10 Dark Beers You Should Try on St. Patrick’s Day
Don’t get us wrong—we love Guinness. But we consulted the experts, and these brews are worth celebrating, too.
Pearl Necklace Oyster Stout
You can probably guess how this beer is made—it’s brewed with whole oysters and a bit of sea salt. Josh Bernstein, author of The Complete Beer Course ($15, amazon.com), says this stout from Maryland-based Flying Dog Brewery has a “roasty complexity” that doesn’t quite taste like oysters, but has a briny edge that adds another layer of flavor. It’s a little more full-bodied than a Guinness, and is an especially good pick if you’re pairing it with—you guessed it—oysters.
This is a classic American stout with the essential “moreishness” quality sought out by Bernstein and other beer enthusiasts—meaning it’s a beer you want to have more of. You’ll notice flavors of espresso and chocolate, but it also has a touch of hops to cut the sweetness of the beer. For those who don’t know—“hops” is a flower and one of the four main ingredients in beer. It balances out sugars and sweetness, often contributing to the aromatics and bitterness in darker beers.
Irish Extra Stout
This strong stout is brewed with barley and Dark Crystal malts, resulting in a beer that tastes like chocolate, molasses, and dried fruit. According to John Mish, specialty supervisor of craft beer at Manhattan Beer Distributors. It’s also brewed with English hops, which lends earthier flavors. “European hops have less of the bitterness factor, but they still cut the sweetness,” Mish says.
Yeti Imperial Stout
Imperial stouts are generally stronger beers, and this brewed stout has 9.5% ABV (alcohol by volume). Brewed at the Colorado-based brewery Great Divide, it tastes like a combination of caramel, coffee, and chocolate. Beer enthusiasts like Bernstein will notice the bitterness comes from a big hop presence. If you’re having a steak dinner on St. Patrick’s Day, this beer is a great choice.
Old No. 38
This is an Irish-style stout that will feel similar to drinking a Guinness, but is “full of chocolate and toast,” says Rebekah Graham, beer and wine coordinator at The Publican in Chicago. You’ll find more flavor in this stout than in a glass of Guinness, and it's especially good to eat with charcuterie or roasted meats.
Since this beer is brewed with nitrogen, it will have that giant, creamy head (or foam) often associated with Guinness. Left Hand Brewery uses milk sugar, which adds smoothness and sweetness that make it a “really easy drinker,” according to Bernstein. What’s especially unique is that this beer comes bottled—which is unusual for a nitrogen-brewed beer. Shake it really hard to create the thick head of foam before pouring.
Baba Black Lager
Both Bernstein and Mish agree that this lager is worth a try.
“Oftentimes, when people think of lagers they think of Budweiser and Coors Light, beers that are really clear and easy drinkers,” says Bernstein. But the Baba Black Lager has “a crispness that you’ve come to associate with lagers, but has more of those dark malts.” Despite its dark color, it’s a very light and drinkable beer, says Mish. At only 4% ABV, Bernstein recommends ordering it with a burger.
This German beer is called a “raeuchbier,” which means a dark brown smoked ale. “They actually smoke the male before they brew the beer, which imparts a really rich, smoky flavor,” says Graham. “Beer geeks know and love Schlenkerla religiously.” You can find it at a specialty liquor shop, but if you can’t track down this exact brew, try a similar raeuchbier.
Yes—we found another oyster beer worth trying. This brewery uses oyster shells in the brew kettle, and is a “classic” choice from the Porterhouse Brewery in Ireland. It’s a very dry, Irish stout with a low ABV. “It goes without saying that people with shellfish allergies should probably avoid this beer,” says Graham. Noted.
Trappistes Rochefort 8
If you’re worried that dark beer is too bitter for your taste, this is the perfect gateway brew. It’s called a “trappiste dubbel,” which is Belgian for “dark beer.” This is a strong, dark ale, but according to Graham, it will completely change your mind about dark beers. “It has a bright, rich fruitiness,” says Graham, who compared its flavors to figgy pudding. “It’s a delicious drink.”