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These are the 12 best stout options to unwind in winter with

It's winter, which means it's stout season. Here are the best versions of the iconic dark beer

A pint of stout at the bar
Edgar Cervantes / Getty Images

Winter is (almost) here. This means there’s at least a slight chill in the air, depending on where you live. If you’re like much of the northern part of the U.S., you might have even seen a flake or two of snow. The time is right to drape yourself in a mountain of warm, cozy blankets and sit adjacent to a roaring fire while you sip on something warming. And while hot chocolate is a great choice, we prefer our wintry drinks to be at least a little boozy. That’s where stouts come in.

The days are overcast and the nights are long, so the beers might as well follow suit and be on the darker end of the spectrum. The stout is just ideal for this time of year, offering roasted, coffee-like notes and touches of chocolate. And while you get those soothing flavors, there’s also enough of a hop bill and grain profile to appease the IPA and pale ale lovers out there. Stouts can be rich and heavy, for certain, but they’re often refreshing despite their opaque look. If you like flavors like backing chocolate, caramel, and dried fruit, start stocking up on stouts.

An imperial stout in a tulip beer glass.
Viktorya Telminova / Shutterstock

Sure, you’d do just fine sipping the big brand stouts (we’ve even included a few of those). But you live in a world that’s never seen so many craft breweries, so we think you should probably do some exploring. There are many, many stout beer brands, but we’re here to narrow things down. Here are the best stout beers to kick that imbibing adventure in gear.

Founders Breakfast Stout
Founders Brewing Co.

Best breakfast stout: Founders

This beer from prominent Michigan brewery Founders is a class act. It incorporates all of those delicious, cereal-like flavors, made with flaked oats, chocolate, and coffee. The style may be called breakfast but we find it’s best to crack one just before bed, preferably in front of a fire.

old rasputin beer bottle pour
North Coast Brewing Company / Facebook

Best imperial stout: North Coast Old Rasputin

Inky and decadent, this Russian Imperial Stout from California is as dark as the night sky. It’s full yet balanced, great on its own or with something equally rich like cheesecake.

Boulevard Brewing Whiskey Barrel Stout Bottles
Boulevard Brewing Co.

Best barrel-aged: Boulevard Whiskey Barrel Stout

The whole point of the barrel-aged stout is achieving a wine-like beer — a higher alcohol beast with enough character you’d almost want to decant it. This beer from Boulevard exemplifies the style, bold but even-keeled thanks to extended aging in old whiskey barrels. Mocha, vanilla bean, and baking chocolate round out this lovely sipper.

Goose Island Bourbon County beer bottle.
Goose Island Beer Company

Best series: Goose Island Bourbon County

One of the most highly anticipated releases every year on the beer calendar involves these outstanding stouts from Goose Island. Whether you’re a collector and ager of beer or simply curious just how layered a good barrel-aged stout can be, these lineup is for you.

Anderson Valley Oatmeal Stout bottle.
Anderson Valley

Best oatmeal stout: Anderson Valley Barney Flats

Oatmeal and stout are mutualistic lovers. The two go hand in hand so if you haven’t tried yet, get to it. This one from Anderson Valley is silky smooth, with a persistent finish that simply goes and goes.

Flying Fish Fried Ice Cream Stout can.
Flying Fish Brewing Company

Best dessert style: Flying Fish Fried Ice Cream

While sweet, don’t let the name of this beer fool you. It’s a well-rounded drinker, with some cream and cake batter notes but also a nice, beer-like backbone. It’s not even close to cloying, a medium-bodied gem bursting with flavor.

A can of Copper Kettle Mexican Style Stout.
Copper Kettle Brewing Company

Best Mexican-style stout: Copper Kettle Brewing Mexican Chocolate Stout

A chocolate stout treated to the harmonious spice of cinnamon and three different types of peppers, this beer from Copper Kettle is very much a winter warmer. The critics think so too, as the Denver-made beer has done very well at the Great American Beer Festival. It’s made with local chocolate and comes in at a pleasant, nap-inducing 7% ABV.

Deschutes Obsidian Stout bottle.

Most approachable: Deschutes Obsidian Stout

This longstanding release out of Oregon gets its name from the resident volcanic rock. It’s dark and robust, while still easy-drinking. It’s no wonder it’s always well reviewed by the beer critics out there.

Oakshire Overcast Espresso Stout can.

Best espresso stout: Oakshire Overcast

It’s tough to picture a better rainy-day drinker than this espresso stout from the Willamette Valley. It’s great with creamy cheeses, but we also like it on its own as its brimming with malted goodness.

Murphy's Irish Stout can.

Best nitro stout: Murphy’s Stout

This Irish classic offers the velvety texture that comes with most nitro-style beers. It’s creamy and woodsy, with flickers of espresso and backing chocolate and finishes nice and dry.

Belching Beaver Peanut Butter Stout can shot.
Belching Beaver Brewery

Best peanut butter stout: Belching Beaver

An intoxicating beer, to say the least, this riff from Belching Beaver is made with rolled oats and drinks like your favorite childhood candy. Enjoy this milk stout on its own or with a little scoop of vanilla ice cream.

Left Hand Brewery Nitro Milk Stout
Left Hand Brewery

Best milk stout: Left Hand Nitro Milk Stout

This 6% ABV milk stout from the folks at Left Hand Brewery has a smooth, easy-drinking, creamy flavor profile. It’s brewed with 2-row, Crystal, Chocolate, and Munich malts, as well as rolled oats, flaked barley, and roasted barley. Hopped with CTZ and U.S. Goldings hops, this memorable, wintry stout features aromas of vanilla beans, dark chocolate, freshly brewed coffee, and roasted malts.

Sipping it reveals notes of cocoa powder, espresso beans, vanilla, caramel, and more roasted malts. While it’s a great mix of sweetness and bitterness, the creamy, pillowy mouthfeel due to the use of nitrogen is why this beer is a real winner during the winter months. It’s the kind of beer that you’ll drink once and then stock in your fridge until the winter thaw.

Now you’re equipped to greet both the new year and chilliest time of year in style, at least from a craft beer standpoint. While we like stouts year-round, especially with snacks like salted nuts or rich cheeses, we really embrace them in the winter. The extra layer provided by the malt bill is just what the doctor ordered when Old Man Winter is in the picture.

Editors' Recommendations

Christopher Osburn
Christopher Osburn is a food and drinks writer located in the Finger Lakes Region of New York. He's been writing professional
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