The 11 Best Dark Beer Styles To Buy In 2024
— 8 May 2024

The 11 Best Dark Beer Styles To Buy In 2024

— 8 May 2024
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Few sensations are as perfect as cracking a frosty tinny on a hot summer’s day, but we’d wager having the opportunity to enjoy richer, seasonal dark beers during the cold months comes close.

Sure, the craft beer boom is old news, but that just means the bottles that have managed to stick around all this time are — by and large — of redoubtable quality.

With cold weather already well and truly upon us, now’s a fantastic time to take stock of all our favourite dark beer styles that you can buy in Australia. Between to-the-hilt barrel-aged stouts to lighter drinking ales, consider your next winter session sorted.

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The Best Dark Beers For 2024 To Try This Winter

Bridge Road B2 Bomber Mach 13

dark beers
Style: Hybrid (Black IPA/Belgian)
Strength: 10.4%
Tasting Notes: Dark malted flavours, tropical fruit, ‘punchy’ hops

The latest version of Beechworth brewer Bridge Road’s signature ‘B2 Bomber’ goes much much further than your average stout.

Technically, an unholy (but delicious) fusion of two different beer styles, it exhibits the rich roasted malt character of a black IPA; complementing those with various fruit-forward tones, courtesy of Belgian yeast.

A juggernaut of a dark beer, weighing in at about 10.4% ABV, drinkers can expect lots of intermingling flavours of chocolate, coffee bean, and dark fruits — zipping into a hopped finish.

Moo Brew Stout

dark beers Australia
Style: Stout
Strength: 8%
Tasting Notes: Dark chocolate, Italian espresso, liquorice, ‘hop-driven’ bitterness

A bestseller and year-round mainstay for lovers of dark beer, the Moo Brew stout is a great place to dive into our Buyer’s Guide. A classically styled dark beer made in Hobart, this brew emphases the rich roasted malt note that’s so characteristic of Anglo-Celtic stouts.

Laden with notes of chunk chocolate and coffee bean, it won’t be winning any awards for boundary pushing; but if you’re after a no-nonsense stout to sample in the coming months, this is a dependable choice with crowd pleasing potential.

Atomic Cryo ‘Red Alert’ Red Ale

Style: Red ale
Strength: 6.4%
Tasting Notes: Burnt caramel, lemon, grapefruit

A bit of a rogue choice, we know. That said, this red ale from local Sydney brewer Atomic is an excellent option when you want to imbibe a pint of something that’s dark beer-adjacent (without the customary ABV rating which accompanies that style).

Made using cryogenically treated Amarillo and Centennial hops — hence the name — drinkers should expect pronounced citrus aromas, and a clean yet rich-tasting palate undercut with bursts of hop.

Mornington Peninsula Brown Ale

Style: English Brown Ale
Strength: 5%
Tasting Notes: Toffee, demerara sugar, raisins

One of the few honest-to-goodness brown ales to make our shortlist, this classic English-style brew is crafted by the good folks at Mornington Peninsula Brewery.

To be clear, it is nowhere near as heavily malted as the traditional Irish stout, but does offer a robust drinking experience thanks to the use of premium malts. Pouring a rich amber hue, this brown ale’s prominent tasting notes include toffee, raisins, and brown sugar. With temperature, those notes are gradually joined by subtle undercurrents of nuts and chocolate.

Smooth and approachable, the 5% ABV makes this a shoe-in for those instances in which you want to drink a can (or two) of something delicious.

Capital Brewing Co ‘All Night Long’ Dark Lager

dark beers
Style: Dark lager
Strength: 4.2%
Tasting Notes: Chocolate, Roasted malt, dark rye bread

Capital Brewing is a name that crops up frequently here in the BH office — and with good reason. The Canberra-based maker of well-crafted, highly crushable brews has recently pitched its own dark lager into the fray: dubbed ‘All Night Long’.

A “smooth, easy and full-bodied affair” (to quote the brand’s own copy) Capital’s latest eschews the heavy, often sudsy profile of a classic Stout for something that offers lighter, crisper drinking. The secret ingredient? Pacifica Saphir — a strain of hops you’re liable to find in lager.

On the attack, ‘All Night Long’ offers a full-bodied profile of caramel, toffee, and even some trail mix. Despite those big winter-weight flavours, a clean finish and manageable ABV mean that, short of tackling a whole slab solo, you’re not liable to feel weighed down.

Felons Brewing Co ‘Dark Distant Light’

dark beers
Style: Imperial Stout
Strength: 11.7%
Tasting Notes: Chocolate, coffee, American whiskey

A swan song for lovers of more experimental dark beers, Brisbane brewer Felon’s ‘Dark Distant Light’ will scratch your itch for rare, barrel-aged stout.

