Brewery
Sweet Temptation comes in a dark black and caramel brown 440ml can which seems appropriate as this is a chocolate and caramel stout. The beer pours a very dark brown, that verges on black, with a caramel coloured head which disappears way too quickly for my liking. There's strong sweet smells of dark chocolate and caramel to the point that you could be sniffing a chocolate cake.
his is all about the taste of chocolate and caramel malts, and it really is tasty. It actually reminds me a bit of a Curly Wurly, and I've not had one of them in years. This really is a truly lavish beer, so treat yourself and give in to Sweet Temptation.
SYL From First Chop Brewery
Currently SYL from First Chop Brewery is the only gluten free beer on my list of beers you have to try, but I'm hoping to find more great ones over the next few months and years. SYL is a black IPA with a pretty hefty 6.2% alcohol content, one word of warning with this one it's seriously lively so be careful pouring, you want want to waste any.
SYL is a wonderful beer full of chocolate, malts, and smoky goodness. If you're a light beer drinker who doesn't like the texture of a stout or porter this is your chance to get some of that wonderful dark beer taste with the feel of a light IPA. If you're a dark beer drinker you'll love the taste and hopefully enjoy drinking something that wont fill you up as quickly. First Chop's SYL just feels like the perfect blend of beer types. Enjoy it
I hope you enjoyed my guide to the best dark beers 2021 now it's just down to you to try them all.