The 10 Best Stout Beers to Try in 2024: Taste Tested

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Stout is a broad family of beers known for their dark color and roasty flavor. Despite their variety, stout beers are often pigeonholed as being strong beers, but alcohol content in stout beers ranges from very session-able to extreme. Additionally, while their flavor is a common denominator, brewers have found ample opportunities to take liberties with the classic stout porter to brew beers that leverage novelty and nostalgia.

While these pastry stouts and dessert beers are very popular, this list aims to provide an expansive look at all types of stout beers. While pale lagers and IPAs remain the most popular types of beers, stout deserves recognition and understanding as an important and still relevant style to enjoy.

1. Guinness Foreign Extra Stout

Ireland | ABV: 7.5% | Calories: 225

A stronger version of a traditional stout, Guinness Draught, Foreign Extra Stouts is smooth with a subtly roasted character to go with a creamy mouthfeel and velvety texture. Guinness Extra Stout is less strong than an Imperial stout and drier than a tropical stout. These beers fall between many stout beers listed below but offer plenty to enjoy on a cold winter’s night or rainy day in the pub.

2. Old No. 38 | North Coast Brewing (Dry Stout)

California | ABV: 5.4% | Calories: 160

The use of roasted barley accentuated a highly attenuated beer that will remind most of roasted coffee. This is true in the classic Irish Dry Stout. The subtle sweetness and espresso finish create a smooth and satisfying beer that has complemented pub fare like Shepard’s pie for centuries. Be sure to take a moment to marvel at the beer’s flashes of garnet deep inside a strikingly black body, as well as the creamy, off-white foam head that persists at the top of this beer.

3. Henhouse Brewing | Oyster Stout

California | ABV: 4.9% | Calories: 145

It’s no secret that a stout is the perfect pairing to a dozen freshly shucked oysters-on-the-half-shell. But the incorporation of these briny bi-valves in the beer seems like another attempt by brewers to jump the craft beer shark. In actuality, however, there is a practical use for mollusks in the brewing process. Let me explain: the dark, roasted malt that stout beers are known for also contributes to the acidity of the beer. The result of these dark malt flavors can create an unpleasant and acrid taste. Brewers discovered that calcium carbonate could be an effective compound to counteract the astringency of dark malts. Calcium carbonate is what oyster shells are made of. Thus, a little bit of crushed-up oyster shell could go a long way in the brewing process to ensure that incredibly smooth stout flavor without harsh astringency.

Notes from Henhouse: “We brew this beer in tribute to the waterways and ecosystems that have made this region of California so vital for so long. Whole Oysters from Hog Island Oyster Company and a touch of sea salt imbue flavors of the sea. The calcium from the oysters brings out the chocolate and coffee notes from California-grown malt from Admiral Maltings in Alameda. HenHouse Oyster Stout is a beer with true terroir of both Bodega Bay and California’s Central Valley.”

4. Deschutes Obsidian Stout (American Stout)

Oregon | ABV: 6.4%| Calories: 185

A combination of darkly roasted malts and ample hopping with American hops creates an aggressive, hop-forward version of the classic dry stout. True hop heads know that an IPA isn’t the only place to get a bitter fix, and the combination of hops and dark malt allows unique flavors to shine. Look for Deschutes Obsidian Stout to showcase a smooth yet bone-dry palette of flavors showcasing dark chocolate, charcoal, and citrus.

5. Left Hand Milk Stout

Colorado | ABV: 6%| Calories: 180

What goes better with the bittersweet chocolate or roasted coffee notes of a stout more than milk? That’s the idea behind a milk stout. Also known as a cream stout, these stout beers receive the addition of milk sugar, or lactose, to act as a sweet counterweight to the roasted malt flavors. Additionally, lactose does not ferment like other sugars. By not being converted into alcohol by the yeast, the lactose contributes to the creamy texture and body of the beer. Left Hand has undoubtedly cornered the market on milk stout, creating various versions that include everything from coffee beans, cacao nibs, and toasted coconut to chili peppers. But if you ask me, the best example is their classic version without nitro. It is right up there with the best stout beer brands, like Guinness Draught or Sammy Smith’s.

6. Hardywood Park Craft Brewery Gingerbread Stout (Pastry Stout)

Virginia | ABV: 11.5% | Calories: 345

Novelty and nostalgia have certainly had a significant effect on the craft beer scene in recent years. There seems to be no limit on what brewers will cram into stouts in an attempt to score points on beer apps. Frankly, I’m over it and wish we could return to enjoying a beer with character without the gimmicks. That said, they are popular, and there are some great examples.