Aged for 14 months in barrels previously filled with Gospel whiskey, this limited release is tied together with a complex web of flavours. All the classic Imperial Stout signifiers are there (the roasted malt, dark chocolate, and salted almonds) but the addition of American oak has also caused this beer’s profile to spin out into whispers of vanilla and baking spice.

Clocking in at a, shall we say, boisterous 11.7% ABV this is most definitely a dark beer to sip over the course of your next sesh — all the better to really sink your teeth into its unique combination of flavours.

Pirate Life Brewing Stout

Style: Stout
Strength: 5.6%
Tasting Notes: Rum and raisin, dried fruits, roasted cacao nibs

For a no-nonsense and highly session-able dark beer, look no further than South Australian brewer Pirate Life’s signature stout. Rich and smooth with a pronounced rum and raisin note, the secret to this can’s taste profile is simultaneous use of roasted, crystal, and pale malts.

The net result is a dark beer that pours reddish black with a hazelnut head, and like a number of 5% styles we saw fit to include in this list, Pirate Life Stout offers dependable easy-drinking enjoyment — even when (dare we say it) the mercury isn’t plummeting out of doors.

Young Henrys ‘Motorcycle Oil’ Porter

dark beers
Style: Hopped Porter
Strength: 5.5%
Tasting Notes: Roasted coffee, citrus, black peppercorn, dark chocolate

Local outfit Young Henrys have done it again with their recent ‘Motorcycle Oil’ release. Decidedly not your pappy’s classic porter, this formulation from the Newtown brewer throws a wrench into the proverbial works by adding a large dose of American hops.

In spite of its pitch black body and tan crema, there’s a decidedly refreshing undercurrent to this dark beer that makes it compelling during all but the hottest of months. To be sure: the core flavour profile still involves dark chunk chocolate and roasted coffee, but this gradually mellows out into burst of pine needle and citrus — thanks, in large part, to the addition of Chinook hops.

Bitter but balanced, it’s the perfect gateway stout for those who are otherwise sworn IPA drinkers.

Lord Nelson ‘Old Admiral’ Dark Ale

Style: Dark Ale
Strength: 6.1%
Tasting Notes: Caramel toffee, coffee liqueur

Coming courtesy of Sydney’s oldest brewpub, the Lord Nelson ‘Old Admiral’ is a classically built British-style dark ale that will have you singing a sea shanty in no time. Crafted with an ABV of 6%, it’s robust enough to complement similarly English food pairings: ranging from beef and beer stews to the classic cottage pie.

Pouring a deep amber with a creamy beige top, this is barrel-chested stuff straight out of the gate. There’s cocoa powder and caramel, with a hint of dark fruit coming through on the finish.

One to order if you tend to enjoy a beverage with food, and prefer a well-rounded drinking experience where there’s little to no hoppiness present.

White Rabbit Dark Ale

dark beers
Style: Dark Ale
Strength: 4.9%
Tasting Notes: Toffee, chocolate, stone fruits

One of the forerunners of the original Aussie craft beer boom, Victoria-based White Rabbit owes a lot of its success to the signature ‘Dark Ale’ recipe. A familiar sight at gastropubs and bistros (with its distinctive green-and-cream label) it is crafted in Geelong using open-tank fermentation: a technique more commonly associated with winemaking, which lends this beer a lot of complexity.

The rich, garnet-tinted hue may evoke flavours of molasses and sticky toffee pudding; but, at under 5% ABV, the experience of drinking this is closer to a deliciously balanced black tea.

With stewed dark fruits dominant across the palate, and a hint of caramel on the finish, this is excellent option for those who don’t want to fully embrace the monster stout brigade.

Guinness Draught Stout

Style: Irish Dry Stout
Strength: 4.3%
Tasting Notes: Coffee, chocolate, bitter hops

A fitting epilogue to our dark beers Buyer’s Guide, the stout family as we know it wouldn’t exist without the one and only Guinness draught.

‘The Black Stuff’, ‘Ebony Nectar’, ‘A pint of plain’: despite a plethora of honorary nicknames, no matter where you roam around the globe you can expect Ireland’s national beverage to offer consistent flavour and a satisfying texture. One that’s best enjoyed on a cold afternoon, in the courtyard of your local publican.

Made using both roasted and unmalted barley, the proprietary Guinness recipe prioritizes balance over any singular flavour. Additionally, in stark contrast to the pilsner and lager families, texture is a massive part of Guinness’s appeal.

Don’t forget to ‘split the G’ with your first sip!

Now that you’re across the best dark beers to imbibe during winter, check out a number of our favourite food & drink guides to Brisbane, Sydney, and Melbourne below:

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