The Five Best Stout Beers, Period

I don’t drink enough stouts! And neither do you! You don’t drink enough stouts either. Unless you’re in rehab, in which case you’re drinking the exact right amount of stouts.

If you’re anything like me, you frequently forget to order these big, bold, burnt-to-a-crisp brews. But why is that? Is it because they don’t have the easygoing drinkability of an amber? I don’t buy that for a second. For instance, for all of its purported “heaviness,” dry stout Guinness is honestly and truly one of the lightest beers in the world. And it’s not that we don’t like the strong flavors typically at play. Heck, some of the most popular beers are also the most fully flavored.

I submit that we don’t drink enough stouts because we simply forget about them. And I’m here to rectify that situation. In 2013, I pledge to you, dear readers, that I will start drinking more of the dark stuff. And I’m going to start, with these:

(A quick note: these days, many people treat the “stout”/”porter” thing as “poh-tay-toh, poh-tah-toh,” which is to say, they use the terms interchangeably. Traditionally a “porter” was the style, and “stout” was a designation, meaning “strongest.” So a “stout porter” was like a “strong coffee” or a “double vodka.” Still, for our purposes, we’re going to treat stouts and porters as different entities. Will I write about porters some day? Sure! If my editors pay me. Otherwise, you’re on your own.)

Our Favorite Imperial Stout: Avery Mephistopheles’ Stout

Your mother drinks these in Hell.

Your mother drinks these in Hell.

Gather ‘round, folks. I’d like to tell you a little story. One time a few years ago, I had a long weekend and nothing to do. It was summertime, and I happened to live in an apartment with a balcony. So I says to myself, “Self, why not drink a beer in the noonday sun?” and that sounded pretty good. So I did.

I popped open the first bottle I saw in my fridge (I had just recently picked up a random six-pack from my local beer store) and poured it into a glass. And I sat outside enjoying the day, and started sipping. About halfway down the glass, it occurred to me how balls-out drunk I was.

Now, if you’ve never met me, I’m a 6’-7” American of Irish-German descent with no small amount of drinking experience. And you would never classify me as a skinny fella. So for half of a beer to take the wind out of my sales was remarkable, to say the least. That’s when I looked at the bottle, and noticed:

1) Satan is on the damn label.

2) This beer was 17% alcohol (by comparison, Bud Light is about 4.5%, give or take).

(For all of you who are trying to MacGyver some math together and say “HEY! YOU ONLY HAD TWO BEERS!” please note that I may have been hiding both the “Shampoo Effect” and the 18% Dogfish Head Raison D’Extra I had that day for the sake of the story).

Yep. Avery Mephistopheles is 17% of dark, chocolatey, stewed-cherry goodness. And make no mistake: it is gosh darn delicious. Just, either limit yourself to one or split it between friends. It drinks more like a liqueur or an aperitif, and it’s thick, and you will get horrendously drunk. But you should absolutely try it.

Our Favorite Milk/Cream Stout: Left Hand Milk Stout

You pour a great pint of stout, Left Hand, but don't get a big, delicious, creamy head about it.

You pour a great pint of stout, Left Hand, but don’t get a big, delicious, creamy head about it.

Question: what is alcohol? If you said “yeast poop,” you’re right! Gross, but right. Yeah, weird as it is, we’re getting schlitzed on the crap and piss of teensy tiny little organisms. See, they eat sugar, and then poo it all out, and once the room gets too full of their poo (alcohol), they die, and then you drink it and their carcasses are B-vitamins.

So that’s pretty horrifying, huh? BUT! Funny enough, lactose (read: milk sugars) can’t be digested by yeast. So when you brew up a beer with lactose, it’ll take all the other sugars and make ‘em booze, and leave the milk sugars alone. What you’re left with is a creaminess to your beer. So when you blend said creaminess with a beer that frequently yields dark flavors like chocolate and coffee: you’re in tasty beer heaven, baby! (Please re-read that sentence in a Carl Weathers voice)

It’s sweet, it’s creamy, and it’s won a butt-ton of awards. If normal stouts are too dark for your sensibilities, this is an excellent alternative.

Our Favorite Oatmeal Stout: Samuel Smith’s Oatmeal Stout

Oi! You lot! Good work.

Oi! You lot! Good work.

So far, we’ve been a little Americanized on today’s list. So let’s kick if over to England, shall we? Samuel Smith’s is one of the most famous breweries in England, and their oatmeal stout is arguably their most famous beer (I’m partial to the winter warmer, but whatever).

Due to the creaminess from the oats, and the fact that UK beers tend to be a little more mild, this is an excellent “entry” stout, for lack of a better term. You’ll still get the dark flavors typical of a stout, sure. They’ll just be a little more approachable. Besides, now you can tell your doctor to get off your back about consuming more whole grains.

Our Favorite Chocolate Stout: Young’s Double Chocolate Stout

Not too much stout, just enough chocolate. No better balance may be found in Stoutland.

Not too much stout, just enough chocolate. No better balance may be found in Stoutland.

Someone out there just read this and got a little lightheaded. Yes, Young’s (another big time UK brewery) brews a pretty widely-available chocolate stout that comes in a toweringly large can. Now, admittedly, this isn’t my favorite stout on the list, but this is absolutely worth a try if you’ve never had it. As far as the chocolatey taste goes, you get habituated to it after the first four sips.

Also, this beer would play a little nicer if the chocolate character was either richer or darker. Instead, it has a sort of Nesquik flavor to it (a fate suffered by the similarly ambitious Sam Adams Chocolate Bock). This isn’t a bad beer by any measure. Far from it, in fact. And probably the most widely available chocolate stout out there. I’m just saying that I, personally, only enjoy one once in a great while.

Our Favorite Breakfast Stout: Founder’s Breakfast Stout

Baby, you cannot drink beer for breakfast! Not even adults should be doing that!

Baby, you cannot drink beer for breakfast! Not even adults should be doing that!

Not only one of the best stouts in the world, but without a doubt, it’s one of the best beers in the world. The folks at Founder’s took what you might have as a normal breakfast combo (oatmeal, coffee, and–what the hell?–chocolate) and turned into a magical 8.3% ABV beer.

Speaking from very, very intimate and unfortunate experience, despite its heft and gravity, it is very hard to stop at just one, and even harder to get up the next morning. Not only is the flavor second to none, but the quality of the ingredients are worth remarking on too. After all, this isn’t just gas station coffee-grounds they’re putting in there. This is premium Kona and Sumatra coffee. If you only try one stout from this entire article (and if you do, shame on you! I worked real hard researching and writing this stuff!) then try this one.

Doesn’t all that sound absolutely amazing? I’m hankering to try all of these right now, except I promised my parole officer I wouldn’t get drink without him and I haven’t seen him in weeks. Still, my pledge remains: more stouts in the future. Join me, won’t you?

And none of them turn blue to let you know they're cold.

And none of them turn blue to let you know they’re cold.

Brian Cullen writes about beer year round! Follow him on twitter @bucketcullen.

Forced perspective, you make everything look delicious

Forced perspective, you make everything look delicious

If you’re still stuck in winter mode, check out his take on winter beers. Or, if you’re looking ahead to spring, here are some ideas for spring beers.

More from Brian Cullen

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