Pastry stouts are chock full of sugar, vanilla beans, and other flavoring that create a richly decadent dessert beer. A great example will not only taste a specific type of dessert or ingredients but also offer layers of complex flavors combined with alcohol in a dark beer.

Hardywood Park has mastered the pastry stout with their Gingerbread Stout, a seasonal offering combining rich dark chocolate flavors with ginger spice for a decadent holiday treat.

7. Founder Kentucky Breakfast Stout (Coffee Stout)

Michigan | ABV: 12.12% | Calories: 365

The character of roasted malt is often described as similar to roasted coffee beans. These toasted grain aromas range from caramel and dark chocolate notes to fruit and nut flavors. This fact makes coffee flavors a great addition to dark beers, particularly stout beer. Like all beers, balancing the flavors of the beer with the ingredients is critical. A coffee stout needs to taste like a beer and have enough coffee flavors that stand out. The fun of using coffee in beers is that, like hops, coffee beans impart their own unique character that a skillful brewer can ensure comes out in the beer.

8. North Coast Old Rasputin Imperial Stout

Country/State | ABV: 9% | Calories: 270

Imperial stouts are some of the strongest beers brewed. Boozy and rich, these beers can range between eight and 12 percent ABV, if not more. With the strength comes an equally intense amount of flavor from using copious amounts of malt, both base and roasted barley. It is important to note that an Imperial stout requires other malts to provide fermentable sugar in addition to roasted malt. Roasted barley lends color, flavor, and body but offers little gravity points. Imperial stouts traditionally were separated into two categories: the classic British Imperial Stout that was presented that – legend has it – was present to the Russian Imperial court and was a favorite of Catherine the Great, and the American Imperial stout, naturally, was a more hop-forward version of the classic.

Today, these sub-categories can be divided further by spending time in oak barrels, known as a barrel aged imperial stout, or by its ingredients that may push it into the category of pastry stout, as well. In each case, the imperial stout style is a high gravity, high alcohol dark beer with deep complexity and flavor.

North Coast Old Rasputin is a throwback classic. While the brewery also creates a barrel aged stout version of Old Rasputin, the standard still bursts with intense chocolate flavors, similar to boozy malted milk balls. The brewery describes it as “produced in the tradition of 18th Century English brewers who supplied the court of Russia’s Catherine the Great. Old Rasputin seems to develop a cult following wherever it goes. It’s a rich, intense brew with big complex flavors, creamy texture, and a warming finish.”

9. Goose Island Bourbon County Barrel Aged Stout

Illinois | ABV: Varies | Calories: Varies

Beer geeks lose their minds over anything in a bourbon barrel, and they have Goose Island Bourbon County to thank. Sure, beers had been aged in oak barrels for hundreds of years, but Goose Island commercialized the use of whiskey barrels, bourbon barrels, scotch barrels – even cognac, tequila, and gin barrels. The result of letting unaged stouts rest on used spirit barrels creates a remarkable added layer of complexity. The toasted oak within the barrels infuses into the beer, creating flavors and aromas of vanilla beans, toasted coconut, and dark chocolate, all things that are perfectly delicious in a stout. It’s no wonder you rarely see stouts that haven’t been bourbon barrel aged. Barrel aged stout is now the standard, and it’s hard to argue they don’t make the best stout beers.

10. Samuel Smith Oatmeal Stout

United Kingdom | ABV: 5% | Calories: 150

Like the creative use of lactose and oyster shells in stout brewing, flaked oats have a long history of balancing roasted malt’s sometimes astringent nature in stout beer. The result is a creamy texture and thick head to go with a milk chocolate and coffee flavor of malts. Oatmeal stouts can be brewed like traditional stouts or have increased ABV, making it an imperial oatmeal stout. The oatmeal stout style is a versatile beer that can even handle adjuncts like roasted cacao nibs and vanilla beans.

Samuel Smith’s oatmeal stout is the archetypal oatmeal stout style. The brewer, which also brews other traditional stouts in addition to an organic chocolate stout, describes their oatmeal stout with the following, “Brewed with well water (the original well at the Old Brewery, sunk in 1758, is still in use, with the hard well water being drawn from 85 feet underground); fermented in ‘stone Yorkshire squares’ to create an almost opaque, wonderfully silky and smooth textured ale with a complex medium dry palate and bittersweet finish.”

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Andy Sparhawk is an avid beer lover and the former editor-in-chief for CraftBeer.com. Andy is the lead writer for The Beer Babe and lives in Westminster, Colorado, with his family. As beer enthusiast and experienced beer judge, he loves sharing his experiences with The Beer Babe's dedicated audience of beer enthusiasts.