Libation Library

Beer & Cider

holiday dark beers
Posted on December 13, 2019 by in Beer & Cider, Libation Library

Winter is coming, which means it’s time to swap out that pumpkin beer for a tasty dark brew. When it’s blistering cold outside this holiday season, you need something that provides a warmth and fullness to combat the chill. Luckily, porters and stouts do just the trick. Keep reading to learn more about these two types of dark beer, as well as their appropriate glassware and food pairings. 



The history of porter beer is a bit murky, but it most likely originated in 18th century London. It was popular at that time to mix different styles of beer. Porter is the result of combining brown ale, mild beer, and sour or stale beer. It gets its name from the working-class folks in the shipyards who were fond of the beer.

The dark complexity of porter beer comes from the heavily roasted malts included in the brewing process. Porters offer a moderate, malty taste with notes of coffee, chocolate, toffee, and licorice. They also have little to no hoppiness. If you’re not a fan of IPAs, you may want to give porters a shot.

There are three main types of porters:

  • Brown Porter: A brown porter is between a brown ale and a robust porter. It’s usually milder and sweeter with pronounced caramel notes.
  • Robust Porter: A robust porter is between a brown porter and a stout. It offers more bitterness and roasted malt flavors than a brown porter, but not as much as a stout.
  • Baltic Porter: Similar to an imperial stout, a Baltic porter is sweet, high in alcohol and very robust.

Here are some porters to try this holiday:


Similar to porters, stouts have an unclear history. However, many believe it originated in Ireland. After all, the most popular stout in the world is Guinness. A stout is a stronger version of a porter and is often referred to as “stout porter.” Both stouts and porters have evolved over the years. For instance, there are porters, particularly Baltic porters. that are stronger than stouts, blurring the line between these two types of dark beer even more.

The type of malt used during the brewing process is the most distinct difference between porters and stouts. Most stouts are made with unmalted roasted barley. This gives stouts their strong, charred flavor reminiscent of coffee, bitter chocolate, and caramel. Compared to porters, stouts generally have a fuller body, drier finish, and less sweetness.

There are multiple types of stouts available:

  • Irish Stout: This type of stout is generally dry, meaning there’s little to no sweetness. Irish stouts tend to be light, silky and not as hoppy.
  • Oatmeal Stout: As the name suggests, oats are added to the mash during the brewing process. This lends a silkier, sweeter flavor similar to milk chocolate.
  • Imperial Stout: An imperial stout is what you want if you’re looking for the driest, heaviest stout available. Along with its high ABV and heavily roasted flavors, imperial stouts also provide subtle fruit notes.
  • Milk Stout: If your palate leans more toward the sweet side, a milk stout is what you want. Milk stouts contain more unfermented sugars, giving these beers a rich, dessert-like flavor.

Try these popular stout beers:

Pairings and Glassware

Porters pair well with barbecue, sausage, and other roasted or smoked foods. For sweet stouts, aged cheddar or spicy foods like Szechuan dishes work well. Chocolate is an excellent pairing for both porters and stouts.

For glassware, a traditional pint glass works just fine. Another popular choice is a snifter glass. Its wide bowl and tapered mouth perfectly capture and enhance the beer’s aromas and flavors.